I just weeded through paragraphs of rambling about my amazing trip to Arizona, deciding to share only the highlights that hit my tastebuds:
1. Cowboy Ciao—restaurant in Scottsdale (hidden among the shopping complexes) with an unfortunate name but incredible food. Innovative Southwestern. Good wine too—my friends and I each ordered a flight (served in crystal). I got the Central (CA) Coast Chardonnay one. Good sips. We shared a “Stetson Chopped Salad,” served in a rainbow on the plate and mixed by the server (pink smoked salmon, yellow dried corn, green spinach, white cheese, dark red currants and brown toasted pumpkin seeds). Great salad. Unusual. Then we ordered the “Exotic Mushroom Panfry,” 7 types of wildish fungi sauteed in an ancho chili cream sauce (dark and rich and smoky!). Dessert was an (okay) bread pudding garnished with house made orange ice cream (really good with crystallized bits of orange), and drizzled with a brown sugar-butter sauce. Mmm...
2. Fresh salsa and avocado on everything! The waiter tried not to laugh when I asked if they had salsa at the Coffee Pot diner where we ate breakfast at in Sedona. That place was “home of 101 omelets.” No joke—they were all listed.
3. Watermelon Mojitos POOLSIDE at the Camelback resort in Scottsdale. Frozen watermelon blended with mint on a sunny day, what more could you ask for? A pool? Rum? You got it...paradise for a moment.
4. New Frontier Grocery Store in Sedona: Wonderful, beautiful new healthfood store. Just great food and great looking. Amazing deli/juicebar and prepared food section. They made lavender lemonade there! Salsa of course, salads, and these great mixed berry oat bars and other vegan pastries. A reggae band was playing out front the last day we were there.
5. “Baja Shrimp Cocktail”—basically a really good gazpacho with cooked shrimp and avocado cubes floating in it, served with lime and chips. This dish (also served poolside at Camelback) inspired my own modification that I made for a BBQ at my friend’s house this summer. They called it “Lila Love”:
-1 lb. Oregon bay shrimp (or other peeled, cooked shrimp, chopped into 1/2 in. pieces)
-4 small avocados, cubed
-1 T smooth salsa (can be jarred, whatever)
-1 clove garlic, diced
-2 limes, juiced
-chopped cilantro (optional—I didn’t have it, but it probably would make this EVEN BETTER!)
-Mix all ingredients in a bowl (lightly, not to blend the avo) & season w/salt & pepper. Serve w/chips.