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Wined and dined mushroom pork chops recipe

Wined and dined mushroom pork chops recipe


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  • Recipes
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  • Meat and poultry
  • Pork
  • Cuts of pork
  • Pork chop

I had pork chops, mushrooms and white wine on hand but wanted something creamy and flavourful for dinner. The result was so good that I decided to share the recipe!

3 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 60g butter
  • 140g coarsely chopped mushrooms
  • 175g finely chopped red onion
  • 250ml white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • garlic powder to taste
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 boneless pork chops, trimmed
  • 120g soured cream

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:32min ›Ready in:47min

  1. Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add wine, parsley and garlic powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until flavours combine, about 1 minute.
  2. Reduce heat to low; add pork chops and spoon some mushroom mixture on top. Cover; simmer until pork is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove chops from pan and keep warm.
  3. Stir soured cream into the sauce in the pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook and stir until well blended and hot, about 3 minutes. Spoon sauce evenly over each pork chop.

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Chicken with Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce

Gluten-free Chicken with Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce is an elegant yet easy 20 minute, gluten-free dinner recipe. Perfect for date night at home, or entertaining!

This post may contain affiliate links.

As food bloggers, we start writing about foodie holidays weeks in advance so our readers have time to put together yummy menus for the big day – whatever day that may be. This means, however, that by the time the actual holiday rolls around I’ve pretty much moved on.

Case in point, I saw a Valentine’s Day commercial the other day and wondered why the heck it was still airing. Oh yeah, because Valentine’s Day isn’t until next week!

Mental note: start thinking about what to get the husband ASAP, as I’ve been politely asked not to get him “boxers with stuff on them” this year, aka his customary Valentine’s Day-themed gift. Sob.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re well aware that the holiday has not passed by yet, so let me toss one more dinner idea your way for Valentine’s Day – Chicken with Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce.

Simply seasoned chicken breasts are seared then smothered in a dreamy, wine-soaked cherry sauce made right in the same skillet. Is there anything more perfect than this dish for the holiday, between the wine and cherries which mimic your heart melting from your loved one?!

Umm, right. Besides all that, the marriage of frozen sweet cherries and wine with just a wee pat of butter for lusciousness make the most beautiful sauce, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end brightens the whole thing up. 20 minutes. One skillet. Elegant yet easy enough for everyday. How bad could that be?!

The BEST Chicken Fajitas

How to Make Chicken with Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce:

Start by searing 4 chicken breasts in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 6/10 on the heat scale. (I obviously made a fraction of the chicken for these photos!)

Before that though, pound the chicken out to the same thickness so it cooks evenly. Place the chicken on a cutting board then cover with plastic wrap and use a mallet or other heavy flat object (I use a rolling pin) to pound the breasts out to the same thickness. This is CRUCIAL to getting delicious, evenly-cooked chicken!

Brush or mist both sides with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then add to the hot skillet and saute for 3-4 minutes a side, or until cooked through. Remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Next melt 1 Tablespoon butter in the same skillet then add 1 chopped shallot and saute until tender, about 2 minutes.

Once the shallots are tender, carefully pour in 1 cup red wine (I used Cabernet,) 1/2 cup chicken broth, and 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar. I know some people don’t like balsamic vinegar, but you can’t pick it out in the final dish. It just adds a little something to the sauce.

Let the sauce bubble and reduce by about half, 3-4 minutes.

Next add zee star of the Cherry-Wine Pan Sauce – sweet cherries (which do not make the final dish taste sweet – promise!)

You’ll need 12oz fresh or frozen pitted sweet cherries – no need to thaw them first. Just make sure you don’t get the sour ones.

Once the cherries warm in the hot skillet, press lightly on them with a wooden spoon to help break them up a bit. Next sprinkle in 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (you could use a pinch of dried thyme…in a pinch!)

BTW – I almost always hate buying fresh herbs because I use a FRACTION of the container and inevitably forget about them in the fridge until it’s way, way too late. Anyway, check out these mini clamshells I found at the grocery store. They’re the perfect size for just one or two recipes!

Continue to reduce the sauce until thickened but still syrupy, 2-3 minutes, then stir in 1 Tablespoon butter and the juice of 1/2 lemon. The lemon TOTALLY makes this dish!

Plate the chicken then spoon the luscious, ruby-hued sauce over the top. YUM. I served roasted broccoli on the side, which is just fresh broccoli florets tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper then roasted for 10 minutes at 425 minutes. Perfection!


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Wined and dined mushroom pork chops recipe - Recipes

The “Languedoc 11” at dinner the night we actually sorta dressed up. The photo comes courtesy of Sarah Penn, who is third from the left in the front row.

Reading this blog, it doesn’t take long to figure out that I’m fascinated by a lot of aspects of wine. Scientific issues for sure, and of course the interactions of food and wine. But I also enjoy some of what people might consider the more mundane rules and regulations, like labeling and how wines are classified where they’re made. The trip I recently took to the Languedoc in southern France was a great education in how regional wine classifications are developed and how they can potentially be used to promote regional wines. I knew a little about the wines of the region before I got there, but got to learn a lot more. Oh yes, and taste a lot of them, too. I left a happy man!

My journalist friends tell me it’s a good idea to get disclosure out of the way as soon as possible, so here it is: I was invited on the wine-tasting tour in the Languedoc by one of the associations representing the region’s wine producers. For six days in April, 11 of us were wined and dined, housed on a beautiful estate (seriously, check it out here) and taken through a lot of gorgeous countryside. We got to meet and talk with winemakers, which is always a treat, and visit spectacular places.

So as I was drooling over the itinerary of the trip before I left, I started to wonder why it is that the producers had to go to all this trouble and expense. After all, they had to figure that we winos already knew that the Languedoc produces more wine than any other region in France, and it is probably the most ideal place in the country for growing wine grapes. It has everything going for it.

The climate is warm and the sun shines more than 300 days per year, which makes for optimum ripening conditions and consistent vintages. The Tramontane winds come from the northwest most of the year and keep the grape leaves dry and free of fungus, which means that there’s less need for chemical intervention. At times during the growing season the Marin winds also blow in from the Mediterranean Sea, bringing just a little humidity to intensify the aromas and maturity of the fruit. The topography — between the Pyrenees to the south and the Massif Central to the north — creates a natural basin that funnels the not-too-abundant rain into natural underground reserves for use by the vines. And the stony soil of the region means that heat gets absorbed during the day and released at night, preventing huge temperature swings.

The result is a whole lot of wine, and a lot of really good wine, too. And plenty of it gets exported to the U.S. Most of you have had some. But as I discovered during the tour, only about 10% of the wines produced in the region have legible words on the labels indicating that they came from the Languedoc, which means that most people drinking the wines could have no idea where they come from without a magnifying glass and an atlas. (Contrast this to all the wines labeled as Côtes du Rhône in the adjacent wine region, which lets you know where the wines come from.) Those officially-designated wines were the ones that the Conseil Interprofessioniel des Vins du Languedoc (or CIVL) brought the 11 of us over to taste.

Only 10% of the wines produced in Languedoc are AOC wines. (Chart courtesy of CIVL.)

As I’ve explained before, a lot of wines in France are named for the place where the grapes are grown, whether a region (like Côtes du Rhône or Bordeaux) or a village (like Gigondas in the Southern Rhône Valley or St. Emilion in Bordeaux). If a wine is allowed to be named for a place, there are rules about what grapes that wine can contain and how it’s made. These are called AOC wines, short for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. (It sounds nicer in French than saying “controlled origin,” doesn’t it?) While it’s confusing at first to have wines not named for the grapes in them, when you drink a wine with a place name on the label in large letters, you at least know where it comes from.

If a French wine doesn’t have a place as its name, but is named for the grape it contains — like most of the wine produced in the U.S. — then in general it has a lower classification in the French system. The wine can be classified as Vin de Pays (VdP) or Vin de Table (VdT) depending on where and how it’s made. The rules are more relaxed as far as yields per acre, composition of grapes, and production methods (the exception is wines from Alsace, which are a higher classification even though most are named for the grapes. Since the region went back and forth between France and Germany, the wines have more of a German naming convention). According to data from CIVL, 80% of the wine produced in Languedoc is either VdP or VdT. (And while some of the VdP wines of the region are labeled “Pays d’Oc,” shorthand for the land of Oc or “yes” in the local Occitan language, many people don’t know they’re associated with the Languedoc region — which literally means the language (langue) of yes, which refers to Occitan. But that’s another story altogether…)

In order to have the word “Languedoc” on the label in a font size that doesn’t require a magnifying glass (or the name of a village or sub-region of the Languedoc), the wine has to conform to the AOC rules.

There are now three AOC levels for these wines. The broadest of the three is the AOC Languedoc classification, which has the most relaxed rules and even allows single-varietal wines to be named for the grape (as long as it’s an approved grape of the region). This designation was created in 2007 to help raise the profile of the region by creating a so-called reference base for official Languedoc wines. This is actually a big step — sort of equivalent to the Côtes du Rhône designation in the southern Rhône valley. While there used to be a Côteaux de Languedoc classification, it was far more restricted in scope. The new classification means that many more bottles now have the word “Languedoc” on the label than before.

Next up the scale is what CIVL calls the “Fine Wines of Languedoc,” 22 classifications with names based on villages or Langedoc regions, like Minervois (around the village of Minerve), Corbières, St. Chinian, etc. This is more or less the equivalent of the Côtes du Rhône Villages level of wines, a level between the regional base and the finest wines. While some of these had AOC designations before 2007, more were brought up in status since then. This level used to be the top designation of the region, but the 2007 changes created a new level above it.

Top of the heap now are the “Cru Wines of Languedoc,” all red wines and named for villages and sub-regions, in some cases more specific than the Fine Wines. Minervois-La Livinière, Corbières-Boutenac, and St. Chinian-Roquebrun are three examples. There is also one cru, Grès de Montpellier, that’s named for the soil type (grès means limestone in French), and one (Pic St. Loup) that’s named for a mountain.

The official AOC grapes are very much the same as those for the AOCs in the Southern Rhône Valley. Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault for the red wines, and Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, White Grenache, Clairette, and Bourboulenc for the whites. There are a few other white grapes, like Muscat, Maccabeu, and Picpoul that are allowed for particular wines as well. The rosés can contain any of the red grapes, but usually are mostly Cinsault.

So what have we been drinking that we didn’t know was from the Languedoc? The region produces a bunch of wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc (all allowed under VdP rules), and many of those wines make it to the U.S. with the grape names as the wine names on the label. Jean-Baptiste Pietavy, our producer of Domaine de Mairan wines, makes VdP wines with many of these grapes.

It wasn’t all wine tasting all the time, we did get to do a little sightseeing — like the view from the Mediterranean Garden in Roquebrun.

There are also plenty of wines that have fanciful names in English that don’t give a hint of where they’re from. Over the past 15 years or so, the region has seen an influx of people from the U.K. (and the U.S., to a lesser extent) looking to make wine. They are taking advantage of the kick-ass growing conditions and more relaxed rules for VdP and VdT, making what they like and calling it what they want to. (And since they speak English and use English names they have an easier time reaching out to the U.S. market.) There are plenty of French winemakers taking advantage of the freedom, too. From a rosé that’s 100% Merlot and named for the winemaker’s cat to a kitchen-sink blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and even Sangiovese that changes each year and is named for the local old guy who plays the accordion in the village square on Sundays (with his photo on the label), you definitely get the impression these folks are having fun.

This isn’t to say that the AOC winemakers aren’t having fun and that they don’t engage in whimsy themselves. But so far, at least among the top-of-the line AOC wines, they’re a little more straight-laced about the names on their labels. I think this may be part of the effort to highlight the region, or maybe the thought is that they have to appear more serious in order to be taken seriously. For now, you mostly see just the AOC designation in large letters, like you do in villages like Châteauneuf du Pape — and you definitely won’t see an old accordion player on the label of those wines.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, CIVL brought us over to taste the AOC wines, and we did — probably 100 of them a day. I’ll discuss those wines in my next post. For now, I’ll just say that I finished the tour amazed, as always, at the variety you can find in wines that seem on paper to be pretty much the same, but aren’t when you taste them. More than anything, that’s what keeps me excited about the wine business (along with getting to drink a lot of wine). This trip was a great reminder of just how much fun wine can be, and how great it is to share with others.

