Tag Archives: Arizona

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)“I want people to realize that when they walk out their front door,” says Phoenix-based nutritionist Monika Woolsey, “that they have a whole world to choose from not just the same six foods that we always eat.” This statement starts the conversation about how do you define Woolsey, named in 2016 by Phoenix New Times as one of city’s 100 Tastemakers. Unsurprisingly, she was the only registered dietitian on the alt-weekly’s restaurant heavy industry list. By i8tonite’s definition, she is a quintessential food person, making a mark in her community through her work. According to her website, she is the team nutritionist with the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Organization, maintaining the needs of 150 athletes from a dozen countries, keeping their energy so they can reach home plate;  and the Caesar Chavez Leadership Academy Garden Project focusing on hunger relief and blogging on community gardens.

She can be thought of as keeper of “indigenous plants” and foods to eat maintaining healthy diet for all. Woolsey states, “We eat the same foods, but it’s important to eat what you know. Recently, I was working with a young Mexican athlete, who’s food consists of corn. We needed to implement that food into her diet, making it easier for her to sustain a balance.”

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)Woolsey has a degree from the University of Boulder, Colorado in kinesiology,but began nutrition when approached by the Chicago Cubs, who needed someone who knew food and was a fluent Spanish speaker to talk to the team. (Woolsey does both and has traveled throughout Latin America.)

Winding down the conversation, Woolsey says, “I’m making mesquite tea.”

With surprise, I quip, “I’ve never known you could drink mesquite as a tea.”

“Oh yeah. During the Civil War, Texan soldiers didn’t have any coffee so they would drink this (brew). They called it ‘apocalypse’ coffee.”

I know who I’m hanging out with when the last day comes.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Slow cooker meals that get better as they sit: chili, ropa vieja, minestrone soup, sauerbraten.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
At least 8 different seasonal vegetables. Ricotta cheese, milk, and eggs. Sofrito, salsa, Dijon mustard, sriracha, and curry sauce.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who can simply enjoy the meal, and the meal environment, without taking a picture of it, commenting on its nutritional value, or lack thereof.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Excessive special requests for the host that remove the love and thoughtfulness that went into its creation.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I’m German. It’s going to be beer! Nothing better on a hot Phoenix day than a Weissbier with a spritz of lemon!

Your favorite cookbook author?
Gran Cocina Latina by Marcicel Presilla. The author is a chef with a PhD in Mediieval Spanish History, and her book approaches the entire Latin continent from a historical perspective. I read it cover to cover last summer, and plan to do so again this summer. This book completely launched my confidence in creating healthy recipes for the Latin athletes I work with.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My garlic press! I am constantly pulling it out of the dishes, washing it, and using it for the next project!

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Most of my audience is people new to cooking. I enjoy creating simple renditions of complicated recipes that leave anyone feeling like they can succeed in the kitchen. Recently I’ve been focusing on Latin American cuisine. Not just Mexican, but Caribbean, Venezuelan, Central American, each one is different and each has introduced me to delicious ingredients I take back to my other recipes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Anything, anything, but tofu!

Favorite vegetable?
With a business named “Hip Veggies,” it’s hard to play favorites. But I suppose it would be homegrown tomatoes. Mine are ripening right now, and they rarely make it inside to the salad. I love snacking on them as I pick them. But then there’s corn. Who doesn’t love a fresh roasted elote? Oh my, I had best move on to the next question before you get a dissertation.

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

Chef you most admire?
Tamara Stanger, of Helio Basin Brewing Company, here in Phoenix. She’s blazing her own trail, daring to use native desert ingredients I have not seen other local chefs know how to use. And every time she steps up, she wins awards. Tammy is very quickly raising the bar for the definition of “local food” in Arizona.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like what’s grown locally, in season. Food that was pulled out of the ground the day I get it. My CSA box has sharpened my awareness of what tastes best at different times of year. And I have learned that when you eat with the seasons, there’s always something coming up, just around the corner, that I haven’t had in awhile. It keeps my kitchen interesting.

Food you dislike the most?
Anything with ingredients piled together in some way that suggests they’re only there because they are trendy. I love kale, quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocado, blueberries, and salmon. But please, don’t pile them together in a Superfood Bowl. Been there, seen it on Instagram a million times.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Anything related to nature. Hiking, photography, biking, visiting a zoo or botanical garden.

Whom do you most admire in food?
The farmers who put it on our table. They work so hard for so little credit. If it were not for their love of the land and willingness to be out there 7 days a week, often in brutal conditions, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. We take them for granted. They deserve better.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Anywhere that is likely to create a memory. On a log while hiking a beautiful trail, with family on a holiday, any environment that encourages savoring the experience as well as the food.

