By Alison Bailin Batz
During the holidays, it seems as though the world stops counting carbs and calories. Whether you fall into that camp or just plan to splurge here and there, we’ve found 22 dishes to make it worth your while. Go ahead and dig into gourmet bliss – after all, ’tis the season to indulge.
You’ve died … and gone to carb heaven with this one! The oversized dish, with an equally oversized helping of delicious, features thick, fluffy ricotta and cinnamon pancakes piled high then layered with creamy, sweetened ricotta and chocolate chip cream. They’re garnished with crumbles of cannoli, powdered sugar, and a maraschino cherry compote. $11. www.hashkitchen.com.
With a shape closely resembling the crest of a rooster (cresti di gallo translates to “rooster crest” in Italian), this exceptional hand-rolled red wine pasta is magnificent on its own, but at Fat Ox, it’s married with handmade duck sausage and mushrooms in the winter months to up the decadence factor tenfold. Dandelion greens and huckleberry serve as delicate garnishing. $16. www.ilovefatox.com.
As Eastern Europe’s answer to cheese fries, this indulgent appetizer consists of crispy rye breadsticks tossed in duck fat aioli and then covered in copious amounts of havarti cheese. The skillet is cooked until the cheese reaches melty perfection. Insider tip: Order more than one of these sensational starters for the table. Trust us. $8.
This sensational winter comfort food starts with a peppery local feta, which is heaped into a cast iron skillet. It is then paired with sweet, tangy peppers and onions; cauliflower; and lemon and then loaded into a 600-degree oven until it’s ooey, gooey
and dancing with punchy flavor. $12.
No holiday is complete without some home cooking. Twin Peaks does Mom proud with this dish, which starts by making melt-in-your-mouth pot roast over the course of several hours. It is topped with a housemade, devilishly delectable brown gravy and accompanied by garlic-infused roasted
potatoes and carrots plus buttery sauteed
green beans. It will make you want to call home to your own mom – and invite her out on the town to taste this dish! $14.79.
Soaked in tres leches custard, cinnamon and cardamom, this breakfast staple gets a flavorful upgrade. Made with torta bread, the interior is soft and spongy while the exterior is a caramelized crust. Topped with toasted coconut, fresh mango, strawberries, honey-cinnamon butter, and spiced maple syrup and served alongside housemade beef and pork sausage patties, this dish is winter brunch bliss on a plate. $9.95. www.tacoguild.com.
Sierra Bonita Grill
Not for the faint of heart, this chicken is marinated in buttermilk, eggs and spices before it’s dipped in flour and an egg wash. The chicken is flash-fried then finished in the oven, which keeps it juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. It’s served with sweet potatoes that have been mashed with heavy cream, Oaxacan chiles, brown sugar, molasses and cinnamon. Finally, it’s topped with black pepper gravy and crowned with fresh asparagus. $16 (small); $26 (regular). www.sierrabonitagrill.com.
Snooze, an A.M. Eatery
We know, we had you at pot pie … at breakfast. This version is picture-perfect after waking from a long winter’s nap (or perhaps after a night of too many eggnogs?). It’s loaded with Snooze’s homemade rosemary sausage gravy, which is smothered over a flaky puff pastry and topped with an egg sunny side up (or however preferred), complete with golden hash browns. $9.50. www.snoozeeatery.com.
Surely mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort carb, especially in the winter. This version screams Southwest at its best with its creamy mix of pepper jack cheese, heavy cream, onions and red peppers, which are all melted into the pasta with an extra-special ingredient – a poblano pepper puree. $8. www.roaringfork.com.
The Market by Jennifer’s Restaurant + Bar
With the 3 Meat, chef and owner Jennifer Russo has created a deconstructed version of an old family recipe, which was originally made with cheaper cuts of meat and considered peasant food in her family’s native home of Italy. Today, Russo makes this seasonal dish using beef tenderloin, confit organic chicken, and locally sourced sausage. It is paired with whipped Yukon gold potatoes, buttered baby vegetables, and topped with a roasted garlic red wine demi-glace. $29.50. www.marketbyjennifer.com.
Hula’s Modern Tiki
Warning: Think twice about ordering this dish unless you have the wherewithal to devour it with more than just your eyes! This over-the-top, Polynesian-inspired burger is loaded with a mountain of rice, enveloped with succulent brown mushroom gravy, and finished with sunny side up eggs. Not only is it a comfort food all the way from Hawaii, but a longtime Hula’s fan favorite. $11. www.hulasmoderntiki.com.
