Mom’s make the world go round. Whether it’s by kissing a scrapped knee or baking cookies on a rainy day, Mom’s always know what to do to make the world just a little brighter. I know my Mom does. To this day, I crave her homemade pancakes, chocolate chip cookies and our Mom/Daughter traveling adventures. So my Valley friends; this Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 9 for those of you who forgot), treat your Mom to an entire day dedicated to her and things she likes to do. For those of you looking for some ideas, run these past your Mom’s list of likes and pick something that’s just right for the day!
For the Eclectic and Vintage Lovin’ Mom
Technically, it’s the Melrose District and technically it’s on 7th Ave in Phoenix, but for those of you who can’t sneak away to LA’s Melrose this weekend, I like to think of this as a happy alternative. Hidden on 7th Avenue between Indian School and Camelback Road, this area is full of the most adorable vintage and boutique stores you could imagine, but you have to keep your eyes open because one blink and you could miss it!
Begin the afternoon with a Mom inspired lunch at My Florist Cafe on McDowell and 7th or Postino Wine Café on Central and Camelback. After your delicious lunch, head over to 7thAvenue and Indian School and park. From there, let the stroll begin! Start walking North on 7th Avenue and explore every vintage and artsy store. Be sure to check out Zinnias (just west of 7th Ave) and Paris Envy (closer to Camelback Road).
If the walk works up another appetite, have a taco at America’s Taco Shop and let me know what you think of the Valley famous tacos!
During your stroll, don’t forget to look for shops like Figs Home and Garden. After you’ve emptied your pocket book for secret finds, take a drive through the historic neighborhoods surrounding the area. These houses are some of Phoenix’s oldest and finest gems.
Art in your Mom’s Heart
We may not have the Met, but we do have some well-known art galleries and of course, our very own Phoenix Art Museum. Leave room in your heart for some art this Sunday.
Old Town Scottsdale Art Galleries
Begin your morning with brunch at Arcadia Farms: the ultimate Mom and Daughter lunch spot.
After your lunch, leave your car parked and stroll through Old Town Scottsdale to explore the unlimited art galleries in the area. Tourists travel from all over to visit Scottsdale’s well-known galleries. Consider it Old Town’s art museum, but if you are looking for an “official” art museum, stop by the Scottsdale Center of Contemporary Art at the Civic Center.
Sweet Tooth Craving? For the true Old Town Scottsdale experience, visit the Sugar Bowl and share a Banana Split (or have your own!) with your Mom to end the day with a cherry on top!
Downtown Phoenix Art Museum
The Phoenix Art Museum is one of my favorites. With the architectural genius on the outside, you just know it’s going to be interesting on the inside… and it is!
On Sunday, they really have Mom’s on their mind with a special member’s only Mother’s Day event before the museum opens. It’s not too late to buy a membership!
Members Day: Celebrating Moms!
May 9, 11am – 2pmMrs. Miniver
11am – 2pm: Complimentary refreshments and sweet treats
Get a temporary tattoo to show Mom how much you care
Take a fun family portrait in our photo booth
Create a Masterpiece for Mom
Enter to win a variety of gift baskets and prizes for Mom
11am – 12:30pm: complimentary chair massages for Moms
11:30am: In the Mood docent tour
12:30pm: In the Mood docent tour
1pm: Classic film
**Special offer: Moms receive a FREE Mother’s Day dessert with purchase of any entrée at Arcadia Farms at Phoenix Art Museum. Offer valid May 9, 2010.
For the non-members in the room, come by at 12:00 and have lunch at the art museum’s Arcadia Farm Café and then explore the exhibits featuring Ansel Adams, Claude Monet and William Merritt Chase – just to name a few!
After your visit, if you’re still craving culture, visit the Herd Museum down the street for a taste of Southwest history.
High Tea is for my Mom and Me
Is it time for tea? If it is, then you’re in luck because some of Phoenix’s daintiest hotspots are open for business.
