Every week, there's a cornucopia of new 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.
Pete DeRuvo -- the peripatetic chef who made a name for himself at Sassi, then moved to Prado and later left Cuoco Pazzo in a huff -- has landed a new executive chef position he's pretty psyched about.
He has signed on with the Chicago-based Francesca's Restaurants Group, which will open its fourth Davanti Enoteca this August in the former Quilted Bear space at Scottsdale Road and Lincoln.
Jeff Cohen, director of operations for the group, describes the Italian restaurant as a "small-plates wine bar concept," where the atmosphere is casual and the pace relaxed (enoteca means "wine shop" or "wine bar" in Italian).
As DeRuvo puts it, "This is real Italian-style, where people want to hang out for a while. It's not 'let's hurry up and eat and get out of here.'"
-- Nikki Buchanan
No strangers to awards, Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung, the ice cream savants at Sweet Republic, have done it again. This time, ranking number five of 12 spots in the U.S. named by U.S. News and World Report as America's Best Ice Cream. "They called us the 'new kid on the block' compared to the others on the list," Yung tells me. A comment that's true but seems odd given it seems like we've been enjoying their handcrafted ice cream and eye-opening flavor combinations (I Heart Bacon, anyone?) forever.
U.S. News and World Report crafted the list with parlor reputation, flavor diversity, and online reviews in mind. In good company, Sweet Republic joins frozen treat shops like Graeter's in Cincinnati Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Chicago, and Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain in Brooklyn, each of which also made the list.
-- Laura Hahnefeld
Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys aren't bitter people. They're bitters people, ardent food lovers whose interests have broadened from food-and-wine pairings to food-and-cocktail pairings to the distinctive components, such as bitters, that go into both classic and craft cocktails.
Although the Buitenhuys hold down 9-to-5 managerial jobs, they spend most of their free time playing mad scientist in their kitchen, dubbed AZ Bitters Lab.
There, they have become the first in the Valley to actually make their own bitters -- a potent flavoring agent containing a neutral spirit and some combination of roots, herbs, fruits and spices. (If you've ever drunk a Manhattan, an Old-Fashioned or a Sazerac, you've tasted bitters.)
Just like the local bartenders who mentor them do.
-- Nikki Buchanan
The west side of the Coronado neighborhood has seen its fair share of cute eateries and coffee shops over the past few years. The east side of the neighborhood? Not so much.
Aside from La Condesa, Barrio Cafe, and a couple of galleries, the 16th Street side of the 'hood has stayed, well, pretty "hood," with a mixture of secondhand shops and cheap Mexican food joints.
But it's showing signs of life with the opening of a new coffeehouse called White Sage Espresso.
Check out the full First Taste of White Sage Espresso.
-- Shannon Armour
You may have heard of this 'decanting' business. In fact, you may have seen it at a restaurant and wondered why someone was pouring the wine from the bottle into a pretty glass jug before it found its way into glasses.
Was it because it looks so fancy? Yep. Was it to make sure the wine doesn't have all kinds of stuff floating in it? Yep. Was it to aerate or 'open up' the wine and expose it to oxygen? Yep.
Wine is decanted for any of the reasons above. I think that it's primarily done for the fanciness factor, because swirling and swishing your way to snooty-dom is a great way to impress friends and colleagues (or make them think you're a total snob.. or both). But, decanting does have merit - quite a bit of it depending on whom you talk to. Personally I think decanting is a great way to help a wine show it's very best in the right circumstances, and with the right bottle.
-- Brian Reeder