What is your favorite restaurant?
My family has been eating at Casa Molina in Tucson, Arizona for over 40 years. The menu hasn’t changed, the décor is the same. Good things stick around for a reason. Try a carne seca tostada with a margarita on their patio, and you’ll understand.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have never intentionally tattoed myself. However, food has had a way of tattooing me! I have a nice scar on my left forefinger, a souvenir from a bout with a cantankerous bagel. A few marks from splattering grease, touching hot baking sheets I thought were cool. I wear each one with pride.

Recipe: Grilled Butternut Squash with Mexican Pipián Sauce

i8tonite: The Case for Mesquite Coffee with Food Person Monika Woolsey (Or When the Apocalypse Happens)

Serves 2

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Salt
1/2 cup 505 Southwestern Green Chile, Tomatillo, Cilantro, and Lime Salsa
¼ cup raw, unsalted peanuts
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Clean the squash

Peel butternut squash and cut into thin slices; set slices in a small mixing bowl. Set aside the seeds you recover while cleaning and preparing the squash.

Make the pipián sauce

Place reserved squash seeds in a ¼ cup measuring cup. If you do not have ¼ cup of seeds, add enough pumpkin seeds to measure as ¼ cup. Add these seeds and the peanuts to the skillet, and toast them over medium heat. Stir frequently.

When the seeds and peanuts start to pop, turn off the heat and let them continue to cook in the heat remaining in the skillet.

Place seed/peanut mixture in a spice grinder, a coffee grinder, or a food processor and grind thoroughly.

Remove mixture from grinder and set aside.

Cook the squash

Add peanut oil to the squash; toss to evenly coat slices with oil.

Salt lightly.

Place squash slices on a grill (or in a cast iron skillet over medium heat) and cook until both sides are nicely browned. It should take just a few minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside in dish.

Assemble the dish

Arrange the squash pieces attractively on a serving plate.

Spoon pipián sauce over the squash slices.

Garnish with cilantro.

Enjoy!

i8tonite with Phoenix’s TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo RecipeChef and owner of TEXAZ Grill Steven Freidkin is that rarity in restaurants nowadays. Long before the Food Network and celebrity cooks ruled our dinner tables, Freidkin had always been a good, respectable chef, and learning the trade not in fancy culinary schools, but employed in the eateries were he worked. As a pre-teen, he began his kitchen career working at his family’s kosher deli in Shreveport, Louisiana cutting up corned beef in the front and then hanging with his friends. Reminiscing about his youth, Freidkin said, “We would be hiding behind the pickle barrels.  We were the only store that cured our own pickles.”

His first job away from his parents’ store was as a dishwasher. Then while attending college in the Dallas, he cooked in many kitchens, learning that this could be his way of making a living instead of getting a social work degree. Ultimately, this led him to turn specifically failing restaurants into moneymakers. For a bit of time, he worked for well-known Victoria Station, a popular chain of railroad themed steakhouses that proliferated throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Arriving in Phoenix in 1976 on a proposition to a restaurant called Pointe of View located by Squaw Peak, he’s been in the Valley of the Sun ever since.

Before TEXAZ Grill, there were a couple of other stints in restaurants and a catering company, but in 1985, he, along with a former partner, opened the Phoenician steakhouse landmark. TEXAZ Grill isn’t one of the high-end places where people drop their credit cards to pay for the hefty price-tag on a wine and ribeye. No. Freidkin has established an important Valley of the Sun staple – as important as a saguaro cactus on a dusky evening — among the steak and chops set, leading the southwestern pack in crafting down home eats.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Regulars come to sit in the eclectically decorated space. Walls filled with hundreds of baseball hats, deer heads, pen and ink drawings found in thrift stores, black and white photos, and beer labels lavishly cover the space. It’s an homage to roadhouses long gone, or it’s an actual roadhouse, depending on your personal age and reference.

Among the ribeye and the New York Strip, listed above the delicious stalwart of fried chicken, is the house specialty – the chicken fried steak. Friedkin recalls, “When we first opened, we had a lot of requests for it. We put it on the menu for a special, and then gradually it stayed.” Two big breaded cubed steaks are dredged in flour, deep-fried, and served with white gravy. “We have served more than 900,000 of these since we opened,” Freidkin comments. Here’s to 900,000 more.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I started cooking in our family delicatessen in Louisiana when I was 10, so I have been cooking 50 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite dish to cook is noodles, Cajun and Creole.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have pickled okra in my fridge.

What do you cook at home?
I cook everything- Mexican, Asian, Southern, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern…and I fridge raid (clearing out the fridge and making a full meal).

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Friendliness.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfriendliness.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above. My favorites range from a Shiner Bock, Old Vine Zin, and Tito’s on the rocks with a pickled Okra.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Robb Walsh.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Japanese Cleaver.

Your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient is black pepper.

Your least favorite ingredient?
My least favorite ingredient is CILANTRO!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean up!

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Southern, Italian, Mexican, and Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef.

Favorite vegetable?
Eggplant.

