• Apr27

    The Henry

    Holding the title of America’s Number Two Foodie City (according to Livability.com) isn’t an accolade to take lightly, especially with the sheer amount of dining spots around the country.

    Scottsdale is blessed with a walkable footprint, giving locals and tourists alike a wealth of choice and cuisines. Phoenix too is a haven for culinary talent. Both cities draw from Native American and Mexican-inspired cuisines, however you’ll find just about every nationality of cooking represented in this part of the state.

    On my recent Arizona trip, I dined in Phoenix (Arizona Biltmore, The Henry), Scottsdale (Bink’s, The Upton, Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse, Queen Creek Olive Mill), and sampled craft beers at recently-opened Beer Research Institute in Mesa. All restaurants are outlined below, with the exception of Queen Creek Olive Mill and Arizona Biltmore, mentioned in separate articles. This is part one of a two-part series.

    The Henry

    The Henry is part of the Fox Restaurant Concepts group (we enjoyed dinner at Phoenix’s lively The Arrogant Butcher a couple of years back), and currently has 39 locations around Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Kansas and Texas; their first restaurant, Wildflower, opened in 1998 in Tucson.

    The Henry: Prairie Breeze cheddar popovers, smoked ham butter, fleur de sel
    [Prairie Breeze cheddar popovers, smoked ham butter, fleur de sel]

    The spaces combine a mix-and-match aesthetic, marrying modern with old-school furnishings. We ordered several appetizers including grated cheese-topped Prairie Breeze cheddar popovers ($7), served alongside a portion of smoked ham butter.

    The menu is filled with “gourmet comfort food”, my best description of their hearty, flavourful, uncomplicated dishes. The place was packed by 7:30 pm on a Thursday with a great mix of 70’s and 80’s music. The Henry makes a great roasted chicken ($19) served with two sides (I had the cauliflower polenta and mac ’n’ cheese).

    The Henry: Chocolate hazelnut Budino, bourbon cherries, salted hazelnut brittle
    [Chocolate hazelnut Budino, bourbon cherries, salted hazelnut brittle]

    We later shared a divine Italian creation called a chocolate hazelnut Budino ($7), a creamy custard with bourbon cherries and salted hazelnut brittle, garnished with mint sprigs.

    The Henry is located at 4455 East Camelback Road in Phoenix.

    The Upton, Old Town Scottsdale

    The Upton

    On my final night in town, I walked over from my hotel in Old Town and arrived about 15 minutes later at The Upton. It has a charming indoor dining room with ultra-cool lighting fixtures as well as pretty little patios in front and back.

    The Upton's award-winning Chinese Char Siu ribs!
    [The Upton’s award-winning Chinese Char Siu ribs!]

    The menu isn’t huge, but offers shared plates, iron press sandwiches, salads, entrées, sides and desserts, under the direction of Executive Chef Chris Schlattman. I sunk my teeth into a bowl of chef Schlattman’s Devoured Food Festival award-winning Chinese Char Siu ribs ($9), prepared in a smoky sauce with peanuts and cilantro pesto.

    The Upton, Old Town Scottsdale

    Due to the heat, I chose light dishes: Wild green ($8) and Thai chicken ($12) salads to nibble on in between those gorgeous ribs. A mason jar-filled salad seemed to be popular with diners around me, meant to be shaken, 007 style, as the menu states. The Upton’s a fun spot with good eats. I’ll likely return here as it’s not in the thick of the restaurant scene, yet close enough to get to on foot, depending on your starting point of course.

    This made it easy for me to enjoy a glass of Matchbook Wine Company’s The Arsonist Chardonnay ($12/glass) without having to worry about getting behind the wheel.

    The Upton is located at 7216 East Shoeman Lane in Scottsdale.

    Bink’s Scottsdale

    Bink’s Scottsdale

    James Beard-nominated Chef Kevin Binkley is behind Bink’s Scottsdale, Bink’s Midtown, Binkley’s Restaurant and Café Bink.

    Bink’s Scottsdale has an airy feel to it once you step in from the front patio. Muted tones with oversized framed vegetable prints grace the walls, while the menu’s focus is on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.

    Bink's Scottsdale biscuits
    [Buckwheat drop biscuits]

    Bink’s Scottsdale: Sand dabs, brown butter, almonds
    [Sand dabs, brown butter, almonds]

    From the famous buckwheat drop biscuits with a scrumptious local honey, butter, and Madagascar vanilla topping to sand dabs (a flat white Pacific-caught fish that’s lightly grilled and served in brown butter and almonds), the plates are easy to share and are colourfully presented.

