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Niall, Vincent's on Camelback is, for lack of a better description, the definitive Phoenix dining experience if you only have one restaurant to go to. This is the link to their website:

http://www.vincentsoncamelback.com/index.shtml

Ranked 24th by an English publication in the world. This is the link:

http://www.vincentsoncamelback.com/reviews2.shtml

I don't think it's THAT good but it is an outstanding experience.

There's also (don't laugh) great pizza there, too!

Edited by Joe H
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Niall

If you've been perusing eG you probably saw the thread for Binkley's. I haven't been, but it appears to be awfully good from what they say there, and since Kevin is a cousin of mine (extremely distant) I'm curious just how good. He seems to be from a food/restaurant-oriented family---I know his Dad, whom I met at Maestro one evening due to our last names being the same. Kevin has worked at both the Inn at LW and French Laundry, and former collegues speak highly of him. Certainly seems to merit a slot on your short list.

If you should happen to go, I'd love to hear about your experience.

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Durant's (2611 N. Central Ave.) is fun in an old-school supper club/steakhouse kind of way. I confess I've only had lunch at the bar a few years back. But the burger was pretty good, the bartender was friendly, and he kept my "Arnold Palmer" (half iced tea/half lemonade) filled.

It's easy to disappear into the red and black cave that is the place - I recall that there aren't any windows...

Durant's website - be sure to click on the Motto... :lol: it's a classic!

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I will be going to Scottsdale for the first time between Christmas and New Years with the family. I have never been before. We will be staying at the Fairmont Scottsdale and I would appreciate any and all restaurant recommendations in the area.

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Ever since reading Don's report on Pizzeria Bianco 'Egullet days' I knew I had to visit. Last year I even contemplated driving. This year I gave it little thought.. I just did it.

Thanks Don! It was amazing. My family of five ordered everything on the menu except one seasonal salad. All six pizza's were outstanding and unique in there own way. The tomato and mozzarella salad hands down beat Ad Hoc's in yountville a few days before.

I had the opportunity to talk with Chris between pizza making and found him to be a down to earth type guy who is passionate about his craft. When our meal was over he gave us all tee shirts and Pizzeria Bianco pins before leaving. What more can I say? ;)

2500 miles and getting there at 3.00pm in ungodly heat to guarantee a first seating later? Yes, It was worth it to me.

Bad news is we forgot about Pane Bianco. Anyone interested in a cross country sandwich trip next year?

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I second the Cowboy Ciao recommendation. Our party of 6 all raved about their meals. I would definitely go back. We also took

my inlaws to the wine bar (Kazimierz), and it was a tad adventurous for them. They have more appetizers/tapas rather than full meals. Not that the food was crazy, but the concept didn't make them comfortable. Much more meat and potatoes people. The home made sausages were quite tasty at Kazimierz and the flatbreads were also good. The wine flights are great fun at both places. Reservations recommended for both. We were there the first week of January (for a bowl game, sigh) and popular places could get fairly crowded.

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Thought I would add a link to some photos for those interested.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84954050@N00/...57600966565712/

Please tell me you did not wait outside for two hours? :angry: I still don't understand why they don't expand, and let people eat at the waiting area/bar next door. I was at a conference a year or so ago, and I was lucky enough to get a seat at the bar around 5 pm one night. I thought the pizza was good, but no better than Two Amys. Nice pictures.

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Please tell me you did not wait outside for two hours? B) I still don't understand why they don't expand, and let people eat at the waiting area/bar next door. I was at a conference a year or so ago, and I was lucky enough to get a seat at the bar around 5 pm one night. I thought the pizza was good, but no better than Two Amys. Nice pictures.

Yes we did. And that day I believe it was around 112 degrees. Believe me this upstate NY boy has never seen heat like that. :angry:

I was determined to make the first seating. After driving across the country a two hour wait was practically heading down the home stretch. Another party showed up shortly after we got there and by 4pm the line was to the wine bar next door.

