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Before we dive into our citruspalooza (citruspalooza is defined by days upon days of citrus-related recipes) I have to give a huge shout-out, muchas gracias, kisses and hugs, and a big bowl of thanks to Tarbell’s Restaurant. Mark Tarbell and I have been friends for the last 20 years, and he is a wonderful friend to have! I first got to know and love Mark when he hosted an incredible trip to Napa Valley when we were both board members of the now-defunct American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF). Way back then, Mark was the F&B Manager of The Boulders in Carefree, AZ.   In 1994 he ventured out and opened his namesake restaurant at 32nd Street and Camelback Road in Phoenix. He also now has three additional restaurants in Colorado.
Throughout the years Tarbell’s has gained numerous awards for both food and wine. Using the best of local and organic produce to create dishes with Mark’s signature style. Plus with Mark’s amazing knowledge of wines, the extensive wine program is hard to beat. Mark calls Tarbell’s a neighborhood restaurant but is certainly a sought-after destination for travelers as well. Every year since 1995, Tarbell’s has earned the coveted “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine. In 2000, Tarbell’s was named Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Restaurant”.  Mark was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for “Best Chef – Southwest” in 2001. He also writes a weekly wine column for our newspaper, The Arizona Republic. That’s not enough for you?  Mark won Iron Chef America on the Food Network in 2007. His opponent? The imposing Cat Cora! On top of that, Mark was the only victorious competitor in the entire fifth season! (The picture above was taken at the celebration event on the night the episode first aired. L to R; my darling sister Sloane, Mark, me, and my boss, friend, and mentor, Barbara Fenzl)

Aside from all that, Mark is a wonderful person and one that I am grateful and honored to call my friend. So why give this shout-out now? I was asked by Tram Mai of Valley Dish fame to teach her how to make homemade mozzarella for a taped segment of an upcoming show. No problem, we’ve done that in summer classes before with the kids. It’s a couple of day process, but not all that hard. You start with fresh non-homogenized milk and add buttermilk to cause curdling. Then rennet to form the curds, and finally add heat to separate the curd from the whey, just like Little Miss Muffet! The problem was I didn’t have the time to start with fresh milk, I needed to start with the fresh mozzarella curd, and let me tell you, it is hard to find in Phoenix!

I’m not going to go into the process of making fresh mozzarella here, that is for a day down the road after the segment airs. But before that, I have to thank Anne, Mark’s longtime and amazing assistant, for coming to my rescue and providing the fresh curd for my demonstration (Mark himself was out of town the day I called). And trust me when I tell you that not only are Mark and Anne wonderful and accommodating, but so is every single staff member at Tarbell’s. What’s not to love?!

Please visit Tarbell’s next time you’re in the neighborhood and be sure to order the mussels, the best thing on earth! And you’ll need about a loaf of bread to soak up all the goodness to the bottom of the bowl. Until then, you must visit Tarbell’s website by CLICKING HERE. The recipe section alone is worth the visit, plus Mark has posted great instructional videos for everything from properly marking and cooking a steak to… making fresh mozzarella!  Watch him in all his boyish charm and cuteness!  xoxoxo

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1 David Bickford { 01.09.11 at 5:40 AM }

I’ve been a fan of Tarbell’s ever since Mark opened the restaurant back in 1994. The place seems not to get as much buzz today in comparison to newer arrivals like FnB and Noca, so I’m glad to read posts like this that remind us of how good Tarbell’s is.

My only complaint: All the new ventures are in Denver. I’d love to see something here in Phoenix. One idea: Barmouche was a gastropub before gastropubs became fashionable. It was a good idea before its time and in the wrong location. Gastropubs cry out for sites in walkable urban centers, and that office building on Camelback just didn’t have the right feel. I’d love to see Barmouche resurrected and think it would do better Downtown than on Camelback.

2 Linda Hopkins { 01.10.11 at 9:43 AM }

Hi David, Thank you for the great comments! I agree, I loved Barmouche and really wish Mark would expand into Scottsdale. Then I could visit more often. 🙂

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