azbirdiemaker's Profile

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Where is some of the better fine dining in Scottsdale?

Just as a side note, I've eaten at T. Cook's twice and cannot understand, for the life of me, how it gets such high marks all the time. The first time I was by myself at a table and it was unimpressive at best. The food seemed bland and uninspired. The service was okay but I'm definitely not going back just for that. The second visit was on Christmas Day when you'd think that they would try to put their best foot forward ... wrong. We were seated nearly 45 minutes after our reservation time. Service was shoddy and the food was nearly inedible - yes it really was that bad. The restaurant is nice but for my money - I go to a restaurant for the food first. Everything else is a bonus. I will not return to T. Cook's again.

Sep 30, 2012
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

La Quinta help

Hey all. We'll be heading to the La Quinta Resort this coming week for a few nights and wanted some recs for a birthday dinner on Tuesday. We are staying at La Quinta, have a car, and are willing to drive but would like to keep it fairly local. I've seen quite a few recs in Palm Springs and I think that would just about be the furthest we'd want to go. We have a DD among us, so that's not a big deal but we don't really want to drive a super long way either.

I've looked at Trio, Spencer's, Le Vallauris, and Tinto which all look great. But I was wondering if there are any other ( just as good ) options closer to the resort. We will be dining at Morgan's on Monday night as they are closed on Tues.

Preferences would be something New American-ish ( but not hard set on that ) and price isn't really a concern. My favorite meals tend to be tasting menu-type with exotic ( but tasty ) ingredients. Sushi is out, no recs for that please.

Lets have it - what do you think? Are the Palm Springs restaurants the best options or are there 'just-as-good' places actually in/around La Quinta?

Jul 27, 2012
azbirdiemaker in California

Any great Restaurants/Bars around Carefree Arizona??

Binkley's is one of, if not THE, most culinarily impressive restaurants in the Phoenix area and it's right in Cave Creek/Carefree. Chef Binkley worked at The Inn at Little Washington as well as under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry ... and it shows in his cooking. Highly recommended if that's your kind of thing. They take a break during July but are open the rest of the year.

As for some other options, try Cartwright's. They have good seafood and serve Buffalo and Elk steaks as well. It's owned by the same guys as Tonto Bar and Grill but I hardly ever see it mentioned in these threads. I've been there several times and always had a good time. They have a great bar to socialize in and it seems to be one of the more popular spots in the area ... and they have Oysters for a Buck ... Blue Points! I've had the steaks and the Buffalo and both are excellent.

Both Harrold's and the Buffalo Chip are popular places. Harrold's has live music frequently and for something really neat ... the Buffalo Chip has live bull riding on Wednesday's and Friday's ( I think Friday is when the good guys are there ). It's free and if you've never seen it, I recommend you do it at least once in your lifetime.

I like Bryan's BBQ for their meats, especially the brisket! But I think their side dishes need work. That's just my humble .02. They also have several special dishes that aren't listed on their menu ... like the lamb leg with ginger bbq sauce and something that, if I remember correctly, is called "The Big Pig" : fries topped with pulled pork, bbq sauce, beans, jalapenos, and sour cream. It's great but huge!

Hope you have a great time!

Jul 18, 2012
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Fun post: Fav dishes at Rokerij/Richardson's?

So much of what they serve is great ...

Someone mentioned the sausages. +1 on that.

I love the Pasta Heidi, Pork Tenderloin with chile jelly, and Pork Chop Chorizo the best.

May 24, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Culinary Dropout

May 24, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Culinary Dropout, New Restaurant - Scottsdale

Had a small bite here tonight and was unimpressed with the atmosphere but somewhat enjoyed my food.

One of my biggest pet peeves is restaurants who really want to be a club ( Tao Vegas, LAVO Vegas, etc. ) and this falls into the same category for me.

Granted it was Friday night but the bar was absolutely packed with what can only be described as the "I-desperately-need-to-be-seen" crowd. The restaurant itself was somewhat busy - a few empty tables here and there, but the bar was where all the action was. I was a single but after viewing what was going on at the bar I was tempted to take a table to myself in the dining room but I did wander over to the bar and found a seat outside ( but it was no easy feat as both the inside and the outside bars were packed ).

