By Nikki Buchanan, Jessica Dunham, Mirelle Inglefield, Leah LeMoine, Craig Outhier, Madison Rutherford & Johann Warnholtz
Food, history and wine in the Land of Enchantment’s signature city.
New Mexico’s largest city – and the seat of its thriving TV and movie production industry – is a patchwork of unpredictability. Diverse culture, dynamic cuisine and a surprisingly vibrant viticultural scene weave together to create an eclectic tapestry where tradition and nuance can comfortably come together. My advice when visiting: Be prepared for pleasant plot twists aplenty.
Act 1: Old Albuquerque
As a desert city in the Southwest, Albuquerque has much in common with Phoenix, but it’s much older – try 175 years older, dating all the way to 1706. To get a taste of its history, pay a visit to Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm (lospoblanos.com), a 25-acre property just north of downtown populated with lush lavender fields, towering cottonwood trees, meticulously manicured gardens, thriving greenhouses and small herds of alpacas and sheep. Designed by John Gaw Meem in 1932, Los Poblanos’ buildings showcase artwork by some of the Southwest’s most iconic craftsmen, including tin chandeliers by Robert Woodman and farm-centric frescoes by Peter Hurd.
To reach even further back into Albuquerque’s history, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (indianpueblo.org) tells the story of 19 sovereign Native American communities that have called the Middle Rio Grande Valley home for centuries. The center is owned and operated by these tribes and is dedicated to the preservation of its culture, art and heritage through rotating gallery exhibits, guided museum tours, a library, archives and education department, restaurant and other cultural programming and events.
Act 2: Bring on the Wine
“For a long time now, New Mexico wines have remained a mystery, a curiosity to the average wine consumer,” says the aptly named Christopher Goblet, executive director of New Mexico Wine & Grape Growers Association – and my generous guide to the Middle Rio Grande Valley wine region. (Which is actually one of three American Viticultural Area-approved regions in New Mexico – there’s your promised plot twist.) Apart from Gruet Winery (gruetwinery.com) and its sparkling wines, most people probably couldn’t name a New Mexico winery, Goblet concedes, since most are small, family operations not built for broad distribution. The upside for visitors: diverse, under-the-radar wines of surprisingly exceptional quality.
Situated along the famed Rio Grande in the north part of the city, Albuquerque wineries offer a tempting tasting tour.
Gruet Winery has a gorgeous modern tasting room right off the Pan American Freeway in Albuquerque, where guests can pop in to purchase its popular sparkling wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Made in the classic, time-intensive méthode champenoise – lots of racking, with a secondary fermentation – Gruet’s vintages are aged en tirage for a minimum of three years, allowing the wine ample time to develop its trademark sparkle. gruetwinery.com
Casa Rondeña offers an off-the-beaten-path winery experience where winding country roads in rural Los Ranchos de Albuquerque lead to a sweeping Spanish-style estate surrounded by seemingly endless rows of grapes. The property features fountains, sculptures, a duck pond and even a secluded treehouse. Vintner John Calvin spent some time in Spain, where he gained an appreciation for architecture, music and flamenco guitar. The winery is known for its wide selection of red blends, and its Bordeaux-style Meritage Red – a delicate mix of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon – is an award-winning wine that has started to put New Mexico terroir on the map. casarondena.com
Even farther off the beaten path, in nearby Corrales, a sleepy village nuzzled up against the Rio Grande, sits Milagro Vineyards & Winery. The boutique winery is known for its estate-grown grapes from 15 small vineyards that produce an array of barrel-aged varietals including Chardonnay, Sémillon, Grüner Veltliner, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Proprietors Rick and Mitzi Hobson will wax nostalgic about the winery’s roots as a pig sanctuary during once-a-month tastings on Milagro’s quaint premises. Look closely at the bottle labels – Milagro’s logo is a bespectacled swine sipping a glass of wine, an ode to the winery’s uncommon origins. milagrowine.com
For one last sip of Albuquerque’s idiosyncratic essence, stop by the Noisy Water Winery tasting room in Old Town, where tidy strips of adobe buildings house shops, restaurants and museums. Noisy Water’s tasting list is refreshingly approachable, arranging each wine by taste and texture. Looking for a robust red with a tannic aftertaste or a crisp white with a fruity finish? Noisy Water is the nascent oenophile’s nirvana. noisywaterwinery.com
Act 3: The Dining Denouement
Suggested après-wine activity: Take the Sandia Peak Tramway (sandiapeak.com) to the summit of the Sandia Mountains, which handsomely frame Albuquerque’s eastern flank. There, you’ll find a delightful culinary curveball at TEN 3 (ten3tram.com). Perched 10,300 feet above sea level, this fine dining destination is dedicated to a full sensory experience (arrive at sunset for stunning panoramas of the mountains and the metropolitan area beyond), sustainability (the chairs in the main dining room are fashioned from recycled burlap coffee bags) and seasonality (the menu changes multiple times a year). This summer, diners can feast on sinus-clearing wasabi-crusted tuna or sweet and savory miso- and honey-glazed tiger prawns as pleasantly unpredictable as the twinkling city below.
For a less elevated experience, try Sawmill Market (sawmillmarket.com), a 25,000-square-foot food hall featuring more than 20 local bars and restaurants, which sits just across the street from Hotel Chaco (see Where to Stay) and serves as the perfect place for visitors to grab a cup of coffee, local beer or tacos on house-made tortillas.
Or head back to Los Poblanos Inn, where dining at Campo (lospoblanos.com) constitutes a lesson in locavore fare to complement the crash course on New Mexican art, architecture and agriculture you took in earlier. Los Poblanos’ on-site eatery truly embraces the field-to-fork ethos, sourcing ingredients straight from the farm to create such seasonal sustenance as pecan and beet hummus, lavender simple syrup and Sonoran wheat pasta.
Where to Stay
Situated between historical Old Town and the trendy Sawmill District, Hotel Chaco (hotelchaco.com) is a microcosm of the city of Albuquerque. The 118-room hotel boasts a beautiful modern design and contemporary amenities but also draws from the ancient architecture and culture of Chaco Canyon, a national historic park housing a large concentration of pueblo ruins. Rooftop restaurant Level 5 offers an expansive outdoor lounge where patrons can indulge in seasonal cocktails and locally sourced fare.
Carbondale: The Aspen Alternative
Less buzzy and congested than its Rocky Mountain neighbor, with all the culinary firepower.
When you seek food as beautifully plated as it is delicious and cocktails made with practiced expertise, plus a rugged yet charming mountain-town patina to everything, ignore those who would point you to Aspen. The true hidden gem of the central Rocky Mountains is Carbondale.
Every block in Carbondale – located a three-hour drive west of Denver – basks in the alpine glow of the majestic Mount Sopris. It looms to the south, a 12,953-foot beacon telegraphing a four-season wonderland of outdoor adventures: hiking its peaks, cycling its flanks, paddling the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers at its base. You’d think that with so much high-elevation activity going on, the food offerings would stick to straightforward sustenance. But that’s where you’d be wrong.
