The Hunt for Good Escargot in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Cafe Review

petitemaison24.jpg
Jackie Mercandetti
Escargot with bone marrow from Peite Maison in Scottsdale.
You think of them, perhaps, as garden pests. For me, they are a favorite meal. I eat snails. With a glass of good rosé and the proper amount of French bread, escargot are on my comestibles short list.

I've eaten them in sauces and in phyllo purses, wrapped in sourdough and cooked into stews, and once, very memorably, in a mediocre cassoulet at a place called Patin Couffin in Fayence, a small Provençal village. I remember more about Virginie, the transsexual septuagenarian who ran the place, than I do the cassoulet, in part because her English was so good and because she noticed that my hair was in dishabille and, licking the palm of her hand, patted it back into place. (Also, she sat down at our table, advised us against the fish course, and never stopped talking. Also, there was the part about how she used to be a man and now she was an old woman in a halter top.)

See also: Lunch Be a Lady: Exploring the Arcadia Lunch Scene

Escargot is a French tradition. Typically served as an appetizer in either their own shells or a dimpled ceramic dish made especially to coddle butter-and-garlic-drenched mollusks, escargot are land snails grown specifically for eating. Their tastiness varies from species to species; the best snails are those known as Helix pomatia, as they're the fattest and the least musky-tasting. Elonga quimperiana, smaller and more chewy, are popular in Italy and France and not often served here.

Still, a surprising number of local restaurants serve escargot, and most that do -- I know this because I go looking for snails -- are in Scottsdale. (No surprise there.) If you haven't eaten snails, but like mussels or conch, you might consider trying escargot. The texture of snail meat is similar to those of shellfish, although unlike them the cooking method and accompaniment of snails can change their taste considerably.

Snails usually are prepared one of two ways. Escargots à la Bourguignonne are removed from their shells, prepared and cooked in "snail butter" (which doesn't contain snails; it's drawn butter with shallots and herbs and sometimes white wine), then either returned to their shells or placed in that dimpled escargot plate and baked in an oven. Escargot à la Provençal, a rarity on any menu here in the Valley, is usually made with petit-gris snails in a garlicky tomato sauce that's dense with parsley.

The escargot de Bourgogne at La Petite France, tucked away in an unpretentious shopping mall in Scottsdale, is close to perfect. Served traditionally in simple drawn butter, they were offered warm, rather than hot, when I ordered them there most recently. Otherwise, they were exquisite, spiked with white wine and seasoned with shallots, garlic, and parsley and served with plenty of crusty French bread.

Location Info

La Petite France

7001 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge

2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Voila French Bistro and Wine Bar

10135 E. Vía Linda, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Posh Improvisational Cuisine

7167 E. Rancho Vista Drive, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Petite Maison

7216 E. Shoeman Lane, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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7 comments
bocca
bocca

Nice article but. .. but eating snail isn't exclusively French. And French cuisine is but a small window into this. To write only about and experience only French prepared snail is like saying Chima Changas represent all things Mexican food!

I challenge you to learn and try the Italian and Sicilian style of eating snail (babbalucci). You'll never go back to French escargot again.

mforth77
mforth77

Crudo runs an escargot special from time to time that is phenomenal!

azsunshine26
azsunshine26

If you're in the area, try the escargot at The Salt Cellar on Hayden near McClintock. It's on their happy hour menu for $6! (every day 4pm - 7pm and 10pm - 1am) They're baked in mushroom caps with garlic butter and served with crusty bread for sopping up all the goodness.

rlgans1
rlgans1

Finally - an excellent, intelligent review! C'est tres bon. Les escargot est magnifique!

rlgans1
rlgans1

@youfroggywanker @rlgans1 Your prejudice nature as well as  your stupidity is quite evident. I was born and raised in the U.S. However, I have traveled the entire world and have learned more than one language. Unlike you, I am proud of my accomplishments. 

My guess would be that waking up in the morning is a major task for you, and using your brain is just not something you are up to the task for. Go back to drinking your Budweiser! 

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