Category Archives: Phoenix

i8tonite: Patrick O’Malley, North America’s Coffee Man & Holiday Espresso Martini

Patrick O'Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Patrick O’Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Where do you think North America’s leading authority on coffee is located? Seattle? Portland? Boston? New York? San Francisco? If you guessed Tempe, Arizona, you could win Jeopardy. On a small street, not far from Arizona State University and the nationally known brewery Four Peaks, is Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Italia, a roastery creating some of the country’s most sublime caffeine brews. In a warehouse full of beans and leaves, O’Malley, the leading national authority on coffee and possibly tea works, lives and breathes caffeinated beverages.

O’Malley is unique as he is the only trained individual in the United States and 43rd in the world, allowed to teach Specialty Coffee

Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Association of Europe’s certification. Matter of fact, mostly Europeans train – with a smattering of Americans — at his International Barista Coffee Academy where they learn every facet of making the perfect cup and cupping. He educates students on a specially created espresso machine that he – along with five of the world’s leading coffee authorities — and Sanremo, the Italian high-end coffee manufacturer produced. O’Malley’s students are much like him, fans of the brew and owners of cafes throughout the world such as Belgium, France, Italy, Turkey, although some do come from the States to attend.

According to O’Malley, his hardest test was passing the Q certification – the system by which all coffee is graded. He ranks number 1043rd in the world out of a little over 3500. “It was harder than a sommelier’s test,” he notes.

Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith
Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith

The good thing for global coffee lovers is O’Malley opened a European-like café in April called Infusion Coffee and Tea. They just have to travel to Tempe.

In i8tonite’s Food People Questionnaire O’Malley talks about his love of soup, dislike for tofu, why he loves butchers and how to create a caffeinated martini, a new tradition for the holidays – sort of like egg nog except with caffeine. Heh.

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Wow. Good one. I would have to say my potato and leek soup because that’s what brings the biggest smile to Bugs. (Devin, my daughter.)

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Butter, white wine for cooking and garlic. My go to base for sauces.

O'Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.
O’Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Adventurous people who will gladly try anything once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? If they won’t even try something; how do you know if you don’t try it?

Beer, wine or cocktail? Guinness, Hendriks tonic and fresh cracked pepper. Its stupid good.

Your favorite cookbook author? Anthony Bourdian.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My knives.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything where I need to make a sauce. I love making a sauce.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood or tofu? NO TOFU. I love meat. All meat. Even entrails sometimes. They are the best bits.

Favorite vegetable? Beets.

Chef you most admire? Locally?? No way I can answer that we have so many in this town (meaning Phoenix and the surrounding communities) that deserve to be named. I have to go with my Mom. She was a baker but could cook very well. She raised 6 of us (5 boys, 1 girl and Dad) on not a lot but we ate like kings. Her liver and onions was the best you will ever have.

Food you like the most to eat? Just about anything placed in front of me, but I am a soup guy for sure. So soup.

Food you dislike the most? Tofu.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Travel, because I get to try new food.

Who do you most admire in food? Butchers. I love to watch them break down an animal that people can take home and eat, it’s cool to watch a good one work.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Every one of our customers’ restaurants. I rarely dine at a place unless they are an Espresso Italia customer, our accounts are our family.

Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.
Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Treviso, every time I arrive, Carlo, the owner of Sanremo espresso machine factory takes me directly to L’incontro. They have an appetizer bar that opens like a clam’s shell, once open its full of some of the best seafood and pure goodness ever.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Nope not one, I don’t follow trends. It’s just not who I am. I have never had a desire to have one, and if I did I don’t think tripe or liver would look good on my arm. LOL.

Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Martini 

Martini: Photo by Edsel Little
Martini: Photo by Edsel Little

Espresso made with Infusion Push blend (blueberry, lime and chocolate profile) or if you can’t find it any espresso will do.

Vanilla Vodka 1oz

Chambord .25oz (or any good quality raspberry liquor)

 

Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Look out! It’s yummy.

 

The End. Go Eat.