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i liked the Pizzeria Bianco pix- went there a couple years ago- great place

if you are able to get to Tucson- it's a short drive, i would recommend El Charro Cafe- a Mexican place- pretty amazing- their specialty is Carne Seca- a beef dish that they sun dry on the roof of their restaurant. Delicious and worth a shoot to Tucson- you might also be able to check out a show at the Hotel Congress while you're down there.

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I'll be in Scottsdale/Phoenix this weekend. I think my friends have some food options lined up, but just in case, any more tips? And any non-food tips? I think I'll have a free afternoon and any sightseeing tips would be much appreciated!

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I'll be in Scottsdale/Phoenix this weekend. I think my friends have some food options lined up, but just in case, any more tips? And any non-food tips? I think I'll have a free afternoon and any sightseeing tips would be much appreciated!

I was in Scottsdale last month for about a week. Here's my rundown:

1. Rubio's: Fast Food taco place that we really enjoyed. Rightly well-known for their fish tacos (I enjoyed their basic fish taco, not the 'special' one). Good stuff, with a number of locations around. Definitely worth a visit, in my opinion--great lunch option.

2. Fry Bread House: In kind of a dodgy area of Phoenix, and only open until 7 or 8 PM. Huge fry-breads dressed like tacos, or like funnel cakes, depending upon what part of the menu you are looking at. Great for sharing. The butter/chocolate fry-bread is deeply, sinfully rich. We enjoyed talking with the people there and despite other things that we had read, the service was good.

3. Hacienda (at the Fairmont): Touted as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the US, we were pretty underwhelmed. It was good, particularly the lobster appetizer, but was not really that remarkable. At the prices they charge, we expected high-quality ingredients, a creative approach to Mexican cooking, and a wow-factor. We got the first of those, but not the second or third.

4. Talavera (at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale): We were pleasantly surprised, finding the food far more interesting than expected. Pricy, but very well-prepared contemporary American cuisine.

5. Old Town Tortilla Factory: Not bad, nice patio for dining al fresco, food was relatively inexpensive. The shtick there is house-made tortillas, a different flavor (or two) every day. We liked the tortillas and the salsa, the entrees were just okay. They have a bar specializing in (surprise surprise) tequilas, but alas I didn't get a chance to check that out. Next time, I'd probably go for drinks there and appetizers.

We tried to hit up Pizzeria Bianco, but (as the hostess told us) they had recently been featured on Oprah and were relentlessly slammed. She was apologetic in saying that a weekend wait for a table could be close to 4 hours in primetime, and up to 3 during the week. While I was in the restaurant talking to the hostess, the owner of the place heard me say that I appreciated the info, but didn't think that we would wait that long. He said (paraphrasing) "Thanks for trying, and please do come back." For being turned away (by the wait, not the restaurant), I left with a good impression of the restaurant due to the nice gesture on his part, and we will definitely try to make it back there again.

Other things: Pinnacle Peak is a fun (and relatively easy) climb. I'd suggest an early morning hike (starting around 6:30 AM) to enjoy the morning views. The terrain is (for an east coaster such as myself) very alien, and walking in the desert setting, encountering cacti and other desert flora, is a nice way to spend the morning.

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We were also in Phoenix/Scottsdale about 2 weeks ago visiting a friend.

For Sat dinner, we went to Pizzeria Bianco (downtown Phoenix). We got there about 6:20pm, and the hostess said the wait would be about 4 1/2 to 5 hours (for 3 of us). We went to Bar Bianco in the building next door, and we spent some quality time together (that's how I rationalized it for everyone; they were not as gung ho as I was about waiting it out.) We had wine, large green olives (cerignola I think), grilled cheese, and a cheese plate while we waited. After about 3 hrs and 35 mins, we were seated. I had the Sonny Boy pizza which comes with salami and olives. The middle of the pizza sagged a bit from the toppings, but it was a really good pizza.