Though Aspen, and all its spendy allure, sits just 30 miles away, its proximity doesn’t overshadow Carbondale’s culinary offerings; it fuels it. Talented chefs cut their teeth in Aspen’s five-star restaurants, then find creative freedom and an eager audience – not to mention affordability – in Carbondale. Here’s your checklist for what to eat and drink.
Andy Warhol Approves
Perched on a hill and with architecture that intentionally frames views of Mount Sopris, the Powers Art Center (powersartcenter.org) houses the private collection of John and Kimiko Powers. The couple befriended artists like Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, purchasing an astonishing display of works. Don’t miss a chance to browse the “library,” a shelf-lined room filled with John Powers’ personal art books, including a copy of Jurassic Park in Japanese – doodled in and signed by the author himself, Michael Crichton.
Breakfast Sandwich at Craft Coffee House
All pastries and breads are made in-house at Craft (Instagram: @craft_coffeehouse_). And most of the meats and cheeses on the menu are local, too, like the cheddar and maple-sage sausage on the breakfast biscuit sandwich. Order a latte (and a thick-as-a-brick brownie for later), then find a quiet nook among the rambling interiors of the Weant House, where the coffee shop is located.
Sante Fe Corn Cakes at Village Smithy
Be prepared for hearty portions at Village Smithy (villagesmithy.com), which is the breakfast and lunch spot in town. Every day you’ll see locals gathered in front of the restaurant, either waiting for a table or lingering, aka digesting, during a post-meal chat with friends. The chile-spiced corn cakes only grace the brunch menu, but if you ask nicely, you might be able to score a few for lunch, too.
Seasonal Produce at Sustainable Settings
This ranch (sustainablesettings.org) unfolds its 250 acres at the base of Mount Sopris. Here, a carrot isn’t just a carrot. It’s a vegetable carefully and thoughtfully tended to as part of the ranch’s biodynamic farming, or as owner Rose LeVan calls it, “spiritual agriculture.” Biodynamic farming is an ancient practice that follows celestial movements to dictate planting, growing and harvesting. Local chefs swear that biodynamically grown foods taste better, and many source their meats, dairy and produce from the ranch. See for yourself at the ranch store, which sells everything from honey and eggs to lamb and pork.
No Reservations Aperitif at Batch Provisions
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But you can judge a bar by its tinctures, tonics and garnishes. And by that measure, Batch Provisions (batchprovisionsbar.com) earns high marks. Not only is the selection of what might end up in your drink vast and varied, it’s also inspired. Like celery bitters and pickled onions in a dirty martini or rose petals in a gin and apricot mash-up. Remember, though – Carbondale’s high altitude means drinks hit a little different, so try No Reservations, Batch’s take on a Negroni made with a house aperitivo blend and dressed with an orange peel.
Taglialini at Tiny Pine Bistro
A new player in the Carbondale gastronomy scene, Tiny Pine (tinypinebistro.com) is all cozy corners: tables nudged up against windows of the bungalow turned resto, a snug bar mere feet from the kitchen, dishes of few ingredients executed with perfection. Take the taglialini. A long, ribbon-like pasta, the noodles thicken in a light sauce of sage butter sprinkled with grana padano – a lovely cousin of Parmesan – and then brighten with a zest of lemon. Butter, cheese and citrus, that’s it? I could do this at home, you think. Nope. In masterful hands, a dish this simple becomes a work of art, every bite a delicate balance of flavor.
Expresso Martini at Marble Distilling Co.
If you believe you’re too refined for a froufrou martini, think again. Shaken with vanilla vodka, cold brew and the distillery’s Moonlight Expresso liqueur, the Expresso Martini sips like a boozy dark roast coffee. As you enjoy one or two (don’t worry, you don’t have far to go; see our lodging recommendations below), consider this. Marble Distilling Co. (marbledistilling.com) not only crafts artisanal vodka, gin, whiskey and liqueur, it does so by using Colorado-grown grains, Crystal River water and a filtering system of marble from the Yule Quarry – the very same from which the Lincoln Memorial was built. Even more impressive: Marble Distilling operates as completely zero-waste.
— Jessica Dunham
Where to Stay
As the only hotel in the world housed in a working distillery, The Distillery Inn at Marble Distilling is literally one of a kind. With your stay, you can enjoy a tour of the distillery, a spirits tasting and two free cocktails in the downstairs Marble Bar. With only five rooms – each spacious, stylishly appointed and with a balcony – the inn books up fast. Reserve early. marbledistilling.com
Grand Junction Sip and Stay
Unexpected delights await around every hoodoo in Colorado wine country.
Holding court in the heart of a valley surrounded by dramatic natural beauty, Grand Junction – known as “GJ” to locals – revels in superlatives. Grand Mesa to the east is the largest flat-top mountain in the world. To the north, the Little Book Cliffs is the longest continuous cliff face on Earth and is home to one of the last remaining protected wild mustang herds in the country. And to the west you have Colorado National Monument, a Mother Nature masterpiece of red-rock spires and canyons, affectionately known as the “little Grand Canyon.”
Located where high-desert country meets mountains and canoodles with raging rivers (two, actually), Grand Junction is also home to arguably the most picturesque wine region in the U.S.: the Grand Valley AVA. One of two American Viticultural Areas in Colorado – the smaller West Elks AVA is located 30 miles southeast – Grand Valley also happens to be one of the world’s highest-elevation wine regions, at around 4,500 feet.
We describe the setting not to paint a pretty picture, though this region is indeed breathtaking, but to give context to Grand Junction’s food and drink offerings, which derive inspiration – and ingredients – from the environs.
Besides the wine grown in nearby Palisade, you’ll find juniper that shows up in everything from cocktails to desserts, or locally grown peaches in a salad and just-harvested lavender in a cooling drink. Here, we break down all the ways to experience a true taste of the West.
Local Wines to Sip in the GJ
Clustered in Palisade just a 12-mile drive – or bike ride – up the US-6 highway, Grand Valley wines can also be enjoyed in Grand Junction itself.
Syrah from Two Rivers Winery: Rob Hammelman, winemaker of Arizona’s Sand-Reckoner, made wine at Two Rivers before he moved south. The Grand Junction winery credits this berry-forward Syrah to Hammelman. tworiverswinery.com
Rosé from Colterris: A dry and delightful pink from the Cabernet grape, with a touch of raspberry and citrus. colterris.com
Grüner Veltliner from The Storm Cellar: The winery is not quite Grand Junction territory, but it’s near-ish; enjoy this bright, peppery white at downtown GJ restaurants. stormcellarwine.com
Riesling from Carlson Vineyards-High Desert Wine Lab: Light on sweetness, laden with notes of grapefruit and lemon, this wine shows off a creative collaboration between Carlson and local resto Bin 707 Foodbar. carlsonvineyards.com
Pét-Nat from Sauvage Spectrum: A fizzy, tasty addition to the Pét-Nat market, this wine comes from a Palisade vineyard where all grapes are hand-harvested. sauvagespectrum.com
With a James Beard nomination tucked under its toque just this year (see: Niernberg, Josh below), GJ is a culinary force to be reckoned with.
