Last month we released Best of Phoenix 2014, recognizing some of the best restaurants and bars in the Valley. Many of the most memorable things I ate and drank in September come from places included in the Food & Drink section of the issue though some dishes are from new spots around town.
I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.
See also: 10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in August
Fried Chicken and Cheddar Pancakes from Crudo
If you were lucky enough to have eaten at Crudo on Sunday, September 14, then chances are you tried this dish. On that date chef Cullen Campbell served fried chicken over a buttermilk cheddar pancake as a brunch special -- and special it was. Campbell's complicated process of making this dish (hint: there may have been some confit-ing involved) resulted in a juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside piece of chicken that struck a perfect balance between salty and sweet when smothered in syrup. The fluffy, almost tangy buttermilk and cheddar pancake was a perfect counterbalance. I've got my fingers crossed Campbell will offer this dish again soon.
Sultani from Taylor's Place
This month a new, but slightly familiar restaurant joined the extremely crowded dining scene at the intersection of 44th Street and Camelback. Like many of its neighbors Taylor's Place is stylish and somewhat heath-driven, but what makes it stand out from the crowd is its dinner menu of Persian and Lebanese cuisines. The Sultani is a good place to start if you've never tried either type of food. The dish gives you a taste of filet mignon barg -- basically, marinated and grilled steak -- as well as koobideh -- a strip of spiced ground beef that's reminiscent of a meatball. With a generous side of saffron dusted rice and a plump grilled tomato it's a filling meal with lots of flavor.
Tomato and Fennel Soup from The Local
The Local's Arizona Restaurant Week menu featured this creative take on the classic combination of tomato soup and grilled cheese. A touch of fennel and cumin oil elevated the soup to a level above the pantry staple, as did chef Chris McKinley's cheese toast, a crisp piece of bread draped in melted cheese and dressed with basil pesto. Our only complaint is that we wanted more -- which is why I was happy to hear the chef will be putting the soup on The Local's soon-to-launch lunch menu. And this time he's planning to do a full size grilled cheese.
Miso Marinated Sea Bass from SumoMaya
The first time I dined at SumoMaya I fell in love with chef Matt Zdeb's miso glazed eggplant. There's something seriously satisfying about the way the caramelized miso plays with the richness of the eggplant. Now Zdeb's added a miso sea bass to the menu and I promise you, it's just as great. You'll get tender pieces of Chilean sea bass skewered and grilled over wood after being marinated in miso. The light sweetness of the miso combined with a punch of umami makes for a great bite.
Margherita from Virtu Honest Craft
You wouldn't expect to find a great take on a margarita at a Mediterranean restaurant, but then again, Virtu Honest Craft is up for a Best New Bar award from Food & Wine magazine. Virtu's Margherita artfully blends the coolness of cucumber with the heat of Calabrese chiles to make a drink that's refreshingly, light but not shy in the spice department. The cocktail also features fresh lime, Altos tequila, orange liqueur, agave nectar, and a dusty orange rim of salt, sugar, and paprika.
Smoked Wings from Mother Bunch Brewery
When you get sick of eating the usual deep-fried, dry chicken wings, head to Mother Bunch Brewery and take a stab at their one pound order of smoked wings. The meat is moist and packs a smoky punch that makes a nice contrast to the brewery's MB sauce. I can't tell you what's in it, but I can say that it's neither too spicy, nor too sweet. Instead it strikes a nice balance between spicy and smoky meaning you can power through the whole order of wings without feeling like your mouth is on fire. This is exactly the kind of elevated bar food I like to eat while watching Sunday football -- preferably with a cold pint of Arizona beer on hand.
Sweet Corn Risotto from Binkley's Restaurant
With truffles and lobster and lardo and cheese this dish from Binkley's Restaurant is just about as decadent as they come. The small, unassuming plate of sweet corn risotto may not look like much when it arrives at your table, but about three bites in you start to realize just how filling such a rich dish can be. Along with a creamy blend of cheese and sweet corn kernels, this risotto held nuggets of buttery lobster meat and pieces creamy Berkshire lardo. A touch of green onion was simply not enough to cut through the richness, particularly since the server also shaves thick pieces of Burgundy truffles on top of the dish.
Earl Grey Ice Cream from Sweet Republic
There's something very distinctive about the aroma and flavor of Earl Grey tea; the blend of black tea, bergamot, and spices is comforting and familiar to just about every tea drinker around. Sweet Republic does a remarkably great job of capturing the real flavor of the tea in ice cream form without making the dessert either too sweet or too bitter. It's a great after-dinner treat for those who avoid heavy, sweet dessert. The one-of-a-kind ice cream flavor popped up at the 16th Street location earlier this month but unfortunately we can't tell you when or where it will be back again.
Organic Corn Agnolotti from Paul McCabe
There was nothing bad to eat the the James Beard Foundation's Taste American Tour dinner. But of the many wonderful and memorable plates, my favorite had to be chef Paul McCabe's Organic Corn Agnolotti. The dish combined butter poached lobster and unctuous chanterelles with delicate pasta and sweet corn to make a perfectly well-balanced dish with strong, fresh flavors. McCabe also added a smattering of orange smoked char roe to the dish, which deepened the layers of flavors with just the right amount of salt.
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Peking Duck from Hong Kong Asian Diner
The first time you eat Peking Duck at Hong Kong Asian Diner in Tempe is likely to be a revelation. Unlike many restaurants, which serve the dish with a side of thin crepes, this restaurant offers a plate of fluffy, cream colored buns. The sweet little buns are a perfect foundation to building Peking Duck skin sandwiches upon, just take a few pieces of crispy, fatty skin, a thin swipe of hoisin sauce, and a pinch or two of green onions. The combination is instantly addicting -- sweet, pungent, bright, and rich all at once. And that's all before the steaming plate of duck meat even hits the table.