Desert Botanical Garden

There is so much beauty in the desert.  Some of it is hidden away, just out of sight.  The Desert Botanical Garden is one of those hidden gems.  Located in the very heart of metro Phoenix.  This tranquil garden showcasing the desert beauty.  In addition to daily tours (recommended for October through May), there are evening events for enjoyment year round.

Papago Park overlooking Desert Botanical Garden
Papago Park overlooking Desert Botanical Garden

I was asked to plan a work event on a small budget.  After narrowing the selection down to my top 3 selections, the team voted on dinner and concert at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Since our group was larger than 10 people we were given the group discount for the concert.  I worked with one of the super accommodating group planners to order dinner and reserve a private patio.

The garden is just beautiful!  Walking along the paved path there are so much beautiful plants with amazing colors.  We watched the sunset over the mountains in the garden during our cocktail service before dinner.  It is easy to forget that the garden is located in the middle of Phoenix.  The garden is full of delightful smells and visual treats.

The entire dinner was prepared well and seemed far more elegant in the garden setting.  Many people in attendance described the event & location as “classy”.

 

This is a fantastic location for wedding ceremony, reception, special night out, the list goes on and on.  I am already planning my next trip, maybe just a simple tour and romantic picnic lunch.

Taste Chandler

Last night I attended the Taste Chandler’s Culinary Festival in Downtown Chandler.  Single ticket was $35 and Couples admission was $50.  All tickets included 12 drink tickets, redeemable for 12 drinks! Chandler was smart to offer free bottles of water. You can eat and drink for 5 hours, which was a great value for the price.  We visited both lounges and went back to the Vintage 95 Wine Lounge a few times sampling the different wines.  12 tickets went a long way with the generous pours in the lounge!  Chandler did a good job organizing the event, with hand wash stations, plenty of rubbish bins, and music.

This is a great opportunity for restaurants to showcase their food.  Some of them achieved this goal, while others saved me time and money to ever visit their establishment.  This is a tasting event, about a tenth the size of Taste of Chicago, but a similar concept.  Each vendor brings small plate portion or a small single serving.  This allows you to sample a little bit from everyone.

Places now added to my “skip it” list:

  • Dos Gringos Mexigrill steak tacos tasted like low-quality dog food.  If I step foot into a Dos Gringos it will be to order a drink, maybe.
  • Irish Republic offered Jamison meatballs that went straight into the garbage after one bite.  I fear a second bite would have ended my night right then and there.

If you are going to do one thing, then do it well:

  • Coach & Willie’s lobster bisque was delicious.  We were actually in line for another vendor, when the woman beside me and asked if we had tried the soup.  Then she insisted that we immediately get our soup before they run out.  It was a little salty on the finish, but tasty and flavorful.
  • Grimald’s Brick Oven Pizzeria mixed it up with perfectly flaky cannolis.
  • Latitude 8 Thai Grill quenched our thirst with a refreshing vanilla vodka thai tea, mixed right in front of us.

    Le Cordon Bleu
  • Le Cordon Bleu is a culinary school that I always look forward to.  They served a choice of pasta, salmon with rice, or filet mignon with seasoned mashed potatoes.   It was one of our first plates to taste, and I am glad we arrived before they ran out of filet.
  • Yoli’s cafe served chicken tacos with sweet cabbage slaw.  I had never heard of this little gem, but I plan visit them soon.  She accommodated my special request, and gave me a coupon.

Superstars:

  • Pearl Sushi Lounge served sweet chili edamame, salmon poke with avocado “tacos”, and a crunch roll.  The greeter was informative, provided coupons, answered questions, and gave a complete description of everything we sampled.  I will definitely use the coupon, and plan to wear pearls for the Girls and Pearls Thursday night happy hour special!
  • Bourbon Jacks Bar and Grill started with a pretty good pulled pork sandwich, then finished with a fantastic black bottom pecan pie.  The pecan pie was so good that I ate 2 servings!
  • Udder Delights is the ice cream store for my favorite little local dairy, Superstition Farms.  The pumpkin ice cream was fantastic and served with an even better pumpkin ricotta custard.  The pairing was pumpkin heaven!  Even people that said they really do not like pumpkin agreed it was tasty good.
  • Shimogamo is one of my favorite sushi restaurants in town.  Since they were
    Shimogamo preparing sushi on-site

    preparing and serving food in an outdoor festival, they were did a great job with the delicious salmon and white fish sushi with crunch rolls.  They brought a portable refrigerated case, hand-made everything right there by their best sushi chef, and customized each plate with preferences.  It was by far the

    Sampler plate from Shimogamo

    BEST dish served at the festival, and it is not nearly as good as what they serve in the restaurant.  Seriously, they are that good!

 

Tempe Town Lake Activities

The temperature is starting to cool off and people around metro-Phoenix can finally venture outside with less fear of catching fire, or at least it feels that hot all summer long here.  Today a friend and I took my dogs out for a walk along Tempe Town Lake, the man-made lake in the middle of bustling University town Tempe.The park around the Lake is home to many festivals and concerts, so be sure to check out upcoming events here.

I prefer to plan my own event at the Lake.  Bring a picnic basket for a fun family activity during the day, or romantic get-a-way in the evening. There are plenty of bike paths,  walkways, shade trees, and benches.  The dogs love to walk around the lake with me.  There are mountain views to the north of the lake and the park is well kept and clean.

The main attraction is the lake, and there are quite a few activities to enjoy on the water.  Today we watched people sailing, kayaking, fishing, and on paddle boards.  There is a boat rental office on the south side of the lake for small boats, hydro bikes, and kayaks.Lake or land, the sunset is worth hanging around to watch.

 

Bombay Spice

I met a friend for lunch today at Bombay Spice restaurant.  This was not our first visit and there will be many more meals here.

Bombay Spice is Indian Cuisine with an american twist.  They have a dog friendly front patio and intimate indoor seating.  I first sampled their cuisine at Scottsdale Culinary Festival, but never knew the location (Northwest corner of Tatum and Shea, Phoenix).

Lentil Cake
Lentil Cake
Between my friend and I, we are have quite the food allergy list.  Bombay Spice offers vegetarian options and can accommodate any food allergy that you can imagine (gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, corn, yeast, rice, and more).   
The appetizers are big enough to share.  My favorite are the Chickpea Ceviche served cold, and Lentil Cake hot appetizer.   
Chickpea Ceviche
Spinach with Dosa
Chicken Tikka Masala with Dosa and Quinoa

 

 

 

 

 

The Tikka Masala is coconut-based for a lighter sauce than the more common yogurt or cream based sauce. They offer white rice, brown rice, or quinoa for many entrees, served with Naan or Dosa.

Chicken Biryani

Indian cuisine, or you want to try a non-curry meal, then try a Biryani containing basmati rice, spinach & vegetables, almonds, and mild spices.  Served with Papadum crisps so my gluten-free friend share part of my meal.

Save room for desert the Mango Sorbet topped with pistachio is not to be missed!  The service is excellent, taking great care of us and the dog in our party.  I am already looking forward to my next visit!

Rice Pudding
Mango Sorbet

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!