First Bite: New Seasonal Menus
Spring is a time of renewal – a principle that particularly applies to chef-driven restaurant menus. We sampled some new spring/summer items at a trio of Valley restaurants.
Chef Todd Allison is not one to let a summer pass without some thoughtful menu upgrades. This season’s conversation piece is a two-person paella ($88) with grilled Maine lobster, chorizo and succulent, salty morsels of duck confit, all laid to rest in a casserole of bomba rice that pops with piquillo peppers and saffron. (It’s off-menu, but available if you ask sweetly.) Also worth checking out: Allison’s latest rendition of his favorite fish – branzino, broiled and crispy in a sort of deconstructed cioppino with fennel, mussels and a swipe of saffron cream (pictured). tcooksphoenix.com
Farm & Craft
Yes, you’ve had pad Thai. If you’re a normal human being, you love pad Thai. But have you ever tasted it raw? You can at bougie Scottsdale healthy-eats emporium Farm & Craft, which uses spiralized zucchini in lieu of rice noodles to achieve a vegetarian synthesis of the Thai noodle classic, adding shredded Brussels sprouts, raw almond, chile-almond butter and taramind honey to deliver the obligatory tart-sweet-salty flavor blast. The F&C summer menu boasts 11 new items in all, some of them meat-free iterations of carnivorous classics, including a vegan ceviche (pictured) made with golden beets, radish, avocado and tomato chile sauce. ilovefarmandcraft.com
Executive chef Anthony Dang has been killing it since taking the reins at the Phoenix- and Gilbert-based modern Asian eatery last year. His winning newcomers on the current menu include ssam ($16) – tender, shredded chicken braised in gojuchang, a deeply flavored, fermented red chile paste from Korea, served with Bibb lettuce for wrapping and a deluxe retinue of veggie cohorts, including a lusty clutch of grilled fennel and a dollop of house-aged black garlic. From the starter menu: a braised beet vegetable tart (pictured); and a fetchingly funky sunchoke dip served with tangy, high-note pickled veggies and savory, low-note roasted eggplant, with shingles of crunchy house-made nori lavash ($9). We’ll dip that until the ushi (cows) come home. thecleverkoi.com
Pav on Juice:
A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.
For more than nine years, I’ve worked closely with the Arizona wine industry, first as a buyer for FnB, and then as a winemaker. I’m proud to say the conversation has changed dramatically. In 2009, I had to cajole people to try our state’s juice. Now, the conversation is “Who’s the new hot winemaker?” For this installment of #pavonjuice, I’m spotlighting some noteworthy vineyards.
Buena Suerte Vineyards
Location: Elgin, 4,850 feet
Planted in 1990 on 17 acres with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel. Over the years, owner/farmer Kent Callaghan has replanted, grafted and added new vines, including Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Tannat and Petit Manseng. On the name Buena Suerte: “After being paid on the last day of planting in 1990, one of our guys wished us crazy gringos, ‘Good luck.’” (Buena suerte is Spanish for “good luck.”)
Location: Jerome, 4,900 feet
Named after owner Maynard James Keenan’s mom, the vineyard was planted in 2004 with Cabernet Sauvignon. In the interim, manager Chris Turner has replanted it with Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Aglianico, and Malvasia Bianca. Keenan believes his steep hillside vineyard is similar in its characteristics to Mt. Etna in Sicily and Piedmont in Northern Italy.
Chiricahua Ranch Vineyards
Location: Willcox, 4,500 feet
Established in 2013, CRV is planted with varietals like Petit Manseng, Vermentino, Roussanne, Primitivo, Tempranillo and Syrah. Owner Greg Gonnerman supplies to various wineries, including Rob and Sarah Hammelman’s Sand-Reckoner. “I love their balanced, full-fruit expression, alongside an herbal freshness and levity on the palate,” Rob says.
The tempo of Valley restaurant openings and closings slowed mercifully in the late spring.
Coming – Finestre Modern Gastronomy
The new roommate arrangement at The Market by Jennifer’s gets underway with this global pop-up from chef David Duarte.
Going – Don & Charlie’s
The beloved Old Town steakhouse announced it would close its doors in spring 2019. Could ultimately return, Pet Sematary-style, in a different form.