Jason and I shared a fabulous dinner with friends Nicole, Lolly and Lee tonight in Tempe at House of Tricks.  I highly recommend this restaurant / wine bar if you’re in the Tempe/Phoenix Arizona area.  Tricks offers a wonderful selection of wines by the glass and bottles from around the world.  I tried to order a red blend, but our waiter asked if he could suggest a wine.  So, we put ourselves in his hands – Jason and I do this a lot and generally it works beautifully.  The waiter feels good that you trust his guidance and you get the benefit of his vast (one hopes) knowledge of the wine list.  Oddly enough he returned to the table with a Merlot…I thought that his was a strange choice since we were told him we really liked blends.  So, with intervention from our waiter our first bottle was the 2005 Three Doves Merlot.  It had nice raspberry flavors and hints of cocoa on the finish, but I have to admit that I tend to enjoy Merlot more when it is a component in a blend as opposed to a stand-alone varietal.  With that said, it was light enough to pair with the appetizers:   seared fois gras with apple cinnamon chutney, cornbread dust and lavender honey (when fois gras is done right, it is so RIGHT!), vegetarian portabella eggrolls with purple cabbage, daikon radish sprouts, and Mongolian barbeque sauce (sounds like a weird combination, but it was really quite tasty), green chile salmon and shrimp cakes with citrus jicama slaw and smoke yellow pepper remoulade and seafood stuffed poblano pepper with goat cheese, creamy Baja sauce and red pepper coulis.  I really loved these last two because they included fabulous spices that are used in local, Southwestern cooking.   We decided to order another bottle for our wildly varied entrées (we made the decision without help from our well-intentioned waiter), this time we went with a food-friendly, fruit forward Spanish wine with soft tannins, the 2007 Spanish Granrojo Garnacha.   I had an incredibly difficult time making a decision because so many entrées sounded fabulous.   I was really torn between the a) lychee marinated duck breast on pineapple rice with shaved vegetable salad, lychee nuts and spring onions with soy honey reduction and the b) “everything spiced” ahi tuna on toasted couscous with avocado tangerine fennel slaw in ginger chile vinaigrette and white miso sabayon.  Ultimately, I decided on a pumpkin seed crusted filet mignon with potato masa cake, guajillo chile glaze, haricot verts and roasted poblano aioli.  This was so unbelievably good, I passed around tastes to everyone at the table.  I loved how the traditional local flavors of the guajillo and poblano chilies were incorporated into the entire meal.  WOW!  Jason ordered the herb crusted lamb porterhouse with roasted eggplant, garlic whipped Yukon gold potatoes, and star anise au jus.  The earthy, savory side dishes complemented the taste of the lamb perfectly. We topped off our dinner with some lovely desserts and some late harvest wines.  I am not much of a dessert person (I would rather have a glass of Cognac or Armagnac) but everyone at the table loved the sweet ending to our meal.  If you are in the area, definately go check out House of Tricks.  You won’t be disappointed!