"Pat a Cake" by Walter Crane
GOOD NEWS! Esquire.com now has a new food section called "Eat Like a Man," which will be featuring restaurant articles by John Mariani and others from around the USA. THIS WEEK: Is Cooking Ever an Art?
by John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
NOTES FROM THE BAR
Cocktails Trump White Wine for Aperitifs
by John Mariani
by John Mariani
The Valley of the Sun certainly lives up to its name, even when prone to dust storms that can sweep across the entire state. When I last visited it was 110˚and you could have baked a tortilla on the patio.
Phoenix and Scottsdale, with histories that date back 1200 years, are quite different cities, though given the way roads and Interstates are laid out in the Southwest, Scottsdale, with 220,000 people, seems like an extension of the larger city of one million. Phoenix is the business center of the region, but Scottsdale has a disproportionate number of the state's finest hotels and resorts, and many of the area's most exciting restaurants among what seems hundreds of national chains. Here are some new places in both cities, and one older with a new chef.
The Hermosa Inn5532 North Palo Cristi Road
over six acres of desert and within sight of
Camelback Mountain, The Hermosa Inn incorporates
restored portions of the home and studio
artist Lon Megargee back in the 1930s, and the hotel’s
walls are hung with his superb paintings of the west,
cowboys, horses, Apaches, landscapes—a vast array of
Americana by a highly gifted and very successful
artist of his day.
Lon’s is of course very much in the style of all else here, and the main building meanders like a household, with a beautiful thousand-bottle wine cellar room (below) seating 12 guests at a trestle table, and spacious private rooms for meetings and dinners. The 86-seat main dining room is done (right) with wood-beamed ceilings, a beehive fireplace, Megargee’s artwork, and the Last Drop Bar is a good place indeed to drop by to get out of the Scottsdale sun, which in summer easily tilts well above 100 degrees.
Chef Jeremy Pacheco has come on as executive chef at Lon’s, after serving as chef de cuisine at Society Café in Las Vegas, as well as at other Steve Wynn venues there, like SW Steakhouse. Before that he had been in Phoenix at The Phoenician and the Sheraton El Conquistador in Tucson, so his ties to the American Southwest are deep and his understanding of its bounty broad.
With four others, I sat down in the cool wine cellar to an extensive tasting menu that began with ahi tuna seared on a heated block of Himalayan green sea salt, served with pickled onions, “ceviche” soy sauce. A delicious gazpacho with bay scallops and crab ceviche, laced with lime olive oil followed, along with heirloom lettuce, roasted local beets, crow’s dairy goat cheese vinaigrette.
The fish courses was succulent pan-roasted Pacific halibut wild mushrooms, snap peas, cucumber salad, and mushroom-fennel broth, and for the meat, a thick, juicy Berkshire pork loin with crisp belly, cheddar creamed corn, spicy broccoli, and grilled organic peach—a terrifically tasty dish with all the elements of the best contemporary cooking about it.
With these dishes we drank mostly Arizona wines, then went on to desserts like the “cowboy candy bar” of salted caramel, spiced chocolate, marcona almonds, and coco nib ice cream, which really was a perfect paean to western tastes, along with a Mexican “tira misu” of Ibarra chocolate, mascarpone cream, Patron café anglaise, and Kahlua ice cream. For a summery dessert there was rhubarb and strawberry pie and an upside down peach cobbler blackberry compote, ginger ice cream.
This is not just the kind of food you’d hope to find
in the Southwest but a testament to the refinement you
will find in resorts where everything is very much
concentrated on a distinct style. Everything fits
together seamlessly, with real individuality, and,
unlike some resorts that feel contrived, the backdrop
of being the premises of a fine American artist, Lon Megargee, makes it all
the more indelible.
Citizen Public House
A trio of very serious
professionals give Citizen Public House an edge that a
lot of similar casual restaurants in the
Phoenix/Scottsdale area just don’t achieve.
