Best Foie Gras 2010 | Christopher's | Food & Drink | Phoenix
Lauren Saria
Truffle-infused filet mignon, steamed mussels with Spanish chorizo, and seductive duck confit are just a few of the appealing creations that chef Christopher Gross and his kitchen team crank out night after night at this sleek, stylish Biltmore eatery, but there's one thing worthy of special props: the sous vide roasted foie gras. Rich, impossibly luscious "meat butter" is always on the menu here, even though protesters routinely picket the place. Yep, Christopher's is a perennial target, but that only makes us love this foie even more.
Evie Carpenter
The place with the best seafood in town doesn't bill itself as a seafood restaurant at all, but simply as a well-rounded contemporary American fine-dining spot with touches of international flair. No matter. Nobody else in these parts serves seafood from elite purveyor Ingrid Bengis (known for supplying Maine lobster and halibut to luminaries like Thomas Keller). Hungry for a buttery lobster roll? They dedicate every Wednesday at Noca to a gourmet version of the classic coastal nosh. Seafood dishes are usually the stars of the menu, and in the summer, don't be surprised to see king salmon shipped to one of the cooks from her family's Alaska fishery. Noca's always a good catch.
Heather Hoch
It may seem crazy that one tiny shop — which has picnic-style outdoor seating only and features just four sandwiches — could be such a heavyweight in this category. But the chef-owner is the celebrated Chris Bianco, which means this is bread from the same guy who turned Phoenix into a pizza mecca. Simple mozzarella, tomato, and basil never tasted so good, and neither did tuna salad (here, it tasted vibrant with lemon juice, Gaeta olives, and red onion). Top-notch sopressata, layered with roasted red peppers and flavorful aged provolone, amounts to one badass Italian sandwich. And every day, the market sandwich brings something wonderful, whether it's wood-roasted lamb with escarole or bresaola with arugula. Simple things make us happy at Pane Bianco.
Timur Guseynov
Talk about a blast from the past. Local institution Stan's Metro Deli — which closed its doors in 1998 — made a comeback this year in a spot that's not far from where Stan Stone opened his original Tempe location. Now, his son Keith and business partner Sharon Fenderson continue the legacy with this friendly hangout that serves such classic New York deli-style fare as Reuben sandwiches stuffed two inches thick with pastrami or corned beef, matzo ball soup, potato pancakes, burgers, and all kinds of hearty breakfast food (including fat, chewy bagels from New York Bagels 'n Bialys). As expected, the place does a brisk lunch business and, better yet, it's a major new player in the late-night arena. Can you think of anywhere else to grab a bite up until 2 a.m. or later? Neither can we.
Crazy, island-style hot dogs and bratwurst served out of a funky surfer shack on Indian School Road have become our latest obsession. And although Maui Dog is just a humble little indie eatery, we wish we could find this on every street corner in town. What makes it so darn tasty? It's hard to explain how savory, juicy wieners go so well with garlicky, seasoned mayo, tropical fruit relish, passion fruit-flavored mustard, and other fresh toppings, but the idea just works. Just as good are the Maui Sliders (also adorned with intriguing toppings), the Maui Spam Slider (they'd have no island cred if they neglected the prized canned meat), and Hawaiian shaved ice in a rainbow of tropical fruit flavors. You can get in and out of Maui Dog in a flash, well fed, and with hardly a dent in your wallet. That's fast food we can embrace.
Lauren Saria
What's not to love about a chef with skills and a sense of humor? Payton Curry has become Caffe Boa's biggest asset, a guy with the courage to take a classic, all-American favorite — fried chicken — and make it better. That he did, all right, and he even dubbed it Payt-N-Bake Fried Chicken, just so nobody forgets who came up with such a succulent dish. He uses 10-day-cured, all-dark meat, free-range bird, and then uses a secret weapon for extra crispiness: duck fat. You heard it right. It takes a duck to bring the best out of chicken. Who knew?
Courtesy of Joe's Real BBQ
It's not the primo location on Gilbert Road that keeps us coming back to Joe's Real BBQ. It's not the old-fashioned charm of this 1929 building, decorated with '40s-era Arizona ephemera, or even the dapper style of hat-loving founder Joe Johnston, who's become a local foodie icon. As much as we'd like to say there's something unfair about the appeal of this place, our love for Joe's all comes down to the scrumptious food — and, in particular, the impeccable pulled pork. Heady with the aroma of pecan smoke, and beyond tender from a low-and-slow cooking technique, this pulled pork was plucked straight out of our carnivorous dreams.
Katie Walter
This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed at home. This little piggy went "wee, wee, wee" as he roasted on a spit. Pig roasts aren't just for luaus — we've spotted swine smoking on the grill at fancy hotel restaurants and catered holiday events. But the best place to score the whole hog year-round is McReynolds Farms. Topper and Barbara McReynolds started raising pigs for slaughter in 1984, eventually turning the business over to their son, Thomas. McReynolds Farms now offers DIY pig kits for the serious backyard BBQer and event catering that includes a cooked piggy and three sides. Catering will set you back a mere $12 a plate for a 75-person wedding. Roasting pigs start at $185 for a small 25-pounder and will feed about one person per pound; suckling pigs are slightly cheaper, but the meat won't stretch as far. If you're willing to throw Porky on the fire yourself and watch him burn, McReynolds will even rent you a fancy rotisserie and provide the BBQ sauce to top him off with. Soo-weet!
Jamie Peachey
It's been open barely a year, but Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue already has an excellent reputation among aficionados of smoked meat. Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Bryan Dooley left the swank Scottsdale restaurant he'd been working at to barbecue full time, and his training is evident across the just-a-tiny-bit-upscale-for-a-BBQ-joint menu. Witness the olive slaw and vegetarian-friendly pulled squash. Still, it's one of the Big Four traditional barbecue meats that'll draw us to Cave Creek time and time again. Simply put: The brisket is unmatched. And, yeah, we've had pretty much every smoked brisket the Valley has to offer — even that little joint your cousin from Alabama loves — and we're confident saying, unequivocally, that Bryan's is the best. The restaurant's Texas-style take on the meat is appreciated, considering all the joints you'll see chopping and saucing it up around here. The decadently smoky bark is a treat unto itself, but it's the way the brisket falls apart at the slightest brush of a fork that proves any doubters wrong.
We don't go to barbecue restaurants for sauce. Nope, it's the meat we want — juicy, smoky, tender meat. Still, if we were to select a local barbecue joint's sauce for bottling, we'd have no trouble picking. We're not exactly sure what the secret ingredient in Honey Bear's thin but sticky sauce might be, but whatever it is, it's mighty addicting. There's no flavor in town quite like it — sweet but tangy in that way so many foods are advertised and so few actually are. We hurriedly pump the stuff out of the condiment dispenser as fast as a kid trying to fix his bicycle tire to catch up to his friends, and we've been known to coat everything from corn to salad in it. Actually, it's sometimes tempting to try a few dabs on Honey Bear's famous peach cobbler, though we've thus far resisted.

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