More Phoenix foodie adventures. My second night in town, my boss left and my clients had other obligations. Initially i planned on ordering room service and getting a jump start on contact reports and meeting recaps.

Then my clients did something really sweet. They put together a list of good restaurants, appropriate for a party of one and within walking distance from my hotel. I was really touched. After that gesture i would have felt like a jerk sitting in the hotel.

Enter Pizzeria Bianco. It was less than ten minutes from my hotel and gorgeous. It’s a tiny, one room restaurant with wood burning oven that takes up at least 1/4 of the place.

I sat at the bar, mixed in with a group of people who were clearly regulars. They didn’t welcome me with open arms but they also didn’t stare at me for eating by myself.

Since Pizzeria Bianco is known for pizza, and i love pizza, i took the plunge. This is the Sonny Boy, a personal favorite of the bartender. It was delicious with the right combination of sauce and cheese. The Sonny Boy is incredibly salty but that’s why i picked it.

Maybe this wasn’t the best pizza ever, but it was pretty damn good. And that’s why i’ll be going back the next time i am in Phoenix.

Who knew Phoenix was for food lovers?

People have this concept of business travel that is just, well it’s off the mark. All my friends think i bunk at the Four Seasons and take my clients to the hottest clubs and restaurants everywhere i go. Wrong.

Most of time, i am lucky to see anything other than a conference room. This past week I was in Phoenix and i was lucky. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Having never been to Phoenix I had no idea it was a such an oasis for foodies.

The first night of my trip we went to the Tuck Shop. They feature “neighborhood comfort food” in a tiny, relaxed location. Sadly, our waiter was not very knowledgeable about wine. While avoided the bad recommendation, we didn’t trust him to offer credible advice on the menu.

For starters we shared Shrimp & Okra and the Nosh Plate. I have a sensitive gag reflex and textured food, like Okra, can be a challenge. Since i was in the company of clients (and my boss, hello!!) i figured i could have a “no thank you” portion. Boy was i wrong. It was incredible! Both the Shrimp and Okra were very lightly battered, perfectly cooked and delicious. The Nosh Plate was a standard selection of cheeses, meats so no point in blabbing on and on.

We selected the Finger Sandwiches and the Times Mac and Cheese for our smaller plates course. We ditched the lobster on the Mac and Cheese. Being from New England, if the lobster didn’t come out of the ocean that day it’s just not worth it. Finally, we finished our meal with Vovo’s favorite which was fish and chips the night i was there. We also had the red beans and rice.

Really we could have stopped after the smaller plates. The portions we well sized and easy for sharing. The bite of the Fish and Chips i tried was great. Similar to the Shrimp and Okra, the chef clearly knows how to cook fish. My colleagues didn’t like the Rice and Beans. The consistency was not what they expected and accompanying meats were not cut and mixed with the rice and beans. I can’t comment because at this point i was stuffed and stopped eating.

This was my first trip to Phoenix and dinner here was a great way to end a day of meetings. The prices were reasonable and the food was quite good. Check the Tuck Shop out on the web: http://www.tuckinphx.com/

If you go, be sure to try the specialty cocktails!

My Heart Is At the Hotel Monaco

The Hotel Monaco in Chicago is officially my favorite hotel. I am usually loyal to a different hotel chain but today, I am rethinking my loyalty.

Let’s start with the staff. At check-in there was a mix-up and my reservation had been cancelled. The problem was 100% my fault but the hotel graciously fixed it and got me into a room ASAP. The woman at reception was shockingly pleasant throughout the experience.

One day during my trip, it was raining. Silly me, I forgot to pack an umbrella. Viola: the bellman immediately handed me an umbrella.

At check-out, I had to mail two packages back to my office. The bellman went and got the FedEx shipping forms, helped fill them out and then shipped my packages as promised. They arrived at my office the next day. This may sound silly. I assure you, I have waited up to a week for other hotels to return meeting materials to me.

The rooms were modern and spacious. The upolstry was clean and the furniture was clean. As in so clean, I was not grossed out putting my feet on the carpet. The beds were ridiculously comfortable. The bedding was also good quality and had not been over washed. If you don’t travel much, this may sound trite. But, overwashing linens makes them tough and the fabric becomes abrasive. Even the towels were a good quality: clean and soft. It was very clear the Hotel Monaco spends money maintaining linens and furniture so the rooms always look great.

Another wonderful surprise about the hotel: they offer free coffee and tea each morning. In the evening, they offer wine in the lobby.

South Water Kitchen also doubles as the hotels restaurant. I ate the restaurant and found its great reputation was well deserved. The room service was also fantastic. The kitchen even called to make sure the meal was to my liking.

All these things made a welcome difference in my stay. This doesn’t surprise me because I often tell clients ‘it’s the little things’ that create loyalty.

The next time I am in Chicago, you will find me at the Hotel Monaco. Now, if only I can find time to hit the Mag Mile for some shopping…

Places I never thought I would be…

…The NY Auto Show has to be pretty high on the list. And yet, that’s where i was today. Another adventure brought to me by a client. In no way am i complaining. To me, everything is an adventure and this was just another one.

I like cars but seeing people wave feather dusters over the new models just cracks me up. Obviously i am not exactly the target audience for this kind of thing.

“What are you doing for your birthday?”

I had a birthday last month and on my birthday everyone kept asking me what my exciting weekend plans were. To which I said, “my boss is sending me to Florida.”

Get your mind out of the gutter, this is not sexual. And, erase those mean thoughts. I had to go to a conference but since it was in Coconut Grove I thought it was a great birthday weekend.

When I had free time, the weather was great and the sun was shining. The conference was at the Hyatt Regency in Coconut Point, it was gorgeous. The water fall was beautiful, made me feel like I was visiting another country.

I can’t say I would or would not stay there if I was leisure traveling. For business travel the hotel was clean, had good sundries and the food was pretty good. The spa, which I never use for business travel, was terrific. The staff was friendly and paid careful attention to their work, creating a very relaxing environment. It was a great birthday present to myself. (Hence the only reason I did it.) If you want to check it out, the hotel can be found on the Hyatt website or with this link: http://coconutpoint.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/index.jsp?null

This post is not an endorsement, just a recap of my work travels.