restaurants Archives

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Downtown Phoenix has just added another culinary luminary to its roster: James Beard award-winning Chef Alex Stratta has recently taken over as culinary director at MATCH: Restaurant & Cocktails inside the chic and arty FOUND:RE Hotel.

Stratta’s storied career includes stints at Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician, ALEX and Stratta restaurants inside the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as well as Prado at the Omni Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale. His accomplishments include a coveted two-star rating by the Michelin Guide (three times over, in fact, for his namesake restaurant ALEX in Las Vegas) and Stratta was once named Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef.

First on his to-do list at MATCH is to completely revamp the menu, which skewed to a "global street food" theme (and didn't wow our dining critic). Ahead of Stratta's menu debut in September, PHOENIX caught up with the guy who most recently raised eyebrows by hanging his hat at the respectable but decidedly un-showy and non-James Beard-y The Herb Box.

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As I took a bite of Chef Jeff Smedstad’s "pay de queso" (Mexican cheesecake), my mind took me back to my childhood’s kitchen. I pictured my mom baking pays for the holidays and a younger me eager to eat.

“This is the real deal,” I told Smedstad. The chef and owner of the reknowned Elote Cafe in Sedona says he was influenced by a trip to Veracruz where he learned about the craft of homemade Mexican cheesecake – sort of a lighter, less sweet, less dense version of our beloved New York cheesecake. He put a spin on the traditional Mexican dessert with goat cheese from Fossil Creek Goat Farm in Strawberry, Arizona, near Payson. The result is absolutely exquisite.

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When the temperature rises, most chefs in the Valley will sprinkle their menus with summer-friendly dishes to help us ease our way into blistering days and sweltering nights. At EVO, Executive Chef Steven Fowler has swapped out a hearty porchetta dish for a lighter pork Milanese.

This recipe calls for a bone-in pork porterhouse (available at AJ’s or a specialty butcher), but you can also use pork chops or pork loin, Fowler says. And if you don’t have a deep fryer, you can pound out the pork and fry on the stove top in 3-4 tablespoons of canola oil. “It’s quick and easy,” Fowler says. “You can have this completed in less than 15 minutes.”

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Each month, we of the PHOENIX magazine creative team ask ourselves a different question about our favorite dining and drinking experiences in the Valley. Our picks are usually hidden in the back of the magazine among our Dining Guide restaurant listings. Not any more. Our picks are going digital! Feel free to follow us on social media (at least, those of us who tweet) and be sure to tag us (@PhoenixMagazine on Twitter and @PHXMagazine on Instagram) on pics of your favorite picks.

In honor of our first Escape to the Coast cover story in the May issue we're asking ourselves, Which Valley dish screams "California"?

For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.