Posts Tagged ‘Scottsdale’

Money Don’t Buy Ya Class

You know how sometimes you go off in an email and you have to just walk away to let the steam wear off before you actually hit send? I was in one of those quandaries last Thursday night with this blog post. After several days of cooling off, I still don’t really have any nice things to say. You’ve been forewarned.

Let me begin by stating that I am not a part of the club crowd. Even when I was going to clubs, I’d have to get trashed to withstand any of it. Enter the invite I received to the grand opening party of Narcisse Champagne & Tea Lounge, “toasting a new era in elegant dining and nightlife.” They broke the evening up into 3 stages: A VIP/Media Preview from 6-8 (to which I was invited), RSVP’d guests from 8-10, and open to the public starting at 10 for the nightlife. With a name like Narcisse, it didn’t sound like the place would be my speed, but I figured I’d go and at least check out the menu that we were supposed to be sampling during the event.

I arrive at 6 and find a table outside, with velvet ropes and all, manned by unbelievably scantily clad girls with hair teased and sprayed to the skies like they were ready to walk a runway. Rather than donning the latest fashions, however, they had text stamped on their expanses of skin, reading things like “Taste me, I’m delicious!” and lip prints everywhere like there had been an orgy in the dressing room. Now that screams sophistication. My name was checked off the list and I was directed to go down the red carpet to a girl with wristbands. Had it not been for a manager-type guy standing in the way, arguing with another employee, I might have been able to get by. He was not bothered by my presence and I was apparently perfectly capable of turning around and walking on the outside of the rope to get my wristband. Great first impression for a media audience.

As we went up the escalator and in the main entrance, I couldn’t help but notice another  red carpet, photo-op backdrop, several employees standing around talking and texting, and no photographer. Again, as we looked around for some direction, there was no acknowledgement that we were even there. Inside there were people milling about and champagne distributor reps stationed at various tables, ready to fill my non-existent glass. The bar was open, but they weren’t providing champagne glasses. Some detective work devised that we were supposed to grab one from the table at the entrance, not that any direction or assistance was provided whatsoever.

At this point you’re likely saying “but Chase, it was their grand opening and everyone has service kinks to work out on opening night.” Well I actually heard they’ve been open for about a month now and they personally invited the media to come at this time to evaluate the place. It’s not like I was showing up as some secret shopper to sabotage their service, they had my name on a list of people who would be writing about the experience, for goodness’ sake.

After obtaining my champagne glass (that a friend had to grab off the table out front while the employees still looked around like deer in headlights), I even had a problem gaining the attention of some of the distributor reps. A couple of the women were so busy talking to each other that they couldn’t be bothered to pour champagne, and often I had to ask what it was that was poured in my glass. Come on people, it’s your job to sell me on the damn product! The supposed sampling of the menu amounted to a bite of steak on a pile of garlic mashed potatoes with, as I believe the cocktail waitress described them, “some cute little mushroom things.” I wanted to say “Awww, bless your heart, honey, you’re sweet. Now go put some clothes on and run along back to school.” It tasted good, but a plastic fork and no knife made it difficult to eat for those with smaller mouths than mine. I was also lucky enough to score a plastic cup of greens with some sweet dressing and a slice or two of pear. When questioned about the dressing, the second cocktail waitress had to run back to the kitchen to retrieve the answer. It didn’t matter, since I couldn’t hear the response over the noise of the crowd. Sure was some elegant dining!

So that brings up another point, as the venue filled with hundreds of people (still supposedly the VIP/Media phase of the evening), it became ever-so-apparent that the place had high ceilings; it was loud and hot. There’s something seriously wrong about having sweat drip down my back in the middle of winter at a cocktail reception. To add to the crowd, there were ridiculous performers scattered about. As if a ballerina belonged at the bar, stretching her legs out and doing pirouettes? Then there was the indescribable chick in the photo who was just floating along the floor and creeping people out with random cotton ball antics.

We decided to get some air and head out to the balcony where we could hear each other speak. Unfortunately, they had the heat lamps turned on outside. When I asked one of the servers if they could turn off the one above us, I got an uneasy response of “I don’t know, I don’t think we can, but maybe you could move to the other end where there are smaller heat lamps.” So much for getting some air!

I saw a lot of great people who I would love to have sat down and caught up with under different circumstances, but I just had to get out of there. At 7:50pm I had to fight my way past people to get out the door and saw the line of apparent RSVP’d guests growing downstairs. I stopped elsewhere to get some dinner on the way home and managed to tweet the sentiment that still resonates today: thank you, Narcisse, for bringing my own personal hell a little closer to home. This place embodies everything I cannot stand about our society that should have been left in Vegas, as described in their own words…

“This unique Champagne & Tea Lounge is suited to fulfill the desires and needs of the affluent self loved characters from all the surrounding areas of Scottsdale to metro Phoenix. The champagne bar will serve as an upscale destination with an air of sophistication and sensual style. The atmosphere inter mingles genres of stately old world opulence with a nuance of modern charm. Narcisse is a unique gathering place intended to stimulate the senses of taste sight and sound. Its progressive atmosphere will tease, excite and celebrate these senses continually throughout the experience.”


