Sweetbreads at Tempe's Caffe Boa

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For my dad's annual visit to Arizona last weekend, I wanted to take him out to a nice dinner at someplace where the food would be great and the atmosphere would be comfortable -- anything too trendy wouldn't suit him one bit.

So we hit up Caffe Boa in Tempe, which I've always liked (and which I reviewed last year), and now has a new chef, Payton Curry, formerly of Digestif

You don't see sweetbreads on the menu at very many restaurants around town, so that immediately caught my eye. Here, they were milk-braised with mirepoix and apples, served over herb-flecked, toasted gnocchi. The soft, potatoey gnocchi got extra flavor and texture from the lightly browned spots -- very tasty.

​Backing up, we started the meal with two apps, roasted veal marrow bones and shrimp adriatico. The marrow was drizzled with tawny port syrup and presented with a pile of baby arugula, both of which helped temper its fatty richness.

Shrimp adriatico was nothing short of kick-ass. Next time, I think Dad and I might go back to Boa and each order one for ourselves, because we both can eat a lot of shrimp. There were six huge ones in the bowl, and long after we gobbled them up, we enjoyed the amazing broth, soaked up with bite after bite of fresh focaccia (they'll bring a bread basket to the table, so load up!). It amounted to the best tomato soup I've ever tasted, creamy and garlicky and so warming on a dark December night. (Yes, a glass of pinot noir probably helped my cause.)  

Dad's entree was a beautiful piece of grouper, perfectly cooked -- glistening white flesh with a rich golden sear. Once upon a time, Dad's love of seafood prompted him to open a seafood shop in our tiny Pennsylvania town (working there was my first job), so I could tell from the look on his face that he was pleased with this lovely specimen. He gave me a couple bites to try, and I'm sure I was beaming, too.

The vibe at Caffe Boa is relaxing and down-to-earth, although I'm sure things will be hectic on the night that Top Chef season 4 winner Stephanie Izard comes here on December 28. She's teaming up with Curry for a Top Chef Duet Dinner, six courses for $79 per person ($129 with wine/champagne/cocktail pairings). Call 480-968-9112 for a reservation. Here's the menu:

Sweet Onion soup with Spiced Shrimp

Turkey Rillette with Pickled Grapes, Quince Mostarda, Toasted Brioche, Seacat Arugula

Braised Berkshire Pork Belly and Sliced Hamachi with Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette, Radish and Apple Salad

Braised Leg of Lamb Cannelloni, Salad of McClendon Farms Carrot Tops, Golden Raisins and Harissa Spiced Tepary Beans

Sauteed Triggerfish and Smoked Goat and McClendon Pear ragout 

Ty's Magic Seasonal Dessert Platter


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