Ritz Carleton - Mother’s Day Tea for $35 a person features traditional tea sandwiches, scones and other sweet treats while listening to the enchanting sounds of Nicole Pesce on piano.
Pull out your best Sunday hat, grab your Mom and stop by the very authentically British “English Rose Tea Room” for Sunday high tea. Sunday’s Mother’s Day menu features:
A Cup of Creamy Mushroom Soup
Petite Salad w/ Mixed Berries & Candied Pecans
Trio of Tea Sandwiches
Roasted Chicken with Tarragon & Toasted Walnuts Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese
Cucumber with Orange & Mint Butter
Warm Scones served with Devonshire Cream and Dickenson’s Strawberry
Strawberry & Banana Frangipani
Miniature Chocolate Orange Cheesecake
Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Assorted Chocolate Truffles
All served Mother’s Day Rose Scented Tea.
$55.00 per person
A happy early Mother’s Day and special thanks to all the hard-working women who are raising families!
Arizona spends many sleepless nights fighting its Wild West reputation. With our fine dining, trendy hotspots, high-end shopping and five star resorts, the Southwest has slowly become a desert oasis destination for world-class travelers from afar. But, try as we do to hide our Southwest flavor, some days we just have to embrace the Cowgirl (or boy) in us all. After all, we live among cacti and horseback riding; why not give true desert living a try here and there!
True to my philosophy, this weekend I traded in my stilettos for cowboy boots and joined the cowgirl’s way of life for a night. On the agenda: a night out in Cave Creek to experience the truest form of cowboy living around; live professional bull riding. Yes, in Arizona we have western venues with live professional bull riding shows and it’s just as spectacular as it sounds! Nestled in the heart of cowboy country known as Cave Creek, Buffalo Chip Saloon showcases live professional bull riding, live country music, free dancing lessons, authentic home style BBQ and even the opportunity to make your very own genuine Cowboy hats!
I think the staff at Buffalo Chips Saloon must sleep at the saloon with such a full calendar of events! Let me take a sip of my sarsaparilla before I begin…
Monday Mike Night: Do you have what it takes to be the next Garth Brooks in town? Well, now’s your chance to showcase your talents. Stop by Open Mike Night on Mondays from 7-10 pm and belt out the country hits with the best of them.
Top Notch Tuesdays: Deeming it “Chick’s with Picks” Tuesdays, Buffalo Chip features a new female artist from 7-10 pm. If you want to meet the next Carrie or Shania you should stop by!
Wacky Wednesdays: Now comes the daredevil fun! Live. Professional. Bull Riding. If you can’t make it to the rodeo, here’s your chance to witness professional bull riders take their life and the reins in their own hands.
Thirsty Thursday: Are you thirsty for some two steppin’ dance moves? From 7-8 pm listen to live music and learn some new two stepping moves to impress your friends. If you want to keep the night going into the weekend, stick around for the Pat James Band from 8-Midnight.
Fabulous Fridays: Now this is the TGIF of all Fridays. All you can eat BBQ buffet, all you can eat seafood, live music & dancing, and not one but three live professional bull riding shows. My personal requirement is that you show up with cowboy boots, hat and have a very hungry appetite! P.S. the buffet is mandatory in my opinion, some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had!
Satisfying Saturdays: After your wild west Friday night, stop by for some more live music and dancing from 9 pm – 2 am.
Who done it!? Once a month, on the first Sunday, you can join the cowboy mystery and help Buffalo Chips figure out who committed murder! Detective work builds up an appetite, so enjoy dinner during the show…all for just $35!
Now what’s a virtual tour of the Buffalo Chips Saloon without some much-needed photos!
Real cowboys or wannabe cowboys for the night, anything goes at the Saloon
Excited about turning cowboy for the night but missing the key essential for making it official; a hat? Not to worry my friends. You can even buy genuine cowboy hats, fitted for your head right in front of your very eyes!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this mental break for the day, but before you ride off into the sunset, I think you need to visit yourself and let me know if it passed your Cowboy adventure test.
