A while back I got a chance to meet Chef Payton Curry and try his cuisine at Welcome Diner his short lived concept in Downtown Phoenix, incorporating planned obsolescence. Post Welcome Diner, Curry could be found making guest chef appearances at various restaurants around town as well as throwing “Guerrilla dinners” with his merry bunch of culinary misfits. Over the past few months Curry has been keeping his culinary skills sharp in the kitchen of Chef Charlene Badman at Scottsdale hot spot FnB.
Fast forward to Today and the first service at Curry’s newest venture, Brat Haus. Nestled in the space formerly occupied by Oregano’s Pizza, Brat Haus is spread out among two buildings with a “climate controlled” outdoor patio. (The 360 degree mister was a nice touch and quite refreshing on a hot day but I don’t know if I would go as far as agreeing with our hostess that the patio is climate controlled)
First up from the Haus, a stone hearth pretzel I have been drooling over on Facebook for the past week. This rustic pretzel, served with grainy Haus mustard, is just what I had been hoping it would be (so much for maintaining objectivity). A combination of hard and chewy, kissed with the perfect amount of salt, the Haus pretzel does not disappoint. If I hear of anyone asking for cheese sauce to dip one of these happy little twists in, I may cry).
I’ve eaten my fair share of Bratwurst including a few while in Germany which were pretty memorable but over-all, i’ve just never eaten one and exclaimed “DAMN! that’s delicious.” Well, I can no longer make that statement as the Spicy brat ($5.75) topped with my choices of spicy peppers (of course) and root beer onions nestled in a chewy french roll just plain rocked. Juicy, flavorful and possessed of the perfect meaty texture, the traditional spicy brat is a winner. (there will be many more of these in my future)
Accompanying my brat were thrice-cooked belgian fries ($4.50/Large). Lightly seasoned frites, crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside as they should be, served with choice of dipping sauces (in this case truffle aioli and Sriracha Aioli), the Hause fries are not only a perfect companion to a brat but a necessity in my humble opinion.
Last but not least, the ubiquitous hamburgers, or are they? You will find a “regular” burger in the form of the Haus Favorite but that is where the “norm” ends. There is a brat burger i’d probably want for breakfast every morning consisting of a 1/3lb pork sausage patty topped with a fried egg and swiss cheese ($6.75) and the 800 pound gorilla in the room, the “Pig Mac.”($7.25)
What’s this you say? The Pig Mac? Let me get this straight, Curry thinks it’s a good idea to combine a 1/4lb pork sausage patty with a 1/4lb ground beef patty topped with caramelized onions, bound with something called “Hush Hush sauce?” Well it’s a good gawddamned thing Curry has the twisted mind he does because there are few things pork can’t make better and apparently a juicy, well seasoned hamburger is one of them. I don’t know why I haven’t thought of doing this before but it works. This mingling of textures and flavors going on here is like the crossing of the proton streams in Ghostbusters except I didn’t end up with marshmallow goo on my face. I must say, I would have rather had a traditional spicy brat split and perched atop my burger a bit more as I preferred its texture and spiciness to the patty but again, this is a winner.
It’s about time someone broke the mold and opened a restaurant that didn’t fall into line with the current trend of cookie-cutter concepts, frozen yogurt, cupcake shops and gourmet burger joints come immediately to mind. Curry and his Brat Haus have brought something simple, fresh and different to the Scottsdale culinary scene. (I’m sure others will follow in short order).
The humble hot dog is one of those things everyone eats as a child and debates rage over what city makes them best. Is it Chicago? Is it New York City? The simple answer to that question is “no.” Having grown up in Hollywood, California, my opinion on the matter is simple, the best hot dog in America is served up at Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood, California. Some may say this is merely an opinion and they would be right, except for the fact Pink’s has been continually serving up tasty dogs in the original location, owned and operated by the Pink’s Family since 1939!!!
In 1999 Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordin proclamed Pink’s Hot Dogs a “Monumental Family Business,” for at that time, they had been feeding Angeleneo’s cravings for SIXTY years. I don’t know what criteria you judge
your restaurants by but at this point, they’ve been in business for 73 years so they must be doing something right.
Lets get to the dogs. Pink’s serves up a hot dog made to their specification by Hoffy, with a natural casing and prepared to order start to finish by ONE person. Regardless of time of day, you will likely wait in line somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes but when you get close enough to spy the menu, your mouth will water at the choices you can make. There are literally hundreds of hot dog combinations, many named after various celebrities who have partaken of a fast dog.
