Write On Rubee

An Arizona-based food, beverage and travel writer since 2008,  I launched this website in 2015 to document my culinary adventures, beverage escapades, gardening endeavors, and travel in the Phoenix area and beyond.  Also find a comprehensive calendar of Phoenix-area food and drink-related events on my Events page.

Filtering by Tag: cocktails

Earnest in Chandler

Photo Credit: Earnest

Last year, upscale dining spot Cork revamped its décor and menu.  Co-owner Danielle Morris, Executive Pastry Chef and restauranteur, wanted to appeal to a regular clientele, not just a special occasion crowd, and re-opened it as Earnest.   Recently I was invited to try the new menu, and made a reservation for my first visit.  “Comfort food, redefined” is the tagline and the atmosphere befits this description with clean-lined wood furniture, dark colors, a chalkboard wall, and a striking wine case. Warmly welcomed by the affable General Manager, Winston de la Cruz, we are seated at a cozy banquette and table awash with the warm light of the setting sun.  “Would you like to start with bubbly?” asks Scott, our wise waiter.  We’ll soon find out he has many more smart decisions in store as we are treated to the dishes, wine pairings, and cocktails to come. 

Former sous chef Sean Williamson is now the Executive Chef and while he has kept many menu favorites, he has also added his own, such as the excellent country pate.  The effervescence of the sparkling wine cuts through the richness of the creamy chicken liver pate studded with chunks of bacon, making this a perfect beginning to our meal.  Next, spinach salad elevated by the sweetness of apple and the textural crunch of corn nuts is crowned with a crispy soft-boiled egg, its yolk joining with the bacon vinaigrette to create the perfect dressing.  After a palate cleanser of blood orange sorbet, we move on to equally delicious entrees.  Scott pours a Spanish Garnacha as we savor a juicy double-cut pork chop garnished with whole grain mustard and applesauce and served on a bed of sausage and cheddar potatoes, and the Wednesday special, fantastic, perfectly-seasoned fried chicken in a crunchy, craggy crust served with asparagus and tempura avocado. The two sides change weekly, but I’d be happy to have that tempura avocado as a permanent addition.  And how can we refuse dessert? Especially when it’s cinnamon bread pudding with caramel and crème fraiche ice cream strewn with colorful edible petals and  a sophisticated crème brulee take on PB&J with pâté de fruit and honey-roasted peanuts, both paired with a glass of Tokaji.

With Sean manning the bar, cocktails don’t disappoint either.  We sip on well-crafted libations and try the Revival (a tequila cocktail), a rum Manhattan, Last Word (one of my favorite classics), and a decadent Espresso Martini to finish.  A bonus was the opportunity to sit down with Chef Sean, Assistant Pastry Chef Alyssa, and Winston after the meal and learn more about this engaging group of talent.  A friendly team, skillful chef, excellent cocktails, and perfect service.  We’ll be back.  I just wish they were in my neighborhood so I could be a regular.  Especially on Wednesdays.

Summer Specials at Earnest include Throwback Thursday featuring their most popular Cork (and Earnest) dishes.  Also, children 12 and under eat free  with the purchase of one adult entree (per child).  For Kids Menu and Throwback Thursday specials, view online at Earnest/events or call 480-883-3773 to make reservations.  

This was a complimentary media invite.

Lunch at Clever Koi

Although we eat out quite frequently, with the number of great restaurants in the Phoenix area, I have a list of must-visits that gets longer every year.  Clever Koi, which opened in December of 2013, has been on that list for quite a while.  I was a big fan of Chef Jared Porter when he was at The Parlor (and even chose to Spotlight it in AZ Wine Lifestyle) and excited to hear he would be changing gears and cooking up modern Asian.  I had since heard good things about this collaboration with Joseph Absolor and co-owners Joshua James and Nicholas Campisano, so when my friend Angela suggested Clever Koi for an overdue lunch date, I didn't hesitate.  The lunch features are limited but delicious. There is a Build Your Own noodle bowl or stir-fry  with plenty of vegetable,  noodle, rice, and protein options.   Two fried dumpling choices (creamy goat cheese with sweet ginger-scented beets or the "crispy pig face" filled with tender flavorful pork) and buns (pork belly on a steamed bun or chicken on a kimchi waffle) round out the menu.   What did we order?  Everything of course, and we loved it.  To this casual but creative Asian fare, add Joshua James' excellent craft cocktails and great service from Ralph (who coincidentally I had just met at Nook), and it's a winning combination.  I'm looking forward to a return visit for dinner to do some more dining and drinking exploration.

