Imagine a desert oasis where you can enjoy award-winning cuisine and partake in nightlife unlike any other. Well, Scottsdale is that place and it’s a perfect locale for a quick weekend getaway.
Don’t know where to eat or what to do? No time to research and plan a dining, imbibing and socializing schedule ensuring your brief vacation is an utter sensation? No worries! Here are a few tried-and-true, chock-full-of-fun location recommendations that are sure to suit.
Proof, an American Canteen at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
Hungry for some home cooking? Proof restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale presents homestyle comfort fare sourced exclusively from the 50 states. Popular lunch options include homemade bite-size buttery Pretzel Knots with warm Vermont cheddar cheese; finger-licking-good Rib Bites in a rich and thick Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce; and Chicken and Waffles—buckwheat waffle, smoked blueberry syrup, peach compote, bacon brittle, almond honey butter. Those who prefer to eat healthy, or vegetarian, are also in business as the Heirloom Vegetable Crudité is sensational, comprised of raw seasonal veggies, cucumber-basil Greek yogurt, lemon garlic hummus, crab remoulade and more all served up over cubed ice in a gorgeous copper bowl. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this relaxed American Canteen offers guests a glimpse of old Americana with nostalgic soda fountain, televisions, games and a bustling bar.
Breakfast at Proof is an experience all its own! If you can take the heat, the spicy Bloody Mary, with its proprietary tomato mixer base, topped with a thick-cut piece of fiery-sweet candied bacon is an absolute must! The savory Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict topped with a jalapeno hollandaise may very well top the list of your favorite breakfast dishes of all time.
Happy hour cocktails amid the Sonoran sunset at Onyx Bar and Lounge at Four Seasons
Adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale’s signature restaurant, Talavera, Onyx Bar & Lounge receives its namesake from the amber, color-ribboned onyx framing the bar, drawing comparisons to desert sandstone and inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright. The bar top is custom-made out of a single mesquite tree, sanded smooth and veined with black. The lounge features a menu of small plates and fresh sweet and savory cocktail combinations.
Dinner at Talavera Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
Talavera introduces a modern take on the classic steakhouse, with unique steak and seafood pairings, a range of specialty sides, accompaniments and starters as well as comfort desserts to-die-for. The restaurant features vibrant decor, dramatic views and possibly the best patio dining in the Valley. Its energetic ambiance is representative of its upscale casual approach to resort dining, with a range of menu choices fit for every taste and occasion.
Specializing in locally and regionally sourced cuisine, Talavera clearly prides itself on prime cuts of meat, poultry and game that are sourced from boutique purveyors, including Arizona ranch-raised meats. Vegetables are locally sourced as well, with heirloom tomatoes from local farms and olive oil procured from a nearby mill. Executive Chef Mel Mecinas, quite an affable and approachable chap, combines these über-fresh ingredients into exquisitely delectable signature dishes such as Buffalo Tenderloin with bacon, roasted carrots and ancho-tomatillo sauce, or Venison Loin with baby squash, mole, foie gras and cotija cheese.
During my own epicure adventure at Talavera, I opted to start with the Chilled Seafood Platter that was a cornucopia of fine seafood, including ample amounts of Maine lobster, oysters, prawns, King crab, scallop and tuna sashimi served simply with a variety of cold dipping sauces. I also couldn’t resist ordering the Rougié Foie Gras—seared to perfection and exquisitely paired with rhubarb chutney, bacon and a perfectly moist and sweet slice of peach pound cake.
For an entrée I opted for another signature dish that’s an excellent deviation from the ordinary surf and turf: the Chilean Sea Bass. This appropriately-portioned fresh fish was served atop a creamy potato “risotto,” which added a great textural contrast to the soft sea bass—all and further crowned with a delectable dollop of braised oxtail. Another in my party selected the Lamb Rack that had a Mediterranean spin as it’s served with an eggplant-olive caponata—a Sicilian stew of sorts—all kicked up a notch with a garlic jus. I also sampled the Mexican Jumbo Prawns—five firm, sweet and perfectly butterflied crustaceans enveloped in a rich and creamy lemon caper butter and with grilled lemon and a spicy Capsicum chile pepper for a spicy and citrus punch of flavor. While the food at Talavera is certainly hearty, portions are appropriate so you’ll likely have room for dessert. I suggest savoring one of the fleeting specials that feature creative configurations using that season’s fruit bounty.