Packer’s Presence! Before I go, I failed to mention one last minor detail. Packers fans … this saloon is green and gold friendly and they even offer the “Packer Green and Gold Club” membership.
While you’re in Cave Creek, be sure to stop by:
It’s sneaking up on us like a lion hunts its prey. You know it’s coming, but it’s too late to do anything about it except brace yourself and hope you survive. That’s right my fellow Phoenicians. I’m talking about the one, the only…the rising heat. Can you feel it coming? I definitely can. I’ve lived in the Valley for several years now, but I’m still trying to perfect the Desert Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Heat. While every other state stores their snow boots and waits for their 75 degree weather, we’ve already had our “summer” and now extreme heat is on the horizon. So far, the fact that we have pools on practically every corner has been my saving grace, but this summer, I plan on expanding my fighting tactics against the heat. We can’t let the approaching 120 degree temperatures scare us. Let’s just stock up on sunscreen, bathing suits and hats and take a look at the summer tips I’ve gathered so far. As it gets hotter and we start seeing visions of a beach in the desert oasis, I’ll contuine to add to my guide on ways to beat the heat this summer.
Beat the Heat – Part I
Day trips close to home but away from the heat.
F.D.D. Note – If you’re planning on visiting Slide Rock this summer, be sure to visit early in the year rather than August. It’s a much better experience in May or June!
The Flintstones missed out on this treat in Bedrock. Slide Rock makes its home in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona and is a popular water spot for residences and traveler’s alike. Visitors experience a natural rock formation that allows you to actually slide down a natural water slide. It doesn’t get much better then this! In addition, it’s only a couple hour drive from Phoenix, so you can take a day-long trip, explore Arizona and make it home to sleep in your own bed before night fall. For more information, visit: http://azstateparks.com/Parks/SLRO/
Hours of Operation:
Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend: 8 am – 7 pm
May and September: 8 am – 6 pm
October through April: 8 am – 5 pm
Would you like to go to Hawaii? Me too. :) But, for those of us who are unable to make the tropical journey this year, we have an alternative option right in our own backyard. Ok, technically it’s an hour and a half away from Phoenix, but compared to Hawaii, it’s a stone’s throw away! The name is Fossil Springs and it’s a secret wilderness and water oasis in Arizona. Located near Strawberry Arizona, hikers have the option to do the long hike (around 8 miles) or the short hike (just a couple miles). But, either hike has a similar pot of gold at the end – a beautiful waterfall just waiting for you to jump into! When I first heard about Fossil Springs and the similarities between Hawaii, I thought Pinocchio was telling me a lie, but once I arrived and did both hikes, I realized that this wasn’t a tall tale. The hike is gorgeous. Imagine a combination between desert beauty and lush wildness and creeks. The longer hike had a better ending, but both hikes were gorgeous. At the end of the eight mile hike (roundtrip), hikers find several springs, a natural lazy river and water holes all situated within trees and shade. It’s the perfect getaway in July, but promise me you check the monsoon weather report before you start.
Sweet Tooth Note: On your way home from the long hike, stop by the Goat’s Milk Farm and try their Goat’s Milk Fudge. We couldn’t resist seeing if goat’s milk fudge was eatable and not only is it eatable, but it’s delectable and melts in your mouth! After you’ve had a taste, let me know what you think.
A Tribute to Phoenix Magazine
As a history major in college, I learned many important facts; including fun facts that I’ve kept with me along the way. For example, did you know that in the South, Southern Living acts as a signature piece in practically every Southern household? This status symbol seems to be as important as the home’s interior decorating and it’s pertinent that it’s always prominently displayed.
In Arizona, I am a loyal subscriber and reader of Phoenix Magazine. I consider this to be Arizona’s version of Southern Living and I treat mine like a Southern belle treats her own subscription. Phoenix Magazine acts as my one stop shop for information that every local Phoenician needs to know. On any given month, this literary jewel of the desert is filled with tips on the best shopping, restaurants, doctors, hiking trails, weekend journeys, real estate, events and happenings around town. This magazine proves that Arizona is filled with adventures and culture right at our fingertips.
