Tracy Dempsey's Perfect Food Day

Dempsey (headshot 1) (1).jpg
Tracy Dempsey
Tracy Dempsey is known for her thoughtful sweet creations and perhaps most known for her Original Bacon Pecan Brittle. She is smart, kind and completely dedicated to mastering the art of satisfying your sweet tooth. Dempsey (headshot here was taken by Sophia Flocken) showed an early interested in food and cooking, she even was gifted an Easy Bake Oven at the age of 5. Dempsey's father took his family around the globe with his career in petroleum geology. "Early dining experiences ranging from street food in Singapore to home-cooked meals at Grandma's house in Arkansas."

Her husband's work for SRP eventually bought her to the Valley. Even with a successful teaching career, she paused her employment as an ESL instructor at ASU and studies toward a PhD in French Literature, to work for Santa Barbara Catering. In less than a year, she was hooked. She enrolled in Scottsdale Community College's Culinary Program in the Spring of 1999. In February 2001, she became the Pastry Chef at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn after impressing Executive Chef Patrick Poblete with her garam marsala pound cake with a dried fruit compote and chai tea ice cream. She's been wowing the entire eating community with her talents at Restaurant Hapa, Gregory's World Bistro, Cowboy Ciao, and most recently her own endeavor Tracy Dempsey Originals. TDO is a "retail and wholesale desserts and confections business. Presently, her desserts may be found at The House at Secret Garden, Citizen Public House and Alchemy at the Copperwynd Resort. Her packaged confections may be found at Smeeks, Urban Grocery, Wedge & Bottle, Bonne Lait, Fossil Creek Creamery, Changing Hands Bookstore and Dos Cabezas Winery."

Thank goodness for Tracy Dempsey. She's an outstanding writer, too. 

Here is her perfect food day:

Tracy Dempsey
Catching up with the Bostocks of Dos Cabezas, cooking and snacking on goldfish (Griffin Bostock's favorite)
When Jennifer Woods asked me to write about my perfect food day, I was filled with excitement which swiftly morphed into anxiety. Some days, my perfect food day is just sitting down to a real meal that hits all of the food groups with an emphasis on fresh vegetables and some larapin protein- grilled lamb chops or some grass-fed beef and NOT a rice noodle bowl for the third consecutive night hastily heated in a microwave and eaten with the same haste so I can get back to work. Would I disappoint by not mentioning a fabulous meal from any one of my favorite local chefs? Should I regale readers with the amazing but comical dinner we ate at Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg where we were literally squeezed in between seatings with the warning that we had to be gone within 60 minutes? The meal was divine as well as made memorable by the waiter who hovered to make certain we inhaled our meals (an easy feat for most chefs including myself but not so for my fellow diners that evening) so we would be out of there within the allotted 60 minutes and the daggers we could see in the eyes of the guests waiting on our table. We overstayed our welcome by some 15 minutes. Tant pis! It was still an amazing lamb shank and we probably would have ordered dessert if our waiter hadn't been so nice and visibly nervous.

Breakfast: I obsessed and obsessed as I am wont to do about anything food related and decided that my perfect food day is really a culmination of two things- food made with love shared with those I love. And so begins my perfect food day. It starts with breakfast shared with my husband. Over soft boiled eggs from Singh FarmsMJ Bread toast soldiers and crisp Tender Belly bacon for dipping in the runny yolks, we discuss our plans for the day. We'll conclude with a sweet, fragrant Charentais melon from Seacat Gardens (probably wrested from the melon eating coyotes by Carl himself) and a great cup of coffee -- hot from the press (I often wake up too late to share in a really hot French press of coffee and wind up warming it in the microwave -- bad form, I know, so this really IS perfect). Tucking into a comforting breakfast always gives rise to the important question of the day... "What's for lunch and dinner?" Well, since my perfect food day will include a trip to Sonoita where we will visit our friends, Todd and Kelly Bostock at their winery where they will be working, we will set to prepping a meal that travels well. 

Lunch: For this trip, it's braised short ribs over roasted vegetable ratatouille and creamy polenta. The ratatouille is comprised of Maya's Farm butternut squash, Japanese eggplant, shishito peppers and summer squash. I will finish it with whatever I can forage from the Bostock's garden upon arrival -- peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, herbs, etc. I will serve this over polenta rended creamy and comforting through the addition of some fresh goat cheese from our friends and other adopted family, John and Joyce Bittner at Fossil Creek Creamery. The short ribs have been braised in red wine and herbes de provence and allowed to rest overnight. A skewer of oven-roasted okra will garnish. We will sit down to this hearty meal and enjoy a bottle or two of wine while we catch up, share stories, make plans for future get-togethers involving food, of course, and be wildly entertained by the antics of their boys, Parker and Griffin. Naturally, we'll have a little dessert. Homemade ice cream and cookies will definitely be in order.
Tracy Dempsey
Homemade ice cream and cookies for dessert.

Tracy Dempsey
Dinner: With the Bostock kitchen returned to order, a stash of sweets laid in for the Bostock boys and the back of our car filled with a few cases of wine from Dos Cabezas, Callaghan Vineyard, Lightning Ridge and Canelo Hills, we'll make tracks back to the Valley where preparations for a late dinner in the style of Greek Easter is underway at the home of our retired schoolteacher friends. Andy has been marinating a butterflied leg of lamb for a day and the grill is warming. Laurie is manning her big pan of roasted potatoes and the sauté pan of green beans and tomatoes is bubbling. The pastichio, dolmades and various side dishes await and fill the kitchen with the promise of good things to come. However, it is the bowl of avgolemono that I can't wait to tuck into and savor. It's like a big bear hug in a bowl.

It is at these times when I am reminded of a line from a tune called "Three Days" by Jane's Addiction -- "...we choose no kin but adopted strangers". It contains references to weakening family ties -- "...weakened by the lengths we travel..." all of these are right on, but this line sums up the lives of many of us in a society where it isn't unusual for a family to be spread all over the place. Growing up, I moved around a lot -- SE Asia, Europe, the US and something that my folks taught me was that family isn't only your blood relatives. Family is often the one we create along our journey. Some of the most memorable meals, trips and holidays I had as a kid were spent with our "adopted" family in Indonesia -- food and cooking always brought us together. That family lives up the road in Fountain Hills now. My blood family may be spread out all over the place (my parents have lived in Muscat, Oman for the past 10 years), but I have these other families with whom I share a common love for good food, cooking and fellowship. Food has often been an expression of love -- something that is wonderful to give to others and equally wonderful to receive. Sharing food that has been produced with love in the company of those you love -- sounds like the makings of a perfect food day to me!

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Tracy Dempsey Originals are also offered at Arcadia Farms Marketplace and the Cafe serves up her homemade ice creams, too!

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