The Clever Koi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nook Kitchen

When my friend Luke Detraz invited me to a cocktail and menu sampling at a place that has been on my must-visit list, Nook Kitchen in Arcadia, I didn't hesitate to say yes.  I met Luke when we were co-judges at a USBG cocktail competition and since he's a gifted mixologist himself, I knew I was in for a treat.  His collaboration with Nook's talented cocktail master and sommelier Matt Wohleb did not disappoint.  Arriving at Nook, I loved the comfortable, casual feel. The linear space was lined by cozy booths on one side and a bar anchored by a wood-fired pizza oven on the other.  In addition to the excellent craft cocktail menu, Frank Vairo's  (former owner of Amaro Pizzeria) neighborhood restaurant also features an extensive wine list and familiar, yet elevated, Italian fare with Chef Nick LaRosa in the kitchen.  I couldn't wait to dive in.  My eye was drawn right away to the inventive "Peking Duck" cocktail and it was a winner - duck fat-infused Booker's with Canton Ginger, five-spice simple syrup, lemon and lime.  I'm a fan of the subtle richness fat-washing imparts to spirits, and here it was perfectly executed.  Unfamiliar with this technique?  Learn more here. With that first cocktail, we were ushered into a delightful afternoon of imbibing including the "Seasonal Sidecar" (cognac, Yellow Chartreuse, carrot simple syrup, and lemon), "Thai Fighter" (Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Rum, coconut simple syrup, Fever-Tree ginger beer, and lime) and "Messicano" (tequila, mezcal, Fernet Branca, espresso, orange).  

To accompany the wonderful cocktails, we took the advice of our knowledgeable waiter Ralph and ordered crispy arancini filled with house-pulled mozzarella and served with pomodoro and balsamic reduction,  Porco e Funghi pizza (mozzarella, parmesan, sausage, and mushrooms) with Ralph's suggestion of spicy soppressata, and juicy Chicken Marsala embellished with sherry mushrooms and Grand Marnier.   My friends Kirti and Kristy were also invitees, and at Kirti's instigation I *had* to add the poutine with fries, mozzarella curd, and gravy with the indulgent options of braised short rib and a fried egg.   We thought we were full until Ralph insisted on bringing one of his favorites for dessert - Tracy Dempsey's affogato with chocolate budino, lemon ice cream, chocolate crumble, and espresso.  As we sat at the table chatting with affable owner Frank, he finished off a perfect experience by introducing us to two elusive and new-to-me amari from Matt's hand-picked selections: Guillaumette Genepi and Nardini Bassano Tagliatella.  After such a nice first impression, what would I recommend?  All of it.  Get down to Nook and see for yourself.  

This was a complimentary media invite.

Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse

Monday night I was back at Bootleggers for my third visit.  It was also my third time as a guest on Arizona Cocktail Hour.  We recorded in the private room at Bootleggers on Shea  and they certainly spoiled us with some complimentary dishes during the show.  Between the four of us,  we feasted on the signature must-order bacon board with 5 different types of house-cured bacon, spicy jam, mustard, pickles and cheesy bread; perfectly cooked wood-grilled salmon with cauliflower puree and warm tortillas; tender hickory-smoked brisket and coleslaw; creamy 4-cheese mac 'n cheese;  grilled asparagus with parmesan and lemon zest; and the juicy Bootlegger Burger stacked with Muenster cheese, whiskey onions, crimini mushrooms and slab bacon on a pretzel bun.  I have to say, when we smelled that bacon board as it was set down, it took a lot of willpower to wait until an ad break before diving in.  There may have also been some moonshine involved.  After the show,  I joined my husband at the bar for crispy shrimp and grits, and a cocktail (or two).  My favorite was the Phoenician made with with rye,  Amaro Montenegro, Cocchi di Torino, AZ Bitters Lab mole bitters, and a garnish of smoked Luxardo  cherry.  Great service from bartender Paul rounded out another fun visit to a favorite spot.