Friday, December 9, 2011

Tinderbox Kitchen, Flagstaff, Arizona

If you know me and my dining patterns, you kind of knew that Tinderbox Kitchen had to be my first post. It's my place "where everybody knows my name," and they pretty much know what I drink, too.

My History with the Restaurant
"TBox," as it's known to its fans, is co-owned by Chef Scott Heinonen and manager Kevin Heinonen. I met Scott when he was the chef at another downtown restaurant, and he won me over by making chicken liver pate. Really. Right before TBox opened in 2009, I remember Scott calling me to say, "I'm opening up a new place, and I hope you'll try it." I've pretty much been at the restaurant at least once a month ever since.

Cuisine
Dubbed "American Comfort Food-Redefined," TBox dives into the currently uber-fashionable trend of high end reinterpretation of homestyle classics. We sometimes joke that this means dishes with pork. (It tends to be a meat centric menu, just as a word of warning to any vegetarians.) The menu changes every day, but here are a few of my favorites (and only one with pork!)
Pan roasted duck.
There are any number of preparations for this, and whatever is the selected way that night is going to be good.

Seared Scallops with Creamed Corn: 
If there's creamed corn with bacon on the menu, get it. 
Also, the scallops regardless of preparation are always big and tender, never overcooked.
Buffalo Style Chicken Livers: 
Spicy and very rich, this appetizer can be a meal in itself if you like chicken livers, which I do.

Charcuterie Board: If I'm lucky, there's chicken liver pate on it. (See my history.)
Chocolate Mousse Duo: The barely baked chocolate cake used to be my favorite here, but then I had this combination of chocolate and peanut butter mousse. Once, I ate two of them. I'm not proud, but it sure was good.
Booze
They have two bars here: the dining room bar and the Annex next door. The bartenders are very good at their craft and have a modest but solid cocktail menu. I love the fact that when I come in for dinner, my drink is usually at my table within minutes of me sitting down. (It's a Churchill Manhattan, if you're curious.)
The Churchill Manhattan: Rye whiskey, sweet and dry vermouth, orange bitters

Experience
I kind of think of this as "Flagstaff formal" both in attire of the patrons and the vibe from the staff. You'll get expert service, but not white linens or urban formality. They also have a soundtrack to go with it--no instrumental elevator music here. You'll hear music from the 70's, 80's, 90's and whatever other random track they feel like putting on. Sometimes a whole album.

Summary
It's my go-to restaurant in Flagstaff--locally owned, solidly executed menu, staff that I genuinely like, and of course, a place for chicken liver and pork.

Location
Tinderbox Kitchen and Tinderbox Annex
34 S. San Francisco
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
http://www.tinderboxkitchen.com/
http://www.foodspotting.com/places/198730-tinderbox-kitchen-flagstaff


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