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How Arizona resorts are capitalizing on culinary to boost business

Litchfield’s at The Wigwam Resort is an Arizona icon. (Photo courtesy of Wigwam Resort)

Alison Bailin Batz contributing from AZ Big Media

How Arizona resorts are capitalizing on culinary to boost business

It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That statement is not entirely accurate.

The way to both men and women’s hearts is through their stomachs. 


Ranking Arizona: Top 10 resorts for 2023


Food makes all of us swoon, and smart hotels and resorts across Arizona are well aware. As such, many work tirelessly to continuously amplify the epicurean options on property for visitors, both tourists and locals alike. Here are some that continuously raise the bar when it comes to all things epicurean onsite: 

We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort

We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort has an absolute dream team leading its food and beverage program, especially at its signature fine dining offering, Ember. Together, executive director of food and beverage Zac Gallo, Advanced Certified Sommelier Dennis Payne, general manager Brent Rumph, and – of course – executive chef Richard Pelz have elevated Ember to a perennial culinary award darling. Pelz was a major win for the venue as it prepared to open despite the pandemic. The gourmand god brought experience from a laundry list of the world’s top eateries including New York Times Four-Star La Grenouille; Louie XV in Monte Carlo, where he worked with Alain Ducasse; Martin Berasategui, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in San Sebastian; Citrine West Hollywood; and both Bottega and Redd in Napa. Pelz is always playing with the menu to guests’ delight but has quickly become known for fork-tender USDA Prime and Angus Wagyu beef as well as game and seafood from around the world. Visually, the buzzy space matches the impressive food and drink on the table with ample kitchen views and outdoor dining with one of the dreamiest fireplace set-ups in town. A separate piano lounge with live entertainment five nights a week adds to the dynamic vibe.

Information: www.wekopacasinoresort.com 

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess 

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is out to get every Arizona visitor and local alike to be regulars at its epic, expansive list of eateries and bars. And there are a lot! First, there is Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina, an Egyptian-born celebrity chef who is a magician of flavors. The team members at his Scottsdale namesake? Just as impressive, especially the Alaska-born seafood and steak maven chef Sara Garrant, long-time and award-winning general manager Andrew McLaughlin, wine director Maki Pottenger, and bar manager – not to mention two-time open heart surgery survivor – Kenny Hansen. They are masters at making unforgettable evenings that tickle and titillate all of the senses. Given its name, it should go without saying that the steak offerings will rock your world. However, dig a little deeper into the menu when there is a chance to explore the other delicacies, including a lobster-filled pot pie and savory caviar doughnuts. 

Beyond Bourbon Steak, there are three other central eateries on property in La Hacienda, one of the best modern Mexican restaurants in the Southwest, and Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar, both by Richard Sandoval, and Ironwood American Kitchen, one of the most underrated all-day dining experiences in town. This is in addition to the marvelous and glowing outdoor Plaza Bar, a focal point of the resort’s mixology operations during special events in town such as the WM Phoenix Open, and the pop-ups that the resort’s culinary team dreams up seasonally for the resort, especially during Christmas at the Princess and Summer at the Princess.

Information: www.scottsdaleprincess.com 

The Phoenician 

J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician offers a sophisticated menu of steakhouse classics, all masterfully executed by Executive Chef Jacques Qualin. Nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain and now with all-new interiors crafted by the lauded Parker Torres Design, J&G pairs award-winning premium meats and a global selection of seafood with the finest local ingredients and worldly spices. The restaurant’s spacious glass windows provide a magnificent view of the surrounding palm trees and offer an ideal vantage point for enjoying the spectacular sunset. A bonus: its mixology staff is some of the most talented in the Southwest. 

In addition to J&G, The Phoenician also boasts Mowry & Cotton, a laid-back eatery known for its bold flavors and welcoming social atmosphere, and Thirsty Camel, which overlooks the Valley from on high while offering cutting-edge and classic cocktails paired with elevated snacks and small plates and seasonally offers up its prime locale to host high tea service.