    Bink’s Scottsdale: Roasted cauliflower, kale, nuts, greens
    [Roasted cauliflower, kale, nuts, seasonal greens]

    Our table shared several salads and side dishes. An extensive wine list, happy hour, and full bar complete the picture.

    Bink’s Scottsdale is located at 6107 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Part two of this series continues next week. Stay tuned.

    I was invited to dine at the above restaurants through Visit Phoenix and Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau as part of a press trip. Opinions, as always, are my own.

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  • Apr24

    Arizona Biltmore-6

    If you’re headed to Phoenix and want to feel pampered, the iconic Arizona Biltmore is a special place to hang your hat for a few days. Meandering through the expansive property, taking the time to smell the fragrant blossoms, I felt transformed to another era, that of the late 1920’s, thanks to the sublime architectural style of Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Albert Chase MacArthur.

    Arizona Biltmore-8 Arizona Biltmore-5

    The Arizona Biltmore served as a three-day home base while exploring the area during my sun-soaked desert adventures.

    Arizona Biltmore-16

    History

    This Waldorf Astoria resort has the distinction of being called the Jewel of the Desert. Opened in 1929, it’s one of the most recognizable luxury resorts in the world due to Frank Lloyd Wright’s trademark (but not patented, as MacArthur would later learn to his chagrin) design onto every “Biltmore Block” of the property’s expansive 39 acres.

    Arizona Biltmore-1

    The pre-cast blocks were created from desert sand and are a variation on a textile block first used by Wright to construct private homes. There are 34 varying geometric patterns in total, inspired by the trunk of a palm tree.

    Arizona Biltmore-2

    Another unique feature of the Biltmore is a series of statues known as Sprites. Frank Lloyd Wright designed them in 1914 for Chicago’s Midway Gardens. They were sculpted by Italian artist Alfonso Ianelli. There’s an interesting mystery behind them: when the Midway Gardens were demolished later on, the Sprites were lost until the mid 1940’s when unearthed in Wisconsin!

    Arizona Biltmore-4 Arizona Biltmore-14

    How they arrived there from Chicago remains an incomplete puzzle to this day. Six new Sprites were cast at the request of Mrs. Wright; the Arizona Biltmore received them in 1985 as a gift.

    Arizona Biltmore-3

    Although the Arizona Biltmore is undoubtedly attached to Frank Lloyd Wright, he was actually hired as consulting architect on the hotel and collaborated with one of his former students, Albert Chase McArthur. If you have the time, I highly recommend a visit to Taliesin West, where a 90-minute, highly-informative tour will give you a fantastic perspective on how Wright worked with his students and invented so much of what we take for granted in architecture today.

    Arizona Biltmore-7

    History buffs should also plan on a couple of hours to enjoy a free historical walking tour of the hotel offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (as of this writing).

    Arizona Biltmore-10

    Everything about this hotel is top-notch — from the bellmen to the desk staff, the entire team sees to a flawless lodging experience.

    Arizona Biltmore-9
    [One of the original Arizona Biltmore cottages]

    In 1930, Chicago chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. became the Arizona Biltmore’s sole owner and built the resort’s first swimming pool, The Catalina Pool. It became known as Marilyn Monroe’s favourite pool as well as the site where famed song composer Irving Berlin penned many tunes, including White Christmas.

    Catalina Pool aka Marilyn Monroe's pool

    There’s eight pools scattered around the Arizona Biltmore’s 740 guest rooms, but I chose to spend a free evening in “Marilyn’s pool”. It was a gleeful moment, as I had the pool all to myself, and swam following the path of the deep blue rectangle in the main part of the pool on the right in the photo above, occasionally looking up at the gently swaying palm trees.

    On an evening where the air temperature was cooler than the pool water, I was in no rush to get out.

    Frank & Albert's dining room interior leading to exterior

    Dining

    My first night’s dinner was at Frank and Albert’s, named after the famous architect and his student. The family-friendly restaurant serves up locally-inspired dishes in a casual environment. I enjoyed a flight of craft beers (Raj IPA, SanTan Devil’s Pale Ale, Ninkasi Lux Lager) alongside a blackened salmon filet graced with corn purée, smoked tomato, and black bean and avocado salad. Save room for dessert: their homemade sugar cookies are out of this world!