Chef you most admire?
The chef I admire most locally is Robert McGrath.

Food you like the most to eat?
Noodles, Creole and Cajun are my favorite foods to eat. My absolute favorite is Texas BBQ.

Food you dislike the most?
Liver.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
N/A.

Recipe: Chicken Fideo

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Serving Size: 5
Prep Time: 0:21

Ingredients:
7 oz vermicelli — fideo
1 oz butter
3 cups cubed chicken thigh meat
1 c julienned onion
2 t minced garlic
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
3 cups water
2 t chicken bouillion paste
1 t oregano
2 t whole cumin
2 oz canned jalapeno peppers – juice

Directions:
Brown fideo in butter until golden.
Add onion and garlic and saute briefly.
Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over moderate heat, until done – about 30 minutes.
Serve topped with sliced green onion and grated cheddar.
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe“After college, I thought I was going to go to California, but I got delayed,” says noted Chef Cullen Campbell, chef owner of the nationally known Phoenix-based Crudo, which he opened in 2012 with mixologist Micah Olson. Last year, the duo, along with Campbell’s wife Maureen McGrath, unlocked Okra, a Southern-themed restaurant with touches of Italy, harkening back to growing up in Arkansas. Although born in the 48th state, Campbell spent time on the Arkansas family farm and attended university in Memphis, where he picked up some of the deep Southern touches that craft the excellent flavors of his sophomore effort. Clearly, he wanted to bring some of that country to Arizona.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Like the Sonoran Desert, the interiors of both places are wide and vast. There aren’t any nooks or cubby holes  for clandestine dinners to hide in. The restaurants are boisterous, raucous affairs, letting the diner know they are in for a delicious meal. Crudo is the higher end of the two, with a collage of shutters as artwork at the entrance, but it’s the casual wood-tones of Okra which come across warmly. Both restaurants, though, are a showcase of Campbell’s kitchen talent. Arizona Republic’s restaurant critic Howard Sefetel said in his 2012 review of Crudo, “What makes Campbell’s fare stand out? Certainly, the ingredients are primo. But what Campbell does with them is often highly original and always skillfully executed.”

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Since then, the kitchen star has been on the rise, putting Valley of the Sun’s dining and drinking culture on the national culinary map, with noted stories in Sunset Magazine, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times.

What’s next on the horizon for the Arizona cooking wunderkind? “I have a bunch of different concepts I want to try out. Something small and higher end with no more than a dozen tables. Then I have a hot dog concept I want to do with Micah. Cocktails. Beer and wine list all paired for the dogs.”

Whatever Campbell does, we know it will be delicious.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking for 20 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My least favorite food is Shellfish.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I have wine, water, & leftovers.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Squid Ink Risotto

What do you cook at home?
Not much but sometimes, I r&d at my house. I just made some pici, which is like a thick hand rolled spaghetti. I love hand rolling pasta!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The person wanting to try everything.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
The person that is scared to try new things.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine all the way, especially really great white wine.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Burrata

Your favorite cookbook author?
David Joachim. Not only has he written his own books, he has also collaborated on some of my favorite books.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spoons.

Your favorite ingredient?
Olive Oil.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Anything processed.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean. I make a mess haha!

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I go through spurts. Of course Italian & southern. But I have started playing around with Polynesian.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Rapini.

Chef you most admire?
I have two: Jean Georges Vongerichten & Marc Vetri. One is very refined & the other is more rustic, but they both work with the best ingredients & don’t overcomplicate dishes.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheeseburger & fries!

Food you dislike the most?
I eat everything!

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeHow many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I only have two at the moment. One of them is an alcohol in Japanese. But I want to get a fork & spoon on me. Also, one that celebrates my restaurants – Crudo & Okra.

Recipe: Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Semolina Gnocchi

Semolina Gnocchi
3 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
11/2tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup parmesan
1 cup semolina

Put milk, butter, & salt into a medium pot (bring to a boil).
Add semolina & whisk vigorously for 4 minutes.
Add 1 egg yolk at a time while stirring.
Then add the parmesan and whisk until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.
Spread mixture on a sheet tray & let cool for 45 minutes.
When cooled, cut out circles with a ring mold.
Sear the gnocchi in a pan on medium heat until golden brown.

Cacio e Pepe
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated pecorino remano
1tbs roux
2tbs fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Heat heavy cream & both cheeses together until melted.
Add roux to thicken & then add the pepper.

Trotter Ragu
5lbs pig trotters
1 yellow onion chopped
1 head of garlic chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3oz thyme picked & chopped
6 cups da napoli crushed tomatoes
6 cups meat stock
2tbs salt
1tbs fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a roasting pan, brown the trotters in the olive oil.
Add onion, garlic, and thyme & stir until fragrant.
Season with the salt & pepper.
Add crushed tomatoes and meat stock & cover the pan tightly with foil or lid.
Lower the oven to 300 degrees & cook for 3.5 hours.
After pulled from the oven, let the trotters cool down for about an hour.
After cooled, shred the trotters off the bones & mix back into the sauce.

