A fellow writer-friend of mine, whose thoughtful opinions and penchant for well-meaning teasing I respect and enjoy, recently shared a post on his Facebook page about the steadily increasing overuse and/or abuse of the "farm to table" movement and language in restaurants. He cited a well-written piece by Corby Krumer in Vanity Fair. I read the piece and I admit I agree with Corby's suggestion that while the movement itself is a good thing, talking about it incessantly to your diners really isn't necessary and folks are growing weary, rather than inspired by it all. It makes sense that food in season that is uber-fresh from local harvesting is going to taste better and only enhance an already talented chef's ability to put buns in chairs - but you needn't brow-beat restaurant goers with reams of written material squeezed in and around menu items.
So I was quite careful in choosing this blog post title to leave out any mention of farm-to-table ... even though that's exactly what Brix in Flagstaff, Arizona, is doing. As a food writer and lover of good food, promoting small farmers and eating what's in season are things that are important to me, and when I asked questions about Brix's ingredient sourcing, my server was happy to provide me with a bushel-full of information. He offered because I asked - but the rest of the crowd that evening enjoyed their dinner with few interruptions. When the specials were recited and the dishes were served, diners were not informed where every ingredient on their plate came from.
I'm here to share my thoughts on the dishes I ordered and enjoyed, but if you are interested in a few of Brix's behind-the-scenes tidbits, you might like to know the following things:
- The restaurant is 90% organic which is no small feat. It costs more money for farms to fly the "organic" flag but the prices at Brix, refreshingly, were extremely reasonable.
- They are members of the Slow Food Movement which you can read about here. The focus is on preserving traditional and regional cuisine and encourages the farming of plants.
- Their beef is hormone free and comes from various farms across Arizona. They only procure sustainable, line-caught fish.
- They are currently looking into purchasing their own land for farming and ranching - something a lot of restaurants are moving toward, and as I have a sister who farms, something I champion.
Alright! So now that we have the FARM-TO-TABLE shizzle out of the way, let's talk about what I had for dinner, shall we?
Glancing over the cocktail menu, the Space Kitten looked like an awesome place to start. Prosecco, vodka, Campari and elderflower liqueur? Yes, please.
Yes, the cocktails are "house-crafted" and use a wide variety of "local" ingredients. Yes, the extensive wine-list was comprised of a lot of "local" wines. I'm going on record as being TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT.
I'd been looking forward to visiting Brix for some time - they're not super new, they've been around since 2006 - but they're only open for dinner, and I'm rarely in Flagstaff overnight. When I needed to be in Phoenix early Tuesday morning a few weeks ago, I decided I'd stop at the halfway point in Flagstaff and spend Sunday night enjoying Brix.
I'd tried not to scarf down the entire bowl of noodles I enjoyed four hours earlier at SoSoBa, but even though that was a success, a tummy can only hold so much. The warm bread and butter with sea-salt they sat in front me wasn't helping, either, but who can turn that down ever? Yeah, well not me, sister.
Rather than fill up on one large plate, I opted for three "small plates" so I could enjoy a variety; a perfumey cauliflower dish served in the CUTEST little cast iron skillet, a bright brussels sprouts dish that looked unassuming and turned out to be a flavor bomb, and fried Washington oysters. Here's a bit more about each:
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts - lemon-roasted garlic vinaigrette, Brix bacon, apple, grilled red onion, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Intensely flavorful and fresh, don't let the small size fool you - it packs a mighty big punch.
Cauliflower - caramelized cauliflower, heirloom tomatoes, golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, crème fraîche, panko. Everything about this dish was just so "right" - every ingredient worked independently as well as a cohesive unit. This was probably the standout for me that evening. I'd do it again and on a much larger scale.
Cornmeal-Fried Washington Oysters - candied Brix bacon, pickled okra collard greens, spicy aioli, preserved lemon. The oysters were plumb, juicy and provided the right amount of crunch, but it was the pickled oysters that added the perfect pop of acid to a super-rich dish.
Don't miss this spot. They're doing good things and sharing good food. Don't take my word for it - just pop in and ask them. They'll tell you all about it.