Regardless of my hunger level, I will always order two hot dogs, fries and two drinks at Pink’s, this trip the winning dogs were the Brooklyn Pastrami Swiss Cheese Dog topped only with mustard and my old stand-by, the Bacon Chili Cheese Dog topped with tomato, cheese, mustard chopped raw onion and of course, three strips of bacon.
First up, the Brooklyn Pastrami dog. A big, juicy mound of pastrami draped lovingly over a weiner whose casing just pops when you bite into it flooding your mouth with it’s juicy deliciousness. I have a soft spot in my heat for New York City and this dog gave me just the right combination of two of the City’s signature delicacies.
I have a professed love of bacon that has been well and exhaustively documented so topping that perfectly made weiner with three slices of crispy, porky goodness and then piling on beef chili, tomato and onions must be a hit right? ABSOLUTELY! This hot dog is visually appealing and doesn’t disappoint when it hits the mouth.
A half pound order of golden french fries really put the meal far over the top, caused me to take a deep breath and loosen my belt a bit. There was no way I was getting through even half of the fries but I wouldn’t have dreamt of not ordering them. If you get the chance, hey know a thing about onion rings as well.
Though Pink’s will make you a hot dog virtually any way you want it, the one thing they will not do is take any form of payment other thank cash (there is even a set of instructions on how to order and pay that you had better follow lest you piss off the long line of people behind you and leave hungry.)
This summer i’ve been the spokesperson for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets. What I basically do is travel to different cities in Arizona, Nevada and California doing morning or daytime television demonstrating their new product lines or cooking live. A recent trip took me to Los Angeles, California to KTLA, the largest media outlet in Southern California and a station I watched growing up in Hollywood.
Of all the segments i’ve done, this one meant the most to me since it was in my “hometown.” I was super excited to do the segment and I had a great time.
Once in a while I get a newsletter/constant contact/mailing list type of email that doesn’t cause me to cringe and look for the unsubscribe link hidden somewhere at the bottom. Today’s was a little gem from The Herb Box (which I happen to love) announcing their “Summer Supper Club.” A series of eight 3 courses for $30 (including a glass of wine even) meals starting the week of June 12th. Some of the menu items look positively MOUTHWATERING and i’ll certainly be dropping in to take advantage of the DEAL! Take a look, make a reservation and le tme know what you thought of your meal!
Apparently someone at the Phoenix New times was asleep at the wheel or had a bit too much bourbon when they were putting together a list of 100 Tastemakers because I made the list. To be included among such august culinary company is flattering and i’m honored. Take a look at some of the others, many are people I know personally and admire/respect, some are people I know only by reputation and i’ll certainly be looking forward to reading about the other eighty-two upcoming.
“From now ’til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers – Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you’ll know; for others, it’ll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you’re here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Today: a man we can’t resist describing as saucy.
Tastemaker 83: Tony Morales
When Tony Morales realized no other company made barbecue sauces to his liking, he decided to parlay his passion for food into a business and in 2009 Desert Smoke BBQ was born. Today you can find Morales’ BBQ sauces, hot sauces, and rubs in several states, online and at some of your favorite local markets and restaurants. When he’s not creating new recipes or blogging about food, this California native and former Marine loves to travel.
I arrived in Phoenix… in 2003 with nothing but the clothes on my back (literally). The day I moved here, my U-Haul — stuffed with everything I owned — and my one-week-old new car was stolen, so Phoenix really was a clean slate for me.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be… my great grandmother — I can still remember the avocado-colored appliances, yellowish linoleum, giant black cast-iron skillet on the stovetop that she cooked damn near everything in, and the love of food and cooking she instilled in me at an early age. Gordon Ramsey and Julia Child — he because he’s such an unapologetic prick and she because everything gets a little bit of wine, the two would be entertaining as hell! Fernand Point, the true father of modern French cuisine, and Grant Achatz for his twisted culinary brain. I’d love to hear his points of view on technique, ingredients and preparation each would bring to the table.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is… Carolina’s. The red chile is delicious, the tortillas couldn’t be fresher, and it’s what taco shops around the country should aspire to.
One menu item this city could do without is… Cupcakes! They’ve just been done to death and I’m over them. I find it difficult to believe that such a pool of talented pastry types around the Valley can’t find more imaginative ways to satisfy my sweet tooth.