To Plate
Put the ragu in the bottom of the bowl, arrange gnocchi, & top with a generous amount of cacio e pepe

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked GuacIn 1912, Arizona became the forty-eighth state to enter the contiguous United States. Prior to that, the desert landscape territory was an extension of Mexico’s Sonora, the agricultural hub of our bordering ally. Arguably, you could even say that the Grand Canyon state and our friendly neighbor are conjoined twins. Instead of sharing body parts, the state and the country share a border and a unique history, especially as it relates to eats. On this northern side, we have adopted tacos and tequila as our own with fast food franchises, academic courses detailing corn tortilla virtues, and country songs such as “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo.” (Fortunately, Mexicans don’t have songs about throwing back a bottle of Napa cabernet.)

It’s not surprising then that the state is home to the world’s largest taco festival, honoring its Mexican heritage. Entering its seventh year, the massively attended Arizona Taco Festival was co-created by David Tyda, 39, and glorifies one of the globe’s greatest food icons – right up there with hamburgers, barbeque, French fries, and pizza. There is no other state or city where an annual celebration takes place showcasing the depth of creativity folded into a flour or corn tortilla. “When my business partner, Rick Phillips, and I started the festival,” says Tyda, “we wanted to reveal how diverse the taco can be.”

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

Taking place annually in October, over thirty-five thousand people join in eating unusual hybrids folded or fried into flour or corn layers. The gorge get-together has become a tourism force to be reckoned with for Arizonans bringing heads in beds for the hospitality soaked town which has almost 60,000 rooms in nearly 450 hotels and resorts. (Jokingly, Tyda says, “We sold tickets in every state except Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Maine. Dunno what they’ve got against tacos in Rhode Island.”). Over fifty restaurants gather at Scottsdale Salt River Fields, serving up two dollar tacos with a chance to win a ten thousand dollar cash prize.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

“Whenever someone visited me, they would always ask where they could get a good taco,” states Tyda. “Creatively, we see unusual ideas of what makes a taco. Although, I think it would be fun, to see what restaurants do who don’t make tacos – see what they come up with.” To his credit, he and his partner have also branched out to other epicurean bashes, such as Scottsdale Beer Palooza highlighting craft brews, and Arizona BBQ Festival featuring The Redneck Games.
Long before he was an advocate of Mexico’s leading export, Tyda was one of the state’s finest journalists, working as the editor of Ritz-Carlton Magazine, the now defunct Desert Living, Stratos, and many other glossy titles. Over the years, he’s witnessed a decline in the writing world. In an interview with 26Blocks, he says about journalism, “That art is dying and I’m sad about that.” Yet, gratefully, the Midwest-born, Arizona State University graduate has smartly created a whole new work category for himself and Arizona, turning the Valley of the Sun into a Mexican taco fest.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
My famous mojito pancakes – they have all the ingredients of a mojito in the batter.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
An open box of baking soda, though I’m not convinced it’s doing a damn thing to keep stuff fresh.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Willingness to share their food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Bad tippers.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked GuacBeer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above. I believe in democracy.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Dr. Andrew Weil. His recipes are simple and healthy.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
A good knife.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
No favorites – stir fry, Italian sauces, grilled wings, you name it.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Tofu – only because I rarely encounter it.

Favorite vegetable?
Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, hold the asparagus.

Chef you most admire?
Any talented sous chef because they’re doing a ton of the work and getting almost none of the credit.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

Food you like the most to eat?
Tacos, of course!

Food you dislike the most?
Anything poorly designed, where the chef didn’t think about the user experience (i.e., tacos that fall apart, a burger with a soggy bun, pizza with too much cheese, etc.)

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Netflix and chill with my fiancé (and I really mean Netflix and chill, lol)

Whom do you most admire in food?
Any chef who can achieve consistency. It’s truly a moving target.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked GuacWhere is your favorite place to eat?
At the bar.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Dick’s Hideaway.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Nope.