Elk tartare at Bin 707 Foodbar: At Bin 707, it’s a tall order to label any one of chef Josh Niernberg’s dishes the best, but the elk certainly warrants a taste – full of flavor and sided with a plum tapenade. bin707.com
Cheese and charcuterie at 626 on Rood: This share plate showcases the effort chef/owner Theo Otte puts into the details, whether it’s pickling asparagus, whipping up onion chutney or hand-selecting Colorado meats and cheeses. 626onrood.com
Toffee at Enstrom’s: All kinds of sweets get swirled up at Enstrom’s (701 Colorado Ave., 970-242-1655), but none better than the world-famous toffee. Visit in the morning to watch the chocolatiers at work. enstrom.com
Sandwich from The Hog & and The Hen: You can’t go wrong with any of this market’s hot and cold sammies. Order at the deli, then browse The Hog and The Hen’s wares: shelves overflowing with candies, truffles, local wines, craft beers, cheeses, olives, honeys, pastas and more. thehogandthehen.com
Beer & Booze
Ramblebine Brewing Co. (ramblebinebrewing.com) earns points for its complex sours – the pineapple-tangerine combo of My Easy Friend or the blueberry-packed Demberries – as well as for their patio, a happy drinking place on a summer evening. For the chance to sample artisanal spirits in a yurt abutting lavender fields, it’s Highlands Craft Distillery (coloradohighlandsdistillery.com) all the way. The tasting room offers a menu of pleasing drink concoctions featuring its vodka, rye whiskey and gin. Try the Founder’s Farewell (a buzzy whiskey cocktail) or the Redstone (vodka, lemon juice, marasca syrup and a flaming sugar cube).
— Jessica Dunham
4 GJ Food Festivals to Plan Your Trip Around
Colorado Lavender Festival
Three days of self-guided tours of lavender farms, crafting workshops, cooking demos and wine tastings ($5/person, coloradolavender.org)
Colorado Mountain Wine Fest
A great way to sample vino from Colorado’s wine regions, including those in Grand Junction and Palisade (from $15/person, coloradowinefest.com)
Market on Main
June 23-Sept. 8
Grand Junction’s signature summer event showcases farm goodies from the Western Slope (free, every Thursday,
Palisade Peach Festival
Peach pie, peach preserves, peach salsas, just-picked peaches… you get the idea. visitgrandjunction.com/palisade-peach-festival
Where to Stay
Two Rivers Winery (from $135/night, tworiverswinery.com) nestles up nice and close to Colorado National Monument and the 10 guest rooms afford views of the monument’s striated canyons just beyond the vineyard. Your stay here includes breakfast, free wine tastings and access to the winery’s summer concerts on the lawn.
A Drive Unlike Any Other
The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument (nps.gov/colm) winds past sweeping vistas of the park’s sculpted natural wonders. Just beyond the red-rock mesas, big skies above and the Grand Junction valley below. Stop at scenic pullouts for photo ops and short hikes.
Salt Lake City Surprise
Heading up to Park City or Snowbirding for a summer getaway in the cooling pines? Do yourself a favor and hit SLC.
Given that it was founded and largely populated by alcohol-abstaining Mormons, Utah may not be top of mind when it comes to food-and-booze destinations. However, between the Wasatch Mountains and Oquirrh (pronounced “oaker”) Mountains of Utah, sits often-overlooked Salt Lake City, an unexpected culinary heavy-hitter. From world-class breweries and craft cocktail bars to diverse and delectable culinary experiences, SLC is full of surprises.
SLC Surprise No. 1: It Has a Thriving Brewing Community
As a craft beer enthusiast, I never thought Salt Lake City would have much to offer, mostly because of a misunderstanding of Utah’s rather complex liquor laws. While there are limits to how much alcohol by volume (ABV) a draft pour of beer can have, breweries and bars have no ABV limit for what they serve out of bottles and cans.
I ask Kevin Templin, the owner and brewer at Templin Family Brewing (tfbrewing.com) if he felt limited or restricted by the laws in Salt Lake. “Not at all,” he says. “We can really do whatever we want.”
Located in the Granary District, just over a mile south of Downtown, The Templin draft list includes an incredible array of German lager-style beers, all below the 5 percent limit. In bottles and cans, however, T.F. Brewing serves an 8.2 percent ABV Double IPA, a 10.2 percent Belgian Trippel and a 12.2 percent Pastry Stout. To say boozy beers aren’t available in Salt Lake turns out, thankfully, to be a hoary misconception.
Proper Brewing Co. (properbrewingco.com), another local brewery with multiple locations throughout the city including the Avenues and Stratford neighborhoods, also boasts an impressive array of creative and delicious brews, including a rarely seen Finnish-style ale called a sahti, and a passionfruit guava gose that’s perfect on a warm summer day. Salt Lake City’s downtown area is peppered with many more breweries for any beer buff to explore.
SLC Surprise No. 2: Craft Cocktails Abound
While I love a classic cocktail, I also find it delightful when bartenders take some quick notes of what I usually enjoy and flex their creativity and expertise to concoct something new. Like magical potions masters, they pour, muddle, stir, shake and strain something into a whimsical glass just for me.
Every cocktail bar I visit in Salt Lake City provided this extemporaneous experience. From Bar X, an 89-year-old gin joint that opened right after Prohibition in 1933, to James Beard Award-nominated Water Witch, an excellent local watering hole bursting with personality, to Copper Common, an upscale yet comfortably casual spot with bartenders you can talk to for hours, every bar had something to love and truly exceptional drinks to enjoy.
Bar X: Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, it has a historic, vintage vibe with wood paneling and dim lights. I particularly enjoy the Fate of Flowers cocktail, featuring gin, green Chartreuse, lemon, elderberry syrup, dandelion bitters and absinthe. Complex and refreshing, and not the slightest bit hallucinogenic. barxslc.com
Copper Common: Walking one block south of Bar X, I feel instantly at home here and enjoy delicious pre-dinner cocktails as the sun goes down, giving a warm glow to all the copper accents reflecting the evening light. Besides signature cocktails like the Cynar Sour (a whiskey sour variant featuring rye, Cynar and egg white) and the Naked & Famous (mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol and lime), Copper Common also boasts delicious noshes including oysters, boquerones, polenta cakes and pork riblets. coppercommon.com
Water Witch: Salt Lake City’s food and booze culture is full of personality and quirk, and nowhere is that exemplified better than at this local favorite, which notched a well-deserved 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalist for outstanding bar program. It’s difficult to pin down a favorite drink because their menu changes almost daily, but simply tell them what you like and they’ll surprise and delight you with something new, interesting and delicious. waterwitchbar.com
SLC Surprise No. 3: It Boasts a Diverse Dining Scene
According to TIME magazine, 90 percent of the world’s written languages are spoken in Utah, largely due to the Mormon Church’s missionary work. That kind of diversity and global representation naturally translates to the culinary scene in Salt Lake City. The city boasts a surprisingly diverse array of cuisines, including Greek small plates at Manoli’s (manolison9th.com), Tongan flavors at Pacific Seas Restaurant & Market, mujaddara and other Middle Eastern dishes at Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine (mazzacafe.com) and fine Japanese dining at Takashi (takashisushi.com).
