Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We Take a Few Days Respite

It has been a couple of very busy weeks with our trips to Canyon de Chelly, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, and Antelope Canyon. So before heading down to Phoenix, we decided to stop a few days at Camp Verde, AZ, which is about twenty miles from Cottonwood. We’ll be resting, doing laundry, and stopping at a couple of the local restaurants, one of which—the Red Rooster Café—is located in what
is called Old Town Cottonwood, where “shops, galleries and restaurants line Main Street and provide the backdrop for this quaint and colorful historic district….

“Cottonwood is surrounded by jagged mountains on the south and west and to the north and east by mesas and buttes. Named for the beautiful cottonwood trees that grow along the Verde River, the town grew from a small farming community to the Verde Valley’s population center and was called ‘the biggest little town in Arizona’ by the late 1920s. At that time Old Town businesses supported residents and workers of the many mines that operated in nearby communities” (sedonaverdevalley.org).

“Shane Smith and Jet Tennant are currently co-owners of the Old Town Red Rooster
Café…. After working together many years, being good friends and sharing similar culinary interests, Shane and Jet decided to open a place in the revitalized and thriving historic district of Old Town Cottonwood. With Historic Route 89A going through the center of town and several owner-operated businesses popping up on Main Street, a dynamic charm has been created, and the Old Town Red Rooster Café fits right in.

“.…Shane and Jet are passionate about creating comfort food with fresh ingredients. Supporting local, small family companies and organic products is the backbone of the Rooster philosophy, and our customers have responded. The Rooster has been recognized in Verde Independent's KUDOS section with a ‘Readers Choice Award’ for Best Organic Restaurant and in October 2011, Phoenix Magazine listed them as one of the ‘Top Ten New Restaurants in the State’” (oldtownredroostercafe.com).

The Red Rooster is the kind of restaurant that we love to find with a rather short but intriguing menu, focusing on local ingredients,
a charming and homey ambience, and owners who are passionate about their work. The café is small with indoor seating for thirty-six and a side patio, which, given that temperatures were hovering around 95°, was empty of diners. Scattered around the dining room were rooster artifacts along with products from local companies.

At least two homemade soups are on each day’s menu, and that day our choices were the Potato Beef Poblano and Cream of Mushroom. Guess which I ordered.

This was great mushroom soup with a strong woodsy flavor and filled with bits of finely chopped mushrooms, plus a generous scattering of larger mushroom
chunks. And there was a bit of heat that I surmised, later confirmed by the woman working the order counter, came from white pepper. In a burst of daring, Chuck tasted a spoonful and exclaimed “Boy, that is really good!” And thus confirmed my long term suspicion that what he objects to about mushrooms is not the taste but the texture.

While we were last in Salt Lake City, I purchased a packed or dried porcini mushroom powder that I use to enhance the flavor of canned or jarred beef gravy. And Chuck loves the taste.

But Chuck’s Potato Beef Poblano was no less delicious. In addition to chunks of potato, it contained small bits of tender beef and finely chopped, but still crunchy, pieces of poblano peppers. Using the Scoville scale (which measures the heat of peppers), bell peppers have zero Scoville Heat units, jalapeno peppers have between 2,500 and 8,000, and poblanos between 1,000 and 2,000. So poblanos have a mild heat, but are not as hot as jalapenos. In other words, the soup had enough heat to be noticeable, but not so much as to be fiery.

The moment I looked at the menu, I knew that I had to order the Ahi Lettuce Wrap listed under the salads heading. My plate contained a good sized portion of diced sushi grade ahi that had been marinated in soy sauce and toasted sesame oil and then tossed with sesame seeds and avocado.
The plate came with four lettuce leaves, a spicy mustard sauce and a wasabi mayo. You spread one or more of the sauces on a lettuce leaf, add a heaping spoonful of the ahi, and then roll it all into a tight and tasty package. This was wonderful.

I fully expected Chuck to order the Red Rooster’s version of the Cuban sandwich (Black Forest ham, turkey, prosciutto, and Gruyére cheese topped with arugula, pickle, and mustard aioli), but he surprised me and chose the meatloaf sandwich made from organic local beef and served with lettuce, sliced tomato, and mustard aioli on whole wheat toast. The meatloaf was cut into a thick slice and was still slightly warm and the flavor hinted of onion and perhaps some bell pepper.

I want to impart a word of wisdom here. When the menu tells you that a sandwich can be ordered as a whole or half, the restaurant is sending a message. Half may be enough for a normal person. Especially after said normal person has consumed a cup of potato soup. So half of this sandwich returned home with us for his dinner that night.

The Red Rooster Café is known for their desserts—especially the six layer chocolate cake. Roger Naylor writing for The Arizona Republic said “Chocoholics need look no further than this spiffy new eatery. The six-layer chocolate cake may be the Holy Grail of those who worship the cocoa bean. It is a time-intensive creation, with dark mousse frosting between each layer and the entire package swaddled in a velvety ganache icing. The rich chocolate flavor satisfies, and the cake is moist and full-bodied but not too sweet….”

So, being full, we deferred our enjoyment and took a slice home to share later that evening and extend our 5.0 Addie experience. (It was so good that Chuck devoured his portion before realizing he had forgotten to take a photo of it.)

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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