 

i8tonite: A Road Trip with My Mother, Baked Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving

As I do every year, I picked my mother up for Thanksgiving from her San Bernardino home. She will stay with us for a couple of days but instead of Los Angeles, the drive is from Phoenix, a round-trip excursion through the Sonoran desert. We will laugh, and I will tease her about her hearing as she’s asked me the same question three times, which I’ve answered three times.

I will finally state:  “I think we need to get batteries for your hearing aids.”

She’ll roll her eyes in amusement and swat at me, laughing in annoyance, “Brian! You know I don’t wear hearing aids.”

I respond, “Exactly.”

She’s aging and frankly, so am I; these car journeys won’t be happening forever. My mother gave me a love of road trips. We took them often from Duarte, California, where I was born to wherever she wanted to go. Disneyland. Pasadena. San Diego. Santa Monica. The best voyage was when my parents divorced. She wanted her maternal family closer – they lived in South Carolina — and her best friend lived in Baltimore. The ink was barely dry on the papers, and she packed up the red Pontiac Firebird with the vinyl top.  It was game on, a car trip through the southern half of the United States – East Coast bound.

She drove that car – a single woman and a kid — through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (two days), all the way to South Carolina in the early seventies. The AM radio was blaring Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Vicki Lawrence, and The Carpenters. Wolfman Jack’s raspy baritone kept the truckers company and single family station wagons happy on long stretches of nothing. I recall a preacher man who drove his van around the dusty highways, solely to assist stranded drivers with broken cars. After fixing our ruined timing belt, his payment was joining him in prayer. My mother’s not a religious woman, but she believes in God. She was incredibly grateful for his help, so we held hands on the side of the two-lane desert highway and prayed.

This time, as we crossed the Colorado River, the border between California and Arizona, I was driving. She was the passenger, and the music was coming from an iTouch playing singalong Cher, Dusty Springfield, America and maybe Florence and The Machine. I threw in Elvis for my mom. The road has expanded from one car in each direction to a six-lane thoroughfare, at times almost eight – half going east, the others going west.  I’ve rented a car, so I don’t have to worry about breaking down. I will call the rental company and be on the road in no-time.

Yes, it will be a good holiday.

Baked Sweet Potatoes (No recipe) (“It’s not Thanksgiving without them,” my mother’s declares)

Find the largest sweet potatoes you can grab. Wash and then dry thoroughly. Determine where the top of the tuber is and poke a line along the length of the skin. Then do the same with the center width (You should have a cross.) Rub with vegetable oil, wrapping in aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour or until done. Serve with crème fraiche (my favorite) or butter (my mother’s favorite). Throw some chives and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Phoenix’s Biltmore Area

The city of Phoenix is one of our country’s most beautiful urban areas. Facing south from the area known as the Biltmore, the furthest southern horizon is the South Mountain and Sierra Estrellas (Correction by David Bickman. For the past three months, since, I’ve lived in Phoenix, I’ve been calling them by the wrong name.) Its wavy silhouette stretching both east and west; in between are flat lands – just widening with low-rise buildings. You can view planes jet off from Sky Harbor International. The sixth largest city in the country has skyscrapers and glass buildings but their presence isn’t too obtrusive against the natural arid beauty and environment. Instead of green lawns, oaks and maples – although, there is that – the majestic saguaros, native to the area, are planted in front of many homes beside other homegrown cacti.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens that surround the Biltmore.
Biltmore. Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria.

To the north is Piestawa Peak, the topmost — second only to Camelback — in the Phoenix mountain range. Named in honor of Lori Ann Piestawa, Phoenician-born soldier, who has the tragic distinction of being the first female and first Native American to lose their life in the 2003 Iraqi War. It’s a natural border before heading into the bedroom environs. At sunrise and sunset, the Phoenician peaks are colored in a pinkish hues and are often hiked by the area residents and visitors. Matter of fact, right at the bottom of the range lies the world famous Arizona Biltmore, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces. It’s a beguiling resort with 740 rooms, eight swimming pools, tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course.

