I love good food! This is no secret but after spending time with Chef Justin Beckett and watching his new venture "Beckett's Table" take shape, I am so excited that i've decided to eat my way through his cuisine, one meal at a time a la "Julie & Julia."
I intend to dine at Beckett's Table once per week (beginning opening day, October 27, 2010), for 52 weeks, eating everything Chef Beckett has to offer. The catch? I will only order meals available to everyone, regular menu items and specials with no modification, experiencing the food as the Chef intended. My plan is to show up unexpected, on different days of the week and at different times so as to avoid "special" treatment, chronicling my culinary journey for all to share and enjoy. Stay tuned for frequent updates.
If you have been following my culinary adventure through the cuisine of Beckett’s Table restaurant, you will have no doubt noticed the fifth offering in my 52 week series is a bit behind. After suffering through a tweaked back for most of last week, my fork and I are back on our mission to demolish all.
What’s with the bandito get-up you ask? In my quest to slip into Beckett’s Table, dine and slip out again unnoticed, I thought a disguise might be in order so I made off with this kitchen issue cravat. (I wonder if it’ll help me blend in & get a look at what happens behind the pass)
This weeks cocktail is a mix of blood orange vodka, Cointreau, orange juice, lemonade and emergen-c playfully dubbed “Mornin’ Sunshine” ($8).
Tart and tangy with very strong but not unpleasant citrus flavors, this cocktail cuts the dust of the trail while delivering a portion of the USDA daily recommended dose of vitamin c.
On to the food! My culinarily well traveled dining companion and I shared Beckett’s creamy grits & spicy andouille sausage, an order of Beckett’s original grilled cheese and I demolished a vegetable chop salad on my own. As I’ve covered these dishes in previous posts, I won’t go into them again but each was quite tasty.
Near Arctic nighttime temperatures (by Phoenix standards), had me looking for a comforting main course to warm my body and an order of Chicken n dumplings ($16) seemed to fit the bill, so I waited patiently for my dish to arrive.
Consisting of chicken, al dente peas, carrots, celery and large soft dumplings all tied together by a bold and flavorful herbed saffron cream were presented in a large, piping hot bowl (the bowl itself really was quite hot, a nice detail which served to keep my meal hot as it was leisurely consumed), this dish looked like a winner.
This is what comfort food should taste like, period. Intense chickeny (this may not be a real word but it should be), goodness explodes in your mouth and matches well with soft, dense dumplings and is just plain delicious. At $16, I would like and expect more than the meager amount of chicken in proportion to other ingredients in this dish, put more bird in the bowl and this will be the perfect dish for a chilly night or on the rare occasion the clouds open up and dump their contents on Arcadia.
Until next time I encourage you to get out there, find, eat and tell people about your food!
Specializing in upscale American comfort food, Beckett’s table restaurant in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix usually hits the spot. When I heard baby back ribs were on as the dinner special, I knew I’d find myself seated at Beckett’s cozy bar.
Cocktail: “The classic painkiller #3” (what cocktail is complete without a cool name?) Pussers rum, cream of coconut, oj, pineapple juice and nutmeg combine to dull whatever happens to be ailing you (appropriate as I’d wrenched my back earlier and needed something to take the edge off). This cocktail is deceptively stronger than its description would suggest and quite tasty!
First up, the vegetable chopped salad which seemed a bit pricey at $8 and was disappointing in its size relative to proportion on arrival…
All thoughts of price and portion size were forgotten as the first forkful of fresh, crunchy mixed vegetables passed my lips. From pickled beets and celery to Brussels sprout petals and candied pumpkin seed brittle, this salad delighted and was worth every penny.
Beckett’s baby back ribs ($15) were both my reason for dropping in tonight and a sensitive area. As a barbecue guy, I have very high expectations of what good ‘Que is and is not. I have found many Chefs who create amazing cuisine but don’t grasp that barbecue comes from the soul, not a recipe book.
Picking up and biting into my first rib I immediately knew Chef Beckett gets it! Smokey flavor complimented by a sweet, rich sauce penetrated the meat, chewy bark (missing in ribs from so many restaurants), put a childlike smile on my face. The meat didn’t “fall off of the bone” as so many think is a sign of well cooked ribs (hearing this makes me cringe and usually indicates over cooked or boiled ribs), but rather had great mouth feel and amazing tangy flavor.
If Beckett decides to elevate this dish from special to staple, Arcadia will find itself firmly on the “must visit” map of great barbecue. (having had ribs in some of the most highly acclaimed barbecue spots in the country, I put Beckett’s in my personal top five).
I’m a texture person in general, often finding foods that should otherwise be good, to be unappealing due to texture. Beckett’s cowboy caviar (Tonto to the ribs Lone Ranger), with its mix of multiple beans, onion and creamy avocado, all tied together with the acidity of a well balanced vinaigrette, works splendidly both from a textural and flavor standpoint.
