arizona

Phoenix, Arizona. I’d never been. I’m not sure I had even entered the state…maybe when I drove cross country and visited the Four Corners my feet stomped the arid dirt for a minute, but that’s about it. When I learned I’d be going there to discuss profitability tactics in the distribution industry (I’m a killer in the biz brah), I did what I do and looked up good eats – if you have to travel for work, dining certainly serves as an outlet that makes it a little fun.

As of today I’ve been home six days out of the last twenty and it sucks to not see my family and stay in my normal routine, but if I’m going to be away I’m going to make it fun, and I’m going to eat some great damn food, like I did last night in Charleston or on this somewhat recent trip to Phoenix at Pizzeria Bianco.

I’ve wanted to eat at Chris Bianco’s mecca for years, since I first started studying pizza. Chris was doing amazing things with pizza out in the desert way before there was Neapolitan pizza in every major city, before there was an Eater, before Giovanni Di Palma was getting pedicures with Lebron James….Bianco’s was quickly became famous in Phoenix. They became legendary for their hours long lines and their pies of perfection. They’ve since expanded into a few locations, including the Town & Country mall location, which is one of the few which takes reservations.

Some people call it the best pizza in America and every day hundreds of people stand in line to eat their short list of pies. It’s a lot of hype. How does it measure up? Well, there’s a lot of great pie out there these days. Ten years ago I would tell you it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had.

Today – I would say it’s still up there for me. Varasano’s sourdough tang is an achievement, and everyone likes different styles, but Bianco’s knows what they are doing. The bread is very fine. Less tang and a dryer crumb, not a lot of spotted char, it’s chewy and light as a feather. The real triumph may be the arrangement of toppings. The selection of ingredients are insanely good, and the combinations are simple and delicious. The oft-mentioned Rosa with red onion, Parm, a touch of rosemary, and pistachios is perfection. Seem a little different? Maybe, but when you try it, the fruity aromatic combination is so, so harmonic. Photos below.

Pizzieria Bianco

The hearth.

Pizzieria Bianco

Antipasti. So simple and proper.

Pizzieria Bianco

Caprese

Pizzieria Bianco

Biancoverde – mozz, Parm, ricotta, arugula

Pizzieria Bianco

The Sonny Boy – great olives are the difference maker.

Pizzieria Bianco

Wiseguy pie

Pizzieria Bianco

The Rosa. I talked about it. I ate it. I want it again. I’ve tried to replicate it.

Pizzieria Bianco

Pizza crust rip curl

Pizzieria Bianco

Next up, I met up with my buddy Aaron at Cowboy Ciao, his suggestion. It’s a popular local spot, with a funky menu, full of mildly funny menu descriptors and big meaty dishes and slutty crowd pleasers and a randomly famous dish called the Stetson Chopped Salad.

It looks way more beautiful than this late night photo, where the server had already mixed it all up, but the pretty plate arrives in linearly arranged fashion, a wonderful salad mix of Israeli cous-cous, tomato, dried corn, arugula, smoked salmon, pumpkin seeds, and currants – it’s an eclectic mix that is a must order.

Cowboy Ciao

I had this big fat short rib, which I paired with a solid inexpensive Lioco wine from their huge list, one of the larger ones I’ve seen outside of Bern’s. In fact, I was a little brief in my wine list review, not expecting much, and after I placed my order I realized there are some damn fine stellar wine selections on this list. The guy at the table next to us, a solo business traveler, was drinking a nice fat aged Bordeaux and told us it was one of his favorite places to drink the country.

Cowboy Ciao

Finally, on the way to the airport, we had our Uber drive stop at Little Miss BBQ, a Texas style BBQ restaurant only open a few months, and in Texas style, they open at 11AM and close when they are out of meat. The staff there couldn’t have been nicer, taking our luggage from us and storing it inside, while we waited in the happy, water-misted line for our meat treats, that day being special pastrami day.

Little Miss BBQ

Outdoor seating + mist.

Little Miss BBQ

The smoker.

Little Miss BBQ

They “close” at four, but they were out of fatty brisket by 1PM.

Little Miss BBQ

Pastrami, lean brisket, beans and potato salad.

Little Miss BBQ

Ribs….the ribs were fantastic

Little Miss BBQ

Little Miss BBQ

Chef/owner. Texas style, he took care of the customers one at a time, cutting to order. I was surprised…when he asked how it was, and I told him excellent, he said “it was better earlier in the day, I wish you had tried it then”. I love a guy who will admit that not every cut and execution is the same.

It was true, it wasn’t perfect, but BBQ is like sushi in that way. No two cuts are identical, and a true fan plays the game to find that perfect piece, and I have no doubt that Little Miss BBQ can do that for the lucky residents of Phoenix, a beautiful desert city, to which I hope to return soon.

