Quiessence Restaurant – Phoenix, Arizona Fine Dining

Quiessence is one of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area and the choice for my Birthday dinner.  The menu changes daily featuring fresh, local ingredients.  The best dining option is in the Tasting Menu that is a 5 course chef’s choice (you do not order any specific food, but you can specify Vegetarian and/or food allergies).  An optional wine pairing is available, and highly recommended (if you like delicious wine).

My Birthday Tasting dinner included a chilled vegetarian starter, bread (do not eat too much of the bread, pace yourself!),  meat & cheese appetizer (not quite fast enough with the camera), yellow squash salad with yogurt dressing, perfectly fluffy gnocchi pasta, salmon and fingerling potatoes, lamb with stuffed mini bell peppers, and desert course (complete with birthday candle).

Chilled vegetable starter
Yellow squash salad
gnocchi pasta
Salmon
Desert, complete with birthday candle

Quiessence is only open for dinner.  There is limited patio dinning and plenty of window side tables to enjoy the beautiful surrounding area on The Farm.  For a more romantic experience try to plan your dinner before sunset.  Be sure to make reservations.  Open Table is my favorite on-line reservation system and the mobile app is really easy to use.

Arizona Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try a three course meal at a much reduced fixed price to try out the scrumptious food from Quiessence!

Chocolat du Bouchard Naperville Chocolate and Coffee Shop

Le Chocolat du Bouchard is a delightful, little, neighborhood chocolate & coffee shop located in Downtown Naperville (Chicago suburb in Illinois).   They have a variety of chocolate everything!

Chocolate, and More Chocolate

The decor is charming, the entire store is inviting you to come in and enjoy a slice of chocolate cake with your coffee and a lazy afternoon.

The girls enjoyed picking out a special chocolate from the case.

And Coffee, of Course!

The espresso is top quality, great with a dash of chocolate or delicious on its own.  The service is consistently good.fresh espresso coffee

If you are hard-core, then try a slice of cake with your coffee.  They offer gluten-free, milk or dark chocolate, and many flavor options to choose from.

Yum!

June 2014 Update – Chocolate Shop Expansion!

They have added an extra room with more chocolate related gifts, chocolate bar, and this gorgeous chocolate apothecary for even more selection of chocolate goodies!

Chocolate gifts

Chocolate gifts

Behold, the expanded Chocolate Bar!

Taste of Chicago 2012

We attended the famous Taste of Chicago 2012!

2012 Taste of Chicago JenThereDoneThat.comI was told that this year was  smaller than previous years, for both restaurants and crowds.  A lite drizzle of rain really cleared the streets of Grants Park on Friday.  I was glad to avoid the crowds, and I am not sure we really missed out on fewer vendors.  Many smaller or less well-known restaurants were able to make an appearance in “pop-up restaurants” which allowed many delicious food options.  There were MANY pizza places, and a great variety of food from around the world.  Our favorite meal of the day was Jerk Chicken Belize-style from Garifuna Flava.

Tickets were 12 for $8. Eli’s cheesecake offered “taste” size original cheesecake for just 3 tickets ($2).  While most glasses of wine were between 8 to 10 tickets (average $6 each).  3 Ticket items were rare, and most portions were 8 tickets.  Not enough places had true sample or tasting size portions. There were quite a few chain and multiple location restaurants, and only a few unique Mom & Pop places that we could see.

Overall, we left full and happy.  We ate some good food and some amazing food.  The cool weather and a bit of precipitation was an added bonus!

 

Vino Loco Wine Tasting in Flagstaff, Arizona

While in Flagstaff recently, I discovered Vino Loco wine bar.  This is a darling little boutique wine bar, located in downtown Flagstaff, walking distance from the Monte V.  Vino Loco stocks many varieties of wine, including some great local Arizona wines. 

Due to the altitude, and my resulting diminished tolerance for wine, I decided to try the wine flights in order to try as many different wines as possible.  Prices are reasonable for flights, by the glass, or by the bottle. 

It is one of the best selections for hard to find Arizona small batch boutique wines.  The staff is friendly and they offer a few cheese & fruit platters to accompany the wine.  My next trip to Flagstaff will certainly include Vino Loco!

Cork Taste of Spring

Cork Restaurant is one of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area!  Every Sunday Cork offers a themed tasting dinner.  The theme changes each month, resulting in a fresh, seasonal, delicious special night out.  Here is a sampling from the “Taste of Spring” four course (plus an optional starter) dinner that I still dream about.  Hmmmm, yum.

We started with the (optional) starter course of Braised Rabbit Risotto with Fava Bean, Taleggio, and Arugula.  Bold flavors and great texture started the evening beautifully.  The fava beans were a delightful surprise with the cheesy risotto.

The first course of Watercress and Asparagus Soup with Dungeness Crab Fritter and Creme Fraiche was light and refreshing.  The crab fritter was slightly crunchy and paired nicely with the subtle sweet of the soup. Salad

 

The candied nuts offered a sweet side to the creamy brie and tart greens in the Pen Tendril Salad with St. Andre Brie, Raisins, Apricots, Candied Nuts and Roasted Apple Vinaigrette.  The salad was a refreshing mid-point after risotto and soup, giving me the opportunity to slow down and savor all of the sweet, tart, creamy, savory flavors and prepare my taste buds for the next level of mouth watering goodness.

Lamb Loin

It was a tough decision between the  Mustard-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, or Char-Grilled Lamb Loin, or Pan-Roasted Halibut.  We compromised on both the Lamb Pan seared halibutand the Halibut.  It was a tough choice between the juicy lamb and the perfectly seared halibut, but the lamb & wine pairing exploded with flavor and even though I was getting full, I still wanted more!

The evening ended with a light & fluffy Strawberry Shortcake with Grand-Marnier Marinated Strawberries.  Cork’s pastry chef recreates classic desserts and improves upon them, the shortcake was no exception.  The strawberry reduction was flavorful without being too sweet.  It was the perfect ending to a fantastic meal!

Strawberry Shortcake

The four courses were only $35 per person, and worth every penny.  I am excited to see what’s on next Sunday’s tasting dinner menu!