From Desert to Dish in Scottsdale

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

What’s on your October travel list? I am putting this on my wish list! Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia is debuting the inaugural “Desert to Dish” culinary weekend, in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation taking place October 22 – 24, 2015, with proceeds benefiting the James Beard Foundation scholarship program. It’s a fabulous time of the year to be in Scottsdale.


The “Desert to Dish” culinary weekend was designed to bring together some of the country’s most talented chefs to highlight the bounty and diversity of Arizona agriculture, and will serve as the ultimate ‘foodie’ experience, while raising both awareness and funds for the James Beard Foundation through a series of consumer-facing events. Following the success of the popular “Fish to Fork” culinary weekend at Omni Scottsdale Resort’s  sister property, Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, “Desert to Dish” further enhances Omni Hotel & Resort’s commitment to creating memorable and unique culinary experiences for each guest.

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“When I first moved to Arizona I was amazed with the diversity, quality, and scope of agriculture the state has to offer,” said Paul Eckert, managing director. “The creation of ‘Desert to Dish’ helps share this message with fellow foodies around the country, while exposing culinarians from each location to the resources of Arizona.”

“Desert to Dish” festivities will offer guests a range of true farm-to-table culinary dining experiences including a tour of Arizona farms, interactive chef-led cooking classes, exclusive pairing dinners and one-of-a-kind interactive opportunities with six renowned chefs from across the country. The weekend is capped off with a live culinary competition featuring an indigenous secret ingredient, with the final vote resting in the hands of the guests.

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During the weekend Omni Scottsdale Resort’s Executive Chef Michael Cairns will welcome five regional chefs including: Executive Chef, Brandon Foster of award winning Vesta Dipping Grill in Denver, Colo; Joey Beatoof Chicago’s Community Tavern and Chicago Magazine’s pick for ‘Top 4 Chefs to Know; Dakota Weiss, former Top Chef Texas contestant, and Executive Chef of Sweetfin Poke in Santa Monica along with the soon-to-open Estrella on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip; Joe Magnanelli of San Diego’s CUCINA urbana & enoteca restaurants, awarded Gayot’s Hot 25 Restaurants in the U.S.; Eater Dallas’ Chef of the Year, Brian Luscher of award winning restaurant The Grape and Luscher’s Red Hots. Sounds amazing, right?

About Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

Ranked 6th on Travel + Leisure‘s 500 “Best U.S. Hotels List” in join Arizona and one of Condé Nast Traveler‘s “Best Spas” in 2014, Omni Scottsdale Resort is an exclusive oasis inspired by the exotic locales of Morocco and Andalusia in Southern Spain. Nestled at the base of picturesque Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the resort boasts 293 spacious guest rooms, including 38 luxury suites and two presidential suites, and award-winning culinary experiences including the critically-acclaimed Prado restaurant. Omni Scottsdale Resort’s crown jewel – Joya Spa is home to Scottsdale’s only Hammam treatment spa – a rejuvenating Moroccan-inspired hot and cold bathing ritual. Located just 15 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), the resort’s meeting facilities include more than 100,000 square-feet of modern luxury banquet and event space, including 27,000 square-feet of indoor meeting space, along with eight outdoor gardens, courtyards, and lawns perfect for conventions, board meetings and weddings.  A member of the Omni Hotels & Resorts portfolio, Omni Scottsdale Resort is a privately owned and debt-free legacy purchase. To get additional information or book accommodations, visit

Mango Heaven in Saint Lucia

Mango Margarita

Did you know that there are more than 24 different kinds of mangoes growing in Saint Lucia? And even better, they all will be ripe to eat in June which is why Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain have declared June the MONTH OF MANGO. Are you looking for a fabulous food festival in the most romantic settings in the world? Trust me I have been there!

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Guests staying at Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain Resorts will delight in the many mango based culinary activities and services offered during the month of June. Guests may partake in weekly mango tasting classes showcasing the varieties of mangoes available on the island of Saint Lucia. Together with the Chef de Cuisine, participate in the interactive classes to make mango chutney and mango jam.  Work with the resort’s mixologists to learn how to make the perfect Mango Martini, Mango Mojito and Mango Daiquiri, to name just a few. Then take the results of your mango experience home with you. How fun does this sound?

Sign up for a spectacular 6 course mango gourmet dinner and of course many of the dishes served during the month of June will have mango ingredients. In the spa, you will be able to experience mango body scrubs, wraps and massages. In the boutiques, find an exotic array of candles, soaps and other mango delights and souvenirs celebrating the Month of Mango.

The highlight is a visit to the resort’s organic Emerald’s Farm to see the mango trees and the great variety of other organic produce grown there. Learn when the mangoes are ripe to pick and then create your own mad mango recipe.

The month of mango culminates in our Mango Madness Festival which takes place from June 19 – 23, where you can meet the entire culinary team including the Mango King, Chef Allen Susser, named the National Mango Board spokesman and the author of the Great Mango Book.  The festival takes place both at Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet and includes activities such as a mango chutney work shop, mango cocktail party, mango tasting and demonstration, Mango Madness cooking class, the highlight being the “Night of 1000 Mangos” dinner at the Jade Mountain Club. Participants in the Mango Madness will join in mango field trips to the resort owned organic and historical plantations of Anse Mamin and Emerald Estates. The farewell event will include a Mango Champagne Brunch served on the beach at Anse Mamin.

