I am constantly amazed by the fact that I cannot remember where I placed my coffee mug, yet I can remember the exact details from a meal of ratatouille I had with my parents at Chez Georges in Paris in 1992. I used to say that running after kids has zapped all my memory cells, but now that they are approaching their teens, that excuse doesn’t seem to hold water. As I was standing in my pantry this morning wondering what purpose led me there, I was struck by a flashback from 2010. I was with my friends, Alicia and Betsy, and we were on our way to a Kelly Corrigan book reading in downtown Phoenix. En route, we stopped for dinner at the St. Francis restaurant on Camelback and Central. At this time in my life when the kids were babies and toddlers, I couldn’t bother with stepping outside a 4-square mile radius of my hood in South Scottsdale. So driving downtown was a big night out for me. Ironic, since my first apartment in the Valley was in Glendale, AZ, during graduate school, and we never thought twice about driving 45 minutes to Greasewood Flats in Carefree for some burgers and beer. But I digress…what was the culinary epiphany I experienced at the St. Francis? Roasted Salmon Superfood: roasted salmon on a bed of quinoa and sautéed spinach, with radishes and avocado in a sweet chili vinaigrette. I know you may be thinking that salmon is a bit overdone these days…how could it have had such a profound effect on me? I think it is because salmon is ubiquitous on every menu that to be memorable, it must be outstanding. And it was…the crispiness of the salmon crust gave way to the most delectable and moist fish that melted like butter in your mouth. The sweet chili vinaigrette brought a perfect balance of saltiness, sweetness and spice that blended seamlessly with the quinoa and spinach. It was a meal that stopped me mid breath.
Fast forward (too many) years to present day when my friend Craig DeMarco, entrepreneur/restaurateur and founding partner of Upwards Projects (Postino, Federal Pizza, Churn, Joyride Taco), asked if Hubby and I could host a Young President’s Organization dinner at our house catered by the chef and owner of St. Francis, Aaron Chamberlin. The theme of a Harvest Dinner was complemented by an appearance from Bob McClendon of McClendon Select to tell us about his journey from pharmacist to organic farmer. And if that didn’t already sound like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, there was a “meet and drink” with Master Sommelier Ian Cauble (see my post from last fall, https://www.texaztaste.com/a-chat-with-ian-cauble-master-sommelier/).
It turns out that Aaron, incidentally a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, has known Craig since he started working at La Grande Orange some 12 years ago. Having spent his formative years in the Valley, Aaron left to work in some of the major foodie cities in the US, like San Francisco, including time at Boulevard (how my mother, Frances, loved that place!) and Rubicon, as well as in New York City working alongside Daniel Boulud. Once back to Phoenix, Aaron spent 6 years at La Grande Orange, a time that was instrumental in shaping his vision to open the St. Francis with his brother David. Then in 2013, Aaron opened a second restaurant, Phoenix Public Market Cafe, in downtown Phoenix.
He has plans to expand with the development of The Tempe Public Market Café in Gilbert, with an adjacent Southwestern Cuisine idea to open shortly thereafter. I don’t want to spill too many beans about the new concept (excuse the pun), but the idea would be a simple, family-oriented, crisp, clean look at Southwest Cuisine.
Enjoy these pics from the evening, and have a wonderful weekend!! xoM
111 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 85012
Phoenix Public Market Cafe
14 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 85004