Arizona: Day 1

It's official! I'm on vacation! It is roasting out here in Scottsdale, but oh-so-beautiful... and the company sure is great! I've decided to do some chronicling of the trip, so keep checking back for restaurant reviews, recipes, and pictures of every crazy little thing I feel like snapping pictures of.

But now let's discuss something: why is it just so hard for small, New England towns to get their act together food-wise? I like going to restaurants. Too much, really. But I do not like to pay "fancy food" prices for something that doesn't taste amazing. And I rarely seem to find amazing anymore when I hop around the Pioneer Valley. Or Boston, for that matter. It is really starting to bum me out.

But let me be clear: I am not saying I must have a posh, swanky restaurant with "seared ____ with ____ fronds and ____ foam garnish" to be happy with my food. I need a place that has an appropriate price/food-quality ratio! And frankly, the dives seem to have a one-up on EVERYONE these days. In fact, I had the best meal I've had in weeks at Bahn Mi Saigon right in Hadley. A tiny hole in the wall, absolutely no frills, like 5 things on the menu, and a giant sandwich for $4.50. 

Out here (Scottsdale), the layout of the city seems to have that "bigger is better" thing going on... sprawling and stuffed with LOTS of restaurants and LOTS of places to shop and LOTS of houses. But all one to two stories and going on forever and forever, kind of like LA. The city is dominated by hotels, spas, and clubs with velvet ropes. But so far (and it has only been a day, I know) I have eaten some pretty darn amazing food in some reaaaaally awesomely decorated places and for the same price as I would get an "eh" meal in Northampton. Come on, people!


After a brief post-plane respite and some playtime with a sweet pup named Kota, Mariah and I headed off to the Saguaro Hotel in downtown Scottsdale.

I had pinned this hotel over and over on my trip inspiration board because it's just so cool looking! They have two restaurants that were doing a pretty incredible happy hour special, and they were staggered so we could hit them both.

First up: Old Town Whiskey

Pretty great ambiance- swanky rustic, I would say. Love it. Hanging jar lights all over, exposed wood... contrasted with insane pops of color. I got an old fashioned with lots and lots of lemon zest. It was delicious!

Second: Distrito

Modern cabana crossed with the B52's dressing room!

Red sangria with tequila, white sangria with lime

Nachos: pickled onion/jalapenos, queso blanco, chili, micro cilantro... in a skillet!

I can't say enough about this place. I was just plain in love. Definitely the best nachos I've ever had. Well done, Chef Jose Garces! You officially live up to your hype.

Next we headed back to Mariah's to shower and such before meeting up with her boyfriend for a real dinner out on the town. After much debate, we chose a restaurant they'd been wanting to try out for months but hadn't had a friend daring enough to want to try out the admittedly fancy/scary/pretentious sounding menu. Hello, I am here to save the day! I like to do what I can.

Thirdly: The Praying Monk

My lovely hosts: Chris and Mariah <3

BURGER and clams with fennel in spicy, tomato broth
DELICIOUS albeit a little too spicy

Fried quail, brussel sprout slaw and red/white/bleu potato salad

Another celebrity chef endeavor, though this one is a local celebrity, the Praying Monk is a project of Aaron May. Chris described it as a "gastropub," and though I do think that word is trendy and overused... this place was exactly as described. Long, impressive, delicious draft (and bottled) beer list, comfort food dressed up in just the right way, ambiance that you would probably want to live in (or maybe that's just me...). I'm a sucker for an exposed vintage light bulb...  My *only* complaint was that my "spicy" tomato broth was actually wayyyy too spicy. And I love some heat. But the flavor was so spot on that I ate it all regardless.

So that's three for three! I cannot wait to see what the rest of the Scottsdale days bring.