One of the food highlights of the trip was the strawberries. Strawberry season starts in April in the Languedoc, with the Fraises de Garrigue — small, very sweet berries, and proceeding to the Fraises de Carpentras larger, just as sweet, and perfect for slicing. Both are wonderful in strawberry soup, a dessert I had three separate times on the trip.

I have to admit that I used to look down on strawberry soup. Partly because, as someone who likes to bake, it seemed a little too simple to call dessert. (Even though you don’t want to cook great strawberries, there are plenty of pastry-y and cream-y ways to gussy them up without cooking them.) And even though it was simple, why bother if the strawberries were really good? Why not just eat them plain?

As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty in its simplicity. I find that as we now have greater access to delicious, locally grown food, dishes like strawberry soup enhance the intrinsic flavors of these foods without much to get in the way. You can also use those strawberries that are just on the edge of becoming over-ripe. You know which ones I mean, they have deep red spots on them and the red comes off on your hand if you touch them. If you’re Martha Stewart, you’ll make jam out of them for dozens of your closest friends. For the rest of us, there’s strawberry soup.

The strawberry soup at Restaurant Le Faitout in Berlou. It was served with fresh strawberries and a little lemon ice cream.

The best one I had on the trip was at Restaurant Le Faitout in Berlou, a village near St. Chinian. Most of the strawberry soups I’ve had in the U.S. had some sort of dairy mixed in. I suppose the dairy covers for some less-than-wonderful strawberries, and allows you to puree the heck out of it in a blender or food processor — both of those devices add air in and make the strawberry puree turn pink, so keeping it pink with added cream or yogurt is fine. Le Faitout’s version was topped with a crème fraîche- enhanced whipped cream, but the soup itself was strawberries and very little else. I thought I tasted a little bit of orange juice, a splash of lemon juice, a little mint, and a splash of Crème de Cassis liqueur. The color was bright red, as you can see in the photo, so Frédéric Révilla, the chef, used a food mill to puree the strawberries, or maybe an immersion blender if he was careful.

The strawberry soup recipe below seems a little elaborate (would you expect anything else from me?) but I think great strawberries deserve the extra care. I use superfine sugar because it dissolves easily, if you can’t find it, run a half cup of regular granulated sugar in the food processor for at least three minutes. (You don’t need a half cup for the recipe, but if you don’t have enough in the food processor it won’t work properly.) The ingredients are basically to taste, which accounts for the way it all gets assembled. But in the end you’ll have the soup just the way you like it.

One of the AOC wines we had at dinner one night was Crémant de Limoux, a sparkling wine that’s made with Mauzac. Our Domaine la Croix des Marchands Méthode Gaillacoise ($18) is virtually the same wine — the same grape made the same way, not very far away. Lightly sweet, with a little green apple flavor, it goes perfectly with the strawberry soup.

1 quart excellent, beautifully-ripe strawberries

1 teaspoon superfine sugar, plus more if needed

Freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon (or more) Crème de Cassis

4-6 mint leaves, depending on size and taste

2 tablespoons sour cream, very cold

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold

Equipment: A large bowl big enough to hold ice, a smaller bowl that will fit inside the bigger bowl filled with ice, a food mill fitted with the fine disk, or an immersion blender.

Fill the large bowl with cold water. One at a time, dip the strawberries in the water to rinse, then set them on a plate lined with paper towels to dry a little. Carefully hull the strawberries, cut them in half, and place them in a different bowl. Toss gently with the teaspoon of superfine sugar and let the strawberries sit for a half hour to soften.

Once they’ve softened a bit, puree the strawberries in the food mill or use the immersion blender. If you’re using the immersion blender, do short pulses and make sure the head of the blender is completely immersed in the strawberries — you don’t want to add air into them. Empty the large bowl and fill it with ice. Scrape the strawberry puree into the small bowl that fits inside the larger ice-filled bowl. Add a half-teaspoon of lemon juice to the strawberry puree.

At this point you have to start tasting and adding what’s necessary. The puree will be pretty thick and you want the soup to be, well, more like soup in the end. Juice half the orange and add it, a tablespoon at a time, to the puree until it gets to the consistency you like. You can juice the other half of the orange and add it if you like. Add the teaspoon of Crème de Cassis. Taste it for sweetness. If you’d like it a little sweeter, take out 1/4 cup of the mixture and add a teaspoon of superfine sugar to it, stir to dissolve, then add it to the rest. Add more lemon juice if you think it needs a little zip, or more Crème de Cassis (you don’t want to taste the liqueur per se, but the Cassis makes the soup seem richer).

When the soup tastes the way you want it to, put the bowl in the ice-filled bowl and let it chill for a half hour. Using a mixer, beat the cream and the sour cream together with about a tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar until the cream makes soft peaks. Then chop the mint leaves very finely and stir them into the soup. (The mint leaves can turn brown if they’re left too long.)

Serve the soup in balloon glasses (stemless balloon wine glasses are perfect for this), top with the whipped cream, and serve immediately.


Traeger Smoked Pork Belly

Traeger smoked pork belly

One of my favorite things to smoke lately has been pork belly. There’s lots of way to smoke a pork belly in terms of recipes, but I like to keep things simple, Texas style and go with a salt / pepper rub.

I don’t brine it long in rub at all. One time I did the brine for 48 hours and it was waaay too salty.

Another key key thing with smoking pork belly that sometimes isn’t clear around the internet, is getting it up to 195-203 internal temperature. Not all the fat will render if you take it off at 175 like some recipes say to do. It’s just better this way.

I like to start it at 200-225, and increase the smoking temperature to 250 and finally 275 in the final hour. It takes about 4 hours on my Traeger.

I then wrap it with this stuff, followed by aluminum foil and let it sit in the oven / microwave (don’t turn it on!), for 45-60 minutes.

If you don’t have this slicer or something equivalent for cutting brisket, pork belly and the like, you are missing out! This knife is flat awesome!

In terms of wood types, I’ve used cherry, apple and hickory. I think I like hickory the best though.


Lawrence’s restaurant scene has come a long way since the turn of the century.

In 2000, the only places in town that sold sushi were Kokoro and Target (yes, that Target — pre-packaged). Now we have at least five sushi houses, not counting sushi offerings on various buffets. And Massachusetts Street — political nattering aside — has become a bona-fide Restaurant Row, an asset to local culture and prestige, and no small contributor to local tax revenues.

On the street

What is your best cooking secret?

Lawrence is rich in inspired and talented chefs. So why not mine that resource for some insider tips and advice for home cooks? Many time-saving and flavor-enhancing professional techniques translate easily to home kitchens.

Truth is, a restaurant chef will no more give up secrets than a mushroom forager the happy hunting grounds. And getting a bunch of time-pressured culinary professionals together is usually no easier than herding cats. But of the 25 local food professionals contacted — either in person, by phone or via e-mail — we received 18 enthusiastic responses. Here, then, is a collection of snippets of kitchen wisdom from some of Lawrence’s top chefs.

Note: A few chefs were out of town (Rick Martin, Free State Shawn Miller, Teller’s and Suken, Cafe Beautiful), and for others, language hurdles impeded participation.

Ken Baker

• Texture and temperature are two major considerations. A good dish is balanced — crunchy with soft hot with cold. . A good example is our cauliflower soup: it’s a veloute (a “velvet” puree), soft and rich. For textural contrast, we garnish it with curried, candied nuts. That way, the dish becomes more than just a bowl of creamy soup. It’s a small touch, but it makes a much more interesting and satisfying dish.

Simon Bates

Chef/owner, Burger Stand at Dempsey’s and Esquina

• I’ve been using a lot of turmeric lately. It’s got a mild flavor and gives a nice golden color to pickles and vegetables. I use it in cauliflower dishes and in apple chutney.

• I add lemon or lime juice, or white wine vinegar, to every single thing I cook. Acid chemically enhances flavors. I use it like salt.

• The old stand-by is Sriracha sauce. We go through a lot of it. When a dish seems to be missing something, it’s the first thing I reach for. It brightens things up.

Michael Beard

• All our recipes are in metric. This allows us to be more consistent on a daily basis. Conversions are much more simple. This also increases our efficiency by not having to track down every little cup or spoon for volume measurements. We just use a scale. It’s the most beneficial system used in our kitchen.

• When salting food we normally use products with salt already in them, such as anchovies, pancetta, capers, olives, etc. . Salt-packed anchovies create a wonderful foundation to work with.

Subarna Bhattachan, co-owner of Lawrence restaurants Zen Zero and La Parilla pulls items from the freezer as he works in the kitchen at Zen Zero Thursday evening. With two downtown businesses, Bhattachan has little free time to get away from work.

Subarna Bhattachan

• I try to use harmony in cooking, the Thai (Buddhist-inspired) principle of balanced flavors — sweet, spicy and sour. The other being simplicity — five ingredients or less. Let the ingredients speak for themselves. Cooking does not need to complicated, and using expensive ingredients does not necessarily lead to a great meal.

• People eat first with their eyes, so make a good presentation. I usually use a firm base like rice, salad or mashed potatoes in the center of the plate. Then put the meat or seafood on top. Drizzle some sauce around. Garnish with some fresh herbs. The idea is not to get carried away and have too many things on the plate. Keep it simple and clean.

Marisco's chef Jesse Bonebrake says a particular secret of his involves brining pork chops in a salty marinade to help them remain juicy when served.

Jesse Bonebrake

• The secret to moist, succulent pork is brining. Brining is basically marinating meat in a salt and water solution. There are numerous variations — you can add sugar, peppers and various herbs and spices. At Marisco’s, I use a little bit of TCM — tinted curing mixture — in the brining solution for our chops. This technique is similar to curing a ham, which is why the cooked chops have a pink tint to them. Using salt, however, is an easier and cheaper way to make a great brining solution at home.

Hillary Brown

• Eating food that has been raised or grown with the best practices makes for not only delicious food but good conversation, good dreams and good love.

• A good knife is better than a good man (just kidding, Scott). Ceramic or glass cutting boards were made to cause injury and ruin knives.

• Good salt can improve your cooking and health.

• A mixture of coconut oil and olive oil tastes like butter. And coconut oil is good for you.

Jayni Carey

Cookbook author and TV host of “Jayni’s Kitchen”

• For a taste of Provence, soak dried lavender stalks and place them in a grill smoker box or over hot charcoals when grilling leg of lamb, racks or chops.

• Use leftover egg whites to make individual meringue shells. Place scoops of ice cream or whipped cream in the shells and top with fresh fruit.

Kerri Conan

Cookbook writer/editor and food writer for The New York Times

• Use what you’ve got. If you don’t have the exact ingredient called for in a recipe, substitute what you do have. It’s the only way to become an intuitive cook. Ninety percent of the time your dish will still be delicious, and the other 10 percent of the time it will still be edible.

• Read the whole recipe through a couple times before starting to cook. I’m not saying you have to prep all the ingredients in advance — doing what chefs call “mise en place,” which means getting everything in place before cooking — though for beginning cooks that certainly can be helpful. But surprise equals stress in the kitchen and the whole idea is to make cooking enjoyable.

Marc Quirarte

• We make about 400 John Wilson burgers a week, our biggest seller. The proportion of meat to bun is important to a good burger. We get our buns from M&M bakery just down the road — toasted, they’re phenomenal. We use 80 percent lean beef and season it simply, just salt and pepper. We cook it to medium, add cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon, and serve it with the works.

Judith Fertig

Author of “200 Fast & Easy Artisan Bread Recipes,” and cooking instructor at the Bay Leaf

• Barbecue isn’t just about meat. I love to smoke Roma tomatoes and have them on hand for pasta sauces, a killer smoked tomato bisque, or a flavored butter. You just core the tomatoes, put them in a foil pan on the indirect side of the grill, throw some wood chips on the fire, close the lid, and smoke the tomatoes until they’re burnished and have a smoky aroma. Peel, seed, chop, eat. Easy.

