Making The Rounds In Phoenix

Now that the Tucson Gem Show discussion is behind us, I am now turning my thoughts to our time spent in Scottsdale since our return. There is so much to do in the Phoenix area it is mind-boggling! Nearly every day there seems to be a different event going on. At this time of year the weather is never a concern. We just watch for what the high will be for the day and dress accordingly. If it will be cool enough during the time we will be out we just bring a light jacket. I will try and touch on the highlights:

Dining - I would say overall a variety of good food is more easily accessible than at home. However I have found to go with my own gut and not necessarily listen to reviews. For example, last year we went to a place called Hash Kitchen which the locals love for breakfast, lunch and brunch but we thought it was just so-so. We were impressed by the endless stream of cocktails including lots of flights of drinks flowing out of the bar though. Maybe the food tastes better to them after they have had a few.

I have heard more than once that Pizzeria Bianco is the best pizza in the universe, including from Food Network chefs. It is only about 15 minutes away from home but we did not make it there last time. To Kuochun all pizza tastes the same so he was not keen on going but it was on my list to try with Mother this time. The lunch menu is limited but it was no problem finding something enjoyable. We shared the Simple Local Greens salad which was lovely and each ordered a different pizza. For lunch we definitely could have split the pizza as well but it was nice to try a couple. I chose the Wiseguy which has fennel sausage and Mother selected the Rosa which has rosemary, pistachios and red onion. I thought the pizza was good but the best fennel sausage I have had on a gourmet pizza was at Forno Rosso on Harlem on the north side of Chicago. The environment is charming, I would go there again.

Another choice for Italian food is a local chain called Babbo Italian Eatery. Melinda introduced me to Babbo on my first visit. Their prices are reasonable and the food is delicious. They serve fantastic foccacia bread to start. I have only had their pasta which tastes homemade but they have lots of other choices as well. There is a Scottsdale location about 20 minutes away from home and it is high on my priority list to visit every time I come here. Mother and I were able to make it this time and Kuochun and I last time. They both loved it!

In-N-Out Burger is an area classic and something we cannot get in Chicago. Everything is made fresh and the fries are done in sunflower oil which is unique. On our last visit, Mother and I went to a North Scottsdale location and when Kuochun came I took him there as well and it was great both times. However this time we went to the Tempe location which is closer to home and it was not so good. We ordered the single cheeseburgers this time, I am not a beef fanatic but even I thought there was not enough beef. It tasted like a salad on a bun. Next time we will go back to the Double-Double and ask for no added salt as the fries were horribly salty this time.

We finally made it to Ranch House Grille which is walking distance from home just west of us but a place that folks travel far and wide to visit. It was early on so it was a little chilly to eat outside but they kindly turned on the heater for us. We went for breakfast on our first day, both loved the food and definitely would be a go-to for a nearby breakfast or lunch.

One restaurant that we have driven past again and again and intrigued me every time was Dough Bird. I did not know what they served but thought it looked cute from the outside. It turns out they specialize in gourmet pizza (dough) and rotisserie chicken (bird.) This is my kind of restaurant, food done simply but well in a nice casual environment. Again it was pizza and salad but I ordered a BBQ chicken pizza and a Caesar salad this time. They have very nice entrees which Kuochun would enjoy. I will definitely be back!

We also tried Streets Of New York which is also down the street just east of us and had it delivered when we were without a car. They did not have the salad I ordered so I switched to a calzone which was very good. I also ordered the #1 sub so we would have a couple of extra meals and that was very good as well. Mother enjoyed her Greek salad and meatball sub as well, and she ate the other half of my calzone. Got to be speedy around here!

We visited friends who are staying in Surprise and dined at a Mexican restaurant together. Mexican is not a go-to choice for me but they normally have something I can eat like shrimp tacos. It was very crowded, about a 20-minute wait for a weekday late lunch but it was pretty good. We also dined at an Italian restaurant with Melinda in Glendale which also was pretty good. I was able to build my own pasta bowl including crumbled sausage which is not usually on menus but I have to say the Caesar salad was just OK, mostly yellow and white lettuce and iceberg mixed in.

