“I love food.” — Everyone
I have never met a person who doesn’t love food. Ask someone what their favorite food is, and you have a guaranteed conversation starter. In fact, that was the opening question posed by our guide from Taste It Tours, who we joined for a culinary walking tour in Scottsdale, Arizona.
My dad and I were on a father-daughter trip to Phoenix, and we were in search of outstanding local restaurants with interesting menus and great atmospheres. This outing included stops at six venues with tastes of each of their specialty dishes and drinks.
We met our guide and 14 other foodies at Hotel Valley Ho, a midcentury modern desert icon that played host to celebrities like Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Zsa Zsa Gabor in the 1950s and ’60s. Today, it’s where the hip and rich come to stay when they’re vacationing in “the West’s most western town.”
Our first stop was Alo Cafe, a Euro-style breakfast and lunch spot named after Estonian musician and composer Alo Mattiisen, whose photo is lovingly displayed on the walls of the tiny building located in historic Charles Miller Square.
The menu at Alo Cafe reflects owner Steve Martinez’s love of international food inspired by his travels to Argentina, South Africa, Namibia, Spain, France, Canada, Estonia, and throughout America. We sampled a Spanish potato frittata (don’t call it quiche!) served with garlic aioli and a homemade roasted red pepper relish.
Estonian food blogger Ruta of Eesti Toit wrote an entire post about her country’s love for the potato in all its many culinary incarnations. “In Estonia we have a saying, ‘Woman must be able to feed man and 6 children :)’ So, viva women!” And with its tasty mashup of international food, viva Alo, which has been named one of the top 15 breakfast restaurants in Phoenix.
Old Town Scottsdale has a surprising number of outstanding local restaurants per square mile, and we only had to cross the street to get to our second award-winning stop, Craft 64.
This brew pub, which specializes in wood-fired pizza, has been rated number three of the 10 hottest restaurants in Scottsdale by Zagat. And they aren’t just talking about the 900-degree pizza oven.
Craft 64 uses only local produce and makes their own mozzarella from scratch every day. They feature an impressive bar, too, with 36 Arizona beers (including nine that are brewed in house) and more than 50 wines personally selected by one of the owners, who is an advanced sommelier. We sampled the Craft 64 Crafty Blonde (5.0% ABV, 15 IBU), which paired nicely with the mozzarella- and basil-topped Margarita pizza and the Fico pie, featuring house-made mozzarella, ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil, fresh arugula, and fig sauce.
Although it’s just around the corner from Craft 64, our next stop was worlds away from pizza.
Cornwall native Dean Thomas opened the Scottsdale location of his Cornish Pasty Co. in 2013, and it’s been a neighborhood favorite ever since.
While the traditional pasty we sampled was tasty and hearty (our serving was only a quarter of a full order!), I’d love to return to try some of their more inventive offerings, including the Cubano pasty (mojo pork, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard), the Lamb Vindaloo pasty (lamb and potato in a spicy vindaloo sauce with minted yogurt or tahini sauce), and the Lovely Bit a Salmon pasty (marinated salmon, white wine and cream dill sauce, sautéed asparagus, garlic roasted tomato, spinach, and red potato).
Thank goodness this was a walking food tour, since we’d already had three meals at this point. Taste It Tours calls them samples, but they’re definitely generous samples.
We ventured leisurely through Old Town Scottsdale’s art district on our way to Barrio Queen, named one of the best new restaurants in the United States by Esquire Magazine in 2012 and currently the home of the largest selection of tequilas in the State of Arizona.
In addition to a tangy mini margarita — a nicely balanced blend of tequila, citrus, and salt — we sampled two of Barrio Queen’s street tacos on fresh corn tortillas. The Rajas was a blend of roasted poblano peppers and sautéed red onions topped with fresh cilantro and Oaxaca cheese, and Suadero Azteca with slow-cooked beef brisket topped with diced red onions and fresh cilantro.
Absolutely stuffed after our fourth stop, we weren’t sure we could eat another bite. Until we heard the magic word: dessert.
Just across the plaza, we all crowded into the heavenly scented Classic Cakes and Confections. Named a national pastry pro by none other than Martha Stewart herself, this sweet little shop is chock full of every kind of goodie you could imagine, from cheesecake and French macarons to brownies and baby blueberry pies.
We sampled their decadent chocolate cake truffles, which were the perfect two bites of cocoa and sugar to cap off an afternoon of international delights.
And then we remembered there was still another stop.
We were at the bursting point by then, definitely having felt like we’d gotten our money’s worth, but there was yet another of Scottsdale’s many culinary treasures left on our tour.
I was delighted when we arrived at TeaTime Scottsdale, a charming beverage boutique located just around the corner from Old Town’s most famous fountain.
I am a straight-up tea lover, and I might have been the most excited person on the tour when we walked through the door at TeaTime. I enjoyed my lovely fruit tea sample, then I ordered two large paper bags of loose tea leaves (Moroccan mint and black currant) to take home and an iced hibiscus tea to go. Heavenly.
Dad and I enjoyed the entire tour and would happily take another food excursion with Taste It Tours, which also offers five other food and wine experiences.
Back in Phoenix proper, we enjoyed several other wonderful restaurant experiences along with a classic car museum, hot air balloon ride, the Desert Botanical Garden, and a tour of the Wrigley Mansion. Click to see more from this epic father-daughter adventure!