There’s a restaurant that’s bringing farm-to-table eats to Central Phoenix–and we’re not talking about The Farm at South Mountain. The House at Secret Garden opened in October and dishes up incredibly fresh, organic and local (when available) ingredients to Valley dwellers. And The House is brought to up by a very familiar name: The Farm’s manager, Pat Christofolo.
The House of Secret Garden takes residence in an old Spanish mansion, and the restaurant is divided into several cozy dining spaces so just about any seat in the house is an intimate one. The butterscotch-color walls and candlelight-bulb sconces result in a romantic setting while the squeaks-when-you-step wood flooring and the snug four-seat bar create dining rooms filled with character and charm. Over the airwaves, the soothing sounds of Willie Nelson, Ray LaMontagne and Tracy Chapman can be heard.
As with The Farm at South Mountain restaurants, The House at Secret Garden showcases as many local, organic ingredients on its menu as possible. The veggie roast appetizer spotlights roasted fennel, sweet carrots, butternut squash and fresh arugula from The House’s own on-site garden (which is maintained by Heather Taylor who also oversees Chris Bianco’s garden) as well as from nearby Maya’s Farm at South Mountain. Another memorable veggie-centric dish is the spiced Tuscan-kale-and-white-bean soup. The soup features a broth of Queen Creek Olive Mill balsamic vinegar, sage and mirepoix (a combination of chopped onions, carrots and celery) and is crowned with delectable Italian sausage, white beans, Tuscan kale and parmesan. The dish is finished with a buttered crostini—perfect for soaking up every last bit of broth.
As for entrees, the smoked brisket sandwich, topped with arugula, tomatoes, grilled onions, Dijon mustard and melted white cheddar cheese, makes for a satisfying, comforting meal. Each bite of arugula and tomato is bright and delicious against the smoky meat and crunchy bread. The plate of shrimp and grits is yet another winning combination: jumbo shrimp, Anson Mills grits, carrots, sweet corn and a kicky serrano sauce drizzle.
Valley pastry goddess Tracy Dempsey responsible for The House’s dessert selection, which ranges from simple ice cream and cookie offerings to the divine fig-ricotta fritters. The crisp exterior of each warm dough ball is coated in powdered sugar and ready to dunk in the trio of sauces: balsamic syrup, crème fraîche and fleur de sel caramel. While the balsamic syrup brings out each fritter’s fig taste, the melted caramel is the dip to devour. http://www.houseatsecretgarden.com/.