My trip to Arizona was furnished by Visit Mesa. As always, all opinions are my own.
I learned a lot during my trip to Arizona. Let’s start from the beginning.
My flight out of Tampa was set to board at 6:30AM. So, with the intention of giving myself plenty of time to get settled, and to avoid any mishaps that have the probability of occurring during travel, my parents and I left the house around 4:15-4:30AM. Key: we live about 40-45 minutes from the airport.
We arrived, I got my boarding pass (although I’d had it on my phone, again, trying to be careful), and we went to get some coffee at Starbucks. I purchased my doppio espresso, and we sat down on the couches near the shuttle that would soon take me to my gate.
My father asked me a question that resulted in me needing to pull my wallet out. As soon as I turned my head toward my backpack to retrieve it, a look of horror caused my face to transform to a pallid, colorless hue. “WHAT.” my father exclaimed, knowing exactly what my response would be.
“I left my wallet at home.” I responded with reluctance.
I’ll let your imaginations decide what his reaction was. Hint: he wasn’t happy.
Leaving my mother and I behind, he immediately left to go retrieve said wallet from the house, 31 miles away. Oh, and I had an hour left before I was to board my plane.
To make a long, overly dramatic story short, my dad, mom and I should probably be competing on an Olympic relay team because I’ve never seen a hand-off so perfectly executed. I made it onto the shuttle, through security, and to my gate, just in time.
What a way to kick off what was about to be a trip entirely focused on health and well-being, eh?
Lesson: If you remove your wallet from your already-packed bag and put it into another purse so you can go get snacks the night before a trip, set an alarm on your phone to put your wallet back into your other bag. Better yet, get snacks at least two days before.
Back to your regularly scheduled program.
The theme for this press trip was ‘Travel Well: Fitness and Focus in the Desert’. Amongst the stress and anxiety I am enveloped by on a daily basis, a trip with a focus on focus was a much-needed prescription.
While in Phoenix, we stayed at the beautiful Phoenician resort. A stunning, tranquil oasis made for wellness junkies who are looking for the ultimate relaxation vacation. We arrived, and I pinched myself.
Now, when one enters a desert climate like Arizona, the last thing you think that would be ubiquitous would be farms flourishing with fresh, organic produce. Well, for someone who knows very little about agriculture, at least that’s what I imagined.
Lesson: Arizona is booming with agriculture. Namely, oranges, lemons, apples, pecans, and lettuce. Vegetables are one of Arizona’s top agricultural exports.
True Food Kitchen
Our first stop was True Food Kitchen.
A rustic yet modern restaurant with a focus on nourishing, local ingredients. You’ll see that as a trend in Arizona. True Food is a chain restaurant now, but its flagship location is in Phoenix, where we were lucky enough to dine for lunch. We started off with our choice of a ‘Natural Refresher’: house-made, natural tonics. I ordered the ‘Hangover RX’ and immediately announced to the group that I was not, in fact, hungover.
Hangover RX: coconut water, pineapple, vanilla and orange.
We continued on to the food. Everything we tasted was fantastic and ridiculously refreshing. I felt like everything I consumed was doing my body good.
Roasted Seasonal Vegetable Board with Avocado ‘Green Goddess’ Dip
Edameme Dumplings with Daikon Radish and White Truffle Oil
And for my lunch entree, the Teriyaki Bowl with shiitake, broccoli, carrot, brown rice, quinoa, avocado & sesame.
My neighbors chose wisely as well:
The ‘Inside Out’ Quinoa Burger with hummus, tzatziki, tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado & feta
Wild Caught Albacore Tataki with snap pea, avocado, radish, carrot-miso & yuzu dressing
I like to hang out with people who take photos of their food. Makes me feel normal.
For dinner that night, we headed to the Desert Botanical Garden. Before eating, we took a sunset yoga class, then wandered the garden to get a look at the light installation art piece that was being showcased by European artist Bruce Munro. It was insane to say the least. Without a tripod, I couldn’t get great shots, but I have to show you a little something, at least.
That night, we dined at Gertrude’s at the Garden. Fresh ingredients directly from a local farm to your plate. These were my favorite bites from the night:
Bouchot Mussels in ham hock broth, with smoked tomato and grilled AZ ciabatta
Ricotta Donut Holes with smoked hot fudge, salted caramel and prickly pear jelly
Fitness… FITNESS DONUT HOLE IN MY MOUTH!
Those were crazy amazing and I would fly back to AZ just get one more bite. Gertrude’s is a great option for brunch, or if you’re capping off a night of garden exploring.
The next morning we went on a guided hike, via the Phoenician, up the Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain. Hiking is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. We took the easier trail, and I’ve gotta say, it was still pretty difficult due to all of the rocks and pebbles. However, compared to your other option, it was cake.
For lunch, we ventured to St. Francis. Probably one of my favorite meals of the trip. We began our experience with baked goat cheese, walnut herb pesto, tomato, and crostini. OH BABY.
