Archive for March, 2010

Southwest Salads: Salads in Arizona Are in a Good State

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

The Mountains of Sedona

Rob and I have been doing some traveling this past month, including a visit to the Scottsdale/Sedona area. We got to reconnect with sunshine, climb some tricky mountains (OK, that was just Rob) and cheer our Chicago Cubbies on to victory in their first Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. We also ate some terrific salads.

Maybe they tasted better because everything does when you’re eating outdoors under crystalline blue skies and you can feel the Vitamin D seeping into your skin. Or maybe it’s because your salad ingredients have been recently harvested—not sitting in some cold storage area in the back of a supermarket. I don’t know when we’ll return to Arizona, but I think I might try some of the combinations below at home.

The Wildfire Bread Company has ten Arizona locations. At the Sedona site, we gazed at the humongous red rock formations and grazed on some mighty tasty greens. Rob ordered the Turkey Waldorf, made with turkey breast, gala apples, red grapes, carrots, celery, jicama (this, I have just learned, is a root vegetable resembling a turnip), red onions, dried cranberries, and spicy pecans, topped with balsamic vinaigrette. I ordered the Wildflower Salad:  field greens, tomato, celery, carrots, jicama, red peppers, green and red onions, and sunflower seeds, accompanied by the house cilantro lime vinaigrette. The sunflower seeds added a powerful and salty crunch, and are definitely something I want to toss into our salads at home.

The Paradise Bakery and Café has locations in ten states, including Arizona (but not, alas, Illinois). The Scottsdale version looks like a deluxe Panera Bread store inside, but—like the salad I ate—there’s more pizzazz and complexity. Among the many scrumptious-looking salads on the menu, I chose the Asian Chicken. In addition to shredded napa cabbage, they pile on carrots, green onions, chow mein noodles, edamame (nice), and Asian garlic chicken, and toss it with a sweet soy dressing. Soy vay!

For dinner one night, we went to Olive and Ivy. We were told that it not only has good food, but is one of Scottsdale’s “in” restaurant-clubs. That might explain why our server spent way more time with the two twenty-something young women at the adjoining table than with us. Or maybe it was because all we ordered was the chopped Mediterranean salad and the asparagus-mushroom flatbread. The chef makes the chopped salad with arugula, feta cheese, crunchy toasted almonds, and an oregano-flavored vinaigrette dressing. The flatbread is fabulous; the veggies are topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil.

Another night, it took Rob and me a little extra time to find AZ88—but it was well worth the search. Tucked behind one of the ubiquitous Scottsdale shopping centers, this venue had one of those tantalizing menus that makes you wish you had more days to spend in your current vacation locale. We decided to split a spinach salad, which boasted a delicious bacon and lemon dressing. But it was the Galette appetizers that sold us on this place. As aptly described in the menu, they are “stunningly simple flatbreads from the country bistros of France.” Their crust is “perfectly crisped, extremely thin and brittle.” The topping was a mixture of sweet caramelized onions, black olives, bacon (just a little), and Parmesan cheese. We were disappointed to learn that there is no AZ88 in the Chicago area, which makes sense given that the restaurant’s name is derived from “Arizona 1988”—which is where and when this restaurant was established. But we also learned that it is part of food empire created by Karl Kopp, the so-called king of butter burgers and custard in Milwaukee. And that his Elsa’s in Milwaukee has a similar atmosphere and cuisine to AZ88. I can’t wait to drive to Milwaukee and investigate.

Yours till the mountain peaks,
NJL