some of my favorite people got gold stars……

The RFT just announced thier “Best Of” (for you PHX/Scottsdale Folks is the equivalent of our PHX New TImes).  I am proud to announce that Kevin Willmann (of Erato on Main….oh how we dearly miss it) was named BEST NEW CHEF!  Go Kevin!!!!  This is what they said about Kevin:

What do you need to be a topnotch chef? A fancy, cutting-edge kitchen? A corps of a dozen line cooks at your beck and call? Prime real estate in a major metropolitan area? None of the above, if you’re Kevin Willmann. In a kitchen that makes a freshman dorm room look expansive, in a restaurant a half-hour’s drive from downtown St. Louis, Willmann takes ingredients from local producers and fashions them into dishes that are playful in conception, beautiful on the plate and, above all else, delicious. The menu changes frequently, but you’re certain to encounter unusual combinations — peach and prosciutto, scallops and truffled whipped cream — and contemporary spins on good ol’ fashioned home cookin’. (If a dish includes spoon bread, order it.) Willmann was born in Greenville, Illinois. After making his bones along the Gulf Coast in Florida, he worked at several St. Louis restaurants: Big Sky Café, Lucas Park Grille and Mosaic. But it’s at Erato in downtown Edwardsville that he has found the perfect outlet for his talent. Yes, the kitchen is small, but it hardly matters when the talent is so great.

Ugh..I’m so happy that he was recognized. It’s the least he deserves…I’m dying for Kevin and his sous chef, Jon to trek out here and stage with Kevin Binkley…it would be AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Up next for Best New Restaurant:  Pappy’s. If you have read this blog at all….you know that I LOVE PAPPY’S.  I love it so much that since moving out to the desert, I’ve dreamed about eating ribs at Pappy’s three times…and dreamt about the brisket twice…..So, when I read that Mike Emerson and his crew got the nod for best new restaurant….I did a little happy dance….Here is what the RFT has to say bout Pappy’s:

Winning sports teams often cite “chemistry” among the players as a reason for their success. The metaphor works for restaurants, too. In fact, Pappy’s Smokehouse can credit actual chemistry — you know, the subject you slept through in high school — for being named Best New Restaurant. After all, what is barbecue but the most delicious and, in its own way, elegant chemistry of all? Tough cuts of meat, cooked long and low over apple and cherry wood, become Pappy’s indescribably delicious pulled pork, pork ribs and beef brisket. Chemistry also imbues all that meat with a gorgeous dark pink smoke ring, the telltale tattoo of great ‘cue. Now add to that the other chemistry: Owner Mike Emerson works the floor as if the success of his midtown restaurant depended on that very moment. He greets regulars and newcomers alike waiting in the long line with a hearty handshake; he clears tables and serves food. When Pappy’s runs out of meat, that’s it: Emerson would rather close his doors than serve yesterday’s reheated goods. To those who seek greatness in multimillion-dollar build-outs and fancy cuisine, however soulless, Pappy’s might seem like just another barbecue joint. But to those who appreciate the rare chemistry of great food, great people and a passion for serving the best possible product — well, Pappy’s ain’t rocket science. It’s a bona fide miracle.

And best of all, my dear, dear friend Mathew Rice was given praise for his delectible treats at both Veruca and Niche.  I am soooooooooooo proud of him.  I know how many hours he toils over his creations…he puts his heart and soul into his work and it shows.  I’ve yet to find better anywhere in the US…and I’ve eaten at some pretty fancy places…nothing compares to Matty’s goods…nothing.  It’s one of the things that almost brings me to tears when I think of home…, who else’s red velvet cake can do that….right, NOBODY’S.  Here is what they said about my friend:

“Pastry chef” seems an inadequate title for Mathew Rice, who masterminds the desserts at the Benton Park restaurant Niche and its new, adjacent bakeshop, Veruca. “Mastermind” works — though that too seems to miss something essential about Rice’s baking. His desserts plug into someplace deep in the unconscious, where the simple pleasures of our childhood reside: tollhouse cookies, Hostess snack cakes, s’mores. Rice interprets each in a way that brings both a smile of recognition and the thrill of the new. Those s’mores, for instance, are toasted-marshmallow semifreddo with salted caramel and a graham cracker. Not that all of Rice’s ideas are rooted in the past. Sometimes it’s a combination of cleverness and convenience, like his slices of red velvet cake served to look like a small sandwich wrapped in wax paper. And sometimes it’s working with something no one else does, like the South Asian dish kulfi, a dense frozen dessert so good it might supplant ice cream as your favorite summer treat.

