Monday, March 30, 2015

three bitesBlog

Game On

PHM0315EB013Game On
Valley grills display increasingly boar-ish, and buffalo-ish, behavior.

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Breakfast Hash

PHM0215Flash-7-BreakfastCorned beef hash get upgraded at these Phoenix restaurants.

Corned beef hash – the humble diner mainstay born of leftovers – doesn’t have to be a greasy-spoon snooze fest. What if it’s made with purpose – and without corned beef? Consider the cowboy hash at Sierra Bonita Grill (pictured, $12, weekend brunch only). If the vibrant green salsa verde – made with tart tomatillos, buttery avocado, cilantro, jalapeños and other green goodies – doesn’t enliven your senses, the kicky, mouth-popping flavor of Schreiner’s spicy chorizo with roasted root vegetables will. Topped with two fried eggs, the final booyah is Schreiner’s linguiça – a firm, juicy sausage link with Portuguese roots.

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Infernal Yolks

PHM0115Flash-1-YolksEggs be deviled deluxe at these Valley eateries.

Proof Canteen
10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale, 480-513-5085,
Deviled eggs aren’t just trendy – they’re ubiquitous. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a restaurant dishing up the classic ‘70s church-social mainstay. Blame it on the comfort food renaissance, or the enduring charm of the humble egg. We gobbled more than a dozen versions to find three not-your-grandma’s deviled eggs, including a lobster-studded specimen at Proof Canteen (four halves for $11, pictured). Chef Jesse Hansen’s whole menu is a riff on American comfort food – elevated to a higher level, of course, since Proof is tucked into the ultra-luxe Four Seasons. “We take chunks of Maine lobster, add some Old Bay seasoning, some celery, some lemon and a dash of Tabasco,” he says. Decadent lobster salad spooned over impeccable egg whites? Mission accomplished.

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Shiver Me Livers

PHM1214Flash-8-LiverOutlawed in California, decadent foie gras finds an enthusiastic welcome in Valley kitchens.

5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-7878,
Happily, foie gras prohibition is one California craze that hasn’t yet migrated east. Supremely rich and buttery, as if a filet mignon and a stick of butter had a baby, the fattened goose liver is a traditional favorite of upscale diners. Chefs can prepare the scandalous lobe in any number of ways, but frequently choose sweet and acidic accompaniments to counter the hauntingly rich fat. James Ducas, Executive Chef of the Southwestern-inspired Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn, is currently pairing a deeply seared slab of Hudson Valley foie gras with a savory cocoa-and-masa tamal, spiced with ancho chile and cumin (pictured, $18). A Mexican chocolate-tinged balsamic syrup reduction provides a balanced counterpoint. Ducas’ interpretation is all at once earthy, spicy, buttery, sweet and tangy – and plenty naughty.

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Rolling in Green

PHM1114Flash-8-3BitesTake the fish out of the equation with these vegetarian sushi rolls.

Sushi Roku
7277 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale,
It’s time for the swimmers to stop bogarting all the love. Sure, glistening ruby red bigeye tuna is ultra sexy, but haven’t you heard? Vegetables are in – and seductive in their own dirt-candy kind of way. Any sushi restaurant worth its sea salt offers a standard vegetable roll, but these three restaurants dig a little deeper. Take the Garden Roll ($11, pictured) at Sushi Roku. Executive chef Miles Newcomer starts with nori, the familiar edible seaweed, but not just any nori –  this version has been dried for three months for a deeper vegetal flavor. It’s basically the gold standard of seaweed. Even the rice is deluxe, flavored not with typical rice wine vinegar, but the reddish akazu vinegar, a byproduct of sake production. Fresh grated wasabi, blanched asparagus and peppery mizuna fill out the roll, which is served with a ginger soy dipping sauce and garnished with hand-cut spiraled cucumber and a tangle of fried potato strings.

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Haute Dogs

PHM1014EB15Sniffing out the Valley’s most rarified wieners.

Boondocks Patio & Grill
4341 N. 75th St., Scottsdale, 480-949-8454,
Let’s get real: No way the humble hot dog will ever replace the beloved burger in the hearts of food lovers, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t always on the prowl for the perfect snap and bite of a quality wiener. The Valley is replete with routine hot dogs, so we tracked down a few rare breeds worth sniffing out. A good place to start is Boondocks Patio & Grill, a lively watering hole where the Boon-Dog ($8, pictured) rules. It could be the jumbo all-beef frank that makes this a top dog. Or it could be the shaved bolillo roll from a local Mexican baker that’s brushed with butter and griddled. Or maybe it’s the sweet and spicy pickled vegetables – cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, onions and garlic – tossed with a zippy cilantro-avocado aioli. Topped with a dusting of cotija, this two-fisted dog is worth the hunt.

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Begin Again

gertrudesNew chefs = new menus at these storied Valley restaurants.

When the top toque leaves an established restaurant and another chef takes his or her place, it’s only a matter of time before the menu gets a makeover. Consider Gertrude’s at Desert Botanical Garden. Matt Taylor (pictured) inherited the stoves from outgoing Stephen Eldridge in February, but took a few months to survey the landscape. His new menu reflects native foliage (like prickly pears and chiles), but also hews to his personal journey as a cook. He pays homage to his Canadian roots with poutine ($18) and fries draped in gravy goosed up with foie gras, and flaunts a devilishly conspicuous Southern accent (Taylor cooked for celebrity chef John Besh of New Orleans) with iconic ingredients like grits, country ham and collard greens. These typically lowbrow staples get highbrow treatment from Taylor. Case in point: cornmeal-crusted oysters with collard green pistou (pesto) and Tabasco ranch dressing.

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