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10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in July

Ramen burger from Bitter & Twisted
Ramen burger from Bitter & Twisted
Lauren Saria

I know summer is supposed to be the slow season for restaurants in this town but I can tell you I didn't notice anything slow during last month's dining excursions. A few of the items that make it on July's list of the best things I ate and drank are special creations that do a great job of showcasing just how incredible our dining and drinking scene has become. Not all are available on the restaurant's regular menu but I guarantee they're worth the wait if/when you do get the chance to try them again.

I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.

See also: 10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in June

Ramen Burger from Bitter & Twisted

Yes, the cocktails are the stars of the show at the recently opened Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour in downtown Phoenix, but I would still encourage everyone to go and try the food. Chef Bob Tam's menu is way more bad ass than it has any right to be if the eats are supposed to be second fiddle. The ramen burger is a perfect example. Tam has figured out a way to make perfectly crisp and sturdy ramen "buns" onto which he piles a sesame soy marinated patty, Sriracha soba sauce, caramelized onions, pepper jack cheese, and jalapeno mayo to make a beautiful umami-bomb of a dish.

Fate Brewing Company's Breakfast 4 Dinner
Fate Brewing Company's Breakfast 4 Dinner
Lauren Saria

Breakfast for Dinner from Fate Brewing Company

There were quite a few interesting beers to try at the first Real, Wild, and Woody beer festival earlier this month and two of the most memorable came from Fate Brewing Company in Scottsdale. The brewery's Puffs Imperial Coffee Milk Porter made with Cocoa Puffs cereal was a fun one, but got outshined (in my opnion) by their Breakfast for Dinner brew, made with local Cartel Coffee Lab coffee and glazed doughnuts. The first sip of the barrel-aged porter delivered an easily recognizable coffee flavor and scent that was swiftly followed by hints of chocolate and then sweetness from the glazed doughnut. This beer tasted pretty much how I imagine Willy Wonka's Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum would taste -- but thankfully didn't make me turn into a giant doughnut.

 

Two steam buns from Clever Koi
Two steam buns from Clever Koi
Lauren Saria

Slider Steam Buns from Clever Koi

Of the three types of steam buns on the Clever Koi menu right now, the least interesting option -- at least on paper -- is probably the slider. That doesn't mean you should skip it. The chicken and waffle steam bun is a fun novelty, but the slider steam bun is a real treat. Tucked inside a pillowy soft taco-shaped bun you get an Angus beef patty with American cheese, Sriracha aioli, caramelized onions, and pickles. Normally I avoid American cheese like the plague but in this dish the melt-y, gooey cheese fits just fine. You'll be wanting more than one.

Duck Cuban from Crepe Bar
Duck Cuban from Crepe Bar
Lauren Saria

Duck Cubano from Crepe Bar

I'm a big fan of chef Jeff Kraus' inventive take on French crepes and I've eaten my around much of the Crepe Bar menu over the years. I've found that some of savory crepes can be a bit heavy for my taste, so rich with sauces and meat that I rarely finish one by alone. The Duck Cubano suffers from none of the above. It's a perfectly balanced dish with creamy but subtle jalapano fondue, ham, and spicy candied mustard seeds. All the different components are piled atop the folded crepe with a layer of micro greens to make for one seriously photo-worthy lunch.

The Blinker
The Blinker
Evie Carpenter

The Blinker by Travis Nass

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending Summer Cocktail Camp at The Gladly hosted by mixologist Travis Nass of Lon's at The Hermosa Inn. The class covered a brief history of whiskey cocktails dating all the way to the 1700s and concluding with a 20th century cocktail, The Blinker. It's not exactly the most well-known of whiskey drinks but makes for a very refreshing summer cocktail. The simple creation blends rye whiskey with fresh grapefruit juice and a half ounce of raspberry syrup or raspberry liqueur to deliver a tart, fruity flavor with a touch of spice from the rye.

 

Garlic mazemen ramen
Garlic mazemen ramen
Lauren Saria

Garlic Mazemen Ramen from Posh

Chef Josh Hebert of Posh tells me he found Ivan Orkin's famous garlic mazemen ramen to be a little disappointing when he made the pilgrimage to the chef's New York restaurant. But instead of writing off the chef's signature dish entirely, he decided to go home and try to make some changes himself. Well, whatever Hebert did, it worked. The chef served his version of garlic mazemen ramen earlier this month and it was by far my favorite bowl of Posh ramen to date. The garlic sea salt broth is light but incredibly flavorful without overpowering the other components of the dish. On my visit Hebert wasn't using rye noodles but you can bet that once he makes them available again (because he says he will!), I'll come running back.

