Beverley Scherberger

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RESTAURANT REVIEWS

A restaurant review provides the reader with the location of the restaurant, contact

Verde Valley Wine Co. offers patrons a wide variety of wines to go with dinner.

Verde Valley Wine Co. offers patrons a wide variety of wines to go with dinner.

information, hours of operation, and the range of prices for the meals, as well as the writer’s opinion of the place and the food. It also provides a description of the restaurant that will allow the reader to feel the ambiance and get a good idea if it would be someplace they’d like to eat. Kid-friendly? Romantic? Expensive or budget-conscious? Great or poor service? You get the picture…

Written under the name: Beverly Lehnhardt on February 25, 2007

Cottonwood’s New Verde Valley Wine Co. & Recovery Room Restaurant

Paula and Eric Woolsey, owners of the popular Asylum Restaurant in Jerome, recently formed a 3-way partnership with Richard Pasich and on January 2 of this year, opened another restaurant in Cottonwood. The Verde Valley Wine Co. & Recovery Room Restaurant, located in the Copper Dome Plaza at the corner of Calvary Way and 89-A, is directly across the street from the hospital; hence the appropriate and rather quirky name.

The location was chosen with care with an eye to the changing demographics of the Verde Valley. No longer a conservative area comprised mostly of retirees, the valley is booming, attracting people of all ages and eclectic interests.

The Verde Valley Wine Co. and Recovery Room Restaurant are housed together, forming a synergistic relationship that enhances the overall dining experience. The restaurant owns two liquor licenses: one allows spirits to be served on the premises and the other allows beer and wine to be purchased and taken off-property. This creates an interesting loop-hole for patrons of the restaurant, permitting diners to purchase wine in the Wine Store and carry it into the restaurant for consumption with dinner.

I was very impressed with the appearance of the restaurant as I entered for a late lunch one recent Sunday afternoon. The creamy yellow walls, very high ceiling, and the afternoon light pouring in the long, horizontal windows gave the place an open, airy feel. Tiled flooring, brick accent walls, dark wood, and lots of glass created a classy sophistication that contrasted sharply with the down-to-earth functionality of the clean newsprint paper used as tablecloths; my next glance took in the glassful of crayons situated at each table. Hmmm…up-scale yet family- and kid-friendly—a nice combination.

Seated by a smiling host, I was then greeted by an equally friendly waitress who explained how the wine-tasting works. Each place setting includes an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper containing circles with names of various wines. If interested, you put an X in each circle that contains the name of the wine you would like to taste. The waitress takes it from there… Simple!

However, since I was only there for lunch and had no designated driver to take me home I inquired what the “Quiche O’ the Day” was—Canadian bacon and 4-cheese quiche sounded great to me, with a side of onion rings. I decided to wash it all down with a Black Cherry Boylan’s Soda, made with pure cane sugar. A bit pricey at $3 a bottle but I was game for further experimentation…

As I patiently waited for my meal to arrive, I took in my surroundings. I was sitting against

Mural depicting the Greek god of wine.

Mural depicting the Greek god of wine.

the wall on a bench seat and directly across the room, high on the wall, was a large mural; Greek, it seemed. As I discovered later, there was another mural on the wall just behind me—Italian. The murals depicted the Greek and Italian gods of wine.

From my position in the dining room, I could see three very large ‘starry-shaped’ chandeliers hanging in the center of the high ceiling, just at the foot of the stairway that led up to another dining area. It was beautiful in the afternoon so I’m sure the ambiance after dark is simply stunning!

When my lunch arrived, I found that rather than a wedge of quiche taken from a larger pie, I had my very own, attractively arranged on the plate with my onion rings and some colorful green sprouts. The onion rings were delicious—tender and coated with a lightly seasoned batter.

The quiche was steaming hot, fluffy, and full of bacon and cheese with a light, flaky crust—in other words, absolutely perfect! I took my time, savoring each bite, and when the waitress asked about dessert I decided to indulge my sweet tooth. The dessert menu was as tempting as the dinner menu: Deep Fried Cheesecake, Turtle Cheesecake, or Torta Tiramisu; $8 for your very own individual Apple Pie with Pecans and Caramel Sauce; Rootbeer Float; or Recovery Sorbet. I opted for the Deep Fried Cheesecake.

Scrumptious deep fried cheesecake.

Scrumptious deep fried cheesecake.

