Many restaurants are getting ready to reopen for the fall season, which means we can get ready to see a whole slew of new fall menus. And while I'm excited to see what's coming down the bend, I'll be sad to see some of my favorite summer dishes fall off menus until next year. This month's best eats and drinks is an eclectic mix of cuisines including a very special loaf of bread (well, at least if you're a bread nerd like me) and some fried chicken that's certainly worth waiting for.
I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.
Pistacho and Sour Cherry Doughnut from Nocawich
When Noca and Nocawich owner Eliot Wexler does something new, he takes the time to do it right. That's why he flew in a baker friend, one with plenty of doughnut experience, to help perfect Nocawich's newest menu offering, doughnuts. When I taste-tasted the sweet treats they were still working out the kinks, but I thought the pistachio doughnut with sour cherry glaze was already about perfect. The pistachio flavored cake was moist and dense, then fried to a golden brown on the outside. A touch of lightly sour fruit glaze ensured it wasn't overly sweet and the crumble of pistachio nuts gave the whole thing a little bit of texture.
As of this week the restaurant is closed for work. We'll keep you posted on what's happening next.
Fried Chicken from FnB
There was a full house at FnB in Scottsdale on Wednesday, August 20 and that's because chef Charleen Badman's fried chicken has an honest-to-god groupie following. Before last month I'd never tried the chef's chicken but after doing so I can honestly say I understand what the fuss is all about. For starters, Badman uses locally raised chickens that are slaughtered just days before being served to you at dinner -- and yes, you can taste the difference. The batter is also a work of art, with a nice little peppery kick and just the right amount of salt. For $25 I got three giant pieces smothered in gravy with a side of bean salad. When she serves it again, I'll definitely be back.
The Fruity Scotsman from The Local
I can drink whiskey like water and regularly do, so when I see a cocktail menu with a scotch drink on it I can hardly resist. The Local's cocktail menu right now features a nice little scotch drink called the Fruity Scottsdale right now made with Monkey Shoulder blended scotch, Giffard Banane liqueur, St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, lemon, and simple syrup. Served with a garnish of dried banana, it's an attractive and light cocktail that's perfect for summer -- if you're a whiskey lover. The fruity notes don't overpower the scotch but also make this a much more sip-able drink than many other scotch-based creations.
13 Mile Vegetable Curry Crepe from Crepe Bar
Earlier this month we went into the kitchen with Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar to gett the whole story on what goes into making the 13 Mile Vegetable Curry crepe. Though I'd eaten at Crepe Bar at least a dozen times, I'd always overlooked this dish thinking it would be just another gratuitous vegetarian menu option. I couldn't have been more wrong. Kraus uses a half dozen different cooking techniques to compile a flavor-packed dish using locally-sourced vegetables. The result is a meal that's just as complex as the restaurant's meaty options. And unlike some of the richer dishes, this vegetable crepe doesn't weigh you down.
Summer Corn pizza from The Parlor
The $7 pizzas available during The Parlor's happy hour might just be one of the best deals in town. And whenever it's available I head to the Camelback Corridor restaurant for the Summer Corn pizza. The pie features roasted chiles, cilantro, and a spicy creme fraiche, as well as a healthy dose of sweet summer corn. Altogether it makes for dish that's full of bold, bright flavors. It does pack a little bit of a punch thanks to the chiles but the corn and creamy sauce do a nice job of balancing things out.
Dolmades from Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli
Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli on 16th Street in Central Phoenix is one of those places I forget to go to for months at a time, the kind of place I tend to take for granted because it's been there forever and will presumably always be there. It's really a shame because the food is so reliably good. The tabouleh, gyro, and Lebanese chicken are all hits, but no meal is complete without an order of the stuffed grape leaves, or dolmades. I love how the tart leaves give way to a spiced filling of rice and meat. The restaurant's housemade tatziki gives a coolness to the mix, making this a perfect snack for summer.
Deep-Fried Soft Shell Crab Sandwich from Nobuo at Teeter House
Lunch at Nobuo at Teeter House is a luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Phoenix. And it won't break the bank. The restaurant serves a small but affordable menu of refined Japanese cuisine including my personal favorite, the deep-fried soft shell crab sandwich. It's served on a wonderful housemade focaccia bread that's buttery on the outside and flavored with a variety of herbs and spices. The dense bread does a perfect job supporting the crunchy, battered soft shell crab, which is dressed in a just barely spicy aioli. For about $10 it's practically a steal.
Agritopia Loaf from Noble Bread
This month Noble Bread launched an exciting collaboration with The Farm at Agritopia that has the bakery using the farm's heritage flour to produce loaves of artisan bread. Though Noble Bread regularly uses organic and heritage flours in their breads, it's exciting to be able to buy a loaf made at least in part with local flour. The small harvest of wheat from the Gilbert farm doesn't allow Noble to use Agritopia-grown four exclusively, but at least it's a start. You can pick up your own loaf at the farm's weekly farmer's market on Wednesday nights.
Baked Pesto Pasta at Oven+Vine
Oven+Vine is easily the kind of place that you could make into a regular haunt if you live close by. The restaurant is a housed in a charming and historic building that's flooded with natural light during the day. Best of all, the food is satisfying and affordable, particularly with baked pesto pasta. I love how the dish arrives piping hot from the restaurant's brick oven in an Instagram-worthy metal dish. Break through the cheesy crust and you'll find a bowl full of fresh vegetables, pasta, and a light herb pesto. It's surprisingly filling so be warned.
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Grilled Octopus from Petite Maison
There are quite a few places in town with octopus on the menu right now, but one of my favorites so far has to be the grilled version from Petite Maison. Chef James Porter works magic on the meat to produce octopus that's soft as butter. He serves the octopus with a creamy red pepper rouille and roasted corn to add a touch of sweetness to the dish. It's not the most French item on the restaurant's menu -- ok, it's not French at all. But when it's this good, who really cares?