    The more formal dining venue here is Wright’s at the Biltmore. Chef Gordon Maybury offers a daily tasting menu as well as a la carte items using ingredients from the chef’s garden. In addition to his current position as executive chef of the Arizona Biltmore, Chef Maybury’s cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe and has served as executive chef at many leading hotels and resorts in the USA and Caribbean.

    Spa at Biltmore

    Spa

    I arranged a Biltmore Spa afternoon during my stay and chose the Turquoise Sage stone massage, a 90-minute session using Turquoise sage, lavender, and arnica for a deeply relaxing experience. Prior to the massage, I was invited to use the spa’s whirlpool, sauna, and steam room. There are guest lockers with robe and slippers off to the side of the whirlpool.

    The Biltmore Spa’s Lead Therapist Sandra brought me into the massage room, where she began to work the polished basalt stones around my body. The smooth black stones are heated using water. Muscles are quickly relaxed through the pressure placed on the stones. Biltmore Spa offers a completely customizable experience through their well-varied spa menu offerings.

    Arizona Biltmore-13

    Alongside my massage, I chose an add-on foot scrub, leaving my feel petal-soft and smooth for the rest of the day. Sandra utilizes peppermint and shea butter foot polish, then wraps the feet in warm plastic footies to allow the polish to absorb through the skin. This is followed by a foot massage.

    Other services here include foot cleansing and reflexology, cranial sacral blanking, and assorted body treatments such as red clay detox and magnesium muscle ease.

    Biltmore Arizona guestroom

    Sleep

    I was fortunate to be able to sleep in one of the original eight cottages on the property, featuring a small living area with couch and desk, and full bathroom with double sinks. Interior elements are sleek and modern, matching well with the deco architecture.

    Arizona Biltmore-11

    Tiny, reachable silver pull-up lights along each side of the bed are well thought of bedtime/reading additions.

    All rooms feature Waldorf Astoria signature bedding and sheets of finely-milled sateen cotton for a comfortable sleep. Top sheets contain a patterned Waldorf Astoria monogram and are 500 thread count sateen as well.

    Arizona Biltmore-12

    The bathrooms are stocked with the Salvadore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul line of bath products, their shape mimicking that of the Sprites!

    The Arizona Biltmore is located at 2400 East Missouri Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona.

    I was a guest of The Arizona Biltmore for the purposes of touring Phoenix and of experiencing the hotel for this article. Opinions, as always, are my own. I’d also like to extend a big shout-out to Roam Mobility, whose stress-free talk, text, and data plans help me navigate my way around the roads, keep in touch with family back home, and stay on top of emails when I’m down in the USA. Check out their website for details on their plans and products.

    Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Arizona Biltmore.

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  • Apr23

    Saguaro Hotel-6

    Candy-coloured walls of apple green, pink, and baby blue greet me upon my first entry into a room with a pink door at The Saguaro Scottsdale, in sharp contrast to Old Scottsdale’s Southwestern earth-toned structures. I’m booked in for two nights while exploring the town and surroundings.

    Saguaro Hotel-1

    Everywhere you turn, there’s a new colour palette to admire at this visually-pleasing boutique property.

    Saguaro Hotel-4

    On the long glass-topped counter sits a lone Polaroid land camera, model J66, a throwback to travelling through these parts when in fact motels were all the rage. I’m brought back to the present with a Keurig coffee maker on the next glass section of that counter.

    Saguaro Hotel-10 Saguaro Hotel-5

    This Joie de Vivre hotel is loaded with colourful, modern design elements and contains a spa as well as Distrito, a Mexican restaurant and bar operated by Jose Garces of Iron Chef fame.

    Saguaro Hotel-12 Distrito lunch: Plantain-crusted Mahi Mahi tacos Distrito lunch: Corn flan, caramel, seasonal fruit
    [Plantain-crusted Mahi Mahi tacos, Corn flan, caramel, seasonal fruit]

    You’ll find a full menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch as well as adjacent Garces Trading Coffee kiosk for take-out custom-roasted GTC coffee and homemade goodies.

    Saguaro Hotel-14

    I enjoyed a lazy lunch on the sun-splashed patio under the shade of a bright orange umbrella. The dishes are fresh, really tasty, and artfully presented.

    Saguaro Hotel-7 Saguaro Hotel-8

    Old Town Whiskey is next to Distrito; it has a patio, outdoor fireplaces, and an equally modern interior for happy hour enjoyment.

