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NEW YORK CORNER: York Grill by John Mariani
SCOTTSDALE AND BEYOND,
Canyon Dam" by Norman Rockwell
Valley of the Sun, which is centered around Phoenix and Scottsdale,
Arizona, has grown leaps and bounds over the last two decades, and now
towns and incorporated sections of the desert northward have acquired
not only their share of condos but resorts and excellent restaurants
that cater to the locals and to visitors who come here during the
cooler months. Here are some of the best.
10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Parkway
in Pinnacle Peak, Arizona,
is one of the
area's grandest restaurants, spread over 20,000 square feet and several
rooms that include a main dining room, a bar, an open kitchen, a
library, and wine cellar, not to mention the spacious patio in gracious
view of the Sonoran desert and the McDowell
Mountains. The 30-seat Main Dining Room has a
beautiful freestanding limestone fireplace--which the night I visited
was lighted, despite the 75 degree temperature outside--dark wood
floors and big cozy chairs fit for a commodities
baron.Owners Kevin and Sharon Walsh have not spared the expenses to
make this a uniquely lovely and impressive desert retreat. Although
they could add tablecloths!
Sassi is open for dinner
Tuesday through Sunday.each week with a special three-course
menu for $35,
an antipasti hour in the bar. Pastas run $15-$22 for full portions,
main courses $24-$38.
Chef Kevin Binkley (below) and
wife Amy have carved out a tremendous reputation as one of the Valley
of the Sun's finest dining rooms, despite its being way the out in Cave
Creek, a good 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale.
The only way you'll spot it is by the blaring fluorescent lights of a
swimming pool store next door, for the five-year-old Binkley's is
nothing if not discreet. Inside it's a cheery place, warm and
inviting, and the staff is extremely cordial, if a tad officious--you
are not offered bread, you are offered "bread service."
is open for dinner Tues.-Sat.; À la carte appetizers run
$14-$19, main courses $38-$48, but see tasting menu options above.
extravagant decor and tuxedo service of The Phoenician Resort's Mary
Elaine's (named after disgraced entrepreneur Charles H. Keating's wife)
may not even recognize the sleek, sexy glamorous restaurant that is now
J&G Steakhouse, the J&G in question being Jean-Georges
J&G is open for dinner
only. Appetizers run $8-$18, entrees $16-$80 (for a 28-ounce ribeye).
often write about chain
restaurants, especially those in hotels, but a recent visit to Sushi
Roku in the W Hotel in Scottsdale impressed me with its sparkle and
good food so much that if you are going to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area
and feel like good sushi (the best of all is SeeSaw in Phoenix), Sushi
Roku, opened last September, is a good bet. It's
owned and run by Innovative Dining Group, which operates 8 restaurants
in L.A., including the original Sushi Roku, with yet another in Las
breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sushi combos run $4.40-$20 for 2 to 4
pieces, rolls $6-$16, main courses $16-$30.
NEW YORK CORNER
New York is
full of good restaurants that don't make the foodie gossip columns but
exist and flourish very well within their neighborhoods, which is the
case of York Grill is the upper east side, called Yorkville. Once
populated with German immigrants and restaurants, the area is now
eclectic in its dining sector, and York Grill is one of the friendliest
and most handsome dining rooms up there.
York Grill is open nightly
for dinner, and on Sunday from 11:30 on.
FORBID THEY MIGHT RUN INTO
Having purchased twenty-one La Ciambali espresso machines for $7,500 each, the executive officers of the European Commission (above) in Brussels was criticized for extravagance. The EU defended buying the machines by telling the NY Times that they were “meant as a perk to keep top dignitaries from having to line up in cafés on other floors of the star-shaped Berlaymont Building.”
* On May 22 in Charlotte, NC, Harper's Restaurant at Carolina Place Mall invites you to kick off Memorial Day Weekend with a dinner featuring the beers of Samuel Adams.Harper's Chef Dar Amidi will serve a 5-course menu fpr $30 pp. Call 704-541-5255; visit www.harpersrestaurants.com.
