Phoenix: City of Food
In the past two weeks I've had the pleasure of dining at one of our local restaurants twice. It's a family favorite called Trente-Cinq (Thirty-Five), a "Belgian Bistro" serving authentic Belgian cuisine, right down to the pommes frites.
My mom and grandmother are both from Belgium, so whenever my grandmother's in town, we end up eating there at least once. If you know anything about Belgium, you know it is a country sharply divided by language: half of the people speak French, the other half Flemish, and they'll do anything they can not to speak to each other. Every town has two names or pronunciations, one for each language—which can make visiting difficult for tourists.
My family is from the Flemish side; the owner of Trente-Cinq from the French. This makes for some awkward moments when grandma's there, but for the most part, the food is the real prize at the restaurant.
Over the past year, I've ordered or sampled much of the menu. My favorite dish is the Steak au Poivre, a filet mignon lathered in a green peppercorn sauce, but the Bouchée a la Reine—roasted chicken with puff pastry in a mushroom velouté sauce—is also very, very good. Last night I had the Filet du Porc, small pork tenderloins with roasted diced vegetables (mostly tomato and zucchini varieties, it seemed) in a creamy/herby sauce, and it was pretty good too. I've sampled another dish a dining companion ordered, the Tartiflette, a Belgian "comfort food" of Reblochon cheese baked over potatoes, apples, and bacon, and it was very good. My parents almost always get the mussels, a Beglian specialty, which I refuse to eat because I won't eat anything served to me in its own house. I think that's a good rule of thumb. Plus, yuck.
The chef and owner, Lionel Geuskens, puts special care into his French fries, which any Belgian will tell you are as Belgian as Belgian waffles (which, incidentally, aren't a breakfast food—they're a dessert). The Fries come Pulp Fiction style with a side of mayo. Delicious.
But I'll admit that my favorite favorite thing to eat at Trente-Cinq is the dessert. I heard Lionel used to make desserts for Coup de Tartes, a local French restaurant, and I think this is one of his real strengths as a chef. The Tropezienne is so good you might as well die after eating it. The Tropezienne is two large triangles of brioche dough with thick vanilla cream inbetween them. It is unbelievable, sweet and delicious—nearly an entrée in and of itself. Also noteworthy are Lionel's mousses. The mousse dessert comes layered with white chocolate, white chocolate, and decadent dark Belgian chocolate, each of them a treat (although I love the dark the best).
Tonight I also sampled one of the Belgian beers on the menu, the Kriek, which was sweet and fruity with a rich red color and velvety texture. In the past, I've enjoyed some of the Belgian Stella Artois varieties. At Trente-Cinq, you can order your Stella mixed with Coke or Sprite. It sounds strange, but it's really worth a taste. I prefer the Sprite myself (called a Panache); it brings a nice citrus flavor to the beer, while the Coke sends the Stella toward a more Guiness-like flavor. This latter combination is called a "Mazout" and literally translates to "diesel fuel." You can also get it with grenadine (called a Tango) or creme de menthe (Perroquet), but I haven't been brave enough to try these yet.