South In Ur Mouth – our intro to staff meals

Last night we went to this small restaurant tucked just off of Scottsdale Road and Camelback. The area surrounding it is filled with all of the trendy Scottsdale bars. Petite Maison, though, is anything but trendy or a bar. Instead, it feels like your walking into a small little French villa and you’re being welcomed into someone’s home rather than a restaurant. There’s more seats outside on the patio than there are in the small dining room. The interior is paneled in wood, giving a warm glow to the room. The patio is surrounded by vines and small potted trees. You feel like you’re in a garden sitting out on the patio.

Petite Maison serves a late night staff meal where their normal staff gets a chance to sit down and eat after service and other guest chefs can come in and prepare the meal. The rest of us also get a chance to sit down and have a nice late night (10pm – midnight) meal. There’s usually only a couple different plates that are offered and their reasonably priced around $10 – $12 a plate. There’s also a drink offered, fondly dubbed the “red cup”.

Sean and I finally got a chance to get up to Petite Maison because a friend of ours, Tony Morales was preparing the staff meal that night, which he fondly dubbed “South In Ur Mouth”. So, no, I didn’t make the title of this post up. It’s his fault. In my constant quest of good Southern food that I didn’t have to spend the time making in my kitchen, whenever I hear Tony’s working in a kitchen, I try to be there. Last night’s meal was no exception to a delicious late night meal.

The two dishes that were served were Rock Shrimp with Smokey Cheese Grits and Fried Green Tomatoes with Catfish Hushpuppies and a red pepper remoulade. The red cup was called Orange Marmalade. Delicious is a tame word for the two dishes. Sean was kind enough to let me have the shrimp and grits in front of me since he understands my obsession with grits. I took my first bite with a small piece of perfectly fried shrimp in a light flour batter, surrounded with cheesy looking grits and I was in heaven. The grits were perfectly cooked. At first, we thought the cheese in them was smoked Gouda, which would be a good one to put into grits because of the creaminess you get, but Tony corrected us. It was a sharp smoked cheddar. Brilliant! You get the smokiness, but also a nice tanginess with the sharp cheddar. Needless to say, there were no grits left when the plate was taken away.

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The fried green tomatoes were coated with the standard cornmeal style coating, but it was thick enough to truly encase the tomato slice. The green tomatoes used were at just the right ripeness so that they were soft enough to eat, but still had that slightly bitter tang that unripe tomatoes have. When Sean shared one with me, at first I thought that the tomato was under-salted, but then when he shared some of the remoulade on his plate, it was exactly right. Everything came together perfectly. Now, on to the catfish hushpuppies. I should put a disclaimer here. I eat catfish. I was raised on fried catfish, so I’ve never had a problem eating it. Sean does not like catfish. He doesn’t like the muddiness you tend to get from it and thinks that when it’s cooked, it’s usually too dried out by the time it’s served. Sean ate the catfish hushpuppies. Not only did he eat them, I was lucky to get one off of his plate to try. He consumed them. The typical muddiness wasn’t there at all and the fish was moist and delicate. If I didn’t know better, I would have almost questioned whether that really was catfish.

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Now that I’ve had a chance to wax poetical about the food, let me mention the “red cup”. It was called an Orange Marmalade. I love orange marmalade. It’s kept in the fridge and it frequently finds its way onto my morning toast. This was like orange marmalade turned up to 11. It was fresh squeezed orange juice, vodka and lemon peel that had been sitting in Everclear (the remnants of making limoncello). It was deadly delicious. I consumed 2 before I realized that I was going to have to drive my car home and I wanted to make it home in one piece.

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Overall, the late night meal was a great experience. We also got the added bonus of meeting some of the foodie friends that we know through Twitter. We’re already discussing an opportunity to go back to Petite Maison to order off of their standard menu.