Information: www.thephoenician.com 

The Tavern Hotel 

The Jurisin family has been a driving force in transforming Cottonwood and from sleepy town to culinary mecca, using The Tavern Hotel as its anchor. However, given the Jurisins have two chefs in the family, they go far beyond just the traditional on-premises culinary offerings. The sneaky amazing penthouse of the hotel sits atop one of their signature restaurants – aptly named Tavern Grill – and serves elevated comfort classics. Upon check-in at the hotel, every single guest is given a postcard for a free cocktail of their choosing to encourage at least one visit to the Grill. All guests who stay at the boutique hotel also enjoy discounted rates to enjoy Crèma Craft Kitchen for brunch, which is 20 steps from the hotel’s front door with cheery umbrellas of every color dotting the ample patio and a vibrant orange bar made from reclaimed shipping containers serving as a daring focal point and gathering area.  

And that just scratches the surface. The Jurisins also own, operate, and craft the menus for Nic’s Italian Crab & Steakhouse – the first authentic Italian steakhouse in northern Arizona – Pizzeria Bocce, and STRADA at Bocce, each similarly less than 100 yards from The Tavern Hotel on a pedestrian street. Depending on the season, there are a host of culinary packages offered to stay, play, and dine across them all.

Information: www.thetavernhotel.com 

LON’s serves globally inspired Arizona fare. (Photo courtesy of Hermosa Inn)

The Hermosa Inn

Named Arizona’s #1 Resort Hotel in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Awards, the AAA Four Diamond Hermosa Inn is a jewel of a hideaway surrounded by an exclusive neighborhood in Paradise Valley. While there are many otherworldly wonders throughout the resort, LON’s – its signature restaurant – is a highlight. Honored by Food & Wine magazine as Arizona’s Most Romantic Restaurant, LON’s serves globally inspired Arizona fare. A recipient of Wine Spectator’s ‘Best of Award of Excellence’, the restaurant is complemented by a subterranean wine cellar, a celebrated outdoor dining patio, and its bar and casual dining counterpart, LON’s Last Drop, named after one of Megargee’s iconic paintings, many of which are displayed throughout the resort.

Information: www.hermosainn.com 

Hotel Valley Ho

Every bite and sip at Hotel Valley Ho’s ZuZu is crafted to evoke magical, meaningful feelings through its flavors. LaCasce, a 25-year industry veteran and proud father of three despite his youthful appearance, joined Hotel Valley Ho as executive chef in early 2017, overseeing all culinary operations for the hotel, including the pools, in-room dining, banquets, catering and – of course ZuZu. LaCasce is joined in the kitchen by food titans, each working hand in hand to put out some of the best food in Arizona. Among his culinary colleagues are Argentinian natives Maria Arenas and Alejo Candia, whose stories and food – both individually and together as they have been married for five years – are just as colorful. The team melds together brilliantly, especially when hosting one of its many special events, which range from sip and shop programs to interactive wine, beer, and cocktail dinners.

Information: www.hotelvalleyho.com 

The Wigwam

Litchfield’s at The Wigwam Resort is an Arizona icon, boasting a casual-yet-classy aesthetic with authentic historic Arizona accents and ingredients proudly sourced from the abundant local farming community. Given its name, it is no surprise that it is located in Litchfield Park. However, the eatery is not named after the town. In fact, both the community and the restaurant pay homage to Paul W. Litchfield, the first chief executive officer of Goodyear Tire & Rubber who founded the town in 1917. As much an inventor as an executive, under his leadership the company produced the first practical airplane tire, long-haul conveyor belts, hydraulic disc brakes for airplanes, and more. Litchfield’s is just as innovative as its namesake, albeit with ingredients and flavors versus tires and rubber. The menu is led by executive chef Christopher McLean, a veteran of the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, Mclean was the first-ever chef and sommelier to do wine-and-food pairings at the Presidential Palace in Ghana during his role as Executive Chef of Golden Tulip Accra in Ghana, West Africa and served as special events chef for the President of Ghana, where he created events for royalty and heads of state, from the Queen of Sheba to the Prime Minister of Italy, on a weekly basis. He also coached the first-ever Ghanaian National Culinary Team and worked as chef for the Lone Ranger movie while working in Santa Fe, where he served the cast and crew including Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer.

Information: www.wigwamarizona.com 

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