We have an Arizona trip coming this Friday. It is mostly to visit family, a couple friends (hello, Bill LaBrie!), but there will also be time for Chuck and me to reconnect with each and visit some of his old stomping grounds from when he was a student at Arizona State.
When I tell people we are going on vacation to Arizona — especially this time of year when the miserable heat wave in San Diego has just broken — their first question is “Why?,” and it’s always in a snarky manner. It’s okay; they just don’t get it.
Arizona means something to me because it means something to Chuck. Although it brings us both joy to see his Mom, stepdad, sister and her family out there, it brings him more joy, as it is where he spent a good part of his youth; and he is joyful, it makes me happy.
Sure, it’s a rather long, boring road trip getting there; I am not a fan of the desert, but we’ll make the most of it. I’ll bring along a picnic that we can enjoy while driving; that way we will get to Phoenix sooner than if we had stopped somewhere.
We’re staying at a hotel right by ASU, and it’s in walking distance of all the great places we usually visit while there. School is in session, so we’ll fit right in with parents that may be visiting their college kids.
Chuck and I have been to Arizona together enough times to where we have, over time, developed a list of favorite restaurants, shops and sights that we have to experience each trip. One is a favorite restaurant in Scottsdale, Cowboy Ciao, where their signature dish is Exotic Mushroom Pan Fry: Mucho mushrooms (cremini, button, oyster, cepe, lobster, black trumpet, shiitake, morel, yellow foot) in ancho cream over double-cooked polenta, all topped with grilled portabellini, avocado, Roma tomato and cotija cheese. Cowboy Ciao is not only our Arizona favorite, but it is one of our top favorites anywhere. http://www.cowboyciao.com
The owners of Cowboy Ciao own a very cool wine bar, Kazimierz, next door. Very dark and comfortable, you enter the place off an alley. Their wine bible sports over 2000 listings. http://kazbar.net
Another favorite is House of Tricks, an indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar that was converted from several small cottages. Although we have had dinner there once, most of the time we simply enjoy having wine and appetizers at the pleasant outdoor bar. http://www.houseoftricks.com
One of my favorite shops, Two Plates Full, is located in Scottsdale. Since I am naturally wired for whimsy, plus a die-hard foodie and home décor enthusiast, this shop is a dream. Fun, artful kitchenware is always a huge draw for me; I have yet to leave this store empty-handed. They have switched locations numerous times, but wherever they are, we make a point to shop there every time we are in town. http://www.twoplatesfull.com
How cool to know that in less than 48 hours Chuck and I will be enjoying dinner somewhere near our hotel (we’re saving Cowboy Ciao for Saturday night), feeling the joys of our first night of vacation.
Of course when I say “cool,” that is not necessarily literally; Arizona can be very dry and hot; but with plenty of those misting devices lightly spraying us as we are out and about, it is all so doable, and yes, enjoyable.
I’m excited! Time to start packing.