Tasty local news bites to whet your appetite.

Amuse-Bouches

Written by Craig Outhier, Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: May 2017
Group Free
Chef Watch
Comings and goings in the Valley’s culinary industry.
Michael O’Dowd: The Kai founding chef has been knocking around since Urban Vine closed in 2015, but his latest address looks like a keeper: Cress at L’Auberge de Sedona, which found itself short a chef when Rochelle Daniel decamped for Fat Ox.
Kelly Fletcher: After failing to launch with Zen Culinary, the former House of Tricks chef hooked on with Tuck Shop in the Coronado district (see Neighborhoods, page 52).
Patricio Alvite: The Joyride taco maven – whose carne asada won our Best of Valley taste test last year – was lured away to punch up the menu at upcoming Downtown Latin fine diner Chico Malo.

First Bite Sip: Jamie’s Wine Bar
The Overview: Part of the Wrigley Mansion’s recent culinary makeover, this lavishly appointed anteroom adjacent to flagship restaurant Geordie’s is the collaborative effort of owner Jamie Hormel and her nephew, Michael Appleman, who does the programming and pouring. Do the pluses outweigh the minuses?
+ The place just feels classy, with mahogany wall panels, tufted booths and a marble bar top.
+ The flight selection is limited but inventive. The “oaked vs. unoaked” presents two pours of Chardonnay for comparison.
+ You can order cocktails from Geordie’s.
- On the pricey side – most glasses are $15 and up. A break-even bottle or chalkboard daily special would be a nice hook.
- No Arizona wines by the glass.
Overall: Perfectly pleasant, but a skosh under-trafficked, which has been Wrigley’s problem for a few years now. Would a $10 glass entice people to walk up that hill? It might.
2501 E. Telawa Trl.
602-955-4079
wrigleymansion.com

Pav on Juice: Lisa’s Blend

A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.

Now that summer is waving “hello,” I drink more white wine than red, which brings me to my latest obsession: the 2013 Callaghan Vineyards Lisa’s Blend ($28). This is a great example of a super tasty, “authentic” Arizona wine. Composed mostly of Viognier with some Marsanne and Malvasia Bianca, Lisa’s Blend is an aromatic empress.

All three varietals in the wine are known for floral and exotic fruit aromatics, but the wine itself has a certain textural weight that’s not cloying – it blankets the senses, but there’s enough acidity to make it seem bright and fresh at the same time. Though Viognier and Marsanne are varietals that dance together frequently in France’s Rhône Valley, Malvasia Bianca is the unexpected guest at this party. As per usual here in Arizona, we see some non-traditional grape varieties together in one bottling. “I just figured it would be a great addition to the field blend,” Elgin-based winemaker Kent Callaghan says. “It’s the distinctive aromatic quality, and the added [textural] benefit on the palate.”

Now here’s some geeky advice: I love white wine cold – very cold – but only the first few tastes. I would encourage you to not chill this wine (or any white wine, for that matter) after you open it. Why? Because the aromas will develop – blossom, if you will – and reveal themselves as the chill subsides a bit. If you keep it very cold it will taste good, but you will miss out on the nuances that makes this wine so easy to fall in love with.

Callaghan Vineyards
336 Elgin Rd., Elgin
520-455-5322
callaghanvineyards.com

 

3 Best Things to Eat This Month: Umami Mania

It’s been, oh, precisely five years since umami started being a thing in Valley restaurants – five years of tortured metaphors and strained vocabularies as servers struggle to describe the buttery, brothy, mouth-fill-y “fifth” flavor to their customers.

Has the trend abated? Not hardly. Some of the Valley’s top culinary programs are doubling down on umami this summer.

1. The Umami Experience at Roka Akor
Executive chef Jason Alford isn’t screwing around. His new tasting menu at Roka is built around Kobe and A5 Wagyu cuts – perhaps the surest route to umami bliss known to modern science. Sourced from Japan’s legendary Miyazaki farm, the beef is surreally rich and well-marbled – particularly the ribeye, so fatty it’s almost uniformly pink. Alford serves it with wafu, an umami-rich onion and apple sauce.
7299 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-306-8800, rokaakor.com

2. Spam futomaki at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

“It’s off-the-hook umami!” one employee raves over Chef Bob Tam’s latest delicious feat of culinary malfeasance, and we see no reason to disagree. Essentially a Spam sushi roll, the maki includes pepperjack cheese and a drizzle of tangy, oyster-y okonomi glaze. It’s an umami bomb, and it should be: Spam is, like, 50 percent MSG.
1 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-340-1924, bitterandtwistedaz.com

3. Shishitos with “umami” at Doughbird
A perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken has a bit of umami going for it – and the birds at this most recent Sam Fox concept are certainly spot-on – but the menu also includes a more overt umami reference: cast-iron-blackened shishito peppers with a side of “umami.” It’s actually a little ramekin of sweet miso dressing. The restaurant’s truffle cheese stromboli is actually a bit more umami-fied than the miso, but close enough.
4385 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-345-9161, eatdoughbird.com