December 15, 2010 | 9:23am
A good friend got word that the cafe at the brand-spanking-new Musical Instrument Museum in North Phoenix (off the 101 and Tatum) was serving up unusually creative fare and using a lot of local ingredients, including MJ Bread, produce from Maya and Seacat Gardens, Queen Creek Olive Oil, meat from The Meat Shop, and more.
Could this be true? Could it really be that much better than typical ladies-who-lunch museum food?
Yes, indeed. It turns out, you don't need to pay admission to the museum to eat in the cafe (although the museum is full of fascinating stuff). If I lived or worked nearby, I'd be swinging by regularly for an affordable bite. A couple of cool cats who work in the museum told me that the menu changes often (you can see each day's specials online), and that they've had a lot of surprisingly sophisticated stuff.
I enjoyed cooked-to-order Black Mountain Ranch sliders (see above) on soft MJ Bread buttermilk rolls, topped with creamy Fossil Creek goat cheese, local lettuce and tomato, and chile aioli. On the side was a gorgeous salad of Seacat Gardens greens. One of the soups of the day was a delicious five-grain, eggplant, and rabbit soup -- yes, rabbit.
A juicy jerk chicken sandwich on an MJ Bread brioche bun didn't have sweat-inducing spice, just a gently spicy aioli. A pile of crispy eggplant fries made a novel and mouthwatering accompaniment.
And yes, there was dessert: southern fuyu persimmon bread pudding. Yum!
Props to exec chef Edward Farrow, sous chef Chris Lenza, and GM Robyn Kunze for exceeding expectations and supporting so many great local purveyors.