Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: One Nights Dinner & The Obstacles We Encountered Along the Way

Friday, May 1, 2009

One Nights Dinner & The Obstacles We Encountered Along the Way

After a long work week my husband and I were looking forward to spending last Saturday (I know...this is a week late) preparing a romantic dinner for two and enjoying it under the stars in our backyard. For some spending an entire day tracking down that special ingredient and turning it into a feast seems like a chore but to us it’s a chance to reconnect with each other and create. Well it didn’t take us long to find out that Saturday was not going to be the tranquil day we had anticipated. And that even the simplest of ingredients can be hard to come by in Phoenix.

Perusing through some cookbooks we decided to focus our menu around small plates. This would allow us to try several new recipes, most of which were from Scott Conant’s New Italian Cooking cookbook. If you’re not familiar with this book it contains both very involved recipes and some that are quick and easy, giving you a nice mix.

Menu and shopping list created; we set out to gather the few items we needed. We had no issues finding the capers and anchovies needed to make a mayo dip for the fried zucchini.

We were on a roll; or so we thought. Next on our list were the rabbit legs we needed to top the baby greens salad.

Ok, so there is nowhere in the entire city of Phoenix that sells rabbit legs. I can understand that most stores would not carry rabbit legs on a regular basis but the fact that not one butcher was willing to order them for me was kind of disturbing. So we decided to improvise. A quick google search confirmed that chicken legs were a perfect substitute. Chicken legs it would have to be.

The mussels for our green bean and mussel soup were actually easy to find.

This was surprising since my last attempt at purchasing mussels had been a disaster. I’ve since learned that mussels are only delivered to the stores here on certain days of the week and any attempt of purchasing them on an off day is fruitless.

It was midafternoon and we were down to our last ingredient: smoked mozzarella for the gnocchi.

Seems to me like smoked mozzarella should be relatively easy to find. Well it’s not. We made the rounds of all the grocery stores in our area and finally found it at our last stop (of course). But seriously this is a new store that wasn’t there a year ago. So if we had attempted this recipe last year we would’ve been out of luck. Geez Phoenix it’s only smoked mozzarella.

3 hours, 30 miles and 6 stores later we were ready to start cooking. All I could think was boy this better be good.

But we were destined to encounter one more obstacle before the night was over. As it turns out while we were busy tracking down our food items the neighbors were busy preparing their backyard for a Hawaiian Luau. Determined to go forward with our romantic evening we sat down to dinner only to be serenaded by a group of drunk men singing.

Despite all of these obstacles the food was a success. My husband and I both agreed that the mussel soup was simply amazing and so easy to make; the poached chicken legs were a perfect substitute for the rabbit legs; the smoked mozzarella added just the right zip to the fresh tomato sauce covered gnocchi and the anchovy mayo was the perfect accompaniment to the fried zucchini.


  1. I understand your frustration! When I lived in Tucson I had a hard time finding things. But their was every Mexican ingredient imaginable. Your dinner looks really good! Well worth the trouble!

  2. You crack me up! The food looks delicious. You were probably missing Philly where everything could be bought at the 9th st market:)

  3. That gnocchi looks so good! Sorry for your obstacles, but I love the determination between you and your hubby. So cute that you cook together.

  4. All looks awesome! I hear you... Phoenix is a wasteland for good ingredients! My hubby is a hunter... we should share some stuff with you!

  5. I love that fried zukes, delicious!

  6. All your dishes look amazing. Bet they were delicious! :)

  7. Looks amazing...after all that running around I think I would have just called out for pizza!

  8. In Phoenix, I would expect it to be a bit easier, definitely. But sometimes I'm baffled at how far I have to go to find certain items and I live in southern California. So you never know I guess.

    Good for you guys for seeing it through. I probably would have too, just on principle haha. Everything looks marvelous, and I would love to taste every one of those dishes.

  9. I remember when you told me it was tough getting specialty food items in Phx, but I didn't think it was THAT difficult! Mussels?
    Well, it all looks terrific. I had no idea Scott Conant had a book out.
    We love his NYC restaurant Scarpetta, it's my favorite, so will have to check out his book.

  10. Sounds like here. I love rabbit and if I find a person who sells them I will buy them out of them. Heck I have even almost gone to the level of raising my own and then have them butchered to feed the addiction.

    If you did not end up killing each other after those obstacles I would say it was a success.

  11. It's crazy when you can't find ingredients! Especially growing up in Cities where these items are a regular! I have to drive an hour away for a butcher or fish monger! We can't even get fresh ground veal!! :(

    But how fun that you and your husband set out to do all this together!! :)

  12. Wow, everything looks amazing despite your obstacles! You are quite talented.

  13. That does sound crazy! The fried zucchini looks soo good. I'm going to have to try to make that!

  14. Wow, so you literally were a food hunter this weekend!

    It looks like it was a heck of a special dinner anyway in the end. You did a great job and I hope you had fun!

  15. When can I eat at your house?! I'm sure you would get a great review! :-) Sounds yummy.

  16. That zucchini looks soooo good! I love fried zucchini, and that dip sounds like the perfect partner :)