4 Best Things We Ate This Week

Nikki BuchananOctober 15, 2021
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Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Eggplant with Calabrian Chile Marmalade and Burrata at Restaurant Progress
Chef-owner TJ Culp recently put a new fall menu in place, and it’s the most playful one I’ve seen from him yet. Imagine raw oysters topped with caviar and steak tartare (what??) or French onion soup dumplings, fashioned like gyoza and served with beefy jus. One of my favorites of the evening was two big slabs of eggplant, breaded and fried crisp, then served alongside a Ferrari-red smear of Calabrian chile marmalade — sweet, sticky and plenty spicy. Over the top, a drift of creamy burrata, the perfect mild and silky foil for the heat of the marmalade and the crunch of the eggplant. A bit of torn mint lifts the palate and cools down your faintly glowing mouth. This one is simple but sensational.


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Foie Gras and Uni at Restaurant Progress at Restaurant Progress
Uni (the spongy gonads of the sea urchin) is not for everyone, but uni lovers call it the foie gras of the sea because of its similarly rich and creamy texture. Foie exudes a faint taste of iron-rich liver, while uni bears the brininess of the ocean. So, of course, Culp decided to put the two together in a clash-of-the-titans mashup that miraculously works. Both are buttery, both are delicate, both taste utterly luxurious. Culp begins with a firm, crunchy polenta cake (so earthy and good I can’t remember ever having a better one), which he tops with a generous dollop of chive crema. Over that, the crisp-edged, pan-seared foie gras (sourced from Hudson Valley) and a coral-colored strip of uni (from Chula Seafood), given a sprinkle of coarse salt and a few more chives. Everything gets dragged through the drizzles of sherry honey surrounding the polenta, lending subtly sweet contrast to a dish that lends new and exotic meaning to the term “surf and turf.”
702 W. Montecito Ave., Phoenix, 602-441-0553, restaurantprogress.com

Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Clam Chowder at Chula Seafood (both locations)
I love clam chowder, and Chula’s version is my all-time favorite, a creamy-textured soup chunky with potato, minced celery and onion, Neuske’s bacon and little slips of pink clams. There’s no one thing that makes this chowder so exceptional but rather texture, complexity and a harmonious melding of flavors, heightened by a bit of thyme and a drop or two of sherry, which makes the chowder just that much richer.
Two locations (soon three), chulaseafood.com

Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Potato-Leek Soup at T. Cook’s at Royal Palms Resort & Spa
I have loved vichyssoise (cold potato-leek soup) since my early 20s — back when French restaurants were everywhere and it was pretty easy to scare up crepes, quiches and the like for a light girlie lunch. When I saw that T. Cook’s had a hot version, I felt compelled to order it. Although the cold version is elegant on a hot day, the hot version is infinitely more satisfying to potato-loving, comfort food-seeking me. Here’s another simple, voluptuous soup, composed of potatoes, leeks, thyme and loads of butter and cream. I could eat this every day.
5200 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-808-0766, royalpalmshotel.com

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