I had the cold smoked salmon with poached egg and the pickled peppers/crusty bread with olive oil.

The salmon was good. It was served with an aioli, sliced tomatoes with capers, shaved & pickled red onion, a poached egg, and the same "crusty bread" as was served with the antipasti. The tomatoes were definitely ripe and flavorful and the shaved/pickled onions were good but the poached egg was almost over-hard. This is unacceptable in any circumstance unless requested IMO ( because really ... isn't the point to be runny and delicious?). But beyond that I actually enjoyed the salmon dish.

I have to say that I enjoyed the olive oil despite someone earlier posting that they couldn't see anything special to it. My favorite olive oil is at Pizzeria Bianco and this definitely held a candle to it although not quite the same. The bread was definitely crusty. The pickled peppers were okay. A little firm for my liking but that's not to say that they were prepared incorrectly.

What bothered me the most was the "scene" there. I'm just of the opinion that restaurants should be places to enjoy FOOD - not places to get your groove on. That being said, I will definitely head back to sample some more of the offerings ... I just won't do it on a weekend night.

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Pizzeria Bianco
623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

Mar 27, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Pizzeria Bianco

If, despite what's already been posted, you still want to try PB before the show, then I'd say between 3:00-3:30 is probably safe. It *is* a Saturday so you might want to be on the earlier side but I can't imagine that you wouldn't make the first seating if you were there by 3:00 ... but there is no guarantee.

Mar 24, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Beautiful Restaurant, Fun Restaurant and One with Excellent Food

Awwwww ... this is disappointing to hear. I thought that the tapas there were really good and the sangria even better. Even though it was part of the LEU group, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was head & shoulders above Firefly.

Sign 'o' the times, I suppose.

Feb 14, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Pizzeria Bianco – Is Chris Bianco More Hands-Off These Days? (PHX)

What was it that you disliked about the Margherita? You don't really say so I'm curious. What did you like about the Biancoverde?

No offense meant, but believing that a homeless person gave a poor review of the pizza is a stretch for me. I would think he/she would be overly excited about the prospect of a hot/semi-warm meal.

The margherita pizza is one of my favorites of all time and I certainly think it's in the tops at PB.

Feb 11, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Need Recommendation - Mandalay Bay

Only judging one aspect the OP's post here but Lupo is anything but quiet. In fact, it was designed to be noisy and create a "bustling" atmosphere. Tile floors, high ceilings, open patio ... etc.

I'd second Fleur de Lys if it's possible. It might cost a few bucks more but well worth it, IMO. The dining room is gorgeous and I can't think of one thing that I've ever had that that disappointed me.

Feb 10, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Scottsdale/Phoenix: First foodie meal post-baby

I'll give a "fourth" for POSH.

Ate there last week and it was absolutely fantastic. A great alternative ( and close! ) to Binkley's or NOCA.

Jan 26, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Pizzeria Bianco – Is Chris Bianco More Hands-Off These Days? (PHX)

I guess I just don't understand the mentality at work here ...

Is it possible that there's anyone out there who DOESN'T know there's an extremely long wait to get into PB? I mean, really -- someone shows up at PB and is told that there is a multi-hour wait ... ... and it comes as a surprise?!?! I'm sure there are a few but it's just that ... a few.

I know that going in it's going to be an evening so I make plans accordingly. I'm pretty sure I've said this before but I think it's an excellent date spot. Good way to pass the time while you're waiting is to partake of a few brews or glasses of wine and ... wait for it ... ... TALK to the person(s) you are there with. I know that speaking is an antiquated form of communication these days but really ... c'mon man!

The wait is part of the quirkiness/mystique of the place, IMO. There are numerous ways to pass the time if you don't like to talk to people ... play cards, have even more liquor, check out Chase Field, check out the museum, take a tour of Heritage Square. Put your name down and have a walk around the downtown area - there are plenty of places within walking distance to have a drink, if Bar Bianco isn't your thing, and maybe a small app to tide over any hunger that the troops are experiencing.