 

When dessert arrived, it was certainly worth the wait! There were several bite-sized pieces of cheesecake that had been dipped in batter and deep fried. The coating was hot, light, and crispy while the cheesecake centers were still cold. A small cup of strawberry sauce for dipping and a healthy dollop of whipped cream completed the lovely presentation. And the taste was delectable…

The “All Day Recovery” menu is extremely varied, including Asylum Calamari, Fish & Chips; Soup de Jour and French Onion Soup; Recovery Sliders (mini burgers or pulled pork), Pot Pie de Jour; and a variety of salads. The most expensive all-day item was the Calamari at $13.

Lunch is served until 3:30 and includes such items as a Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Pulled Pork Hoagie, Fried Oyster Po’ Boy, and, of course, the Quiche O’ the Day. They also offer 10-inch Gourmet Pizzas for $9 to $11. The Lobster Brie LT was the priciest lunch item at $16.50.

Dinner is served after 5:00p.m. and all entrees come with a salad. Entrees include an 8-ounce sirloin Flat Steak, Braised Short Ribs, Meat Loaf, Seafood Asiago Pasta, and Cajun Chicken as well as many other delicious meals. The Filet Mignon at $26.50 was the most expensive dinner on the menu.

A kid-friendly restaurant, all five of the ‘Just For Kids’ meals are priced at only $5 and include such items as Macaroni and Cheese, Fried Chicken Strips, and Spaghetti O’s, all with appropriate sides.

My lunch bill totaled $18.45—a bit more than I’m used to paying for lunch-for-one, but the service, the food, and the atmosphere were top notch. I’ll go back! The only negative in the whole experience was the voices, laughter, ringing phones, and footsteps-on-the-stairs bouncing off all those hard surfaces. Then again, it’s a family kind of place that welcomes voices and laughter…

The Recovery Room Restaurant is open every day from 11:00a.m. to 9:00p.m. They prepare meals ‘to go’, are available to cater events off-property, and encourage reservations on Friday and Saturday nights—call 639-WINE (9463).

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Written under the name: Beverly Lehnhardt

A Taste of Sunny Mexico – No Passport Needed

El Encanto Restaurant Voted “Best Mexican Food in the Valley”

If you find yourself in the eclectic little town of Cave Creek, Arizona, you owe yourself the experience of dining at El Encanto Restaurant. A step inside transports you to a festive village south of the border: from the open wrought iron gates that welcome you inside, arched doorways, and dazzlingly colorful Mexican tile work… To open-air patios with long wooden tables, wrought iron chairs and wine racks designed by local artists. Add the vibrant Mariachi tunes performed by Raul Barrales and the taste of sizzling steaks, roasted chicken and chiles… and you’re convinced you’re in sunny Mexico!

El Encanto arched entryway

El Encanto arched entryway

El Encanto welcomed its first visitors in 1989, offering many of Chef Regino Hernandez’s favorite recipes from his home town of Mazatlan. It wasn’t long before the fresh ingredients and varied menu became known as “the best Mexican food in the Valley.” Now, 14 years later, Chef Hernandez is still bringing the savory taste of Mexico to Cave Creek, Arizona.

A delicious lunch!

A delicious lunch!

The chefs make all dishes by hand each day, including traditional favorites like Chile Rellenos, Enchiladas, Tamales, and Quesadillas. They also offer daily seafood specials as well as Sea Bass Ajo and Camarones de Tequila con Limon (shrimp marinated in garlic, oil, and tequila with lemon). Soups, salsas, and guacamole are made daily from the freshest ingredients.

A full bar completes each dining experience with a wide selection of fine liqueurs. El Encanto buys wines from Mexico, Spain, South America, California, and Oregon and surprises diners with a variety of top-quality tequilas – making their margaritas the best of the best!

The outdoor patios can hold up to 180 people and the restaurant is a popular venue for weddings, receptions, family reunions, and office parties. The friendly, professional, capable staff can also cater your events. Call 480-488-1752 for more information.

And as if the excellent food, drink, and Mexican ambiance aren’t enough, a small pond surrounded by trees, rocks and flowering shrubs provide a rare visual setting for your meal. The pond is home to many ducks, geese, turtles, owls, and the occasional Great Blue Heron. Quacks and honks punctuate the tranquil scene as the birds ask for their share of your doggy bag.El Encanto duck new (1 of 1)

If you’d like to take a south-of-the-border trip without needing a passport, you have three choices: El Encanto in Cave Creek, Arizona; El Encanto Dos in Desert Hills, Arizona; and El Encanto de la Fuente, opened in 2009. It’s the third in the trifecta and is located in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

You can also visit their website at www.elencantorestaurants.com.

