Top Five Phoenix Food Stories of the Week
Every week, there's a cornucopia of Phoenix food news, features, and reviews to report here at Chow Bella. If you're like most people, you probably just don't have the time to get to all of it. It's kind of like those burgers at Old Town Whiskey; it just won't all fit in your mouth ... or in this case, your day. So, here's a recap of some of the top stories from the week that you may have missed.
Todd Sicolo T. Cook's at Royal Palms Resort & Spa 5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix 602-808-0766 royalpalmshotel.com
Todd Sicolo is a little picky about his fruit -- apples, pears and cherries in particular. Raised in upstate New York by food-focused parents who had a garden, canned their own tomato sauce and turned apples into apple butter, applesauce, apple everything, he grew up appreciating honest food made with fresh ingredients. By the time he was 10, he was cooking with his grandmothers and by 15, he was peeling potatoes for the restaurant his dad and uncle had recently founded. After high school (which he hated, but who didn't?), he knew he didn't want to work in the family business, so he applied to the CIA, the only school Sicolo says would admit him without an SAT score. He took it seriously and performed well, taking a gig at an allegedly haunted B&B upon graduation.
After zigging at a small-scale operation, he zagged to The Quilted Giraffe in New York, where he learned about game before the cold weather got to him and he signed on with a yachting company in Florida, doing private dinners as well as high-volume banquets up and down the inner coast. His next gig was at the Hyatt in Coral Gables, followed by the Boca Raton Resort & Club, where his job as executive chef tournant brought something different every day.
It's a new year for food trucks in the Valley, and the mobile kitchen scene's newest (and cheesiest) entry comes straight from the City of Angels.
Since 2009, The Grilled Cheese Truck has been roaming the streets of L.A., serving up grilled cheese sandwiches, natch, along with soup and tater tots. It's been staggeringly popular since launching and it's won numerous awards, so this year, owner and founder Dave Danhi, a chef for years in some of L.A.'s most notable restaurants, decided the time was right to expand. And Phoenix is the first stop on his list.
"There's something about the people in Phoenix that makes the city a snapshot of America," Danhi tells me, explaining why Phoenix was his first city of choice for expansion. "Plus, it's close enough to L.A. that I can manage the business. And the hot summers make it a good test market for my online ordering system."
At a recent First Friday, Danhi tells me, he tasted some great street eats in the form of fry bread and goodies from Old Dixie's Southern Kitchen. One thing Danhi has not been excited about are the city's regulations regarding food trucks. "More extreme" than they are in L.A., many seem outdated, and Danhi says he'd like to work with the city on improving them.
You can catch the premiere of The Grilled Cheese Truck in Phoenix this weekend at the Street Eats Food Truck Festival at Salt River Fields. For a schedule of upcoming Valley gigs, follow The Grilled Cheese Truck on its Facebook page.
The stigma around vegan food is that it doesn't taste good. The hard truth about downtown's Bragg's Pie Factory building is, after the 1960s, it never had any pie. Liam Murtagh, chef at Jobot Coffee Shop, downtown's late-night coffee and crepe house, hopes to change both.
Murtagh's teamed up with his wife, Emily Spetrino-Murtagh, and fellow Jobot staff member and line cook Dana Stern to start Bragg's Factory Diner. Set to open in late February/early March, the restaurant will serve American diner food, vegetarian- and vegan-style, in the retail space of Bragg's Pie Factory, the former pie factory turned art galley at 1301 Grand Avenue. And, yes, there will be pie.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.