May 2022
Local Food
by
Chef Molly Beverly

First Taste: Torme

Sampling Barry Barbe’s New Signature Restaurant

The goal of Torme is to create a unique, relaxing, community-based bistro with contemporary European influences, featuring simple presentations with quality ingredients, friendly service and, of course, Pings.

In the years Barry Barbe has been in Prescott he’s created seven restaurants — Zuma’s, Belvedere’s, 129-1/2, Acme, Monk’s, the Triple Creek Kitchen Hilton Garden Inn, and El Gato Azul — each better than the last. Torme, he says, is his last. He's back at his favorite job: being in the kitchen, rolling out the pasta, welcoming guests and hobnobbing with his staff.

It’s also his best yet. The location is a modest 1920s Prescott bungalow, once on the quiet edge of Prescott’s past. Now it’s the buzzing corner of Fair and Valley Streets, right across from the busy Fry’s market. Barry thought Torme would be up and running in ninety days, but it took nine months. “Almost 100 years old, the little old house was pretty rough,” says Barry. “It needed a lot of work.”

Barry is returning to what he does best — soups, pasta, dressings, salads and sauces, made fresh every day from scratch using the very best seasonal ingredients sourced from local growers, the restaurant's own kitchen garden (going in this summer), complemented with special choices from the finest international suppliers.

The interior glows with relaxing understatement. Like the food, it’s quiet and elegant, from the muted grey-green walls, amiable staff, comfortable seating and colorful art (produced by Barry’s Prescott friends), to the smooth jazz floating through the air. Barry envisions Torme as a casual local restaurant with a neighborly vibe.

Soon there will be patio dining and a grab-and-go “cucina” market featuring menu items, gourmet cheeses and cured meats. This summer Torme will be available for special parties on weekends (for groups of up to 130). It’s a great location for a wedding, bar mitzvah or quinceañera with the able assistance of catering director Jennifer Garber.

Recently I had the opportunity and pleasure of sitting down with Barry for a chat and a taste of the menu. Service started with olive oil-rosemary focaccia, carrot slaw (honey, mustard, tarragon) and house-made boursin cheese (ricotta, goat cheese, fresh herbs, garlic, black pepper) — a really good start.

Next, “An Ode: Primo Ravioli,” consisting of oversized fresh pasta filled with four cheeses (goat, Parmesan, ricotta and cream), flavor notes of chives, nutmeg, lemon zest, and finished with toasted hazelnuts in browned butter. Bravo! This is Barry's signature dish, embodying the way he looks at food, not smothering our tastebuds with one overwhelming flavor, but featuring an undercurrent of “pings.” With every bite, a different “ping” of flavor. Barry says this “embodies everything I look for when I have food.”

I sipped on “Strawberry Fields,” which Barry describes as “a riff on the classic cocktail, with Kettle One, St. Germain, strawberries, and thyme. St. Germain is a great liquor made of elderflower, and has a sweet floral nose that screams ‘spring.’ When paired with thyme and strawberries, the cocktail resembles our goal of creating ‘pings’ for the palette.”

Barry and I enjoyed several dishes full of “pings.” I fell hard for the Fig and Prosciutto Salad — I do love figs — beautifully presented on a bed of baby greens and carrots. Oh, so full of “pings.” sharp and fruity, meaty and creamy, blessed with rich fig balsamic and cracked black pepper.

“Good food,” Barry says, “is not that difficult. It’s simple and straightforward.” Yes, especially when Barry puts it together with a lifetime of research, knowledge, understanding and creativity.

I have a soft spot for smoked salmon. Fettuccine Di Spinachi Con Salmone Affumicato — even the name is delicious. That translates to fresh spinach pasta, caramelized onions, garlic, Italian pancetta bacon, roasted tomatoes, house-smoked salmon, cracked pepper and pine nuts, and even the description is delicious.

Every day Barry and his dedicated staff make their traditional red sauce (sautéed carrots, onions, parsley, oregano, with red wine, plum tomatoes and two or three hours of slow simmering), hand-twist tortellini and hand-fill ravioli, freshly grind and season Italian sausage (pork, fennel, red pepper, oregano, basil, garlic and a few secret ingredients), all the sauces and dressings (aioli, pesto, puttanesca, vinaigrette) and bake fresh olive-oil focaccia. They make everything on the menu every day. Nothing sits more than 24 hours.

Every day Barry and co-workers are in the kitchen doing what they love most with passion, just waiting for you to stop by.

Torme Restaurant is at 802 Valley Street in Prescott, open Monday through Friday 11-3, with evening hours and patio seating coming soon. Closed weekends. Reservations recommended; call 928-778-7123 or tormeprescott@gmail.com.

Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott's leading creative food activist and teacher. Photos by Gary Beverly.