Recipe: Rock Out with your Guac Out

2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 cup chopped roma tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Chips

Scoop avocados into a medium bowl, and cut/smash with a fork to desired consistency. Stir in all other ingredients. Serve with chips.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceA little more than two years ago, Chef Jennifer Russo opened The Market Restaurant + Bar in Phoenix’s burgeoning Arcadia neighborhood. The restaurant with a neighborhood vibe is reflective of Russo’s use of Arizona-grown produce, dairy, and meats in both her catering and brick and mortar. More importantly, Russo’s growth as a decade-long successful caterer to a full-fledged restauranteur is an indicator of the quality of chefs and restaurants being developed out of the forty-eighth state. The Valley of the Sun, known for safe, corporate restaurants, is literally hungry for independent chefs.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

Born in New Jersey but raised in Arizona, Russo has long been cooking. She started learning some of the family secrets with her father’s grandmother, who emigrated from Italy. As a teen, Russo’s passion for cookery led to a variety of food schools in her Scottsdale-area home but eventually – at the age of twenty-one – became a San Francisco transplant at one of the city’s noted gastronomic institutions. Russo says, “I waited to go to school so I could learn the cocktail classes. I wanted to be of legal age.”
After graduating, realizing the expense of living in the City by the Bay, she returned to The Grand Canyon state and worked with two venerated Sonoran desert chefs continuing her epicurean education. It began with Vincent Guerithault of Vincent’s on Camelback, which led her to a sous chef position with Mark Tarbell at Tarbell’s.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceAfter working the line for years, Russo’s knees needed medical recuperation which led to the founding of her catering company. As her enterprise grew, so did the demand for her wares; clients would constantly ask when she was opening a restaurant.

Now, with a young son and several decades of operating her businesses, Russo has become as renowned as the gentlemen she worked with in Phoenix.

Below, Russo shares recipes for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce, Braised Baby Peas with Pearl Onions and Herbs, and Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Puree

Chef Questionnaire with a nod to Proust:

How long have you been cooking?
For as long as I can remember. But as soon as I could get a job, I started prep cooking @ Lewis Steven’s Catering Company at the age of 16.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love working with proteins and seasonal veg.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Beverages…Let me be honest, wine and water.

 

What do you cook at home?
I don’t get a chance to cook at home since opening The MARKET restaurant+bar. It seems silly to dirty my kitchen at home, especially when I can do that at work. But if I am cooking at home we go pretty big. As long as someone brings the dessert. You don’t want me making dessert.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The excitement they have for the food, wine, and cocktail menus. It makes it all worth it when they love it!

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they share their negative thoughts on social media. I’m here a lot. Just tell me to my face and I will do everything in my power to fix it.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I seem to have a lot of items in delis.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
I love cookbooks from restaurants, so anything Thomas Keller is high on the list. I like how visual they are. But if I had to choose one go to, it would be Julia Child’s Mastering the art of French cooking.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Knives

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceYour favorite ingredient?
That’s not possible. Flaky salt.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Peanuts * I’m allergic!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peeling things

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean. So everything…

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Mushrooms, if I had to choose one

Chef you most admire?
Julia Child past, Thomas Keller present

Recipe: Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

INGREDIENTS
Three 8-bone racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each), trimmed of all fat, bones frenched
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of one lemon
1 cup Pinot Noir
1 garlic clove
1 thyme sprig
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 425°. Season the lamb racks all over with coarse salt, pepper, minced garlic, & lemon zest. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet; both skillets should be ovenproof. Add 2 of the lamb racks to the large skillet and 1 rack to the medium skillet, meaty side down. Cook the racks over moderately high heat until well browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the racks and brown the other side, about 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the skillets to the oven and roast the lamb for 15 to 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 120°or rare and 125° for medium rare. Transfer the racks to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the medium skillet over high heat. Add 1/2 cup of the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the wine into the large skillet and add the garlic and thyme. Set the large skillet over high heat, add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine and boil until reduced by one-third, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the garlic and thyme sprig. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper and strain the sauce into a warmed gravy boat.

To serve, cut the lamb into chops and arrange 3 chops on each dinner plate. Pass the Pinot Noir sauce at the table along with a little coarse salt for sprinkling on the lamb.

Recipe: Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Puree

INGREDIENTS
Two 2-pound heads of cauliflower, cored and separated into 2-inch florets
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mashed potato
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
Salt
Pepper
Chives, chopped

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower florets until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well. Spread the cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, to dry it out.

In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream with the butter and bring to a simmer over moderate heat just until the butter is melted.

Working in batches, puree the cauliflower and mashed potatoes in a blender with the warm cream mixture; transfer the puree to a medium bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and chives.

Recipe: Braised Baby Peas with Pearl Onions and Herbs

INGREDIENTS
12 pearl onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound baby peas, blanched
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

METHOD
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pearl onions and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Peel the onions, leaving the root end intact.

In a medium, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the pearl onions and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and simmer over moderate heat until the peas are tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the mint and chives, season with salt and pepper and serve. When plate is complete,  garnish with roasted cauliflower florets and fresh mint.

 

The End. Go Eat. 

Photos: Joanie Simon

I8tonite: with Tucson’s Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive Right out of college, Casino del Sol’s renowned mixologist Aaron de Feo was turned down for a journalism job in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. As the saying goes, “When someone hands you lemons, you make margaritas.” And, that’s exactly what de Feo did. He has become the one of the country’s prominent mixologists while working at the 215 room property owned by the Pascua Yaqui Indian tribe, a native area nation of the forty-eighth.

