Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Eating Out in the Phoenician Desert - Some of my Favourite Restaurants

I am in Phoenix currently, holidaying with my lovely daughter who lives and works here. Twenty five years ago we lived in this wonderful city for the first 6 years of my baby’s life and we had a ball. It was a privilege to live in such a beautiful part of the United States as well as the world. Forget the heat, yes it’s hot, but that is a small price to pay for the lifestyle and way of life that I feel completely out ways the heat problem. You see it took me just a year to fathom out that you just turn your English year around and close up everything when it gets to 120 degrees in summer (like we do in the English winters) and you enjoy the outside terrain and way of life in winter, spring and autumn in an average perfect temperature of 80 degrees – a perfect English summers day.

On this trip, more than ever before, I have agreed to (and wanted to) try some of the new modern eating houses that have popped up on every cross street over the past twenty five years. On previous trips back I have sounded out my favourite eating haunts, to bring back and share in the wonderful memories I have of my life in the desert. But this trip I felt let’s move forward, let’s try new places, let’s not hold onto those memories quite so strongly. So sure enough daughter and friends seeked out their favourite haunts, getting great pleasure from introducing me to the modern Phoenix, the up and coming Phoenix, the new eating scene. Some were good, some just ok and some absolutely dire.
You see back in the day, back in my day twenty five years ago we trialled the classics. South western food was one of favourites and boy was it cooked and presently well back in the day. Flavours were local and taken from the natural flora of the Phoenician desert. Presentation was important; beautiful and important. Surroundings were tasteful, south western and reflected the local environment. And local chefs were famous for their cooking and well known for quality and presentation. It was important to support local in all ways and at every level.

So let me remind you of those eating houses I found so perfect back in the day…
The Arizona Biltmore – The Sonoran CafĂ© – NOW called Frank & Albert’s sample an innovative menu at where good food, architecture and art are celebrated in a contemporary setting.
2400 East Missouri Avenue, Phoenix – 602 955 6600

The Phoenician – Windows on the Green – NOW called Il Terrazzo – The authentic Italian cuisine served at Il Terrazzo captures the rich flavors and spices indigenous to this Southern European region. The progressive menu is highlighted by hand-crafted artisan breads and fresh pastas, created on the resort property. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also features a contemporary Sunday brunch. The Phoenician also serves traditional English afternoon tea and it was the best back in the day! 6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale – 480 941 8200

The Ritz Carlton – traditional English afternoon tea - Enjoy the cozy surroundings of our Lobby Lounge as you indulge in classical English high tea offerings. Our tea sommelier, Jeffrey Hattrick, specializes in creating customized tea experiences for each individual guest. This lavish setting is the perfect place to create lasting memories2401 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix - 602 468 0700

The Hermosa Inn – Lon’s - at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley, LON's has a one-acre organic garden located just outside the kitchen that provides fresh food and a natural training ground for the culinary team. It is here that the white coats of sous chefs, line cooks and pantry staff can be seen early each morning, watering produce beds and harvesting what bounty is at the peak of perfection that day. 5532 North Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley, Arizona - 844 267 8738

El Chorro – Paradise Valley’s historic El Chorro offers an authentic Arizona dining experience with stunning views of the Valley’s most prominent landmark, Camelback Mountain. Generations of Valley residents and visitors alike frequent El Chorro to savor seasonal cuisine featuring the highest quality in sustainable, locally grown, all natural ingredients, including herbs and produce from the El Chorro garden. 5550 E Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, Phoenix – 480 948 5170

The Wrigley Mansionis a landmark building constructed between 1929 and 1931 by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. It is also known as William Wrigley, Jr., Winter Cottage and as La Colina Solana. Visit Geordie’s Steak restaurant and Geordie’s Lounge for 360-degree city views, prime cuts of beef, and Chef Robert Nixon’s seasonal, Italian-accented menus for lunch, dinner, happy hour or Sunday brunch. 2501 E Telawa Trail, Phoenix – 602 955 4079 – Private membership - $5 for one month trial / $15 for one year social membership

Tomaso’s - embraces the lifestyle of Italian cuisine. Voted best Italian Restaurant in the valley since 1977, Tomaso’s celebrates simplicity & quality of authentic Italian food & wine with humor & hospitality. Tomaso's is proud to be celebrating over 35 years on the Camelback. 3225 E Camelback Road, Phoenix – 602 956 0836

Christopher’s - French-inspired bistro fare is served at this upscale mall spot with modern decor & an open kitchen. Biltmore Fashion Park, 2502 East Camelback Road #102, Phoenix – 602 522 2344

Vincent’s - who focuses his cooking to absorb the flavors of the Southwest into a refined, sublimated cuisine that no one else in America had attempted before. Vincent’s also now encompasses the Vincent Market Bistro and Farmers Market. 3930 East Camelback Road, Phoenix

Houston’s – NOW Hillstone’s – founded and owned by CEO George Biel and a family run business Houston’s (Hillstone) offer a south western merged with European and American flavour of dishes. They were always well renowned for their excellent and the best ribs in Phoenix. 2650 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix – 602 957 9700

The Spaghetti House and Vigara Bistro - these I believe have disappeared or morphed into something different, but back in the day offered excellent south western freshly produced cuisine reflecting the local flora and fauna.

Some have disappeared, many still with us, some have expanded and some have morphed but they were all classic, served great food and were affordable back in the day. The food in each was unique but awesome; the ones that have made it through to today, if you are ever in Phoenix, you should try them, you won’t be disappointed. Most still have delightful dining areas reflecting the colours, tones and atmosphere of the Sonora desert; fabulous patios with awe inspiring views and scrumptious mouth-watering south western dishes oozing with fresh fruits, vegetables together with an interesting array of fish and meats permeating fabulous aromas, textures and flavours of the wonderful  unapologetic  Phoenician desert. I ask you to try these classics; get yourselves dressed up and spend those special occasions experimenting and eating in some true Sonoran eating houses that have been here almost as long as some of the grand towering saguaros.

Elaine Hook
Travel, Food & Content Writer

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