Quiessence is located at 6106 S. 32nd Street in Phoenix. For more
information, call 602-276-0601 or visit quiessencerestaurant.com.
© Jeff Kida
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On the FarmTired of fast food? The "slow food" at Quiessence in South Phoenix will make you want to eat for hours.
By Keridwen Cornelius
Phoenix As he presents the grilled scallops mingled with marinated red cabbage and citrus in an emerald pool of mint sauce, manager Dustin Christofolo proudly explains the origins of the ingredients. "The oranges are from a farm in Peoria, and the grapefruit is from that tree over there," he says, pointing to the front yard.
In an era of increasingly glob-alized cuisine, Quiessence in South Phoenix strives to use ingredients so close to home they're actually point-at-able. The menu is about 90 percent local, with much of it plucked from the surrounding 13-acre Farm at South Mountain.
Quiessence abides by the Slow Food philosophy, a movement formed in reaction to fast food. It means "simple food prepared well and sourced well," says chef Greg LaPrad. "Instead of looking for the most efficient way to do things, we look at more classic ways."
Thus, the bread is baked in a wood-fired oven, the pasta is completely handcrafted, and animals are purchased whole so that every part can be used. "It's really elemental and back to the roots," LaPrad says.
Slow food is eco-friendly, so the fish is flown in overnight from sustainable fisheries, and the produce is organic. Slow food is also slow: The relaxed staff spaces out the courses so diners can be in the moment, savoring good food, company and ambience.
The result satisfies body and soul. The scallop dish is a jewel-colored trove of textures and flavors as subtly complementary as the nuances of wine. Warm focaccia, gilded with local olive oil, melts in your mouth. Ineffably spiced acorn squash from One Windmill Farms is swaddled in toothsome tortelli and anointed with a creamy sauce of pistachios from Queen Creek Olive Mill.
Ingredients from farther afield are so fresh they transport you to their source, not the other way around. The brothy, buttery seafood and fennel cream soup catapults you to the New England seashore, by way of nearby herb and dairy farms. Whole roasted redfish recalls brisk ocean fishing trips. Raw farmstead cheese conjures a vision of contented Holsteins in Wisconsin grazing on a green hillside.
LaPrad rewrites the menu daily based on what's freshest and seasonal, so what appears one day might disappear the next. All the more reason to be in the moment.