Before he landed at Arizona’s only Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond casino resort, de Feo also worked at the landmark Hotel Congress, the city’s only other exciting property, perfecting his craft of blending liquors. Since he’s landed at Casino del Sol, however, his creative drinks have been showcased, turning de Feo into one of the I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrivecountry’s leading libations makers. His business card names him Beverage Director, but he has been called by GQ as “Top 10 Most Inspired” and “Celebrated Doctor of Mixology” by Nightclub & Bar Magazine. He even has a nickname, “Doc,” used by his Old Pueblo liquor networks and friends, turning him into a cocktail cowboy of sorts – although de Feo’s more likely to pull out six shots of his favorite gin, rather than a six bullet shooter.

Importantly, one of the first things he accomplished when opening the four-diamond property was to invigorate Arizona’s growing swizzle stick scene on his turf.  He ensured that all staff learned how to master scratch beverages using simple syrups, freshly squeezed juices, and macerated herbs. De Feo’s distinguishing mark is to insure that any customer had a thirst-quencher made from wholesome ingredients, nothing made with food coloring or preservatives.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive“People are more adventurous now,” says De Feo. “We were being out-gunned by Los Angeles and smaller cities like Nashville. Because we have a good, local music and cultural scene, many of the bar owners didn’t care about changing. They now do. There is a difference which is because of the hotel.”

According to Visit Tucson, the area’s bureau on tourism, there has been an uptick of yearly visitors from 3.4 nights in 2011 to 4 full nights in 2015. It can be attributed to many factors. Since the progressions occurred during de Feo’s term at Casino del Sol, the safe conclusion about the growth is the word is out about his crafty liquor potables. Resort and area guests want a drink from “Doc,” knowing that what he concocts will surely cure what ails them.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive
Tom Bergeron

What is your favorite food to cook at home? I tend to cook rather simple meals, mostly lean, grass-fed meat, vegetables, and legume pasta. However I’m very partial to making sauces, which I think comes from how often I am working with flavoring agents in cocktails.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? A galaxy of various syrups and house-made ingredients for cocktails, which is funny because I don’t drink cocktails at home that often.  Mostly they are experiments that I have elected to save for posterity.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?  Honesty.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?  Anyone who tries to decide for me what “we” are having at a restaurant.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? A Gin Rickey.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive
Casino Del Sol Resort 2011

Your favorite cookbook author? Maybe not a cookbook, but certainly Harold McGee’s work on the science of food is fascinating.

Your favorite kitchen tool? A really great Y peeler.  So many of them are garbage.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian, without question.  Focus on the ingredients and their harmony more than intricacy.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Beef.  Chicken gets re-heated so often in fast casual places.

Favorite vegetable? I’m a huge fan of green peas with truffle salt & olive oil, and brussel sprouts, of course.  Baked cauliflower is about the greatest thing ever.

Chef you most admire? I don’t go in for celebrity chefs much.  I certainly admire many of the chefs I’ve worked with, especially the ones whose cuisine has inspired me behind the bar.  I admire Phoenix-area chef Cullen Campbell (Crudo, OKRA) quite a bit because he has managed to do extraordinary things with styles of food that I’m not entirely comfortable with, and still has me coming back for more.  His take on Southern cuisine is simply incredible.

Food you like the most to eat? Really great pasta with really great sauce.  Nothing better.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive
Casino Del Sol Resort 2011

Food you dislike the most? I guess I just don’t get the phenomenon of tartare and paté.  Texture and aroma mean a lot to me, and the mushy, raw consistency of those things triggers a flight mechanism in my mind.  I guess that makes me the foodie equivalent of a hillbilly, but I don’t care.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? I suppose that excludes going to cocktail bars.  I spend a lot of time working out late at night, by myself.  There’s something extraordinarily calming about it, almost like hitting a sweaty reset button on my day.

Who do you most admire in food? Dave Arnold, for making that leap from food to beverages and showing us all how it’s done.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Sonoran Mexican restaurants, no doubt.

What is your favorite restaurant? Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver is not only one of the coolest spaces I’ve dined in, but the food and service were mind-blowing.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? I think I’m one of the last people in the industry with no tattoos, and honestly it’s getting to the point where that’s almost a disadvantage… like I’m not in the cool club.

Drink Recipe

Tom Turner Overdrive. Created by Aaron DeFeo, Casino Del Sol Resort Mixologist.

I8tonite: with Tucson's Casino del Sol Mixologist, Aaron de Feo, and a Tom Turner Overdrive

  • George Dickel Select Barrel Tennessee Whiskey (1.5 oz)
  • Creme de Mure (1 oz)
  • Fresh lemon (.5 oz)
  • Mint (4-6 leaves)
  • Shaken and double-strained over crushed ice with four dashes of house aromatic bitters. Garnish with mint and blackberries (if available)

NOTE: Thomas Turner is the Master of Whiskey for the Diageo whiskey portfolio.