Courtesy of Macherisom Tourism

Unsurprisingly, the area is called The Biltmore. You might find that a car should be at your disposal as the area isn’t very walkable; however, the drives are thankfully short. In the coming year, a new luxury hotel called The Camby, will replace the recently closed Ritz-Carlton, directly across from the area’s luxury shopping mall, Biltmore Fashion Square. There’s even more luxury lodging at the independently owned The Hermosa Inn, which has one of the Phoenix’s best restaurants, Lon’s at the Hermosa.

The Biltmore area is Phoenix’s financial district – it’s Wall Street — but it does have character. For one, the mall houses a small shopping area inside called Union dedicated to independent retailers. The Saks Fifth Avenue, a former I. Magnin, has an astonishing visual merchandiser and artist, Quim Bove. At one time, Bove who resided in a principality called Andorra, wedged between France and Spain, was a window display artist at Hermes in southern France and Christian Dior in Spain before moving to the Valley of the Sun. His installations have fountains and fake hedges or brown felt, twirling like upside down cyclone turning magically into a Chanel tweed suit.  He also did all the artwork throughout the store.

Lastly, the food in Phoenix should be receiving more attention than it does. Pizzeria Bianco has been named many times over to have the best pizza in America. Phoenix’s chefs are doing very well in creating a vibrant culinary scene and Arizona has a growing wine culture and craft beer breweries are peppered throughout. Epicures should find this an excellent city to avail themselves of their favorite hobby.

Breakfast Burrito. Courtesy of Breakfast Club.
Matt's Big Breakfast
Courtesy of Matt’s Big Breakfast.

Breakfast: When I first moved to Phoenix, I noticed an amazing amount of restaurants catering to a breakfast and lunch crowd only. I would estimate three dozen restaurants or more with cute names reflecting the day’s first meal. For example, you could eat eggs, waffles and bacon at The First Watch, U.S. Egg, The Good Egg, Snooze, Scramble, The Breakfast Club and Perk one week and then the following, head to Daily Dose, Over Easy, Oink, Butterfield’s Pancake House, Morning Glory Café, Biscuits and The Original Pancake House and many more never repeat  to one in a month .  They open at the crack of dawn and close right after lunch. Get this…they have a waitlist. Not just during the weekend, but during the weekdays too. Sometimes for an hour! Phoenix has a love affair with breakfast. One of my faves is Matt’s Big Breakfast. The first location is located near downtown Phoenix with corrugated, aluminum siding and bright orange walls which has that urban hipster feel, friendly service, down to earth smiles – nose rings and tattoo sleeves. The newest location is in a strip mall, next to a QuickCuts and a Safeway. Featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Dives and Drive-In’s, it a family-run place with solid meals, liberal use of butter on everything, cage free eggs and humanely raised meats. Owner Matt Pool wanted his restaurant to represent the mid-west diners his father took him to as a boy. I think he elevated the experience by several notches. (Regardless, if Fieri was there or not.)

My suggestion:  The Chop & Chick. Iowa-raised pork chop, marinated in pesto. Served up with your choice of egg style and potatoes, plus Wildflower Bread. (This is a Phoenix-based bakery that makes delicious artisan breads.)

 

  • Price: $10.95
  • Hours: 6:30 am – 2:30 pm.
  • Address:  3132 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85016
  • Phone Number:  This location hasn’t opened yet at the time of this writing. I cheated – but it’s my site. I will remove this statement when it opens at the end of October 2015.
  • Website:  www.mattsbigbreakfast.com
The Original Chopped Salad. Courtesy of The Gladly

Lunch:  Andrew Fritz and his partner, Chef Bernie Kantake have helped elevate Phoenix’s dining scene first with Citizen Public House, a take on the gastro pub, and with this restaurant called The Gladly. It’s located within walking distance to the new The Camby, the newest luxury hotel to open in Phoenix. The young owners have an extensive bar menu and New American dishes. It was a tough call on what to feature for lunch in this area but The Gladly won out because it features a salad called The Original Chopped Salad. It has its own Facebook page. Yeah, you can’t beat that.