St. Francis is a family-owned and run restaurant with an emphasis on food being a vehicle for nourishment. It exists in an old, historic building, yet has transformed into a rustic, yet modern eatery with a mission of promoting farm fresh ingredients. A cuisine built from the mentality of wood-fired cooking, St. Francis is the perfect option for a wholesome, flavorful dining experience.
Bites to start:
Wood Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan, bread crumbs and a lemon aioli
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with a lemon yogurt dipping sauce
And for lunch…
Roasted Salmon Superfood with quinoa, spinach, radish, cucumber, avocado, and a sweet chile vinaigrette
Again, my neighbor chose wisely:
And for dessert…
Apple Crumb Tart with walnut crumb topping, sweet cream gelato, and caramel sauce
Chocolate Salted Caramel Trifle with chocolate cake, pastry cream, and pecan caramel corn
Chef Aaron Chamberlin really outdid himself, and we were all grateful for the flavors he allowed us to experience.
If you’re looking for a place to stop and have a couple cocktails, tell your Uber driver to take you to Crudo.
Master, award-winning mixologist Micah Olson showed us the ropes on craft cocktail making. Having tried a handful of his cocktails, I can attest to the outrageously positive reputation he and Crudo have in Phoenix. Definitely a must-try. Here are a few drinks we had the pleasure of trying:
Rebel’s Son: bulleit rye, cardamaro, rosemary, lemon, elderflower, old-fashioned bitters
Square Garden: square one botanical, celery, jalapeno, mint, basil, lime
ACV Mule: green mark vodka, pear brandy, apple-cider vinegar, ginger beer
Lesson: If you don’t like spicy food, don’t take a giant gulp of a cocktail made with jalapeno, because you’ll freak out and flail your hands and sprint to find water, right in front of the legend who made it for you.
That night we dined at Il Terrazzo, an Italian restaurant inside The Phoenician resort. Another restaurant supporting local farmers, Il Terrazzo is a great option if you’re looking for something on the more elegant, luxurious side. Simple ingredients make for fabulous flavors; we enjoyed a variety of antipasti, like the apple gnocchi which was a creative combination of savory and sweet with a light crust. For my entree, I enjoyed the Cinnamon Glazed Short Rib with rutabega mashed potatoes, baby beets, haricot verts, and cranberries.
The Farm at South Mountain
One the more interesting experiences that I highly recommend is dining at The Farm at South Mountain. I’ve mentioned a lot of ‘farm-to-table’ jargon… well, at The Farm, you are literally eating on the farm, and it is on your table. We enjoyed a shmorgasbord of fresh, roasted vegetables, a Mediterranean-inspired salad, a vegetable sandwich, and mouthwatering desserts.
Lesson: It’s important and always interesting/refreshing to know where your food comes from.
In Mesa, we were lucky enough to stay at the newly built Sheraton Mesa at Wrigleyville West. It was exceptionally modern and inviting. Only a few miles from the airport and the city, it’s a great option for business travelers or those who want to stay close to downtown.
Quick pause: if you’re looking for a hiking spot in Mesa, head to the Usery Mountain Regional Park, just adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. I also suggest you take a guided ‘intention hike’ with Mandy Snell of Meaning in Motion [firstname.lastname@example.org]. She will guide you up the mountain and help you learn about yourself and your intentions for the year ahead.
Here is mine:
The hike was gorgeous, especially at sunrise.
Queen Creek Olive Mill
This was definitely another favorite of mine. I have always been fascinated with Italian flavors, mainly olive oil. I learned so much on our tasting tour. Not to mention, the lunch we experienced was fantastic.
Just East of Mesa, Queen Creek Olive Mill is Arizona’s only family-owned and operated working olive farm and mill. Here, olives are grown, pressed, and produced into olive oil, in addition to a line of olive oil-based skincare products, OliveSpa.
Here’s how lunch went:
ALL THE BRUSCHETTA.
- Caprese bruschetta with roasted garlic olive oil, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil, and robust EVOO
- Chardonnay herb mascarpone, green apple, delicate EVOO, and a fig balsamic reduction
- Melted gorgonzola, Genoa salami, arugula, and balanced EVOO
I inhaled all three.
Oh, and lemon olive oil cupcakes, among other olive oil-based cupcake choices.
I thoroughly enjoyed the olive oil tasting, as well. In addition to the mill, the property hosts a giant market with a restaurant. Essentially, a foodie paradise.
A few other options if you are dining around Phoenix/Mesa:
- Postino – http://www.postinowinecafe.com
- Joyride Taco House – http://joyridetacohouse.com
- Pita Jungle – http://pitajungle.com
- Legends Steakhouse – Sheraton Mesa
Thank you to Visit Mesa and Visit Phoenix for giving us a taste of Arizona.
Lesson: No matter how big or small a city is, there is always something fascinating to experience.