FnB Restaurant (Scottsdale, AZ)

During the 6-hour drive from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, Arizona, I passed through a couple hundred miles of desert.  Arizona itself, with its blazing heat and red hills seemed like a giant desert.  That’s why I was surprised to find FnB, a farm-centric restaurant within walking distance of our hotel in Scottsdale. After calling to make sure they could make some vegetarian dishes (“Yes, we have some on the menu, no problem!”), we made a reservation for the same night.

FnB is located in a convenient and walkable area which I assume is old town Scottsdale.  The menu is confusing in that it lists a bunch of ingredients, but doesn’t tell you how they’re prepared.  I guess this encourages dialog with your server. But don’t let that intimidate you because it’s well worth the hassle.

I ordered the braised leeks with fried egg as my main while Will left it up to the kitchen to prepare a vegan main for him since there wasn’t one on the menu. We also ordered a few things to share as appetizers like the spicy broccoli, shishito peppers,  and the turnips. Then I got greedy and also ordered the swiss chard falafel. I thought that since both the falafel and the leeks were at the top part of the menu, they were probably appetizer-sized and I could handle it.

Our server tried to warn us that we ordered too much food.  I know seeing two thin people ordering six dishes seems like a lot, but both Will and I can eat more than one would think. Because of how the menu was styled, we were also under the impression that we would get LA-sized dishes.

Oh how wrong we were!  After Will’s giant vegan plate of food came out, I began to see the error of my ways.  We were so full at the end I didn’t even have room for dessert or a cocktail from a nearby bar!  Of course, after assuring the waitress we could finish everything, it became a personal challenge to finish everything.

Luckily, everything tasted wonderful, so it wasn’t a hardship at all.

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The braised leek and egg was rich and comforting. The server cracked open the perfectly poached egg at the table and spooned the runny yoke all over the crispy breadcrumbs. If there were some boom-chika-chika music in the background and soft-focus, I could have sworn we were on a porn set.  The leeks were luxuriously cooked to a soft and delicate texture.  The melted cheese put it over the top and I could have done with less cheese, but man, those leeks!

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Will’s vegan main plate was one of the better vegan dishes we’d had, even in LA!  It was very generous and had a grain that was  a chewier version of the farro we make at home.  The carrots, green beans, fava beans, peas, and artichoke hearts were so fresh that they could have fallen off of a truck on its way back from the farm and into our mouths. And they were cooked well  too.  It’s the type of simple, wholesome cooking that really lets the vegetables speak for themselves.

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The spicy broccoli elicited a gasp from me because it was literally a whole head of broccoli. I guess I expected broccolini or something smaller. The head was grilled and tossed with some sort of chili pepper paste. The charring on the broccoli really added something different to the usually boring green vegetable.

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The chard falafel with radish sauce was something different.  Instead of the usual chickpea filling, the falafel also had large, cooked pieces of chard.  I liked this better than the traditional falafel because it wasn’t as starchy and it went well with the radish sauce.

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The shishito on a tahini-based sauce was a surprise as well.  The greenness and heat of the peppers may sound weird with the creaminess of tahini, but it actually worked wonderfully. Not a combination we expected.

The radish and spinach dish was the weakest of the bunch not because it wasn’t good, because it was pretty good, but because it didn’t stand out.  We could have gone without ordering this. It was pretty to look at and tasted good but well…we ordered way too much food.

FnB is the type of place I could see being very popular in Los Angeles, so it was a surprise that it was in Scottsdale. Although we had apprehensions about going there because we couldn’t believe that there would be a farm-centric place in what we thought was the desert, I’m glad we went because it was such a nice experience. The people working there were friendly and unpretentious and the food was very, very good.

FnB
7133 east stetson dr.
scottsdale, arizona 85251
480 425 9463

El Patio (Albuquerque)

My first authentic New Mexican meal was at El Patio last weekend.  The BF and I had flown into Albuquerque last Friday for a wedding and we were hungry after getting off the plane.  El Patio is a small restaurant a few blocks from the University of New Mexico. From downtown Albuquerque, it was just a quick 10 minute bus ride (on the 66 or 766) and a 5 minute walk.

El Patio (Albuquerque) Sopapillo

I was excited to try the famed sopapilla, which is a cross between a pita and a donut.  When it came out, I saw that it was more like a deep-fried pita: a big airy pocket inside, and crunchy, almost flaky dough on the outside.  I think I was supposed to squirt honey in it, but I wanted to try just the bread part first — it was pretty good.

El Patio (Albuquerque) Stuffed Sopapillo

I also ordered what the menu called a ‘stuffy’: a sopapilla stuffed with pork and then smothered in a red salsa and cheese. One new thing I learned that day is that what I think of as salsa, New Mexicans call ‘chilli.’  The red salsa/chili had quite a kick to it, but was too heavy on the cumin for my taste. The crispy deep-fried texture of a freshly fried sopapilla was wasted in this dish because it was covered in sauce.  I also didn’t care much for the pork inside because it reminded me a little of canned dog food.

El Patio (Albuquerque)

The BF ordered just a tortilla wrapped around an avocado, if I remember correctly. It came with a side of rice, beans, and some sort of steamed potato with green salsa/chili.  We had already accepted that a vegan would be lucky to find vegan food at all in New Mexico, so he wasn’t too picky about taste.

El Patio (Albuquerque)

He also had a taco, which I took a bite out of.  The refried bean taco tasted as expected and not like anything I’d fly out of the state to eat.  I think I prefer my southern Californian fish tacos.

Although I was excited to try New Mexican fare, the meal at El Patio was just merely okay.  It wasn’t that any of the dishes we had were exceptionally bad. They just weren’t that good. Or maybe my mouth just isn’t used to the local cuisine.

El Patio
142 Harvard Dr SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106-3521
(505) 268-4245

Asilomar Conference Grounds (Monterey)

Where to stay in Monterey?  That was what we were wondering when planning our trip last month.  We decided to give Asilomar Conference Grounds a try.  The spot is less than a 10 minute drive from Canary road, where the aquarium is, but it’s not in the super-touristy area that we were trying to avoid.

Asilomar Conference Grounds

Unlike a traditional hotel, Asilomar Conference Grounds is a collection of cabin-like buildings more suited for a retreat. The rooms are rustic and instead of a television, there’s a fireplace.  Our room, even though it was just the two of us, had a queen bed, three twin-sized beds, and a rollaway bed all in one big room.  The toilet had its own door. The bathtub had its own door. The double sinks were in another separate room with closet space. It was all set up to be easy to use for people not used to sharing living spaces — strange for us, but good to keep in mind.

Asilomar Conference Grounds

What I really loved about where we stayed was that we were within walking distance to the beach.  We just had to walk down a path past the dining hall, onto a boardwalk, cross a street, and we were on the coast. It was fantastic to wake up, put on a sweater and just take a walk on the beach.

Asilomar Conference Grounds isn’t the cheapest option in Monterey, but it’s a pretty good deal if you can split the room with a bunch of friends — there certainly are enough beds to go around. It’s rustic enough without having to rough it too much and it’s just a pleasant place to stay when in the area. (Unless you have loud, young kids that you can’t control. In that case, please go somewhere else or learn how to discipline your brats!)