It doesn't often get truly cold here in the Valley of the Sun, but when it does, the last thing we desert dwellers want to do is eat a cold salad or a delicate piece of fish. No, cold weather calls for the type of food that warms you up from in the inside out, preferably with flavors that reflect the season and the unique culinary traditions of the Southwest. So from signature dishes at metro Phoenix restaurants to a meatloaf that's almost as satisfying as Mom's, here are five of the best cold weather dishes in town.
Kimchee Bokum Bap at Hodori
Other dishes may warm you up figuratively, but this Korean dish literally will spew hot steam in your face when delivered to your table. Served in a heavy, black hot stone bowl — the kind you can't help wanting to hunch over so as to eat faster and better soak up the warmth radiating from your food — the kimchee bokum bap at Hodori in Mesa features a heaping pile of fried rice crowned with a fried egg. Enjoy it like pro by breaking the yolk and blending the rice, rib eye, and egg, making sure to get some of the crispy rice from the sides of the bowl in the mix. The spicy, sour flavors of the kimchee-soaked rice are sure to shock your taste buds out of the winter freeze.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi at The Parlor
The handmade pastas served at The Parlor in the Biltmore neighborhood are always excellent, but this seasonal dish takes things to a whole new level. It starts with light-as-air sweet potato gnocchi and ends with hunks of fork-tender short rib that ooze flavor and fat with every single bite. In between, there's the smooth, subtly sweet parsnip puree and petals of crispy Brussels sprouts that contribute crunch and a distinctive nuttiness to the mix.
Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry at Cowboy Ciao
Earthy, rich, and always interesting, the Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry has been a stalwart of the Cowboy Ciao menu for more than a decade. The dish brings together several different types of mushrooms, including crimini, button, crepe, lobster, shiitake, and morel, to make a symphony of flavors that's nuanced but also hearty and deep. The medley of mushrooms comes served over luscious double-cooked polenta cakes seasoned with just a touch of nutmeg, and then smothered in a creamy ancho chile sauce that's both subtly sweet and mildly spicy.
Vic's Meatloaf at Dick's Hideaway
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Of course, nothing can beat Mom's meatloaf. But if you're going to go out and get this stick-your-ribs classic American dish, it had better be at Dick's Hideaway. In the shadowy dining room of this Phoenix bar and restaurant you can dig into a slab of meatloaf drowned in either red or green chile — or both — and then blanketed in not one, not two, but three fried eggs. Word to the wise: Get both flavors of chile and enjoy your Christmas-colored meal by using bites of meat to sop up alternating bites of the fiery red sauce and the slightly milder green version. The generous side of beans is the perfect antidote should your palate be overwhelmed by the heat.
Pork Chile Verde Pot Pie at Phoenix Public Market Cafe
We're not the only fans of this signature offering at chef Aaron Chamberlin's Phoenix Public Market Cafe. In fact, if you don't act fast enough, don't be surprised to find the restaurant already sold out of the limited-availability dish. During the cold season, especially, it's easy to understand the draw. This single-serving pot pie offers a flaky, golden crust encasing a piping hot filling of tender pork. With just enough heat to ensure you never get bored, but not so much as to having you scrounging for a glass of milk, this straightforward but slightly sophisticated pot pie feels like something your mom might make to warm you up after a day in he snow — if your mom was a farm-to-table chef with an excellent sense of seasoning.