* New one day walking and cooking tours in Sicily and the Dolomites are now offered by Italian Connection, incl. a Foraging Walk in the Sicilian countryside, a Baroque Walk in the city of Ragusa, Cooking at Home in Sicily, and seasonal Wildflower Walks in the Dolomites and Sicily. Tours are for as few as two people and not more than eight participants. Starting at $225 pp. for a private two person tour, with discounts for children and larger groups, the tours include select meals; excellent wines; Call 1-800-462-7911 or visit www.italian-connection.com.
* From May 23-25 in Portland, Oregon, The 19th
annual Memorial Weekend in Wine
Country will host 125+ wineries with tasting rooms open to the
public. visit at www.willamettewines.com.
* On May 28 in Chicago, N9NE Steakhouse and ghostbar is hosting a special after-work charity event to support the Infant Welfare Society’s Associate Board--"Sip, See and Be Seen," a sunset cocktail hour, creative hors d’oeuvres by N9NE Steakhouse Executive Chef Michael Shrader. $35 in advance, or $40 at the door. Visit http://tinyurl/IWSN9NE.
* From May 29-31 in Ashland, CA, “The Science of Wine” will, be
held, incl. a screening of “Bottle Shock,” at the historic Varsity
theatre, a blind tasting of European and American wines and a buffet
dinner on Fri.; On Sat. a school bus tour with an on-board
wine expert and gourmet box lunch; Gala at ScienceWorks Museum with
wine tastings, food from some of Ashland’s best restaurants, live music
and a wine auction; Sun.: 8 workshops focused on the basics of wine at
ScienceWorks Museum. Tix range from $7.50 to $60. Visit
* On May 30, 2009, SAVOR: an American Craft Beer & Food Experience is celebrated by the Brewers Association in Washington DC. Attendees will enjoy craft beers from 65 small, independent and traditional craft brewers who will personally pair their offerings with sweet and savory appetizers. Educational salons and workshops to interact with some of America's best craft brewers. Where: National Building Museum. Visit www.savorcraftbeer.com.
* On May 30 Appellation St. Helena holds its 5th Annual Ultimate Blind Tasting Event at Flora Springs Winery & Vineyard, featuring 60+ of St. Helena’s best wines and culinary creations from Chef Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish. Ticket holders can join in an optional blind tasting contest to win prizes, and every participant will be entered into a drawing to win an Instant Wine Cellar of St. Helena wines valued at over $2,000. Tix $60 pp. Visit www.appellationsthelena.com; call 707-963-6045.
* On May 30 the 4th
Annual Carneros Heritage Fest will be held. at The Donum
Estate, Sonoma County, CA,
incl. BBQ and Picnic in the Pasture under the direction of Brandon
Guenther, chef/owner, Rocker OysterFeller's Restaurant & Saloon,
paired with Carneros Premium and Ultra Premium Wines; A
"ThrowDown" competition will pit Napa v. Sonoma emerging chefs in a
lamb cookoff; family entertainment incl. sheepherders, their sheep and
border collies, a falconer working three falcons above the vineyards,
environmental, wildlife and ecology exhibits; Live Music by Joey Altman
and the BackBurner Blues Band. Beneficiary is the Carneros Land
Stewardship Foundation. $75 pp; children under 12 free.
* From June 1-15, Dine About Town San Francisco returns with 100+ restaurants offering prix-fixe lunches for $21.95 and/or dinners for $34.95. Call 415-391-2000. On May 28 meet Dine About Town featured chefs at a launch party in The Cellar at Macy's Union Square; with a $20 donation to Meals On Wheels, guests will receive 10 "tasting tickets" to sample offerings from select Dine About Town restaurants. Visit www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com/dineabouttown.
From June 4-7 in St Helena, CA,
the Napa Valley Vintners representing nearly 350 Napa Valley wineries
holds its annual fundraiser Auction
Napa Valley. Visit www.napavintners.com to purchase "Classic"
full auction packages, the "All American Day Package" or Friday-only
On June 6 at the 5th annual
Arts in the Inns Festival in Kennebunkport, ME, a culinary
challenge between Florida and Maine, Steve Corry of Portland, ME's Five
Fifty-Five and Mark Militello of Florida's The Regent Bal Harbour, will
take place. Visit www.ArtsInTheInns.com or call 207-423-9387.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK:
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK:
Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!",
is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with
children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle
McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family
travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide
its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and
practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy,
safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children
who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of
adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.