News, tips and tidbits from the world of Arizona travel – and beyond.

Travel Bag

Written by Niki D'Andrea, Craig Outhier Category: Travel Issue: November 2016
Group Free
Pin It

Edinburgh, Scotland, with Andrew Fritz and Brian Goodwin from The Gladly

“Malt Disney.” That’s what Edinburgh townies have jocularly dubbed the Scotch Whisky Experience, a spirits-themed tourist trap where visitors learn about peat malts and take Mr. Toad-style distillery tours in barrel-shaped bumper cars.

Sadly, or perhaps wisely, The Gladly owner Andrew Fritz and beverage maestro Brian Goodwin skipped the barrel ride on a recent fact-finding expedition to Edinburgh and its adjacent distillery region, known as Speyside. They came back with some useful Scottish travel tips, all the same.

• Forget scoring passes for the Balvenie warehouse tour without “several months’ notice,” according to Goodwin. Located in Dufftown, three hours’ drive north of Edinburgh, the legendary distillery is manna for whisky nerds. Getting a spot in one of the 20-person tours at The Balvenie’s nearby parent distillery, Glenfiddich, tends to be much easier. “And it’s still whisky royalty,” the mixologist says. glenfiddich.com/uk/distillery/

• “You’ve got to check out the Craigellachie Hotel if you go to Speyside,” Goodwin says. “They have a whisky room downstairs, which is wonderful, and a restaurant called the Copper Dog that I liked – classic Euro cuisine and breakfasts, blood sausage, smoked haddock, haggis and that kind of thing.”
craigellachiehotel.co.uk

• Back on the terraced, cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, Fritz recommends The Devil’s Advocate, a low-key, farmhouse-style gastropub with cool wooden barn doors and an epic carved bar. “I loved the atmosphere, and the music, which gave me some ideas for The Gladly... and the food was great,” he says. “Rich meats, root vegetables and terrific charcuterie.” devilsadvocateedinburgh.co.uk

Bag Bites

• Travel Tome. Valley real estate tycoon by day, globe-trotting backpacker by night. That’s more or less the CV of Rob Binkley, who made his fortune flipping foreclosures, but whose real passion concerns Bengalese mushroom shakes, Czech youth hostels and other delights of party-minded international wayfaring. Binkley – whose passport boasts stamps from more than 100 countries – put his booze-soaked reminiscences into a memoir, Let’s Go Mad: A Year Abroad in Search of Utopia and Enlightenment (Skyhorse Publishing, $19.99), available in bookstores and on Amazon.

• Truth in Advertising. At the inaugural Boots N’ Brews Festival at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, guests will sip on Southern Arizona’s finest craft beers (Dragoon, Borderlands, Sentinel Peak) in a complimentary boot-shaped mug. But there’s more: Billed as the nation’s “largest dude ranch,” Tanque Verde will also host a five-course pairing dinner and several other beer-themed events during the three-day (November 4-6) event. An all-access pass plus accommodations for two nights runs $249 per person. tanqueverderanch.com

• Dry Again. Hurricane Newton has passed and so, if history holds, has the “wet season” in Los Cabos – that popular Mexican resort region on the tip of the Baja California peninsula. As a travel destination for Phoenicians, Cabo is pretty easy to suss out: stormy and overcast in the late summer-early fall; temperate and sunny the rest of the year. Find travel advisories and nonstop air options at loscabosguide.com

Having deserted the desert for California, two former Valley chefs dish on what they miss about the Phoenix food scene.

Suzanne Tracht

A native Phoenician, Tracht trained under Siegbert Wendler at the Arizona Biltmore before making her way to California and ultimately establishing her modern American chophouse, Jar, in Los Angeles.

Favorite Phoenix restaurants: “I love Carolina’s. As an homage to my mother and father, I always have to stop at Durant’s when I return to Phoenix, even if it’s just to sit at the bar and get a Bloody Mary.”

Culinary contrasts: “[When] I worked at the Arizona Biltmore, the hotels were the restaurant destination[s]. When I moved out to California, except for the Hotel Bel-Air and a few others, you didn’t go to a hotel for fine dining.”

William Bradley

Bradley’s background in Phoenix includes working with James Boyce at legendary fine dining destination Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician. He returned home to San Diego in 2006 to open Addison at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

Favorite Phoenix memories: “I really enjoyed the food scene. I really enjoyed the chef scene, as well. I thought the chefs were great at collaborating with one another, and really, the camaraderie in Phoenix was something that was really special.”

Culinary contrasts: “In Phoenix it’s obviously a lot more protein-driven, and they eat a lot more game – wild boar and elk and things like [that]… the portions here are a little smaller, in California. In Phoenix, they’ve got to be a little larger.”

 – Niki D’Andrea