The First Meal
I met Chef Justin Beckett several months ago when he was the Guest Chef at Petite Maison in Scottsdale for their Late night ‘Staff Meal.’ Beckett had an energy and deft touch with his cuisine that told me big things were coming for him and the Phoenix culinary community. I began following Beckett’s Table on Twitter and saw that Beckett embraced the use of social media to really reach out and connect with anyone who loved food.
I have had the privilege of watching Beckett’s table transform from an empty restaurant that went the way of the white buffalo, to the open and inviting space that it has become (more on that in a future post).
On opening night, as I knew I would, I stepped throughout the door of Beckett’s dream and into the first meal of my 52 week dining adventure.
First up, a cocktail, in my case the ‘Paimaire,’ consisting of Kettle One Oranj vodka, pomegranate liquor and juice, lemonade ‘and a little love.’ This cocktail, like everything on the menu, has a story and special meaning. Beckett tells the story of buying his house from a couple who would become partners in Beckett’s table. If the cocktail is any indication of the coming meal, I’m in for a treat.
One of the menu items that immediately caught my eye and whet my appetite was the creamy grits with two kinds of locally made (Schreiner’s) spicy andouille sausage ($8) surrounded by a rich, slightly piquant mustard jus.
The grits were a little tighter than I normally like but creamy and with the gritty bite from which they take their name. A spoonful with a little jus, caramelized red onion and bite of plump juicy sausage rolls my eyes back into my head and tells me that Chef Beckett means business.
Of course, one appetizer just wouldn’t do and Beckett’s Original grilled cheese with four cheeses, pancetta and roasted red pepper tomato soup ($9) is next up.
Buttery sweet brioche and a well balanced mix of cheeses complimented by a vibrant, dense tomato soup that clings to the bread rather than dripping combine to delight. Delicate flavors wash over the palate and something becomes clear, this meal is beyond average.
On to the main course (who am I kidding, main courses!). That’s right, two mains made their way to my table, first to go under the fork was a Beef Bourguignon shepherd’s pie ($16) with a deep, rich gravy, carrots, parsnips and herbs topped with a raft of light and fluffy mashed potatoes.
Succulent chunks of savory beef nearly melted in my mouth vying with perfectly cooked vegetables for dominance of every available taste bud. Sitting in the restaurant with the front open to the elements, I long for a cold and dreary day for this dish to brighten.
It is a very rare meal which a pork product cannot improve and so it was with great anticipation that I moved the plate of Local Pork Osso Buco ($18) to center stage.
Flanked by moist, slightly chewy butternut squash spaetzle on one side and roasted vegetables including brussels sprouts (yup, I ate em), parsnips that were creamy and sweet on the inside as good roasted root veggies should be, carrot and golden beets (which I had eaten for the first time recently), on the other side, the pork shank confit was simply impressive. Kissed by a black pepper reduction, the meat was absolutely tender and moist, pulling easily away from the bone.
If there were any criticisms of this dish, it would be that I wanted some sort of sauce for the spaetzle as I found it tasty but a little bit lonely. I would have loved for the black pepper reduction to be a bit thicker and for there to have been a bit more as it paired so well with the pork and I would have really loved for there to have been room for dessert (though I’m pretty sure Chef Beckett had little control of that detail)
In all, Beckett’s table will take it’s rightful place among the most well regarded restaurants in Greater Phoenix and become a must visit destination for fooderati. (if I made that word up, feel free to quote).
Stay tuned for next week’s meal and a photographic journey of Beckett’s Table from hollow shell to culinary hot spot.