By Heather Hoch
By Lauren Saria
By JK Grence
By Eric Schaefer
By Robrt L. Pela
By Eric Schaefer
By Laura Hahnefeld
By Laura Hahnefeld
Lunch: It's already day four, and I haven't had Chinese food? I'll take care of that pronto at Silver Dragon (8946 North 19th Avenue). Make sure you ask for the Chinese menu (it has brief, English dish descriptions). The Hong Kong-style food here could find fans in Chinatowns on Mott Street or Grant Street. I love the whole chicken, steamed, then flash-fried. For yin and yang, there's vibrant salt-and-pepper squid. Hot pots and noodles also shine.
Dinner: The creative "New American" cuisine at Rancho Pinot Grill (6208 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale) is always worth standing up and saluting. A menu that changes weekly features the freshest ingredients. I hope I show up on a day when the chef whips up her posole starter. Crispy risotto-wheatberry cakes and grilled Muscovy duck in a pomegranate-walnut sauce are marvelous entrees. Homemade desserts and a well-crafted wine list are two more reasons this place attracts knowledgeable foodies.
Day Five: Thursday
Breakfast: I normally welcome dawn's early light by throwing the covers over my head and begging it to go away. But the old-fashioned breakfast fare at Kiss the Cook (4915 West Glendale Avenue, Glendale) is worth getting up for. The buttermilk pancakes deserve high praise. So do the huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, three-egg omelets and gooey, nut-studded cinnamon rolls.
Lunch: I could eat the pizza at Pizzeria Bianco (623 East Adams) seven days a week. Proprietor Chris Bianco is a craftsman who works with quality ingredients: top-of-the-line flour, imported and homemade cheese, the freshest produce. I'm partial to the Wiseguy pizza, heaped with homemade sausage and smoked mozzarella. (I splurge and add on some wood-oven-roasted mushrooms, too.) If the pizza weren't so good, I might be induced to lunch on the salads and sandwiches, which are also in a class of their own.
Dinner: Nobody's ever going to mistake the Valley for Fisherman's Wharf or Nantucket. But the gorgeous seafood at Restaurant Oceana (8900 East Pinnacle Peak Road) may trick you into thinking there are sea gulls screeching overhead. It's pricey, but you won't find fish like this anyplace else in the Mountain Time Zone. The menu depends on the catch: Look for Casco Bay cod, wild steelhead trout, jumbo Gulf shrimp and diver-harvested scallops. And everything tastes like it just jumped out of the sea.
Day Six: Friday
Breakfast: T.C. Eggington's Brunchery (1660 South Alma School, Mesa) serves exactly the same basic a.m. fare as every other breakfast place in town. The only difference is, its food is better. The thick-sliced French toast, made from homemade cinnamon bread, is perhaps the East Valley's premier tourist attraction. Hearty omelets, too.
Lunch: For quality noontime fare in a delightful setting, it's hard to top the Coronado Cafe (2201 North Seventh Street). Set in a charming old house, this cafe whips up the kind of homey offerings that Grandma might have prepared if she were a talented cook. Soups are particularly good--the curried pumpkin soup is a marvel. Artful salads and sandwiches will send you back to the office with a smile. And so will desserts like the cornbread cobbler, laden with peaches and pears.
Dinner: Asian-themed cuisine is today's hottest restaurant trend. And nobody's doing it better than the kitchen at Restaurant Hapa (6204 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale). It produces the kind of head-turning dishes that get their pictures in national food magazines. Skillet-roasted black mussels, bathed in a dreamy Thai-scented broth, are to die for. The signature entree, beef tenderloin brushed with hot Chinese mustard and caramelized brown sugar, makes me cheer. Desserts are just as impressive, especially the Asian pear cake armed with toasted macadamia nuts and homemade lemongrass ice cream.
Day Seven: Saturday
Breakfast: It's time to wok 'n' roll at C-Fu Gourmet (2051 West Warner, Chandler), where the carousel of dim sum carts never stops. I keep a lookout for the wagons bearing chow fun noodles, Chinese broccoli, shrimp dumplings, sticky rice in lotus leaf, stuffed eggplant, taro-root turnovers, turnip cakes and barbecued pork. Maybe one of these days I'll work up a taste for chicken feet.
Lunch: The scents and fragrances of Indian cuisine always put me in a swoon. I'll be doing my swooning at Bombay Palace (5775 West Bell, Glendale) for dynamite dishes like the Shahjahani biriyani, studded with chicken, egg and cashews; karahai shrimp, skillet-sizzled in a snappy ginger sauce; and juicy tandoori chicken. Great bread, like mint-studded paratha, adds to my happiness.
Dinner: I believe in delayed gratification. That's why I end the week with a bang at the Marquesa (Scottsdale Princess resort, 7575 East Princess Drive). The Catalan-inspired fare gets me vibrating with anticipation: crab and fontina cheese stuffed in red peppers; pheasant and porcini mushrooms in puff pastry; serrano-crusted veal loin with sweetbreads; grilled turbot and spotted prawns; and, of course, the signature paella. Whenever I leave here, I'm ready to call Iberia Airlines and book a flight to Barcelona.