When it's time to sit down, I'm usually lubricated enough to enjoy the pie even more and now I know my dining companion(s) that much more.

4 hours *is* a long time to wait for food indeed if all you're doing is waiting and watching the clock.

Jan 21, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Pizzeria Bianco – Is Chris Bianco More Hands-Off These Days? (PHX)

Not discounting the OP's recollection but I've never been seated past 10:30 ( no matter what day it is ) and I usually arrive around 9:45 to put my name down. Now granted, I'm almost always a single and end up sitting at the bar but I've never seen a 4 hour wait, even on the weekends. That's stretching the bounds of what I've heard/witnessed there -especially these days.

That being said, there will most certainly be a wait when you arrive but unless it's a super-packed weekend night, I'd guess that your wait would be less than 2 1/2 hours at the absolute maximum.

Jan 18, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

POSH Scottsdale - ugh, what an expensive disappointment

I completely agree with your sentiments. I was there on Thursday night and the Wild Boar Bacon with Grilled Pineapple and Shaved Horseradish was absolutely ridiculous ... in a good way! So incredibly tasty!

I also agree with the brulee on the foie preparation. I had never heard of it being done that way but it totally makes sense and what a texture roller coaster. Very creative and expertly prepared. A picture of that dish is now the wallpaper on my phone!

POSH was a great experience for me ... a couple other things that I thoroughly enjoyed were 1.) the Red Curry Mint Julep .... so refreshingly different. The red curry was just noticed enough to add to the cocktail and give it a little bit of heat. Very well done. 2.) the Quail stuffed with Shriner's Duck Sausage ... WOW! I could eat 30 of those in a sitting, I think.

All in all I enjoyed it quite a bit and will definitely head back.

Jan 17, 2010
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Whiskey Scotch Bar/Restaurants in Las Vegas

This would definitely be my top rec as well. However ...

The only caveat to the Freakin' Frog is that ( unless the policies have changed recently ) you have to be a "member" in order to get to the attic and partake of the goodies. I've long since forgotten the cost to become a member but from what I remember you can purchase a temporary or limited access membership.

My point is that it might be worth it to look into it ahead of time in order to avoid disappointment.

http://www.freakinfrog.com/

Dec 13, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Anniversary and Christmas in Scottsdale

Binkley's is an excellent choice and I'm betting that the X-mas Eve dinner will be outstanding.

I had a downright awful experience at T. Cooks last X-mas Day. Horrible food ( almost seemed like hotel banquet food ), horrible service, and an extremely long wait despite holding a reservation. I've read all the wonderful reviews of this place but I probably won't ever go back.

Zinc Bistro, to me, is just OK. Not spectacular. Definitely nowhere near as good as Bouchon in Vegas ( I know it's unfair to compare the two being in different locales but ... ).

A couple places I'd recommend for your parameters are Cowboy Ciao for a nice atmosphere and good food, Bourbon Steak for a beautiful/modern setting and great food, and Vincent's for an all-around experience.

Dec 08, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Fried pickle spears in Las Vegas

The only place I know of that serves fried pickles of any kind is Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ in The District at Green Valley Ranch. They are spears ( unless they've changed to chips since I've been there ) but it's not close to the Strip. Probably a 15 minute trip from LVB & the 215.

Good luck with your search.

Dec 06, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Suggestions for "affordable" steakhouse during boyz Vegas weekend please

This is just my humble opinion, but if Craftsteak is too pricey for some in your group then so will be Stripsteak, N9NE, Delmonico, Cut, Carnevino, SW, Prime, Kokomo's, Rare 120, Charlie Palmer, et al.

Some choices that might be better:

Circus Circus Steakhouse - I've never been but it gets praise here and elsewhere. I don't really trust the Best of ... in the Review Journal but who knows.

Golden Steer - Italian steakhouse on the corner of Sahara and LVB. Great joint with velvet wallpaper, pleather booths, and kitschy waiters.

