Kitchen Insider (Destinations Edition): Elote Cafe, Sedona

By Kathryn M. Miller

The award-winning Elote Cafe opened its new Sedona location in late July. Tucked off of Hwy. 89, the 4,800-square-foot location underwent a $2.5 million renovation to achieve the authentic Elote Cafe look and feel and is just over a mile away from the original Elote Cafe location. The new Elote Cafe opened with limited dine-in and patio seating via reservation only to start and take out, before expanding to its 130-seat capacity when it is safe to do so.

The opening is just another 2020 milestone for chef/owner Jeff Smedstad, which has included being a finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef Southwest and releasing Volume 2 of his Elote Cafe Cookbook (available now at elotecafe.com/cookbook).

Elote Cafe is located at 350 Jordan Road in Sedona. For reservations or additional information, call 928.203.0105 or visit elotecafe.com.

We caught up with the chef to learn a little about him and the inspiration behind his cooking and his restaurant. He was also gracious enough to share his Elote recipe with us!

Please, briefly introduce yourself.
I am Jeff Smedstad, a chef, author, husband and motorcycle fanatic.

How did you get into the restaurant business/where were you trained?
I have worked in kitchens since I was 15 and started cooking while in the Coast Guard. I used my GI Bill to go to Scottsdale Culinary Institute and later trained in Oaxaca, Mexico at Seasons of My Heart Cooking School.

From where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from the Southwest United States, as well as the entire country of Mexico.

How would you describe the flavor profile of your restaurant?
My flavor profile is bold yet nuanced as I try to coax the maximum flavor from all ingredients in a dish.

What are some of the interesting industry trends that you are seeing?
I am seeing a strong movement to local and sustainable.

Do you focus on sourcing local ingredients? If so, what is your philosophy behind that focus?
I use some local and foraged items such as blackberries and mushrooms foraged from Oak Creek Canyon. It gives my food a sense of place here in Sedona.

What is your favorite dish at your restaurant and why?
My favorite dish is our Lamb Adobo as I have been making it for 25 years and still love it.

What is your go-to dish to cook at home? Or do you let someone else take over the kitchen?
I love to make enchiladas for my wife on the weekend, low fuss, high flavor!

What are the elements that make for a memorable meal?
Elements for a great meal are when you look at a dish and layer flavors and textures to create a bigger sum. You balance texture with acid and richness and a dish becomes a star. |CST

ELOTE

What could bring to life the flavor of Mexico more than corn roasting and caramelizing over a grill? For that matter, these flavors would be at home in any backyard where there is barbeque going on. Typically, in Mexico this would be made with starchier corn, but I prefer the flavor of sweet corn; Silver Queen is my favorite and this dish always tastes better in the summer. —Chef Jeff Smedstad

6 ears of corn with the husk intact

1 cup of mayo

1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon each of salt pepper and sugar

1/4 cup of chicken stock

1/4 cup cotija cheese ground

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Pure ground chile to taste

Over a medium hot grill roast the corn until the husks are well charred, about 5 minutes, turning them occasionally so as not to completely burn the kernels underneath. Set them aside to cool enough to handle then shuck them and cut the corn off the cob. When ready to eat, mix the mayo, hot sauce, lime juice and chicken stock and warm in a sauté pan with the corn. Pour into a bowl and garnish with the cheese, cilantro and chile powder. Serve immediately.


Photos courtesy of Elote Cafe

Kitchen Insider: Jagger Griffin of Ocean Prime

Restaurants have always been a part of chef Jagger Griffin’s life — his mother served tables to support the two of them. At the age of 17, Griffin’s mother got him a line cook position at the casual restaurant where she worked. After trying out different positions in the food service industry, Griffin felt the calling to hone his culinary skills and create a career in hospitality.

A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, Griffin was a sous chef at two Phoenix restaurants, Christopher’s and Eddie Matney’s before becoming chef de cuisine at Eddie Matney’s.

In 2000, Jagger joined Anthem Restaurants of America as executive chef of Furio in Scottsdale. After winning multiple awards and being named one of Arizona’s Up and Coming Chefs in 2002, Griffin was asked to help develop Anthem’s fresh Mexican cantina concept, Salty Senorita in 2003. In 2009, Jagger became executive chef at Ocean Prime Phoenix.

Ocean Prime is an award-winning modern American restaurant and lounge from restaurateur Cameron Mitchell. The award-winning Ocean Prime delivers an impressive menu of seafood and prime cuts of steak, signature cocktails, a Wine Spectator-honored wine list and aims to present its guests with truly genuine hospitality. From the kitchen and bar, there is an appreciation for ingredients that comes through in every dish. The menu is classic and yet there is a modern sensibility to the preparations.

Ocean Prime Phoenix is located at 5455 East High Street. For additional information, call 480.347.1313 or visit www.ocean-prime.com.

Colorado Lamb Chops

4 lb. Colorado Lamb Chops

2 tablespoons blended oil

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

½ cup snap peas

½ cup blanched green beans

4 tablespoons English peas

4 tablespoons arugula mint pesto (recipe below)

Mint vinaigrette (recipe below)

Wrap bones with foil, season and broil lamb to desired temperature.

Place the snap peas and green beans in boiling salted water for about 1 minute until al dente and bright in color. Mix English peas, snap peas, green beans, and pesto and add a pinch of salt. Serve with mint vinaigrette topped with a pinch of chiffonade mint. Finish Lamb with salt garnish plate with parsley.

Arugula Mint Pesto

1 ¼ oz. sliced almonds

½ oz. peeled, sliced garlic

½ oz. arugula

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 oz. fresh mint

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350. Toast almonds until slightly brown in color and fragrant (about 8-10 minutes). Let cool. Place all ingredients in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until chilled. Place all ingredients in blender pulse until smooth. Make sure not to over blend, as the pesto will turn brown. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Mint Vinaigrette

1 cups rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup apple jelly

1/2 oz fresh mint

1 cup sugar

Heat all ingredients slowly reserving half of the mint. Strain out the whole mint. Chiffonade the remaining mint and add once cooled.

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