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For more information

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Deconstructed Porterhouse at Fleming’s

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I love October and fall! Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has something truly special this month! Fleming’s is welcoming in Fall with their exclusive Deconstructed Porterhouse for two with roasted cauliflower and crispy potatoes, a limited time offer from October 15th to November 12th.  Guests can share a 28 ounce Porterhouse, and this experience can be paired with a choice of two cabernets: Taken, Cabernet blend, Napa Valley; and Raymond, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast (for an extra fee). How awesome does this sound? It’s on my radar for sure! The Deconstructed Porterhouse is not on the regular menu and is only available upon request.

Nationally acclaimed Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar offers the best in steakhouse dining – Prime meats and chops, fresh fish and poultry, generous salads and side orders — with a unique wine list known as the Fleming’s 100®, which features more than 100 wines served by the glass. In addition, the Fleming’s WiNEPAD™, winner of the 2013 Hospitality Technology Breakthrough Award, is a proprietary, custom web-based application on an iPad that helps Guests easily navigate the restaurant’s extensive wine list.

Wine and Food Pairing 101

Food and Wine Pairing

A simple guide to wine and food pairing

I am stepping out of my typical blog box today to write about food and wine. I used to write a wine column years ago for Southern Living Magazine, and I actually attended a Mastering wine class at the Culinary Institute in Greystone. I learned that being able to match up basic flavor combinations is a critical life skill, and can be applied to a variety of scenarios. Whether you’re ordering food in a restaurant, hosting a dinner party or pursuing a career in hospitality, it’s important to know how to create flavor fireworks with your favorite bottle of Chateuneuf du Pape or Chardonnay.


If you do plan on serving some proper fizz with your canapés, know the flavors that go well together. Go above and beyond the obvious and often inappropriately decadent choices of oysters and caviar.

Instead, achieve something more subtle by pairing a delicate stem glass of champagne with cucumber and crab canapés for a successful pre-dinner nibble that’s evocative of the sea froth, viewed from a windswept coastline.

White wine

Bright, sparky whites like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc zing through creamy sauces and elaborate on the zesty characteristics of dishes like lemon chicken, ceviche and salmon. A vegetarian tipple of choice, Chablis makes a cool partner to a salad or avocado-based starter. Desserts, on the other hand, will pair lovingly with a delicate, yet rich glass of sweet Moscato.


This dynamic mix tends to display the best of both worlds – the delicacy and fragrance of a good white, fortified by the substance and heart of a red. Dry rose contrasts well against creamy, rich cheese dishes like fondue. Try pairing with soufflé, carbonara or goat cheese salad for an unexpected treat. Berry dishes will sing out from the plate when partnered with a blushing Zinfandel, as will pork loin.

Red wine

Try something bold, rich and deliberate, there’s nothing like letting a darker wine loose on a well-seasoned cut of red meat. Anything with peppery characteristics: duck, steak and the like will tussle joyfully with a brooding glass of Syrah, while velvety Merlot should eke out the indulgence of any dark, chocolatey dishes. Light reds work a charm with meatier fish as an alternative to white; try Pinot Noir with salmon for a sophisticated coupling.

While there are certain, specific guidelines for pairing wine with food, the real joy of the exercise is in experimentation and discovery. Don’t be too rigid in your attitude, or feel that you have to adhere to a perceived rule of thumb. Being experimental is all part of the eccentricity of being a gourmand. Make your own discoveries, because at the end of the meal, it’s your palate that you’re trying to satisfy, and no two are the same.

Caymus Wine and Burgers at Fleming’s

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Do you love burgers and wine? If so, I have some great news! I went last week to Fleming’s and found something truly special and amazing! Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is offering a glass of 40th Anniversary Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon paired with its signature Prime Burger for only $25 available all night in the bar. Guests can now indulge in a glass of 40th Anniversary Caymus paired with Fleming’s Prime Burger topped with cheddar cheese, peppered bacon and served with double-cut French fries. The 40 year anniversary Caymus wine, from Napa Valley, is rich, luscious with a long-lasting finish. Paired with a Fleming’s burger is just too good to be true, and at this price,

Nationally acclaimed Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar offers fabulous steakhouse dining – Prime meats and chops, fresh fish and poultry, generous salads and side orders — with a unique wine list known as the Fleming’s 100®, which features more than 100 wines served by the glass. In addition, the Fleming’s WiNEPAD™, winner of the 2013 Hospitality Technology Breakthrough Award, is a proprietary, custom web-based application on an iPad that helps Guests easily navigate the restaurant’s extensive wine list.

Italy Bound: Marche Region

Today is Sunday, and I am off to Milan and then the Marche Region of Italy. This is a picture of the sea of the Regional park of Monte Conero, where I will be staying for several days. It is considered one of the best views in the adriatic sea. Follow my site this week for more updates. First stop Milan.