Dinner at Virtù Honest Craft at Bespoke Inn
With a menu described as “wandering Mediterranean,” Virtù Honest Craft opened under the culinary talents of Chef Gio Osso who gained national praise for his cuisine at the now-closed Estate House in downtown Scottsdale. Virtù’s rotating menu features items like hand-made pastas, braised oxtails and house-made sausages. Diners can also choose from a 30-bottle global wine list, craft beers and handcrafted cocktails. Accolades include The #1 Restaurant of 2013 by The Arizona Republic as well as being named one of the top 20 best new restaurants by Esquire magazine.
The quaint restaurant is located within the intimate, luxurious Bespoke Inn, but is open to the public. Chef Osso describes the eatery’s food and atmosphere as a “beautifully composed symphony of sights, scents and tastes,” which is a fitting depiction considering “Virtù” is the Machiavellian term for achieving excellence—something Chef Osso has been doing throughout his career at countless award-winning restaurants in the Phoenix area. Now having ventured out on his own, Chef Osso’s passion is evident in his deft execution of seasonally-driven dishes that give a nod to his Mediterranean family roots.
At Virtù, the dishes are not complicated or fussy. In fact, most are relatively simple conceptually but don’t let the lack of menu complexity fool you. The quality and freshness of the ingredients and is stunning as is the culinary skill proffered during preparations. Dishes feature the season’s best seafood, prime meats, freshly made pastas and regional produce—each expertly executed by the kitchen brigade. My own visit to Virtù allowed me to sample a variety of dishes from each section of the menu: sharables, salads, pasta and entrees.
The Burrata Board starter was downright exceptional. The creamy and buttery Italian cheese spread accompanied by shavings of beautifully marbled, salty prosciutto di parma and sweet fire roasted fresh peppers served with grilled toast. The tenderized Charred Octopus with lemon chick peas and arugula and fennel was also a crowd pleaser, although I could have personally used a touch more of the spicy orange Calabrian chile butter upon which all other components was served. However, that nit was quickly forgotten with the arrival of the golf ball sized Brown Butter Gnudi stuffed with a mild and slightly sweet ricotta. The soft pasta and cheese was aptly countered with hearty and firm roasted mushrooms, decidedly al dente English peas and hazelnuts all topped with shavings of a pecorino pepato—a semi-hard Italian sheep’s milk cheese dotted with black peppercorns.
However good the courses leading up to it, it was our entrée dish that stole the show: the Bistecca Tagliata. This behemoth 40-ounce Wagyu tomahawk ribeye, cooked to a chef-recommended medium rare, arrived to the table on a large wooden cutting board after having already been sliced in to strips. Suffice it to say it was more than enough meat to accommodate a family-style dinner for my table of three…and then some. The exterior seasoning and sear on the steak was impeccable, locking in the juices and maintaining the integrity of the superbly marbled meat. The fresh and light accoutrements of cherry tomato pomodorini that exuded a sweet basil essence along with Mediterranean rucola and shaved parmesan were apropos.
Of course, dining out is often enhanced with a libation or two and Virtù’s elevated bar program is befitting of its cuisine. The restaurant boasts inventive signature cocktails such as the Virtù Starter Kit, featuring Cocchi di Torino vermouth, gin, grapefruit bitters, bitter lemon soda and orange essence. There’s also Virtù’s take on the classic gin and tonic, the Virtù G+T, made with gin, white port, giffard apricot, Mediterranean tonic, thyme and cardamom. Perhaps a little game of truth or dare might be in order with The Fortified Truth, made with blueberry-infused Amaro Montenegro, Irish whiskey, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, fresh lemon, Cassia bark and grapefruit essence. Visit Virtù to eat, drink and make merry amid a lively atmosphere.
