I recently returned from one of my new favorite destinations, Arizona. My trip had two parts: Three days spent in Scottsdale for the CRAVE ARIZONA food and wine gala, followed by three relaxing days at The Boulders and Golden Door Spa.
Scottsdale is a beautiful city of over 240,000 residents, adjacent to Phoenix and bordered to the north by Carefree and to the south by Tempe, home of the Arizona State University. Over the years, I have spent time teaching Chinese cooking and traveling around Tucson, AZ - this trip gave me a chance to experience more of the Sonoran Desert.
The city of Scottsdale is a refreshing and upscale tourist destination, filled with shopping opportunities, art galleries, architectural delights, theatre, hiking and bicycling, and buzzing restaurant and nightlife scenes.
My life in Scottsdale began on a not unbearably hot afternoon as I landed in Phoenix. The airport is a short ride into Scottsdale. My wonderful driver pointed out Papago Butte and its caves, a popular area for adventurous hikers. I made a note to dismiss that side trip in favor of concentrating on the reasons why I’m here.
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main St
As soon as we arrived, I had an immediate premonition that I would have a swell time here. I have always loved turquoise and pink “flamingo” type hotels and motels, as long as they were clean and spiffy. The Valley Ho goes way beyond that description. Check out my groovy room, it has an oversized bath tub right by the bed!
The Valley Ho was cool back in the mid-1950s before the term “cool” morphed into “hot” and “hip.” Once upon a time, the hotel was a favored resort for high society Scottsdale and as a hideaway or getaway for Hollywood stars the likes of Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood, Cary Grant, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson. In 2005 it re-opened its doors after an $80 million renovation and expansion and still retains a sense of the 1950s “coolness.”
As soon as you walk into the spacious welcome area, check out the gorgeous lounge and bar. Relax over drinks and feel, well, “hip.”
Beyond the lounge, the counter and soda fountain is a part of local favorite Charles “Chuck” Wiley’s ZuZu restaurant. Executive Chef Chuck presides over a kitchen that renders classic All-American memories. After unpacking I headed straight to ZuZu for a Cobb Salad that was one of the best I’ve ever had, filled with little surprises such as kernels of fresh corn. Chef Chuck dropped by to introduce himself and I learned quite a bit about this remarkable and talented chef.
Executive Chef Chuck Wiley, Valley Ho
Because I was busy with the CRAVE ARIZONA events I did not get to dine at ZuZu’s other than one lunch and one breakfast. I look forward to returning next March for the San Francisco Giants’ Spring Training, 2010 when I check in for several days. I will catch up with ZuZu’s tempting menu then as well as try other Scottsdale eateries.
at the Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main St.
480 421 7799
Executive Chef Justin Pfeilsticker presides over TRADER VIC’S and I was especially excited to dine there. Chef Justin showed me around the restaurant and some of the decor, especially the Tiki Gods on the walls, took me back to my childhood.
My Dad was one of the original chefs of the first Trader Vic’s in Oakland, CA. As a kid, I nibbled on Crab Rangoon and Rumaki long before it became staples on many menus across the United States. Trader Vic’s has the very same menu cover as the one from the 1950s. The only things that have changed for the most part, are the prices - no surprise…but a NICE surprise is the HAPPY HOUR where you can order many of the pupus (appetizers) for the ridiculous 1950s price of one dollah — yes, $1.00, along with 50% off selected cocktails. They also have a “reversed happy hour” later in the evening.
Crab Rangoon awaiting Hot Oil Dance
Crab Rangoon is made of dungeness crab meat with cream cheese folded won ton style and deep-fried. Almond Duck Tidbits was also an appetizer from memory lane. My dad prepared Almond Duck post-Trader Vic’s days at our Bamboo Hut restaurant in Hayward, CA. Duck is boned, and mixed with tantalizing seasonings and ingredients before being pressed onto a cookie sheet type tray to set. Then the pressed duck was deep-fried, and topped with a sweet and sour sauce and crush toasted almonds. My Filet of Alaskan Halibut was fired up in the Chinese oven, served with jasmine rice, saute vegetables and wasabi beurre blanc. What an unforgettable evening.
7216 E. Shoeman Llane (in Old Town)
480 991 6887
In-between attending Crave Arizona, I managed to meet another highly respected, fun-loving and serious chef. James Porter’s PETITE MAISON is not to be missed. The restaurant is very small, very new (opened in August, 2009), and very cozy and cute. Chef James presents classic French bistro dishes, such as the Croque Madame which I enjoyed thoroughly. Bring your family and friends here. In light of today’s economy, Petite Maison shines with great food and petite prices.