Little Miss BBQ

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The Don

November 30, 2014 · 0 comments

in dining out

The Don

Last week I visited Craft Izakaya again with friends, and we finished our excellent sushi bar meal by asking Chef Jason Liang if he would put together a donburi (rice bowl) for us, comprised of whatever he was feeling. A rice bowl is a comforting ending to any sushi meal (I also enjoy a well done tekka maki to wrap things up) and provides the chef an opportunity to get creative with an ensemble of whatever is rocking that day.

Chef went beyond my expectations with an outrageous mix of scallop, shrimp, uni, salmon roe (ikura), chopped toro (luscious tuna belly), and crunchy cucumbers, with a little bit of soy sauce and a garnish of the pickled spicy wasabi stems I love so much. Bursting and creamy and crunchy fresh, and also beautiful, in my won-the-lottery fantasy I would eat a riff on this every day, in between meals from David Sweeney, who is head chef in said fantasy.

So yeah, it’s really good. I want more now, which is why I wrote this post.

Chef Liang just left Craft to travel abroad and eventually wants to open his own sushi restaurant in Buckhead, but I’m sure owner/chef Jey Oh will continue to develop talent at his very popular Krog Street Market restaurant.

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Fred's @ KSM

Yesterday marked “day one” of Krog Street Market. Never mind that Craft Izakaya and The Luminary have been open for months, and that most of the food stalls are not open yet. But I guess the first of the stalls have begun serving customers, so I was there, day two, ready to eat.

Pretty much the only option for lunch is Fred’s Meat & Bread, offering all things pleasurable on bread – burgers, pork, fried chicken, steak, and so forth. It’s from the team behind The General Muir which includes one of Atlanta’s best chefs (Todd Ginsberg) and bakers (Rob Alexander) and my first visit was very solid. A few kinks to work out, but based on the line of fifty people by the time we left, they are going to get plenty of fine-tuning practice.

A few notable points: The bread is all fantastic. A better cheesesteak cannot be found in Atlanta. The homemade ketchup offered for one of three types of fries (BBQ, frites with aioli, bay seasoning) is the best homemade version I’ve maybe ever tried. Most are so watery and gross – this version snaps with acidity and sweetness. The bacon and mortadella was the most manageable and reasonable sandwich, and one of the tastiest too. We wanted porchetta but it wasn’t ready yet. I’m told the salsa verde really puts it over the top.

update-the ketchup is Sir Kensington brand. I’ve had it in the past and did not identify it by taste
as the same. My bad.

Other than that, not much additonal opinion offered as of yet. Just photos.

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Little Tart Bake Shop work area.

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Cheesesteak

Fred's @ KSM

Thick fries, classic branding

Fred's @ KSM

Fred's @ KSM

Fries are a pleasant change of pace from thin fries, like the version they serve at TGM

Fred's @ KSM

Fred's @ KSM

Fred's @ KSM

Fred's @ KSM

Fred's @ KSM

Fred's @ KSM

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IMG_9808

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Ribalta Pizza (midtown)

November 24, 2014

It’s interesting how much marketing matters. Take Ribalta, the relatively unknown pizza restaurant in Midtown, which replaced Piola, a generally accepted yet unloved pizza place from the same ownership group.  I read about Ribalta in AJC and it looked solid – there’s a lot of good pizza out there these days, and I’m happy to try it. But the AJC article read like […]

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Cooking Serious Eats – Chicken Chili, Green Chile Chicken

November 17, 2014

It’s no secret that I love cooking recipes from Serious Eats, particularly those from Kenji and his Food Lab. I constantly file them away in Evernote (so I can tag them) and search for them based on my mood or the season. Recently Kenji posted a creamy chicken chili recipe and I made it nearly immediately. […]

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Asheville Beer and Food. Mostly Beer.

November 10, 2014

Just a quick post after a recent trip to Asheville for a work retreat. Our management team had some discussion of potential synergies, thought out of the box about our vision, and had some required “team-building” aka drinking and eating. I’ve spent little time in Asheville, and was stoked to try some spots that have been […]

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General Muir Sandwiches

October 28, 2014

The sandwiches at The General Muir are what I’m currently craving, so here are photos so you may endure the hunger torture I’m dealing with at the moment. I love a breakfast sandwich. The General Muir’s pastrami and egg sandwich is just so frickin’ satisfying – it’s the tops for me. Thick, spicy pastrami, a dripping soft egg, and oozing excess of American […]

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Smoked Brisket Packer

October 23, 2014

I MADE THE ABOVE Lately I’ve been on a BBQ brisket tear – can’t get enough of it. I can’t recall the last time I ordered pork shoulder at a BBQ temple. Ribs and brisket – those are the two pillars of my smoked meat dreams. I’ve been reading a lot about brisket, as I leave for […]

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