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!
On a recent trip to Flagstaff, Arizona we started the day with a nice warm-up hike. The city of Flagstaff is located at 8,000 ft, and if you are not accustomed to high elevations, I strongly suggest starting with an easy hike. Kendrick Park is located a 20 miles north of Flagstaff on the 180.
The parking lot is well paved with great views all around. Summer or Winter, this hike is worth the stop. There is a 1/4 mile loop that is even paved for wheelchairs & baby strollers! The larger loop is 1.5 miles. Our only regret was not being prepared for such a beautiful picnic spot!
I love unique, boutique-style hotels. Hotels will a bit of history are even better. The Monte Vista is a four story, red brick hotel with a rich history located in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona. Typical for buildings of this age, the rooms are small, but decorated for full use of the space. It was built in 1926 and was visited by old-Hollywood actors, many have rooms named after them. We stayed across from the Jane Russell room, due to a last minute booking. Next time, we will plan better and that Bob Hope room will be mine!
The hotel is off of the famous Route 66 (which offers its own sight-seeing and history), walking distance from NAU campus, near the Amtrak train station, a short drive to Snow Bowl, 81 miles south of the Grand Canyon, and very close to some of my favorite hiking trails!
Flagstaff is a great place to visit year-round. It is a refreshing place to cool off in the summer, at nearly 7,000 ft elevation. Be sure to avoid NAU graduation (usually early May) and homecoming (end of October), as these weekends tend to be crowded and expensive.
Lately, most of my grocery shopping is at farmer’s markets and small grocery stores (Sprouts and Fresh & Easy are my two favorites). Today it was raining and the farmer’s market just did not sound fun. It will be wet. I am feeling lazy and want something for lunch that is pre-cooked and warm, like soup. So, I went to one of those HUGE super grocery stores. Huge mistake. The parking lot was a crowded mess. There were tons of people wondering around looking lost, and I soon joined them. I found ricotta cheese and many refrigerated blobs of food-like product, but no cottage cheese (something on my grocery list). I found dry soups, canned and boxed soups, soups at the deli, and soups in jars. Due to food allergies, I check every label before it goes into my cart, much less my body! Every soup label I read contained non-food unpronounceable items. Same label problems for the milk, yogurt, gelato, and meat that are also on my list.
Too late for my favorite farmer’s market, I gave up on the gigantic grocery store that contains no real food in the ¼ acre building, and I headed to my comfortable little F&E. When I walked in I was struck by how tiny it really is, how quiet and clean, and how easy it is to find food. Within a few minutes I had everything on my list, including 3 kinds of lovely soup that contain food, and only food! Chemical and pesticide free food!
If you are still shopping at the large format grocery stores, give the small store and farmer’s markets a chance. It is a more enjoyable experience, I did not get lost, shopping is faster, and a dozen other reasons will keep me going back to the farmer’s markets and small shops – rain or shine!