Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
42: Tasting Menu at Quiessence at The Farm
If you talk to anyone who grew up in south Phoenix in the 1950s and 1960s, they will paint you a vivid portrait of semi-rural splendor. They will tell you stories about long-lost orange groves, vegetable farms, flower stands, and acres of brightly colored sweet pea and calendula fields on Baseline Road, gardens pioneered by the talented Japanese and Japanese-American growers who once made this stretch of the desert bloom.
Most of the farms and flower gardens along Baseline Road have been lost to residential development. But you can still find traces of the area's long and storied agricultural history at places like The Farm at South Mountain.
The historic 12-acre farm and garden, which is tucked away on a quiet stretch of 32nd Street in south Phoenix, offers a slice of rural tranquility within city limits. Over the years, the property has become synonymous with rustic-chic outdoor weddings and picnics under the farm's pecan grove.
Since purchasing The Farm in 2012, restaurateur Pat Christofolo, along with son and executive chef Dustin Christofolo, have turned The Farm into a south Phoenix dining destination. There are three well-regarded eateries on the grounds, including The Farm Kitchen, a casual counter-service spot for sandwiches and soups, and Morning Glory Café, the property's popular breakfast and brunch cafe.
To really soak up The Farm's refined yet relaxed ambiance, though, spend some time at its modern American farm-to-table restaurant, Quiessence at the Farm.
The restaurant, located at the end of a tree-lined road, is housed in a historic 1920s ranch house that glows with stone floors and soft lighting. Everything about the setting, from an attentive staff to soft music emanating from speakers at low volumes, feels designed to slow time.
Chef Christofolo's menu is tied closely to the seasons, and many dishes feature herbs and fresh produce grown within steps of the kitchen. Highlights include the restaurant's rotating selection of handcrafted pastas and homemade charcuterie. A wonderful Cornish hen with a sweet-savory demi-glace pops up on the menu pretty regularly, and it's worth the splurge.
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But the best overview of the menu — and arguably the best way to experience Quiessence — is achieved through the restaurant's seasonal tasting menu.
On any given night, the tasting menu might meander its way from duck terrine to fiddlehead fern salad to melty waygu beef. It's a spendy, chef's choice smorgasbord that requires an investment of your time and money. But it's reliably understated, refined, and delicious. And it's the kind of long meal that, like The Farm itself, seems to put the outside world on pause — if only for a couple of hours.
Quiessence at the Farm, 6106 South 32nd Street; 602-276-0601.
Tuesdays through Saturday 5 p.m. to close; Closed Sundays & Mondays.
The Essentials so far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm