A massive perk of writing about food is that in order to do so, you have to try a lot of meals. Throughout the month, the Phoenix New Times dining team visits restaurants and eateries all over the Valley, whether it be for our lists
, First Tastes
, Best Bites
or other general research. Here are the five best things we ate in September.
Big Marble Organics Proper Hibiscus soda beautifully captures the sweet-tart floral taste of the tropical plant.
Big Marble Organics Proper Hibiscus
Various locations Big Marble Organics
has been a regular nonalcoholic option or mixer at many restaurants and bars since its flagship ginger beer was created at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar. Although the Jamaican restaurant concept is shuttered for now
, Big Marble owner Dwayne Allen is going full steam ahead with the beverage company, recently launching a Kickstarter campaign
to expand the brand’s geographic footprint and the bubbly beverage company’s flavor portfolio. Allen has released two new flavors: Proper Lemon and Proper Hibiscus ($24.99 for 12, sold online). While both are delicious, the hibiscus soda offers a floral flavor that is true to the plant’s sweet-tart earthiness. It’s great as-is, and Allen says he also likes to add a jigger of amaro to it for a low-alcohol highball.
The Creamy Mushroom Marsala pasta at Perfect Pear Bistro is a simple, comforting dish packed with flavor.
Creamy Mushroom Marsala at Perfect Pear Bistro
603 W. University Drive, Tempe
9845 S. Priest Drive, Tempe
The two locations of Perfect Pear Bistro
often are bustling — and for good reason. The restaurant churns out comforting classics at reasonable prices. Take the Creamy Mushroom Marsala pasta ($14.99). A glance at the ingredients — rigatoni tossed with caramelized onions, mushrooms and roasted garlic and topped with parmesan cheese — belies the depth of the dish. The balance between the richness of the sauce, the umami of the mushrooms and the sweetness from the onions is an example of simple elegance and makes for a deeply satisfying bite.
The Duck Confit Pop-Tart at the Peppermill could be an entire meal on its own.
Duck Confit Pop-Tart at the Peppermill
7660 S. McClintock Drive, #104, Tempe
We’ve seen savory pop-tarts on a couple of menus around town, but the version at the Peppermill
is exemplary. When the dish ($15) arrives at the table, it looks quite simple. A large rectangle of puff pastry is folded over, drizzled with an orange and bourbon glaze and sprinkled with poppy seeds and chives. But the inside of this pop-tart is where the magic lies. Break apart the fluffy, flaky pastry to reveal a blend of goat cheese, roasted corn kernels and hearty chunks of duck confit. The pop-tart rests on a pool of fig and onion jam that when spread, melts together with the cheese to create an uber-satisfying sweet and savory flavor combination. The corn works perfectly with the sweetness of the jam and leaves you digging in for more until every last bite has been relished.
Try a fresh take on elote at Vecina.
Elote at Vecina
3433 N. 56th St.
Elote comes in many forms, and Vecina
on Indian School Road serves a standout interpretation. The dish ($11) is built on sweet fire-roasted corn blackened with hints of char that impart a deep, smoky flavor. That smoke is dialed up even more with chorizo butter and a sprinkling of toasted chile. On the side, a spoonful of lime and cilantro creme fraiche provides a yogurty tang that cuts through the sweet and smoky corn. Make sure to get a scoop of everything at once to experience the balance of this intentional and thoughtful dish.
Pair a sophisticated pasta dish with a glass of wine or a cocktail at Caffe Boa.
Ravioli Zucca at Caffe Boa
398 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
The Ravioli Zucca ($19) at Caffe Boa
in Tempe is the perfect plate for fall. Pasta pockets filled with an earthy and slightly sweet butternut squash mash come swimming in a butter sauce laden with garlic and sage. Toasted hazelnuts add crunch, and a mess of arugula tossed in a light, lemony dressing brightens the dish. Dollops of creamy goat cheese tie the whole plate together, blending the velvety
textures and fresh ingredients into a perfect bite. While this dish doesn’t hop on any pumpkin or cinnamon trends, it does casually usher in the season.