Cafe Reviews

Second Helpings

Heart Smart: If your sweetie requires high-end Valentine's Day dining (see Cafe column on page 73), consider setting the alarm bells off on your Visa account at these swanky spots:

* Chaparral Restaurant (Marriott's Camelback Inn, 5402 East Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley, 948-6644): Like your love, the dishes here have staying power. Woo her with specialties like lobster thermidor, filet mignon Diane and beef Wellington. The exceptional service is another bonus. Great coffee, too.

* Mary Elaine's (Phoenician resort, 6000 East Camelback, 423-2530): It's formal, elegant, romantic and occasionally a bit stuffy. But this restaurant never cuts corners. Get ready to binge and splurge. The sauteed foie gras and daurade paired with coconut basmati rice may make you forget your sweetie altogether. Wine lovers with unlimited funds will appreciate the topnotch wine list.

* Christopher's (2398 East Camelback, 957-3214): Does your gal appreciate gourmet fare, and plenty of it? Feed her the menu prestige, a seven-course delight that will feed your memory for months to come. Come armed with plenty of conversation--you're likely to be here almost three hours. Of course, if you run out of words, you could just gaze silently at the magnificent hot and cold chocolate desserts.

* Rancho Pinot Grill (6208 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, 468-9463): Just the right combination of sophistication and casualness, teamed with outstanding fare. The menu changes daily, and whatever comes out of this talented kitchen will be charged with freshness and flavor. Try the quail with brown rice and dried cranberries.

* RoxSand (Biltmore Fashion Park, 24th Street and Camelback, 381-0444): Chef RoxSand Scocos doesn't follow trends; she sets them. Some of the most interesting food you'll find in this time zone: rice tamales filled with curried lamb, air-dried duck with a pistachio-onion marmalade and a wicked B-52 chocolate torte dessert that should come with a Surgeon General's warning.

* Franco's Trattoria (8120 North Hayden in Scottsdale, 948-6655): We may be in the Sonoran Desert, but you'll think you're in Tuscany after an evening here. Munch on gorgeous Italian cheeses. Feast on risotto. Veal and pasta are outstanding. And the new pastry chef will send you home on a high.

* Marquesa (Scottsdale Princess resort, 7575 East Princess Drive in Scottsdale, 585-4848): Sublime Spanish fare that pays homage to Catalonia. It's a feast: crabmeat and fontina cheese baked in vividly red sweet peppers; phyllo dough pouches stuffed with duck; beef tenderloin gilded with Spanish blue cheese; magnificent seafood stew and paella. Book a room, and make a night of it.

* Cafe Terra Cotta (The Borgata, 6166 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, 948-8100): The Southwestern fare that put our region on the culinary map. Nibble on chile-glazed duck quesadillas or buffalo carpaccio. Then move on to pork adobado or lamb chops moistened with a cherry-ancho mole. Finish up with the orange custard tequila tart.

--Howard Seftel

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Howard Seftel

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