Owner/partner Andrew Fritz,
Mixologist/partner Richie Moe
thought through every detail in this new gastropub,
and with its cathedral
ceiling, big roomy leather booths, soft lighting, a
central bar and family photos, the welcome is warm,
the cocktails are impeccably made, and the menu is
very tough to choose from because just about
everything sounds so delicious. Add to that
plenty of beer on tap and a fine array of spirits and
you have a very contemporary American concept.
Public House is open daily from 3 PM. Open 7 Days a
radically different from Citizen in food style but
somewhat more predictable is Beckett’s Table, which
has the atmosphere of a handsome family eatery, where
Chef Justin Beckett serves a menu with something for
everyone on it.
Its location in an unattractive strip mall—not
unusual for a restaurant of substance out there—masks
a good-looking dining room with open kitchen, exposed
beams and concrete floor, kind of like the ultimate
rumpus room. The menu has appetizers, soups, mains,
sides, and on Wednesday, 3-course family dinners,
including wine, at 5:30 PM.
Table is open for dinner Tues.-Sun.; Appetizers run
$5-$10, mains $13-$19.
at Teeter House
a cement block of a small eatery to a turn-of-the-century,
wood-floored bungalow, Nobuo Fukuda has been able to
deepen the already very broad izikaya-style
menu that won him justifiable high praise at SeaSaw,
which closed two years ago.
lunch and dinner daily.
Photos by Deva Vu
520 Madison Avenue (off 53rd Street)
The success of a restaurant is more easily
counted in years than in branches, but now, with three
Valbellas in the region--in Greenwich, CT, the Meat
Market District of NYC, and the newest in midtown
Manhattan (and another similar restaurant named Tutta
Bella in Scarsdale, NY), owner David Ghatanfard has
achieved both distinctions. The original Greenwich
restaurant opened in 1992 and built upon a clientele
from the Gold Coast that came for first-rate, simply
prepared continental cuisine and an astounding wine
list of more than 1,400 selections. The Meat Market
unit is now almost seven years old and going very
strong in that location. The newest branch takes over
the former Alto space, once run by Scott Conant and
Chris Cannon, then by Mr. Cannon and Chef Michael
White, still a split last year made the business
has taken the former premises, once rather broken up
in design and glowing with eerie blue light, and made
the space flow better in a minimalist design that at
the moment is bathed in a violet light, which is
surprisingly flattering to the complexion. Still, it
is an odd choice of color, one that might well be
modulated or changed in the future. To the left of the
main dining room (above)
is the smaller, impressive wine room (left), and
upstairs two private dining rooms (below) The
service staff needs some seasoning and at this point
can be a little to chummy.
The menu, by Chef Joe Giordano, is pretty much a
duplicate of the 13th Street Valbella. Best way
to begin, then, is with a lavish platter of
shellfish--lobster, clams, mussels, oysters, and
shrimp--for the table, beautifully presented and
served with three dipping sauces. Otherwise you
will not be disappointed by the burrata with
prosciutto and greens or the carpaccio of beef with
arugula and shaved parmigiano.
For fish, you'd have to have a good reason to go
beyond the fabulous Dover sole, and for meat I cannot
recommend too highly a massive dish of veal chop
stuffed with burrata
cheese over baby asparagus and prosciutto in a
translucent Madeira sauce splashed with rosemary
flakes. An equally large, pounded scaloppine of
veal is breaded, carefully sautéed and served
with a light lemon-white wine sauce.
NOTES FROM BEHIND THE BAR
Caviar Martinis and Sazeracs
by John Mariani
John Mariani's wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.
Any of John Mariani's
books below may be ordered from amazon.com.
❖❖❖FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to report that the Virtual Gourmet is linked to four excellent travel sites:
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: CRESTED BUTTE; LETTER FROM PARIS.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
An engaging, interactive
wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four
Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com;
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John
Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,
John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein,
Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing
Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,
Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
To un-subscribe from this newsletter,click
© copyright John Mariani 2012