It’s a Farm Life For Me

Moving to a small town again, wasn’t exactly in my plans. I guess when I pictured life in a small town in my future, I assumed it would be Cornville, AZ or Jerome, AZ where I would be surrounded by amazing wine, and easily be able to get down to Phoenix to see my friends and family, for dinners and drinks in my favorite restaurants. Enter, love of my life, Mr. Paul Child, and off I go packing up my cookbooks and knives, into my FJ, and accept a job as an executive chef for a farm bakery in Yuma, AZ.

I grew up on 60 acres of land and went to college at a school that was built by farmers and known for a long time, for it’s agriculture. Apparently, living in a city has become ingrained in me, because the moment I see a combine driving down the road, on my commute to work, I started laughing. The third day it happened, I started to get pissed, trying to get around it. Now, it’s a common day annoyance.

This is a massive change in my life and exciting development in my career, all rolled into one. It thrills me that my job includes being able to order seeds for the fields and watch the guys lay the irrigation lines for the pumpkin patch (see photo above), knowing that soon I will pull them from the fields and turn them into delicious edibles. It’s a dream gig for a chef to have a field of produce at their fingertips, and now it has happened to me!

Mr. Paul Child no longer has to listen to me proclaim my love for chickens and how convenient it would be for me to be able to retrieve eggs for cooking from a coop, if I had one. The shabby chic coop will house 50 hens and is made from all up-cycled materials from the farm and the vintage shop. It’s going to have a chandelier and a guest book for kids to leave the chickens messages.

Part of what we are trying to do at the farm is to feed people good food. In a world where store bought bread doesn’t mold for a month or longer, we are going to be offering breads to our customers. I’m in love with breads, and the simplicity of the ingredients, that must be manipulated by a skilled hand, to create a rustic, beautiful product. This is how they made breads for centuries before we got the cockamamie idea to commercialize the process. Our breads will be made by hand, specifically, my hands.

I am missing Phoenix and all my friends and family there. I’ve been trying to create really healthy habits for myself and just be kind to myself. While I’m working every day getting everything in line for the opening of the farm bakery, a couple weekends ago, I zipped over to San Diego for the Color Me Rad, color run. If you haven’t done one of these 5K’s, it’s amazing. A sea of people in white arrive, a sea of people colored by pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow cornstarch leave. It’s renewed my desire to get my butt into shape so that I can run a half marathon at some point.

I made my first solo pot of my mom’s (passed down to her from my grandma) sauce. Waking up to the smell of onions and garlic being sautéed, is home for me. Letting the scent permeate the house, so that leaving and coming back, it smells like my parents house…happiness. I think I needed the reminder, since I’m missing my family.

And now, a new recipe for you. I’m sure I’ve seen a recipe like it somewhere before. Have you ever craved a recipe you’ve never had? That’s how this was for me. I was hungry for it, and I had to create the recipe from the taste I dreamed of in my head. I just knew I wanted veggies, herbs de provence and some crunch.

Mr. Paul Child likes veggies, but doesn’t love them like I do. I could eat roasted veg for dinner every night, but I’m pretty sure he would view that as torture. I have to come up with different ways to get him to eat veg, hence this recipe. Yeah, there’s some parm and breadcrumbs (panko) on there, but it’s a light sprinkle, and in the end, he’s eating veggies.

The farm I work at has a U-Pick, and I can’t wait till we get the delicious fall veg coming off the fields that I can use with this recipe.

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Roasted Veggies with Panko

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

2 small zucchini
1 small-medium eggplant
3-4 small potatoes, purple or red
olive oil
1/2 cup panko (can be found in the asian section of most grocery stores)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. herbs de provence (I use about 1 1/2 tsp. but herbs de provence is not for everyone, so start will a little less if you have never tasted it.)
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub a baking dish with olive oil. I use a Le Creuset baking dish that's 10" X 6 3/4" x 1 1/2", and it works perfectly.

