Travel Tips & Adventures

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Friday Favorite: Scottsdale Food

When you are traveling – well, you gotta eat!  Where you’d like to eat is obviously determined by diet, preferences, and budget.

Scottsdale has every imaginable food opportunity in both chain and unique restaurants.  Today, we’ll feature two unique restaurants catering to two different culinary inspirations.

First, Cowboy Ciao…

Named whimsically because the “ciao” is not like the chow the cowboys ate by any means, Cowboy Ciao is a unique restaurant that offers your taste buds a chance to luxuriate in really fabulous food.  We’ve eaten at Cowboy Ciao twice.  With all of the many restaurants in Phoenix and Scottsdale, the fact that I had to go back tells you something.

The décor is funky, the vibe is welcoming (Eric greeted us most graciously) and the food is creative, eye-appealing and delectable.  On my first visit, I tried their signature mushroom dish, which can be either an appetizer or a main dish.  If I could just eat their mushroom dish at least once a week, I think I’d be happy for life!

Funky decor adds zip to Cowboy Ciaos dining experience

Funky decor adds zip to Cowboy Ciao's dining experience

Seriously, the mixture of many mushrooms served in a rich ancho cream sauce is just so delicious – well, I’m hooked!  The mushrooms are served over polenta and it is a richness of taste, texture and flavor.  On top, a grilled Portobello makes it perfect with pieces of avocado for color and additional richness.

We also tried their “Stetson chopped,” a salad that comes with striped segments of smoked salmon, couscous, arugula, pesto buttermilk dressing and other amazing touches.  With Sylvia offering to mix the ingredients at our table, we figured we’d see what the salad was supposed to be like.  As we shared the dish, my husband and I were careful to take turns not to be greedy.  Flavor, crunchy, sweet, tangy – I guess I could make a meal out of the salad as well.

My husband ordered a Wagyu beef burger – that special, lean beef cultivated in Japan.  His grilled burger was served on a knotted challah roll, buttered lightly on the inside.  The flavors were just right and cooked medium rare, just as they promised.

Peanut butter brownie liked youve never tasted!

Peanut butter brownie liked you've never tasted!

The artistry with food continued to dessert.  They have recently updated their dessert choices and the chocolate chip cookies with bacon I was excited to try were not available.  Instead, we shared a rich peanut butter brownie.  It was not just a plain peanut butter brownie, but complex with layers including a crunchy chocolate layer on top.  The base reminded me more of cheesecake with a light peanut taste and the ice cream on the side had a slight hint of banana with bourbon and chocolate sauce. Plus, they added a rich, chocolate peanut butter truffle on top.  They may use these same flavors (except for bananas and bourbon) in Reese’s pieces, but for sheer sweetness and creativity, you can’t top this dessert. –

Unless, of course, you try one of their other inventive desserts like their “Breakfast of Champions” (frosted flake ice cream with amaretto caramel and candied smoked almonds), or Bread Pudding that I imagine has nothing in common with the heavy bread puddings most restaurants serve.  (There’s a brioche at its center with dried cherries, craisins, pine nuts and a compote of more on top with praline sauce.)

Uniqueness extends to the restrooms – men’s being “Dino,” women’s named “Gina” – I had to ask.  The mural in the restroom stopped me in my tracks – I had to run back for my camera.

Mural in Gina - the restroom

Mural in "Gina" - the restroom

So, given any restaurant to return to, you can see why it had to be Cowboy Ciao.  Is this an endorsement?  Absolutely!

We went early at Sunday lunch hour and it was almost empty, but evenings really hop. See the recipe they were kind enough to share for the Stetson Salad at the end of this column.


It may not be easy being Green, but the restaurant does a great job and is the answer to where to go if you’re trying to avoid meat and actually eat something other than just the one choice on a menu that most restaurants offer. (Whew, that was a long sentence!)

Green is in a non-descript strip mall on Scottsdale Road.  The décor is hippy-modern with old car doors lining one wall, an inspirational message spanning two walls and utilitarian décor plus a couch for seating.

You order at the counter and the staff brings your food to you.  And, what great food!  Knowing that there is no meat is almost superfluous.  Everything tastes great and is not really imitations of “real food,” it is great food in its own right.

Starting with samosas, little triangles of flaky pastry with vegetables inside, I definitely wanted to eat more.  We also tried “crab” cheese puffs that were properly crunch with creamy “cheese” inside.  Great start!

Then, on to barbecued “chicken” that had the right degree of chewy with a sweet barbecue sauce including onions -rich, filling and good even off the bread.  (I was avoiding carbs and they even have gluten free offerings for those who have that need.)

We also had a “meatball” sandwich, which had a light saucy “cheese” on top.  You could not tell that they were not made with meat.

Of the menu items we tried, my favorite was the samosas, that weren’t trying to be anything except what they were.  They were great and the other menu offerings sounded really good from rice dishes to pasta, po’boys and more.

The staff are ingratiating and offer real smiles and don’t condescend to newcomers who don’t understand the offerings.  They’ll explain and adapt things to your likes (no bread, no peppers, no problem).

The “New American Vegetarian” food works.  So, if you’re in the neighborhood, give it a try!  They’re open Monday-Saturday, 11:00 AM-9:00 PM.


courtesy of Cowboy Ciao


Israeli or “pearl” couscous (cooked) – 2 oz.

Arugula – chopped – 2 oz.

Roma tomatoes – diced – 2 oz

Smoked salmon – chopped small – 1 ½ oz.

Asiago cheese – ½ oz.

Pepitas – ½ oz.

Black currants – ½ oz.

Super sweet dried corn – 1 oz.

Pesto Buttermilk dressing

Pesto – ½ cup

Shallot- rough chop – 1

Aioli – 1 cup

Buttermilk – 1 cup

Coarse black pepper – 1/2 tsp

½ lemon, juice only

Salt & Pepper to taste

To make pesto dressing : Add first three ingredients to food processer and blend thoroughly. Keep motor running and add remaining pesto dressing ingredients to combine. Store in refrigerator.

Serve by making stripes of the solid salad ingredients on a plate. Offer the dressing to pour over to taste.  Mix all of the ingredients.

NEXT WEEK: Tucson!

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