In this month’s issue, Phoenix Magazine features 33 neighborhoods we love. I loved each one and as I flipped through the pages, I took an imaginary real estate journey through each household.
Take a trip around the Grand Circle - Did you know that in the 1800’s, it was a status symbol to complete the “Grand Circle.” Phoenix Magazine featured the Grand Circle this month and explained just exactly what it is. The Grand Circle is a journey you take to give you an authentic taste of the Southwest by traveling through five states and witnessing some of the most beautiful national parks, monuments and breathtaking scenery. Pick up your local Phoenix Magazine today for a detailed itinerary on how to complete this symbolic journey.
Salsa Festival – May 1 – A festival dedicated to salsa? This is right up my alley! My taste buds love authentic salsa and since I live in the Southwest, I get to satisfy my salsa craving any day of the week. For the true lovers of salsa, this Salsa Festival is coming to town in May, allowing you to taste all the salsa your heart desires. You’ll get the true feel of a Southwest lifestyle during this free event in North Scottsdale. The festival also happens to be a short drive away from Cave Creek, home of some of the best country establishments in the state, including Harold’s. Make your Saturday a true cowboy adventure on May 1! http://www.elpedregal.com/
Peach Festival – May 8-16 – My mouth begins to water as I think about the approaching Peach Festival at Schnepf Farms. Schnepf Farms takes their annual Peach Festival very seriously and fills the event with peach everything including cuisines like peach pancakes, samplings, peach games, peach pickings and family-fun events. Schnepf Farms does a great job of making the most of the seasons. Be sure to take a weekend drive to visit the Festival and come back in October to pick out your Halloween pumpkins at their fall festival! http://www.peachfestival.net/
Sneaking to stands in May! Phoenix Magazine will be featuring the ultimate Arizona travel guide which is useful to locals and tourists alike! I’ve lived in Arizona for years, but I have an ongoing list of explorations I need to complete. The magazine comes out in May, so you might still have time to subscribe, otherwise, be sure to visit Borders to pick up this coveted guide.
As you can see, Phoenix Magazine holds the key to the treasure chest of adventures in Phoenix. To my friends in Phoenix and those in other parts of the country, my advice to you is to subscribe to your local magazine. Here, you will find important information to keep you in the know and you’ll be viewed as the go-to lady for anyone looking for local (not touristy) information.
The Nor Cal infused desert girl made her way to NYC this weekend for a girl’s college trip reunion (miss you already Hadar, Jayme, Kelly and Amanda!). Our good friend made the plunge from Phoenix to the Big Apple and traded her views of Cacti for a view of Empire State building from her apartment. The trip was fabulous and confirms that nothing compares to a New York lifestyle. Let me start today by sharing some analogies I discovered between the Big Apple and the Valley of the Sun.
The Top 10 Differences between Phoenix and NYC — Yes, in my mind there are only ten.
- NYC has Bergdorf’s and rooftop dining overlooking Central Park. Arizona houses their sister store, Neiman Marcus and serves Popovers overlooking Camelback Road.
- NYC bars close at 5 a.m. so dinner typically begins at 10 p.m. AZ bars close at 2 a.m. so dinner begins at 7:00 p.m. There’s a good chance we’re asleep before the New Yorkers hit up their first club.
- Minimal cars, parking and extreme weather conditions mean New Yorkers can get pretty much anything delivered, including frozen yogurt (not fair). Because of Arizona’s sauna temperatures, we have drive-thru everything, including cleaners.
- Undercover cops in NYC drive around in cabs. In Arizona, undercover cops don’t.
- If you wear too many bright colors in NYC you’ll get asked if you’re from Miami. If you wear too much black in Arizona, you’ll receive condolences for your loss.