Sidebar #1 Kudos
Channel 3’s Good Morning Arizona voted El Encanto “Most Romantic.”
Selected as “#1 Choice for Mexican Food” by Phoenix Magazine readers (2001)
In 2002, The New Times selected it as the “Best Place to Pop the Question.”
New Times (2001) voted El Encanto’s margaritas “The Best in the Valley.”
Desert Living Magazine (2004) rated El Encanto one of “The Top 12 Outdoor Eateries.”
“Like a trip to Mexico without the long drive,” Where to Eat from Chic to Unique (2007).

Sidebar #2 If You Go…
None of the restaurants require you to “dress” – casual is in. All three restaurants offer similar menus with only slight variations.
El Encanto, 6248 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, Arizona, ph. 480-488-1752
El Encanto Dos, 1112 E. Carefree Highway, Desert Hills, Arizona, ph. 623-780-5948
El Encanto de la Fuente, 11044 N. Saguaro Blvd., Fountain Hills, Arizona,
ph. 480-837-1070

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Written under the name: Beverly Lehnhardt on September 12, 2006

Sedona’s Gem — Café Jose

What constitutes a “good” restaurant? Not only must it have good service with good food

Café Jose just off 89-A behind McDonalds.

Café Jose just off 89-A behind McDonalds.

at reasonable prices, it has to be consistent. It must always offer delicious meals served in a timely and professionally friendly manner and not break the bank in the process. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great dining experience at a new (or old!) restaurant and then being disappointed in the food or the service the second or third time you visit. The pricier restaurants are a wonderful way to celebrate special occasions but for breakfast with friends, a casual lunch, or a quick dinner before catching a movie, every town needs a restaurant with dependable service, reasonable prices, and downright tasty fare.

Sedona has such a gem in Café Jose, located just off 89-A in the Safeway Shopping Center behind McDonald’s. Formerly the Sedona Salad Company, Jose and family have given the place a bit of a facelift with fresh paint, a great mural on the wall running parallel to the salad bar, and some changes to the already-varied menu. A casual place containing both booths and tables and lots of hanging plants, its friendly ambience welcomes locals and visitors with equal panache.

With a name like Café Jose, you might expect to find exclusively Mexican dishes on the menu. While you can certainly order very tasty Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, you’ll also find Omelets; Pancakes, Waffles, and French Toast; Low-Cal breakfasts; and Health Lite Omelets made with Egg Beaters for the more health conscious. Breakfast Specials are available before 11:00 at a reduced price, but breakfast is served all day long.

Lunch starts at 11:00 a.m.—also with daily specials. You can get the Salad Bar or Salad Bar with Soup—one time through or all-you-can-eat, both at reasonable lunch prices. Sandwiches are served with a variety of side dishes and the potato salad is some of the best I’ve ever tasted! (I haven’t quite figured out the secret ingredient…) And speaking from personal experience, their Tuna Melts and Mushroom Burgers are tasty treats for the tongue…

It goes without saying that Mexican lunches are also available—the Chicken Quesadilla is so substantial that I can hardly finish it in one sitting. The salsa is homemade, the guacamole is authentic — made fresh daily — and the nachos are super-fresh!

After 5:00p.m., a variety of dinners are available. Steak and Shrimp at $13.99 and Two Six-Ounce Steaks at $14.99 are the highest-priced meals on the menu. Dinners are accompanied by your choice of homemade mashed potatoes, baked potato, vegetables, and homemade roll or homemade cornbread. Did I mention this stuff is homemade?! Café Jose offers specials on dinners, too, and Tuesday’s special-of-the-day—Pot Roast with all the trimmings—is melt-in-your-mouth good…

As if this isn’t enough, there’s also a separate Kiddy Menu for little folks age 10 and under with nothing over $4.00. Seniors receive a 10% discount off the regular menu.

Open every day of the week from 5:30a.m. till 10:00p.m., you’ll find Café Jose is rather crowded during mealtimes—many of the locals already love this place. If you prefer a quieter, less hectic atmosphere, try timing your meal a bit earlier or later than usual. You’ll find the service even more exceptional, the food will taste even better, and the price will seem even more reasonable when you can linger without feeling guilty… You might even take the time to try one of their tempting desserts!

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