Jar Heads

Written by Carey Sweet Category: Three Bites Issue: October 2013
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

Tracy Dempsey Originals

Pastry chef goddess Tracy Dempsey hardly needs help making her magical desserts taste better. Her Tempe-based boutique kitchen didn’t become the sweets-supplier of choice for Citizen Public House, Stockyards, Crudo, Alchemy at the Copperwynd Resort, and NOCA by accident. Still, finding select desserts in little Ball canning jars is a welcome touch of whimsy, sort of like gourmet pudding cups for grown ups. Her recipes tend to change with the seasons, but one reliable treasure is the Dream Pudding Jar of dark chocolate pudding, peanut butter caramel, and salted chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies dolloped in whipped cream. The Black and Tan is another stellar sweet, made with a rich, billowy and crunchy layering of dark chocolate pot de crème, caramel pudding, whipped cream, pretzel brittle and brown sugar shortbreads. The brittle sticks out of the cloud of cream like a sturdy spoon, while the shortbreads beg to be nibbled between each pudding bite. No one will judge you for that telltale squeak of metal against glass as you scrape up every last bit with a real spoon, either, since they’re all doing it, too.


Hana japanese eateryHana Japanese Eatery
5524 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix
Food served in jars is an emerging trend at Valley restaurants. Yet Japanese chefs have been offering a savory egg custard dish called chawan-mushi for thousands of years. Chawan means “tea cups” or “rice bowls” in Japanese, mushi refers to steaming, and diners are sure to say oishii (“delicious”) after spooning up the silky goodness prepared at this Melrose-area sushi haunt. Owner Lori Hashimoto is a wizard at sourcing authentic specialties like wagyu beef, blue fin tuna toro, abalone and razor clams, and her chefs create this sumptuous specialty using only the best ingredients and plenty of care. Pretty ceramic jars are layered with sweet shrimp, scallops, kamaboko (white fish paste), thin slices of shiitake and mitsuba (Japanese parsley), then ladled with whisked eggs, soy and mirin sauces, and dashi broth made from dried salted kombu (kelp) and katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes). The cups are then gently cooked in a water bath until the custard is set but still wobbly enough to slither across a lucky diner’s tongue. A bit of lemon zest and sprig of leafy mitsuba on top, and it’s almost – almost – too pretty to eat.


Ironwood American KitchenIronwood American Kitchen
7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale
Celebrity chef Richard Sandoval – who also directs the Fairmont resort’s La Hacienda eatery – consulted on Ironwood, so it’s a given that this isn’t your typical humdrum breakfast, lunch and dinner place. Guests can watch chef Nicholas Marino at work in the exhibition kitchen, and the unifying theme is down-home casual, with dish towels for napkins, big salads served in mixing bowls, servers wearing Converse sneakers, and comfy eats like bacon deviled eggs and chicken pot pie. The nod to Grandma’s kitchen continues with ceviche and caprese presented in rustic mason jars, for extra forkable fun. The ceviche is plump with shrimp, avocado, tomato and red onion in a bath of bright, mildly spicy tomato broth, while the caprese is a pretty pile of fresh mozzarella, diced heirloom tomatoes, chopped garlic, basil, extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. You can scoop it with wands of grilled toast, or even your fingers – this is a down-home joint, remember. Just keep your elbows off the table, and resist slurping the last yummy juices from the jars. You weren’t raised in a barn, after all.