Savor with Chef Nick Rusticus and Arizona Microgreens
Last week, I had the privilege of being invited to the launch of an exciting new concept in pop-up dining. A collaboration between Chef Nick Rusticus of Sonder Provisions (formerly of Second Story Liquor Bar) and Joseph Martinez of Arizona Microgreens, Savor promises guests a unique setting as they are "introduced to a mindfulness practice for bringing one's attention into the present through savoring ingredient-driven cuisine."
Joseph tells us about the inspiration for this innovative endeavor. On a trip to Iceland, he stayed in a small village of 700 in a home across the street from a fine dining restaurant. After spending time with the chefs, including accompanying the sushi chef on a visit to local greenhouses, it was time to experience the cuisine. "I walked into the restaurant with this idea that I'm going to savor this meal as thoroughly as possible," he decided. He came up with a framework of five-second steps. "For each bite, I'll look at it for five seconds, smell it for five seconds, taste it, let my mind wander into what memories may come up or associations, and finally the somatic experience of feeling." He later implemented this process with friends in Berlin, and after recognizing its culinary impact, he contacted Nick. Thus, Savor was born.
Before sharing thoughts with our tablemates, we were encouraged to eat in silence with our rules for the evening - looking, smelling, tasting, remembering, and feeling. I was especially struck with how taking the five seconds for each action fostered a deeper appreciation of each bite of our wonderful meal, and enjoyed listening to our tablemates describe their food memories and personal reactions. As a food journalist who has dined all over the world, it's always a revelation to be be introduced to something completely new, and Savor is such a rare experience. Follow along on our culinary exploration.
Our amuse brought crunchy lemon-roasted pistachios topped by a sticky-sweet date showered with fragrant lemon zest. "Look at it, smell it, taste it - it's very interactive with different textures for each bite," noted Chef Nick. It was the perfect example of how a deceptively simple amuse could be appreciated for its aromatic and textural complexity by savoring each bite.
"This is as least manipulated as possible, sticking true to the flavors of the vegetables." said Chef Nick as he set before us shaved root vegetables seasoned with salt water and lemon juice, garnished with grated horseradish and radish microgreens, and paired with light-as-air horseradish whipped creme fraiche topped with a nasturtium leaf.
Our second course was a bright salad of tomatoes prepared two ways - oven-dried and peeled - on a bed of peppery micro arugula with fava beans and balsamic vinaigrette.
Next was a buttery bread crouton topped with creamy chicken livers sautéed with butter, garlic, and thyme crowned with micro dill and accompanied by creamy 85% butterfat butter and a tangy cornichon to cut the richness. This rich yet homey dish brought up childhood memories for more than one at our table.
Our fourth course were tender artichokes first poached in a court bouillon made with beer and then roasted and plated with fried and brined capers, roasted garlic puree, crispy shallots, crumbled feta, and cucumber-reminiscent borage micro greens. I found this dish especially intriguing to savor. While the crispy shallots reminded me of Vietnamese food as I concentrated on the aroma, both my tablemate Catherine and I commented that the flavors reminded us of a delicious pizza.
Our last savory dish showcased fresh egg pasta made with local Hayden Mills flour tossed with smoky bacon-thyme-butter sauce, sunflower seeds, and bacon fat-poached dried figs, and finished with sunflower micro greens and a dusting of mizithra (a salty, hard Greek cheese made with feta whey).
Our sweet finale at this "contemplative gastromic" event was described by Chef Nick as "very simple, very clean, light flavors" wiith perfect bites of lemongrass-infused ricotta, fresh strawberries, micro basil, and a drizzle of white balsamic and bay leaf-steeped honey.
With Savor, you're guaranteed to embark on a unique journey of savoring and relishing the culinary talents, local bounty, creative dishes, and thoughtfulness found in this one-of-kind tasting menu. The menu changes according to daily farmers market visits and offers six courses with wine at $85 per person. Eight seats are available each Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm from October 11 through March 1, 2017. Dinners are hosted at a private location in Old Town Scottsdale. Follow this link to reserve your experience.