The House was first opened in 2010 by Pat and Dustin Christofolo, best known around town for their popular Santa Barbara Catering company. They have also recently taken on management of the entire Farm at South Mountain property. I’ve never met Dustin; but I’ve heard he spent a couple of years in Parma perfecting his pasta technique. And I’d say; he has. Four times of five when I sit down to dinner, I don’t even crack the menu, I just ask for whatever pasta he’s doing that day. I know it will be perfectly al dente and sauced delectably. But there are also tender braised dishes like short ribs or osso buco to tempt, or comfort fare like shrimp & grits; yet, somehow, each dish is elevated far beyond the current tiresome trend.
And, aside from toothsome pappardelle or pillowy gnocchi, someone at the House has a truly masterful hand with a smoker. Smoked trout shows up on the menu in salads and rillettes; pulled pork makes an appearance during live music events, and their smoked brisket sandwich is turning heads and noses all over town.
For example, from Skillet Doux’s 10 Tastes of 2012: Smoked Brisket Sandwich @ The House at Secret Garden
The devil is also in their details. The crostini is expertly marked on the grill, drizzled with a light olive oil, and kissed with a little salt – just right for that Crow’s Farm chevre or Humboldt Fog. Desserts take local and seasonal produce to a new, sweetly high plateau, from sweet potato pot de crème to dried berry bread pudding. Polenta fries, which ought to be a snooze, always succumbs to a center so creamy I can’t say no to an order.I'm still smelling this thing in my head! Maybe also on my fingers. Man, was that smoke intoxicating. My only complaint was that it was a touch dainty for a smoked meat sandwich. Next time I'm going to tell them to double the amount of meat and charge me whatever. I want to get lost in it a little bit. Thanks for the heads up on this one, themis.
So that’s The House at Secret Garden. One part fine dining, one part crowd-pleaser, one part al fresco gem – but above all of that, five parts crazy talent and compulsive perfection in the kitchen. With everything else the venue has going for it, why bother doing barbeque and pasta better than most of the places that specialize in such around town? I think I know why. It may be because Chef Christofolo is a FoodNerd. When I eat there, I think – this guy is one of us.
They transcend their own definition, they raise the bar. I have a standing offer out to the PFN that any time you want to meet up at the House, I’m in. And to me, that’s what I want in a FoodNerd Approved site – a place that any of us is happy to go to any time of day or night. It’s a no-brainer.
Web info- http://www.houseatsecretgarden.com
The restaurant is located SE of 24th St and Baseline -
2501 East Baseline Road Phoenix, AZ 85042
For reference, here’s our regular House at Secret Garden discussion thread.
And, here’s the 2012 meetup thread.
Nikki Buchanan’s happy hour report. Want to live life rock star, Tony Bourdain-style, with bone marrow luge shots? Call ahead for availability. Phoenix Bites gets their two cents in. Here’s the Pen and Fork preview. And, my favorite, Girl Meets Fork agrees that the brisket is tops.
The House at Secret Garden Discussion Thread:
The House at Secret Garden
The House at Secret Garden
2501 E. Baseline Road
Phoenix, AZ 85042