• Flatbreads are big on restaurant menus — great for entertaining, too — because they can change with the season, have crowd-pleasing flavor, and are inexpensive. Use a readymade pizza dough or packaged hot roll mix and roll out to a rectangle. Add your ingredients and drizzle of olive oil. Serve each piece with a handful of baby arugula or microgreens.

Lonnie Fisher

• I pan-fry about 80 pieces of chicken every Wednesday. The chicken usually is gone by around 6:15 p.m. Chicken should always be washed and checked for undesired sharp edges, feathers, etc. I marinate the chicken in buttermilk, Tabasco and garlic cloves. Breading is a matter of taste — anything from flour to cornflakes — but make sure it is properly salted. Incorrect oil temperature is probably the biggest mistake most people make — it should be at a constant 350 degrees. If your oil is too cold, you’ll have greasy chicken too hot and you’ll burn your breading before the chicken is cooked through. Using a thermometer is of great benefit.

Robert Krause, left, and Simon Bates — purveyors of gourmet burgers and fries at The Burger Stand.

Robert Krause

• Cook the food right. There are basically two cooking methods: hot and fast, and low and slow. The middle ground is where you get into trouble. Fish, for example, is frequently overcooked. Get some heat behind that fish, sear it quickly and serve it right up. But if we’re talking short ribs, it has to be low and slow.

Jeff Lewis

• Understanding your ingredients is key to creating successful dishes. Every good chef understands “fresh, seasonal, and simple,” but great cooks go beyond that and take the time, and have the humility, to research the characteristics and attributes of ingredients.

Matthew Michel-Cox

• My best advice — which should not be a secret — is to always season meat before cooking, and don’t overcook anything. An example is chicken: if cooked internally between 160 to 165 degrees, it will always be fully cooked and juicy. Buy an instant-read thermometer, one of the handiest tools in the kitchen!

Paige Vandegrift

Private chef and cooking instructor, Community Mercantile

• Store-bought greens can be made to last longer if they are handled properly once you get them home. All greens should be washed. Fill a large bowl, or the kitchen sink, with cool water. Add the lettuces and swish them around. Let them sit for a minute so any dirt or grit that has been dislodged can settle to the bottom. Lift the lettuces out of the water. If they are very dirty or sandy, you may need to rinse them in several changes of fresh water. Continue to wash them until the water is clear. Dry the greens after washing. If you don’t have a salad spinner, let the lettuces drain in a colander and then spread them on towels. Then, gently blot them dry. The washed lettuces should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Zip lock plastic bags and Tupperware-type containers work well. Line the bag or container with paper towels.

Courtee Smith Jr.

• For good BBQ, you should first pay attention to the quality of the meat. A lot of people think a lean cut of meat is better, but that’s not usually true. Fat adds flavor and keeps the meat from drying out, and you can always cut the rest of the fat away after cooking.

• We smoke a lot of meat with fruit wood — peach, apple and pear. It adds a lot of flavor. But the real secret to our BBQ is in the rub. We use a dry rub, and the base is salt and pepper. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Chris Wofford

• For an alternative to Filet Mignon or Tenderloin of Beef, buy Teres Major a/k/a Petit Tender or Shoulder Tenderloin — about half the cost of Filet Mignon, but equal in flavor. Trim off the silver skin and fat. It is excellent on the grill or sautéed.

• I grill corn on the cob in the husk. Place it on the grill over indirect heat and make sure to turn the corn often. When the corn is tender, remove from the husk. Brush with butter and grill for another minute or so, turning often.

Chef Bradley Walters preps up a stove full of pasta dishes at The Basil Leaf Café, 3300 W. Sixth St.

Bradley Walters

• Always pull food before it is done and rest it out to eliminate dry meats or overdone food. Residual heat causes food to continue cooking once leaving the oven or pan. The key to moist turkey, chicken or beautifully cooked steaks is pulling it early and letting it rest.

• Dark beer cooks down better for sauces than light beer. A little sugar helps, too. Use good beer — Guinness is the best.


Tom Hartley and Valerie Hawley tailgate while waiting for a pig on a spit to be completely cooked before the first game of the Kansas University football season last year.

Tailgaters and football fans fill front yards in the neighborhoods surrounding Memorial Stadium Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 before the KU-NU game.

Theron Hawley and Justin Langford go whole-hog when they tailgate at Kansas University football games.

The Lawrence buddies and their friends have the requisite tent and grill, plus a fire pit, propane heaters for those chilly games, a giant blow up Jayhawk, buckets of beer and more than enough food.

They do night games, day games, morning games, weekday games, the annual spring game. Heck, they even spent 12 hours before a night game last year roasting a pig — head and all — on a spit.

“Pretty awesome,” Langford says of the 110-pound pig. “But kind of disturbing at the same time. And we’re planning on doing it again this year.”

And it’s helpful to learn from them and other masters of tailgating, whether you plan to be at one pro or college game this year or for every single kick off. There’s most certainly an art to tailgating. It’s party planning for the sport enthusiast, to be exact.

So here’s tips and tricks for a winning tailgate, even if your team loses the game.

Stake out your spot and know your timeline. The first rule of tailgating: find your spot. If you’re doing the KU games, know that if you don’t have a parking pass, you’ll have to get their extra early to find a worthy patch of grass or blacktop near Memorial Stadium.

Tim Flory, a pro barbecue competitor with Lawrence’s Crimson and Blue BBQ team, has tailgated at KU games, Chiefs and Royals games, and even at a NASCAR race. He says there’s no point in tailgating if you get there close to game time, can’t get a spot or feel stressed and rushed because you pulled in late.

“Don’t get there 45 minutes before the game and try to get your grill going,” Flory says. “Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere and people walking by saying, ‘Hey, what are you cooking?’”

Prep ahead of time. This goes for both food and supplies. Before going to bed on Friday night, Hawley does his rounds to make sure his tailgating supplies — tent, chairs, grill, gear — are read to go.

“I usually have everything in my garage and just kind of load it up on Friday, except for some of the perishable items,” says Hawley, who uses his truck as his official tailgate vehicle. “I’ll load those up on Saturday morning and go out.”

As for the food, Flory says that if barbecue competitions have taught him anything, it’s to do the work early so you’re not scrambling.

“I think preparation on tailgating is key. You can do it two or three days ahead of time,” Flory says. “Hell, the longer something marinates, the better it’s going to taste. I’ve never tasted something and gone, ‘Damn, I marinated it too long.’”

Don’t do it all yourself. Even if you’re a control freak, you’re going to need someone’s help with something. Whether that be setting up, food prep, food purchasing, or offsetting the cost. Make sure everyone who is coming has a role, a side dish, a few dollars to spare, so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.

Hawley says he usually brings enough meat, alcohol and other basics that tailgaters are covered if someone forgets one thing or another, but he says his group still sets up a loose system of give and take with guests bringing food to share and beer to go in a communal cooler. What isn’t taken from the beer cooler just gets brought back the next week.

Langford says the group also started a tip jar last year to make it easier on everyone involved.

“A lot of times it seemed like Theron was the one getting most of the food products, and so we would just throw money in a jar then,” Langford says.

Perfect execution

Pre-game eating is just like a running game clock. Time runs out and you haven’t scored your entree, you’re in trouble. Our experts break down how to attack each sort of game worth tailgating.

The morning game: Games with 11 a.m. kick offs can be tricky for tailgating. It’s easy to do breakfast treats like sausage/egg/cheese/veggie biscuit sandwiches, breakfast burritos and griddle-friendly pancakes, french toast and eggs. But the trick is making sure that the whole crew is actually getting up that early and will be ready to eat. Hawley suggests being ready for more than just breakfast, so you don’t have hungry non-breakfast eaters showing up at halftime or after the game looking for food that’s not there.

“We do a lot of breakfast-type stuff and we’ll usually get there and set up, and do a breakfast before the game and then come out at halftime and do a quick lunch with hot dogs or hamburgers or something quick that we can cook,” Hawley says. “And then sometimes we’ll hang out and cook after the game, too.”

The early afternoon game: These are a staple for football lovers. And they also make it a bit easier to plan for than games before noon. Flory suggests that if you don’t have a ton of time to smoke meat, just take anything and wrap it in bacon. Seriously. He says the most popular tailgate bites he makes are bacon-wrapped cheesy peppers and bacon-wrapped shrimp.

“Cut a jalapeño in half, put some cheese in it, wrap bacon around it — it doesn’t take long,” Flory says. “Another great one is, and this is always a crowd pleaser, is bacon-wrapped shrimp. You want to talk about easy. Go to the store, buy yourself already peeled and deveined shrimp. Wrap a piece of bacon around it and everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God, what did you do?’”

The night game: This game time gives the tailgater the most menu options, but it can also can be a bit stressful if you have other weekend duties like yard-work or errands before game time. If you don’t? This would be the time to do something big like roast a pig on a spit.

“It seems like the first couple of non-conference games are usually those late games, we’ll try to something bigger, something a little more time-consuming,” says Hawley, who is planning on doing an 80-pound pig this year. “We’ll smoke meat — something that can sit there the whole day.”

The weeknight game: Depending on the work schedules of those tailgating, these can either be about as normal as any weekend game or they can be much more condensed. Hawley says that if he’s off from his job as a firefighter the day of a weeknight game, he’ll just prepare everything as normal. If he’s not, the group will just do something simple and quick like hotdogs on the grill.

If you’re unsure what to make or are even just overwhelmed by the whole idea of tailgating, just go with your gut and keep it simple says Hawley.

“Start small. Get out there, get your tent and your chairs, just get set up, maybe don’t try to do too much,” Hawley says. “For a while I think we were doing maybe too much, and I wouldn’t say that we’ve scaled back but some things aren’t quite as complicated as before. We were doing frozen drinks and things like that out there and sometimes that’s just a lot of work to do all that.”

Recipes

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 pound white potatoes, peeled and chopped

8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

6 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

4 portobello mushrooms (large)

3 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

12 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

Cook all potatoes, 1/2 of the minced garlic, and bay leaf in large saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 12 minutes. Drain discard bay leaf. Return potatoes to pot. Mash until smooth cool slightly. Mix in 3 tablespoons cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in eggs.

Wash and remove portabello mushroom stems and chop finely. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom stems, remainder of the minced garlic and onion. Saute 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and rosemary (if you cannot find fresh rosemary, substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary). Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush rounded sides of mushrooms with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Place on baking sheet, gill sides up. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Divide onion mixture among mushroom caps. Mound potato mixture in caps. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in large pot over medium heat. Add spinach saute 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among 4 plates. Top each serving with 1 stuffed mushroom.

— Recipe from www.organicvalley.coop.

Pork and Pineapple Kabobs

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 pound boneless pork chops, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup fresh pineapple chunks (1 inch)

1 cup green pepper squares (1 inch)

1/2 cup red onion chunks (1 inch)

Mix first 3 ingredients. Reserve 1/4 cup sauce for later use. Pour remaining sauce over chops in shallow dish. Turn chops over to coat both sides of each. Refrigerate 15 min. to marinate.

Heat barbecue to medium-high heat. Remove meat from marinade. Discard marinade. Thread meat onto 8 skewers alternately with pineapple, peppers and onions.

Grill 12 to 14 min. or until meat is done, turning occasionally and brushing with reserved sauce.

— Recipe from www.kraftrecipes.com.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground round

4 leaves romaine or green leaf lettuce

1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the grill. Divide and gently shape the meat into 8 small patties. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Grill meat to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side over a medium fire.

If you’re a cheeseburger fan, add the cheese as soon as you flip to the second side. Meanwhile, brush buns with olive oil and grill just until lightly toasted. Dress burgers with lettuce, tomatoes and onions and serve.

— Recipe from www.wholefoodsmarkets.com.

Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil and Avocado

4 earns of corn, still in the husk

1 large or 2 medium shallot, finely diced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes

A handful of basil leaves, cut in a 1/4-inch chiffonade

1 1/2 pounds mixed tomatoes (different colors, different sizes)

Place the ears of corn in a 375-degree oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, pull of the husks and silks. Cut the kernels from the cob. You should have about 4 cups corn kernels.

