Brix Casual Fine Dining & Wine Bar Bring a Grown-Up Culinary Sensibility

Mtn Living Mag August 2014

Dish Brix Aug 2014A recent guest review of Brix Casual Fine Dining & Wine Bar wrote, “Flagstaff has done a lot of growing up in the last few years.” It’s happily true. The downtown restaurant industry has been on a track to offer clients high end, sustainable, creative cuisine, while maintaining that easy-going Flagstaff attitude. At the head of this march strode Paul Moir with the opening of Brix in 2007. He later opened Criollo, a Latin-inspired kitchen in downtown and mentored fellow restaurateurs in this consistent, positive direction. It’s a national trend with hometown success.

“Brix is top-notch, yet unpretentious, and well-rounded with warm, casual service helping people make good choices with products from local farmers and ranchers and the Four Corners region,” Moir said. The servers are well-trained as to sources and purveyors, and kitchen heads and bar managers incorporate what is seasonal and accessible.

For cocktails, this means transitioning from winter’s maple and allspice to cucumber and mint or muddled basil with peaches and apricot for summer drinks. Moir added, “The Chef de Cuisine, Logan Weber, is given a lot of flexibility and creative freedom in the menu, to utilize what is available and fresh.” Some regional partners include: McClendon’s Select, Whipstone Farms, Ridgeview Farms, Black Mesa Ranch, Queen Creek Olive Mill and many more.

The historic brick Carriage House is the restaurant’s namesake where Flagstaff’s first automobile was stored. Now, it houses the bar. Dark wood predominates the expanded seating inside, while outside, aspens and elms soar skyward, strung with pearly lights that glow in the dusky evening. Heaters chase away any chills.

A voluminous, yet decipherable wine list of local, domestic and world choices makes pairing a bottle with a meal effortless, especially with knowledgeable staff recommendations. Brix brings diners an amuse bouche, or complimentary tidbit, such as tempura crab and ricotta-stuffed squash blossom, served on shaved melon with green chili oil—a lovely surprise. A vibrant, cool Grenache Blanc offered a mineral balance to the crisp and creamy, tender blossom.

The stone fruit and vegetable salad mimicked walking through a garden and pulling the freshest from the vine and tree: carrot, parsnip ribbon, peppery arugula, with lush plum, apricot and peach. These swam in a basil broth. The round fruit of a sauvignon Blanc was the perfect sipper for the savory, sweet and tart salad.

Time for some mainstay protein. Snapper from Fiji’s waters perched atop Parisienne gnocchi, salsify root vegetable—or poor man’s oyster—with lemongrass puree, chili oil with an herb side. The moist, flaky, flesh with char was simple and satisfying. Try a glass of Viognier, a Rhone grape, full of honeysuckle, lemon and lychee to play up the clean sea flavors.

Brix fashions a stew of earthy flavors, combining cavatelli pasta with house made, uncased pork sausage, wild mushrooms, kale, chili oil and Marcona almonds in a light broth, scattered with Parmesan. Fennel, strong greens and zippy chili danced on the tongue. The mélange held its own next to a Zinfandel. Dark, ripe fruit and spice offered a dry, yet sensual mouthful.

No common chicken is found on the menu. Generous, pink, juicy slices of coffee and chili roasted duck breast with vanilla Marcona almond puree and date syrup are fanned over polenta and bitter greens. Savor a merlot, whose bright, balanced tannins bring a youthful vitality to the fine grit of grains and stylish duck.

Kids say there is always room for ice cream. Brix reduced the essence of buttered popcorn and blended it with the luxuriant creaminess of semifreddo to produce a wicked winner. Try the flavor of the night for a seasonal splurge.

Brix has certainly earned its way into many regional and national lists of praise from USA Today to Conde Nast Traveler, while locals also knew a good thing when they ate it. They voted Brix the Best of Flagstaff soon after opening its doors.

And Moir keeps opening doors. Besides launching Proper, a restaurant in Tucson’s historic center, its sister shop, Proper Meats & Provisions, is set to open on the south side of Flag’s tracks. “The classic, artisanal butcher shop will feature old school charcuterie and curing with a small deli component,” Moir said, “keeping Arizona-raised meat in Arizona with the infrastructure to do so.” The state exports huge amounts of its beef, so this assures Arizona’s best beef can be served only blocks away.

NAMLM  Gail G. Collins

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