BEST ESCARGOTS Phoenix 2005 - Caffe Boa
In the States, eating escargots usually means chewy, tasteless gastropods so overwhelmed by garlic and butter that you might as well be gnawing on someone's shoelace. Why are these terrestrial mollusks so gross here and so exquisite overseas? Well, for one reason, the snails you get in Europe tend to be fresher, and we suspect that some of the black, rubbery escargots restaurateurs are palming off to us here in the ol' U.S. of A. are so tasteless that loads of garlic and butter are the easiest way to hide this fact. After all, if their snails were fresh and delish, why would you choose the one way of preparing them sure to obscure their earthy magnificence? There are other ways of preparing escargots, and one place unafraid of breaking with the cliché is Tempe's Caffe Boa. Its "lumache Boa" consists of escargots sautéed in a tomato sauce with mushrooms, black olives, red peppers, white wine and two slices of grilled polenta. Not only is the sauce palatable without being overpowering, but you can actually taste the snails. And that's a good thing. For those who've only had escargots in garlic and butter, Caffe Boa's lumache Boa should be a revelation. Then you'll realize just what a fraud the whole garlic-butter-snail combo usually is.