For Sun dinner, we went to Cowboy Ciao (Scottsdale). I had the slow-roasted short ribs, and they surprised me in how good they were. The ribs had a crisped roasted exterior and were very tender inside. The ribs came with a side of dried cherry bbq sauce that I only used every so often because I kept wanting to taste the flavor of the ribs on its own. For dessert I had a bacon cookie, which had some dried fruits in it. The bacon taste was subtle. I also had a taste of my friend's bacon brittle that came with his elvis dessert, which I think was chocolate souffle and banana ice cream, but I was fixated on the bacon brittle. There was definitely a strong bacon flavor in the brittle, in a good way.

For Mon pre-dinner, I went to In-N-Out Burger (northern Phoenix). I'd never been to one and wasn't expecting to see any In-N-Out Burgers on my trip so I hadn't done my homework. I just got a cheeseburger and fries. The beef patty was thin and well-done, which makes me wonder what the excitement is. Even if you stack a few of the patties. I know, next time I'll try a double double animal style and see how that is...

For Mon dinner, we went to Blue Agave Mexican Cantina (Scottsdale). I had a beef burrito. The food was fine, but nothing special.

If you like Frank Lloyd Wright, you could take a tour of Taliesin West in Scottsdale. The tickets are pricey, but it was an interesting tour.

This might be too long for an afternoon trip because it's about a 2 hour drive from northern Phoenix, but you could go to Sedona to see the red rocks and/or stop at Montezuma Castle (cliff dwellings) on the way. Right near Montezuma Castle, we stopped at a fry bread/crafts stand on the side of the road run by a Native American woman and her son. He fried the fry bread to order while she was working on a sand painting. We had one fry bread sprinkled with salt and the other with powdered sugar. Both kinds were really good. They did remind us of funnel cakes.

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I am heading to Scottsdale tomorrow, and the rest of my colleagues don't arrive until Monday so I'm looking forward to a relaxing (and indulgent!) solo meal tomorrow night. Would Cowboy Ciao be a good choice? Is there a bar at which I can dine?

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I was in Tempe a couple of weeks ago on business and had an excellent meal at Atlas Bistro in Scottsdale. It is a BYO, but it is attached to the AZ Wine Company so you can buy a very good bottle of wine there and they will open it for you. (If you bring your own, as I did, I think they charge a $10 corkage fee.) If you go, be sure to try the fois gras dessert, it is heavenly.

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went to a wedding in Scottsdale over the weekend so everything was out of my control...

Friday night's pre-party was at Frank & Lupe's in deserted Old Town Scottsdale (6:30pm on a Friday night nothing but tumbleweeds!). A crowd of 20 of us took over the outdoor back patio, fun place for a group outting, my recollections are a little foggy but the food seemed mediocre at best...the mini tacos were fine to snack on, the cheese quesadilla was cheesey and satisfying, the guac dip platter uninspiring, the carne asada tacos terrible.

http://www.frankandlupes.com/

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Just returned from a quick trip to Phoenix. While I was there I decided to visit famed pizza mecca Pizzaria Bianco, which consistently ranks at the top or near the top of almost any "Best Pizza in the US" list. An pilgrimage to Bianco's involves a commitment of time. They are only open at night Tues- Sun. I got there at 9:30 and the wait was 1.5 hrs. They say that on weekend nights the wait can be up to 4 hrs!!

Having said that...is the wait worth it? In a word...Absolutely. Any serious devote of pizza must at some point pay a visit. It's just that good. I had the margarita with fennel sausage and mortadella. Every pie is handcrafted by the owner, Chris Bianco. This is a guy who really takes pride in his work.

The crust emerged from the wood burning (ash/white oak) oven charred in all the right places. It was a perfect crust flavorful, nutty and just the right amount of salt. The toppings were all first rate...the sausage was some of the best I've ever had and the mortadella was a great compliment. The sauce was simple, flavorful and perfectly tomatoey.

All in all one of the best pies I've ever had and one of the handful of places where the hype matches the reality.

