Like Raising Arizona, but eating. Do you remember that movie? What a classic.
So, earlier this week, I went to Arizona with my mom. Seeing the Grand Canyon has been on her bucket list for a long time. We knocked it out and then some over three days.
We got so many Kodak moments captured on film of the beautiful scenery, but I also got some shots of the fabulous food. People experience travel differently. Some like to go and see the sights. Maybe snap a few photos to remember what they saw. Some may seek out experiences like the sunset party at Mallory Square in Key West. Photographs wouldn’t quite capture the scene. You had to be there to take it all in. I like to experience a new place through my tastebuds. The memories of the place stick with me clearer.
We flew into Phoenix, arriving too late to do much. The next morning, we pointed the car toward Sedona. I’m used to green mountains that turn red, orange and gold in the fall. The surroundings looked so foreign to me. They were rocky and deserty, and the most stunning shades of red and pink and brown. The weather was absolutely gorgeous.
Arizona has a lot of Mexican food, obviously since it shares a border with Mexico. I found Tortas de Fuego in Sedona on Yelp. I love places like this–so unassuming and straightforward. This place was legit Mexican. I ordered chipotle chicken flautas with rice, beans and guacamole. The chicken was so good; just the right amount of spicy. Also, did you know that flautas are basically the same thing as taquitos, except flautas are made with flour tortillas and taquitos are made with corn? (I just learned that when I looked it up for this post… Thank you, Internet.) I love that this place had a salsa bar, too. The salsa was very smooth, though, almost like it had an immersion blender run through it. There was a red, green and yellow. I could see bits of corn in the yellow one, and it was a little spicy, but really rich and creamy. The red was super hot, and the green wasn’t at all. I couldn’t decide which I liked best, the yellow or the green. Definitely, if you are looking for a quick and cheap bite in Sedona, go here.
We continued north to Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim, and got there right at sunset. Seriously, this was the ideal time to pull up and see it for the first time. It was stunning. I’m not even going to to try to describe it, because it just wouldn’t matter. You have to see it yourself to know what I am talking about.
The light was gorgeous as it slipped behind the horizon behind us, leaving the last few beams of sunlight on the farthest ridges. It was just breath taking. The next morning, we got up for a sunrise bus tour out to Hermit’s rest. It was super cold at 6:15 a.m., probably in the 30’s and really windy. But it was still worth it. Again, the light was just perfect, and I wanted to just stand and watch as the sun came up and the light changed with the passing minute on the canyon. It is beautiful in the light of day, but it’s the most dramatic at sunset and sunrise, and worth planning your visit to be there for one, if not both.
After the tour, we had breakfast in El Tovar’s restaurant. El Tovar is the beautiful, historic hotel on the canyon rim. (We stayed next door at the more modern and lower-priced Kachina Lodge). The Yelp reviews for El Tovar’s dining room for dinner were just okay. I was wary of pulling the trigger on such an expensive meal without stellar reviews. The menu was pretty impressive, but I guess, it failed to impress up yelpers to leave great reviews. The price of breakfast was much more reasonable, and the menu just as impressive, so we decided to go that route.
I had the blackened trout breakfast, which came with eggs, potatoes, and an English muffin. I got my eggs soft poached, and while the poach was perfect, I was disappointed that you could taste the vinegar from the water. They came to the table pretty wet. It helps to poach an egg if you add a little vinegar to the water, and these tasted like they were brined. I also like to drain mine pretty well when I make them at home. The trout, however, was amazing. The restaurant is committed to using sustainable ingredients as much as possible, which scored brownie points with me.
I should add that for dinner the evening we got there, we stopped at the Grand Canyon General Store on the road into the National Park, which has a fantastic selection on wine, beer and snacks, and bought some wine, crackers and cheese. It was wonderful to sit on a park bench, although bundled up in coats, below the stars with our picnic dinner. At the South Rim, you are approximately 8,000 feet in elevation, so the stars looked like they were so close you could reach up and touch them.
We hiked around the visitors center on some of the easier trails for several hours before deciding to head back south to Flagstaff, and some sights we wanted to see, then onto Prescott. Prescott was a little out of the way, but it was a beautiful little town. I wished we weren’t running out of time by this point in the day, because it would have been great to spend more time there. We snapped a few pics of The Palace on historic Whiskey Row. It’s Arizona’s most historic bar, dating back to the days when Prescott was an old prospector town. Seriously, if you go inside, sit at the bar and order and drink. You’ll think you’re back in the cowboy days or something.
We got back to Phoenix too late to do much, but I had plans for dinner at The Attic. Maybe next time… We simply ran out of time. The next morning, we visited some things around Phoenix and Scottsdale, which is only a few miles away. There are a number of things you can pack into a day within a few miles drive. We visited Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, which was absolutely beautiful. If you are a Wright fan, definitely take the time to go by here. I love art deco design, and everything at Taliesin West feels so good on your eyes. Beauty everywhere, whether it is the Sonoran desert itself, or the geometrical lines on every possible space that are the signature of the property.
Next, we headed down to Old Town Scottsdale, where we shopped in jewelry store after jewelry store. If you need a silver and turquoise fix, go here to shop. You’ll surely find something that strikes your fancy. We were kinda hungry walking around Old Town Scottsdale, but we just followed the amazing smell of a smoker to Bootleggers on First Street. The place was practically empty for a late lunch, and we sat out on the patio where the smoker was doing its magic. Yelpers said the thing to get here was the bacon board, but it wasn’t on the menu. The waiter told me it was on the dinner menu, but he hooked us up. While we were deciding what to order, he brought us a sample of their signature apple pie moonshine, which was delicious. It was so smooth, but really sweet. It wold be hard to drink much more than a sample because it was so sweet–and also because it is moonshine. That stuff sneaks up on you fast.
The bacon board was everything you’ve dreamed about. Three kinds of bacon: jalepeno, black peppercorn, and cherry wood, and two types of pork belly. One was traditional, and one was lightly brined, lightly smoked. It came with hot pepper jam, caramelized onions, grainy mustard, and bread toasted with aged cheddar. It was crazy how the bacon was so different. I couldn’t pick a favorite–probably the jalepeno. You didn’t even taste the jalepeno until the very end; a very subtle spicy. The pork belly was amazing on the toasted bread with the mustard and hot pepper jam. It tasted like the best grilled cheese you could imagine. I could have stayed there all afternoon enjoying the sunshine, tasty local beer and cured meat. My kinda place.
There were things I really wanted to try in Arizona, but it was too short of a trip. I’m told Phoenix is known for fry bread, and sadly, I didn’t get the chance to try any. I guess I’ll have to wait until next time. I’ll definitely be back. There was so much more that we crammed into our trip, that I simply couldn’t write about it all. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself. I can see how folks like Frank Lloyd Wright, and thousands of other visitors fall in love with the desert and the canyon. It’s just absolutely stunning.