The creative genius behind restaurant Noca’s inventive desserts is Kriss Harvey, a pastry chef nomad currently based in Southern California. Thankfully for us, Harvey’s sugar-rush wanderlust often leads him to Phoenix. Noca owner Eliot Wexler contracts the pâtissier to develop desserts and train staff on how to execute them. Wexler has hired Harvey to consult and train several times a year since he opened in 2008, and Harvey’s desserts at Noca are dependably quirky and show-stopping.
Take, for example, the playful Passion & Fruit ($9) presented on a rectangular, black-slate plate. “The idea was to create a dessert that looks like real fruit, made with fruit, of course, but it isn’t really fresh fruit,” Harvey says.
Fresh dry pasta isn’t an oxymoron, even though it sounds like one. Most dried pasta available commercially – spaghetti, fettuccine and elbow macaroni, among other shapes – probably isn’t fresh and was likely mass-produced in industrial factories. But the delectable dried pastas from Pasta and Sugo in Phoenix are made fresh and air-dried naturally (sans heat) in specially made boxes, locking in flavor and freshness. Some of the company’s dried pasta tastes as if it were rolled and cut right in front of you.
Patrick Grindatto and his wife Doria Dphrepaulezz – who moved to Phoenix from Milan, Italy – own the three-year-old company and make both dry pasta and fresh frozen pasta (cheese ravioli and tagliatelle).
When Wright’s at the Biltmore reopened last November, the kitchen took the opportunity to revamp the menu. Many venerable Wright’s favorites made the cut, including the old-school chocolate soufflé. At the same time, Executive Pastry Chef Shane Ward added a few newfangled sweets inspired by traditional desserts, including an elegant mint chocolate pâté ($10), made in the manner of a French silk pie (but crust-free), and sporting layers of chocolate infused with mint. The silky-smooth, buttery dark chocolate layer is made with 58 percent-cocoa coverture chocolate, sugar, eggs, cream and a splash of mint extract. Ward then creates a lighter chocolate layer by cutting the dark chocolate silk with high-quality white chocolate. He fills the half-dome terrine mold with a dark layer, then a light, repeating until he has five layers of lusciousness.
Eyeing the freshly baked cupcakes at Mind Over Batter’s girlie-hot-pink storefront in Tempe presents a dilemma: Of the 20-plus flavors, which should you order? Some have wacky names like Dark Vader (chocolate cupcake with dark chocolate buttercream) and the even-wackier Dark Helmet, a riff on Rick Moranis’ character in the 1987 movie Spaceballs (chocolate-chocolate chip cupcake with decadent fudge icing).
There are seriously flavorful cupcakes without winky-names, too, like the chocolate chip-studded red velvet; a delightful, tender strawberry cupcake with chocolate frosting; and a crazy-good caramel mocha with a coffee toffee topping.
It isn’t just the way Zorroz Bloody Mary mix kicks the old standby brunch libation into high gear that caught our attention – although it wakes up the taste buds with some serious zing. We also love Zorroz as a handy kitchen condiment. Use the mix to impart a little mouthwatering Southwestern flair to anything from soups to meatloaf to huevos rancheros.
The tagline for this new boutique bread company is “Born and bread in Arizona.” Though she honed her bread-baking skills at a Zen monastery in California, owner/baker Miranda Martori was born and raised right here in the Sonoran desert. Returning to Arizona, Martori decided to make bread baking her vocation, launching Panem Amici (Latin for “bread and friends”) at farmers’ markets last spring.
“I don’t call my bread ‘artisan,’” Martori says. “I’m not interested in making the best sourdough; that’s a whole other direction. I’m interested in creating interesting flavors within the breads, like my pear and blue cheese twist.”
Korina Adkins is a full-time web developer and avid home canner. She once joked that if she ever lost her job, she’d sell popsicles. Adkins hasn’t lost her job, but lucky for us, she has started selling popsicles.
Fru Fru Pops are no ordinary ice pops. A play on both “fancy” and “fruit,” Fru Fru Pops are made with natural ingredients including organic sugar and local fruit. Seasonal flavors include peaches and cream with brown sugar; apple and cajeta (goat’s milk caramel); and melon and ancho chile. Non-seasonal pops include Mexican chocolate.
Although we can (and do) drink it all year long,
rosé is our favorite food-friendly wine for summer eats – think salads, grilled chicken, barbecue and spicy Mexican or Asian foods.
Last year, we fell in love with southern Arizona’s Dos Cabezas 2009 Pink, a pale, dry Provençal-style rosé crafted from grenache, tempranillo and mouvedre. The 2010 Pink is a totally different wine, made with grenache and primitivo, but it’s still easygoing and fun to drink. The color is bright pink with juicy strawberries on the nose and hints of dark cherry and pepper on the palate.
Nothing says summertime quite like pie, and few things cool us off quicker than a bite of the chilled lemon meringue tart ($5.50) at Café ZuZu. It’s only called a tart because it’s an individual serving, but it easily serves two if you’re inclined to share.
Pastry Chef Nicole Gebhart, who has been at Café ZuZu since it opened more than five years ago, has a knack for pies – and tarts. For this luscious lemon meringue tart, she starts with an all-butter pie dough, baked to a golden brown. She fills the tart shell with a bright, sassy lemon curd, which consists of egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lots of butter.
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