Friday, January 30, 2015

three bitesBlog

 

Verde, Verde Good

When the weather’s chilly, seek the smoky, spicy heat of chile verde.

St. Francis
111 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
602-200-8111, stfrancisaz.com

With its brick walls, soaring rafters and roll-up garage doors, Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin’s revamped 1955-style restaurant typifies modernist urban chic. But his secret weapon is pure old-school: A custom-built, brick-framed oven that uses mesquite wood for smokiness and almond wood for heat, adding a sizzling succulence to meat and vegetable dishes alike. Thanks to that wood oven, the pork in the chile verde emerges tooth-tender and deeply savory. The juicy stew is served bubbling hot in an iron skillet with hefty chunks of sweet cornbread alongside for dipping. The delight is in the details: Chamberlin finishes the chile-spiked dish with gooey Jack cheese, a squeeze of lime and a tuft of fresh cilantro. For an even more decadent dive into the ultimate comfort food, the kitchen will happily add two sunny-side up eggs as a yolky crown. Be sure to ask for more cornbread to mop up all that extra goodness.

 

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Keen on Tartine


These traditional French open-faced sandwiches are cheesy, veggie-topped knife-and-fork feasts.

Carmel’s
4225 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
480-251-8888,
carmelsbreakfast.com

Set in a tiny 1940s Arcadia cottage, this upscale coffee shop packs a big punch, thanks to owner Pat Flanigan and his passion for gourmet coffee, delectable bakery delights, European-style salads, sandwiches and quiche. Credit is also due to his mother and inpiration, Carmel, as well as his grandmother, since both women contributed their favorite recipes to the menu.

 

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Pudding It Mildly

Old-fashioned bread pudding is enjoying a delicious revival all across the Valley. We found some creative, custardy twists
Fuego Bistro
713 E. Palo Verde Dr., Phoenix
602-277-1151, fuegobistro.com

We get hot for a cold horchata drink on a warm day, but sometimes our stomachs need a more substantial diversion. Thankfully, as fashioned by the clever cooks at Fuego, horchata – a traditional Mexican beverage made with rice, milk, vanilla, nuts and cinnamon – serves as the scrumptious lifeblood of the Latin American eatery’s signature bread pudding. The blend of breads – croissants, French bread and the baguette-like Mexican bolillo – are all infused with chocolate chips, cinnamon and that honeyed horchata, cobbled together in a thick, custardy slab.

 

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Ciao Down

taly itself might close for business in August, but around the Valley, you can nosh all afternoon on bargain bruschetta, well-priced pastas and buono vino. 

Amaro Pizzeria and Vino Lounge
28234 N. Tatum Blvd., Cave Creek
480-502-1920, amaroaz.com

From Cowboy Ciao/Kazimierz World Wine Bar alums Tagan Dering and Frank Vairo comes this swanky pizza/wine café. The mellow lounge beckons you to sink into a sofa and stay a while; the paintings evoke scenes of Vairo’s ancestral hometown of Carolei in southern Italy – “near the laces of the boot,” he says. At happy hour, all full-size antipasti are half-off, including wood-fired bruschetta ($3.50); tangerine-sized veal, beef and pork meatballs in tangy marinara ($5); mortadella focaccia ($5); crispy calamari ($5.50); and stupendous shrimp scampi smothered in chile/lemon/garlic butter ($6). Any pizza is $2 off, as well. Drinks include respectable house wines for $5, basic draft beers for $2.50 and well drinks for $3.50. 4-6 p.m. daily.

 

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One Fish, Two Fish

THREE BITES

Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila

7228 E. First Ave., Scottsdale
480-970-9002, cienagaves.com

You gotta love a restaurant that boasts a full “taco stand.” OK, it’s not an actual stand but a signature section of the menu brimming with more than a dozen tasty tortilla bundles. The boisterous turquoise taquería feels like a day at the beach, and plenty of plates evoke that sunny feeling, too. Shrimp is always an excellent taco-filler choice, be it beer-battered and moistened with sweet-spicy island sauce, or sautéed in fiery guajillo chile sauce cooled a bit with rice. You don’t often see ono tacos around town, and here, they come Tecate beer-battered with Baja sauce and chunky mango salsa, or marinated in sweet tamarind and grilled with

 

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Spiked Shakes

These chilly adult milkshakes, kissed with a bit of liquor, deliver the ultimate brain freeze.

Brat Haus
3622 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
602-738-1274, brathausaz.com

As the name suggests, this hip, spanking-new eatery celebrates brats and sausages, but there are delectable extras in the Haus. Owner Dave Andrea knows what diners want with their handcrafted links and crispy Belgian fries: a thick, luscious shake. And Chef Payton Curry kicks it up a notch with a dose of booze: a Nutella malt shake gussied up with chocolate pretzel bits and whiskey; an Adult Date Shake that purees Arizona dates with rum; and a Young Grasshopper cooled with Crème de Menthe and Andes Mints. If all goes well with construction, by the time you read this, Brat will have moved out of the “pop-up” space it’s been operating in its parking lot during building renovations. Eager milkshake fans should give them a call first to make sure they’re up and running. Some things to count on: regional ingredients, like Arizona’s McClendon’s Select and Agritopia fruit, Sonoma’s Straus Family ice cream, and seasonal extras like Oregon huckleberries (the bomb with Chambord) or Meyer lemon Italian crème with vodka.

 

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3 Bites

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Caribbean Cuisine

Fu-Fu Cuisine
3633 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
602-995-2015
fufucooking.com

Chef-owner Esther Mbaikambey delivered a lightening bolt to the West Valley last November when she opened her authentic Afro-Caribbean eatery named after a traditional African sticky dough made from starchy cassava-root flour. The outwardly nondescript joint celebrates the vibrant cuisine of her native Nigeria and Jamaica between its mango-hued walls. As for the food, Mbaikambey’s got your goat, mon, and it’s so delicious you’ll wonder why Americans don’t eat more of it. Try goat bundled in cassava leaves stuffed with beef, dried smoked fish and peanuts. Yassa chicken may come from Senegal, but it is international comfort food when marinated and deep fried, set atop sautéed onions, bell peppers and rice, and served with a side of black eyed peas. You won’t be able to stop spooning up dumpling soup – bobbing with carrots, onions, tomatoes, corn and plump dumplings – until every last drop of beef and chicken broth is gone. For a sweet finish, the sugar pie hits the spot, or try the pof-pofs – dense, deep-fried flour dumplings rich with sugar and butter.

 

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