Mix together panko, parm, herbs de provence, salt and pepper. If you want more cheese, add more cheese. I usually do this by eye.

Thinly slice the veggies, making each slice close to the same thickness. I cut the eggplant in half length-wise and then slice them from each half.

Toss the veggies with olive oil. Start with one veggie type and line them standing up down the shorter side of the pan. Sprinkle with panko mixture. Line with the second veggie type. Sprinkle with panko mixture. I think you get the point. Once layered, I sprinkle any remaining panko mixture on the top and drizzle the little drizzle of olive oil that's left in the veggie bowls, over the top. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes to bake. After 30 minutes, my oven doesn't get it nice and browned, so I turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the cheese and panko topping.

A Birthday and a Tart

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I turned 30 this month. When I confessed my hesitance for this birthday, most of my friends rolled their eyes and told me how much better my 30’s would be. “But I thought I’d have done more at this point in my life,” I whined. They’d shake their heads and sip their drinks.

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I couldn’t ask for better friends, who have shown me love all month long, and helped me celebrate a big moment in my life. Dinners and drinks, laughs and putting all the big dreams I have for this year out to others, letting them help boost them up with positivity.

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For my actual birthday dinner, I wanted to do all family dishes, that meant something to me. There was genuine love and multiple helpings. At the end of the day, comfort food, comforts all. My friends appreciated the love and the generational hands that passed the knowledge down.

It was simple entertaining: mason jars filled with candles, rustic rounds of sourdough kneaded by my hands, family recipe for saccarine pickles, a small pot of my clementine marmalade, overflowing bowls of cinnamon bourbon pecans, a multitude of cheese, the family sauce with bison meatballs, spicy salmon, roasted veg, our now 4th generation family cake called ‘mush cake,’ and cake plates overflowing with my cupcakes.

Wine filled glasses, cupcake wrappers and crumbs litter plates and napkins, while conversation filled the empty spaces. An obscene number of wine bottles start to line the counter.

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This month, I’ve been working on a few new projects complete with new recipes, and in doing so, feeding myself some delicious food (think about the 3 rounds of sourdough now sitting on my counter, goodbye waistline!). One of the recipes I’ve been tweaking and falling in love with are these apple tarts. The crumble sprinkled on top is hearty, and after a day of pinches each time I passed the prep table, I was in need of another batch. Whoops!

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The apples are Arkansas Blacks from the farmers market and they are perfect for these tarts. The texture reminds me a bit of a McIntosh, and the skin is a deep purple, that is almost black. Topped off with crumble and some creme fraiche swirled with maple syrup. A last taste of fall here in the desert as we slip into spring. I eat the test tarts warm from the oven, straight off the sheet pan.

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All-in-all, a great birthday month. Happy Birthday to my fellow, Aquarians! I hope you enjoy these tarts as much as I do.

**Update: I just got the okay to release some good news, right before I was about to hit send on this post. I will be a Season 6 Blogger on Molly Mahar’s fabulous site Stratejoy, with 6 other amazing women!

Please check us out soon, over on Stratejoy.

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Apple Tarts with Crumble and Maple Creme Fraiche

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

    Crumble:

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Sugar, Light Brown
4 oz. Butter, Unsalted, Cold and Cut into Cubes
1/2 tsp Sea Salt, Fine
1/2 tsp. Fall Spice
1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 cup Whole Flax Seeds

    Apple Tarts:

For the pie dough:
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Sugar, Granulated
1 tsp. Sea Salt, Fine
1 cup Butter, Unsalted, Cold and Cut into Cubes
3/4 cup - 1 cup Water, Ice Cold
1/2 each Zest of Citrus

    For the assembly of Apple Tarts:

3-4 Apples (Your choice!)
3-4 oz Butter, Unsalted, Browned
Fall spice mixed with Sugar, Granulated

    To serve:

Creme Fraiche
Good Maple Syrup

Directions:

    Crumble:

Place flour, sugar, butter, salt, fall spice and ginger into a food processor. Pulse till combined. Dump onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan. Mix in the whole flax seeds. Bake at 375 degrees, flipping with a spatula, every 5-6 minutes till golden brown (roughly around 15-20 minutes).

