Category Archives: dinner

La Piazza Al Forno

So, it’s another Saturday and the big question looms: What are we going to do for dinner tonight? We wanted to try something new and we love discovering local, quaint little Italian spots. These two things added up to La Piazza Al Forno. I had read that it had Guy Fieri’s stamp of approval on Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives, so we decided, “What the heck, let’s give it a try.”

This little gem is located in the Historic District of Glendale, which totally enhances the quaint factor. We only had about a 20-30 wait and was it ever worth it! It didn’t take me long to settle on the Baked 4 Cheese Ravioli while my husband opted for their Margherita Pizza. His pizza was really, really good, but my ravioli was AMAZING! In fact, it’s best I’ve had in a long time. And there was plenty left over for lunch the next day. Before we even left the restaurant, I was dreaming of more ravioli (and I’m not really a left over kind of person).

Well, we couldn’t leave without dessert. We decided to just go for it and ordered two, to share of course. The Chocolate Cannoli was yummy, especially the filling, and the Italian Almond Wine Cake was downright melt-in-your-mouth dreamy.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the service was really good too – friendly and quick. Oh, and it’s very reasonable. So, the next time you’re looking for an Italian fix, head to La Piazza Al Forno.

La Piazza Al Forno
5803 W. Glendale Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85307
www.lapiazzaalforno.com

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5th and Wine

I just recently discovered this little gem of a restaurant/wine lounge in Old Town Scottsdale. As luck would have it, a friend decided that this was the perfect spot for her birthday celebration. Since I’m not one to pass up a celebration or the chance to try a new restaurant, I grabbed my husband and we headed out to Old Town.

This is such a cool spot! The atmosphere inside just begs you to sit down, relax and enjoy the company of good friends, good food and good wine. The walls are adorned with the artwork of renowned animal artist Ron Burns. As an animal lover, I was excited to see his whimsical prints. For me, it just added a little something extra. They also have a great outdoor area that I plan to check out once we ease into our version of winter.

 I was just as pleased with the food and wine as I was with the cozy atmosphere. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not a terribly picky wine drinker but I really enjoyed the Pino Grigio I tried (for the life of me, I don’t recall the name). They have lots of food choices on the menu for sharing. We opted for the Crispy Calamari (with a delightful chile basil dipping sauce, but not too hot) and the “Choose 2” Bruschetta. We went for the Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil, Balsamic Reduction and Hummus, Chive, Saffron Oil – both were yummy.

If you’re in the mood for some delicious eats, good drinks and a comfortable, laid back atmosphere, give this place a try.

7051 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale
www.5thandwine.com

El Chorro

Ah, El Chorro – One of the icons of Phoenix dining, as much for it’s food (including their famous sticky buns) as for the view – a straight shot of Camelback Mountain from the north side.

Herb Garden at El Chorro

It started out in the ’30s as a girls’ school, then became a restaurant for all the hip-and-happening in the ’50s. It had been run for decades by the same sweet couple, the Millers. But in 2009, after the Millers had said goodbye, Jacquie Dorrance (her husband, Bennett, an heir of Campbell’s Soup) purchased it and set out to remodel a pillar of old Phoenix.

The Dorrances are known around town – if not personally, than in their philanthropy. The planetarium at the Arizona Science Center and the sculpture garden at Phoenix Art Museum bear the Dorrance name. So for their next project to be El Chorro was fitting to their history here and their love of Phoenix. The public, though, held its collective breath as rumors swirled about whether or not the new version of the restaurant would live up to its name.

El Chorro has been open for months now, and the verdict is in: It is every bit as amazing as the original (and maybe even more).

El Chorro in Phoenix, AZ

The views of Camelback Mountain were improved upon by nearly doubling the patio dining areas, the interior and exterior are bridged by a huge bar, and the inside of the restaurant was completely redesigned to be brighter. In every sense, though, it is the glamorously rustic space you hope for, and the feeling of the old El Chorro hasn’t changed, thanks in part to the photos of old Phoenix set on the walls, the socializing under the sky, and yes – even the sticky buns are back.

There are also new, tucked-away areas that provide loads of charm. The patio has more fireplaces for the winter with big, cushy chairs (and by the way, misters run throughout the patio so even in the summer, the patio is 85 degrees), there is the organic garden, and beautiful lawns for events.

The food is equally impressive, even in the bar which draws the happy hour crowd to nosh on delicious appetizers and cool beverages.

El Chorro Dining

All-in-all, El Chorro is not to be missed. It is in the top 5 places I would recommend to my own family and friends coming to town, so take that, dear readers, as a good recommendation.

El Chorro Lodge
5550 E Lincoln Dr.
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Arizona Restaurant Week

Just announced, Arizona Restaurant Week has firmed up the dates for 2010, and will be returning from September 18 – 26. (Wallets and palates rejoice!) This year will feature over 100 restaurants, each offering three-course meals for either $29 or $39 per person, of course not including drinks, tax and tip.

Every year this is the must-do week of culinary exploration, and water coolers are filled with chatter about “What did you try?” Each year we get asked for our top picks, and withholding judgment until the full list is out, here are some big highlights:

Culinary Dropout
J&G Steakhouse
Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn
True Food Kitchen
Tuscany

A more comprehensive (and ever-growing) list can be accessed here. Some of the Phoenix area’s top chefs are already on the list and given previous years’ participation, we’re expecting a lot more to join soon.