This gooey potato pasta in the style of caccio e pepe – the Roman version of spaghetti with pecorino Romano and black pepper – has the perfect blend of olive oil, butter, black pepper, and, of course, plenty of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Finished with lamb and an Italian pasta sauce, it’s rich with red wine and tomato goodness. $18. www.crudoaz.com.
This made-from-scratch comfort food favorite is served in a skillet that includes local Sonoran Hatch chiles and chunks of fresh-roasted corn. While delicious on its own, Dust Cutter takes it over the top by pairing it with cilantro- and agave-infused butter for spreading and dipping (and practically eating on its own). The butter is so popular, the staff refers to it as “crack butter.” $7. www.renhotelphx.com.
Freshly made to order, this melt-in-your-mouth bread is brushed with a generous portion of white truffle oil and then topped with herbs, housemade ricotta, mozzarella and grana padano, which is a hard, slow-ripened cheese from Italy that tastes a tad richer than its cousin, Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s perfect to share – or keep for yourself. $10. www.northitaliarestaurant.com.
A little sweet, a little spice and oh-so-nice, this version of a crab cake starter features premium jumbo lump crab meat flown in from Maryland and mixed with a secret combination of herbs, spices and bread crumbs. It’s served with a tangy corn relish and a punchy Cajun remoulade for dipping. The zest and richness of the crab cake and remoulade are balanced with a garnish of paprika oil and micro greens. $15.95. www.eddiemerlots.com.
ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho
Bacon lovers, rejoice! This fully-loaded entree features bacon that is cured, smoked, spiced and honey-lacquered. The result is a full-bodied, eye-popping flavor that will dance in your head far longer than those visions of sugarplums. The meat is paired with shishito peppers, a sweet potato hash, a runny egg, red pepper chimichurri, and actual pork rinds. $36. www.hotelvalleyho.com.
Gadzooks Enchiladas & Soup
Perhaps this is where the term “the whole enchilada” hails. Gadzooks’ custom-order menu offers a myriad of choices, but this monster of a meal is a must-try combo. It starts with either flour or corn tortillas, which are piled high with guajillo chile-braised short ribs and then smothered with one or more sauces and creamy cheeses, including salsa, honey-infused slaw and scratch-made crema. Then it’s topped again with goat cheese or a griddled-fried over easy egg, or both! $7.75. www.gadzooksaz.com.
Ultrasoft gnocchi, pancetta and crispy prosciutto are tossed with Parmesan cheese, black pepper, olive oil and butter to create a hearty entree perfect for a cool winter’s night. And the fresh, buttered and seasoned lobster tail served with it doesn’t hurt either. $32. www.evoscottsdale.com.
Christopher’s Crush & Lounge
Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame honoree and local cooking icon Christopher Gross’ signature soup begins by infusing silky duck broth with a sweet port wine reduction. This otherworldly starter is poured tableside over massive chunks of braised portobello mushroom and the piece de resistance: a seared but rare slab of Hudson Valley foie gras. The bowl, which is dusted in mushroom powder, is served with a crusty French baguette and a heaping scoop of butter. $20. www.christophersaz.com.
This “haus-made” artisan creation starts with a boar brat, a dark meat that tastes like a cross between pork and beef with a unique juicy succulence. It is then topped with savory pulled pork. But it doesn’t end there – it’s smothered in bacon barbecue sauce and topped with cheddar cheese with an optional addition of pickled red onions. $14. www.brathausaz.com.
This is not your grandma’s casserole! Four types of cheese are melted with smoked onions steeped in a heavenly cream, rice, and the three popular winter vegetables, which are each cooked three different ways to add layers of flavor. The dish is topped with more cheese and blistered in a wood oven before being garnished with candied pecans. $13. www.southernrailaz.com.
elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain
When award-winning super chef Beau McMillian suggests an indulgent dish, you listen! This winter, his recommendation is this surprising, stupendous (and yes, snail-filled) appetizer, which is made by baking buttery escargot in a pastry along with Bloomsdale spinach, garlic confit, savory maitake mushrooms, and soy caramel. $24. www.sanctuaryaz.com