Hidden Healthy Gourmet Gem in Phoenix

Ask any foodie what they love and I’ll bet they’ll tell you one thing is finding a hidden gem.  I admit I’m no different, except I’m going to let you in on the secret.  I found a restaurant helmed by the former chef of the only five star restaurant in Arizona that focuses on locally-grown, seasonal ingredients and that is seriously flying under the Phoenix food radar.  Where is this treasure trove you ask?  Well, it’s ensconced in the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) and it’s only open for lunch.  So find some time to sneak away from work and try this foodie paradise.

While the food line screams cafeteria, the food at the MIM Cafe is anything but.  Since it’s opening in April, 2010, Executive Chef Edward Farrow has led the kitchen with a focus on fresh, seasonal, local, organic and sustainable.  The result is a menu that changes daily and highlights the best that Arizona has to offer.

“We let nature dictate the menu,” explained Farrow.  “You won’t find asparagus in October.  We get information from our growers and ranchers about what they’re going to have and that’s our starting point for the menu.”

Farrow, the former chef at Kai and the Inn at Little Washington, finds a freedom in the approach that he didn’t have at his former five-star kitchens.

“I’ve reprinted the menu at 10:30 a.m. because something came through the door that I wanted to put on the plate that day,” he said.  “It’s fun, it keeps the wheels turning.”

A typical day at the MIM cafe might feature Wilson Ranch “Piggy Stew”, Albondigas soup or Sonoran Desert lavender flan .  There is always something for vegetarians on the menu and Mondays are dubbed “Meatless Mondays” with all stations featuring vegetarian delicacies.

Always on the menu are dishes that highlight a local specialty and a globally inspired preparation.

“I love the global station because it matches the global focus of the museum,” said Farrow.  “Anytime there is something special in the museum we try and highlight it in the cuisine.”

Diners can expect some creative spins on Arizona cuisine when the museum launches an exhibit to coincide with Arizona’s Centennial Celebration in February, 2012.

“I was born and raised here and I believe in what this state has to offer,” said Farrow, who is trying to convince more and more diners to try many of the Arizona wines the cafe features.

Besides promoting Arizona vintners, Farrow works hand-in-hand with so many local food providers including Queen Creek Olive Mill, SeaCat Gardens, Fossil Creek Creamery and The Meat Shop. With these local ingredients he and his team create over 98% of the days’ offerings from scratch.  Farrow even goes so far as to make his own potato chips (a MIM staff favorite).

The MIM Cafe is open daily from 11 a.m. To 2 p.m.

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