- In cold weather, New York bars pass out Snuggies for bar goers to wear over their carefully chosen outfits. This makes the bar look like a scene from a cult film. If an Arizonian wears a Snuggie to a bar, they’re asked where the bar crawl is.
- On Sundays, New Yorkers bring a whole new meaning to the term brunch…making it more like Sunday Funday. On any given weekend, you can find an Arizona pool party in every backyard and resort.
- In NYC, tourists treat Abercrombie and Fitch like visiting Buckingham Palace with hour-long lines out the door. In Arizona, Abercrombie and Fitch is the store of our 8th grade past. We just got H & M and plan on waiting for hours if Zara ever finds their way to town.
- In NYC, bedazzled headbands can be seen everywhere. In Arizona, bedazzled jeans blind the city. Let’s burn the jeans and pick up the headband trend instead.
- On any given NYC day, you have countless museums, shows, dining, shopping, festivals and fabulousness right at your manicured fingertips. In Arizona, you might have to do some digging, but with the right resources, you can make your own NYC experience right in the heart of our desert oasis.
In honor of the Desert Girl’s trip to the big city, here are a couple hot spot tips, should you find your way to the land of luxury anytime soon.
Ladies lunch at Bergdorf’s. On any given day, you may run in to NYC’s finest lunching and shopping at this cornerstone luxury store on 5th Avenue. But, who really cares when you have mouth-watering food that melts in your mouth, views of Central Park and an atmosphere that makes you wonder where you could hide from the staff so you never have to leave. Lunching at Bergdorf’s after a day of shopping on 5th Avenue allows you to experience what some New Yorkers call a quiet Tuesday afternoon. I suggest you try to Lobster Mac and Cheese, the Lobster Napoleon, the Scallops, the Seafood Pasta or the Seafood Salad…or how about all of the above. For desert, please treat your taste buds to the S’Mores pudding. SATC fans, they filmed a scene for the upcoming movie at Bergdorf’s. Gossip Girl fans..Serena and Blaire are often spotted eating at this fine establishment. Just a little tv show trivia for you.
Here’s a secret friends. Yours truly just might possess the recipes of some of Bergdorf’s finest. Lobster Napoleon anyone? Post a comment and share this blog with a friend and I just might send you a copy.
Magnolia’s vs. Crumbs – you decide
The foodie in me was in heaven this weekend. How could I not try everything NYC had to offer? My waistline isn’t very happy with me, but it’ll get over it and I don’t regret a single calorie. NYC offers more top of the line dining than anyone can even imagine, but they also happen to take credit for the cupcake obsession. I’m pretty sure someone like Betty Crocker created the cupcake, but I’ll let NYC take the credit just because they have some of the most to-die for bakeries around town.
Magnolias earned their stripes after a cameo appearance with Miranda and Carrie on SATC put them on the map. Now it’s normal for the bakery to have a line out the door – rain, snow or shine. We got lucky and bypassed the line. One chocolate cupcake later, I see what the hype’s all about and I’m ok with a $5 cupcake.
Crumbs is the grandfather of the cupcake phenomena and a box of 12 mini cupcakes goes for $18. But, with frosting that melts in your mouth and a menu filled with options like S’mores and Peanut Butter Cup, can you blame the price or popularity? Oprah gives her stamp of approval with her “Oprah Celebration Cupcakes.” Friends…they also ship.
This post could go on for days, but it’s time for me to say goodnight. Before I go, I’m going to leave you with some other hotspots you should check out when you’re in the Big Apple. Oh, and some pictures too of course!
Central Park – take a walk through Central Park, have a picnic, go running or bike on the trails. Be sure to stop by the Boat House where many a famous scene has been filmed for movies.
Little Italy – If you can’t make the 12 hour flight to Europe, get a taste of my favorite Country in all the world by traveling to Little Italy. The food and culture make this experience one you’ll never forget. Be sure to try a Caprese Salad and famous Canoli’s. You’ll feel Italian before you know it.