SLC also has its own Chris Bianco-style dining stars. I had the opportunity to dine at HSL (hslrestaurant.com) a favorite to locals and visitors alike. Chef/owner Briar Handly opened HSL after its sister restaurant, Handle (handleparkcity.com) became a success in nearby Park City. The menu is full of organic, creative spins on well-loved dishes such as the General Tso-style cauliflower wings, fried chicken with curried black rice, and an albacore crudo with triple berry ponzu that left me all but licking the bowl.
Organic, locally sourced ingredients are common features on many menus in Salt Lake City, mostly thanks to restaurateur Scott Evans. Starting with his seasonally driven eatery, Pago (pagoslc.com), Evans led the farm-to-table movement in Salt Lake and now owns local favorites such as Finca (fincaslc.com), Hub & Spoke Diner (hubandspokediner.com) and new wine bar Casot (casotwinework.com). Chatting with him over a glass of wine at Casot, I find his passion for food, wine and Salt Lake City contagious. After opening Pago in 2009, Evans created a community of passionate chefs, mixologists and servers that went on to help build and develop the dining scene that Salt Lake City now enjoys.
— Johann Warnholtz
If roughing it is more your style, Salt Lake City is surrounded by campsites. Millcreek Canyon is only about 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake and doesn’t require reservations. Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons are 20-30 minutes from downtown and provide a range of amenities as well as hiking, biking and fly fishing. visitutah.com, visitsaltlake.com
Where to Stay
You might think the obvious options for lodgings in Salt Lake City are one of many world-class ski resorts, many of which are only about 30 minutes from Downtown, but if the city and its countless culinary experiences are what calls you, Salt Lake can offer anything from Forbes Four-Star luxury hotels like The Grand America Hotel (grandamerica.com) to charming inns like Ellerbeck Bed & Breakfast (ellerbeckbedandbreakfast.com). I I am hosted by the beautiful Kimpton Hotel Monaco (monaco-saltlakecity.com), a perfect basecamp to explore the neighborhoods in and around the downtown area, walking distance from every bar and restaurant I visit during my stay.
Las Vegas All-Star Crawl
Break the bank with a bucket-list tour of Michelin-starred restaurants on the Strip.
Reviewers for the Michelin Guide – regarded as the world’s leading arbiter of gastronomic excellence – descended en masse on Las Vegas in the late 2000s, ultimately bestowing stars on 17 restaurants and energizing the Strip with an instant influx of culinary cachet. Some of the restaurants have since closed, but 10 are still dazzling food fans and high-rollers, constituting perhaps the world’s densest cluster of Michelin-starred eateries. Eat your way down the Strip at these mainstays.
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa earned his Michelin star when his eponymous restaurant was housed at the since-demolished Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. He decamped for Caesars Palace, where he has his own namesake restaurant – and still makes the town’s premier Japanese cuisine.
Must Try: The miso black cod is Matsuhisa’s signature dish, but it’s been so widely impersonated, why not try something new, like salmon belly in a knee-shaking miso-mustard dressing? caesars.com
Nouvelle cuisine master Guy Savoy’s two-star Caesars Palace sister location to his original Parisian restaurant is the perfect portrait of restrained elegance – an intimate and chapel-like space that does only one seating a night.
Must Try: Where to start? Savoy’s famous “peas all-around” (in which he prepares the humble vegetable umpteen different ways on the same plate) is ticklish, but his signature artichoke soup, ennobled with huge lobes of black truffle, is unmissable. caesars.com
Just 37 years old when he scored his first Michelins, the chef sublimely balances French, Japanese and Mediterranean traditions at his eponymous restaurant at Bellagio, routinely cited as the finest seafood restaurant in Vegas.
Must Try: The lobster pot pie is his signature dish, but you can get it at Bourbon Steak in Scottsdale. Get the caviar parfait, layered with salmon and crème fraîche, and the most spectacular starter in the universe. bellagio.mgmresorts.com
You have celebrity chef David Chang to thank for America’s ramen renaissance, which he helped launch at Michelin mainstay Momofuku Ko in New York City in the late ’00s. Chang opened this offshoot at The Cosmopolitan three years ago – and his stars shine through.
Must Try: The ramen and the pork belly bao are what made Chang famous, but the biggest revelation on the supposedly vegetable-averse chef’s menu is the cucumber salad: brined and sprinkled with curry and macadamia nuts. vegas.momofuku.com
The chef – a towering figure in the world of nouvelle cuisine, with 32 career Michelin stars – passed in 2018, but this outpost (the city’s lone three-star restaurant) remains the ultimate Vegas bucket-list dining experience.
Must Try: If the 15-course, $445 menú degustación is beyond your tolerances, at least throw down for the panna cotta of white asparagus, presented with a colorful retinue of sea urchin and rhubarb. Ethereal and enlivening. mgmgrand.mgmresorts.com
Want to laugh off some of those Michelin calories? Produced by Spiegelworld, masters of the ribald Vegas variety show, this adults-only hootananny at Caesars Palace is 90 minutes of acrobatics, contortionism and off-color wit. Basically, it’s Cirque on nitrous. spiegelworld.com
Where to Stay
Built over the bones of the old Stardust, Resorts World was the first new top-to-bottom resort to open on the Strip in 11 years when it debuted in 2021 – and it doesn’t lack for appeal. Amenities include the swank Eight Cigar Lounge and the arguably the Strip’s most beautiful spa in Awana, featuring a his-and-her serenity lounge filled with soaking pools and mesmorizing wall projections. rwlasvegas.com
West L.A. Wander
Have a beach day – and a cheat day – in restaurant-studded Venice Beach.
With apologies to aforementioned superstar chef David Chang, his California colleagues do not simply “put a fig on a plate” and call it a day. From the molecular laboratories of Thomas Keller in the north to the exotic simmerings of Brandon Hayato Go in Los Angeles, there is plenty of artful manipulation afoot. But for a compact foodie vacay, stake your umbrella on the beaches of West L.A.
If you take our advice and stay at Hotel June (see: Where to Stay), have breakfast at Hotel June. Skewing Latin and hearty, the menu features such desayunos as bacon-and-egg tacos and almond horchata French toast.
Beach time, kids. Walk down the hill from your hotel to Playa del Ray or take a 10-minute Uber to Venice Beach across the marina.
If Postino WineCafe and Spago had a baby, it might look and feel like Ospi (ospivenice.com), a classy but laid-back wood-fired pizza and pasta spot in the heart of Venice. The super cool lunch menu lets you pair antipasti (say, the insanely fragrant and delicious Japanese eggplant) with an entrée (possibly, the spicy sopressata pizza with honey and chile oil) for a reasonable $25.
Venice is a terrific biking town, so visit Boneshaker Electric Bikes (bikerentalvenice.com) to exploit the network of bike paths that crisscross the marina.