A nod also went out for the best beer selection in a restuarant and rightly so, it was given to the Shaved Duck. Good job, Pat…..we really miss you guys.  We really do.

Best Cheesesteak went to 9th Street Deli….I told you that a looonnngg time ago…but congrats to Mike Risk (a nice Lebanese boy, by the way!….we have to support our own, ya know!)

Best Bakery:  222 in Edwardsville…duh.  I’d kill for a bear claw right now….really…I would…seriously.

Last year, Simon won for best cheese counter at the Merch….DiGrigorio’s won it this year….which I guess is okay if you want to limit yourself to Italian cheese…they’d be the folks to ask.

I know this is a goofy post….I’m just so damned happy for these guys that won “Best Of’.  They are my friends and I’m not ashamed to say it.  Call me a braggart, name dropper or whatever….they just rock and it’s nice to see that they are getting recognized for the great work they do.

**Last but not least by any means is 33 Wine Bar in Lafayette Square!  Jake and his boys got the nod for best wine bar….and it is the best.  1. because he has bubbles hanging from his ceiling.  2.  a GREAT patio 3.  knowledgeable staff and some amazing selections of both wine AND beer. 4.  it’s smoke free and you don’t leave smelling like the inside of an ashtray.  Good job Jake!

Morning Brew…..

there were a couple of things that we brought with us from St. Louis, knowing full well that we would not be able to find their equivalent for in the Scottsdale/PHX area.  One of them was Goshen Coffee.  I was lucky enough to have gotten the advice from a fellow blogger about 222 Bakery/Goshen Coffee, oh what seems so long ago…..since that fateful drive over to Edwardsville, Illinois those many moons ago….we’ve been hooked.  Goshen Coffee IS the only coffee I will brew at my home.  Imagine my suprise and joy when I found out the Mathew Rice/Gerard Craft were to begin serving Goshen Coffee at Veruca Bakeshop…..oh, what a lucky girl was I…..but then we got the news that we were to leave our little home in St Louis and travel to the great unknown that is Arizona (and it’s still a super weird place for me….I have yet to adjust to my new surroundings).  So, the list began:  what to bring with us (food-wise):  where are we going to buy cheese?…bread?….grass fed meat?….does Arizona even have the ability to grow vegetables?  In time, we have found some decent proprietors of goods….but one thing was not going to be left up to chance….it was way too important to our existance….COFFEE.  We brought 5lbs of whole bean coffee with us from Goshen…..we are down to 3 already and it’s only been a month…, I guess I better call the kids in E-Ville and place an order for delivery.

P.S.:  we found an amazing rancher that does grass fed beef, lamb and free range chicken/eggs….he and his wife deliver to our area once a month….A BAR H Farm.  Still hoping Si can work a miracle out here for cheese…the pickin’s are slim….the best cheese shop is a mere 4 1/2 hour drive to Vegas.  McClendon Produce is our other source….only available at the Chef’s market on Weds mornings…..a very long distance from our new digs…so…it’s been a struggle to get out there and see what he’s got….I hear it’s amazing.

it has spread like the plague…

If you St. Louisan’s think you can only get provel and toasted rav’s in St. Louis:  YOU”RE WRONG!

I’ve been to three…count ’em 3 restaurants here in the Valley (the Valley refers to all the little cities here in the Scottsdale/PHX are….the local lingo) and they have all offered toasted ravioli.  They are described as “St. Louis Style”…..and one spot that puts provel on pizza.

No matter how far you go… can’t escape!

So, about Cafe Bink…..

I’ve noticed some folks have been searching for Cafe Bink in STL….sorry folks…it’s in Carefree AZ.  If you ever travel to Scottsdale…it’s just a 30 minute drive north….don’t miss it.

But I digress:  Lunch at Cafe Bink was delicious….albeit on the spendy side.  We knew that going into it though.  I’m just not accustomed to dropping $75 on a mid-day meal….but it was worth it.

Upon our arrival, Simon was very skeptical.  There was a young mother and her two toddler children in the cafe and (as silly as it may seem) Simon dreads eating out with children around….unless they are well behaved.  Mean, I know…but it’s a pet peeve of his….and I must say I have to agree with him at times.  There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a great meal with a toddler running around screaming at it’s mother for chicken fingers.  But….that is a topic for another day…..

We were greeted at Cafe Bink with house-made foccacia.  Wow.  It was really good.  Had the lovely crust on the outside and was warm and chewy on the inside.  Flecks of Fleur de sel were strewn across the top and gave a salty little kick here and there.  It was served with a sweet, fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar plate….simple but pleasing.

