Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Adventures in AZ

Happy New Year to all! After two weeks in sunny Arizona, with my share of eating, hiking, relaxing... I'll stop before you quickly close your web page in envy... part of me is glad to be back in good ol' NYC... especially with 2009 Restaurant Week approaching quickly!

In a state where cowboys mount their rifles in the back of their pickup trucks, restaurants are dubbed with ever-so sophisticated monikers like "Zeke's Eatin' Place", and where I can see roaming cattle from my parents' front porch, one might ask, "what's a vegetarian like you doing in a place like this?" The dirt roads that lead to my parents' home certainly don't rival the vegetarian's paradise that is New York, but I assure you, oh skeptical Arizona visitor, you can eat veg!

In the city closest to my folks, Prescott, I found limited, but yummy options at the Bistro St. Michael, part of the historic Hotel St. Michael in the Courthouse Square. Though vegetarian choices are limited, you can snack on a veggie burger with salad, or indulge in a grilled portobello stuffed with a creamy artichoke and parmesan filling. Though the latter was a bit rich for my liking (especially because it arrived with a side of jasmine rice with a zesty cream sauce), it was still tasty and flavorful. If those options don't appeal to you, it's only a hop, skip, & a jump down Gurley Street to Esoji, a Japanese restaurant just outside the Square- though there are more veggie options here, the menu is a bit uninspiring and not particularly authentic. Another great option is The Raven Cafe, just a few blocks away on Cortez Street. A funky Greenpoint-like amalgam of coffeeshop/wine bar/performance space, their menu features organic dishes made with locally grown/produced items (Arizona feta? who knew?)- I enjoyed some satisfying tempeh tacos that were on special, but their regular menu features items like a Strawberry-Balsamic Glaze, Pear, and Brie Bruschetta, a Sweet Beet Sandwich, and Parmesan Polenta with Fennel.

We hit veg dining on the head during a day trip to Sedona... by accident! While driving down Highway 89A, the "vegetarian" label on a storefront was barely caught from the corner of my honey's eye. We screeched to a halt- no matter how good or bad, we were definitely going to this place! And D'Lish Very Vegetarian goes beyond just veggie dishes- it's completely vegan. And it completely lives up to its name. Sitting outside of the small, earthy cafe, we split a carrot-ginger soup- loaded with ginger to the point of being spicy, it was definitely the pick-me-up needed after a long drive. My entree, a Jamaican jerk & pineapple seitan burger, was not as spicy as I'd have liked, but the warmth of the jerk and the sweetness of the pineapple made each bite absolutely... delish! (oh come on, I had to say it!) We finished off our meal with a wine tasting at The Art of Wine, a small wine shop offering only Arizona produced wines... yet another, "who knew?" in AZ. The Wall Street Journal even named Northern Arizona as the next up and coming Napa Valley in an article earlier this year.

And though I didn't get to make it to this gem while I was in Tucson, I figured I'd mention this resto for those of you not shelling out for Canyon Ranch- Lovin' Spoonfuls, a popular vegan restaurant in the same vein as Red Bamboo in NYC. If the name alone doesn't lure 1960's pop geeks like myself, then the combination of mock meat entrees like Pepper "Steak" and solid standbys like Thai vegetable curry will certainly keep Tucson's veg community coming back for more. I'm making this place a priority next time I'm in Tucson!

Happy travels! Giddyup!

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