Duck – dubbed the “new pork” by foodies – gets top billing at Valley restaurants.
7133 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale
You’ve got to love a person who bills herself as the “sweet tooth seductress.” That would be Country Velador, who invents the recipes and handcrafts all the desserts at this eclectic Old Town Scottsdale restaurant. We bow to her for everything, but especially for her wondrous Warm Apple Cobbler on Quack, a fruity delight drizzled with Brie crema and partnered with a big scoop of insanely rich duck-fat ice cream. The dessert doesn’t look so unusual when it hits the table – just a long-handled bowl of hot apple goodness, topped with buttery sugar crumbs. But one bite, and it’s a fowl ball. The duck fat lends decadent delight and lovely richness without going over the top. Other Ciao duck dishes that elevate the humble bird include an entrée of savory Tuscan duck sausage stew (the sausage is house-made, of course) stocked with white beans and juicy black kale, plus a chile relleno to beat all chiles rellenos. This version comes stuffed with velvety duck confit, queso Oaxaca, cheddar and roasted shallots, all smothered in roasted guajillo chile-tomatillo salsa.
Nobuo at Teeter House
622 E. Adams St., Phoenix
Chef Nobuo Fukuda won the James Beard Award for Best Southwest Chef in 2007 and was later named a Food & Wine “Best New Chef” – largely by virtue of his complex omakase creations and inventive spins on sushi and Japanese staples. But Fukuda is a master of simplicity, too, as illustrated by his remarkable warm duck salad. There aren’t a lot of ingredients, and no mad-scientist foams or molecular gastronomy tricks, just a splay of a half-dozen soy-Zinfandel-glazed duck cutlets over a mound of grilled greens in a drizzle of yuzu vinaigrette. When you start with top-quality duck breast, then marry the robust meat with the perfectly balanced sweet-salty marinade, it’s a dish fit for emperors. The greens offer a touch of balancing bitterness, while the fruity-tart dressing brings everything together. For the final touch, ask the chef for his sake recommendations – the tiny restaurant has an impressive collection, and is well known for its spot-on pairings.
2534 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
Oh, the things we learn by being so interested in the world. There actually is a creature called a duck mole. It’s a small aquatic mammal from Australia, with webbed feet and a bill that looks duck-like, and it lays eggs just like a bird. It’s also known as a platypus. So let’s make sure we put the correct accent on the duck mole served at Los Sombreros, shall we? It’s pronounced mo-LAY, and as rendered by Los Sombreros’ chefs, it’s heaven on a plate. The dish – called Duck with Mole Nayarit – is a sophisticated update of a classic dish from owner Azucena Tovar’s hometown of Miguel De Allende in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. The duck is shredded, so it’s delectable and earthy but not too rich with each mouthful, while the smoky-sweet mole sauce brings just the right amount of chile heat. Meat and mole are wedded in enchiladas and baked to a toasty brown. Each order brings two enchiladas, and after your first bite, you won’t wince at the $20 price tag – it’s worth every peso.
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