The trifecta of Gallagher's ( NYNY ), Striphouse ( PH ), and The Palm ( Forum Shops in Caesar's ) might be your best bets.

I've dined at Gallagher's - not phenomenal, IMO, but not horrible. If you decide on this place you should make sure you know that they serve dry-aged steaks exclusively. The taste is simply not for me.

The Palm - a chain with decent food but nothing really standout or spectacular. I rarely ever go there because I prefer Craft, Stripsteak, N9NE, etc ... you get the picture.

One last option that actually would probably be near the top of my list ( given the same parameters ) would be Smith & Wollensky on the Strip across the street from the Monte Carlo between Showcase Mall and Planet Hollywood. Again, it's a chain, but they do some good food and it suits a group of guys pretty well.

Good luck with your search. Let us know how it goes, preferably with some reviews.

Dec 06, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

NY CH'er off to LV -

If you like oysters, the oyster bar at Bouchon in the Venezia tower of the Venetian resort opens at 3:00, I think, and it's highly recommended. They do several great wines by the glass and they usually have 5-6 types of oysters daily - along with other small bites.

Dec 06, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Mastro's Steak House - Scottsdale

I've eaten at, and worked at, some of the best steakhouses around and I don't care for the sizzle plate at all. I know Ruth's does it and Peter Lugers and ... etc.

The searing plate doesn't enhance the taste of the steak ... but it does continue to cook it as it's served and eaten.

If you order a steak medium rare it should remain medium rare throughout the time that you are enjoying it. A steak will continue to cook on a hot plate, I don't care how thick it is. Even if it changes just a little, IIMO that's unacceptable in all cases but especially when you are paying big money for the steak.

Sep 29, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

In Vegas for a layover. Have two hours. Ideas for a dive/watering hole serving good food.

I was going to recommend the escargot when I posted that but opted for the tableside caesar "app" sugg. I love the escargot there also - it's classic. I really enjoy that place. You can't go wrong with either rec though.

Sep 28, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

In Vegas for a layover. Have two hours. Ideas for a dive/watering hole serving good food.

This is a good rec. I'm not a *huge* fan of the place but it's definitely old school style.

If you're looking for a steak, try the Golden Steer on Sahara & LVB. WAAAAAAAY old school, divey, Italian steakhouse. Very cool place. You could easily bypass all the traffic by telling the cabbie to go Tropicana-to-Industrial-to-Sahara. Be there in a flash. Another suggestion for a divey place with good food ( make sure to have the tableside caesar salad, and save room for tableside cherries jubilee ).

http://golden.snapsweb.com/

Sep 26, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Vegas restaurant suggestions (MGM, Wynn, Palms)

It's worth noting that DB and the Robuchon joints serve contrasting styles of French fare.

DB is more of a "comfort food with style" sort of place whereas Robuchon does layering of flavors with an emphasis on presentation.

I prefer the food at DB because it's way more approachable than most of the dishes at either JR establishment. And, for what it's worth, I've never experienced any lack in service at DB - but then again, it's not Alex or Picasso, or Guy Savoy, or ... heh ... Joel Robuchon @ the Mansion ( where impeccable service is a must ). It's a stylistic, upscale, French Bistro ... service is important but not the pinnacle of the meal.

Sep 04, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Please comment on these Vegas choices for New Year's and my 40th bday dinner

I respectfully disagree.

I really enjoy Nobhill and have had some wonderful meals there but Michael Mina is head & shoulders above. The service is much tighter, the food is cleaner, and the space is gorgeous. I would recommend it, if for nothing else, the Lobster Pot Pie. I had this as a "side dish" to our group's meals and it was one of the tastiest things I've ever had. Also the Caviar Parfait is certainly all it's cracked up to be. I'm not a huge caviar fan but this blew me away.

Aug 21, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Las Vegas - This is what I have reserved - What would you change?

