Desert-to-Table Cooking at Tonto Bar & Grill Features Seasonal Prickly Pears

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

Jerri Parness Photography
See also: Tonto Bar & Grill's Amanda Crick: Caramelpalooza Candymakers

Eric Flatt, co-owner of Tonto Bar & Grill in Cave Creek doesn't blather about the local food movement or the part his historic restaurant plays in it. But he's been the local-est of locavores for 10 years now, gathering ocotillo flowers, cholla buds, mesquite beans, jojoba seeds and saguaro fruit from the desert and using them in creative ways on his Southwestern-inflected menu.

"Desert-to-table" he calls it with a chuckle that suggests he doesn't really take marketing hype and pretentious labels all that seriously.

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Pickle-Savant Sacha Levine Makes Green Thumb Brand Seasonal Pickles and Sells Them at Bodega

Sacha Levine in Thumbs Up.jpg
Nikki Buchanan
Sacha Levine gives a big thumbs-up to pickled cucumbers
See also: Sacha Levine: Tastemaker #74

If you keep abreast of culinary up-and-comers, then you already know about Sacha Levine. She works for Chrysa Robertson at Rancho Pinot and puts in prep time for Charleen Badman at FnB -- which is to say, she's been mentored by two of the biggest, most badass female chefs in town.

The girl is going places. That's been clear for a long time.

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Hip Veggies: Phoenix Artists Design Reusable Canvas Grocery Bags to Benefit Local Foodbanks

Categories: Fresh

Sebastien Millon
See also: Monika Woolsey's Perfect Food Day
See also: Downtown's Phoestivus Brings Local Vendors to Public Market in December

When local dietician Monika Woolsey announced the launch of her latest creative food/arts project, eye candy was to be expected.

Woolsey is a co-organizer of Get Your PHX/Phoestivus holiday markets, Director of Marketing for Chow Locally, and founder of a hormone health organization called inCYST, which focuses on treating hormone disorders with food and complementary medicine.

She describes Hip Veggies as an educational partnership between the local arts and food communities and a creative way to showcase fruits and vegetables: "I've always believed that one big reason people don't eat more fruits and vegetables is that their growers do not have the marketing budgets of other foods."

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Farmers Market Salad at St. Francis Evolves as Summer Progresses

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

St. Francis Farmer's Mkt Salad.jpg
Courtesy of St. Francis
Farmers Market Salad at St. Francis
Sure, lots of people say they ascribe to the farm-to-table movement, and why wouldn't they? It's become a journalistic catchphrase, as well as a PR and marketing tool.

Then again, some chefs -- Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis, for one -- actually walk the talk, buying local, seasonal, and organic as much as the budget allows and incorporating the season's best and brightest produce in ways that make customers say, "Wow! I forgot how unbelievably good a tomato -- or fresh corn, or whatever -- could be!"

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Tamarindo: The Best Agua Fresca You've Never Tasted (And Where You Can Find One in Phoenix)

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

Nikki Buchanan
Tamarindo at America's Taco Shop
If you've ventured beyond the gringo-ized Mexican food served at chain restaurants or wandered into a Latino grocery store, chances are you've run across aguas frescas (fresh waters) -- the non-alcoholic coolers that combine fruits, cereals, or seeds with sugar and water.

Kept in clear jugs and dipped out with ladles, they're thirst-quenching standbys, available all year long but especially appealing come summer, when a sugary soft drink just doesn't cut it.

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Moscow Mule -- Simple Summer Cocktail, Rich History

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

Nikki Buchanan
Moscow Mule at J&G Steakhouse.
Like the Pimm's Cup featured on Chow Bella a few weeks ago, the Moscow Mule is another thirst-quenching summery cocktail, often served in bars in a cold copper mug.

Where the Pimm's Cup is a Brit invention, the Moscow Mule is purely American.

Created in Los Angeles in the '40s (stories vary on the exact date) at an English-style pub called The Cock 'n' Bull, It was a big hit with Hollywood hipsters of the day, who frequented the famous tavern on the Sunset Strip.

Although the drink gets a bit of tweaking now and then, the bartenders at J&G Steakhouse think there's absolutely no good reason to mess with a classic. And they don't. You can find this retro cocktail everywhere or stay at home and whip up one yourself.

It's a breeze to make, and in an era of Byzantine cocktails, this old-school standby seems particularly refreshing. Here's the recipe:

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Fava Beans at Rancho Pinot and FnB -- Hurry, They're Almost Gone

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

courtesy of Rancho Pinot
Favas make a starring role -- in a limited engagement -- at Rancho Pinot.

Fava beans -- quite possibly the spookiest legumes of all time. Remember Hannibal Lecter, who scared the bejeezus out of Clarice (and the rest of us) when he deadpanned, "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti"? And then that little slurpy noise he made after? Seriously creepy.

The Silence of the Lambs notwithstanding, I love favas, which bear some resemblance to lima beans except that favas are larger and less starchy. They possess a faintly nutty flavor and a pleasantly slippery texture. They're yummy in soups, salads and pastas and absolutely incredible ground into purees.

Many of the city's farm-focused restaurants are using favas at the moment, but they won't be around much longer (in some cases, a week at the most), so it's a now-or-never (or at least, not-til-next-year) proposition.

Here are two restaurants that heavily favor the fava:

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Soft-Shell Crab Done Right at Quiessence, Teeter House and Binkley's

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

crab quiessence.jpg
Nikki Buchanan
Soft-shell crab's not hard to find at Quiessence.

It's soft-shell crab season now until the end of summer, which means we're going to be seeing lots of it on local menus -- usually served lightly battered and deep-fried, always eaten whole.

The good news? No futzing around with crab-crackers.

The bad news? Having to eat those beady little eyes.

If you're not squeamish about soft-shell crab, you already know its many virtues -- sweet meat, major crunch, and a bit of juiciness in the middle. If you've never tried it, you're definitely missing out.

Ever wonder what the soft shell is all about? Here's a science lesson to get you up to speed:

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Classic Pimm's Cup Makes a Comeback in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Buchanan, Fresh

courtesy of Windsor
Why have a Pimm's Cup when you can have a whole pitcher?
In this new series, Chow Bella blogger Nikki Buchanan shares what's hot right now -- and we're not talking about the temperature. Whether it's the latest trendy ingredient or the right dish for the season, she'll give you the backstory and where in town you can find it.

It's official. Our five-month summer is here. A long haul of this proportion calls for cold, refreshing beverages -- preferably alcoholic. England's favorite summer drink is the Pimm's Cup, and like so many classic cocktails, it's making a comeback here in the States.

Although it's considered an aperitif (a low-alcohol cocktail drunk before dinner to stimulate the appetite), it's so light and refreshing, it makes a great sipper any time.

Here's the backstory:

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