In a city brimming with gastronomic talent, chefs delight in guiding their guests on unique and fun dining experiences. From multi-course extravaganzas to entertaining cooking classes, here are five of my favorite chef-driven culinary experiences in Scottsdale.
The newest concept from Café Monarch, Reserve is housed in the Café’s original location across the street. As Scottsdale’s premier luxury experience, it’s led by alumni from some of the country’s famed fine-dining restaurants – chef de cuisine Benjamin Wald (formerly Inn at Little Washington), sous chef David Brito (Kai) and pastry chef Sarah Knoll (Per Se). Limited to 25 guests, your culinary journey begins in an elegant parlor for cocktail hour with passed hors d'oeuvres, before guests are led to a beautiful courtyard glowing with twinkle lights. Here, you’ll savor a 12-15 course dinner with wine pairings and exquisite bites such as gin-infused gelee and dill yogurt topped with Royal Osetra caviar. Reservations are required.
Experiences at ZuZu fit the fun, mid-century modern vibe at Hotel Valley Ho in Old Town Scottsdale. Whether it’s a Monday Night Chef’s Table, Farmer in the House event, or one of their special dinner series, you’re in for a special treat with a fun dining experience. One of my favorites is the Versus Series, a boozy battle where guests vote for their favorite beer or wine pairing. At a recent Beer Versus Bubbly event, Chimay Brewery and Perrier-Jouët champagne squared off as a variety of pours complemented delicious dishes such as a crispy oyster po’boy with tangy potato salad, and a decadent dessert of citrus-olive oil cake with vanilla mousse.
Marcellino Verzino is well known for his award-winning Italian cuisine and he shares some of his secrets at his monthly Learn & Lunch cooking classes. Gather around the chef’s island and sip on a glass of vino as Chef Marcellino shows you how to make dishes such as spinach and ricotta ravioli bathed in a sage butter sauce, or Pollo Saporito with chicken sautéed with mushrooms, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. You’ll also want to make reservations for exclusive wine dinners with guest sommelier Dario Soldan of Classico Wines. One highlight was a fantastic pairing of tender veal scaloppine draped in a creamy gorgonzola sauce accompanied by a Tuscan Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
Set on what was originally the site of famed cowboy artist Alonzo “Lon” Megargee‘s art studio, the Hermosa Inn is one of Arizona’s idyllic treasures. Visit its award-winning restaurant LON’s for a variety of culinary experiences showcasing the expertise of its talented culinary team. Throughout the year, seasonal harvest dinners introduce local winemakers, farmers and artisan producers. One memorable course enjoyed under the stars featured Rovey Dairy Farms lamb, Hayden Flour Mills wheat berries and McLendon Farms eggplant and fennel paired with Carlson Creek Vineyards sangiovese.
At Sushi Roku at the W Scottsdale, a philosophy of traditional Japanese elements blended with sleek modern accents is evident in the décor and echoed on the menu. Take a seat at the stunning circular sushi bar which anchors the dining room and order omakase (pronounced oh-mah-kah-say). This style of eating, which translates to “I’ll leave it up to you,” means no two experiences are alike. What kind of dishes might you expect for your multi-course feast? Start with silky seared salmon encrusted with togarashi spice layered with avocado, and end with a stunning sashimi platter of ocean-fresh kinmedai (golden eye snapper), uni, sea bream and toro.