If Charles Dickens were alive today, he most certainly would have found his “fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels” on the southeast corner of Sunrise and Kolb.
Springtime means fresh, and for one Foothills eatery, fresh means fruit in abundance.
“Our new seasonal menu is built around the flavors that make us feel good, and I’ve always loved the way that fruit makes me feel,” said Ginny Wooters, chef and partner at Commoner and Co., 6960 E. Sunrise Drive. “If you think about it, that’s what food should do, right?”
Of the 23 dishes on the restaurant’s new menu, fruit plays prominent roles in 16 of them.
Dickens might have started his tour of Commoner’s fabled orchard with the bruleed goat cheese and lemon thyme tart with strawberry jam, or the duck confit empanadas with cheddar curd, cilantro crème fraiche, and golden raisin red chili jam.
“The duck empanadas is a super fun dish that brings me back to my southern roots,” Wooters said. “I just dig on golden raisins, and love how their fruity sweetness balances out the bigger flavors in this Mexican-style dish.”
Dickens’ fruit-forward journey may have continued with the burrata salad with pickled mango, heirloom tomatoes, roasted fennel, basil and a lemon vinaigrette, or the Asian pear salad with fresh blackberries, shallots, golden raisins, warm pancetta lardons, goat cheese, pistachios, and an Earl Grey tea and blackberry dressing.
“Fruit does well with both sweet and savory, and the Asian pear salad delivers a savory sensation through the way the blackberries work in the tea dressing,” she said.
A true foodie of his time, Dickens surely would have reveled in the way that Wooters snuck cranberries into her potato gnocchi with roasted beets, cauliflower, house-made ricotta, and sunflower sprouts, but perhaps the biggest surprise of all would have been his discovery of the strawberries that are served alongside Wooters’ fried chicken.
Strawberries and fried chicken?
“It’s always a good idea to add a healthy element to dishes that some believe aren’t,” she said.
While the fried bird is served with a buttermilk biscuit, mashed potatoes, and bacon fat gravy, Wooters’ addition of sautéed spinach and dried strawberries is sure to make you feel better about the indulgence.
Among the other fruits that make appearances in Commoner’s virtual orchard are red apples that are found inside the grilled cheese sandwich, key limes that are served with the vodka-poached shrimp cocktail, grapefruits that anchor their namesake grapefruit salad, and lemons that are brought into the flat iron pork’s goat cheese mousse.
“This new menu is Ginny in her element,” said Nathan Ares, managing partner at Commoner and Co., “and we expect that it will continue through the spring as well as the summer.”
Many restaurants rotate their menus four times a year to coincide with the changes in seasons, but Ares believes that the cooling flavors that these fruits represent have intrinsically inter-seasonal value.
“When you have something that works, why put a deadline on it?”
If you’re after those jeweled fruits from Dickens’ fabled orchard, Commoner and Co. could be just what you’re looking for. You might even find yourself echoing that famous line from another classic Dickens tale.
“Please, sir, I want some more.”
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.