    Apple Tarts:

Place the AP and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, citrus zest and butter into the food processor. Pulse till butter is incorporated and about pea-sized. Slowly add the water till the dough comes together. Don't over process, you don't want to build too much gluten. Place in a ziploc bag or plastic wrap and allow to rest/chill in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out and using a larger bowl or plate as a stencil, cut a circle out. If the dough gets too soft, place it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.
Place first dough round on a parchment lined sheet pan. Paint a little brown butter onto the round (not too much, you don't want it pooling). Sprinkle some of the fall spice-sugar mixture on the round.
Slice the apples. I like to cut in half and remove the core, then slice each half. I do thin slices so that they will bend as I arrange them in the tart.

I layer a few apples on the bottom, in the center of the dough round, then fold the edges of the dough around/up to create a shell.
To create my apple layers: I place down apples, a brushing of brown butter, and then sprinkle fall spice-sugar. After I have folded the edges of the dough up, I brush them with some brown butter and sprinkle with fall spice-sugar. I then try to almost create a flower with the apple halves, off-setting the overlapping halves. I still continue to do the layering with the apple slices, brown butter, and fall spice-sugar.

Continue assembling the rest of the tarts, and make sure to do the assembly on the parchment lined sheet pan, so that you don't have to move your tarts after they are assembled.
Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is golden brown.

To assemble:
Sprinkle warm apple tarts with crumble, and drizzle with maple swirled creme fraiche. Stuff yourself with apple goodness.

Bean & Bacon Soup with Rosemary-Gruyère Crostini

What kind of soup did you eat as a kid? I can remember the red and white Campbell’s Soup cans of tomato, chicken noodle and bean & bacon. My brother and I would roll in from some hard playtime in a foot of freshly fallen snow, and a good amount of icicle eating, to hot bowls of soup and Saltine crackers.

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I gave up icicle eating long ago (eww, rain gutter water!), plus there’s no snow here in Arizona, but when I do come in from a cold, strenuous hike, I need some soup to sooth my achy muscles.

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Clementine Custard and An Flax Meal Cookie

My custards class in culinary school, I gained 10 pounds. Those plunky pounds slipped on my body as I inhaled spoonfuls of pastry cream, downed little disposable metal cups of crème brûlée with crunchy shards of burnt caramel, freshly spun ice cream sucked from the churning machine, and precious pots de crème lapped up with broken bits of cookie chunks. There is nothing more satisfying than a custard. My go to dessert is usually a pint of ice cream, but my heart will always belong to a perfectly baked custard.

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Present Christmas

When I was 6 years old, my grandparents got divorced. My grandma moved away and cut off communication with my dad (her son) and in turn, the grandkids. Four years later, my grandpa started dating a woman named, Marilyn. A widower and French teacher, originally from Vermont, she brought peanut butter popcorn, scavenger hunts and a vivacious laugh to our lives.

For the past 20 years, my siblings and I have had a grandpa and a Marilyn. While Christmas presents don’t matter as much the older you get, I always find myself waiting eagerly for the box that Marilyn sends. What’s inside the wrapping paper and boxes are not mere objects, but a representation that she cares about us, thinks about us, and knows who we are.

A few years ago at Thanksgiving, I briefly mentioned that I was interested in learning how to make Springerle cookies, because my great-grandfather used to make them every year. Come Christmas, a package arrived, and Marilyn had found me a Springerle rolling pin.

Last night, a package arrived on the doorstep. I opened the box from Marilyn to find a stunning vintage metal cake stand she found in an antique shop. It’s not about the perfect present, but the fact that someone knows you well enough to see something and think of you.

If you don’t have a grandma, I highly suggested getting yourself a Marilyn.