While the corn roasts, place the shallots in a small bowl with some salt and cover with the vinegar. Set aside to macerate for 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk in 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Halve the cherry tomatoes. Wash and core the vine-ripe tomatoes. Slice some and cut others in wedges. Halve and pit the avocados. Cut each avocado half into 1/3-inch thick slices cross-wise.

In a large bowl, combine the corn, cherry tomatoes and basil. Season with salt & pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over and toss until the corn and tomatoes are lightly coated. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if necessary.

To plate the salad: Arrange half of the sliced/wedged tomatoes and half of the avocado slices on a large platter. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Spoon half of the corn salad over the tomatoes and avocados. Repeat these two layers and serve. Serves four as an entrée, eight as an appetizer or side dish.

Note: Salad may be built on individual plates, or a large serving platter.

— Recipe from chef Paige Vandegrift for The Merc.

Baby Back Barbecue Ribs

3 pounds pork baby back ribs

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat grill to medium heat.

Place half the ribs in single layer on large sheet heavy-duty foil. Mix sugar and seasonings rub half evenly onto both sides of ribs. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and one end to seal packet. Add 1/4 cup water to packet through open end. Double fold remaining end, leaving room for heat circulation inside. Repeat to make second packet.

Grill 45 minutes to 1 hour or until ribs are done. Remove ribs from foil discard foil.

Return ribs to grill brush with barbecue sauce. Grill 15 minutes, turning and brushing occasionally with remaining sauce.

— Recipe from www.kraftrecipes.com.

Black Bean Hummus

2 cups no-salt-added cooked black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari

1 teaspoon ume vinegar or 2 teaspoons lemon juice (or to taste)

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine black beans, garlic, tahini, cumin, water, tamari and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and all ingredients are combined. Transfer to a serving bowl, fold in cilantro and serve with corn chips and other dippers.

— Recipe from www.wholefoodsmarket.com.

Chocolatey Football Bites

6 squares semi-sweet chocolate

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

4 cups cocoa sweetened rice cereal

Microwave chocolate, corn syrup and butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 2 1/2 min., stirring after 1 1/2 min. Blend in vanilla.

Add cereal mix well. Cool 10 min. Shape into 18 (3-inch-long) football shapes with lightly moistened hands. Place on large sheet of wax paper. Cool completely.

Use decorating gel to add “lacings” to “footballs.” Let stand until gel is firm.


Edmonton Things To Do: Evoolution’s Taste the World of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Personally, a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar brings me back to some of the best dinners I’ve had with friends. It seemed like such a fancy thing when I was younger to have a restaurant serve that mixture as a dip for fresh bread because it wasn’t something we ever did at home. It was such a simple thing, yet it was also a treat.

Nowadays, we’ve got a couple of great shops that specialize in these products. Oliv Tasting Room and Evoolution are on a mission to get high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars into the hands of Edmontonians and Albertans. I’m a fan of both, having frequented each a number of times over the years. However, working downtown, Evoolution on 104 Street and 101 Avenue is the most convenient.

The Evoolution shop on 104 Street in Edmonton.

Often times, I’ve found myself hanging out there during lunch or after work eating cubes of bread doused in a variety of flavours. Bottles range in size and price depending on the the type of oil or vinegar. Nevertheless, there’s always something to please each palate, and they make wonderful gifts, especially for family members or friends who like to cook.

Recently, I was attempting to find an activity for my friend and I to do together. As per usual, I ended up on the Eventbrite app, and that’s where I came across several listings from Evoolution (104 Street & Enjoy Centre locations). Once or twice a month they hold events in the evening. After the store is closed, they prep the space to seat a large table of about ten people — more can be accommodated in St. Albert’s Enjoy Centre — who will be taken through an educational tasting and full 3-course meal that highlights how olive oils and balsamic vinegars can be used at home.

A booklet with lots of info on their products and the menu for the evening.

For $35 plus tax per person, we were taken through the proper way to taste olive oil using the strippaggio method (similar to how one might taste a fine wine). A dark blue tulip glass is cupped in the hands and warmed before taking a sip. With teeth clenched, you then have to suck air into the mouth until the oil hits the back of the throat. Doing so allows for the oil to be stripped and the flavour to be revealed. The difference between basic store bought extra virgin olive oil and the premium ones sold at Evoolution is staggering. Signs of an excellent olive oil come down to three things: smell, taste, and texture. Surprisingly, the colour and clarity doesn’t matter so much. What you are looking for is an earthy/grassy scent, a pepperiness on the tongue (high polyphenols, a.k.a. antioxidants, bring that out), and a smooth finish with no film or residue left in the mouth.

Better quality olive oils shouldn’t even list an expiry date. What needs to be indicated, though, is the crush date of the olives used to make the batch. It should last for 12 to 14 months after the bottle is opened without any issue. Still, it’s ideally consumed within 6 months since the freshness starts to break down as soon as it’s opened and continues to do so every time air comes into contact with the oil. Nonetheless, you’ll know if it has gone bad as olive oil does become rancid. We also learned that the best olive oils tend to have high smoke points because of their fatty acid content, making them fantastic for use at high heats of up to 450 degrees. That’s contrary to the myth that they are not to be used for cooking.

Complimentary mini bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were given to each guest.

Next up on the agenda was an info session on balsamic vinegars. Honestly, it’d never crossed my mind to question what balsamic vinegar was made of. I was flabbergasted to find out that it’s made from grapes. White Trebbiano grapes to be exact. When crushed, the syrup from the grape juice is what is extracted, fermented and aged either in stainless steel or wooden barrels. The flavour, viscousness, and concentration of every balsamic vinegar is determined by the amount of time aged, evaporation of the liquid as it ages, and oxidization of the syrup when exposed to the barrel used. Lighter balsamic vinegars are usually processed in stainless steel or light wood barrels. Inkier ones are made using dark wood. Due to the fermentation of the product, they can easily last 3 years. I suspect, it’s also why balsamic vinegars have an effervescence when sipped on their own.

Don’t store either olive oil or balsamic vinegar in the fridge though. Condensation in the bottle can spoil them. Just keep them away from direct light and heat and they’ll be fine.

When we finished going over the finer points of each and had sampled half the store, that’s when dinner began. There was a platter of crusty bread to be eaten with our choice of oils and vinegars as well as four different tapenades. Evoolution’s famous truffle butter popcorn was served as well. I’m not a popcorn person, but I could eat a ton of that. Their butter olive oil is made with a plant extract, so it’s free of dairy. Yet, it tastes just like the real thing. Uncanny. To drink, we were given glasses of club soda mixed with their gravenstein apple balsamic vinegar. Turns out that balsamic vinegar is the perfect natural product to flavour water with. For anyone who uses drink crystals or those squeeze bottles to make their water taste “better,” you can stop doing that now.


50 Best AZ Restaurants

We ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. On and on, until we felt qualified to hand you this hand-picked platter of the Grand Canyon State’s finest culinary outposts, from Winslow to Sonoita and many points between.

Valley food fanatics do not nosh on foie gras-stuffed quail alone. Nor do they exclusively dine in the prime culinary corridors of Scottsdale and Phoenix. We tried to keep these facts in mind while compiling our list of Arizona’s 50 best &ndash or, if you prefer, most essential &ndash restaurants.

Our editors and food writers were instructed to consider not only their fine-dining fantasy spots, but also the comfort-food classics and down-home ethnic eateries that help define Arizona’s culinary scene &ndash not just in the Valley, but all over our vast state, staggering their lists to include lonesome gems in remote parts of Northern and Southern Arizona. You’ll find the cumulative product of their expertise here: 50 restaurants you should try, no matter how far the drive. And just to make sure we’ve covered every base, we asked Valley food experts to rank their favorites, too, in a range of styles and categories. Let the noshing begin.

Northern Arizona

Cottage Place
Flagstaff
Awards: Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator (1996-2010) Top 100 Restaurants, Open Table (2012)
Talk about rarified company. In 2012, this longtime Flagstaff fine-dining favorite was recognized by OpenTable.com as one of the nation’s 100 best restaurants, joining fellow Arizona honorees Kai, Binkley’s and ShinBay. Not too shabby, right? Chef Frank Branham excels at continental cuisine with subtle Southwestern influences, charming diners with dreamy concoctions like house-made ravioli filled with forest mushrooms, onions and goat cheese, served in a sweet marsala cream sauce.

Cozy and crowded, Cottage Place is exactly what it sounds like &ndash a homey, unapologetic ode to refined indulgence, where you can lay waste to a slice of hazelnut-graham-cracker-crust-topped French silk pie with chocolate-and-cinnamon Chantilly cream and not feel the slightest bit bad about it. 126 W. Cottage Ave., Flagstaff, 928-774-8431, cottageplace.com

Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar
Flagstaff
Awards: Top 95 New Restaurants in the World, Condé Nast Traveler (2007) Flag’s Best Restaurant, Sunset Magazine (2007)
Located inside a historic carriage house, Brix has the casual-chic feel of a European bistro and a seasonal, farm-focused menu that favors growers in the Four Corners region. The antipasti starter gives diners the chance to taste cheeses and charcuterie from around the world the delicacies are paired with house lavosh and Queen Creek olives. Owners Paul and Laura Moir continue the global food tour with a wild mushroom risotto showcasing tender, earthy Italian black truffles, toothsome asparagus, Parmigiano-Reggiano and arugula. The steak frites has a Southwest twist: It’s topped with chimichurri and chili butter. Now in its eighth year, Brix is arguably the most decorated restaurant in Flagstaff &ndash the grande dame of fine dining in the high country. Side note: If tables are scarce, try nearby Criollo Latin Kitchen, conceived by the Moirs as a sassier Latin companion piece to the Brix flagship. 413 N. San Francisco St., Flagstaff, 928-213-1021, brixflagstaff.com

Coppa Café
Flagstaff
Awards: Best of Flagstaff, Arizona Daily Sun (2012)
After meeting in Costigliole d’Asti, Italy, and cooking from the Adriatic coast to Barcelona &ndash braving Swiss superstar Daniel Humm’s kitchens along the way &ndash adventurous husband-and-wife team Brian Konefal and Paola Fioravanti brought their European sensibilities to Konefal’s hometown. Coppa’s entrées are as rustic and charming as the eatery’s mismatched chairs and “farmhouse glam” accessories. Local mushrooms foraged from Flagstaff forests accent crustless quiche or seasonal dishes like juniper-scented wild boar with ricotta and acorn squash puree.

Konefal has an excellent handle on the classics, skillfully adulterating shepherd’s pie with creamy polenta and jazzing up butternut squash with coffee. Meanwhile, pastry chef Fioravanti’s desserts are exceptional &ndash rich and decadent without the twitch-inducing sweetness of American recreations. Her lavender-peach macarons melt like sugary clouds on the tongue. 1300 S. Milton Rd., 928-637-6813, coppacafe.net

Tinderbox Kitchen
Flagstaff
Awards: Best Restaurants, Arizona Highways (2010) Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator (1996-2012)
Chef and co-owner Scott Heinonen’s CV includes a stint as personal chef to Paul McCartney. If his cuisine is good enough for a Beatle, you better believe it’s a hit with Flagstaff foodies. The menu at Tinderbox Kitchen changes seasonally but maintains a focus on “redefined” American comfort food. The oh-so-tender New York strip steak masters that divine ratio of blackened char to juicy interior rareness, and is served with pungent horseradish mashers and broccolini. Still, the jalapeño macaroni and cheese might be the most unique item on the menu. The indulgent dish is topped with duck leg confit, mustard crumbs and truffle oil. Pop into the adjacent Tinderbox Annex for a cocktail and house-made charcuterie before dinner, and know you’re dining at one of the high country’s great gastropubs. 34 S. San Francisco St., 928-226-8400, tinderboxkitchen.com

Pizzicletta
Flagstaff
Awards: Best New Restaurant, Arizona Daily Sun (2011) Best Restaurants, Arizona Highways (2013)
What started as one man’s hobby of making pizzas in a wood-fired oven in his backyard became Pizzicletta, a 650-square-foot, 15-seat, open-kitchen restaurant south of the train tracks in Flagstaff. Though his degree is in geology, owner and chef Caleb Schiff developed a passion for pizza when he first visited Europe.