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Three really great meals during our few days in Scottsdale/Phoenix.

First night, we went to FNB restaurant, a newcomer to the Scottsdale scene and a really impressive, fun meal. The restaurant is small, with some tables and a number of seats surrounding the kitchen counter. We sat at the counter, right in front of the wood-fired grill, and had a great evening watching the chefs cook. The food was great--our citrus-marinated olives were a nice start, along with a delicious beat dish. We followed up with braised leeks served underneath broiled mozzarella and a fried egg--really outstanding--and a spicy spigarello/chilies dish. For our mains we had the pasta with prosciutto, which was good but not sparkling, and the roasted jidori chicken, a succulent chicken dish served with a very nice spaetzel. Nice meal, great service, and all complemented reasonably well by an Arizona red.

The next dinner out was at Quiessence, south of the Phoenix Airport. Really nice meal here, very inviting place. The menu appears to change daily based on what is available and the chef's whims. The restaurant works to serve locally-sourced produce, and everything that we had was really delightful. The goat-cheese stuffed carmella pasta was amazing, and inventive, and makes me want to grab my pasta maker and make my own. The guinea hen breast was a perfectly cooked, apparently brined, and nicely combined with a subtle brown sauce. The chocolate souffle was fantastic. We will go back to this place the next time we are in Scottsdale to do the full 'farm tasting menu'.

Finally, dinner out at Cowboy Ciao, one of the long-standing staples of the Scottsdale dining scene, was also very fun and enjoyable. The wine list at this place is a nightmare--oddly organized (if at all), but there are all kinds of things on there that look like they are worth drinking. The chopped salad was a pleasant surprise, including the preparation at the table, and another dish that we will try to replicate at home. My rib chop was a dinosaur-sized, blue cheese-stuffed hunk of perfectly grilled meat, and the caveman in me rejoiced.

Our guilty pleasure, when we arrive and before we leave, is Rubio's--fast food chain fish tacos. I'm no connoisseur, but I love this place.

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Any recent recs for the Phoenix area? I'm going next week on business. The travel partner prefers chains and simpler/cheaper places, but I'm hoping to tempt him away for a few meals. I'll probably try to hit Pizza Bianco on my own for a second dinner one of the nights, since I don't want to make him wait (unless there's a secret, magic time to go when there will be very little wait!). Quiessence sounded great to me, but will probably be too "fancy". I might try Cowboy Ciao, which, even though its a nearby price point, sounds less fancy and shouldn't be too scary. Any ideas?

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Here's the eating summary for a short week in the Phoenix area:

My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Tempe was fine. Salty, filling, and cheap. The flaming cheese flamed, the gyro meat was spiced appropriately, and the multiple carbs on my plate (rice, pita, potatoes) were plentiful and not overcooked. We settled on this place after walking past all the Mill Avenue restaurants and can't say I'd rush, or even walk slowly in the heat back to the area.

Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, on the other hand, was delightful. I put together a strange meal of things I really wanted to try, without attempting to make things flow, which turned out all right. I had a nicely dressed mixed salad (smoked tomato dressing), a small plate of the mushroom pan fry, and the short rib risotto. This ended up being a lot of heavy food, but I was happy with everything I chose. I think I will try to recreate the pan fry in the winter with loose (not formed) polenta, and if I can get the sauce anything like the restaurant's, I'll be thrilled. The risotto is a huge portion laced through with shred of luscious short ribs. My dining partner had some quesadillas with pork barbecued in a very sweet sauce, and a beautifully gargantuan pork chop. I didn’t care for the sweetness of the sauce in the quesadillas, but it all disappeared quickly, so someone liked it!

La Canasta apparently has several locations in Phoenix, but my coworkers brought me to the South 7th Ave. location, which they said was the original and best. The chips were light and crispy, the salsa was chunky and not particularly spicy (the way I like it, so I can eat a lot without the fire mouth), and the red chile sauce inside the burrito was excellent – deeply flavored and spicy without, again, being overwhelmingly so. The refried beans were also very flavorful. I tried to get to Carolina’s Kitchen, but kept getting lost. My coworkers assured me that, while their tortillas are matchless elsewhere in the City, the food at La Canasta is actually much better. This time I have to take their word for it!