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Wine Notes

There is chaos in my wine fridge. I am susceptible to wine shops and in turn, new bottles that I feel I must taste. Add on top of that the few wine clubs I belong to plus holiday gifts, and the problem then arises in a jumble of bottles. Where did I get this one? How long did the wine shopkeeper or winemaker tell me to store before drinking? Was I saving this one or that one, for a special occasion?

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Thus, my fabulous new method of keeping notes on my bottles. A $5 box of shipping tags. They are perfect for attaching notes to your bottles, like where you got the wine, when you got it, how long to hold it, and if you want to make sure no one touches a particular bottle. Then once you drink a bottle, jot a note on the other side of the tag, to be entered later into your wine app or wine notes.

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The tags I use are Avery Shipping Tags (11004) with reinforced hole, 2 ¾” x 1 3/8” and there are 100 tags in a box. May your wine fridge be as organized as mine is now.

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Christmas Cookie Exchange

I feel like Christmas cookies fall into the category of spaghetti sauce or stuffing at Thanksgiving…your mom (or grandma) makes the best, no contest. We all grew up eating specific cookies, that if they weren’t there, it just wouldn’t be Christmas. I love those cookies and the stories that go with them. One of the best Christmas presents I ever received were a batch of cookies and the recipe from my friend Jenn. When I saw the Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange, I knew I wanted to be apart of the cookie love, share some recipes and stories.

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The last couple years, my mom and I have been tweaking old recipes (my one grandma only ever used Crisco in cookies…YUCK!) and adding some new favorites to our cookie plate. My latest addition are these cookies, that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. A combination of two of my favorite flavors, pistachio and marmalade. The cookie is a buttery shortbread-esque cookie, cut like a linzer cookie and filled with a sweet, yet slightly bitter, clementine marmalade.

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Pistachio Shortbread with Clementine Marmalade

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

    Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

1 # Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
1 1/4 cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 tsp. Almond Extract
2 each Eggs
3 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups Pistachios, Ground
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Fine Sea Salt

    Clementine Marmalade

20 each Clementines
1 each Lemon
6 cups Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water

Directions:

    Pistachio Shortbread Cookies

With a food processor, pulse pistachios until they are finely ground, but still have some small chunks. Add them to a bowl with flour, baking powder and sea salt. Whisk all the dry together, so that they are combined.

In your mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Slightly beat the two eggs and add the almond extract to them. Add them to your butter and sugar mixture, till fully combined.

On a low speed, add flour mixture slowly until fully combined. Place in 4 small plastic ziplock bags and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Once the dough is chilled, roll out on a lightly floured surface, to a little under 1/4" thick. Using your cutters, cut tops and bottoms, and if you want to do the linzer look, cut a smaller window in one of the halves of the cookies. I roll the dough one time, straight from the fridge, and then collect the scraps, chill them and then re-roll them once more. Anything after that can either be baked and eaten as scraps or thrown out. Re-rolling dough multiple times builds the gluten and make your cookies tough, so try to only do it once and then enjoy some delicious cookie scraps.

Chill each tray of cut cookies in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and then bake for 4 more minutes (Please, keep an eye on the first pan that you bake. Every oven is very different and baking times will vary. You want to bake till they are just getting a little brown on the bottom.)

Cool your cookies on racks. Assemble with clementine (or any marmalade of your choice). I use 2 teaspoons of marmalade to fill each cookie. Store in an airtight container for up to a week (mine don't last very long, so I honestly don't know if they will last longer than a week ;o) ).

    Clementine Marmalade

Halve and then thinly slice clementines and lemon. Place in a large pot with sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and allow sugar to fully dissolve. Remove from heat and cool. Place in a covered container and leave at room temperature for 8 hours (or over night).

