I 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!
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 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.
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.
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 and 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!
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!
One of my favorite casual dining restaurants is Pita Jungle in Chandler. As the name suggests, they offer a wide variety of dishes with pita. In addition, they have a great selection of hot & cold salads, delicious baba ganoush, and tasty wine selection. The menu features fantastic vegetarian options, and good selection for anyone with food allergies.
Last night we enjoyed a crisp bottle of South African Chenin Blanc with Tuna and Salmon salads, and finished with a baklava sundae. Delicious! Fresh fruit and vegetables are the basis for their light meals.
The best part? The view from the patio!
Update March 2014: I still love this place and ate lunch there yesterday. The view was spectacular as always. My friend ordered the chicken special, and I ordered the grilled chicken club wrap. Being good friends, we sampled each others meals. Both were good, but the specials are almost always the best item on the menu and yesterday this was very true. Delicious.
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