Chow Bella

98: Lara Mulchay

From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.

Today, we're getting a little cheesy.

Tastemaker 98: Lara Mulchay

In Phoenix, the title of Big Cheese easily belongs to Lara Mulchay, cheesemonger and co-owner of Hotdish Inc. Although her artisanal cheese and charcuterie spot, Petite Fromage, went on "hiatus" in 2010, Mulchay has stayed active in the cheese world as a founder of WedgeFestUSA and advocate for American artisan and craft cheese. This mother of two recently tied the knot with fellow Phoenix food nerd Joel LaTondress.

I arrived in Phoenix with... my mom, dad, and big brother, JP, by way of Tucson when I was 3 years old.

If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... Ha! Only five to choose from? Okay, here are my all-time favorite dinner companions in the past -- it would be awesome to have them all together at once. My husband, Joel LaTondress, Christopher Gross, Matt Carter, Michel Richard, and Michele Laudig.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... La Fontanella Restaurant. I basically grew up in this restaurant, and I credit chef/owner Isabella Bertuccio with cultivating my food obsession at a young age. My favorites: chicken picatta, veal tournados, and my kids' favorite: mussels mariniere and fried calamari.

One menu item this city could do without is... kids' menus. It drives me crazy when a children's menu is offered and out comes Kraft mac and cheese or reheated frozen chicken nuggets. I find it offensive. I don't serve this to my kids at home -- why on Earth would I pay money to feed it to them at a restaurant ? Instead, I'd like to be able to order a smaller portion of an entree from the regular menu.

My last meal in Phoenix would be... The TeePee Restaurant. It's my favorite comfort food. Whenever I leave on a long trip, it's the last place I eat and the first place I want when I return.

The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.

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