The next day, place the mixture in a large pot and bring back up to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about an hour, stirring constantly. Most jam or marmalade recipes call for you to bring it to 220 degrees. You can most definitely use this method, but I use a different test to know if my jam/marmalade is done. Place a couple plates in the freezer at the beginning of the process. When the marmalade has thickened, the fruit has turned translucent, and you feel it is done, take a spoonful and place it on the plate in the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for 1 minute. Take the plate out and look at the marmalade. It should not run down the plate if you tilt it. You should be able to run your finger through it and have it stay (similar to a la nappe when making creme anglaise). Typically it will also form a little skin on top and wrinkle when you run your finger through it. This is when it is done.

Allow the marmalade to cool slightly and then in batches, pulse it in your food processor. I do this, so that when biting into the cookie, you get a little bit of the gooey marmalade and a little bit of the peel. I hate to bite into the cookie and have a huge strand of peel slop out.

At this point, you are able to can the marmalade (please follow canning procedures of boiling the sealed jars - if you need more information on this, please let me know) or if you are using it all for cookies, place the marmalade in a coverable container and allow to cool. Store in the fridge once it has cooled. (I also like to place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top to prevent a skin from forming on the top, before I put the container lid on.) When you are ready to fill your cookies, take marmalade out about 20 minutes before to take the chill off and make it easier to spread.

 

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Through this process, I’ve had three boxes of delicious cookies and some amazing notes reach my doorstep or inbox. Kristina from Atlanta, GA, sent soft cake-like sour cream cookies. Missy from Portland, OR, sent me some Oregon Hazelnut Thumbprints filled with Raspberry Jam. Kate from Menifee, CA, sent sugar cookies in memory of her mother and their first Christmas without her.

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Enjoy these cookies, and please have a safe holiday!

Cinnamon Bourbon Pecans

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Sweater weather is here. Even in Arizona, we get enough of a chill to break out sweaters and scarves, clutch hot coffee closely and snuggle deeper into our beds. I love this time of year and all the tasty goodies it brings with it.

After spending Thanksgiving stuffing myself with food, wine and pastries galore, I need something sweet to accompany my morning coffee that won’t slather more holiday pounds onto my lovely hips. Enter cinnamon pecans.

Commonly seen in little paper cones that you eat at the hockey games. The warmth and sweetness from the cinnamon and a little nip of bourbon are the perfect compliment to a cup of coffee, or a Guinness, if you are in a cold arena. These are great to bag-up and give to loved ones for the holidays or as a host/hostess gift. If you have a fireplace, please enjoy these in front of a crackling fire for me.

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Cinnamon Bourbon Pecans

Rachel Ellrich Miller

Ingredients:

3 ea. Egg Whites
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 tsp. Bourbon or Whiskey
1 tsp. Water
1 # Pecan Halves, Raw
1 cup Granulated Sugar
4 tsp. Cinnamon, Ground
1 tsp. Fine Sea Salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. In one bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, cinnamon and fine sea salt. In another bowl, with another whisk, whisk egg whites, vanilla extract, water, and bourbon or whiskey until frothy. Add the 1 # of pecan halves to the egg white mixture, and coat all the pecans throughly. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the coated pecan halves, tapping out excess liquid, and adding them a spoonful at a time to the sugar mixture. You can coat all the pecans at one time, but to keep excess liquid out of the sugar mixture, scooping with a slotted spoon works best. Once they have been added to the sugar mixture, stir and coat them all.

Place the coated pecans onto a greased sheet pan. Bake the pecans for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Stir the pecans every 10-15 minutes (about 4-5 times during the baking). Once your pecans are done baking, allow them to cool for about 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a clean, cool sheet pan to continue cooling throughly. Wash your sheet pan immediately, as it will be coated with baked sugar, so best to clean while still warm. Store in a sealed container.

Macallan Scotch Dinner, Talavera, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is hidden in the desert landscape of north Scottsdale, creating a quiet retreat. On a rainy, cool night, we (My fabulous friends Rhonni Boss Moffitt and Christina & Ernesto Barrueta) sat down, tucked into their softly lit, warm dining room. Each table has so much space around it, you feel like you’re eating in a private dining room.