The grocery stores in the Phoenix area are great, way better than Chicago and with more variety of stores as well, there is a grocery store for everyone. AJ's Fine Foods is at the top of the list when money is no object with fabulous gourmet selections and our go-to is Safeway which is a good choice for everyday items. It has been challenging because we have no kitchen right now and our mini refrigerator does not hold a lot so we have been mixing it up between dining out and eating at home with a few carryouts in between. We dug the toaster out of all the boxes of kitchen stuff packed up in the living room and that helped provide us a little variety.

Shopping - As far as shopping goes, we did not get to every usual spot but made it to our favorite antique malls, as well as some shopping for necessities for the business. Neither of us is in a big buying mood as we went nuts at the Gem Show and with the house under construction there is not much room for new items yet. We visited the farmer's markets in Fountain Hills and Scottsdale. Fountain Hills is like the Lake Forest of the Phoenix area and is about a 40-minute drive but the farmer's market is getting smaller and smaller each time. I think there were only about a dozen vendors but my favorite baker was there, Baker Thirteen. She makes awesome bread including the apricot walnut which is great toasted, scones, cookies and granola. The key to an enjoyable experience in Old Town Scottsdale was to hit the market first thing when they opened. It was not nearly as crowded, but started to fill in as we were wrapping up. One highlight was the booth with the massive pans of paella - one with seafood and one with sausage. They were pricey at $19 but we splurged and tried the sausage one. It did make for three meals for Mother and one for me and was very good. The larger local markets always have an egg breakfast burrito on hand which is a must have for me.

We thought we were going to go to the Phoenix farmer's market on Saturday but things took a detour - late Friday night I saw a brief ad on TV for the Phoenix Junior League's 85th annual rummage sale at the state fairgrounds. We decided to go there instead. There was a gun show going on at the fairgrounds as well so it was definitely an interesting mix of customers pouring into the parking lot to attend both events. It was $10 to park and $5 each for entry and there were tons of rules as far as navigating the sale. At first we thought it was going to be a bust but we found a few collectibles and had good luck in the linen department. We also picked up a straw hat floor lamp for Melinda which coordinates with the table lamp I found for her at Lucille Resale last summer. Also, strangely enough Mother spotted the same velvet stuffed flamenco dancer art sculpture she bought on a trip to Spain years ago. She was not going to buy it but I picked it up for Melinda as I thought it would coordinate well with her Tarkay art which she really loves. I am not sure if we would go again but if we did I would definitely get there early for the best selection. If there was nice jewelry it was all gone by the time we got there.

One non-shopping or dining excursion we did do was to try a medical pedicure for the first time. Mother found the woman by doing an internet search and she is a very interesting person. She is originally from Poland and has lived in many different locations around the world including London, Bermuda and Florida. She has a solo salon suite in North Scottsdale about 25 minutes from home. It was well worth the trip as it was such a lovely experience. She does not believe in soaking the feet, it was a dry pedicure and she has state-of-the-art tools from Germany which are kept sterilized in a special machine. It was definitely frightening to hear the different diseases which can be caught from getting a pedicure at a regular nail salon including HIV. She was so gentle and also pointed out that we each had cracked skin between one of our toes and let us know how to heal it. Mother was told it would be $60 but it ended up being $85 and with tip about $100 per person. However I am glad we did it. My feet look just as good two weeks later as when they were originally done. It is not something we could afford to do every 4-6 weeks as she suggested but possibly twice a year for maintenance - once when we first arrive for the winter and then again before we go back home. 

I did post the above lot last Sunday and it was very popular, just like the first. I could have sold the interesting modernist naja necklace 15 times. The person who claimed the necklace first is in Fountain Hills and is going to come visit next Friday to pick it up. All of the cuffs except for the one with the double snake design, the turquoise ring on the left and the belt buckle are available, the other items have all sold.

We also had our second local event this past week, offering the jewelry caravan at another estate sale in Melinda's area. This time there was room for four cases of jewelry plus a few extra baskets. Overall the results were pretty good, luckily one person made a big purchase otherwise things would have been disappointing. The homeowner had a huge amount of low-priced costume jewelry, starting at $5.00 per piece so although it is apples and oranges many customers are going to naturally gravitate towards the cheaper offerings. In two weeks the estate sale company owner is going to have a sale at her home with lots of different consignment items. She recently moved to a new home which Melinda says is very nice so hopefully it will attract more of a crowd that has the budget for the caravan.

That is all the news for now, see you next time!