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Hidden away in the back of the Gaslight Square Plaza at 36th Street and Indian School, chef Cullen Campbell’s contemporary, upscale home of inventive raw seafood, handmade pasta dishes, signature mozzarellas, and wood-grilled fare satisfies on several levels. Featuring a warm and inviting space with intimate bay-window nooks and a main dining area swathed in olive green with wood furniture and tiny flickering candles, diners can expect stellar cocktails and exceptional service along with exquisite, multi-course meals. Look for standout seafood and cooked dishes like Campbell’s signature squid ink risotto and housemade gnocchi.
When it comes to one-of-a-kind culinary adventures, venerable East Phoenix restaurants Crudo and Noca serve them up regularly. But at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, the two are teaming up to bring 32 luck... More »
For over 20 years, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival and the Scottsdale League for the Arts have been presenting the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame awards, where the best chefs, restaurateurs, and bever... More »
2013 has already seen the birth of one new food and beverage industry awards. This time, it's the Arizona Restaurant Association's turn to give props to "industry players embody the pursuit -- the ach... More »
He may be cooking at the James Beard Award House in April, but Cullen Campbell, chef-owner of Crudo, his modern Italian restaurant in East Phoenix, still likes to party -- pizza party, that is. See a... More »
From making its home on the patio and in-house café at a hair salon in Scottsdale to opening up in a remodeled space this April in Central Phoenix, chef Cullen Campbell's restaurant has stepped it up proper in the real estate department. Now, Campbell's menu of inventive raw seafood dishes, handmade pasta dishes, signature mozzarellas, and wood-grilled items can be enjoyed in a warm and intimate setting with flickering candles and bay-window nooks. And (bonus) diners in the new space... More »
There's a first time for everything -- even fine dining in a hair salon. Seriously, the Steven Paul Salon in Old Town Scottsdale is the unlikely venue for the creative efforts of chefs Brandon Crouser and Cullen Campbell, but we're not complaining. In fact, we think it's a laudable effort. By day, they offer a salad bar and open-face sandwiches to the pampered clients of the beauty mecca. By night, they cook exquisite, multi-course meals for in-the-know folks who appreciate polenta with... More »
Although it’s sad that a number of excellent restaurants have closed because of this dreadful economy, one bright spot is that a number of “homeless” chefs are pairing up to create new concepts. We had a delicious and unexpectedly interesting meal at one of these, Crudo Cafe, in Old Town Scottsdale. The stars are: Cullen Campbell, formerly of Fine’s Cellar (where I had a knock-your-socks-off macaroni and cheese tasting); Brandon Crouser of Atlas Bistro; Tracy Dempsey, pastry chef at Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz; and Lisa Giungo of Lisa G’s. Crudo is in an unexpected location - inside the Steven Paul Salon at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Marshall Way. When I read about it, I’ll admit I found this off-putting. I imagined the smell of nail polish remover, and ladies floating around in plastic capes. In actuality, what you’ll see is an over-the-top room with big black and white tiles on the floor, red walls, huge pieces of antique furniture and chandeliers. It made me giggle. Part of the room is taken up with a boutique selling very Scottsdale clothing and jewelry. It’s fun to look around between courses. The salon is invisibly tucked away, and at dinner, when we were there, there was no chemical odor. There is a lovely patio, a contender with La Maison’s for nicest patio award. It’s canopied with trees, hung with little lights, and there are white tablecloths, always a good sign. Our server, Dina Marie Ribaudo, has written about her restaurant adventures in various countries,and was satisfyingly knowledgeable about the food being served. Her sassy New York attitude brought back lots of entertaining memories. What Dina Marie had trouble getting across to us was the way the menu is divided up. There is a section called Crudo, which means “raw” in Italian. There were many fish dishes in this section including Tuna with oranges, basil and olives ($14) and Spanish White Anchovy with roasted baby bells and housemade pickles ($12). I believe everything in the Crudo section is served cold, if not raw. The second section is Piatti, meaning “dishes”. These all seemed to be cooked items, meant to be served warm. Offerings included Rolled Veal Breast ($16), and Gnocchi with a prosciutto broth and local herbs ($12). Everything in these two sections can be ordered a la carte, or in Corso (courses): 3 for $30, 4 for $ 40, or 5 for $50. It wasn’t clear whether one of the courses could be dessert. Portion size was also confusing. I was given the impression that the corso servings were somewhat smaller than the a la carte portions, which are about 2/3 the size of entree portions you would find in most restaurants. Given the quality of ingredients and their richness, this isn’t a bad thing, and by and large the prices are reasonable. Deciding to order a la carte, we started with a Local Farm cheese plate ($12). For me, this was the only disappointment of the evening. The two cheeses, while pleasant, too closely resembled each other in taste, and they were not at all challenging. These and other ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, and olive gastrique (more about this later) were scattered on a large round of flatbread. That meant that the toppings had to be removed in order to pull off a piece of the bread. Very inconvenient. One of the specials was deep fried sweetbreads with a mustard sauce ($6). Dina Marie told us that the chefs had put them on the menu so parents could trick their kids into thinking they were chicken nuggets. I don’t know that they’d fool anybody, but they were delicious, perfectly cooked and complemented by the robust sauce. There were three large nuggets on the plate, and we thought this was an outstanding value. For our main course, friends Ernest and Anna both ordered the Rolled Veal Breast served with polenta and some baby vegetables. Ken was about to order that too, when Dina Marie mentioned foie gras. It turns out that the Fegato Grasso dish on the menu is Italian for foie gras, and it was served over polenta. An easy decision for Ken. I went with the Mushrooms Au Gratin ($17) - Oregon mushrooms, truffle, fingerlings, mozzarella, and grana padano cheese. My plate arrived with a fried egg atop the other ingredients. It went very nicely with everything, but some people might have considered it an unpleasant surprise. The taste of truffles was very muted - it may have been provided by a drop of truffle oil. But all in all, I enjoyed my dish. Ken’s Fegato Grasso was ravishingly good, though a tiny serving. The textures, temperatures and flavors played off each other to perfection. There were baby fiddlehead ferns served with it, certainly not local, but a real treat, something I haven’t had in years. The veal breast was meltingly rich, especially paired with the polenta. We were all very happy with our choices. Our dessert selections were olive oil cake with a side of homemade peach ice cream, and chocolate pot de creme with a caramel topping. Interestingly, these servings were quite large. Also delicious. The pot de creme was more like fudge, although the longer it spent away from the refrigerator the creamier it became. There was a dark chocolate cookie/biscotti served with it which would have been superb on it’s own with a cup of coffee (by the way, we all enjoyed our various coffees - iced, espresso, and regular). The olive oil cake, a dessert now as ubiquitous as chocolate lava cake, was the best of its kind, neither too oily or too dry. It was served with a delectable fruit syrup with pieces of candied peel in it. We were so full we actually left some dessert uneaten. Surely I will be punished for this. Our bill came to $122 (we had no wine or alcoholic beverages). If we had done the 3 course meal it would have been almost the same price, but our coffees would have brought the total higher. Given the skill of the chefs and our server, I was okay with that amount. As you know, its a lot more than we usually spend, but I’m grateful to Anna for suggesting that we dine at Crudo. I almost forgot to tell you about the olive gastrique. A gastrique is a sweet and sour reduction of some type of vinegar and sugar, usually made with a fruit flavoring it. It is frequently served as a sauce with meat or poultry, sometimes used in cocktails, and in our case, as an item on the cheese plate. Making it with olives was pure genius. It changed their texture to something like a candied cherry, but the flavor was unique. The chef happily shared his technique with me. I am grateful.
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