Less than three years after opening the flatiron-shaped eatery, he now has pizza lovers lined up around the block for Neapolitan-style pies, homemade gelato, naturally leavened hearth bread and a thoughtful beer and wine menu. The simple margherita pizza &ndash topped with tomato, mozzarella, pecorino, basil and extra virgin olive oil &ndash is divine. Add sopressata or prosciutto di parma to any pie for a small cost. Gelato flavors change daily, and it might just be some of the tastiest cream this side of Rome. 203 W. Phoenix Ave., Flagstaff, 928-774-3242, pizzicletta.com

The Turquoise Room
Winslow
Awards: Best Restaurants, Arizona Highways (2008) Gold List Award, Condé Nast Traveler (2009) James Beard Foundation, Best Chef Southwest nominee (2012)
Exploring the lonely stretch of Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Holbrook, travelers may not realize quiet downtown Winslow lays claim to one of Arizona’s most isolated, but no less regarded, dining destinations. Anchoring the historic La Posada Inn &ndash originally built by famous railroad tycoon Fred Harvey in 1930 &ndash The Turquoise Room serves food that would impress fressers in a city of any size.

Highlighting a seasonal, largely Arizona-sourced menu of contemporary Southwestern dishes, James Beard Award-nominated chef John Sharpe holds true to his convictions with rustic concoctions like lean, pan-seared elk medallions, served with a sharp black currant brandy sauce over mushroom corn flan and crispy red chile pork carnitas, with a fruit salsa and creamy polenta. For a proven winner, try the chef’s now-signature spicy black bean and sweet corn soup. Think of the Turquoise Room as the Northern Arizona answer to Greg LePrad’s newly-opened Overland Trout in Sonoita: frontier dining of the highest order. 305 E. Second St., 928-289-2888, theturquoiseroom.net

Elote Café
Sedona
Awards:Guest Chef, Your Life A to Z (Channel 3 TV)
We loved Jeff Smedstad’s lamb adobo when he made it at Los Sombreros in Scottsdale, and we love it just as much now that the chef has relocated to Sedona. Perched above the Kings Ransom Sedona Hotel, Elote Café has quickly assumed regal status in Northern Arizona’s gourmet food scene, with delicacies inspired by Smedstad’s 15-year culinary expedition in Mexico during his pre-Sombreros years. Spectacular small plates like seafood tacos filled with ancho-glazed cod and shrimp are tempting, but we always go back to the lamb adobo, a braised Colorado lamb shank topped with a sweet-and-spicy ancho-chile sauce. It’s simply the best Mexican grub north of the Carefree Highway. 771 SR 179, 928-203-0105, elotecafe.com

Che-Ah-Chi
Sedona
Awards: Top 25 Resorts in the Southwest, Reader’s Choice Awards, Condé Nast Traveler (2013) Best Hotels in the USA, U.S. News & World Report (2012, 2013)
When the Enchantment Resort sprang for a face-lift in 2012, it also got Che-Ah-Chi, its new flagship restaurant and one of the most picturesque dining experiences in Arizona. Sit outside for up-close views of Boynton Canyon, or get cozy indoors with floor-to-ceiling windows and suspended lighting that makes it feel like you’re dining among the stars. The food is pretty stellar, too. Chef David Schmidt takes a resort staple &ndash lobster bisque &ndash and turns it into culinary high art with beech mushrooms and a drizzle of lemon oil. Are you game for game? Schmidt serves his buffalo tenderloin with a poached pear, Marcona almonds, gorgonzola and pearl onion agrodolce. It’s hearty and elegant all at once. 525 Boynton Canyon Rd., Sedona, 928-282-2900, enchantmentresort.com

L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek
Sedona
Awards: Top 10 Southwest, Condé Nast Traveler (2013)
It makes perfect sense that Chef Rochelle Daniel &ndash having honed her French-fusion cooking skills under Matt Carter at Zinc Bistro in Scottsdale &ndash should take over the top toque at L’Auberge, where the seasonal menu is likely to feature apple-butter-slathered foie gras with gingerbread or some other glorious twisting of Gallic culinary convention.

Admirably, Daniel prefers to do her twisting with Arizona-sourced ingredients, meaning the wisps of apple in your pumpkin bisque, poured over a huddle of fresh crab right in front of your eyes, were farmed down the road. Vive la regionàle. Yet no matter how personally addictive we find the pine-smoked venison, it’s the splendid creekside setting that makes L’Auberge the epitome of Arizona destination dining. That is how you wash down a meal. 301 Little Ln., 928-282-1661, lauberge.com

SchoolHouse Restaurant
Cottonwood
Awards: People’s Choice Award, The Great Sedona Chili Cook-off (2013)
Nestled inside an antique schoolhouse, this New American diner opened its doors in 2013 under the helm of Chef Christopher Dobrowolski and his wife, Laura Fayette-Dobrowolski. Check out creative appetizers like the Dr Pepper-baked wings, or pierogi featuring red kraut and white truffle pesto. The buttermilk fried chicken is a guaranteed diet-buster, served with a side of corn-and-cotija-cheese waffles, sherry-braised purple kale and chorizo gravy and a fine selection of microbrews from the Four Corners region won’t do your calorie panels any favors, either. Take note: Chris is renowned for his out-of-this-world peach cobbler. 202 N. Main St., 928-634-0700, vvschoolhouse.com

Pizzeria Bocce
Cottonwood
Think of this indoor-outdoor restaurant in Old Town Cottonwood as the “Pizzeria Bianco of Yavapai County.” Owners Eric and Michelle Jurisin opened Bocce &ndash their sixth Arizona restaurant &ndash last July, focusing on creative salads, Napoli-style wood-fired pizza and signature cocktails. You can’t go wrong with the Americano: a 12-inch pie topped with sweet tomato sauce, spicy pepperoni, chunks of hand-stretched mozzarella and fresh basil.

Whatever pizza you choose, don’t skip the Fork & Knife Caesar salad &ndash possibly the best Caesar in Northern Arizona. The romaine lettuce, crostini and parmigiano are topped with a creamy lemon dressing and anchovies by request. 1060 N. Main St., 928-202-3597, boccecottonwood.com

The Asylum
Jerome
Awards: Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator (2001-2003) Award of Excellence, North American Restaurant Associations
Perched on Cleopatra Hill inside the legendary “haunted” Jerome Grand Hotel, The Asylum sports creaky floors and other gothic details that seem part of a theme-park ride &ndash but the food is no gimmick. Chef/owner Richard Paisch elevates standard, must-please-everyone hotel fare with delightful sparks of Southwestern flavors, and curates an award-winning wine cellar stocked with 200 labels, including several varietals from nearby vineyards. The best seats are on the patio overlooking Jerome, with sweeping views all the way to the San Francisco Peaks. Dine on grilled, achiote-rubbed pork tenderloin with an apricot-chipotle glaze, sip a floral Arizona Stronghold Tazi, and tell those ghastly ghosts to haunt someone else. 200 Hill St., Jerome, 928-639-3197, asylumrestaurant.com

Amuse Bouche
Surprise
Awards: Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2009)
This tiny BYOB bistro hidden in a strip center in the town of Surprise is just that &ndash a delightful, delicious surprise. Even the New York Times took notice, penning a glowing story about the westside gem in 2010. Surrounded by corporate restaurant chains, husband and wife chef/owners Snir and Kierstin Mor turn out exquisite French-influenced food, including the best quiche in town, and on Sundays, a royal breakfast that puts four-star resorts to shame. Dinner changes frequently, often getting a mid-week tweak depending upon the whim of the chef, but some menu items never change. Award-winning meatloaf shares menu space with seasonal seared scallops finished with celery root over truffle risotto. 17058 W. Bell Rd., Surprise, 623-322-8881, amusebouche.biz

Barrio Café
Phoenix
Awards: James Beard Foundation, Best Chef Southwest semifinalist (2010, 2011) Top Ten Mexican Restaurant, PHOENIX magazine (2011)
Vibrant fusion cuisine put Barrio Café on the culinary map in 2002, introducing Phoenicians to a whole piñata of flavors they never imagined while chomping on Sonoran burritos and refried beans. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s signature dishes (including chiles en nogada, a roasted poblano stuffed with chicken, fruit and nuts, gilded with an almond cream sauce), groundbreaking pomegranate-seed-spiked guacamole and adventurous new additions (try pipián verde, a green mole made from pumpkin seeds) place this colorful neighborhood restaurant at the top of the Valley’s Mod-Mex food chain. Pair the food with tequila or mezcal, choosing from Barrio’s extensive collection, one of the Valley’s largest. 2814 N. 16th St., 602-636-0240, barriocafe.com

Beckett’s Table
Phoenix
Awards: Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator (2012) Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2011
Look up “neighborhood restaurant” in the dictionary and you may well find Beckett’s Table. Of the Valley’s many well-executed, middle-brow American eateries &ndash think St. Francis, Tuck Shop and Rusconi’s &ndash this is our favorite. The cozy, living-room-esque décor coupled with an open kitchen and a well-stocked bar set the tone for Chef Justin Beckett’s modern comfort food, which includes old favorites like gooey grilled cheese with pancetta and a side of roasted red pepper soup, and smoky shrimp and andouille sausage on top of creamy grits. Chef Beckett also tweaks the menu frequently for the never-the-same-dish-twice crowd. 3717 E. Indian School Rd., 602-954-1700, beckettstable.com

Binkley’s
Cave Creek
Awards: Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2004) Hot 50 Restaurant Guide, Bon Appetit (2005) James Beard Foundation, Best Chef Southwest finalist (2012, 2013)
Chef Kevin Binkley opened his small Cave Creek laboratory of modernist American cooking in 2004, and a decade later helms arguably Arizona’s most revered restaurant. Offering a dining experience full of edible fireworks and his now trademark sense of humor, Binkley &ndash a one-time protégé of East Coast culinary legend Patrick O’Connell &ndash traps you in a funhouse cylinder of gourmet inspiration. One moment, it’s a miniature sloppy Joe amuse bouche, and the next, a trio of kurobuta pork lard morsels so pure they taste like butter. Unabashedly embracing the foams, freezings and assorted culinary gizmos of the molecular gastronomy school, Binkley has netted countless accolades for his multi-course menus, using techniques and ingredients that can be found nowhere else in Arizona. From spherified gazpacho to foie gras-stuffed quail, his is a dining playground nonpareil. 6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., 480-437-1072, binkleysrestaurant.com

Bink’s Midtown
Phoenix
Awards: 2013 New Restaurant of the Year, PHOENIX magazine
Binkley again? Well, yeah. Parked in a quaint 1940s bungalow with original hardwood floors and beam ceilings, Bink’s Midtown gives the Arcadia crowd a taste of Chef Binkley’s gastronomic brilliance in an environment friendlier to the Valley’s shorts-and-polos crowd. The food here is beauteous, with buttery Pacific sand dab and tangy five-spice duck breast presented as edible works of art. Seasonal produce offerings &ndash all of them sourced from Arizona &ndash are afforded celebrity status at Bink’s indeed, where else in the Valley can you find a humble bowl of jicama dressed up with chickpeas, dried tomatoes, several intriguing herbs and a dab of spicy yogurt? It’s like My Fair Lady for vegetable-lovers. And lest you dismiss Bink’s as a haven for veg-heads, consider its award-winning bacon cheeseburger, with oinker ground directly into the meat. 2320 E. Osborn Rd., 602-388-4874, binksmidtown.com

Bourbon Steak
Scottsdale
Awards: AAA Four Diamond Award Forbes Four-Star Award Best of Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator
San Francisco celebrity chef Michael Mina’s 6-year-old shrine to surf and turf is not your father’s steakhouse. It’s a subliminally sexy food palace with clean lines, floor-to-ceiling glass and soft, black leather banquettes. Appetizers are innovative: Think “bacon & egg” with succulent pork belly, deep-fried egg and kimchi. Steaks are decadently poached in clarified butter and finished on a wood-burning grill. And Mina was smart to give the top toque to local superhero chef Chris Curtiss, a master at handmade pasta, whose otherworldly gnocchi melts on the tongue. Curtiss has a way with seafood, too, whether skate wing or golden tilefish, creating stunning flavors that rival the steaks. 7575 E. Princess Dr., 480-585-4848, scottsdaleprincess.com/dining/bourbon-steak

