Chef Michael Rusconi developed his love for the flavor and fragrance of white truffles while working at Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician many years ago. When white truffles were delivered via the freight elevator into the kitchen, the scent infiltrated all corners of the restaurant. “The smell is so unique. You never forget that,” he says. “And nothing else tastes quite like it.”
To spread his love of white truffles, Rusconi whips up truffled macaroni and cheese to go along with beef tenderloin at Rusconi’s American Kitchen.
Dust off your dirndls and don your lederhosen – Oktoberfest events are here, and they’re bringing Bavarian beer, bratwursts and polka music with them. Of all the very many “Volkfests” in the Valley, here are the five most “fantastiche,” listed in order of occurrence:
Brat Haus Oktoberfest, September 17
Drunken competition fuels the fun at this fete – lederhosen and dirndl contests, a brat-eating contest, beer garden games and even a “Badass Beard Contest” will keep people whooping and hollering as they dance to a DJ and get their giant steins laser-etched and filled with fresh-tapped Oktoberfest beer. The food feast includes knockwurst, pork knuckle, giant turkey legs and specialty pretzels. $8 presale, $10 at the door. Free admission for wearing a dirndl or lederhosen. brathausaz.com
It’s Taco Tuesday! Chances are, your Facebook feed is filled with memes celebrating this unofficial but extremely well-observed holiday. Few culinary cultural appropriations are more beloved than tacos (except maybe pizza – maybe). Not only do tacos get their own day of the week, but they get feted in festivals perhaps more than any other food. There are three taco fests in the Valley in the next month alone. In the East Valley this Saturday, September 17, the Rockin’ Taco Street Fest hits Dr. A.J. Chandler Park; the Tequila, Taco and Cerveza Festival rides into Rawhide Western Town on October 1; and the biggest taco party, the Arizona Taco Festival , takes over Salt River Fields on October 15 and 16.
Why do we love tacos so much? What is it about these tortillas rolled around fillings that makes them so irresistible? We’ll leave the real pondering to the food psychologists (yes, that’s a thing), but here’s a handful of hypotheses:
#1: Tacos are completely customizable.
Want fries with that? Seriously, you could put your fries in that. Or you could go with ingredients llike crumbled beef, carne asada steak, fish, shrimp, pork or veggies. You can choose from hard- or soft-shell tacos, flour or corn tortillas, and tons of topping options – lettuce, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, onions, a plethora of peppers, etc. There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do to a taco. It’s the most accommodating and friendliest of foods.
Arizona Restaurant Week is back! Its fall iteration takes place Sept. 16-25, with more than 100 restaurants participating across the state. Restaurants will offer three-course menus at $33 and $44 per person (excluding tax, gratuity and beverages, unless otherwise indicated).
There’s a new chef in the kitchen at Market Street. After honing his culinary skills in Chicago at the original Weber Grill and the Four Seasons (and following Phoenix stints in the kitchens of Sam Fox’s Bloom Restaurant and Roy’s at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge), Michael Hunn took the helm of Market Street Kitchen last month. The Chi-town native nudges the restaurant’s rustic American cuisine (pastas, soups, salads, slow-cooked and wood-fired meats) up a notch with his focus on farm-to-table fare; according to a press release, “Chef Hunn’s favorite part of each day is talking shop with his fishmongers, produce farmers and his meat dude.”
Every chef should have a “meat dude.” And if the thick and smoky bacon in my grilled cheese sandwich was any indication, Hunn’s got a pretty keen one.
Americans have a knack for “happy accidents,” especially when it comes to junk and novelty foods. While Europeans try to build a better beet salad, many Yanks yearn for all manner of deviant dishes. Hot dog-hamburgers. Taco pizza. Deep-fried Twinkies. Triple-stacked and double-wrapped everything with two sides of ranch dressing. And all of that on purpose. But accidents happen, too, and sometimes, delightful dishes like the five below result, proving that it pays off to drop things on occasion.
#1. The chimichanga: Arizona’s own contribution to the world of glorious culinary mishaps, this deep-fried burrito has disputed origins. One source says the chimichanga was born at El Charro restaurant in Tucson in 1922 when the owner accidentally dropped a pastry in the deep fryer, but the founder of the Macayo’s chain claims he came up with it in 1946 after experimenting. Whatever the case, the taste of this happy accident lasts almost as long as the invention debate.
Recipes for Hoppin’ John, an American Southern rice and pea dish, can be spotted in cookbooks dating back to the 1840s. But most every country and nationality has a rice and pea dish, according to Chef Stephen Jones of the larder + the delta at DeSoto Central Market.
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