Archive for January, 2012
Rating: Frugal ♥♥♥ Romance ♥♥♥♥♥
For romance, sweethearts in the know go to The House at Secret Garden. Like stage curtains, the twinkle lights at the street entrance set a charming stage. Frug buzzed us round the grand drive that circles the fountain a couple of times so that I could view the enchanting Spanish-style mansion. We parked in the back and entered through the dining room which was packed with people enjoying the elegant indoor dining atmosphere.
Happy Hour service (M–F, 5-7 pm) is available at the intimate bar also at the garden-patio. All of my romantic senses were engaged as we passed through the glass doors into the beautiful garden setting complete with a pond and shade trees laced with lights. Our candlelit table was under a stately orchid tree, next to the roaring fireplace. An additional heater added to the coziness. A wonderful cloud of relaxation, laughter, and romance hovered over us.
From the happy hour menu, Frug ordered the Bacon Cheese Burger which was served on a toasted, brioche roll. It was topped with melted white cheddar cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. A heaping pile of sweet potato chips filled the plate. I had the Bowl of Mussels with Grilled Bread. The mussels were steamed in white wine and topped with heirloom cherry tomatoes, fennel, basil, frond pesto and shallots. The bread was nicely charred. The generous, happy hour portions left us nicely satisfied. Coffee topped off the meal.
I wish that I could have seen inside the adorable barn where special events are hosted such as Blues in the Barn on the first Tuesday of every month and Big Band in the Barn (see monthly calendar) with dining and dancing on the patio, by reservation. The House at Secret Garden in Phoenix is a must-experience destination for a special occassion splurge or a frugal visit for lunch, happy hour or coffee and dessert. We exited by following the path that meanders through the beautiful gardens.
It was a wonderful happy and romantic hour!
The Frugal Breakdown - $30.31 = The check, sales tax and 18% gratuity.
Rating: Frugal ♥ Romance ♥♥
Besides the personal improvement resolutions that I made for the new year, I also resolved that I will patronize each of the Tutti Santi’s in the valley in 2012. Yes, I am aware that it is a purely self-indulgent assignment, but I have always wondered which of the Tutti’s is the most romantic and the most delicious. My sentiments lie with the Scottsdale-Kierland location, but I am determined to have an open mind.
At the Mesa Tutti Santi, we were greeted by a friendly gentleman who checked in on us throughout the evening. We ordered our favorites, the Spaghetti Bolognese and Spaghetti Romantica with Shrimp. The sausage option for the Bolognese was not offered. A basket filled with a generous portion of bread pieces and whipped herb butter was delivered to our table along with a glass of red wine. The simple salads were served with a tasty vinaigrette. The plates of pasta did not disappoint. The familiar, authentic, rich, Tutti Santi flavors are flowing from the kitchen in Mesa. So delicious!
All of us diners were seated in one section of the restaurant. I would have appreciated some seclusion to allow for intimate conversation, but I forgot to request a romantic table. The lighting is dim, and the Italian music adds nicely to the experience. The service was decent but not as polished or as warm as at the Tutti Scottsdale location. Missing from our evening was candlelight and the end of meal, complimentary flaming shots of sambuca that we usually enjoy at the Scottsdale location. I believe that take-out is available.
The Frugal Breakdown:
$57.46 The check, including sales tax, and 20% gratuity.
Uppdate: The Mesa location is closed.
Rating: Frugal ♥♥ Romance ♥♥♥
My first day of 2012 included a pleasant drive to Paradise Valley with my Frug. We went for Sunday brunch at El Chorro Lodge, where it was extremely busy, and I was glad that we had reservations. Our seats were near a fireplace on the patio where we had a wonderful view of the stunning desert and mountains that surrounded us. The sun warmed my face through a crack between the many overhead umbrellas. After the busyness of the holidays, I was so grateful for the gorgeous Arizona day and the ultra-relaxing atmosphere.
Along with our coffee we enjoyed a basket of complimentary and incredibly delicious sticky buns. Our two egg breakfasts were prepared nicely. The apple wood smoked bacon was especially tasty. The service was great. It was the perfect setting for our treasured annual New Year’s discussion.
When we return it will be to enjoy the sunset during dinner (or happy hour) and the sinfully, scrumptious sticky buns out under the starry sky. I expect that the romance factor will increase to at least ♥♥♥♥.
The Frugal Breakdown:
$46.11- The check, including sales tax and 20% gratuity.