Last month's best bites and sips lean heavily toward the new. From a beer at a recently opened brewery to my favorite dish off a Scottsdale restaurant's new menu, there are a lot of fresh flavors on this list. There's also a brunch dish I've had several times before that never fails to impress — a dish that I find myself rediscovering every time I dig in.
Whether these dishes and beer are new to you or not, I hope you get to try some of it soon.
Spreadable Craft at Virtu Honest Craft
In late July, chef Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft in Scottsdale launched a new menu that involved more than just a seasonal rotation of dishes. The new menu, which is available now, has been reformatted to include sections with names including "crafty small bites," "shareable craft," and "spreadable craft." These new categories of (relatively) affordable small plates encourage community-style dining, which also works to give the Virtu dining experience a more causal air. The most playful new addition is definitely the spreadable section, which allows diners to pick two selections for six options and then spread them on toasted Noble Bread for $14. The list includes an excellent housemade rendition on mortadella that's technically a mousse, creamy whipped ricotta, and a salad of confit garlic.
Fish with Black Fungus and Snow Peas at New Hong Kong Restaurant
Ever since discovering that New Hong Kong Restaurant in Phoenix is up for sale, I've had an insatiable hankering for Chinese food. I've got plenty of favorites on the Central Phoenix restaurant's menu — including the West Lake soup, beef in black pepper sauce, salt and pepper chicken wings, the list goes on and on — but on my last visit, a friend ordered this off-menu dish. The menu offers beef with black fungus but swapping out the beef for fish turns the dish into a lighter meal and one that offers a nice array of delicate flavors and contrasting textures. You get the light flavors of the fish along with the soft crunch of the jelly-like black fungus and then the crisp snap of lightly cooked snow peas. Give it a try, and I promise you won't be disappointed.
Wren House IPA at Wren House Brewing Company
It's been several weeks since Wren House Brewing Company (formerly Westward Brewing Co.) opened the doors to its Central Phoenix tasting room. The converted home is a cozy addition to a neighborhood that's not exactly known as a food or drink destination. There's a well-sized bar, a community table, and games for drinkers. The brewery lets you build your own four-beer flights from the limited selection of brews — I recommend doing so. It's a great way to check out what the brewery's all about without getting totally drunk. Of the four brews I sampled, I most enjoyed the Wren House IPA. It's a true-to-style West Coast IPA that's hoppy without being unapproachable.
Grits & Eggs at The Gladly
The Grits & Eggs at The Gladly's brunch is the kind of dish that can really screw up your Sunday. Eat a plate of these truffle-infused grits and down a couple of Bloody Marys and even the most ambitious Sunday plans will go down the drain in favor of an afternoon on the couch. Potential food coma aside, this dish is one of my favorites. The grits offer just the right touch of truffle and have an incredibly creamy texture. Topped with an over easy egg and a side of toast, it begs to be sopped up with bread. Then there's the slide of thick-cut buckboard bacon that nearly puts the whole thing over the top. Pair it with a Blood Mary that's made with local Homeboy's hot sauce.
Breakfast Burrito at Nocawich
Not surprisingly, there are lots of good things to be had on the menu at the recently-opened Nocawich in Tempe. Owner Eliot Wexler is seriously dedicated to getting the very best ingredients and at Nocawich he's creating playful food that's impossible not to like. I'm a sucker for a good breakfast burrito, so I was instantly drawn to Nocawich's version. Tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory are stretchy but still support an abundance of fillings including Schreiner's chorizo, egg, cheddar, sour cream,
chimichurri, and perfect double-fried French fries. The side of housemade charred tomato salsa is smoky and spicy and a perfect way to top things off.