Michelin-starred chef Josiah Citrin is justifiably admired for his proteins. The man is a wizard with tartare – he offers four versions at Charcoal Venice (charcoalvenice.com), including one mating duck with juniper and turnip, and who does that? – and his coal-roasted strip loin is juicy, charred perfection. But don’t sleep on his vegetables. Baked over embers and doused with yogurt, sumac and lemon zest, the humble cabbage attains true grace in his hands – a tangy, caramelized campfire pleaser that’s the star of the meal. “I just love to grill,” Citrin says, smiling, during a visit to the table, and that sums up the comfortable, convivial energy of his beach restaurant – an outdoor family barbecue restaged indoors. A West L.A. must-visit.
Back to Hotel June – and up to the poolside Caravan Swim Club, where masterful craft cocktails and creatively dressed oysters reign.
Where to Stay
Located, like, five minutes north of LAX, Hotel June (thehoteljune.com) is the sneaky-trendy, sneaky-convenient, food-focused boutique hotel of your dreams. Perched on a bluff above Marina Del Rey, it’s become something of a stealth celebrity magnet, locals say, due to its low-traffic lobby, chill pool culture and envelope-pushing culinary program at Caravan Swim Club, an indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge overlooking the pool
Madera County Hike & Sip
Yosemite National Park + Fresno wine country = an unexpected California two-fer.
Around 1.2 million people will crane their necks in wonder at Yosemite National Park this summer, drinking in the park’s lissome waterfalls and iconic granite rock formations. But of those 1.2 million, how many will be cognizant of the tidy wine region just down the hill in nearby Fresno?
Not too many, I think to myself while walking the orderly trellises of Toca Madera Winery (tocamaderawinery.com) under a hot spring sun. Located in the upper San Joaquin Valley near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the sturdy, sun-beaten vineyards of Madera County bear scant resemblance to the stately groves of pine and fir in Yosemite. In fact, the ecology here reminds me of Arizona wine-growing areas in Willcox and Sonoita – an impression borne out when Toca winemaker Shayne Vetter talks about his adaptive approach to making wine.
“We pick it a little early, sometimes in late August, even, to retain more acid and make it more balanced,” he says, swirling a glass of the winery’s nimble but well-structured Tempranillo.
During a chat-and-drink session last year, esteemed Arizona winemaker Sam Pillsbury voiced the exact same strategy and rationale, I suddenly remember. Tons of sunlight, limited chill, this is how you adapt as a hot-climate winemaker – and, incidentally, be more in line with current trends as American wine-drinkers mature out of their fruit-bomb fetishes.
Sorry, but it’s hard not to lapse into agri-tour wonkiness while visiting this storied growing region, which – if you include the entire Central Valley of California – astoundingly produces 25 percent of the nation’s annual food supply. Greater Fresno, which also includes the wine hot spot of Madera, is obviously not as well-known as Napa or Sonoma, but its 10 wineries have a special history of their own, a fact I discover later in the day at Ficklin Vineyards (ficklin.com) in Madera. Located at the end of dirt road within the region’s vast, gridded patchwork of farms, the 76-year-old family-owned winery is famously known for its Port, that fortified favorite of after-dinner drinking lists and British smoking rooms.
In fact, Ficklin has been around so long that it can still legally use the term “Port” – grandfather-protected when Portugal’s Douro Valley, where Port was invented, placed ownership over the designation after World War II. (Much in the same way Mexico “owns” tequila.)
The upshot: Ficklin produces arguably the finest Ports in the United States, a fact evinced both by the sundry awards amassed by the winery and the quiet pride of third-generation vintner Peter Ficklin. “It’s a really beautiful form of art, Port,” Ficklin says as he pours a taste of the winery’s deliciously nutty, burnt-orange-toned 10-year-old Tawny Port. “Grape-growing and fermentation are part of it, but also blending, when and how you fortify it [with the sherry], and aging. Many, many choices to make.”
Walking the winery grounds with Ficklin and his partner, Denise England, and touring the adobe root cellar his father hand-built in 1946 – each brick bristling with fibers of straw older than my parents – it’s impossible not to get swept up in the grandeur of it all. Particularly after the second glass. My recommendation: Take a bottle of Ficklin port with you on your Yosemite excursion, as a hedge against the nighttime nippiness.
Like any great wine region, Fresno also has its resident tortured-genius iconoclast: winemaker Ray Krause, whose Westbrook Wine Farm (westbrookwinefarm.com) sits in the forested foothills between Fresno and Yosemite, excitingly tucked into a private valley that’s completely invisible from the highway. Every person with wine knowledge I spoke to in Madera County agreed that Krause is one of the most skilled winemakers in the region, if not its preeminent talent.
Be warned: Visits are by-appointment only and Krause will insist on a two-hour commitment, so he can properly verse you in the nuances of his operation. If you’re tardy for the appointment – either due to the lack of signage, or the absence of cellular coverage to guide you onto the primitive mountain road that leads you to the winery – he’ll lock the gate and cancel your visit.
Were it true I knew this from second-hand information. Oh, well. The day is young, and wineries here are plentiful.
More Madera Wine Spots
Fäsi Estate Winery
Set in rolling countryside with plenty of outdoor shade, it might be the most attractive winery in Madera. The 2018 Torrontes, a light-bodied Argentine white, is pretty special, too. fasiestate.com
Sourcing from local farms, this family-owned winery runs the gamut from Merlot to Tempranillo, and has a tasting room just up the road from Toca Madera. birdstonewinery.com
Idle Hour Winery
The owners of Queens Inn run this rustic mountain winery on-site, with a terrific brunch program that includes treats like Belgian waffle with berry compote and pork loin frittata. idlehourwinery.com
3 Can’t-Miss Madera Meals
The Elderberry House
Chef Robert Snyder III’s seasonal, farm-driven cuisine is the toast of Madera County at this Oakhurst fine-dining restaurant, which employs a three- or four-course tasting menu format. You might start with a delicate éclair stuffed with foie gras mousse and drizzled with cranberry gelée, and finish with ribeye and a wild retinue of root vegetables; or opt for smoked duck breast over black truffle risotto. However you mix or match, you’ll be impressed. chateausureau.com
Ducey’s on the lake
Generously portioned American breakfasts for the keep-the-coffee-coming crowd, set at the The Pines Resort on Bass Lake. basslake.com
Southgate Brewing Company
Confit duck leg and roasted halibut at a beer bar? It’s the true state of affairs at this Oakhurst favorite, where they take the food as seriously as the award-winning beer. southgatebrewco.com
Where to Stay
Queen’s Inn by the River
Ideally located midway between Fresno and Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada foothills, this family-run boutique hotel, winery and bar in the town of Oakhurst is too darn adorable for words. Set in a leafy weald off the banks of the Fresno River, it’s a converted motor lodge that’s reminiscent of creekside properties in upper Sedona, staffed by affable misfits who just want to make you comfortable. Grab a beer at the on-site bar and chat away the night, or take a hike up the river and return to your spotless, nicely appointed room. idlehourwinery.com
Interested in planning a Yosemite National Park visit this summer? Visit yosemitethisyear.com for travel, lodging and camping information.
How to get There
American Airlines runs daily nonstop flights to Fresno Yosemite International Airport from Phoenix starting at $364.