My last meal in Phoenix would be… a multi-course progressive affair. I’d begin with a stop into FnB for an order of Chef [Charleen] Badman’s spicy broccoli (she’s the friggin’ vegetable whisperer), a hot buttered lobster roll from Noca because I can’t imagine lobster being happier, Wild boar bacon from Posh because few things taste so damn good, and a double scoop of huckleberry ice cream from Sweet Republic to finish the meal off. (If someone could get me a cappuccino from Press Coffee my night would be complete!)”
You can see the original story as well as a list of the other tastemakers on the Phoenix New Times website HERE
So, I’m in Bakersfield on business for the day and in need of sustenance. A friend recommended Basque cuisine at Hotel Noriega but since they’re closed on Monday, I turned to Yelp to fill my belly.
The number one rated restaurant appeared to be Uricchio’s Trattoria so Italian it was going to be! The restaurant itself wasn’t really much to get excited about, shabby furniture, plain tables and an overall unremarkable atmosphere.
Let’s get on to the food since that’s what it’s all about. The Mozzarella marinara ($7.95) sounded good as an appetizer I mean really, breaded, deep fried cheese and tasty marinara sauce…how could this go wrong? Well, I’ll tell you, leaving that poor defenseless cheese in the deep fryer too long and bringing it to my table over cooked is how. The marinara was good and the cheese itself had a great molten texture. (if served golden brown it would have been perfect).
I’m a fan of a simple Caesar salad($5.75), there’s just something about crisp, cold romaine lettuce, shaved Parmesan crunchy croutons and a nice, creamy dressing but unfortunately that’s not what arrived. My Caesar consisted of room temperature, soggy romaine. With a liberal dose of salt and pepper, the dressing was palatable and I placed my hope in the main.
Well prepared Veal saltimboca ($17.95) is one of those dishes that just makes me smile so the hope was that a place calling itself a Trattoria would deliver. Again, I was disappointed as what I got was flaccid over cooked, un or under seasoned green beans, a “baked potato” that looked like a sliced loaf of McDonalds hash browns, veal with a soggy, “off” breading and Madeira in name only (somehow the flavor was just not there).
Was this the worst meal I’ve ever had, well, no but it kinda sucked and I’m in no hurry to return nor recommend.
(side note, I’ve never been to a restaurant that made me leave the building and walk through a parking garage to get to the restroom but now I have…what a strange design)
Ok, about a month ago I came across a picture of a new food truck posted by Local Foodnik Joel LaTondress, known to the Phoenix food community and the twitterverse as @AZHotdish. Not often does a simple picture cause so much commotion, but since the snapshot in question was of a food truck focused on Northeastern seaside cuisine namely Lobster rolls and other such briny delicacies, foodies began buzzing, posting queries clamoring for further details. Further information about where to find this culinary treasure or whether it actually existed was thin and the discussion seemed to end.
A quick check of the URL www.mainelobsterlady.com got me a contact number to call which led to a rather pleasant conversation and information as to scheduled appearances. Today, after almost a month of waiting, I went into stealth mode to get into the Arabian Horse Show (who cares about the horses when there’s lobster to eat?) and get myself a lobster roll.
The Maine Lobster Lady operates out of a very tidy, well equipped trailer. As you approach you can almost smell the salt air and then theres the menu… Two different styles of Lobster roll, shrimp puffs and lobster chowder to name a few. Barely able to control my glee, I ordered a tradiditonal lobster roll and an order of shrimp puffs.
Served on a hot, butter grilled roll sat easily a half pound of some of the best prepared, most succulent lobster i’ve ever eaten. This sandwich is the epitome of simplicity with the barest hint of lemon aioli, chunky lobster tail and claw meat and a buttery sweet roll. I cant even begin to describe how tasty this sandwich was and the $18 price was well worth it.
To accompany my sandwich were an order of “shrimp puffs” ($8.50), think of hushpuppies stuffed with succulent bay shrimp, a crunchy exterior and soft, well seasoned, piping hot interior. Oh yeah, this was just melt in your mouth delicious when dipped in creamy tartar sauce.
I dont know if you have any interest in horses but if you value your tastebuds and the happiness of your belly, get out to the horse show or find the Maine Lobster Lady at one of her other events this spring and indulge, If you arent able to find her, stay tuned as I eat my way through her menu. You may live vicariously through my culinary adventures!