Christopher’s & Crush Lounge
Phoenix
Awards: James Beard Best Chef Southwest (1995) Best New Chef, Food & Wine (1989) Christopher Gross, the iconic chef whose original Christopher’s jump-started the Valley’s modern cuisine movement in 1990, keeps things exciting at the third incarnation of his eponymous restaurant by focusing on what he does best &ndash modernized classic French bistro fare with occasional flashes of haute cuisine on one end and bourgeois people-pleasers on the other. Standbys include Côte de boeuf for two, Alsatian onion tart, escargot en croute, fried frog legs, and if desired, a $140 serving of exquisite Russian caviar. Stylishly and energetically appointed, with the adjoining Crush Lounge adding a touch of sex appeal to the Gallic gestalt, Christopher’s is still the roi of French dining in the Valley. 2502 E. Camelback Rd.,602-522-2344, christophersaz.com

Citizen Public House
Scottsdale
Awards: Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2011), Best New Restaurant, Phoenix New Times (2011), Best New Restaurants in America, Esquire magazine (2011)
When Chef Bernie Kantak unveiled this upscale gastropub in 2011, he had a lot to live up to: namely, a solid reputation earned during his decade at Cowboy Ciao, and the fact that CPH occupies the building that housed the original Trader Vic’s. Kantak’s refined spin on comfort classics combines with mixmaster Richie Moe’s innovative cocktails and a friendly, energetic vibe to make Citizen the hottest late-night nosh on the block. Juicy spiced lamb pairs with tzatziki and pickled veggies for an exotic burger, while pungent gorgonzola and Emmental make Kantak’s mac and cheese a grown-up crowd pleaser. Other highlights include a chopped salad so well-balanced it has a dedicated Facebook following, and the addictive jolt of dessert diva Tracy Dempsey’s espresso-laced sticky bun bread pudding. 7111 E. Fifth Ave., 480-398-4208, citizenpublichouse.com

Cork
Chandler
Awards: Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2008)
Cornered in an otherwise ordinary suburban shopping plaza in Chandler’s distant southern fringe, the award-winning Cork crafts food that is anything but routine. Since opening in 2008, Cork has generated destination-worthy buzz for its small-plates-driven menu of globally-hued New American cuisine and acclaimed wine program. Chef Brian Peterson, along with husband and wife duo Robert and Danielle Morris, showcase the very best of each season, and region, with inspired takes on classics, like the rich foie gras pound cake, cut with a citrus and date sauce the buttery mahi mahi, served with shishito peppers and lobster fried rice or the duck breast, with okra, duck bacon and Brussels sprouts. Culinarily speaking, it’s the savior of San Tan. 4991 S. Alma School Rd., 480-883-3773, corkrestaurant.net

Crudo
Phoenix
Awards: Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame Best New Restaurant, PHOENIX magazine (2012)
Based on the name, you’d think this hard-to-find gem would be a raw seafood restaurant. You’d be one-third right. Chef Cullen Campbell creates pristine plates of crudo, such as silky butterfish garnished with roasted tomato, lardo and arugula. The other two-thirds of the menu feature an eclectic collection of modern, Italian-inspired plates, which can be ordered a la carte or in money-saving multi-courses. The menu changes seasonally, but the phenomenal squid ink risotto is a mainstay. First, prime your palate with an imaginative cocktail in Bar Crudo next door before surrendering to the gracious service and wine knowledge of Campbell’s wife, Maureen. 3603 E. Indian School Rd., 602-358-8666, crudoaz.com

FnB
Scottsdale
Awards: 10 Best Restaurant Dishes, Food & Wine (2010) Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2010)
For four glorious years, Chef Charleen Badman and front-of-the-house charmer Pavle Milic have beautified Old Town Scottsdale with their incomparable farm-to-table fare. Using locally-sourced ingredients, Badman crafts an ever-changing seasonal menu of small and large plates for lunch and dinner. If the stars align and you catch the “off-Stetson” chopped salad loaded with sweet persimmons, tart pomegranate seeds, thinly-sliced Brussels sprouts, chunks of jicama, crunchy walnuts and mild goat feta dressed in a delicate wash of sherry vinaigrette, consider yourself fortunate. Grab a seat on the adjoining patio, order a glass of Arizona wine and revel in a plate of Badman’s impeccable roasted chicken tinged with scallion-ginger sauce or lamb riblets with sherry vinegar and honey. 7125 E. Fifth Ave., 480-284-4777, fnbrestaurant.com

Richardson’s/ The Rokerij
Phoenix
Awards: Best Of Phoenix, Phoenix New Times (2007, 2008, 2013), Best Bars in America, Esquire magazine (2010)
After career waiter and sometimes hippie Richardson Browne rode his bicycle from Florida to Phoenix in the late 1980s, he purchased an old tack shop on a whim and converted it into a dark, cavernous eatery. Though the original Richardson’s burned down in 2009, the newly rebuilt restaurant and its Siamese twin, Dutch-Southwestern grill The Rokerij, continue to attract local bigwigs with a speakeasy vibe and hotter-than-Hades New Mexican fare. Moist carne adovada warms the stomach better than whiskey, and the mild poblano flavor of smoked turkey rellenos complements the earthy tang of green chile. Can’t handle the heat? The Rokerij’s pecan wood grill adds nutty sweetness to any meat, making for flavorful yet mild burgers and bacon-wrapped steak. 6335 N. 16th St., 602-265-5886, richardsonsnm.com

Fry Bread House
Phoenix
Awards: America’s Classic, James Beard Foundation (2012)
This soulful, fuss-free temple to the heavenly virtues of fry bread &ndash that blistered, chewy, deep-fried dough we all know and crave &ndash is no longer the best-kept culinary secret in Arizona, thanks to its official branding as an “American Classic” by the James Beard Foundation in 2012. From the savory fry bread tacos pressed to the edge with slow-cooked red or green chile beef and lard-loaded refried beans, to the sentimentally sweet, easy-kill combo of powdered sugar and honey, Fry Bread House continues to serve its namesake specialty with no remorse for overindulgence or regard for the calorie-concerned. Along with Tuscon’s El Güero Canelo, it gets indigenous-AZ brownie points. 1003 E. Indian School Rd., 602-351-2345

Kai
Chandler
Awards: AAA Five Diamond Award (2006-2014) Forbes Five-Star Award Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator
Arizona’s most decorated restaurant experienced a high-profile executive chef change in late 2012, yet it didn’t skip a beat. If anything, Kai is even better, with an updated, modern menu reflecting its Native American roots while embracing the future with global accents. Kai is king because of the understated elegance of the earth-toned dining room, stunning sunset views from the patio, sophisticated service that melts into the background, and dishes so artfully arranged it seems a shame to devour them &ndash until the first bite. Elk loin wrapped in jamón Ibérico de Bellota with truffle risotto, and cinnamon-dusted lamb loin over butternut squash and wattleseed spaetzle celebrate ancient ingredients with a contemporary spin. 5594 Wild Horse Pass Blvd., 602-385-5726, wildhorsepassresort.com

Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles
Phoenix and Scottsdale
Awards: Best of the Valley &ndash Best Sandwich, PHOENIX magazine (2013)
Well before bacon cupcakes and salted caramel ice cream went mainstream, Larry “Lo-Lo” White perfected his salty-sweet technique under his granny’s wing at Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Café. Launched in 2002, with a Scottsdale outpost added in 2008, Lo-Lo’s dishes up stick-to-your-ribs soul food with Southern attitude. Waffles are light and fluffy, topped with a heaping scoop of booty-building butter. Lo-Lo’s bird is crisp and succulent, its natural juices jacketed in buttermilk breading studded with a proprietary spice blend White won’t even divulge to his own wife. Beyond the crispy cluckers, Lo-Lo’s piquant PHAT AZZ catfish “samich” and red velvet cake with finger-lickin’ cream cheese frosting are worthy supporting players. It’s serious soul food in a soul-food-deprived town. 1220 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-340-1304 2765 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-945-1920, loloschickenandwaffles.com

Los Dos Molinos
Phoenix
Awards: Best Carne Adovada, Phoenix New Times (2011)
In the church of chile heat, Los Dos is pope. Several convenient Valley locations of this beloved New Mexico-style restaurant have opened since family matriarch Victoria Chavez debuted the original Los Dos nearly 40 years ago in the town of Springerville, but we’ll gladly burn a little extra gas to dine at the iconic, out-of-the-way South Phoenix outpost, set in the former home of silent film star Tom Mix. Known for its searing application of the infamous New Mexican chile in all its blistering glory, Los Dos beckons diners far and wide to dine on slow-cooked, chile-lacquered carne adovada ribs, marinated for days in the restaurant’s trademark, sweltering red sauce. It’s endorphin-rush dining at its finest. 8646 S. Central Ave., 602-243-9113, losdosmolinosphoenix.com

Nobuo at the Teeter House
Phoenix
Awards: Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation (2007) Best New Chef, Food and Wine magazine (2002)
Once upon a time, Nobuo Fukuda was a 20-year-old line chef at Benihana, making onion ring volcanos and the like. It’s a pretty funny thought, considering the James Beard Award winner’s towering artistry &ndash like Picasso inking cartoon panels for South Park. Perfecting the small plates technique that first won him acclaim at Sea Saw in Old Town, Fukuda does things with raw fish that feel vaguely supernatural &ndash for instance, draping spoonfuls of hamachi in grapefruit and trufflized ponzu oil in such a way that each bite seems directly piped into your umami pleasure zones. Similarly un-Benihana-like: a soft-shell crab salad married with peanuts and sweetened fish sauce for an unexpected Southeast Asian shwing. Of course, everything at this Downtown izakaya is splendid: the hot plates, the cold plates, the Japanese tea room lunch menu. If you love sushi, and want to take your love of Japanese cuisine to the next level, this is your graduate program. 622 E. Adams St., 602-254-0600, nobuofukuda.com

Posh
Scottsdale
Awards: Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator (2013) Best Late Night Ramen, PHOENIX magazine (2013)
In the mood for some spicy kangaroo or a meaty bison oxtail? Both have been known to star in the “improvisational” cuisine of Chef Joshua Hebert. Here’s how it works: Diners are presented with a menu that includes the aforementioned protein choices plus more mainstream selections such as soft-shell crab, white bass and New York strip steak. Cross out the proteins you dislike, write down any other food aversions, allergies and dietary restrictions, and Hebert and staff will create a minimum five-course seasonal tasting menu based on your answers. Like disciplined jazz musicians, they experiment freely, but always manage to hit the right notes. Frog legs with gnocchi? Shrimp cocktail with a miso gelée? Groovy, baby. 7167 E. Rancho Vista Dr., 480-663-7674, poshscottsdale.com

Roka Akor
Scottsdale
Awards: Best Sushi
Restaurant in the U.S., Travel & Leisure magazine (2008)
Pity the poor soul who dismisses this London-based dining brand as “corporate sushi.” From the showpiece robata grill to the obsessively fine-tuned food and service, Roka is anything but generic. Don’t miss the butterfish tataki, a delicate but palate-empowering raw fish served with dainty white asparagus and yuzu the crispy Brussels sprouts with a house-made Japanese mustard, flecked with bonito flakes or one of Roka Akor’s “steak collection,” which includes dry-aged and bone-in cuts of Niman Ranch and Australian wagyu beef. Roka Akor is not for the faint of wallet, but worth every delectable dollar. And if you want to cost-effectively join the party, it offers one of the Valley’s best happy hour values. 7299 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-306-8800, rokaakor.com

