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Cowboy Ciao, NOCA, and J & G Steakhouse - long


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Cowboy Ciao, NOCA, and J & G Steakhouse - long

Cookiefiend | Feb 9, 2009 10:13 AM

We had a marvelous time in Scottsdale (I got new boots, woo hoo!) and had some great dinners - thanks to the Chowhounds on the Southwest board.

The first night we really enjoyed Cowboy Ciao. Our waitress was Morgan, she was very patient with us and our search through the wine list. What a wine list! Wow, we are so jealous! We finally chose a Ramey Russian River Chardonnay '06, half bottle and the Littorai Hirsch Vineyard '04.

We started with the All American Cheese platter - the Crave Brothers Petit Frere was our favorite of the 5 cheeses. I didn't write down the other cheeses... but we also liked the one with nuts and the one with cranberries. This came with toast and a little triangle of a marvelous fruitcake (? I'm not sure what they called it), filled with dates and apricots - so good.

We decided to have several small plates rather than limit ourselves so we also had:

Ciabatta with green olive tapenade and garlic custard - The bread. Was. Fabulous! As was the olive tapenade and garlic custard.
'Chicken & Waffles' - fried chicken drummies with a sweet corn waffle, sage butter and Arizona honey.
Mini Mushroom Pan Fry - this was the only thing we didn't care for... it had a butane/old school flambe taste that turned us away.
Quesadilla del Dia - bits of pork loin, peppers, cheddar and salsa. The person who delivered said it was beef and not pork,but what ever it was, it was very good.

Morgan brought us a sample of the bacon pecan brittle - which didn't sound good... but it was. So we bought a bag to take home. ;-)

Dessert was the Boda-licious Bread Pudding and Sugar cookies with ice cream - the flavors were: Guiness, Bourbon- chocolate and 5 Spice. They were a big success especially the 5 spice ice cream.

We really enjoyed ourselves!

Our second dinner was at NOCA. We were very much looking forward to dinner here based on what we had read. It is a gorgeous spot (once you get parked and inside) and the menus on the clipboard is a cute touch. However we didn't get off to a real good start.

We were greeted right away and then seated directly across from the hall where the service swinging door and bathrooms are, at a small table. The waiters/service area (water, extra plates & silverware) was directly behind us. I'm 6 feet tall and wearing heels, Mr CF is not a small man - we were not a good fit for this table. I know we aren't regulars and there is a large possibility that we won't be return dinners since we are from out of state - but there were empty tables. It sparked a debate between Mr CF and I - would we have had a better table if the Concierge had booked? We don't know but we leave Wednesday for Newport Beach and we're going to let them take care of our reservations.

I could have said something, but I didn't and I take responsibilty for that.

Things dramically improved once we started eating. Everything was stellar.

I ordered the Pierre Gimonnel & Fil Champagne (split so I didn't get silly) and Mr CF had a large bourbon with extra ice.

The amuse was a tiny sausage meatball with a lovely sauce.

A tiny cup of butternut squash soup - cream salt & butter (what's not to like?), it was delicious. It was brought because the Bacon & Eggs, and the duck confit dishes take longer and they didn't want us sitting with empty-ness in front of us. This was a very nice touch.

I started with the Bacon & Eggs - pork belly, 'crunchy' poached egg, onion jam, and maple syrup. Wow, all of it was fabulous. The egg amused us with the 'crunchy' part, and I will say that at first I was disappointed, the egg looked hard boiled so I was pleasantly surprised when I cut into it, the yolk ran out and got that loveliness all over.

Mr CF had the Duck Confit... PERFECT. The huckleberry waffle was perfect and the frisee salad with dates was perfect. This is a dish we will remember for a long time. A dish I wish every chef/restauranteur had to do, exactly this way, before they could claim they have duck confit on their menu. This is the way it should be. PERFECT.

Next was the Black Bass with crispy gnocchi, broccoli rabe, chopped chorizo, and little drops of mashed creamy potato. Mmmmmm.

Mr CF had the Steak Frites - I think he enjoyed it but the fries had a hint of rosemary - so he didn't eat many of those.

We ended with French press coffee and doughnuts with chocolate, strawberry jam, and dulce de leche caramel for dipping. I love this type of dessert - thought it must be said that I like doughnuts in general. How could they be resisted?

We were brought pink cotton candy - which always makes me smile - and were given little bags of chocolate chunk shortbread to enjoy later. I also took home (all the way on the plane) the cotton candy.

While we didn't get off to a good start, the food was stellar and definitely took my mind off our seating arrangements... I bet the champagne helped too... :-)

Our last dinner was at the J & G Steakhouse. When I set the reservation I told the hostess that I had heard they had a lovely view and asked if we could be seated where we could enjoy this view. We were seated at a round table looking out the windows - and it was a helluva view - we watched the sunset.

We started off with a split of Taittinger champagne while watching the sunset. We ordered the Jumbo shrimp cocktail (Mr CF only, he said it was delicious) the Fois Gras Terrine with grilled country bread and an apple jalapeno compote and the Salmon Tartare with warm garlic toasts and mustard oil. The Fois Gras terrine, once it thawed and we got the butter cap off was wonderful. But, yeah... it was pretty solid and our waiter should have taken care of the butter cap... the apple jalapeno compote was a nice accent to the richness of the fois. Mmm fois gras... The Salmon tartare was okay - but I probably wouldn't order it again.

We ordered a bottle of the Behrens and Hitchcock "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" but it was unavailable. So we tried the 2005 Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - which was delicious and exactly what Mr CF wanted.

At this point the dining room was packed, and service went a bit downhill - my Champagne glass was taken with out making sure the Champagne was gone, the Salad cart couldn't get through to make the Ceasar salads tableside, my chair was bumped by each passing server and the noise level went way up. New restaurant bugs I'm guessing - they are pretty new. BTW - those chairs are monster heavy!

Anyway, we each had a Ceasar salad - maybe a bit of horseradish in the dressing? Interesting and good.

We split the New York steak with peppercorns. We were brought all of the sauces - soy miso mustard, steak sauce, bbq sauce, and peppercorn sauce so that we could try them all. My favorite was the peppercorn sauce. We also had the creamed spinach and French fries, which were quite good.

The dining room was packed and our waiter said we could step outside and enjoy the rest of our wine - so we did. It was lovely outside, what a wonderful way to end our evening and enjoy a ... warm chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream and the rest of my Champagne, marvelously chilled.

Now I'm back in IN (I'm supposed to be working... cough cough) and I'm wishing we had such marvelous dining options here. And such nice weather!
Thanks again, and thanks for reading.

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