Follow the Maine Lobster Lady on twitter @TheLobsterLady1
Susie Timm, Local foodie and Owner of Girl Meats Fork posted a cryptic tweet a while back asking if i’d be interested in participating in a fiery food challenge for a good cause. Since I rarely shy away from either challenges or a good cause, I accepted without knowing what exactly I was committing to.
It turns out Bueno Burger Scottsdale created an Hamburger dubbed the “Sneaky Diablo Burger” made with several different types of Chile including the dreaded Ghost (Bhut Jolokia-formerly the Worlds Hottest Chile). What could possibly make this challenge better? Well, Rodney Hartwig and myself would be facing the fire so to speak, LIVE on television.
The Ronan Thompson Foundation is the beneficiary of Bueno Burger Scottsdale’s generosity and will recieve a portion of the purchase price of each burger sold. It seems like everyone enjoys trying to make me sweat and though this burger was quite hot i’ve certainly had hotter food. Sucking down this burger in the time allotted was the real challenge here and Rodney was the better competitor at this (despite his looking like his head was going to explode).
All in all, the absolute best part about having this challenge on Sonoran Living was talking Host Andi Barness into taking one for the team so to speak, yes, Andi ate a Ghost Chile covered Jalapeno pepper “for the kids” and looked like she wans’t going to make it….Rodney and I had to finish the shows dialogue since Andi was a bit “incapacitated.” We love you Andi, (and rumor has it, you’re no worse for wear plus I love that your crew added some pretty cool sound effects to the final video!)
WOOHOO!! It looks like my humble brand of BBQ and Hot Sauces have been selected by Phoenix Magazine as being among the top 25 tastiest Arizona products for 2011! Many of the brands and products chosen are regulars in my pantry an I can not express the pride and happiness I feel to be considered among such fantastic company.
The journey from idea to where Desert Smoke BBQ is today has taken three years and I have had nothing but encouragement and support from family, friends and customers. A sincere thanks goes out to everyone that has helped me make Desert Smoke BBQ successful, watch out for what I have coming in 2012!
Check out the article HERE:
I recently dropped by one of my favorite local, family owned and operated restaurants to warm my belly with delicious hot food. Why do I emphasize the word hot here? Well, This particular restaurant happens to be Hana Japanese eatery, my favorite place for sushi in Arizona. On this particular night, the mercury had dipped into the forties and I was in the mood for for something to counter the chill. I tweeted @HanaJapanese asking what was recommended and commented that i’d happily put my stomach into their hands. What followed was simply perfect.
A large, piping hot bowl of Miso Ramen soup was first brought to the table. Steam from the delicate, flavorful broth wafted into my nose causing my mouth to water. Generous amounts of ramen noodles paired with scallion, subtle spices and pork absolutely hit the spot. I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor, texture and warmth this lovely bowl of soup delivered and have since found myself craving more.
While doing damage to the aformentioned ramen, my server brought over a propane fired hibachi grill along with a tray of assorted vegetables and strips of raw steak. The grill was lighted and I was instructed to add the vegetables (asparagus, pumpkin, okra, long beans and portobello mushrooms) and then grill the meat to my desired temperature. Forget going to kitchy chains like Benihana or Sapporo where the show is more important than the food, grilling it yourself using quality ingredients and truly becoming a part of the experience is where it’s at! (not to mention, everyone seemed to be ooh-ing and ahh-ing at what was going on at my table adding to the over-all cool factor).
While the miso ramen was warming and hit the spot and the Hana Hibachi steak couldn’t possibly have been better, it was the Hana Lobster sauté that really made my night. Tender chunks of well seasoned, perfectly sautéed lobster served with pieces of chopped asparagus lay before me begging to be snapped up by my eager chopsticks. I just ate and smiled, you have to order this dish and enjoy it to understand how good it really is.
I simply must mention the dessert here, green tea mochi in this case. I am at a rare lack of words to describe the texture of this little gem. Green tea ice cream encased in a flour and sweet rice dough that was firm, slippery, sweet and refreshing all at the same time. I hate using word like “delicious” to describe food because it doesnt really tell you anything about the experience but I will here because this mochi is a little weird, fanciful and yes, DELICIOUS!
Stop by Hana Japanese Eatery in Central Phoenix for simple, quality ingredients prepared lovingly and skillfully by a knowledgeable staff and remember something else important, while they will tempt your palate with a plethora of flavors and gladly fill your belly, the restaurant is strictly BYOB so if you like beer, sake or wine with your meal you’d better bring your own.