On my whirlwind trip to Arizona, I did a lot of eating but didn’t go to a wide variety of places. I didn’t have to. Great meals were available right there at the Arizona Biltmore without having to leave the property at all. I did take one sojourn to a fun place though. But first, feasting at the Biltmore, as lead by Executive Chef Todd Sicolo and Executive Sous Chef Conor Favre.
Frank & Albert’s, named after Biltmore architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Albert Chase McArthur, is known for serving “comfort food with a twist”. That it does. Appetizers include the Crispy Mac and Cheese Bites and Oversized Onion Rings.
For an entrée, we had the Grass Fed Beef Burger with applewood smoked bacon on a homemade bun with, yes, duck fat poached fries for extra flavor and crisp. We also had the Beef Meatloaf glazed with chipotle ketchup teetering atop cheddar cheese mashed potatoes, baby spinach and crispy onions.
Desserts include stepped up Sundaes and “Ooey Gooey Treats” like Butterscotch Pudding with sea salt. The Tableside S’Mores are a fiery project of a dessert where you get to toast your own marshmallows (and hopefully not your sleeve) over a flame and assemble your own S’mores at your table – fun for sharing.
Wright’s Sunday brunch is reasonably priced at $25 especially given what you get. The buffet tables themselves are plentiful and beautiful, featuring sushi with all the trimmings, caviar and toast points with all the trimmings, plump iced shrimp, sculptural tidbits of various veggies, meats and cheeses and oh, the desserts. Far too many to ever try, although you could if you wanted.
If all of that wasn’t enough for you, or you had a hankering for something warm, for just $10 more, you can choose from any one of the Small Plates hot dishes that change with the season and whim but are all variations on the Breakfast Flapjack, Biltmore Waffle or Wright Way Benedict. You could try one or all of them but then you would literally explode. Literally.
Our favorite was the Wright Way Benedict which, at that time, was pulled pork ladled over Texas toast with the requisite poached egg and hollandaise sauce on top – inventive and delicious. Wright’s also serves lunch and dinner but we didn’t have a chance to partake of those.
Just outside Wright’s, is The Wright Bar where, on weekends, a jazz combo was playing and where, during Sunday brunch, a pianist accompanies all of your happy face-stuffing.
The one time we did venture out just to see what other people were eating outside of our Arizona Biltmore cacoon, we went to NoRTH Frattoria Italiana. The restaurant is related to NoRTH Cherry Creek here in Denver.
Housed in a glass barn-like building that used to be a carwash, NoRTH Fattoria Italiana is a place to gather and hang out and have comfort food that’s taken up a notch or three. The open kitchen (and I mean open – no walls, just a chain rope to keep you from walking into the kitchen) dares you not to ogle and see the handmade pasta being ladled with sauce or the pizza dough tossed up into near perfect rounds.
Blown-glass lamps hang from the ceiling and look industrial yet ethereal. With sunset, the various colors of bottles of booze above the bar catch the light and are illuminated. It’s a cool effect that makes you feel even better about the spread in front of you.
We started with The Chef’s Board with meats, cheeses, including the beautiful and blobby Buffalo Mozzarella, olives and a delicious yellow raisin mélange of something or other that was a sweet foil to the savories.
My Tagliatelle came, a big bowl of pepperadelle pasta with a crumbly meat sauce slathering every noodle. “Oh, you gotta try this” led to The Ricotta Gnocchi being shared by several of us because we couldn’t believe how good it was. Fork-tender beef short ribs with arugula and horseradish crème over gnocchi made of ricotta. We tore off pieces of The Pig pizza, gooey with cheese, lots of meat and yanked and the pulley crust. This was a sensory meal with colors, flavors, textures and good conversation. Good times in a good place.
Although I mentioned it in Part 3 of this series, Chef Edward Farrow of the Café at the Musical Instrument Museum gets a tip of my wide-brimmed sun hat for constantly creating a new menu based both on inspiration from the geographical regions covered at the museum but also on whatever is brand-spanking new and fresh from the farms there. Local, creative, ever-changing and tasty – in a museum café! That’s the kind of behavior you’d expect from a chic restaurant and not so much from a very accessible, casual bite to eat as you stop in to replenish and reenergize before taking in more of the museum. Oh, yes, you pay for it in slightly higher prices but it’s worth it and part of the whole unique experience of the place.
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I know there are countless more places to eat at in Arizona and I look forward to returning to try out more of them. Any suggestions? I’d love to hear them and plan ahead.
This concludes my series on my whirlwind weekend in Arizona. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and I hope you plan to visit. Just a short plane-ride away and you’re in for a hot time.