Of course we ordered the famous fries.  Now, you have to understand something…..I am not a big potato fan.  I like them two ways, whipped with cream and butter or deep fried to a golden brown.  I don’t like new potatoes, potato gratin or scalloped….just whipped or in fry form…I know…I know….but it’s who I am.  Before leaving St. Louis, we fell in love with the Shaved Duck’s fries….uber shoestring potatoes fried in duck fat.  Now….I have said this from the beginning and the boys at the Duck know all about it…..I just wanted the fried thicker cut….I don’t mind shoestring but these were SUPER shoestring and they were tricky to eat….although delicious….I always managed to get them down.  The fries at at Cafe Bink (not fried in duck fat mind you) were thicker and friend to PERFECTION!  Jesus H Christ…..they were the best pomme frites I have EVER put in my mouth.  They arrived in the traditional Parisian fashion (wrapped in newspaper and stuck in the little metal cone)….and were accompanied by 3 different dipping sauces: 1) truffled catsup 2) herbed mayo 3) traditional aoili.  Each sauce was beautiful.  Don’t need to say much about the truffled catsup…it was simply that…house-made catsup with a hint of truffle.  I almost died and went to heaven.  (I am a big catsup eater….and truffle lover).  The herbed mayo was jam packed with herbs…a bright green concoction with a heavy dill flavor….would go great with fish….and the aoili was light and garlicy…..not heavy or oily…perfect.

Next Si had the french onion soup….nothing very fancy but it was executed properly.  The gruyere was strong and flavorful….so many times they top french onion soup with chinzy swiss cheese and it has no flavor….not at Cafe Bink….the cheese was great.  The soup was rich and almost resembled an onion compote under the crouton.  I had a mixed green salad with chevre, dried figs and pancetta.  Simple and good.  The one thing I must say is that they knew how to dress a salad properly.  There wasn’t a pool of vinegarette at the bottom of my bowl…each leaf had a nice touch of dressing and that was it.  Simon had a truffled grilled cheese… about decadence.  It was one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever had.  Not greasy at all!  The bread was crispy golden and the cheese was melted just right… came with house-made dill pickles and chips…both good as well.

We finished off the meal with a strawberry milkshake and some chocolate chip cookies……I must tell you that I am VERY picky about dessert and have been spoiled by one of St. Louis’ best pastry chef’s magical creations…..

while the shake and cookies were good…they couldn’t hold a flame to the work of Mathew Rice.  Not even close.  The presentation was cute but the shake lacked strawberry flavor and the cookies we not fresh…..what i wouldn’t give for a peachy keen shake from Veruca right now…….or a peppermint matty….ugh.,…

now…all Binkley’s needs is a little jonny style stage action……but alas, the man himself is in NYC……playing with the cool kids….

Afternoon meal at Cafe Bink…….

Had our first meal at Cafe Bink this afternoon.  Cafe Bink is the off-shoot of Binkley’s, the AMAZING effort of Kevin and Amy Binkley.  If you have never heard of Binkley’s….page back through the archives and read my long post on our tasting menu.  We are so lucky to have such a great restaurant so close to our new home.

I will elaborate on our lunch at a later time……..

Finally…our first decent pie north of the 101

On Thursday…we went to a small little pizza parlor located in the tiny little town we live in.  Pizzafarro.  We went on a recommendation for a co-worker….so I was a bit skeptical.  But I was not disapointed.  The pizza was amazing!  We ordered the sausage and onion, thin crust.  The sausage is house made with strong overtones of fennel.  Simply great. the onions were hand sliced thin….and generously placed with the sausage.  The dough was perfect, crusty on the outside but with a nice tooth to it on the inside….made with flour, water and yeast….not FROZEN and PRE MADE….the owners were present and working the joint…one was in the kitchen…spitting image of an aged Mario from Super Mario Bros….even down to the mustache.  His wife, Vicky was working front of the house.

The sauce was spicy and a little sweet….not too much on the pie though….which is great.  The cheese (mozzarella) was flavorful and applied in nice even layers for great melting.

The decor was hilarious …I must admit.  Time warp even!  Reminiscent of an assisted living cafeteria…but I’ll overlook that for the pizza.

Thank God we found decent pizza out here…..I was getting worried.


I want some red velet cake from Veruca…I want chicken liver terrine from Niche, a al pastor torta from Cherokee Street, cinammon roll from 222, and the ribeye from Erato……

alas, I will not have these things as I live in the middle of nowhere.  hmmmphf!

That’s an exageration.  We have some good spots up here (Binkley’s…..John…when are you going to stage…we are awaiting your arrival!)….we just haven’t had any time to eat out much. 

Things may slow down soon and we’ll get out and explore soon….i hope.