Lee's Cream Liqueur
Jackie Mercandetti
Why didn't we think of this? Ice cream and alcohol, together at last — and served out of a super-sweet Neopolitan-hued little shop on Stetson Drive in what's become the heart of good eating in Scottsdale. The friendly woman who waited on us said the late-night crowd at Lee's is kickin', which isn't surprising, but she cautioned that you can't really get drunk from a scoop or two of this ice cream. Which is good, because we scarfed our vanilla almond — spiked with tequila — and hopped behind the wheel, high on sugar, if nothing else, and ready to spread the word about our favorite new treat.
We all know those nights. Is it worth it to get showered, dressed, deal with the 110-degree heat, traffic, and parking to go out and get the favorite appetizer we're craving, or do we stay in our PJs and settle for the Ritz crackers and string cheese we've already got?Delicious Deliveries solves the conundrum. Simply sign on to their site, enter your ZIP code for participating nearby restaurants, order online, add a tip, and, for an amazingly small fee, enjoy your favorite restaurant meal delivered directly to your door. One night not long ago, we dined on Parmesan zucchini sticks and ahi tuna salad, all for the ridiculously low delivery fee of $6. With a free red velvet cupcake thrown in! Become a friend of DD on Facebook and learn of specials (like free delivery) throughout the week.
The Greene House
Courtesy of The Greene House
After an intense day of power shopping, we need a nice glass of wine. We need to be well fed. And most of the time, that's an experience we can find only if we plunk our shopping bags in the trunk of the car and go far, far away from the mall. But not at Kierland Commons, where The Greene House's vibrant, California-inspired atmosphere and delicious eats are all we need for that mental getaway. You'd never think you're sitting in the middle of so much retail at this airy bungalow, which seems like it ought to be right next to the Pacific. Likewise, dishes like sea scallops with caramelized cauliflower, King salmon on a bed of butter lettuce with marble potato and caper-mustard vinaigrette, and sweet corn cannelloni with baby tomatoes are all edible antidotes to sale-rack fatigue.
Mining Camp Restaurant & Trading Post
Jackie Mercandetti
Tucked at the base of the Superstition Mountains, the Mining Camp Restaurant has been around since 1961. It really looks like a shack where miners would go for lunch; even the interior is modeled after an old mining camp cook's shanty. The place serves food that will please the youngest of the group right along with the old-timers, including slabs of grilled meat, potatoes, beans and fresh-baked goods, including a very large brownie called the Kahlua. And here's the real cherry on top: Kids under 4 eat free — after the restaurant reopens for the season on November 1.
The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
Courtesy of Bistro 24
We used to think that afternoon tea was strictly for blue-haired old ladies and British expats pining for their homeland — that is, until we partook of tea service at the Ritz. It has all the relaxation benefits of a spa treatment, without the creepy touchy-feely stuff. For $35 (plus tax and gratuity), you get tea sandwiches, an assortment of bite-size desserts, and sweet cranberry white chocolate and buttermilk scones with fresh Devonshire cream that's so good you'd lick the last drop off your fingers if it weren't for the stink-eye you'd get from other guests. But what sets the Ritz's high tea apart from tea services at other swanky hotels is tea maître d' Jeffrey Hattrick, a host who knows when to entertain you with a quick story, inquire if you're ready for the next course, or just leave you the heck alone while you sip another cup of his delicious Winter custom blend.

Best Place to Meet a Celebrity Chef

elements

Elements
Executive Chef Beau MacMillan is a longtime luminary in the Valley culinary scene, but nowadays he's also a bona fide celebrity chef, thanks to his role as co-host of The Food Network's Worst Cooks in America. Stop in for a lavish dinner and an eyeful of Paradise Valley from elements' swanky dining room, and don't be surprised if MacMillan shows up to meet and greet guests. The amiable chef is also on hand for the restaurant's summer "Lunch and Learn" series and serves exquisite multi-course tasting menus in elements' new private dining room, XII, where sliding glass doors open up into the show kitchen. We wondered whether Beau Mac's charisma was just TV magic, but he's a gracious guy in real life, too.
Mid City Kitchen
Evie Carpenter
Chef-owner Michael DeMaria's latest culinary concept isn't the kind of upscale fare you'll find at his North Scottsdale spot Heirloom, but it's nevertheless a welcome addition to the dining mix along the light rail. Situated on Central Avenue at Thomas Road — at the heart of the midtown business district — this is a convenient place to grab a morning pastry and a latte, a sandwich or some pizza for lunch, or maybe a succulent rotisserie chicken to take home for dinner. There's a salad bar, too, and surprisingly good pasta (something we rarely find in a cafeteria). For hungry folks on the go, Mid City Kitchen makes a great pit stop.
T. Cook's
Royal Palms Resort and Spa
In the game of love, you never want to look like you're trying too hard. So T. Cook's is always the ace up our sleeve, because dinner here makes romance seem effortless. The dining room alone feels elegant and special, and when there's a guitar player on hand, the live musical serenades put plenty of hearts and stars in our eyes. Thanks to a very gracious staff, the pace of a meal is just right, and executive chef Lee Hillson's Mediterranean-influenced cuisine will make you fall even further in love — seafood-stuffed paella, "poulet rouge" chicken stuffed with Boursin cheese and spinach, and roasted pork tenderloin with orange gremolata are among the temptations. Even if Valentine's Day is still months away, a visit to T. Cook's will help you bring sexy back.
Petite Maison
There are certainly places that serve food much later than Petite Maison, but how many of them do more than tacos or burgers? This comfy Old Town nook does rustic French cuisine, which sounds pretty darn good to us — why go for pub grub when you can dig into steak frites, mussels in white wine broth, or an ever-changing "Staff Meal" offering such food as Buffalo frogs legs, ceviche, barbecue sliders, or something cooked up by one of the guest chefs who pop in for a night? If you're out and you're hungry between 10 and midnight on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, Petite Maison should be at the top of your list.
Kai
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
What makes Kai such a standout? Let us count the ways. First, there's the beautiful resort setting, with dining-room views overlooking both the pool and a vast stretch of desert. Servers address you by name, bring you chilled or warmed flatware depending on the course, deliver dishes in unison, and are well-schooled on the finer points of sophisticated cuisine. It's a good thing they're so knowledgeable and attentive, because even the most obsessive gourmet will find something unusual here to talk about, whether it's the provenance of the extra virgin olive oil (Kai's signature blend from Queen Creek), or the use of exquisite desert delicacies such as cholla buds, scarlet runner beans, and saguaro seeds. Executive chef Michael O'Dowd creates unique, regionally inspired dishes that are unlike anything else in the state; poached arctic char with fennel pesto, and grilled tenderloin of buffalo with smoked corn puree are two specialties that should put Kai on everyone's epicurean map.

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