One notable highlight this year –  restaurants will have the option to offer gluten-fee dishes, which will be noted on the Arizona Restaurant Week web site, so if gluten is not your friend, make sure to check the options first.

Oh, and feel free to log your anticipation of the event on twitter, with the hashtag #ARW2010.

La Grande Orange

La Grande Orange, or LGO for short, is a perfect little neighborhood retreat in central Phoenix. It’s really two places in one with La Grande Orange Pizzeria on one side and La Grande Orange Grocery on the other. The Pizzeria side offers a well-balanced menu of salads and pizzas with a few “off the grill” items tossed in for good measure. They are kind enough to label items that are vegetarian, vegan or gluten free which is uber helpful if you care about these things like I do (for me, it’s please hold the meat). The pizzas are nothing short of yummy, and I prefer mine topped with a fried egg. Hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it! 

My recent LGO dinner included the Classic Margherita (with egg, of course) followed by a stop on the Grocery side for a Tammie Coe cupcake. Tammie Coe desserts deserve their very own blog post – I’ll save that for another day. If you’re a bit of a shopaholic like me, then the Grocery can also help you out in that area. They have a fantastic array of items including soaps, candles, kitchen knick knacks, pet treats and more. All of their LGO-logoed stuff is adorable – very retro. And, oh yeah, they have groceries too, including a nice wine selection.

LGO Grocery is also known for it’s homemade English muffins that are griddled there every day. These things are so darn good that I’m smiling right now just thinking about them. If, like me, you try one and decide that you can’t live without them, then you’re in luck. LGO sells them by the dozen and half dozen so that you can enjoy them morning, noon and night.

Well, I think I’ve rambled on long enough about this fabulous place. Hopefully, you’ll get out and give it a try.

La Grande Orange Grocery and Pizzeria
4410 N. 40th Street, Phoenix
www.lagrandeorangegrocery.com
www.lagrandeorangepizzeria.com

Mother’s Day Top Picks

You’ve gotta do something special for your mom, sister, wife or friend this Mother’s Day, so how about some good conversation over a very good meal. But you don’t want to do something too typical, right? Right. So here are our top three-ish options for where to take her for something special.

1. Quiessence at the Farm at South Mountain

Quiessence is known for it’s literal farm-to-table meals, for it’s amazing Chef LaPrad and the very scenic beauty. Just driving up, you feel like you’re somewhere magical. Well, it gets better for Mom’s Day, because in addition to a very affordable $59 per person three-course dinner, you can also get your mama a massage and take family photos on the beautiful grounds. The food is amazing too; choices of Creamy French Onion Soup, Alaskan Halibut, Pan Seared Chicken – all local, all amazing.

Seating times for dinner are 4-5pm or 6-7pm, with the massages and photos from 4:30-6:30, depending on your dinner time.

Check out the menu and call 602-276-0601 for details and reservations.

Quiessence at the Farm at the South Mountain

Quiessence at the Farm at the South Mountain

2. Cafe Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho

Let’s say your mom is kinda hip, a little funky, but classy all the way. Where should you take her? One word – Zuzu. You can sit in their retro dining room, or outside under the palms, to enjoy their food from the much beloved Chef Charles Wiley. The Thick Belgian Waffles with Sun-dried Cherry Butter is a sure winner, or the Stuffed French Toast made with brioche and filled with lemon cream cheese and berries. It’s all a la carte, and more standard breakfast options are available as well.

Brunch runs from 6am – 3pm, but the special menu doesn’t start till 11am.

Call 480.421.7997 for details or visit opentable.com.

3. Greater Phoenix Resorts

You really can’t go wrong with any of the resorts here, but hit Prado at the Montelucia, the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge or the Fairmont Scottsdale for some elegant and special brunches. Frank & Albert’s at the Arizona Biltmore is a more casual but still very nice choice, and while it’s not really a resort, the Wrigley Mansion is super cool and sophisticated and will be very memorable, both from the food and the ambience.

The Main Ingredient

You might remember my initial post, filled with anticipation, giddyness, and a watering mouth. Well, The Main Ingredient Ale House & Cafe (TMI) is open and lives up to the hype.

“Hype” might not be the right word, considering this place is all about casual and easy-going, relaxing on their patio or maybe in front of the fireplace inside. The old Phoenix home is still there is spirit, enough to feel cozy with your beer and surprisingly delicious food. The menu is unassuming, with Starters, Salads, Hot Sandwiches and Dessert, but what they do, they do well. They have some of the absolute best chips and salsa I’ve had in this town (and I’ve nearly tried them ALL), which pairs beautifully, by the way, with their Coke or Coke Light from Sonora, Mexico (yes, it’s an entirely different product).

I could go on about the food – the Tuna Salad Salad, the Red Goat, Mindy’s Mac ‘n Cheese, The Sheridan sandwich, the Jive Turkey or The Calvano (with sopressata, aged provolone, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers) are all amazing and use local ingredients where they can.

The Main Ingredient Sandwich

The RB&C Sandwich

But you also come for the beer. It is called an Ale House, and while the adult beverages list is also heavy on wine, it has eight on draught, half of those from our great state. The Four Peaks Hefeweizen pairs gloriously with their patio and a pair of sunglasses, by the way.The bottle list is more extensive, and draws heavily from the lauded beers of the Western region.

Whatever you come for – the food, the drink, the atmosphere – this is a place that has made a great first impression on the Phoenix crowd and it’ll be around for a while.

The Main Ingredient Ale House & Cafe

The Main Ingredient
2337 North 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006

http://tmialehouse.com/