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Amuse-Bouches

Written by Craig Outhier, Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: December 2016
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First Bite: Hot Noodles Cold Sake

Emboldened by the popularity of his once-a-week ramen nights at Posh Improvisational Cuisine, Chef Josh Hebert started plotting this stand-alone noodle shop about two years ago – and it’s been one of the Valley’s most tensely awaited dining projects ever since. We pounced when HNCS opened near the Scottsdale Airpark in early October.

“Konichiwa!”: An unabashed Japanophile, Hebert has employed the wabi principle of elegant, subdued design at HNCS – or at least as wabi as a tiny strip-mall space at the Airpark will allow: blackboard menu, open kitchen, a short steel runway of bar seating and a few tables between austere white walls. The weekday lunch crowd is full of salarymen and shoppers.

The Noodles: Hebert offers five ramen bowl options ($9 lunch, $13 dinner), including the Goma house special, which combines a rare sesame-paste broth – the chef discovered it on a Japanese fact-finding mission – with tender char-siu (roasted pork), bok choy and shishito peppers. The toothsome broth is milky and rich, and the shishitos are wisely left more or less raw – they taste like nopalitos, which imbues the bowl with a fresh, green counterpoint to the pork. The Shoyu features charsiu and naruto (fish loaf) in a tonkotsu broth with a soy-cured egg – which sounds gross, but is terrifically tasty, with a caramelized, half-cooked yolk.

Sake, etc: As promised, HNCS has a robust selection of sakes, which we reluctantly ignored given our noontime visit. Hebert has also assembled a pleasing assortment of “Before Ramen” small plates, including gyoza ($7), house-made Japanese pickles ($2) and steamed buns ($6) available with shrimp or pork.

The Verdict: We’re not exactly going out on a limb by declaring Hebert’s ramen shop one of the two or three best in town – despite the recent wave of openings, we are all ramen paupers here in the Valley. But the place is timpani tight. Hard to imagine Hebert’s bowls getting more slurpable than they already are.

15689 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale,
480-432-9898, hotnoodlescoldsake.com

 

Pav on Juice: Magnums and Cans

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

The holidays are upon us, and that means it’s time to celebrate. If you’re invited to a shindig, there’s no better way to make an entrance than with a large format bottle of wine. Well – so says me, the wino.

The Magnum – a double bottle – holds 1.5 liters and is the most common of the plus-size bottles. There are two good reasons to invest in one. The first: It has less ullage (empty space between the wine and cork), so the wine ages slower due to less air exposure in relation to the amount of wine. The second: It makes an impressive gift. Magnums can also be a better value because the demand is not as strong as it is for the normal 750 ml. bottle format. For me, it adds panache and a ceremonial air to any event – particularly a Christmas party.

Your options for buying an Arizona magnum are fairly limited, but Kris Pothier and Joe Bechard of Chateau Tumbleweed offer two, and they’re both very good: the 2011 Chateau Tumbleweed Whole Cluster Merlot, which is derived from Northern Arizona vines; and the 2013 Chateau Tumbleweed Cimarron Vineyard Syrah. Both retail for $99 and come with two Riedel stems with every purchase.

My friends Todd and Kelly Bostock from Dos Cabezas Wineworks also have a large-format release, if not exactly a magnum. A couple of years ago, they decided to offer their beloved rosé in a 500 ml. can with the addition of bubbles. Yes, sparkling rosé in a can. Classy. The first year they made a little and it ran out in a matter of days. The second year they produced four times as many cans and those, too, quickly became scarce.

Their solution: make a bigger can. Namely, the new 1000 ml. Carbonic Maceration Aleatico ($24.50). Without getting overly geeky about carbonic maceration – fermentation in the grape cluster, normally used in Beaujolais – I had the chance to try this in barrel stage at the winery. It was gulpable, fruity, delicate and very tasty. This will be released at Garage-East, their urban winery at the new Barnone project at Agritopia. I know I want one or two in my stocking. Hint, hint.

To Order

Chateau Tumbleweed
1151 W. Hwy. 89A, Clarkdale, 928-634-0443,
chateautumbleweed.com

Agritopia/Garage-East
3000 E. Ray Rd., Gilbert,
480-988-1238, garage-east.com

Eater’s/Drinker’s Triangle: North Mill Avenue

Getting a read on the dining scene on Tempe’s Mill Avenue can be problematic – turnover rates are high, and much of the fare is geared to, shall we say, greener palates. What Mill does have: density. It has maybe the most dining options per city block in the Valley. We staked out a small corner of it.

1 ) Blasted Barley Beer Company: Beloved for its bottomless brunch mimosas, wide-ranging craft beer menu and truly pitch-perfect chicken wings, this scene-y tap room is a great launching-off point for a Mill Avenue adventure. From the folks who brought you Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers. 404 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, 480-967-5887, blastedbarley.com

2 ) Bacus Bros Hotdogs and Beer: With a name that invokes the Roman god of “getting totally blasted, dude,” this Millennial wiener shop opened last February and immediately became a favorite of the late-night eats crowd, with crazy-cheap craft beer specials ($2 Breckenridge bottles are known to be had) and delicious monstrosities like the Foghorn Leghorn, a chicken sausage topped with tomatoes, coleslaw and horseradish mustard. 414 S. Mill Ave. #114, Tempe, 480-966-6666, bacusbroshotdogs.com

3 ) Desert Roots Kitchen: Minted peas, hummus, coconut lentil soup, soy parfaits and other veg-head pleasers in the heart of beer-and-hotdog land. Opened in 2012, this vegan cafe was founded on the correct principle that college students – and college-town regulars – are just as diet-fixated as the rest of us. 414 S. Mill Ave. #111, Tempe, 480-382-0228, desertrootskitchen.com

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