My suggestion:  The Original Chopped Salad

  • Price: $12.00
  • Hours: Lunch, 11am – 3pm, Monday – Friday. Dinner 3pm – 10am, Monday – Thursday. Dinner 3pm – 11pm, Friday – Saturday. Sunday Brunch, 9am – 3pm.  
  • Address: 2201 East Camelback Road, #106, Phoenix, Arizona 85016
  • Phone Number: (602) 759 – 8132
  • Website: www.thegladly.com
pizza
Pizza. Courtesy of Christopher’s Crush.

Snack Time: Christopher’s Crush is located in the Biltmore Fashion Square. It’s an appropriate spot since it evokes a cosmopolitan and very fashion-oriented atmosphere with glass, crisp tablecloths, and colored with muted oranges, reds and browns. You could place the spot in Manhattan and it would fit perfectly. The same thing can be said of Christopher Gross’ food and sommelier Paola Embrey’s wine list. Sophisticated. Chic. Urbane. James Beard-nominated for Best in Southwest.

My suggestion: They have 70 wines by the glass and a bar menu for their happy hour, named – ahem – Happy Hour.

  • Price: All wines, beers and well drinks are half-price from 3:00pm –
  • Photo Courtesy of Christopher's Crush
    Photo Courtesy of Christopher’s Crush
  • 6:00pm.
  • Hours: Seven days a week, Happy Hour is served from 3:00pm – 6:00pm.
  • Address: 2502 East Camelback Road, Suite 102. Biltmore Shopping Center.
  • Phone Number: (602) 522 — 2344
  • Website: www.christophersaz.com

 

Dinner: Lon’s at The Hermosa is truly an experience showcasing the old West with its adobe style structure. Owned and built by well-known Western artist Lon Mergargee, The Hermosa Inn’s restaurant is old world with white tablecloths, candles, plush seating with big over-sized chairs and booths. During the winter, it’s de riguer to be seen eating at Lon’s once a week amongst the Paradise Valley social set. The kitchen has a one-acre garden – nice to pull daily herbs and some fresh vegetables for the dining guests but it’s the citrus fruit that provides the most bounty and uses. Visitors can have a variety of freshly squeezed juices throughout the day provided by the hotel’s trees. Housemade cocktails get a healthy dose of garden love as well.

LON's Signature Burger
Photo Courtesy of Hermosa Inn

My suggestion: Lon’s is known for the steaks and chops. Just indulge and enjoy the Sonoran desert beauty.

  • Price: 8 ounce filet is $44, the lamb rack is $56 and the pork chop $36. The chop is the size of a caveman’s club.
  • Hours: 6pm – 9pm
  • Address:  5532 North Palo Christi Road, Paradise Valley, Arizona  85016
  • Phone: (602) 955 – 7878
  • Website:  www.thehermosainn.com

Stay: It’s a hard choice  on where to stay in this area which is comprised of  three of  The Valley of the Sun’s top hotels including The Hermosa Inn which is celebrating their 80th year as a hotel, The Camby, the newest in the city or The Arizona Biltmore. Each property has a different personality although the Biltmore and Hermosa Inn have long been established.

The Camby, housed in a former Ritz Carlton shell, appeals to the new generation of traveler looking for hi-tech services. On a recent visit, they had an interesting computer concierge service which sort of worked. We still needed to be talked through the process with the temporary desk person and it was fun to play with on this massive touch screen. Ultimately, it didn’t have all the information loaded onto at the time.

The Hermosa Inn, with only thirty five rooms, is the most private of three, tucked away in Paradise Valley, a ritzy residential section. The pool is quiet, the hotel understated and Lon’s at The Hermosa is one of the best dining experiences in Arizona. Try and book one of the newer renovated rooms for a great, adult like experience.

The Arizona Biltmore is one of the city’s largest hotels and one of the most historic. Under Frank Lloyd Wright’s tutelage, Albert Chase McArthur designed the almost century old hotel. It’s full of stunning vistas (Piestewa Peak is it’s backyard), resort amenities and a massive swimming pool. (Actually, several but who’s counting).

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet for Dining in Phoenix's Biltmore Area

The End. Go Eat.