Valle de Guadalupe Vino Tour
An award-winning wine region south of the border? Absolutamente, amigos.
Much credit for the bountiful, lush grapevines that line the winding dirt roads along Ruta del Vino in Mexico’s vaunted Valle de Guadalupe wine region must go to the milky mist that rolls into the Valley each morning. It provides moisture and softens the light from the year-round sun, preventing the grapes from ripening too quickly and priming them to be alchemized into a complex, satisfying vino.
Perhaps it was partly these fertile conditions, along with an average summer temperature of a gentle 78 degrees, that compelled 18th-century Dominican missionary Félix Caballero to build missions, dig irrigation ditches and settle this region of Baja California, using forced indigenous labor to plant the first grapevines for sacramental wine. Today, the region boasts more than 100 wineries and produces approximately 75 percent of Mexican wine – plenty to occupy your summer trip.
Known as the “Napa Valley of Mexico,” Valle de Guadalupe specializes in Chardonnay, Zinfandel and CabernetSauvignon, but you’ll find other attractions, too.
Old Vines: Take a step back in time at Santo Tomás (santo-tomas.com), which began producing wine in 1888 and is touted as the oldest operating winery in Baja. Also earning points for longevity is LA Cetto (lacetto.mx/en), with its 80-year-old vines and three generations of winemakers at the helm.
Foodie Faves: You can see vineyards through the gigantic windows at La Esperanza BajaMed (facebook.com/laesperanzabajamed), where chef Miguel Ángel Guerrero excels with foraged and seasonal ingredients. The rustic outdoor setting of Finca Altozana (fincaaltozano.com) offers views of the Valley and lollygagging pigs to accompany a menu by lauded Tijuana-born chef Javier Plascencia, known for his use of “Chinese boxes,” a type of oven in which he grills meat. At Malva (malva.meitre.com) nestled on a patio in the vineyard of Mina Penelope (mina-penelope.com), nibble salad topped with purple starflower (tastes like salty oysters!) and the poblano tamale. The staff dotes on you, even offering a blanket to take the chill off the Malbec ice cream.
Photo Op: The fresco mural on the earthy wine cellar at Cavas Sol y Barro anchors a leafy, idyllic setting. Swiss-born chef, painter and builder Aimé Desponds and his wife, Analila, purchased the land adjacent to Mogor Baden Winery (facebook.com/cavasdelmogor), owned by Desponds’ cousins, in 2005. They built the winery by hand using “cob” techniques, which utilize natural materials such as clay, straw and water. Grab a glass and enjoy the boho vibes of the outdoor seating area. facebook.com/solybarro
Biodynamic Boon: Sustainability-minded winemaker Fernando Pérez Castro owns the organically certified Finca La Carrodilla (facebook.com/fincalacarrodilla) and Lomita (lomita.meitre.com), brimming with art and animals. Grab a nightcap at Decantos Vinícola (decantosvinicola.com/en/vinicola.php), whose name is derived from the winery’s use of gravity in lieu of pumps and machines to decant its wines, and watch the sun set over the sweeping views of Valle de Guadalupe.
Russian Mex: Molokan Russians arrived in the region in the early 1900s after fleeing religious persecution during the Russo-Japanese War. Remains of Russian influence in the area can be experienced in wineries such as Vinos Bibayoff (bibayoff.com.mx).
Overnight Delight: El Cielo
El Cielo Winery & Resort (elcielovalledeguadalupe.com), named for the vast sky above the property, boasts European-inspired villas. Fittingly, its vintages are named after constellations and stars. Bestseller 2016 Orion is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and, as winemaker Jesús Rivera says, a “little kiss” of Merlot. Be sure to take a tour of the winery and do the chocolate-pairing in the intimate wine cellar. In the evening, bullfrogs serenade from the reservoirs next to private fire pits. In the morning, if you’re feeling hazy or just plain lazy, order room service from Polaris or book a private chef, who will come to your room and make delicious desayuno. Make a reservation at the farm-to-table restaurant Latitude 32 for Baja-Yucatán specialties with wine pairings. El Cielo is pet-friendly, and guests are often welcomed by resident cattle dog mix Coyote.
Eco-Resort Option: Casa 8
For a completely different vibe, check in at Casa 8 at Bruma (bruma.mx). It’s earthy but modern, with golden streams of sunlight trickling through chartreuse canopies of flora. Horses graze in the haze just as you pass the gates. Bruma’s “crop-to-table” restaurant, Fauna (faunarestaurante.mx/index_en.html) is equally enchanting, set on a knoll overlooking the vineyard. Chef David Castro Hussong says of his tasting menu: “We apologize firsthand, because we never really know what we will be serving. But this is where the fun begins: the thrill of cooking what’s at hand.” Smoky oysters and chiltepin broccoli will leave you weak in the knees. Back to Casa 8, help yourself to the “on your honor” bar in the common area stocked with spirits, wine and beer.
— Mirelle Inglefield
The 2022 Grape Harvest Festival will be taking place July 31-August 21. Get details at provinobc.mx.
Rideshare apps are not always available in the area, so designate a driver or arrange transportation via the respective wineries.
Be sure to call ahead for reservations at wineries and restaurants. Spots fill up weeks, if not months, in advance.
It’s a 6-hour, 15-minute drive from Phoenix to Valle de Guadalupe using the I-8 and dropping into Baja at the border town of Tecate. Alternately, fly to San Diego and drive (1 hour, 50 minutes) from there.
Baja California Sur Tres Sensaciónes
Camping, eco-tourism and eating in three jewels of Baja Sur.
Most U.S. visitors know Baja Sur – the southern half of Baja California – primarily for Cabo San Lucas, the churning party town at the very tip of the peninsula. If your tastes run a bit more serene than banana boats and body shots, here’s a three-step Baja Sur encounter guide for your summer visit.
Step No. 1: Fly into La Paz, Stay Awhile
The malecón (pier) of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, is brimming with life: volleyball players on the sand, pedestrians snapping photos of massive copper sculptures along the shoreline and canciones echoing from festive cantinas and sidewalk. Despite the rush of vibrant stimuli, there’s something about the calm, sapphire waters of the Sea of Cortez that makes you slow down and relax.
The bay is home to a marina, where every morning you can watch fishing boats head out for the freshest catch. Sample their delicious bounty at Claro Fish Jr. (tinyurl.com/mr43ed99), and Anzuelo Cocina del Mar (facebook.com/anzuelococinadelmar), where the pulpo (octopus) is almost too pretty to eat. Not a seafood fan? They have tempting vegetarian options as well. The refreshing cocktails, adorned with fragrant herbs, veggies and fruit, are works of art.
Speaking of art, take a leisurely walk over to Museo de Arte Baja California Sur, (facebook.com/museodeartebcs). On your way, you’ll pass by colorful murals by local artists, including an array of favorites on A. Mijares St. Each tells a story about the history and culture of La Paz.
