By Alison Bailin Batz
Be them savory, spicy or sweet, nothing quite adds to the flavor and visual appeal of a dish like a great sauce. And with the season of all things decadent and delicious upon us, there’s no better time than now to give in to your sauce-loving side.
Pig & Pickle
Inspired by a recipe from his Louisiana-born sous chef, chef Keenan Bosworth created this dish as a special but it proved to be so popular that it has become a permanent fixture. It’s comprised of buttery grits topped with shrimp and housemade andouille, all swimming in a rich Creole sauce. The sauce starts with celery, onion and green pepper before being slowly simmered with organic California tomatoes, shrimp stock, fresh garlic, and cayenne pepper, which evokes traditional Cajun flavors. $23. www.pigandpickle.com.
Aside from the signature hummus, this is Pita Jungle’s most popular starter – at all of its locations. Why? The sauce! It’s a twist on traditional tahini, which is made from sesame seeds, that features both cilantro and garlic. When combined with caramelized cauliflower and topped with pine nuts and caramelized onions, this rich, buttery sauce is equal parts earthy and rich. $13. www.pitajungle.com.
Voila French Bistro
This classic French dish and sauce hit multiple points on the flavor compass – sweet, salty, fatty and spiced. Red wine vinegar and fresh-squeezed orange juice are the base. Sugar is caramelized in the vinegar and orange juice, and then the sauce is reduced. Orange zest, salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves provide spicy notes. Finally, beef broth and butter are added to create a smooth finish. The sauce is spooned over the top of a roasted duck leg. $26. www.voilafrenchbistro.com.
Nearly 950,000 of Texas Grill’s legendary chicken fried steaks have been sold to date, and this bad boy is covered in an American sauce classic: rich, thick gravy. Chef and owner Steve Freidkin makes it daily using drippings, peppered cream and a top-secret selection of his favorite Southern-inspired herbs and spices. The gravy is heaped on top of two fork-tender pieces of beef, which have been double-battered and fried. No doubt this is comfort food at its best. $16.95. www.texazgrill.com.
The Sicilian Butcher
A combination of ground veal, prime beef, pork, pine nuts, raisins, pecorino, garlic, and fresh herbs make these meatballs. And while The Sicilian Butcher allows guests to choose from nine sauces – ranging from marinara to Parmesan cream to arrabiata – as well as several pasta pairings, try them with the truffle mushroom sauce and stuffed gnocchi. The wild mushrooms, heavy cream and generous use of truffles in the sauce make it one of the most luscious options bursting with decadent flavor. $16. www.thesicilianbutcher.com.
As a build-your-own concept, Gadzooks specializes in enchiladas drenched in rich, Mexican-inspired sauces. Try the braised bison version wrapped in 50/50 tortillas (half corn, half flour) and then top it with both green and red sauces, known as Christmas style, before adding shredded cheese and your choice of toppings. The combination of flavors in the two sauces – tomatillos, garlic, onions, herbs and more – will dance in your mouth, and if you’re feeling adventurous, top it with the habanero lava salsa for an added kick. $8.95. www.gadzooksaz.com.
You’ve certainly enjoyed cheese fries, and maybe even poutine, but until you’ve been to EVO, you’ve never had anything like this. This shareable starter (or main dish just for you – we won’t judge!) features fries made in-house daily that have been smothered in EVO’s rich Bolognese sauce, a tomato-based delight with veal, pork, beef, ragu and a host of herbs. It is then topped with mozzarella and basil before being baked until the cheese melts into ooey-gooey goodness. $8. www.evoscottsdale.com.
This polenta is cooked slowly for three hours and boasts a creamy, luxurious texture. But, famed chef Scott Conant – who developed the recipe – is just getting started. He then roasts mushrooms with garlic and thyme and combines them with a flavorful reduction of chicken jus and black truffles before adding it to the polenta and topping the dish with pieces of crispy smoked bacon. $16. www.moraitalian.com.
Artizen at The Camby
Artizen tops its fluffy French toast with a bit of powdered sugar, marinated berries, a dollop of whipped cream, and, last but not least, a pour of homemade caramel that’s infused with Cave Creek Bourbon. This special substitute for maple syrup has all the sweetness of the more traditional French toast topper but with the rich, satisfying flavors of bourbon and caramel. $12. www.artizenaz.com.
This dish does more than just look green – it makes anyone at the table who didn’t order it green with envy when it arrives. Daily fresh-made gigli pasta acts as the base (and can be substituted for gluten-free pasta upon request for $2.50 more), and all-white meat chicken serves as the protein. But the clear star of the plate is the stark green pesto sauce made with pine nuts, garlic, basil, Italian cheeses and olive oil. The distinctly salty, savory flavor of the pesto is amped up with an added portion of pine nuts as well as crispy capers that top off the dish. $17. www.northitaliarestaurant.com.