Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night . . .

Well, it was really noon.

And, well, the weather was quite nice.

But, it was very dark inside the Tavern Grille.

[Chuck has asked that you visualize a very dark crowded room in which a flash would be inappropriate and in which only hand-held time exposures were (barely) possible.] Therefore, you will find a dearth of photos inside this Cottonwood, AZ restaurant.

“The Tavern Grille opened in December of 2005 in the old Rialto Theatre in Old Town Cottonwood. The charred walls of The Tavern Grille building tell a story of Old Town Cottonwood's history of fires and the fire of December 8th, 1998, when this building, which hosted the Old Town Palace Theatre, burned. (The Rialto had been re-built, destroyed a second time by fire, and re-built as the Palace.) Fires were a predominant hazard in Old Town Cottonwood, especially during the early part of the 20th century.

In 2004, Eric and Michelle Jurisin purchased the building and began renovation, placing The Tavern Grille downstairs and their living quarters above.”

The bare concrete and brick walls show evidence of the building’s previous use. Rather than art work, the owners have decorated these walls with twelve plasma TV’s. During our recent lunch, four each were showing ESPN, the Golf Channel, and CNN.

The center of the room was dominated by a large horseshoe bar that also doubled as dining space that noon.

I had earlier done a web search looking for an on-line menu and was immediately intrigued by an appetizer simply named Lavash. Now, lavash, or cracker bread, is a soft, thin flatbread of Armenian origin made with flour, water, and salt and is the most widespread type of bread in Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The lavash was brushed with garlic olive oil and topped with havarti cheese. Then you get to choose four toppings from a list that included artichoke hearts, caramelized onions, baked ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, green chilies, shrimp, bell peppers, olives, bacon, grilled chicken, pineapple, shredded beef, and pico de gallo.

Having never seen what I describe as Armenian bread prepared in the style of an Italian pizza before, we knew we had to try this. And to recall a Southwestern crisp (served on a large flour tortilla), we chose green chilies, shredded beef, caramelized onions, and pico de gallo as the toppings. What arrived at our table was a giant appetizer (yes, they call this an appetizer) piled high with the various toppings and covered with a layer of cheese.

With the lavash, we ordered the Santa Fe Spring Rolls which were rolled tortillas stuffed with smoked chicken, black beans, corn and pepper Jack cheese with cilantro rolled and served with an ancho cilantro ranch dipping sauce. I am usually leery of fusion egg rolls (in fact, I am usually leery of Chinese egg rolls, having been served too many inferior ones), but these worked. The filling was generously seasoned with cumin and the dipping sauce was the perfect compliment.

Judging by the number of diners that noon, the Tavern Grille is a popular lunch spot for Cottonwood and earns a 4.0 Addie rating from us.

We walked past the outside seating area of the Tavern Grille and down the sidewalks of Historic Old Town Cottonwood.

Cottonwood, founded in 1879, and the Verde River Valley had been known for farming and hunting rabbits and quail. So successful were these endeavors that by March of 1917 the town began booming.

Cottonwood had appealed to the more venturesome--those who wanted their own home and business. There was a certain reputation for lawlessness. Some who settled in Cottonwood were run out of the nearby company towns. Heavy bootlegging was rampant.

By the 1920’s, there is not another town in the US that could boast of so many business houses for a population of about 1000. As a result, Cottonwood was called the "Biggest Little Town in Arizona."

Walking down the busy couple of blocks, we were struck by the sign (left): "Foxy Fashions--also Carpet, Vinyl and Remnants". In small town Cottonwood (pop. 6000), it pays merchants to be versatile.

Beneath the orange awnings, is The Orion Bread Co., and wheresoever there is a bread shop, there we are, also.

We were surprised to find as many choices of breads as there were, especially at mid-afternoon.

We left with a couple of loaves and an unsatisfied hunger for dessert. But just down the street . . . .

Crèma Coffee and Creamery is an independent, locally-owned-and-operated cafe with coffee bar and Italian-style creamery that specializes in small-batch artisan gelato and sorbets made right in the store. The short menu includes homemade soups, sandwiches on freshly-baked bread, house greens, and rotating deli selections. Crèma uses local produce to make the gelatos and sorbets; they feature premium teas and coffees, roasted regionally; they use milk and cream from an Arizona dairy; and they make their own pastries and waffle cones.

I can spot the word gelato on a store window from 100 yards and honed in on Crèma Coffee and Creamery like a woman possessed. The gelato selection rotates with the seasons, and that day our gelato choices were salt caramel, Mayan chocolate, blood orange, strawberry, lavender honey, triple chocolate, and vanilla bean. The gelato case also contained two sorbets--prickly pear and champagne rosemary.
Chuck chose a gelato/sorbet combo with the prickly pear sorbet and strawberry gelato. I chose the Mayan chocolate and salt caramel gelatos. All four were delicious but the Mayan chocolate was outright wicked. And when paired with the salt caramel (so named for the small amount of salt added to the mixture), it reminded one of the most decadent chocolate covered caramels ever.

This was truly 5.0 Addie gelato.

1 comment:

SedonaRealEstate said...

I was doing research on info about Cottonwood AZ for my website and my wife's real estate business and ran across your blog. I have looked at a couple of posts and like the way you put your pictures and story together. I am going to keep a link for reference in the future.

Thank you for your insight into the areas you have visited!
Rick Sperry @ sperryr.com and eSedona.biz