    Saguaro Hotel-13 Saguaro Hotel-2
    [Top to bottom: Picante pool, Calma pool]

    The onsite fitness center is located near the main pool. There’s actually two pools: Picante and Calma. Picante is the see-and-be-seen spot for the Coachella set; Calma is better geared for a book or game of backgammon with a cold drink in hand. There’s free cruiser bikes for guests in hot pink and bright orange to take out on the town as well.

    Lots of lush landscaping and songbirds bring the element of nature into the property.

    The Saguaro offers:
    – Complimentary valet parking (one vehicle per room)
    – 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center
    – Laundry/dry cleaning service
    – Local telephone calls
    – In-room Keurig coffee machine
    – Daily newspaper in lobby
    – Pet friendly hotel
    – Free wifi

    I liked the hotel’s central location. Within a few block’s radius are numerous bars, restaurants, museums, shops, and services, including the Civic Center Mall and flourishing arts district.

    Saguaro Hotel-3
    [Lather modern apothecary natural bath amenities]

    The only time I did have to take my car out from valet parking (complimentary) was the morning of my Taliesin West excursion (I’ll be covering the arts and culture scene in another article and update this post once it’s live).

    Saguaro Hotel-11

    The Joie de Vivre’s Saguaro was at one time a Doubletree Hotel and in many ways still feels like a two-star motel. Now, some people might enjoy the kitschy cement block structures offering acoustic challenges, but if we’re headed to a city, at the end of a day it’s all about a fitful night’s sleep. Which the first night was non-existent due to party-goers heading back at all hours of the night.

    I would have loved to have enjoyed breakfasts on the Distrito patio, however the music volume kept me indoors. Fine for happy hour, but not as welcoming at 8:30 am. 

    With numerous restaurants and bars a short walk away, the hotel suffers from “location, location, location” syndrome. 

    Right behind the Picante pool (I couldn’t figure out why they’d place a spa next to a DJ-thumping pool), the Saguaro Spa offers massage and body treatment services. While I enjoyed a relaxing one-hour massage one afternoon, I had to actually ask for a glass of water (a first for me).

    For those not accustomed to having a massage or visiting a spa, a refreshment is one of the first things offered guests.

    Each Joie de Vivre property offers a unique experience. This hotel isn’t for everyone, but if you do enjoy a lively vibe and don’t mind a bit of sleep deprivation, you’ll be right at home at the Saguaro.

    Saguaro Hotel-9

    The Saguaro Scottsdale is located at 4000 North Drinkwater Boulevard in Scottsdale, Arizona.

    I was a guest of The Saguaro Scottsdale for the purposes of touring Scottsdale and of experiencing the hotel for this article. Opinions, as always, are my own. I’d also like to extend a big shout-out to Roam Mobility, whose stress-free talk, text, and data plans help me navigate my way around the roads, keep in touch with family back home, and stay on top of emails when I’m down in the USA. Check out their website for details on their plans and products.

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  • Apr23

    Arizona Locally Grown-1 Arizona Locally Grown-11

    It may be hard to imagine an olive mill in the middle of the desert, yet it exists at Queen Creek Olive Mill. For over a decade, Perry Rea and family have owned and operated Arizona’s only working olive mill and farm, pressing their olives for high quality extra virgin olive oil and olive oil-based products.
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  • Apr21

    Gap Banana Republic
    [L to R: Old Navy, Banana Republic]

    Earlier today, media were invited to the Rosewood Hotel Georgia to check out some of Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy’s summer collections.
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  • Apr17

    Oakley Escapade technical shirt

    Along with the spring sunshine and abundance of colourful flowers comes longer days and less excuses to get out and MOVE. Oakley Canada recently sent me a Strength training tight and Escapade long sleeve training top to wear on my power walks and bike rides around town.
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  • Apr13

    Graham Percy, Jamie Konchak
    [Graham Percy, Jamie Konchak]

    Vancouver’s Art’s Club Theatre has teamed up with Calgary’s Vertigo Theatre to present a Raymond Chandler classic, Farewell My Lovely. Considered a prototypical example of “hard boiled” fiction, Chandler “cannibalized” (a term he coined) three of his earlier short stories to spawn this novel: Try the Girl, Mandarin’s Jade, and The Man Who Liked Dogs

    The consequence is a convoluted storyline, featuring a cynical, romantic private-eye, with plenty of femme fatales, heinous yet arrogant villains and a love-struck hoodlum. 