Yes, skip Agave FOR SURE. That place is borderline horrible. Sounds like you might be staying at either Red Rock Resort or Sunset Station ... either way, give a nod to Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort. Some pretty decent Italian ( albeit, admittedly not classic Italian ). It's not overly expensive and I've never had a bad meal there. They have quite a selection of pastas and entrees alike.

One of my personal favorites in the Summerlin/Lakes area is Grape Street Cafe. It gets mixed reviews here but I love it! Great unassuming food in a casual "winey" atmosphere. They do retail wine out of there as well. Their baked brie is fantastic and I could eat the Chicken Gorgonzola every other night. Might fit the bill as a casual spot after a long day.

http://www.grapestreetcafe.com/home.cfm

Aug 16, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Rosa at Pizzeria Bianco

To my taste the most prominent flavor on the Rosa is BY FAR the Parmigiano Reggiano ... actually too much for my taste. Followed closely by the raw red onion. Rosemary is definitely there but, to me, its buried considerably in the background.

I so wanted to love this pie the first time I ordered it and I almost was unable to eat it when it finally arrived. The cheese is just so overpowering ... the only pistachio element to me is the crunch. No flavor to be found - it's hiding beneath the cheese. Just my .02

Aug 11, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Pizzeria Bianco- Reservations

I'd first look into the reservation option given that you have a small village joining you. Give them a call and see if they could accommodate you. This is far enough in advance that it would probably work out best. Just keep in mind that they only do it for parties of 6 or more.

I can't say that I've ever been on a Fri or Sat night and those would definitely be the busiest days but I'm pretty confident in saying that it will never be a 5 hour wait - that's the entire time that they're open for business each day. If you're looking to eat earlier in the day, then I'd suggest one of your group biting the bullet and getting there by 3:45-4:00 and waiting in line until they open at 5:00. Then you put your name down and might get in during the first seating. If not, you'll surely make the second seating and the wait shouldn't be more than an hour maximum - which you can spend next door at Bar Bianco getting nice and lubricated before the main event. They even have small little bites available there to tide the hungrier ones over.

If you're looking for later in the evening and don't mind eating late night - then try getting there by 9:00 and dealing with probably a 2 hour wait maximum, sitting down by 11:00 at the latest and making a late night out of it. All restaurants are feeling a pinch right now whether it's a small sting or a full bludgeoning and PB is no exception. They haven't been as busy as they're accustomed to but they're still jamming. Point being that the 3 hour waits are a rare deal these days.

HOWEVER ... I'll say it again - I've never been on a Fri or Sat night so take it for what it's worth but I do eat there about three times a month from April to September ... BUT ... I'm usually a single, get there at 9:30-9:45, and am always seated within 20-30 minutes tops - so it's a whole different ballgame.

Aug 11, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Bryan's BBQ - Cave Creek

I can't speak for Elmo, but I certainly wasn't trying to compare a restaurant whose chef trained at The French Laundry and The Inn at Little Washington to a BBQ joint.

He had mentioned a couple places up in Cave Creek and I thought I'd ask about a couple others. Probably the wrong place to do so.

Aug 05, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Phoenix

Wine on the Las Vegas strip?

I always thought the same thing about Aureole but I was at Mandalay two weeks ago around 11:15-11:30-ish and it was all closed up. Not even the bar was open. Now, granted this was a Tuesday night but I'd be sure about it before you count on it. It's one of those places that I could see cutting their hours right now.

B&B and Enoteca San Marco are both at the Venetian. B&B is Batali's upscale restaurant and is downstairs in the casino level and Enoteca is upstairs in St. Mark's Square. Website says B&B is open until 11:00 and Enoteca is open until 12:00 a.m. on Fri/Sat. That might be a good bet also.

Jul 28, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas

Wine on the Las Vegas strip?

Ah, nuts. I hadn't been in years, obviously, but it was always a nice way to have a good dinner after work for those of us in the industry. I never cared much for the video poker at the bar but it comes with the territory I suppose.

That's a shame, but I guess it doesn't really surprise me given the location and the way the economy has turned out.

Jul 28, 2009
azbirdiemaker in Las Vegas