As a professional golfer, the owner of Curvature Wines and an investor in Double Cross Vodka, Cristie Kerr constantly travels all over the globe. Kerr share her journeys, wine expertise and more with Forbes Travel Guide in a new monthly column. This is her second installment.
This month, the LPGA Tour returns to the U.S. for a good stretch, and I get to play a rare “home game” in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the JTBC Founders Cup. I spend the winter months in Scottsdale because I fell in love with the area during frequent visits for golf. I adore the Western flair, unique culinary experiences, arts, sports and weather in the area. Scottsdale is a top tourist destination for these reasons, and it’s also a great travel hub for a person on the go, providing easy access to the Western half of the U.S. all the way to Hawaii.
Scottsdale is basically four areas, Old Town, North Scottsdale, South Scottsdale and the Shea Corridor/Central. The city is also surrounded by one-of-a-kind towns such as Carefree, Cave Creek, Tempe and Paradise Valley that are easily accessible by residents and visitors. The region hosts some of the most iconic events in the automobile industry (Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction), golf (the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open) and baseball (MLB’s spring Cactus League). Plus, the area is a recurring host for the Super Bowl, with the next one coming in 2015.
Here’s a closer look at two of my favorite parts of Scottsdale:
Where To Stay: The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Birdies: This Waldorf property is an oasis in the Sonoran Desert. It’s not centrally located in Scottsdale, but once you are here, you won’t want to leave. The natural beauty of the high desert is jaw dropping, and the amenities at The Boulders are first rate. The spa here is my personal fave. I come here to recharge with a full-day spa package, including a massage, facial and mani-pedi. The rooms are spacious and well appointed, and the service is polished yet friendly. There are also plenty of activities, including world-class golf (36 holes), tennis, hiking and hot-air ballooning.
What To Do: Shop
Birdies: Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter offer great indoor and outdoor shopping with plenty of boutiques (Lather, Peek) and national chains (Sur La Table). Cave Creek is a unique village next to North Scottsdale where you can find everything from Western antiques to custom cowboy boots.
Where To Eat: Binkley’s Restaurant
Birdies: Chef Kevin Binkley’s first venture following his training at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The French Laundry is a masterful display of Arizona charm and a foodie’s dream. The experience should not be missed. The six-course tasting menu for under $100 is a terrific choice. The wine pairing costs an additional $50. The menu changes constantly, which keeps us coming back. The surprises that come to your table aren’t bad, either. One pre-dinner cocktail had a haunted-house-like mist inside. It proved to be nothing but dry ice, but it looked unbelievable.
The strawberry and arugula salad with chèvre and candied cornbread croutons, the black truffle pork belly with quince turnip puree and black cod with toasted Israeli couscous are my favorite dishes at Binkley’s. I like pairing my meals here with Ramey Russian River 2011 chardonnay from Platt Vineyard. What I like about Ramey is its burgundian-style treatment of chardonnay — while the wine has an oakiness, it maintains great balance and acidity to pair well with a pork dish or a fish like cod.
Bonus Tip: Go to Harold’s Cave Creek Corral for a nightcap. On a busy Friday or Saturday night, be prepared for line dancing and cowboy hats. You’ll feel like one of the locals.
Where To Stay: The Phoenician
Birdies: This Four-Star hotel is centrally located and has all the top amenities, including golf and great dining experiences. Staff here is very well trained. This is a go-to hotel of my friends and family when they’re in town. With nine different pools, a kids club and fantastic restaurants — Il Terrazzo is a must — this is a great choice for an upscale retreat.
What To Do: Scottsdale ArtWalk
Birdies: Old Town is home to Scottsdale ArtWalk, a terrific art event held every Thursday during prime fall or spring season. A great walking spot, Old Town has a terrific selection of art shops and stores open late on Thursdays for you to enjoy. Grab a glass of wine and meander through the wide selection of galleries. My pick is The Legacy Gallery, where I have collected some terrific Southwest art from John Nieto, Jim Norton and Duke Beardsley.
Where To Eat: Cowboy Ciao
Birdies: No visit to Scottsdale is complete without a pit stop at this Old Town staple. Friendly service, a terrific menu featuring hearty cowboy fare with flair, and the biggest and most unusual wine list I have ever seen make this my favorite haunt. An absolute must-try is the Stetson chopped salad. It usually comes with salmon, but I choose the avocado or chicken supplement. The salad also includes couscous, dried corn, Asiago cheese, pumpkin seeds, currants, tomatoes, arugula and homemade buttermilk dressing. I order one extra to take home. After that, I get the Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry, an array of nine different mushrooms (like cremini, oyster and shiitake) served over polenta and topped with avocado, tomato and Cotija cheese.
I pair my Cowboy Ciao dishes with Turley zinfandel from Dragon Vineyard. Turley zins go pretty well with everything. The wines are so well structured and balanced with fruit and earth, crafted with an expert touch. Paired with mushrooms, game or hearty salads, they help create a great dining experience.
Bonus Tip: Cowboy Ciao has a speakeasy wine bar called Kazimierz around back — it’s hard to find, like a good speakeasy should be. Wine flights, snacks and live music in a lounge atmosphere are a perfect finish to a night. There is no name on the door, but it says, “The truth is inside.” More honest words have never been uttered.
Photos Courtesy of The Phoenician and The Boulders