Cooking the Books

Former Governor Fife Symington may claim to be penniless, but at least now he's a got a job. He's co-founder of the new Arizona Culinary Institute at 116 Street and Shea.

The 18,000-square-foot school looks like it cost some bucks, with five professionally designed kitchens — including a front-line kitchen, bakery, saucier kitchen, advanced baking and showpiece kitchen, as well as a basic culinary arts kitchen.

A highlight is du Jour, a fine-dining restaurant and laboratory for students. The prix fixe menu changes daily, with meals generally priced from $9 to $13 and including an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and coffee or tea.

A recent selection included roasted cauliflower soup with crème fraiche, chicken cassoulet (chicken broth with grilled breast, poultry sausage, red beans and wild rice), dry-aged English-cut prime rib with roasted-garlic mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and fresh horseradish, and pancetta-wrapped monkfish with potato gnocchi, fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and pomodoro sauce. Desserts include crème brulee, lemon tart, pizzelles with fresh berries, and cookie with ice cream. In a nice touch, vegetarian selections are available.

Looks like Fife is being as creative with his cooking as he was with his financial statements.

Perusing Peru: The Valley has doubled its dining options for Peruvian cuisine. Now we're up to two restaurants. Joining Peruanitos in the East Valley is the new Peruvian Palace at Main and Alma School in Mesa. The menu looks compelling, with specialties such as ceviche de pescado (fresh fish marinated in lime juice, hot peppers and onions, served with lettuce, yams and corn on the cob), and aji de gallina (shredded chicken breast in walnut sauce, bread and milk over rice).

Sweet Sandwich: I stopped in at Wildflower Bread Company at Frank Lloyd Wright and Hayden the other day and discovered a new favorite sandwich for the summer. Called the Sweet Kristin, it combines roasted sweet potatoes, fig and rosemary confit, fresh mozzarella, arugula, shaved fennel and balsamic vinegar. Sounds odd, tastes great, and it won the People's Choice Award at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival's Great Arizona Picnic last April.

Wildflower currently is testing several new sandwiches and salads (sorry, for the time being, at the north Scottsdale location only). Two of the more interesting concoctions are a rare roast beef and Gorgonzola sandwich, and a flamenco salad, with mixed greens, marinated fennel, serrano ham, grapefruit, red onion, fig confit and Gorgonzola.

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Carey Sweet
Contact: Carey Sweet