Sweet corn pancakes from Central Bistro
Sweet corn pancakes from Central Bistro
Lauren Saria

Sweet Corn Pancakes from Central Bistro

Weekend brunch at Central Bistro means a lively, bright dining room of serious brunch-ers tucking into plates of Benedicts and omelettes while listening to live music and sipping bottomless mimosas. In short, it's a pretty seductive scene. The sweet corn pancakes are a surprisingly delicious option. Each of the three pancakes is light and fluffy on the inside while cooked to a perfect, rich tan on the exterior. The corn comes into play by being sprinkled all over the plate, while a subtle lime butter add richness to the mix.

Tri-tip sandwich from Grassroots Kitchen and Tap
Tri-tip sandwich from Grassroots Kitchen and Tap
Lauren Saria

Tri-tip Sandwich from Grassroots Kitchen and Tap

Chef Chris Collins, if you're listening, can you just put this sandwich on the regular menu please? Thanks. I've already talked about how much I like the tri-tip sandwich at Grassroots Kitchen and Tap, but in case you missed it I'll explain again. In California, tri-tip is a pretty common thing, a favorite with chef because its so flavorful and relatively cheap. At Grassroots, Collins prepares his by smoking the meat and then finishing it in the oven. To make sure it's not overpowered, he then serves it simply with housemade steak sauce on a roll. Unfortunately it's only available as a special menu item, so you'll have to catch it when you can.

 

A lot of Phoenicians take their summer getaways in July and I was no exception so the last two items on this list come from outside the Valley.

Seared Foie Gras with Local Bolete Mushroom, Aged Balsamic, AZ Orange, Lavender, and Toasted Brioche
Seared Foie Gras with Local Bolete Mushroom, Aged Balsamic, AZ Orange, Lavender, and Toasted Brioche
Lauren Saria

Seared Foie Gras at Coppa Cafe

Lunch is light and affordable at Coppa Cafe in Flagstaff, but for a fuller experience of what chef Brian Konefal can do you'll have to stay for dinner. If you order the Seared Foie Gras stater, you'll know it was a good choice as soon as it arrives at your table. The large white plate showcases a picture-perfect hunk of liver served over toasted housemade brioche and accented with pieces of local mushrooms in aged balamic and droplets of orange and lavender gels. It's almost painful to destroy something so pretty, but once you dig into this dish you won't be able to stop until every bite is gone. The rich foie is just crisp enough on the outside and still creamy throughout; it's well-balanced by the floral and citrus notes from the gels.

Reuben from Little Goat Diner in Chicago
Reuben from Little Goat Diner in Chicago
Lauren Saria

Reuben from Little Goat Diner

On my most recent trip to Chicago earlier this month I headed to one of my favorite West Loop restaurants, Little Goat Diner, for a final meal in the city. My favorite breakfast dish, the breakfast spaghetti, didn't seem right for the late afternoon so I went for the Reuben, a behemoth sandwich that features incredible, smoked corned beef. It's heavy with smoke but also moist and tender -- and that's not even the best thing about this sandwich. Chef Stephanie Izard also throws some kimchee into the dish giving this Reuben a tart, complexity that you'd never get from normal sauerkraut.

See also: 10 Things to Eat and Drink in Chicago

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Related Locations

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Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

1 W. Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85003

602-340-1924

www.bitterandtwistedaz.com

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Fate Brewing Company

7337 E. Shea Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

480-994-1275

www.fatebrewing.com

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Clever Koi

4236 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012

602-222-3474

www.thecleverkoi.com

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Crepe Bar

7520 S. Rural Road
Tempe, AZ 85283

480-247-8012

www.crepe-bar.com

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The Gladly

2201 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016

602-759-8132

www.thegladly.com

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Posh Improvisational Cuisine

7167 E. Rancho Vista Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480-663-7674

www.poshscottsdale.com

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Central Bistro
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Grassroots Kitchen and Tap

2119 E. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016

602-368-8766

www.grassrootsaz.com


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