For his glorious chowder, he reaches deep into his arsenal of secret weapons and pulls out fiery Hatch green chiles. He also performs a nice trick with the chicken, grilled to a juicy char-smoke finish over pecan wood. The magic continues with the soup itself, a thick, sweet-savory puree of corn, onions, cream, garlic and white pepper. To make it toothsome, Leyva folds in whole corn kernels, then the diced chiles and chicken, and then a splash of rich chicken stock. Adding crunch and a pretty finish, he sprinkles tri-colored fried tortilla strips over the top, and voilà, New England meets New Mexico.
Ocean Trail at Talking Stick Resort and Casino
9800 E. Indian Bend Road,
Ocean trail is like liberace meets Splash, with sparkling blue-mirror-tiled columns, a sleek curved bar, crisp white chairs, shiny tables, a glittery floor, wavy blue patterned walls – and impressively sophisticated cuisine.
Executive chef Tom Freimuth’s menu features New Orleans-inspired seafood with a Cajun/Creole flair. So, there’s New England-style clam chowder but also seafood corn chowder. The clam is delicious, loaded with fresh steamed mollusks, minced and mixed in their own broth with bacon, onions, celery and potatoes in heavy cream. But the seafood version truly sings, starting with a base of buttery onions, garlic, bell peppers and sweet corn simmered in white wine, lemon juice, seafood broth and heavy cream. To that, Freimuth adds an opulent mélange of crawfish, shrimp, mussels, crab, squid, cuttlefish and baby octopus, then tosses in plenty of Creole spice and herbs. For the final touch, the chowder is sprinkled with pepper jack cheese, and the result is pure jackpot.
7014 E. Camelback Road
(Scottsdale Fashion Square),
At this posh Scottsdale Fashion Square eatery, executive chef Taylor Domet puts a lavish twist on chowder. His New England-style recipe invites luscious Maine lobster into a creamy broth stocked with bacon and root vegetables. The secret isn’t just the lobster, it’s how the lobster is prepared – poached fresh daily in an unexpected, tart court-bouillon of spices, lemon and orange juice, then lightly chopped to preserve the texture of the delicate meat.
As you spoon it up, there’s a bit of tender crunch from celery, a soupçon of sweetness from onion, and the earthiness of parsnip, corn and potato. That hint of clam? It comes from the clam juice splashed in the base of chicken stock, heavy cream and silky roux, and there’s a bright kiss of fire from Tabasco.
If the chowder seems chichi, it’s certainly fitting for the restaurant space, all sparkly with mirrors, glittery glam chandeliers and silvery striped fabric accents. Just be sure to dab your dainty lips with a linen napkin after each soupy spoonful.
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