The end. Go drink. 

I8tonite: Turkey & Sweet Potato Hash and Becoming an Arizonian

Coconino National Forest: Credit National Park Service
Coconino National Forest: Credit National Park Service

I’m an official resident of Arizona today. Changed over my California driver’s license, an anxiety producing event. I find anything automobile-related makes my heart feel as if it’s at an Indy 500 speed. While driving in circles trying to listen to Ms. GPS exact DMV’s location – in Arizona, it’s called MVD — it dawned on me, I learned how to drive in Texas from an ex-boyfriend’s father, Cecil, a big-hearted man with a mustache to match. Two years later, I finally passed the test in Santa Fe – because I didn’t in Big Horn — and drove to Los Angeles in my first car at the age of 27. I was just a punk, urban kid who only knew trees in city parks and my idea of wildlife were sewer rats and feral felines.

Coconino National Park Service:
Coconino National Park Service:

Clearly, this area of the world has been good for me. With blue skies, mild weather and stunning other-worldly, seemingly vast landscapes that are located only in the American Southwest, it’s an ideal place for rejuvenation. This time, I’ve come looking for a respite. The first was a six-month sojourn from New York City to Santa Fe. Then it was game on in Los Angeles, where it was roller coaster life– all of my making — which didn’t stop for the next 20 years.  It’s what I thought life was supposed to be about, lots of dramas. As I get older, I find I want things to change. I know I’m not the same person I was five years ago. Or ten or twenty. Nor do I wish to be.

It was hard to let go of that license. It’s hard to alter what you think you already know. For me that’s the key, I think I know something or someone, I find out I don’t – especially me. I think it’s why so many people don’t do it. We want to sit and complain about our misery but aren’t willing to work our ways out of it. No matter what happens, I’m glad I moved to Arizona.

Turkey and Sweet Potato Country Hash:

Leftover Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash
Leftover Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash

Hash is re-using leftovers as in turkey hash after Thanksgiving. Or roast beef, duck, or chicken. It’s such a simple thing to make, but I needed to find the right recipe.  Finally, I found one I adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, which meant par-boiling the potatoes, either sweet or white. I liked this because it meant there wasn’t the extra step of roasting the tubers and then sautéing. I could do everything in one skillet, preferably a cast-iron one. By using a cast iron skillet, I get an excellent browning and crust that I want on the finish.

We are going to need:

  • Your leftover meats: chicken, duck (yum!), roast beef, turkey, or sausage. Venison would be excellent as well. Picked clean, no bones and cut into bite-size pieces.
  • One large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes of about 1 inch or so.
  • One red onion
  • One green, red or yellow pepper.
  • Two cloves of minced garlic.
  • Fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley.
  • Butter, wine or stock. If you don’t have these, water is great too. It just adds a little more flavor, but never mind – this is a homey dish that can be cheffed-up, hence the wine or stock

Cubed up all the potatoes as uniformly as possible about an inch — if you’re using a large sweet potato, peel it – and remember to make sure to keep the skins on for the white. Throw the potatoes in a large skillet, preferably cast iron. (It makes it feel Western. HA!) Fill the pan halfway with wine, stock or water, perhaps a mixture of both. Cover. Cook until al dente. You don’t want the spuds cooked all the way through.

While the Idahos are cooking, let’s chop up the onion and the peppers.  Keeping everything at about one inch wide. By this time, the potatoes should be just about done – 10, 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes. Wipe out the pan. Place back on hot burner. Throw in a couple of tablespoons of butter. Melt. Add the potatoes and veggies. Stir. Saute. Add minced garlic, the herbs of your choosing and the leftovers. Add a little more stock, water or wine. Just a splash to help steam, reheat and moisten. Press gently down with a spatula. We want a browned crust on the bottom. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir. Press down. Cook for another five. Stir. Is it brown enough? If not, stir some more, pressing gently again. Top with fried, scrambled or poached eggs. Awesomeness!

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: Chef Questionnaire with Brian Konefal, Flagstaff’s Coppa Cafe, and Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette

Dining Room at Coppa Cafe. Photo by Awe Collective.
Dining Room at Coppa Cafe. Photo by Awe Collective.

Roses, Spain. Yountville, California. Terni, Italy. Corenc, France. Flagstaff, Arizona. These small, unique picturesque towns share a very special attribute. Each offers a gastronomic dining experience in their respective locations created by master chefs. Roses was home to El Bulli with Ferran Adrià. Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry located in Yountville. Terni, a small town of less than three thousand houses the two-Michelin starred Casa Vissani, home to celebrated Italian chef, Gianfranco Vissani. The Golden Horn (Le Corn d’Or) in Corenc, France is populated by a little less than four thousand and Flagstaff, Arizona (population: 68,784) is becoming notable for Coppa Café.

