It’s a no brainer what to post about today as I listen to food blogger/ recipe developer Joanie Simon on the TV preparing some of her favorite foods. It should come as no surprise that Joanie is this month’s Kitchen Kit creator from Bite Magazine. Joanie’s ingredients from Arizona food producers combine to make her “No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies”.
In your Kitchen Kit will be 3 of the 5 ingredients to make the cookies including PB Americano Classic Peanut Butter, Zak’s Haitian Cacao Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, McClendon Select Desert Blossom Honey and an easy to read recipe card. Joanie’s video for the cookies is on-line at her website
Combine with rolled oats and sunflower seeds from a your local market and your all set. Full sizes of ingredients are included for you to make plenty of batches of cookies or use for your own recipes.
This no-bake recipe is both simple and delicious, says Simon. “You can make them for the kids, but in reality you’ll probably eat them all for yourself.”
The Kitchen Kit from Joanie Simon is available until the end of October and cost $35 plus shipping and can be ordered at ReadBite.com
When I wrote about new executive chef Russell Lacasce taking over the kitchen at the Hotel Valley Ho’s flagship restaurant Zuzu back in Dec. I wondered what direction he would take the restaurant. I now know as Lacasce has introduced his first dinner menu since arriving at the Zuzu in January. A few restaurant bloggers and myself had the opportunity to taste several of the new menu items and speak to Lacasce and other members of his culinary team.
“I wanted the new menu to be very approachable, while offering dishes with complex combinations of flavors and textures that diners might not expect,” said LaCasce. “Everything is fresh and seasonal, with a strong focus on showcasing our amazing local farmers and purveyors.” Several of the Zuzu’s previous American comfort food staples are still available in the lounge.
Chef Russell Lacasce new menu items
The new menu includes dishes that perfect for sharing and include….
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Tartare with spicy chicharones, Avocado mousse, Heirloom tomatoes, with a local Feta and shallot buttermilk dressing. This small plate tasted fresh with a hint of spice and a nice touch from the crispy chicharone.
The Burrata has a creamy and smooth texture and the addition of pickled strawberries & toasted pistachios give it flavors you’d be hard pressed to find on other plates of Burrata around town.
The Hokkaido Scallops comes three to a serving separated by one of the more unique ingredients I’ve found recently, fried Meyer lemon wedges. Both are served over a bed of toasted cous cous & pine nuts and drizzled with a shellfish butter. The scallops practically melt in your mouth and citrus flavor and crunch from the Panko crusted fried lemon may have made me a scallop convert. This dish is not to be missed by scallop enthusiasts.
The entrée we tasted was the item on the whole menu that raised my eye brow when I read it…..Baker’s Bacon Chop. A 20 lb. back bacon loin that is house carved, cured, smoked and honey lacquered prior to being plated. Served with green harissa, burnt orange, fresh herbs, pickled chiles and pork rinds. All I can say is WOW! A loin of crispy back bacon will give a whole new meaning to bacon. It’s also great for those who prefer gluten-free dinners.
What’s next at Zuzu
At the same time the dinner menu debuted in early May, Lacasce introduced a lounge menu and new dessert menu from pastry chef Audrey Enriquez. In coming weeks he will be rolling out new breakfast, lunch and brunch menus for diners to sink their teeth into. If his first menu is any indication of what’s to come in June we should be pick a day now, circle on the calendar and plan to check out Zuzu.
James Beard award winner and Michelin starred chef Alex Stratta brought smiles to the faces of foodies around the Phoenix area earlier this year when he announced he was returning to Phoenix after spending several years strutting his stuff in Las Vegas. The corporate job that brought him back didn’t work out the way he had planned and was short-lived. Fortunately it was culinary gold for The Herb Box who hired Stratta as Director of Culinary.
Stratta will oversee all 3 locations (Southbridge & DC Ranch in Scottsdale and The Colony in central Phoenix) menus as well as their grab and go market and catering operations. His first order of business was to roll out a new Fall dinner menu. The menus will continue to be unique and use seasonal & local ingredients with vegetables playing a major part. The dinner menu rolled out in late October and a Fall lunch menu is planned for an early November roll out.
The Herb Box owner Susan Wilcox wasn’t looking to hire for a new position but she knew of Stratta’s reputation and with the help of mutual friends the 2 were connected, Wilcox says “Alex and I had a meeting of the minds. Our passions and vision for the growth of the company perfectly aligned.”
Stratta will also focus on the kitchen’s business operations which is one of his strengths. This will include developing and training the back of the house, refine procedures, ensure menu consistency in all with all 3 locations and expand catering and the grab and go market which will maximize the long-term growth of the restaurants. While no new restaurants are planned, Wilcox is open to expansion if the right location and opportunity become available around the valley or outside of Arizona. According to Stratta, “I’m bringing the same intensity and same heart from the fine dining arena to The Herb Box.” http://www.theherbbox.com/
New restaurants are always opening in the Phoenix metro area, one of the more anticipated and ambitious projects is Zen Culinary, set to open later in October in north Scottsdale. Executive chef Kelly Fletcher is a big piece of the puzzle as he’s been tapped to lead the culinary team that also includes Bitter & Twisted’s executive chef Bob Tam as culinary advisor.
Zen Culinary Team
Kelly Fletcher has been around the Phoenix area food scene for quite a while as former executive chef at House of Trick’s in Tempe and recently at El Chorro Lodge in Paradise Valley. Fletcher has hosted pop-up dinners, been guest chef at many local restaurants and is very active in the Phoenix culinary industry.
Owner Rachel Maculey sought out Fletcher for his food and cultural diversity when it comes to his menu’s, his French training and his commitment to his home-grown Arizona community in an effort to achieve her vision of sharing her family’s culture through food and here upbringing in Thailand. Bob Tam’s bring his culinary ideas including teaching new techniques, introducing new ingredients & his business acumen to this Asian fusion restaurant.
With good food comes good drinks to enjoy and Michael Liberatore is responsible for the beverage program at Zen Culinary. Michael previously worked at Citizen Public House.
Zen Culinary will be serving lunch and dinner from a menu that will include Thai, Chinese, Japanese and American cuisine by using mostly locally sourced organic ingredients that will give diners the opportunity to experience the balance, spice & textures of the teams creations.
Zen Culinary is at 15544 N Pima Road, Scottsdale, AZ, Zen Culinary will be open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. http://www.zenculinary.com/
With their 5 year anniversary less than a week away, Liberty Market’s partner Joe Johnson has spent the past year getting feed back from customers and staff(known as “brigademembers”) wanting to know how to make their experience better. What he came up with was LM2.0, which started implementation on October 2nd.
Joe’s goal is to ” make a great place even better” and in order to do that you’ll see less signage, better flow through the dining room, new upholstered booths and new menus. On those new menus you’ll see more entrees, more healthy options and shareable plates. In keeping with Liberty’s local philosophy there will be even more locally sourced ingredients and the walls will include art from local artists.
On Monday October 14th Joe and brigademembers will celebrate the anniversary and showing off LM2.0 with $5 Tower burgers and $5 Liberty Ale’s from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. They will also feature special desserts along with drawing for gift cards.
Liberty Market is at 301 N. Gilbert Rd. Gilbert AZ 85234 (480)892-1900 www.libertymarket.com