Come dinner time, make a reservation at Origen (facebook.com/origenlapaz). The pork cheek and pulpo risotto is a house specialty. After dessert, walk on over to Seis Uno Dos, (facebook.com/612rooftop), for boozy cocktails and the most spectacular sunset views on the malecón. When you’re all liquored up and need to wind down for the night, check in at Baja Club (bajaclubhotel.com), a restored Spanish-colonial-style villa with a peaceful, mature vine-covered pergola for shaded al fresco dining.
Step 2: Pitch a Tent at Rancho Cacachilas
About 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of La Paz is Rancho Cacachilas, (ranchocacachilas.com), a sustainable, “all-inclusive adventure camp” where you can hike, bike, ride horses, make six types of goat cheese and sleep in a breezy tent that overlooks the Sea of Cortez. The pastel oranges and pinks of the sunrise will turn you into an early bird, if the chorus of birds don’t.
Everything on the ranch – which, for an extra fee, can arrange private transportation from La Paz International Airport – is part of a carefully designed ecosystem, from repurposed cement from the old malecón that paves common areas and tents to the paths where the cows graze, creating divots in the ground that collect water, which absorbs into the soil to grow new plants. Rancho Cacachilas is also the only organization to successfully farm totoaba fish, bringing them back from the brink of extinction.
Feast on organic food from on-site gardens and nearby farms, prepared by world-class chefs who pamper you as if you were royalty. But don’t eat the cacachilas! The shrub berries, named after the Sierra de las Cacachiles, the mountain range the resort is nestled in, are poisonous, causing severe paralysis. Rancho Cacachilas guide Sebastián Del Valle teaches guests about survival and desert plants. The sap from the lomboy tree seals wounds and prevents scars, for example, and barrel cactus needles make decent toothpicks.
Step 3: Pacify Yourself in Todos Santos
Crossing the Baja peninsula 50 miles to Pacific side, one finds Todos Santos, a beachy artist colony and designated “magic town.” There are 132 pueblos mágicos – towns that uphold Mexican heritage through culture, gastronomy, architecture and history – in the country, with only three in Baja.
Finding exciting food experiences is a breeze in Todos Santos, starting with one of its most charming guesthouses – Los Colibris Casitas (loscolibris.com), a colorful paradise of flowing fountains, flora and fauna with cozy rooms and a pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sign up for a cooking class with zany, self-taught chef Iker Algorri, a former attorney who shifted gears when he began to feel stymied in his quest for justice. Algorri teaches through unforgettable anecdotes and tips, like listening for the sound of a roaring concert crowd to know when the oil is hot enough to fry tortillas to make chips.
Dinners are highly customizable at Los Colibris. Upon request, owners Bryan and Sergio Jáuregui will graciously arrange a private dinner on the rooftop terrace or pack a picnic basket and drive you to the beach. If you have an appetite for adventure, they also run Todos Santos Eco Adventures (tosea.net), where they provide transportation around southern Baja and guided sea adventures such as diving and whale- and sea-lion-watching. Sergio, a gifted raconteur, will also give you a walking tour of the town and its beautiful Spanish-colonial architecture, accompanied by the most colorful history lesson of your trip.
Not too far from town, down a short dirt road is a culinary adventure unto itself in Dum (xn--dm-gua.com). The casually elegant Mediterranean eatery is set in a plum tree jungle and decorated with earthy macramé fixtures, flanked by a glossy, modern lap pool on one end and a fully stocked bar on the other. Chef Aurelien Legeay, named to the prestigious Master Chefs of France list, will spoil you with mind-blowing beef carpaccio with truffle mayo, goat cheese, citroneta, capers and Pont Neuf potatoes. You also can’t go wrong with the tasting menu or the savory catch of the day, all washed down with a refreshing cóctel – or three.
— Mirelle Inglefield
Más La Paz
Looking for more fun? Beef up your itinerary at golapaz.com.
WhatsApp is the preferred mode of communication for hospitality pros and their guests in Baja California. The phone app uses data or Wi-Fi and circumvents any long-distance charges.
Visit our website to find a terrifically offbeat margarita recipe from Los Colibris chef Iker Algorri. phoenixmag.com/margrecipe
American Airlines (aa.com) flies nonstop to La Paz International Airport . The flight is seasonal and flies 3 times a week now through April 29 and again starting June-September. Starting roundtrip ticket fare: $400.
The Culinary Shangri-La: TERRA farm + manor
Cooking and eating with an award-winning Valley chef at his luxury food ranch in the Prescott wilderness.
Real life is mostly a comedy of errors. Every once in a while, though, a moment is so perfect it feels like it was scripted and scored, a movie in real time. That’s the sensation I experience when I hear Roy Orbison croon “You Got It” over the outdoor sound system in the dining courtyard at TERRA farm + manor (terrafarmandmanor.com) outside Prescott. “Anything you want, you got it,” Orbison plaintively promises as I fork a curly “C” of creste di gallo pasta smothered in arugula and almond pesto with currants and confit tomatoes.
“Anything you need, you got it,” Roy continues as I sip a perfectly paired white wine made with Arneis grapes from Italy’s Piedmont region.
“Anything at all, you got it, baaabyyy,” he wails as TERRA’s gracious chief concierge Chelsea Parkinson asks if she can get us anything else – more wine, a cocktail, coffee with our forthcoming dessert of Italian bread pudding with figs and black walnuts?
TERRA mastermind James Porter, the legendary chef behind late, great Valley restaurants Tapino and Petite Maison, understands what visitors to his working farm and cooking school want. “I know what makes people happy, and I want to choreograph it,” he says as we wrap up a tour of the grounds that includes picking edible flowers, feeling the soft crenellations of greenhouse-grown lettuces, bottle-feeding a lamb and taking bets on when a very pregnant pig will go into labor.
Porter opened the immersive culinary retreat for serious foodies in March 2019. The “manor” part is a boutique Western lodge – eight rooms, with capacity for 16 total guests – situated on a 100,000-acre historical ranch in Prescott National Forest. In the farmhouse-chic lodge kitchen, Porter and guest chefs cook meals catered to guests’ individual preferences, served on a showpiece circular dining table. They instruct guests on the arts of pasta (which is the course I’m taking on this visit, taught by chef Steven “Chops” Smith of Flagstaff’s Atria and Liquor Pig, set to open in Old Town Scottsdale this November), breadmaking, wine-pairing and cooking with truffles. Everything is included in the room rate, from pre-dinner cocktails and fresh chocolate chip cookies to blankets around the fire and cigars in the game room.
Porter says the idyllic ranch is the culmination of his career, a “serendipitous dream” he brought to life with his business partner to “do everything my way” and to honor the origins of his culinary palette. “I always had this fascination with farming and the agricultural piece,” Porter says. “When you actually grow something that is absolutely the best of what it is, you don’t have to do much. You embrace what goes on in the field.”
To that end, he and farm manager Cooper Parkinson (husband to the aforementioned Chelsea – yes, an adorable married couple is making this place go) are raising cattle, lambs, pigs, goats, geese, ducks and chickens (see sidebar), with a horse and some protective farm dogs for good measure. “I just want to find the best heritage breed [and] raise it in a very humane, genuine, regenerative fashion,” Porter says. “We grow special feed in the field to raise the animals so that we know that they’re getting the best quality nutrients… They get to roam around the property, so they’re relaxed.”
