3 Best Things We Ate Last Week

Nikki BuchananSeptember 20, 2021
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Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Mochi Donut with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt at The Local Donut
I could probably go the rest of my life without eating a donut — or at least that was true until I belatedly discovered The Local Donut, a little South Scottsdale doughnut and pastry shop that isn’t too far from my house.

I tried five doughnuts and liked them all, but two of them really stood out: the Maple Bacon, a sticky-sweet crowd-pleaser lavished with salty bacon, and the mochi donut, drizzled with dark chocolate and flecked with sea salt.

I’m obviously not avidly following doughnut trends (missed the whole cronut frenzy and never cared), but I’ve read that the mochi doughnut (or, more accurately, its kissing cousin, the “pon de ring”) has been popular in Japan for a while now, and in recent years, it’s been gaining ground here in the States as well.

It’s not a traditional American doughnut at all, which is probably why I like it better. For starters, it’s made with either tapioca flour or rice flour, so it automatically seems lighter and healthier. But the mochi doughnut at The Local Donut also has a dense, faintly chewy quality I find especially appealing. It’s not cake-like but not especially doughnut-like either, less sweet than American doughnuts, which are airy, yes, but a little greasy too.

From the picture you can see that its shape resembles a baby’s teething ring, each little pull-apart orb akin to a dainty, pop-in-the-mouth doughnut hole. And, of course, I love the dark chocolate and sea salt combo, which lends an elegant touch and catapults it into snack/dessert territory, something I might nibble in the afternoon with a glass of iced tea.
The Local Donut, 3213 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale, 480-500-5236, thelocaldonutshop.com

Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Hummus + ‘Nduja at Noble Eatery
The Bible says, “Man shall not live on bread alone,” but I think it might be doable if man were given Noble’s wood-fired pita with ‘nduja hummus. Imagine an entire plate of thick, creamy hummus, smeared in lapping waves to the plate’s edges, given a light dusting of Sicilian oregano and New Mexican chile powder, then generously strewn with ‘nduja, southern Italy’s ruddy, spicy pork sausage, heavily seasoned with Calabrian chiles. Although ‘nduja is often spreadable, Noble’s version is soft and chunky, more like Mexican chorizo, adding a pop of salt, heat and porky flavor to the garlicky richness of the hummus. Over the meat, a scattering of pickled onions and carrots, their vivid pinks and oranges a visual echo of their piquancy. Scoop it all up in Noble’s soft but chewy pita, faintly blackened from the grill, and ask yourself if you’ll ever look at grocery store hummus the same again.
Noble Eatery, 4525 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-688-2424, noblebread.com

Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Pork Belly at Renata’s Hearth
Pork belly is everywhere these days, but never have I been offered such massive, satisfying hunks of it as I was on a recent visit to Renata’s Hearth at the Arizona Biltmore. Found in the “For the Table” section, it’s a shareable plate meant to feed 2-4 people, offered with tortillas (both flour and corn) and a trio of smoky salsas ($46). Don’t even think about your cardiologist before tackling this one because it’s loaded with glistening, greasy pork fat. I mean that. Loaded. In fact, the meat is striated with three layers — a ridiculously crunchy outside skin, flecked with big grains of salt; a thick ribbon of fat, slow-cooked until its texture is firm but surprisingly luxurious; and a bottom strip of chewy, reddish-pink meat, all of it a textural party in your mouth. Cutting (more like sawing, actually) the pork belly into small chunks, we made our own tacos, anointing them, by turns, with three different salsas — all smoky, all exemplary. I loved the rich chipotle-cashew crema best of all, later finding out that it’s vegan. So yeah, there’s the healthy part.
Renata’s Hearth, Arizona Biltmore, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, 602-954-2507, renatashearth.com


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