The Wild Thaiger has a silly name, but is a perfectly adequate and pretty little Thai place in downtown Phoenix. I didn’t love my rice noodles (they were the thinner kind) for their texture, but the flavor was fine, and my partner liked his pad Thai. The spring rolls were light and crispy, but ordinary. I got a look at some of the curry plates on my way out, and if they are as good as they look and smell, THAT is what one is supposed to order there.

I did decide to put in my time and wait to get into Pizzeria Bianco. Bar Bianco is a charming little house of a place to wait and I had a few glasses of white wine (prosecco and Gewerstaminer), the remains of which (my last glass) I walked over with when I was called to the pizzeria. Tax was included in the price, which was nice. It was fun watching the guys working on the pizzas, and I was allowed to get a half wise guy, half margherita pie. I LOVED IT!!!!! I might not drive across the country, and I might not wait during the weekend rush, but it is genuinely more than worth the hour or so I put in on a Thursday night. The toppings on the Wise guy side were just shy of overloading the thin, crusty, but still floppy slices. It was delicious, but I think I enjoyed the margherita side even more. It’s a perfect, simple pizza. I kept trying to think whether I was convincing myself of the superior taste because of the wait, but I like to think that it was independently wonderful. Since I can’t test that, I just have to conclude that it really was fabulous, since I’d do it again next time I’m in the area. Two side notes – Kevin Johnson and I think Michelle Rhee were leaving as I sat down, which is kind of funny, since I’ve never seen her here at home, and the flavors, if not the textures, of the margherita pizza travels well cross country.

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First night, we went to FNB restaurant, a newcomer to the Scottsdale scene and a really impressive, fun meal. The restaurant is small, with some tables and a number of seats surrounding the kitchen counter. We sat at the counter, right in front of the wood-fired grill, and had a great evening watching the chefs cook. The food was great--our citrus-marinated olives were a nice start, along with a delicious beat dish. We followed up with braised leeks served underneath broiled mozzarella and a fried egg--really outstanding--and a spicy spigarello/chilies dish. For our mains we had the pasta with prosciutto, which was good but not sparkling, and the roasted jidori chicken, a succulent chicken dish served with a very nice spaetzel. Nice meal, great service, and all complemented reasonably well by an Arizona red.

FNB is a damn fine restaurant. Stopped by on a business trip a few weeks ago. I really like the kitchen counter which makes it much more fun as a solo diner. Started off with a simple dish of local butter, local honey, radishes and country bread which paired wonderfully with a local IPA. Then moved onto an arugula, pumpkin, pomegranate seed, fried chicken liver salad which was outstanding and the above mentioned leeks/mozarella/egg dish. This place is definitely worth a trip.

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In Phoenix this evening, Scottsdale to be exact. We went to Cowboy Ciao this evening, and loved it. Carrie was a wonderful waitress, and we enjoyed talking with her. The Absolut straight up very dry with a twist martinis were fantastic, as was the Zero Manipulation blended wine.

We shared the house salad and the crispy mac and cheese. It was funny, we both remarked that the mac and cheese had a kick, and the bloody-mary like salsa was good to cool down each bite. I had the short rib risotto, well, as much as I could finish, and my dining companion (who graciously paid for it all) had the "Bowl of the Day" which happened to be Posole with pork, green chilies, cilantro, all the good stuff.

It was exactly what we needed after a long day.

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Funny how Phoenix has suddenly been active. I was just there last month and was lucky to go on a food safari one night with Dmnkly (aka Skillet Doux).

