An elegant chandelier sparkles above Amaro Italiano Ristorante open kitchen, but it’s rarely the first thing that guests notice. They are too engrossed by Pizza Chef's delicate dance as he flings discs of pizza dough high into the air, careful not to get them caught in the chandelier’s net of crystal beads. The culinary team pull their own mozzarella and top their Neapolitan pizzas with such creative ingredients as shoestring onions, oven-roasted artichoke hearts, and shaved ham. Pizza is hardly their only specialty, however. Their dishes run the gamut from house-made pastas to a bone-in pork chop with a Dijon and mustard glaze. 70 wines complement the complex Italian flavors, as do the artworks on the dining room’s walls and live musicians who have strung their guitars with resonant spaghetti al dente.
Stabilized by a protective layer of sticky rice, raw fish explodes in a shockwave of flavor when exposed to munching mouth-bone agitation. Sushi, cooked fish, and beef entrees frolic along with the creative appetizers, salads, and udon and soba noodles on Ebisu’s menu. Start with garlic soy edamame ($5), Ebisu ribs ($8), or a squid salad ($7) before entangling taste buds in a web of nabeyaki udon noodles with shiitake mushrooms, green onions, eggs, konnyaku, cabbage, fishcake, and shrimp tempura ($12). Main courses include the Ebisu sushi platter, served with seven nigiri sushi rolls, one special roll, and miso soup ($20), and kombu-grilled salmon with miso cream sauce ($17).
Amid the saguaro cactus and abundant foliage, Michelle McVey operates the Desert Palms Equestrian Center facility with a deep passion for horseback riding, a hobby and career that began when she was five years old. Michelle and her team specialize in showing every level of rider proper saddle technique, as she’s coached students ranging from first-timers to Triple Crown winners. Inside two large outdoor arenas, private lessons focus on the student’s goals, whether that’s to have vigorous exercise or to simply learn the basics. Additionally, the center holds camps throughout the year, allowing kids to get a more in-depth experience with horse riding. During these camps, students ride twice daily, and receive education on horse care, tack components, and equine physiology.
Although tumbleweeds don't breeze down its street and there's no hitching post on which to secure your horse, Brix Wine Spot swaps the valley for the Old West while helping visitors earn their sommelier spurs. A 20-foot copper bar corrals patrons as they stampede through the door, surrounding them with country tunes and over 500 of the bar's vintages.
Weekly tastings introduce palates to new bouquets, and every day a minimum of 18 wines are available by the glass, each served at an optimal temperature and right after naptime to ensure cooperation. When stomachs begin to rumble, guests can snack on artisan cheeses, salami platters, and handcrafted cheesecakes, or even bring in their own food—a practice Brix encourages as long as a glass of one of their wines is incorporated.
For the location of the first Dillon's, Rich Dillon and George Valverde chose a 1940s Thunderbird Road structure that a writer for the Phoenix New Times described as "a cute, converted old house that looks like grandma's parlor." Since then, they've opened four more eateries in locations that are as appealing as the signature flame-kissed and slow-smoked meats served inside. Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium's shark tank flanks the dining room of Dillon's at the Wildlife World Zoo, and the boat-accessible Scorpion Bay location opens onto the waters of Lake Pleasant so that diners can chortle as fish attempt to develop democracy. Live music and karaoke lend additional social vibes to the smokehouses.
Kaleidoscoops Ice Cream churns out just about every ice-cream-based treat you can imagine. Cakes, cones, splits, and sundaes all make use of gourmet ice cream sourced from a maker with more than 50 years of experience. A dizzying array of flavors includes staples such as rocky road and butter pecan alongside more innovate varieties such as spumoni—a mixture of cherry, chocolate, and pistachio—and Blue Moon, a signature flavor with a bright blue color and the ability to attract werewolves from miles away.