Hey, Butter Butter

French fare lightens up, Roaring Fork packs up

French food has never been characterized as ultra-healthful, but Christopher Gross is giving it a shot at his Christopher's Fermier Brasserie in Biltmore Fashion Park. He's teamed with Kronos Optimal Health Centre and created new nutrient-dense recipes designed to help his clientele have longer, happier lives.

The Phoenix-based Centre provides customized health plans, including nutrition, vitamin and exercise recommendations (no, using a StairMaster while snacking on Christopher's signature chocolate tower dessert doesn't count). Gross had the analysis done and found that his diet -- which includes a dozen double espressos, at least half a pound of butter and lots of bread every day -- wasn't as healthful as it could be.

"I got a complete owner's manual for my body," he says. "It looks like the only thing that saved me was drinking lots of red wine." Wine is increasingly believed to be good for preventing heart disease and cancer.

The new recipes primarily get rid of carbs and substitute vegetables. Gross' popular hanger steak, for example, replaces straw fries with veggies and olive oil. And while foie gras isn't Kronos-approved, the rich duck fat is actually a little better for the body than butter, Gross concedes.

"It's a good approach," he says. "Better than saying, 'Dinner will be a little late tonight -- the chef just died.'"

Dull Roar: Is anyone else concerned about Roaring Fork's relocating to the empty Il Fornaio space in the Finova Building next to Scottsdale Fashion Square? Part of the charm of Roaring Fork is its darkish, funky cowboy decor and intimacy -- I love scarfing a Big Ass burger at the cozy bar during happy hour.

Il Fornaio always struck me as kind of cold, though, like a glass coffin, with its cavernous dining room encased in soaring windows. The views aren't interesting, unless you really like rows of cars and graveled berms. Plus, it's impossible to see the place until you're in the parking lot.

Perhaps once chef-owner Robert McGrath hangs his signature hat in the place this summer, he'll be able to charm it up. And it's not like he has much choice -- his landlords have sold his original building to developers.

Here, Piggy: I'll be celebrating high on the hog this April 24. It's National Pigs-in-a-Blanket day. Where to get the tasty treat? Try J.P. Pancake at Hayden and Mountain View in Scottsdale. It serves a great griddle plate of plump Hormel sausage links rolled in buttermilk pancakes, with tropical syrup and powdered sugar.

 
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