Nikki Buchanan, Author at PHOENIX magazine

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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...

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Banh Xeo at Belly My beau and I put away an impressive number of dishes at Southeast Asian-inflected Belly last weekend, and crispy banh xeo was among the standouts. Banh means “bread” and xeo means “sizzle” — a misleading description for Vietnam’s savory seafood crepe, which surely sizzles in the pan but looks more like an omelet-pancake-crepe situation than bread. The batter is made with rice flour, which gives the...

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   I’m a sucker for good fried chicken, so when I read about Fryd Bird, a new fast-casual in Mesa, getting rave reviews, I grabbed a friend and headed there for lunch. Modern and cheerful, one yolk-yellow wall displaying a huge rendering of an UN-fried, alive and kicking bird, the place had a small, steady line during the lunch hour. Lots of the customers appeared to be working guys, there for...

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  Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Bún Thit Nuong with Cha Giò at Banh Mi Bistro While it’s true that BMB is famous for its banh mi, it’s also true that their noodle salad bowls — bún, in Vietnamese — are every bit as good and maybe a wee bit lighter. You get your choice of two items to put in the bowl (grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, tofu and the like), but I always go...

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Tandy Peterson is not your average woman, your average chef, your average anything. She’s a former line cook at the original Binkley’s in Cave Creek (where she learned to hang tough with the big boys) and the former chef de cuisine at Mowry & Cotton at The Phoenician Resort. She also staged in 2016 at Asador Etxebarri, a Basque restaurant in Spain that has made The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list on multiple occasions. This...

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   The Frosé at The Oakmont It already feels like a year ago — not three days ago — that I was sitting on the patio at The Oakmont, a restaurant owned by Wyndham Resort but parked on the grounds of Continental Country Club in Flagstaff. What fantastic views! Mountain and brilliant green fairway in every direction, the perfect setting for the launch of a short trip with a longtime friend....

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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...

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The Mix Up Bar interior | Photo by Nikki Buchanan   The Mix Up Bar, tucked away to the left of T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, is one of my favorite places to hang out over a cocktail. Like the lovely old resort in which it’s nestled, the room is gracious, intimate and — if you time it right — blessedly quiet, the kind of place where you might strike up...

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  Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Chaufa Combo at Taste of Peru If you’re thinking this Peruvian dish looks remarkably like good old fashioned Chinese fried rice — but with more meat — bingo! That’s exactly what it is. “Chaufa” is a loanword from Cantonese that means “fried rice.” The Peruvians co-opted this dish from the Chinese laborers who worked on plantations and built railroads in Peru in the late 19th Century and early 20th...

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If you never quite got around to visiting Character — Peter Kasperski and Richie Moe’s cool New American in Roosevelt Row — it’s too late. You missed out. The restaurant, which opened late last November, has permanently closed. When I reached out to Kasperski about the news I’d heard, he sent me a text which said, “Despite the glowing reviews from food writers (thank you again), bloggers, Yelp, and local patrons, we couldn’t make the...

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  Photo by Nikki Buchanan    We’ve all noticed the increase in pop-ups and ghost kitchens since COVID-19 put a kink in day-to-day restaurant operations, but here’s a trend that seems to be thriving within the confines of the new normal: the commissary kitchen, cloud kitchen, virtual kitchen, shared-use commercial kitchen… there are a half dozen names for basically the same thing. Shared-use kitchens aren’t a new phenomenon, of course. Caterers and other small food...

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  Photo by Nikki Buchanan   1. Pernil Empanada at Republica Empanada I cannot explain such a lapse, but I shamefully admit to never having visited this small, winsome pan-Latin empanada emporium until this summer. Yes, I know, the place has been open for eight years now. I’m pathetic. My buddy and I tried a half dozen empanadas just to get the lay of the land, and we pretty much loved them all. They’re small...

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  Pigtails Downtown interior | Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Maybe I’ve read The Great Gatsby too many times, but I’m fascinated by the speakeasies of the ’20s and early ’30s — back when bars, liquor and the drinking of liquor were made illegal by the Volstead Act, which, of course, just encouraged people to seek out illegal bars selling illegal liquor, where they could happily drink illegally as long as they did it quietly...

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