Lunch or Dinner at FnB Restaurant
Enjoy the Arizona wine and dine experience at FnB Restaurant, a trendy eatery in the heart of downtown that’s known both for its inventive food and for serving local wines. Chef Charleen Badman, a James Beard nominee, is known for her visionary vegetable creations—even being referred to as “the vegetable whisperer” as I was told by a staffer. In fact, her braised leeks with mozzarella and a fried egg dish was named one of the 10 best restaurant dishes of 2010 by Food & Wine. Of note is owner Pavle Milic’s other venture, Bodega/AZ Wine Merchants, varietals from which oenophiles can sip and savor while at FnB.
FnB is an intimate café-like scene with a décor that’s trendy yet rustic and a vibe that beckons—and celebrates—gastro-snobs like myself. The food is locally sourced but the menus are globally accented as Chef Badman’s cuisine is bold, imaginative and often out-of-the-box. The locavore-minded restaurant’s wine program also covers its bases by offering an Arizona-only wine selection in addition to a “Plan B” out-of-state wine selection featuring expertly selected reds and whites that pair perfectly with the eatery’s seasonal fare.
Speaking of cyclical menus, what’s on FnB’s dish docket varies not only season to season but often daily, depending upon what’s fresh and that day. Locally grown vegetables figure prominently on the menu in various fabulous forms that constantly change. During my own dinner seating, I had the pleasure of experiencing Chef Badman’s ingenuity with dishes like joy bus French fried squash blossoms with halloumi, chermoula, lemon and olives; socca (a chickpea pancake) with aleppo pepper, roasted Roma tomatoes, goat cheese and sicilian pistachios; and salad of watermelon and beets, pumpernickel, curry-style vadouvan spice and feta. However, meat lovers don’t despair; as there are mouth-watering options for you as well, including crispy chicken parts with sake sauce, miso pickles and Japanese pepper flake; churro lamb leg with summer squash, roasted tomato, olive, crumbs and mint; and fish in the form of pink grouper with avocado, grapefruit and carrot furikake atop brown rice.
If you’d like a little after-dinner retail therapy, head directly next door to the Bodega Market where you can pick up ROC 2 coffee, Sweet Republic Sweets and Wild Clover Botanicals, just to name a few of the local artisanal offerings. I myself left with a few bottles of “Fire in the Hole” hot sauce. You can also purchase fresh-baked breads, farm-raised cheeses and a bottle of local wine so you can take a taste of Arizona home with you.
Kick up your heels at the famed Rusty Spur Saloon
After you’ve duly wined and dined it’s time to let your inner cowpoke out to play! Head on over to the Rusty Spur Saloon—Scottsdale’s last real cowboy saloon. Registered historic landmark, Farmers Bank of Scottsdale 1921 – 1931, closed during the Depression, but the old bank vault is still there, holding liquor instead of money. It’s been referred to as one of the three happiest places in the U.S. – Disneyland, Las Vegas, and the Rusty Spur Saloon… “Where the party never ends!!!” Patronized by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, Dierks Bentley, and John Rich (Big & Rich). They offer live entertainment every afternoon and evening – Country Western, Blues and Rockabilly. Be sure to pin your own commemorative dollar bill to the wall!
Enjoy a glam night out at The Living Room at W Scottsdale
Maybe you prefer to glam it up a bit? If so, head on over to the W Scottsdale where the only question is: would you rather linger downstairs in The Living Room, a plush and swanky lounge, or upstairs on the chic Shade Lounge that encompasses the entire pool deck? The Living Room is known for its extensive martini menu, avant-garde clientele, and for live music every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night from 9 p.m. to midnight featuring local and national recording artists. Alternatively, head upstairs where you can party either indoors next to mood-setting fire and water design elements, or socialize alfresco on the stylish and expansive outdoor patio with dedicated sections for bottle service seating. Sip on creative concoctions and top-notch wines while the DJ spins Euro-inspired beats. At either venue at the W Scottsdale, be sure to dress to impress!
While in the 1950’s Scottsdale was known as “The West’s Most Western Town,” today this renaissance city is a modern and chic hub boasting a progressive epicurean scene and bustling nightlife—the perfect recipe for a wonderful weekend getaway.
“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***