Monday, March 26, 2012

Arizona Anniversary

We have a tradition of kicking off vacation with a shot of Patron. HA!
Zack and I got engaged in September of 2004.  As much as we would have loved a summer wedding, we just didn't want to wait a year to get married.  We chose a date in February and decided it was perfect - it would give us a regular excuse to escape Seattle in what is one of its dreariest months.  Every year we head somewhere, preferably somewhere blessedly warm, and celebrate.  This year, we wanted to keep it simple and relatively easy on the pocketbook so we headed to Arizona.  We had a splendid time and truly ate well.

I've noticed that a lot of Seattle folks have been heading down to Phoenix lately too.  It really makes sense.  It's pretty perfect weather there during our worst winter months, around 65-75 degrees and sunny, its a cheap and easy flight, and the desert certainly has its charms.  Here are my recommendations from anniversary trip number seven!

Saguaro Hotel, Old Scottsdale
This restaurant, by Iron Chef Jose Garces, is billed as Modern Mexican, but all that means it that the environment is hip and upscale and the portions are small and perfectly executed.  This is the best, most nuanced and flavorful Mexican food that Zack and I have ever had.  No detail was left unturned.  I could write a whole review about just this restaurant filled with pictures of perfect 3" tortillas, luscious mole sauce, guacamole and the most perfectly smoked brisket you can imagine.  The happy hour is an amazing deal and the whole menu is incredibly reasonably priced for a man with the weight of an Iron Chef title behind his name.  This is my highest recommendation from our trip.  Stop for a drink in the lounge at the hotel, called Old Town Whiskey.  On Sunday nights, there is live jazz that actually rocks.  Zack said the jazz drummer was playing with rock hands.   

Old Scottsdale
I read about this place in Food and Wine magazine a year or more ago.  It was noted as having one of the top 10 restaurant dishes of 2010.  Now that is high praise, so it went immediately on my list.  It was one of our first stops. The braised leeks with bread crumbs, fontina and a fried egg were good, but not mind blowing.  This dish of beets, hazelnut and goat cheese crostini and pickled eggs was earthy and delicious. Definitely worth a visit for the local, seasonal New American genre in Phoenix.
Pizzeria Bianco
Downtown Phoenix
Chris Bianco started this now nationally renowned pizzeria almost 20 years ago and over time became part of the inspiration for the pizza revolution in America.  He was doing wood-fired, artisan Neapolitan inspired pizza before anyone and many have learned from him and joined the ranks.  The pizza is delicious, although others in America have taken it to a higher level I believe, including Pizzeria Mozza in L.A. and our own Delancey, in Ballard.
La Grande Orange Grocery
Thanks to lovely Luz, for suggesting this place.  Just the kind of high-quality vintage-hipster-bakery restaurant-coffee-shop-gourmet-grocery I'd start if I was going to do such a thing.  Best english muffin I've ever had and a rare good cup of coffee during our time.  Zack enjoyed a butterscotch morning bun that wasn't lyin'.  Butterscotch flavor abundance.  Great place for a scratch made breakfast or lunch and awesome pizza after 5pm. You'll love it. 

Los Reyes De La Torta 
North Phoenix
I saw this place originally on that horrid Food Network show, Man vs Food.  You know, the one where he stuffs himself to the point of agony at least once per episode.  I am an absolute sucker for a good Torta, and Trip Advisor confirmed the recommendation, so off we headed to try it out.  I expected it to be filled with Food Network junkies, but to my surprise, every table was sat with Latino families at Sunday lunch.  I heard no English coming from the tables around us.  We ordered the signature, del Rey, a behemoth of ham, melted cheese, pork sirloin, breaded beef, sausage, chorizo and eggs, with tomato, onions jalepeno and avocado.  Looking around, we knew that sharing one would more than suffice.  Now people, this is one of those great and very special sandwiches in life.  Stack it up next to a Paseo Cuban or a Katz's Pastrami.  It was so many wonderful flavors and so dang great together. 

Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room
Jerome, Arizona
One day, we decide to road trip through the desert to Sedona.  It's about a 2.5 hour drive.  On the way, we stopped in the old West copper-mining town cum tourist destination of Jerome.  It's a funky town worth a stop, if only to taste wine.  The winery, begun and owned by Maynard from the band Tool (so wierd!) makes interesting and sometimes delicious wines, that are hard to find in my experience.  We picked up some bottles with plans for a Caduceus wine dinner in our home, which we just enjoyed this past weekend.  Southwest themed food to pair with the Arizona wine - of course!

Enchantment Resort
Sedona, Arizona
After a little wine tasting, we finished our drive into Sedona.  Sedona is a town surrounded by some of the most beautiful red rock scenery anywhere in the world.  The town itself is a very typical tourist town and we weren't up for more tchochky.  I googled bars with a view or something like that and found this place.  It was perfect.  We sat out on the patio of the resorts main building, drinking beers and eating a plate of grubtastic nachos that I can't accurately assess because I was so happy sitting in the warm sun, on a cool day, in front of an adobe fireplace, on huge cushy armchairs with red rock views from every angle.  They could have been from 7-Eleven and I would have thought they were a revelation.  If you're headed to Sedona, spend a minimum of time in the town and find a beautiful resort to relax at and take in the natural beauty. 
Thank you for seven eventful, transformative years Zachary Trent Hubert!  You are absolutely my best friend, greatest love and finest dinner companion.  You will always be my favorite.

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