Since opening four years ago, Coppa Café, helmed by husband and wife cooking team, Brian Konefal and Paola Fiorvanti, has become a noteworthy restaurant in Arizona’s growing epicurean scene. Konefal was born in Flagstaff and trained to be a chef in Italy. While in culinary school, he met the lovely Fiorvanti, Brazilian by birth, she was learning the dessert trade – spinning sugar and learning the nuances of buttercream.

Chefs/ Co-Owners, Brian Konefal and Paola Fiovanit. Photo by Awe Collective.
Chefs/ Co-Owners, Brian Konefal and Paola Fiovanit. Photo by Awe Collective.

Once married, they traveled throughout Europe and the gastronomic countryside, learning the hallmarks of great European cooks. Eventually, Konefal landed a position at San Francisco’s famed Campton Place working under Chef Daniel Humm. At this petite and elegant hotel, a block from the celebrated Union Square and just feet from Michael Mina and Hubert Keller  establishments — Humm and Konefal, became an award-winning culinary team gaining praise from the finicky City by the Bay’s food world; ultimately receiving four stars from Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle’s noted restaurant critic.

IMG_6276The restaurant world took notice and Konefal moved with Humm to New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, then just another elegant eatery. Humm, Konefal and the Eleven Madison Park team established the restaurant as a destination inside the Big Apple – already one of the world’s great culinary stops. During their tenure as a team, the restaurant received multiple New York Times stars, accolades from the James Beard Foundation and eventually received three coveted Michelin stars making it only one of nine establishments in the United States to do so.

All  things come to an end and Konefal and Paola, ambitious in their cooking wanted to open their own establishment. They looked no further than Konefal’s hometown of Flagstaff. Hence, the couple opened, Coppa Cafe, a delicate and nuanced European eatery.

With its global sensibilities, small town location and it’s attentiveness to flavorful French techniques, Coppa Café is a restaurant to be reckoned; indeed, some of the interesting menu aspects include locally foraged edibles such as herbs and mushrooms,

Veal Agnolotti. Photo by Awe Collective.
Veal Agnolotti. Photo by Awe Collective.

a growing trend in France, Umbria and the burgeoning Arizona restaurant industry. The café atmosphere is homespun filled with thrift-store finds, not the fussiness one associates to an accomplished chef who once dwelled in a Michelin-starred room. All the charcuterie is house-cured. The pastries and breads are made in-house and I don’t believe you will find too many Flagstaff restaurants serving Seared Foie Gras, Roasted Braised Wild Boar with Juniper Berries, RidgeView Farm Quail or “Kelly Farm” Veal Agnolotti raised humanely from a local Arizona producer.

So, if you are traveling Route 66 or headed up to the Grand Canyon, you might want to stop for the night and eat a little bit of sophistication. Good food exists all around us, sometimes you just have to travel outside your comfort zone.

Beef Tartare
Beef Tartare with Juniper Berries. Photo by Awe Collective.

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been cooking 13 years in professional kitchens. Personally at home, nearly all my life.

What is your favorite food to cook? Foie gras.

Photo by Jeremy Keith.
Photo by Jeremy Keith.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Fermented veggies. I eat them with everything.

What do you cook at home? A mix of everything. Mostly ethnic foods, particularly Brazilian. Lots of rice and beans.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? An adventurous and curious diner.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?  Legitimate allergies aside, diners with stubborn food hang-ups. Life’s too short to limit yourself from exploring different foods and new flavors.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex.

WINE_previewBeer, wine or cocktail? Wine.

Your favorite cookbook author? Pellegrino Artusi.

Your favorite kitchen tool? A great chef’s knife.

Your favorite ingredient? Good quality salt.

Your least favorite ingredient? Cheap table salt.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Yelling. I like a quiet, organized and efficient kitchen environment.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork.

Favorite vegetable? Fennel.

Photo by Nick Saltmarsh.
Photo by Nick Saltmarsh.

Chef you most admire? Daniel Boulud.

Food you like the most to eat? French.

Food you dislike the most? Hard to say. If prepared correctly, most foods can be delicious.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Non.

Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette: 

A popular French dressing used on many salads or seasonal vegetable dishes throughout the year. One that needs to be in every homecook’s tool box. 

  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 small shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped tarragon
  • Pinch of good-quality kosher or sea salt

Start by peeling and mincing the shallot, continuing until the shallots almost turn to a paste. Place shallots in a small mixing bowl, add lemon juice and pinch of salt. Whisk together vigorously while incorporating the most of the olive oil simultaneously in a small stream into the mixture, reserving just a little oil. Stop whisking temporarily to add the chopped tarragon. Begin whisking again while adding the remaining oil.

Mix preferred greens or vegetables in a separate bowl and toss them with the vinaigrette. Finish with an additional sprinkle of salt to taste.

The End. Go Eat.