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A hot skillet of house-made rolls appeared, beginning our torrent of food and scotch about to pour-forth from the kitchen. In a haze of crumbs, nods of approval at each other and the vanishing rolls, Jason, master of cocktails, came to our table to give us an in-depth tutorial on each cocktail.

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Of the four scotch drinks, my favorite was the first, a Macallan 12 year, one cube, fig and lavender. Not too sweet and not too burning alcohol. Refreshing with homemade fig and lavender syrups, I could have sat there and sipped a few for happy hour. Unfortunately, we were starving, so bring on the food.

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Our first cocktail was paired with stuffed quail, black mission figs, blue cheese, salsify and local greens with cranberry-vanilla vinaigrette. Crisp skin, tender quail, rich blue cheese, fresh greenery with a light, zingy vinaigrette.

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Next course, a cocktail with Macallan 15 year fine oak, Up, Orange bitters, Cynar. Jason told us that he added some vinegar to this drink to help cut the richness of the next dish. This was my favorite dish of the night, called “Cheek to Cheek.” Braised veal cheek ravioli, halibut cheek, brussel sprouts, bacon, and porcini broth. The veal check meat was so tender and flavorful. Pasta skillfully made and perfectly cooked. Halibut cheek light and flaky. Finished off with a vivid porcini broth, a sprinkle of julienned brussel sprouts and bacon, it is, in my opinion, the season of fall in a dish. Solo, the cocktail was quite bitter and acidic, but paired with the dish, it balanced beautifully.

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The third scotch was a Macallan 18 year with an ice ball, which was visually much more interesting than on the rocks with plain ice. After tasting this, I would love to be able to sit down with someone like John, from Macallan, and sip each scotch on it’s own, to taste the differences and learn how each is made, in order to understand the flavors.

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This scotch was paired with lobster and wild boar sausage “paella.” I could not believe how much seafood was in this dish. Lobster, mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp and then the wild boar sausage (my new love), a top a generous serving of saffron spiked risotto and splashed with lobster stock. I want to swim in the lobster stock. It’s rich and heavenly, and I’m willing to bet money it has some magical healing properties. At this point, I slipped into a mild food coma or it could have been my pants becoming increasingly tighter and cutting off my circulation. Either way, I was happy.

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Once the “paella” was placed before me, I pretty much forgot about the scotch that went with it, so I can’t say if it paired well or not. I drank my Macallan 18 year with my dessert course, as I preferred it to the final cocktail.

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Our final course, was pear bread butter pudding with Macallan scotch raisin ice cream, maple pecans and scotch caramel. The bread pudding was light and cream, a perfect bread pudding in my book. The best part of the dessert was the Macallan scotch raisin ice cream. Unique and well executed. The maple pecans were good and the caramel was good, but I have to say, the caramel wasn’t boozy enough for me. If it had been a little stronger with the scotch flavor, it would have knocked the whole thing out of the park. The final cocktail was Macallan 10 year fine oak with chipotle, maple, and nux. This wasn’t my favorite cocktail. It was definitely interesting, with a little heat, which paired well with the sweetness of the dessert, but it was heavy and being so full, it wasn’t what I wanted to sip on at the end of the meal.

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In lieu of mints, some mint mousse cover chocolate pops ended the night of scotch indulgence.

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Chef Mel came to speak with each table that ordered the Macallan menu that night, which for an executive chef in a busy kitchen, was an exceptional treat. He spoke with us about what he wanted with the menu and how much he enjoyed working with Jason, cocktail maestro.

We rolled our plumped bods to the car and drove home in the beautiful desert rain. I truly believe that it’s the small details that set a restaurant apart and I was impressed with every aspect of Talavera and their staff.

 

Talavera, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

10600 East Crescent Moon Drive

Scottsdale, Arizona 85262

(480)515-5700

 

*Please note: I pay for my own meals, unless otherwise noted. I do not write pieces about restaurants for free meals. The views are my own.

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