During our stay, we feast on 100-percent Tajima Wagyu and Icelandic lamb raised on the farm and nosh on 36-month-aged jamón ibérico made from TERRA’s very first pigs. Ultimately, TERRA will also have a working vineyard and winery – he had to yank out the original vines when disease overtook them last year – that will allow guests to sip an estate vino while dining on their estate swine.
Beyond the remote tranquility, the mind-blowing meals and the exceptional culinary instruction, the part of TERRA that leaves the most lasting impression is the genuine care of Porter and his staff. It goes beyond the simpering deference of traditional luxury-resort service – it’s nurturing and familial, almost maternal. When Porter makes us breakfast to order – toad-in-the-hole with the farm’s eggs, veggies and Hassiago cheese from nearby Hassayampa Vineyard & Farm one day, sweet potato hash with his homemade green chile sausage the next – and sits around the dining table drinking coffee with us, I can’t stop “You Got It” from playing on a loop in my head.
3 Animals You’ll Find at TERRA
Tajima Wagyu Cattle
Japanese Black cows are the most popular of the four breeds of Wagyu. Under the Japanese Black umbrella, Tajima is the “marbling Wagyu,” the bloodline that yields the highest percentage of coveted fat and the finest quality of said fat.
Spanish Ibérico Pigs
These acorn-loving Spanish hogs have dark skin, little hair and black hooves, the patas negras that distinguish it from other breeds even during the curing process. They produce jamón ibérico, a silken, well-marbled and pleasantly nutty ham.
Playful Nubians are prized for their dairy faculties and are the go-to goats for makers of chèvre, soap, lotion and candles. Porter’s favorite application come summer is goat milk ice cream.
— Leah LeMoine
The Flagstaff 5
A barnstorming tour of Arizona’s foodie haven in the pines, plus some cool new boutique motor lodges to check out.
When Valley temperatures routinely hit 100 degrees and beyond, I head for Flagstaff to browse art galleries, clothing shops and my favorite bookstore, Bright Side Book Shop. I also walk the lovely Northern Arizona University campus and eat really, really well – possibly wearing a sweater.
Flag Food Tour
Here are my top five Flagstaff food experiences for the summer of 2022.
Flagstaff’s newest high-end restaurant is also its prettiest, an airy, clean-lined space composed of white brick, plush teal banquettes and hanging plants – the elegant, unabashedly feminine room I would move into if chef-partner Rochelle Daniel would let me. Her name surely rings a bell. She’s appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, served as executive chef at L’Auberge de Sedona and Fat Ox, and recently earned a nomination for the James Beard Best Chef Southwest award. Those credentials will mean more to you when you see and taste her food, each plate so gorgeously composed you may be tempted to stare, not eat. But first, there are cocktails, which like the room and Daniel herself, are lovely. Then come oysters (raw and grilled) and seasonal small plates (hot and cold), which require your full attention. Pastas, hand-made by Steven “Chops” Smith (who worked with Daniel at Fat Ox) are otherworldly, their lightness belying their complexity. Instead of entrées, consider share platters of Sonoma duck (drizzled with umami-laden XO sauce) or grilled Linz ribeye (sweetened with black garlic and aged balsamic) because who doesn’t want leftovers? For dessert, rum cake or shockingly good sorbet. atriarestaurant.com
No.2 Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar
When Paul and Laura Moir opened this wine-centric, farm-focused Modern American bistro in 2006, they were pioneers, creating the first big-city restaurant in a mountain town overrun by undiscriminating college kids. Brix remains one of the best restaurants in Flag – snug in winter, blissful on the flower-filled patio come summer – beloved for its wine list, charcuterie board, elk tartare and hand-made pasta. By summer, the Moirs, who acquired the antique store next door, will have doubled the restaurant’s interior and added a wood-burning oven. brixflagstaff.com
Wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza stars at Caleb Schiff’s winsome southside restaurant (pie-shaped, ironically), where the naturally leavened dough is fermented for two or three days, lending a soft texture to his charred, puffy-edged pies. Don’t miss the ridiculously good carne dolce and save room for sublime gelato. Can’t wait until dinner for pizza? Head to Dark Sky Brewing Co., where Schiff’s pizza is served all day with Dark Sky beer. pizzicletta.com; darkskybrewing.com
Hungry for something elevated yet fun? Grab a seat at the chef’s counter at this skinny slip of a restaurant, where chef-owner Dara Wong and crew turn out beautifully presented seasonal small plates while you watch the show. The menu changes frequently so there’s no telling what you’ll find beyond the signature Shift burger and pickled fries – maybe mushroom tartine with leek-goat quark and cured egg yolk or nori cavatelli with spicy miso beurre blanc and eel sauce, all just a skip offbeat. shiftflg.com
No.5 Tinderbox Kitchen
In the early days of the pandemic, partners Kevin Heinonen and Nick Williams modernized T-Box’s cozy vintage interior and elevated the Modern American menu, offering more bang-for-the-buck decadence with dishes such as foie gras torchon with beignet and apricot-pistachio chutney, Ibérico pork chop with Gruyère polenta and a butter-poached lobster tail worth the $60 splurge. Hit Annex next door for the city’s best cocktails – if you can get in. tinderboxkitchen.com, annexcocktaillounge.com
3 New Places to Stay in Flag
High Country Motor Lodge
Jumping on the latest hospitality trend – rehabbing Mid-Century roadside motels to capture the nostalgia of family vacations and carefree road trips – Classic Hotels & Resorts has transformed a circa-1964 Howard Johnson’s on West Route 66 into High Country Motor Lodge. The 123-room boutique hotel seamlessly melds a rugged mountain-town aesthetic with a Lowell Observatory-inspired astronomy theme and cool ’60s vibe. Amenities include an indoor game room, sweeping lawns with fire pits, a huge pool and the hydrotherapy-based Nordic Spa Experience. highcountrymotorlodge.com
For an intimate setting, consider the 11-room Bespoke Inn, sister to the original Bespoke Inn Scottsdale. Housed in a charming 1894 Craftsman (formerly the Inn at 410), the historical property has been completely modernized, offering comfy high-end beds and gas fireplaces in every room. Even better, Bespoke is within walking distance of downtown and across the street from Brix. bespokeinn.com
Whispering Winds Motor Hotel
Backed by the same ownership group that helped launch Atria, this beloved relic of Route 66’s Kennedy-era heyday is undergoing a full renovation, gutting the rooms and enhancing the pool area while preserving Mid-Century flourishes such as the “stylized shallow-pitch canopy over the entry” and “pink and turquoise cylinders that house exterior lighting,” according to the developers. ETA: Late summer.
— Nikki Buchanan
Flag News Flash
Sometime this summer, the Tinderbox team will open Teatro – a high-end Italian restaurant offering steak, fish, hand-made pasta and a 100 percent Italian wine list – in the former Criollo space (once a theater, hence the name). Expect a light, bright and open room, marble-topped bar, secluded patio and pasta-making operation, visible through glass panels.