    Farewell My Lovely is an exemplar for the film noir genre. Adapting the excess of intricate details and characters for a film is challenging enough, yet leave it to Vancouver-based playwright Aaron Bushkowsky to generate a refined rendition that not only pays tribute to film-noir, but is witty, edgy, and beguiling. 
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  • Apr10

    Peter Van Stolk

    The twelfth edition of Vancouver Foodster Food Talks will take place on April 27, featuring three chefs, one farmer, a cookbook author, and a food distributor/retailer; each will discuss their background and role as leaders in the food industry and community.

    According to Richard Wolak, “I created the Food Talks to educate people in our community about the food that they consume, it is about awareness as much as it is about lifestyle”, adding, “ the Food Talk is also a social gathering which is more than hearing great people talk about their passion, it is also a chance for the community to meet and mingle and ask questions from our leading panel of experts”.
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  • Apr10

    Bellevue, Washington

    As occasional visitors to Seattle, my husband and I head down the coast for a change of scenery, some great dining, craft beer discoveries, shopping and cultural offerings. Last weekend, we experienced Bellevue, Seattle’s little brother to the East.

    Just 10 miles outside the Emerald City, Bellevue is a compact, easily-walkable city with shopping, museums, restaurants and cafés within its heart.

    Bellevue Hyatt-13
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  • Apr9

    Book of Mormon Company; photo by Joan Marcus
    [The Book of Mormon Company; photo by Joan Marcus]

    In Broadway Across Canada’s touring production of The Book of Mormon, handsome, super-confident Mormon missionary Elder Kevin Price and geeky, insecure nerd Elder Arnold Cunningham are just out of Mission Training Center. The unlikely duo of missionaries to-be are paired off and sent to Northern Uganda (of all places) for two years in order to serve their calling from above.
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  • Apr9

    2015 Ford Mustang-2

    We were looking for just the right destination to take the zippy six-speed 2015 Ford Mustang to, and found its match in the Salish Lodge and Spa otherwise known as The Great Northern Hotel.

    Salish Lodge and Spa-5

    Pairing one great American pop culture icon with another, our road trip took us down the I5 just a half hour outside of Seattle, to one of the most luxurious West coast getaways imaginable: a gorgeous lodge nestled against the 268-foot high Snoqualmie Falls, a setting made famous by David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
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  • Apr8

    Salish Lodge and Spa-1

    Twin Peaks, the cult TV series from the early 90’s, may be a distant memory for many David Lynch fans, but it’s fresh as a slice of cherry pie in ours, having just returned from the original filming site, the Salish Lodge and Spa, aka The Great Northern Hotel.

    Salish Lodge and Spa-7

    The iconic hotel is offering a Great Northern Escape package in honour of the recent news of the series hopefully returning next year for a nine-episode run on Showtime. And much like the tangled web that the series wove, there’s now speculation that the series may not return due to “complications”. I sourced a couple of quotes below from the Welcome to Twin Peaks website.
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  • Apr7

    Dashpoint 20 front and back

    Looking for a pouch to safely stow a micro four-thirds, compact camera or GoPro? Lowepro Canada recently sent me Dashpoint 20 and 30 cases, part of the Dashpoint series that includes the smaller 10 for similar camera and gadget needs.
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  • Apr6

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100-2

    Writing a full review covering each and every one of the Lumix DMC-LX100’s features could fill an entire book, but nevertheless, I got to test-driving this powerful and compact point and shoot camera last month when Panasonic Canada invited me to take a look at what it could do.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100/unboxing
    [What’s in the box]

    Ahead of receiving the camera and its contents, I delved into the TWO PDF manuals (basic and advanced) to get a bit ahead of the game. I’d read that the LX-100 has a bit of a learning curve, and no doubt, I found that out once I tried to work with both Camera RAW and earlier versions of iPhoto, Photoshop, and Lightroom.
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  • Apr2

    Temper Pastry's chocolate ganache cake
    [Temper Pastry’s chocolate ganache cake]

    Rare Finds is an annual fundraising cocktail party to benefit the Rare Disease Foundation. This year, the gala benefit returns for the sixth time and will be held at Villa Amato in the Olympic Village, hosting many of Vancouver’s top chefs, mixologists, and pastry artists with beautiful views of the North Shore.

    Personas Tapas California sushi tacos
    [Personas Tapas’ California sushi tacos]

    The cornerstone of the event is a friendly yet spirited competition between Vancouver’s finest chefs and mixologists competing for your votes.
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