I seriously doubt Cowboys in Americas’ Old West had anything this good in their culinary repertoire but if they had, there certainly would have been less cattle rustling and gunslinging in my humble opinion!
Note: As I go through my yearlong dining adventure, I keep waiting for the moment when Beckett’s Table fails to deliver. Each meal I’ve had thus far has met or exceeded my expectations and I have failed to find anything to fault. Sure, there are things I could nitpick, the lack of consistent bread service for one (some meals I get it, some I don’t), but overall my meals have been great, the service exceptional and the atmosphere on par with the best anywhere.
Follow Beckett’s Table on twitter
So it’s three in the afternoon and you’re starting to think about what to eat for dinner. Being mid-week, you really don’t feel like making a big production of getting dressed up and dealing with the pretentious nature of ‘fine dining’ but you want so much more than what ‘fast food’ establishments have on offer.
Lucky for you (and your growling stomach), Chef Justin Beckett and his newly opened restaurant Beckett’s Table are awaiting you in the Arcadia Neighborhood of Phoenix. Beckett offers unpretentious food made with simple ingredients to allow natural flavors to shine through.
My evenings meal began with something I can’t really believe I’m admitting to having ordered, Roasted Brussels sprouts($6), prepared with pancetta, shaved Manchego cheese and a candied lemon vinaigrette. Now I have childhood memories of being forced to sit at the dinner table until I’d cleaned my plate of soggy, sour tasting sprouts so I’m a bit reticent about eating them now.
Beckett’s sprouts come perfectly roasted in a cast iron dish with creamy shaved manchego cutting the tanginess of the lemon vinaigrette nicely and chunks of salty pancetta, the perfect counterpoint to the sprouts’ grassiness. If all vegetables were as fresh, vibrant and skillfully prepared as these were, children of the world would certainly rejoice! (This is a MUST HAVE item!)
A good hamburger must be on the menu for any establishment to succeed as a “neighborhood’ restaurant and I sit bellied up to the comfortable bar awaiting my “B” burger ($13). Bacon, Boursin cheese, bib lettuce and beefsteak tomatoes arrived in short order beside crispy French fries and I eagerly dug in.
The patty is certainly fresh has great texture as expected and I enjoyed the way creamy boursin cheese brought all of the ingredients together. If there is any criticism it is that at $13 this burger is a little pricey but not unreasonably so, and the brioche though tasty struggled to stay together amidst the onslaught of juices running from the patty.
In all, tonight’s meal was another great experience. Diners seated at the long “community” table enjoyed conversation, good food and a great local atmosphere. If your still wondering what to do to for dinner, certainly consider calling some friends and heading over to Beckett’s table, you’re not likely to be disappointed.
It’s 7 o’clock on Friday night an I find myself seated at a restaurant I’m not supposed to be in again until next week. How is it that I’ve come to be at Beckett’s Table again so soon? Well here’s the thing, my Mother is flying in for a weekend visit in two hours and Beckett’s is a mere 10 minute drive from the airport at this time of night, I’m hungry (no surprise there) AND I happen to have a friend with dinner reservations and no dining companion.
So here I am, across from my friend Lauren Crider, discussing what to order which turns out to be Lobster n Boursin enchiladas to start.
Filled with tender lobster, truffled leeks, guajillo chile sauce topped with sliced avocado and served in a sizzling hot cast iron pot, these enchiladas promised to be tasty.
Bite after well seasoned bite passed my lips, crisp edged tortilla and creamy Boursin cheese gently cradling succulent lobster. With such well balanced flavors, it is only my love of spice and heat that leaves me wanting.
The wood fired mussels were calling my name and in short order, a big steaming bowl arrived. I think Beckett neglected to count here as the portion size is VERY generous. Sweet charred shallot, fennel and tomato bathed in a white wine broth all topped with chewy grilled rustic garlic bread delight.
I’ve always been taught that broken shells or those which fail to open after being cooked shouldn’t be eaten but the high temperatures and open flame of the wood oven, while giving the mussels a delicious smoky flavor, tend to make the shells a bit brittle. Avoid any mussels that don’t open but don’t mind those with cracked shells.
I’m a big fan of mussels and accustomed to the typical broth, heavily flavored with garlic. Though Beckett’s broth was a little on the sweet side for me, it was a pleasant break from the norm and a dish I would recommend wholeheartedly.
Let us not forget the humble bacon cheddar biscuits that i could not resist ordering, served with apple honey butter. I would go on and on about how the steam and cheesy aroma escaped as I broke one open or how the apple honey butter melted gently into the nooks and crannies of my biscuit just before i hungrily bit into it but let’s face it, its got bacon and cheese in it, what more really needs to be said?
As I enjoyed my meal, quite a few diners peddled up on their bicycles and bellied up to the bar or headed to reserved tables, Beckett might just be on to something here. The neighborhood is voting with their stomachs and wallets and it looks promising.
Check back next week as I sit again at Chef Beckett’s table and enjoy the warm atmosphere and comforting food that has finally come to Arcadia.
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.