Starch Your Engines

Marilyn HawkesFebruary 1, 2018
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Gourmet bread service? Just roll with it.

photo by Angelina Aragon

Mowry & Cotton at The Phoenician
6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale
Even at high-end restaurants, complimentary bread baskets have long functioned as a banal, starchy preamble to the main presentation. Not so with an emerging generation of hearth-minded chefs like Mowry & Cotton chef de cuisine Tandy Peterson, who installed buttermilk buns ($8, pictured) as the lead item on her dinner menu. Inspired by a 100-year-old recipe from sous chef Rebecca Tillman’s Irish grandmother, the beguiling, butter-swabbed buns come four to an order and are equal parts fluffy on the inside and delicately crunchy on the outside, the result of adding riced Kennebec potatoes to the recipe. Peterson serves them with a simple sea salt butter infused with citrus zest, and a more complex duck fat butter with darkly sweet house-made blueberry and black mission fig jam. Make no mistake – they’re stars.

Stock & Stable
5538 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Chef and co-owner Joe Absolor admits that he put Parker House rolls ($6) on Stock & Stable’s menu because he’s a bread lover, especially when garlic is involved. But instead of garlic bread, the chef and his kitchen staff settled on a tweaked version of the pillowy roll named for the Boston Parker House Hotel where it originated in the 1870s. Absolor serves four soft, puffy rolls directly from the oven in a scorching cast iron pan guaranteed to burn your fingers if you’re not careful. While soft in the middle, the rolls are delightfully browned and crisp on top and garnished with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. For your slathering delight, Absolor dishes out ramekins of garlic-herb butter – natch! – and maple-bourbon butter reminiscent of a boozy sweet roll.

Mora Italian
5651 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
When Mora Italian first opened in early 2017, the wait staff wheeled a bread cart between tables for bread service. But serving 400-500 people every night rendered the cart too cumbersome, so the kitchen switched to a bread board ($10), says chef de cuisine Matthew Taylor. Whatever the delivery system, it’s a treasure trove of breads and spreads. The board’s focaccia, topped with rosemary and sea salt, and Stromboli, layered with garlic, soppressata, fresh basil and smoked mozzarella, are made in-house daily, while the crusty country bread and a spongy ciabatta are made by local artisan bakery MJ Bread. For spreading, the kitchen provides a whipped mascarpone butter; olive oil-drenched roasted garlic and Parmesan; artichoke bamba (a paste-like artichoke spread infused with roasted peppers and capers); and a hearty eggplant caponata mixed with pomodoro – all showstoppers.

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