We went to FnB (Food & Beverage) in Old Scottsdale first- it was spectacular. They do amazing things with local and seasonal vegetables there. I also admired how simple each dish was, not overdone, and perfectly constructed. My favorite was fried zucchini chips with mint and chili. We also had eggplant with yogurt, pomegranate and za'atar, a lamb's tongue salad with rye bread, green beans and cherry tomatoes, shishito peppers with tuna confit & anchovy, and roasted quail on couscous.

The second stop was Nogales Hot Dogs to try a Sonoran hot dog- hot dog wrapped in bacon on a steamed fluffy bun with pinto beans, mayo, tomato and onion. I added some green salsa and queso cheese to mine.

We finished our night out at Posh for their weekly Thursday staff meal. Had their version of scrapple & eggs- which was not scrapple at all, duck confit crepes and a foie torchon brulee.

Dmnkly told me the late night dining scene is lacking there- even Korean BBQ's close at 10, but there is an up and coming foodie community that relies on twitter to communicate. A bit unwieldy I would imagine.

His blog has some great items on the AZ scene.

My pics are here.

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I am definitely checking out PHXfoodnerds, but thought I'd ask if anyone had recent experiences/recommendations for Phoenix - I will be there March 10-13 for work.  I'm thinking Pizzeria Bianca is a must, since goodness knows if/when I will return to the area.  I'm staying in "downtown North" - I'm told we will have good access to light rail, which is great.  Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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Even though my business trip left me practically zero free time, I did make it to Pizzeria Bianco last week - delicious!  We went relatively early, and there was no wait for an outside table on a beautiful spring day.  They had a gorgeous arugula salad with apples, candied pecans, and goat cheese, so I ordered one of those and a half and half pizza (white and margherita).  The salad was fantastic, and I really liked both pizzas, but the margherita stole the show - with this endless DC winter, I had forgotten the simple but sublime joys of fresh tomatoes and basil with really high quality cheese.  The food highlight of the trip!

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On ‎3‎/‎2‎/‎2016 at 4:42 PM, DonRocks said:

Last year, I went to Pizzeria Bianco *three times* - once to the original, downtown location by myself (on a separate trip), and twice with the ladies (first to the downtown original, next to the northern, Town & Country location). When I first went to Pizzeria Bianco in 2003-ish, Chris Bianco himself was behind the counter, making all the pizzas; last summer, I didn't see him at all. However, the good news is that in my four visits which span over a decade, I haven't had one, single thing that was short of outstanding - and that goes for pizzas, salads, side dishes, and more importantly, both locations, with or without Chris Bianco being present. Go there on your very first night (the downtown location is not far from Phoenix airport), because there's a very good chance you're going to want to go a second time.

A Legendary Pizza Maker Steps Away From the Fire, by Brett Anderson, OCT. 18, 2016, on nytimes.com

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On 3/2/2016 at 4:42 PM, DonRocks said:

Last year, I went to Pizzeria Bianco *three times* - once to the original, downtown location by myself (on a separate trip), and twice with the ladies (first to the downtown original, next to the northern, Town & Country location). When I first went to Pizzeria Bianco in 2003-ish, Chris Bianco himself was behind the counter, making all the pizzas; last summer, I didn't see him at all. However, the good news is that in my four visits which span over a decade, I haven't had one, single thing that was short of outstanding - and that goes for pizzas, salads, side dishes, and more importantly, both locations, with or without Chris Bianco being present. Go there on your very first night (the downtown location is not far from Phoenix airport), because there's a very good chance you're going to want to go a second time.

1 hour ago, dcs said:

A Legendary Pizza Maker Steps Away From the Fire, by Brett Anderson, OCT. 18, 2016, on nytimes.com


I am very upset by this article, even though I suppose it shouldn't be a big surprise.

I've written only one great piece of literature in my life, and it is "Meeting Chris Bianco." I intentionally wrote it to look simplistic, almost primitive, but I spent over 80 hours working on it, revising, and revising, over-and-over again, coming up with new imagery, motifs, layers, and themes, all of which are hidden behind what's supposed to come across as a banal restaurant review. I submitted it for a James Beard Award, and when it didn't reach the final cut, I knew that I would never win an award in my entire career - either because I'm not good enough, or because they're not good enough - I've never submitted another entry, and I doubt I ever will.