ShinBay
Scottsdale
Awards: James Beard Award
semifinalist (2012) Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2011)
Chef Shinji Kurita is all about subtlety. Everything at ShinBay is elegantly understated, from the soothing elemental décor to Kurita’s quiet demeanor and clean, flavorful fare. Dedicated fans of his defunct Ahwatukee restaurant rejoiced when Kurita left a temporary gig at a national teppanyaki chop-shop to open ShinBay in 2011. Here, chef-driven menus change like the tides, ebbing and flowing through nigiri, toubanyaki (tabletop grilled meats) and flavorful, brothy mushroom soup with tender, earthy mussels. There’s a reason we dubbed Kurita “The Fish Whisperer.” Despite Phoenix’s lack of coastline, ShinBay’s entrées taste ocean-fresh &ndash leaving us to wonder if Kurita discovered a mythical portal that instantly transports him to the sea and back. 7001 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-664-0180, shinbay.com

Pizzeria Bianco
Phoenix
Awards: Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation (2003) Best Pizza in the U.S., Bon Appétit
Without question, this is bucket-list pizza. More than simply a local destination for superior pies, Pizzeria Bianco has shaped the national food ethos on what truly constitutes the perfect pizza, seizing countless golden accolades along the way. Since opening in 1996, Bianco’s Downtown Phoenix outpost goes through blank waiting lists like boxes of Kleenex &ndash claiming a table for dinner on a routine Friday night continues to be one of life’s back-patting benchmarks. Celebrated for its signature wood-fired artisanal pizzas constructed meticulously with ingredients handcrafted or personally curated by founder and James Beard Award-winning pizza master Chris Bianco, food-driven tourists continue to make hungry pilgrimages to Phoenix for menu favorites like the classic margherita and the Wiseguy, made with house-smoked mozzarella, local fennel sausage and wood-roasted onions. 623 E. Adams St., 602-258-8300, pizzeriabianco.com

Tarbell’s
Phoenix
Awards: Food Network’s Iron Chef America (2007)
When you walk into Tarbell’s, two divergent thoughts come to mind: 1) Wow, what a classy joint, with its white tablecloths and nattily-attired clientele and 2) It’s so damn comfortable and inviting, you could belly up to the bar and linger all night. Since 1994, oenophile chef Mark Tarbell has courageously manned the front lines of the Valley’s fine-dining revolution. Perennial favorites include grilled Scottish salmon glazed with molasses, lime and McClendon’s honey atop crispy russet potato cakes and Mark’s “famous” ground veal and pork sausage meatballs smothered in house-made marinara served over spaghetti.

The chef publishes many of his recipes on the restaurant’s website, but why cook at home when you can be wined and dined by a living legend? 3213 E. Camelback Rd., 602-955-8100, tarbells.com

Tacos Atoyac
Phoenix
Awards: Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2012) Best Fish Taco, PHOENIX magazine (2011) Best Fish Taco, Epicurious.com
If it wasn’t so neat and tidy, this bare-bones Central Phoenix taco shop might be considered a dive. The intriguing menu of Mexican street food at candy bar prices draws diners from all corners of the Valley. Tacos are tops, especially the Baja-style fish taco and the pork- and- pineapple al pastor, but owners Dan Maldonado and Pablo Lopez also sling two humble Oaxacan snacks you won’t find anywhere else: memelitas (thick, chewy corn tortillas) and molote (masa fritters stuffed with potatoes and chorizo). It’s peasant fare fit for a prince. 1830 W. Glendale Ave., 602-864-2746

Vincent on
Camelback

Phoenix
Awards: Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation (1993)
Vincent Guerithault was practicing “chef-driven,” “seasonal” and “local” decades before they were boilerplate buzzwords. With the opening of his eponymous Phoenix restaurant in 1986, Guerithault almost single-handedly elevated Southwestern cuisine into the realm of fine dining with his signature, often playful layering of the regional style with classic French sensibilities. Authoring daily menus highlighted by then-scandalous dishes like duck confit tamales with raisins and mild Anaheim chile, and his equally infamous lobster chimichanga, filled with a silky basil beurre blanc, Guerithault permanently cemented himself in the Valley’s culinary consciousness. The James Beard Award-winner also exhibits an uncanny knack for adaptation, rolling out a much-admired small-plates menu in the restaurant’s Bleu Lounge. 3930 E. Camelback Rd., 602-224-0225, vincentsoncamelback.com

Virtù Honest Craft
Scottsdale
Awards: Best New Restaurants in America, Esquire magazine (2013) Top 5 Best New Restaurants, PHOENIX magazine (2013)
Named after the Machiavellian term for “achieving excellence,” this 35-seat modern Italian bistro should be loved, not feared &ndash that is, unless you fear deliciousness. Chef/owner Gio Osso dazzles with offerings that range from a simple salad of baby lettuces, red beets, squash and crunchy candied pecans to mind-scrambling symphonies like a trio of hazelnut-crusted scallops atop a bed of butternut squash studded with bacon and finished with white chocolate beurre blanc. Not yet a year old, Virtù is a tyro eatery with an old soul &ndash and a grilled octopus appetizer that haunts our fantasies. Along with Crudo, it’s the star of the Valley’s emerging Italian scene. 3701 N. Marshall Way, 480-946-3477, virtuscottsdale.com

Southern Arizona

The Abbey Eat + Drink
Tucson
Awards: Best New Restaurant, Tucson Lifestyle (2011)
Artichoke dip with fresh dill and house-made crostini. Pot roast with black truffle pan gravy. Burgers with bacon jam. Comfort food is surely raised to an art form at this retro-chic gastropub, which conjures a friendly neighborhood vibe despite its upscale-shopping-compound address. Owned by the same folks behind Tucson’s popular Jax Kitchen, the Abbey is especially popular with locals on Tuesdays, when bottles of wine are half-price, and on Wednesday, which is fabled fried chicken night. The daily changing Breakfast for Dinner entrée is also a real crowd-pleaser. French toast and bacon somehow taste better after dark. 6960 E. Sunrise Dr., 520-299-3132, theabbeytucson.com

Café Poca Cosa
Tucson
Awards: Best Upscale Cuisine (2013) and Best Mexican (2011, 2012), Tucson Weekly
A staple of downtown Tucson dining since 1987, this one-time hole-in-the-wall traded up for more upscale digs, but its status as ground zero for authentic Mexico City soul food in Arizona endures. Chef/owner Suzana Davila elevates the food of her native land, turning out elegant renditions of classics &ndash mole, tacos, enchiladas &ndash as well as funky takeoffs on traditional flavors, like ancho chile-infused chocolate cake, plum-chipotle carne and tamale pie with rotating flavors and sauces. Try the scrumptious cauliflower, if it’s available. Davila keeps palates on edge with her twice-daily-changing menu, informed by her daily farmers’ market harvest, but is careful to mix old favorites with bold experiments. Put your trust in her and order the Plato Poca Cosa (chef’s choice) and a fresh fruit-laden margarita, and just say gracias. 110 E. Pennington St., 520-622-6400, cafepocacosatucson.com

Cafe Roka
Bisbee
Awards: #1 Restaurant in Bisbee, Trip Advisor (2009-2013)
The picturesque town of Bisbee has a reputation for being quirky, but usually in an eat-it-out-of-a-can kind of way. So footloose food lovers throughout Southern Arizona were amazed 20 years ago when a New American restaurant offering reasonably priced and beautifully presented four-course meals &ndash including a sorbet palate cleanser &ndash opened on the town’s historic main drag. The dinners served in the intimate pressed tin-ceiling dining room continue to impress. Entrées on the weekly changing menu range from portobello mushroom and artichoke lasagna to New Zealand rack of lamb with new potatoes in a rosemary zinfandel sauce. 35 Main St., 520-432-5153, caferoka.com

Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails
Tucson
Awards: Best Chef: Southwest, James Beard Foundation Award (2000) Best Chefs America (2013) Best New Restaurants, Tucson Lifestyle (2011)
Chef Janos Wilder’s return to downtown, where he got his start in Tucson some three decades ago, is a globe-trotting departure from the regional Southwestern cuisine that scored him a James Beard Award. His self-described menu for a “new America” throws a block party on every plate with such dishes as a Laotian chicken and green papaya salad, Cuban achiote-rubbed pork loin and black mussels with Spanish chorizo. You can also savor such signature Wilder dishes as his Sonoran hot dog &ndash one of several upscale street food options on the bar menu &ndash and his chocolate jalapeño ice cream sundae. 135 S. Sixth Ave., 520-623-7700, downtownkitchen.com

The Grill at Hacienda del Sol
Tucson
Awards: Top Five Restaurants, Tucson Lifestyle (2011, 2012, 2013) AAA Four Diamond Award (2011)
The ultimate in special-occasion dining, this elegant Southwest-style restaurant is located at the lovely Hacienda del Sol &ndash a 1929 girls’ school turned historic guest ranch where Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy once bunked. The menu caters to both traditionalists and more adventurous foodies with dishes like roasted duck breast sided by Spanish chorizo and cranberry bean ragout, and game preparations such as roasted pheasant breast and venison chops. This is also the only restaurant in Arizona to receive Wine Enthusiast’s “Award of Ultimate Distinction” not once, but twice. Locals flock to the generous Sunday brunch book a table on the west patio for drop-dead gorgeous city and mountain vistas. 5501 N. Hacienda Del Sol Rd., 520-529-3500, haciendadelsol.com/dining/

Maynard’s Market & Kitchen
Tucson
Awards: Best Chefs America (2013) Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator (2013)
Served in a restored Southern Pacific railroad depot, Chef Addam Buzzalini’s innovative bistro fare &ndash think poutine and foie gras with pomme frites, and Niman Ranch organic roasted chicken &ndash channels the classic era of elegant rail travel with an art deco-style room that mimics a Pullman dining car. Everything is made from scratch, from the fresh-baked bread to artisanal ice cream. Browse the shelves of the casual, grab-and-bag market next door for a bottle of wine to accompany dinner. Freight trains still pass by grab a table on the outdoor patio to experience the sound effects full-force. 400 N. Toole Ave., 520-545-0577, maynardstucson.com

Proper
Tucson
Awards: Opened 2013
Yes, it’s a bit unconventional to rank a restaurant that debuted in May among the state’s best, but owner Paul Moir’s track record in Flagstaff &ndash he’s behind the excellent Criollo Latin Kitchen and Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar &ndash suggests this stylish downtown dining room is no flash in the pan. Dishes like curried lamb stew with dates, and pork belly with butternut squash risotto are complex without being fussy, and the farm-to-table philosophy, including the use of ethically raised animals, guarantees maximum freshness with minimum guilt. Creative cocktails like the Green Thistle, a bracing mix of vodka, artichoke liqueur and citrus, add panache. 300 E. Congress St., 520-396-3357, propertucson.com

PY Steakhouse
Tucson
Awards: Best New Restaurant, Tucson Lifestyle (2013)
Tucson’s south side is chockablock with Mexican mom-and-pops, so the recent arrival of this high-end steakhouse in the glitzy Casino del Sol, owned by the Pascua Yaqui tribe, has thoroughly disrupted the neighborhood’s culinary grading curve. Touches such as jalapeños in the creamed spinach and chorizo in the shrimp linguine lend Southwest zest to a classic surf-and-turf menu. The swanky dining room, a study in white with touches of black and gray, provides the perfect setting for the retro cocktails created by resort mixologist Aaron de Feo, arguably Southern Arizona’s top barkeep. 5655 W. Valencia Rd., 855-765-7829,
casinodelsol.com

Vivace
Tucson
Awards: Top Five Restaurants, Tucson Lifestyle (2011, 2012, 2013) Zagat #1 Tucson restaurant (2009)
Chef/owner Daniel Scordato has dished out consistently fine Northern Italian fare to Tucsonans for so long &ndash since 1993 &ndash that Vivace sometimes gets overlooked in the rush to try the next new thing. But savvy locals and devoted out-of-towners keep the white clothed tables in the pretty Tuscan-style dining rooms booked year-round. The epitome of the good life, Southern Arizona style: sitting out on the patio and sipping Prosecco with a pear and walnut wedge salad, perhaps followed by artichoke-goat cheese cannelloni and pork Sorrentino with prosciutto and Fontina cheese. 4310 N. Campbell Ave., 520-795-7221, vivacetucson.com