I have a confession to make… I’ve been impersonating a food blogger. I don’t know how it happened; I don’t cook well, I have no education in gastronomy, I simply like to eat and tweet. This has somehow afforded me the opportunity to attend various media events and grand opening celebrations and it is now time to fess up and tell you all about it!


Let’s start with an event at Deseo at the Westin Kierland resort. The location is down a beautiful staircase and we all started the evening in the cocktail bar with a muddling class, learning to make mojitos.I’m not much of a mojito fan, as the lime and mint can often overwhelm my gringo taste buds, but the staff here muddled the mint so gently and kept the simple syrup so simple (and less syrupy) that they were quite light and refreshing. They also made us some berry mojitos to throw a different twist on the classic. I could imagine sucking quite a few of these beverages down by the pool any time. They also treated us to some popcorn drizzled with truffle oil, a little-known foodie trick to keep things interesting. After the muddling class we were escorted to the counter in the dining room for a ceviche lesson with renowned chef Douglas Rodriguez. After watching the creation of three different ceviches and sampling all of them, I was quite impressed with the fact that each had an incredibly unique flavor. I do have to admit that I was disappointed in the lack of avocado, as I like the buttery contrast to all the acid, but the rainbow ceviche was amazingly fresh and delicious.

Our event at Deseo continued with a dual-entree of steak and sea bass with a couple of sides. The steak was good, but the fish was the star of the evening for me. I cannot begin to describe the perfect, buttery, crisp crust on this piece of fish and the tender belly that just melted in my mouth. The night was topped off with a tasty dulce de leche dessert. In all fairness, we were treated like absolute royalty and to experience even half of this would probably put a serious dent in anyone’s wallet. The Miami-style Latin cuisine is not something that often interests me, but I will visit Deseo again because of their unmistakable mastery of seafood.

The Herb Box

Let’s move on to the media grand opening event of The Herb Box location on the Scottsdale Waterfront. These local darlings have taken over the former Estate House and done a great job turning it into an exciting, welcoming, yet casual dining atmosphere. With an amazing cheese selection, unique wine list, and decadent red velvet macarons, we had a great introduction to the place. The owners are friendly people who are obviously passionate about utilizing fresh ingredients and bold flavors. What excites me most about The Herb Box is the market concept they’ve incorporated at the street level, where you can stop by and pick up a sandwich, salads, bags of their light and crispy plantain or sweet potato chips, some artisan cheese, and/or unbelievable baked goods. There are even some soon-to-be-stocked wine shelves at the market to provide everything you need for a romantic evening at home at a convenient pickup location. Fingers crossed for some Arizona wines to make the inventory!

Sunshine Moon Peking Pub

Moving on to perhaps the biggest surprise, Sunshine Moon Peking Pub. An odd name, for sure, but you have to respect a guy who names a restaurant based on a line out of his young daughter’s mouth. Again we were treated like royalty, with personal visits from the owners and chef and a never ending delivery of food and wine. But I was blown away by… wait for it… the perfectly medium-rare pub burger with a runny egg, caramelized onions, and kewpie mayonnaise all piled on top of a super-soft brioche bun. Yes, you heard correctly, someone has successfully combined a Chinese restaurant with a pub and mastered an awesome burger. The wings were also very well cooked with a well-balanced pineapple glaze over evenly crispy and meaty chicken. A solid Mongolian Beef dish started the entrees off right. In fact, we tried almost everything on the menu and it was all damn good. The Orange-Peel Chicken was a bit of a sodium bomb for me, but it was a favorite of others at the table, so I’d recommend trying it to decide for yourself. The Shrimp in Lobster Sauce was a special treat, with a sauce that might as well have been made from egg drop soup. Don’t be too thrown off by the menu reading black beans, as they only sprinkle a couple throughout the dish and I wasn’t really able to discern why.

Another great dish at Sunshine Moon was the “Soft Egg, Soft Noodle.” This puppy was a bowl of perhaps the best noodles I’ve ever had, with incredibly flavorful beef, and the fried egg on top just threw it over the moon. Did I mention dessert? Classic rainbow sherbet and a dish of fried ice cream with cream cheese and strawberry sauce. A “kind of deconstructed strawberry cheesecake,” as described by the chef (who is quite yummy in his own right). The evening was one of those rare moments when you think to yourself “this is a good day… good day indeed.” The endless array of amazing dishes, the bottomless glasses of wine, the comfortable atmosphere, and most of all, the incredible company of friendly faces made for a truly memorable night. Is it traditional, authentic Chinese food? Probably not. Is it a gourmet stop on the Scottsdale culinary roadmap? Nah. Is it quality ingredients with good flavors, plentiful portions, and convenient takeout? Absolutely, and I’m a big fan.