Meeting Chris Bianco (Aug 8, 2005 Publication)

It was our final day together in the desert. My son and I had just finished dinner at Pizzeria Bianco, and we were about to walk out of the restaurant.

The manager had come over to say goodbye, and as we thanked her for our supper, we began chatting politely. A man behind the counter, kneading dough, his hands covered with flour like he had plunged them into the oven and grabbed at the white ashes, looked up and smiled.

Returning the smile, I turned back toward the manager.

"Is the chef in tonight?"

I saw something out of the corner of my eye, but when I glanced to my left, I saw only the sun against the window. I looked back toward my right, and for a second time, my eyes were drawn to the man behind the counter.

"He's right here."

"Where?"

"Right here."

It was Chris Bianco.

Taken by surprise, I nervously thanked him, and aware that the restaurant was becoming crowded, asked for a piece of paper so I could write him a brief note. Somewhat taken by surprise himself, he tore off a page from a tablet, and I went outside and sat down at a small table with my son by my side.

I began writing with a sense of purpose, wanting to convey in just a few lines the essence of the whole meal. Just as I had started the second sentence, something rose in my field of vision, and when I lifted my eyes, the chef was standing in front of me, dressed in white and framed across the window of the restaurant, looking at me with a great deal of concern.

He needed to know we were all right. I quickly reassured him, and he then sat down and began talking with us, the crowd of people forming at the door behind him. It was a lot to digest in a very short time: thinking about all the accomplishments of the past that would soon be forgotten, worrying about unsolvable problems that require an immediate answer, lovingly serving those who are too young and will not remember, counting and recounting everything that could possibly go wrong in the future, finding the right balance of fennel in the sausage, wondering how to lift half the sack of flour, without letting the other half drop down.

"The sun comes in from the southwest, through this window, right onto the red wines," he said.

We talked for several more minutes, and then there was a pause in the conversation. At that moment, we both knew that he needed to get back inside, and that my son and I needed to begin our long trip home. He smiled and said goodbye, patted my son on the shoulder, and then disappeared into the restaurant.

Walking back to the car, the need to recount everything about the meal quickly faded into the bleached sun. Just before pulling away, I turned toward my right and brushed from my son's dark blue shirt a final gift from the man left behind, the counter, the man left, needing, the man with the flower on his hands.

-- written for my wife Karen Rockwell, who died in my arms on August 8th, 2002.

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Lunch today in Mesa, AZ, at Worth Takeaway, a sandwich shop that is absolutely fantastic. Great sandwiches start with great bread, and the sourdough and ciabatta come from a local bakery and are very worthwhile. My chicken salad sandwich was less a standard take on chicken salad, and more of a shredded, flavored chicken mixed with olives and other goodness and then served with a very thinly sliced apple slices. Beyond delicious. My wife had the cuban, and it was also a nice twist on that classic. My son devoured two of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--nothing special between the sourdough, but great for him.

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Considering a new opportunity and met with a major center in the Valley and had a few pretty good meals.

Always felts that Phoenix was sort of a food desert ... ha ha ha... but, opinion has changed a bit. 

First dinner was at a casino, The Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. We got a good amount of share plates, including foie gras, cheese board, and lamb empanadas. All were quite tasty. Had a few pale ales, and the other docs got some cocktails that they seemed to like. Two of us got the Elk Loin, I had it medium rare, the other one was cooked medium. Medium rare was very close to rare, and it was good, but I usually wouldn't eat it that red (but the South American at the table tried both, and said the medium rare was better). Someone else got the skirt steak and really enjoyed it. And someone else got the snow crab, and I had a bite of that - really good. We got some nondescript deserts. I didn't see the bill, but it was very expensive. Overall, it was what you would expect at a high end resort in Scottsdale, and I had a nice time. I can see taking people out there for the ambiance and the view. 