Wildflower
Tucson
Awards:Top Five Restaurants, Tucson Lifestyle (2012, 2013)
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Sam Fox’s maiden culinary expedition reminds us why Fox Restaurant Concepts (FRC) has become a national mega-success: excellent food, great service and reasonable prices. Keepers from the original menu, like the smoked salmon and crème fraîche on a crispy potato galette &ndash a clever spin on bagels and lox &ndash never disappoint. Neither do the Bars of Sin, a praline chocolate cookie with cappuccino mousse that distinguishes FRC executive pastry chef Karen “Spike” Ames as a true dessert diva. Wildflower’s patio is one of the most appealing in town, with dramatic Santa Catalina vistas during the day, and a romantic, low-lit atmosphere come nightfall. 7037 N. Oracle Rd., 520-219-4230, foxrc.com

El Güero Canelo
Tucson
Awards: Best Sonoran Hot Dogs, Tucson Weekly (2009-2013)
The Sonoran hot dog is Tucson’s most iconic dish, and this former roadside taco stand-turned-restaurant is its most famous advocate. For 20 years, Daniel Contreras and his family have served thousands of their signature pieces of heaven-in-a-sweet-bun: bacon-wrapped dogs grilled to a chewy, crisp perfection and loaded with beans, onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise and mustard, with some customers opting to dogpile with salsa, jalapeños, cheese and crema. But it’s more than just hot dogs on the menu the carne asada is grilled up almost around the clock and stuffed into tacos, burros, tortas and caramelos, a kind of torta/quesadilla hybrid. Everything is made fresh, with a toppings station chock-full of veggies, sauces and salsas. Good luck eating these delights slowly. Odds are you’ll spend hours licking between your teeth trying to get one last taste. Three locations, 520-807-9620, elguerocanelo.com

Elvira’s
Tubac
Awards: Certificate of Excellence, Trip Advisor (2013)
When this Nogales, Mexico-based institution &ndash dating waaaay back to 1927 &ndash moved north of the border to artsy Tubac a few years ago, it stayed true to its pan-Mexican culinary roots, but spiffed up its digs. Don’t miss the superb moles &ndash particularly the hazelnut with ancho chiles, raisins and chocolate &ndash or the tamarind-chipotle shrimp on grilled pineapple. In season, the pomegranate-seed-studded chiles en nogada are a must-order, and the margaritas, from the classic to agave honey, are justly famed. After dark, the dining room gets seriously sexy, with the blown-glass teardrops suspended from the ceiling catching and refracting the light. 2221 E. Frontage Rd., 520-398-9421, elvirasrestaurant.com

Overland Trout
Sonoita
Awards: Opened 2013
Talk about a change of scenery. Last year, Greg LaPrad left his gig at Quiessence, an oasis farmhouse restaurant anchored in the south Phoenix urban sprawl, for Overland Trout, a modest outpost in the wide-open prairie of Southern Arizona’s wine country. Making fast friends with local farmers and ranchers, LaPrad crafted a one-page seasonal menu reflecting the terroir of Southern Arizona and its close proximity to Mexico. Winter squash soup with house-made apple chorizo shares the spotlight with grilled quail marinated in local red wine, and hunter’s stew is packed with wild venison.

Although the restaurant has only been open since October, Arizona’s food and wine enthusiasts have already christened it “destination dining worth the drive.” At least, that’s what we’re calling it. 3266 State Hwy. 82, 520-455-9316, overlandtrout.com

Photos by Jim David, Mark Lipczynski, Brian Goddard, Richard Maack, Jamie Peachey, Laura Segall, Terri Lea Smith, David Venezia


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off Season 3 Episode 4 Recap

I almost didn't watch Rachael vs Guy last night. As it was, I missed the first eight minutes of the program, but I'm pretty sure I didn't really miss anything of consequence. From what I gathered when I tuned in, the celebs were making chicken wings.

At that time, Judy was mixing plum jam into something, and Herschel was turning the drum part of his wings into lollipops by scraping the meat into blobs at one end of the bone, leaving the bare bone poking out. Not sure what the time limit was for the challenge but Guy sure did seem to be in a hurry, the way he nagged his team.

After barking at Herschel to hurry up, Guy barks at Tiffany to see where she was in the process. "Dry rub?!" "Done!" "Brine?!" "Done!" I'm pretty sure Tiffany didn't have time to properly brine her wings, and they looked mighty naked to me. Perhaps she dry rubbed them before brining, and the brine washed off the rub? In any case, she was putting her whole wings in a hot cast iron pan and then placing another hot iron pan on top. Nice technique, but a bit much for wings, which are mostly bone. Predictably, they are burning in spots so she has to start over.

Off on the sideline, we have our Special Celebrity Guest Judge for the day, Alex "Cranky Pants" Guarnaschelli. She's making bitchy Chopped-style remarks to some pretty boy sitting next to her. Penn is doing classic Buffalo-style wings, with bleu cheese and celery sticks. She thinks he's making things hard on himself because everyone knows what those are supposed to taste like, and if he f***s it up, well.

As we all know, Vanilla Ice is a vegetarian, so he's bravely making fried tofu lollipops in an incendiary sauce that makes his team mates Herschel and Tiffany cough.

Ma Brady's wings were baked (I missed that whole action sequence). Despite that, they were pleasingly crispy. Her soy honey glaze could have been hotter, however. Penn's classic Buffalo wings turned out very well, and Cranky Pants appreciates that there was some real acid in the sauce--something she's always looking for. (Personally, I think she's got enough in her already.) Judy's plum teriyaki wings were pretty, garnished as they were with sesame seeds and scallions, but the sauce was too sweet. Vanilla's fried tofu blobs-on-a-stick were anything but vanilla, and were a bit too hot for Cranky Pants. Herschel's wasabi ginger wings were terrific, but Tiffany's were all technique and no flavor.

Each team gets an MVP again this week, and those two folks also get immunity. Immunity? I guess that means the episode will have a second challenge. Insert frowny face here. Herschel and Penn earn the title, and that gets each of their charities (Patriot Support and Opportunity Village, respectively) $2500.

Before the second challenge, the pretty boy has to "go back to GMA." Turns out he's Josh Elliott from Good Morning America (I don't know these things--I'm at work at 7:30am, not watching TV.) He worked for ESPN before going to GMA, which apparently makes him an authority on chicken wings. (Srsly?) Either that, or Cranky Pants refused to be alone with Rachael and Guy.

The second challenge in this "the Super Bowl is coming up so let's make game day food" episode (although it was probably filmed before the 2013 season even started) is to make "elevated" stadium grub. The celebs go off with their respective mentors to their ginormous cushy trailers to get told what to make. Each of the non-immune folks (Tiffany and Vanilla, Florence and Judy) is responsible for a dish, plus there will be a team nacho presentation. Herschel and Penn will act as sous chefs for their team, and likely take on the bulk of the nachos.

Over in Rachael's trailer, Judy suggests crab cakes, which of course she has never made because shellfish are not Kosher. Rachael thinks she's brave I think she's stupid, but then I feel that way about most people. Florence, who grew up on a farm as one of 10 children, wants to make corn on the cob. Because who doesn't want to eat a butter-dripping ear of out-of-season corn while wearing mittens and sitting in 20°F weather? Also, that's not so elevated, so she's going to do a shrimp salad, too. Because shrimp salad and corn are a natural pairing! As for the nacho part of the program, Rachael suggests that they do them New York deli-style, topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, and mustard. My blood runs cold at the thought, but whatever--I don't have to eat them.

Over on Guy's side of the street, in his giant air-conditioned bus that probably gets a whole 12 miles per gallon of hair grease gas, Vanilla Ice forgets his vegetarianism momentarily and volunteers to make lobster rolls. Guy tells him to make lobster mac and cheese, instead. Tiffany wants to do a chicken and waffle sandwich, which Guy seems ok with. He then declares that their nachos will be individual nacho bites, which doesn't seem all that special to me.

Out on the cooking field (they seem to be in some sort of sports arena for this exercise, possibly somewhere in the wilds of New Jersey once again), Vanilla starts throwing the word "voodoo" around (in place of last week's "ninja"), and immediately burns the roux for his cheese sauce while mugging for the camera. Guy makes him throw it out and start over, much as he had to do with his "brittle." The lobster mac and cheese has morphed into a lobster mac and cheese sandwich, and a cute round toasting iron has miraculously appeared from nowhere. I have to wonder how that happened.

Producer: Hey Guy, mac and cheese is a great idea, but your team is supposed to make a toasted sandwich.
Guy: Dude, mac and cheese with lobster is the fast bus to Flavor Town! It's a party on your palate! It will be the bomb diggity dog do! Plus--my show. We make what I want. You do want to continue getting that paycheck, don't you?
Producer: But you made me buy that iron--with my paycheck--at that flea market in Podunk, Arkansas, when we filmed one of the new episode of Diners, Dipshits, and Douchebags. Remember? When I indulged you yet again on your never-ending quest for Three Stooges memorabilia? I was going to use that money to buy something for my wife, but you insisted on that damn sandwich iron.
Guy: Dammit. Can we use it next week instead? Or just give it to Rachael. I think it's her turn to lose.
Vanilla Ice: Did you say "dog doo?" It's "voodoo."

Over on Rachael's side, Penn is cutting up what appears to be canned corned beef. And I'm going to be sick. Judy is mixing her crab and seasonings together rather violently, like its cake batter. Definitely no Maryland-style lump crab cakes going on over there! And she's dumping all sorts of crap in the bowl--grainy mustard, seasoning that looks like Old Bay, Tabasco--because she says she knows these judges "love flavor." Rachael suggests that she fry up a tiny cake and taste it for seasoning before making larger cakes for judging. Judy says she likes the flavor, but she doesn't look convinced.

Back on Guy's side, Tiffany confesses that she's never made waffles before. And this is how Guy tests the consistency of her batter:

<shudder> . runs to the bathroom. <vomit>

Vanilla says while the thought of eating animals sickens him, seafood is ok. He's whacking up the raw (aka live) lobster into chunks before tossing them into a pot of boiling water. Like any good carnivore who has no regard for the feeling of the animals whose flesh they enjoy. He's tells us he's being a "vegiquarium" today. Ooo-kay. Then he's layering cheese sauce and mac and cheese and lobster and more cheese sauce between little rounds of bread and toasting the whole shebang. The result resembles Smucker's Uncrustables, the ultimate food for lazy people. (I mean, come on. If you can't be bothered to smear peanut butter and jelly on white bread for your own offspring, you really need to reexamine your lifestyle.)

Judging time! Grumpy Pants has to tie the feed bag on yet again.

Flo's shrimp salad is a bit saucy (which is what she wanted) but otherwise quite delicious. Her corn on the cob topped with cilantro pesto is good, but not quite what anyone considers "elevated." Judy's crab cakes are a mush-fest, and Grumpy Pants wants more texture. Even a few shells would have been good. Vanilla's lobster mac and cheese grilled cheese is wrong on so many accounts, but GP really loves it. Tiffany's chicken and waffles are pretty good if you eat the components separately, but together the combination is a bit sweet, and the waffles are gummy. There were some of Guy's knuckle hairs in there, too, I'm sure.

Rachael thinks the New York corned beef and sauerkraut nachos are a clever idea, but then they were *her* idea, weren't they? But Grumpy Pants doesn't like getting bites of pickle, mustard, and sauerkraut. What? Too much acid? Team Guy's individual nachos sport some of Vanilla's tasty "voodoo" cheese sauce, but Herschel over-smoked the chicken, making their nachos less-delicious than Rachael's. Even with canned corned beef.

Grumpy Pants is then left to make the winner/loser announcement. She chooses Guy's team as the winner. Surprisingly, that means Rachael's team has lost two weeks in a row. I suppose that doesn't matter when both teams have the same amount of members, as they do this week. I predict Guy's team will lose next week, whether it needs to or not.

Judy manhandled her crab meat, and there was perhaps a bit too much flavor going on between the crab cakes with their mustard and whatnot and their Sriracha horseradish aioli accompaniment. So bye bye Judy.

I'm betting she called her therapist immediately thereafter.

Next week? I dunno. I didn't stick around to watch the promo. Fifty minutes of the show was plenty for me, thanks.



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