4 Best Things We Ate Last Week

Nikki BuchananOctober 26, 2021
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Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Warm Chopped Vegetable Salad and Coconut Cream Cake at Arcadia Farms Café
When Carolyn Ellis opened Arcadia Farms in a vintage house in Old Town back in 1990, she surely had no idea it would become the quintessential Scottsdale restaurant for discerning ladies who lunch. It’s not one of those cloying grandmotherly tea places crammed with doilies and antiques but rather a gracious retreat so pretty it could make the cover of a home décor magazine. And you talk about a loyal following! A friend and I foolishly believed we could waltz in for lunch without a reservation this past summer, but nope. We tried on two different occasions, and the place was booked. Imagine that — a Scottsdale restaurant packed at lunch in June!


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

This salad partially explains the AF phenomenon. It’s pretty, it’s healthy and it’s yummy — something you can feel good about eating but not in the pained way that suggests sacrifice. I hate that. It’s a colorful jumble of ingredients — cool romaine, roasted red peppers and avocado combined with warm, cooked asparagus, zucchini and grilled corn, all of it tossed in a tangy, verdant lime vinaigrette that counterbalances the vegetal sweetness of the salad’s various components and plays nicely with creamy goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy. The salad was so light that I figured I deserved dessert — an individual serving of airy coconut cream cake: coconut-yellow cake layers ribboned with fresh coconut cream filling, the cake’s exterior smoothed with vanilla whip and pressed with shredded coconut. Ultra-moist and coconut-y, it’s even better when dragged through a puddle of raspberry coulis. One bite and you’ll understand why this one has been an AF signature for years.
Arcadia Farms Café, 7014 E. First Ave., Scottsdale, 480-941-5665, arcadiafarmscafe.com


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Poblano Cream Chicken Enchiladas at Frank & Lupe’s Old Mexico
Frank and Lupe’s New Mexico-style restaurant is another Old Town old-timer — around since 1995. It’s had its share of financial woes over the years, but I can’t deny I still find deep satisfaction in this enchilada plate, composed of chicken enchiladas, whole pintos and tomato-tinted Mexican rice. The kicker is the bright green poblano cream sauce generously ladled over the enchiladas. Lush and spicy at once, it’s pure comfort food, a little peppery and faintly smoky, good with everything else on the plate. And by the way, Frank and Lupe’s prelude of ultra-crisp house-made chips and smooth red chile salsa are fantastic.
Frank & Lupe’s, 4121 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-990-9844, frankandlupes.com


Photo by Nikki Buchanan

Smoke Toffee Risotto at Confluence
A food writer pal and I went to Confluence for work purposes the other day, and I talked her into veering off track — in other words, ordering more than we strictly needed for our assignments — to try the smoke toffee risotto dessert, which is new to the menu. She was already blown away by the chopped salad (which we split) of roasted chicken, hard-boiled egg, almond, red onion, caper, chickpeas and green bean, all tossed in a light but big-on-flavor herb vinaigrette. “How could such a simple thing be this good?” we marveled. And then came this ridiculous, ridiculous dessert. Its creamy texture is reminiscent of rice pudding, but then there’s that undertow of smoke in the smooth, caramel-like toffee, which chef-owner Brandon Gauthier mixes into the risotto — which he makes to order, then briefly covers and gives a cold smoke. The toffee goes so well with the pear, poached in fall spices. It’s a sophisticated riff on two things: a caramel apple and rice pudding, and it is, for sure, the best rice pudding you will ever have, jazzed up with cocoa nibs, buttery chopped hazelnuts and a few sprigs of mint, which add a light, fresh contrast to that rich, deep toffee. I wish I were eating it again this minute.
Restaurant Confluence, 36889 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree, 480-488-9796, restaurantconfluence.com

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