The next day, had happy hour with friends at OHSO Brewery, a local chain that has maybe 4 locations and one in the airport, as well. I'm not sure it was the pipes, or the heat, or the beer quality, but it was pretty lousy. The thing is, the locals love OHSO. I tried to hold my tongue, but man ... so bad. Drinks are generally pretty cheap in the Valley, if you're not at a resort, and happy hours are very cheap (think $7 craft pitchers). We had a snack there, and it was fine. Then, me and the lady separated and went to Old Town Scottsdale. Did a wine tasting at a storefront of a local Arizona winery (yeah, I was thinking the same thing). It wasn't bad! They were reds that had very fruit forward noses, but were super dry and light. Must be the dry heat (I think the single most common thing you hear in this city is, 'But, it's a dry heat' .. I don't care, 107 feels hot A F ... second most common is "But the winters are so nice"). Then, went over to the canal front to Olive and Ivy. Oh man, so many silver foxes and young, plastic gals - like exactly what you'd expect in Old Town Scottsdale. They had an okay beer list, and I'm still on wedding diet so had a decent chopped salad of some sort. Lady is still holding slim and looking great, so she enjoyed a veal ravioli, based on a recommendation from the silver fox sitting next to us. She enjoyed. I was jealous. 

After hiking Pinnacle Peak and going on the obligatory community tour (man, you get a lot of house there ... and the views!), had a very late lunch at Barrio Queen, Nuevo Mexican with a few locations in the valley. Super cool inside. Had 'Day of The Dead' which is really hard to find, and that made me happy. Salsa that came with the chips was really good, smoky. Asked for a spicy sauce and was given a habanero salsa that had no flavor, only heat - was good mixed together. We got elote. This was a disaster. How do you F up elote? It was grilled fine, but there was barely a touch of cotija and no cream and a bit of ancho chile powder. Was presuming the tacos were going to be crap, too, but they salvaged the meal. My chorizo + pollo was excellent, tortilla solid, too. Lady's was huevo con chorizo, and it was BOMB.  

Final meal was at Sumo-Maya, a Latin-Asian fusion. a la Sushi Samba. The meal was good, but I think more interesting is this was just a microcosm of the Scottsdale dining scene - beautiful ambiance, amazing outdoor space, beautiful people, and a great energy. From what I remember from before, the food sort of becomes secondary, but this meal wasn't bad. The mixed ceviche was really good, the fusion sushi rolls were okay to lame, the cocktails were actually really well done. I had a Oaxaca Old Fashioned with mezcal. Delish! The kimchi fried rice was not as good as mine, but still good. The spicy crab noodles were fantastic and funkier than you'd expect at a place like this. I didn't partake in the fried fish tacos because of above noted abdominal girth, but I think my bestie and his wife liked it. We got dessert and for a change, it was good and well thought out - black sesame ice cream and chocolate grenache sort of thing. And 3 different flavors of mochis, the best versions that I've had (I didn't try it in Japan, so my reference is not calibrated).

I think there is more than just tacos, Pho-Mex (I'm making that up, but it's not quite Tex-Mex) and steak houses here, now. It's not Portland, or Chicago, or Austin or DC, but it's pretty good, and fairly good value if you're not eating at a resort. 

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Google reminded me that 11 years ago my wife and I hike the Grand Canyon.  Yes we hiked all the way down 1 day, stayed overnight in a tent and hiked back up the next day.  Temp at the bottom was over 125 and we woke up at 4am so we could start our hike at 5 with headlamps and avoid the heat.  We went with Wildland Trekking a firm we have used several times and highly recommend.  They provided a guide, equipment and handled permits and logistics.  The guide even cooked both a great dinner and breakfast the next day.

Highly recommend this trip.  Saw many layers of the canyon and each layer was breathtaking.  Hiking down was actually harder then coming up the next day.

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