Broadway Musicals – While I sadly didn’t get to attend a Broadway musical this trip, I’ve been to NYC before and pretty much only went to shows. I was in musical heaven. On the day you arrive, go straight to the red stairs in Times Square. There, you can find tickets to NYC’s hottest shows for up to 70% off! You can only buy the tickets the day of the event so be prepared to stand in line and get heckled by the street performers.
West Village- Hop in a cab and go right to Bleeker Street in the West Village. It’s filled with boutique shopping, gorgeous brownstones and of course…Magnolias! On your way, stop by a café for lunch. I suggest Café Cluny. The Curry Chicken Wrap is still on my mind. You may also run into some well-known stars such as Sarah Jessica Parker. Ask her about the new SATC movie for me.
Soho – Filled with even more shopping and just down the street from Union Square (yes, NYC has a Union Square), take your pocket-book to Soho and be sure to stop by Top Shop. Founded in the UK, this is the only Top Shop in the US. It’s a bit pricey but has the cutest and trendiest clothes in town.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral - If you’re Catholic or interested in the Catholic faith, be sure to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral. With the gorgeous architecture and Archibishop saying Sunday morning mass, it’s an experience you’ll never forgtet.
Museums, Tours, Sightseeing and more! I’ve only named a few exciting ways to spend your time in NYC and I didn’t even touch upon the museums, tours, sightseeing and clubs NYC has to offer. I guess you’ll just have to find a flight deal and make your way to NYC to explore it!
I will leave you with some NYC photos to take a mental break for a moment and pretend like you’re on vacation.
A beautifully sunny day in Times Square
The fabulous view from my friend Kelly’s amazing apartment.
Imagine waking up to the view of the Empire State building every morning.
A great staircase leading up to one of the gorgeous brownstones in the West Village
Trees lining the streets and a feeling of freshness as you walk in the West Village.
Spring is in the air in NYC and the cherry blossoms on trees throughout the city makes the city shine.
My college friends (Kelly, Jayme and Hadar) blended right into the scenery and I think they could fit in quite nicely with West Villagers.
The famous cupcake shop itself. Magnolia Bakery.
It’s not a visit to NYC without making a purchase. Hadar and Louis were meant to be!
From Kings to Diplomats, the rooms of the Plaza has housed many a wonderful person over the years. Remember Home Alone 2 or Bride Wars?
I’m on the Chandleir hunt for my condo. I’d like to place an order for the one the Plaza has in their entrance please.
A gorgeous day in the City makes perfect weather for a stroll through Central Park.
Before it’s too hot to leave your house, take full advantage of the outdoor adventures in Phoenix. Whether you’re a fan of the outdoor hikes or take the movies in the park approach, Phoenicians are against the sun dial clock and it’s probably only a matter of weeks before we hit the dreaded digits on the thermometer.
Lions and tigers and beers, oh my!
Oh it’s that time of year once again my friends. Take a walk on the wild side and visit the Phoenix Zoo’s annual event featuring a new name and a new attitude this year. Rock the Zoo will be keeping the animals up past their bedtime while the fundraiser features well-known artists such as Vertical Horizon and a variety of beer and food vendors. Do I even have to ask where you’ll be on Friday, April 23? The fun starts at 7 so hurry home from work and get ready to party the night away at the wildest party in town.
For more information, visit: http://www.phoenixzoo.org/RockTheZoo2010/
Get Up and Get Active
See all those mountains surrounding Metro Phoenix? They don’t bite! Don’t just enjoy the view from your car window, put on your hiking shoes, grab your Camelbak and get out there and enjoy nature like Robert Goulet!
Camelback Mountain – take the challenge and try out the Echo Canyon side. It’s worth it when you reach the top. For information, visit: http://phoenix.gov/PARKS/hikecmlb.html
Piestewa Peak Summit Trail aka Squaw Peak – You can explore the beautiful desert scenery for hours and choose a trail depending on your hiking abilities. For information, visit: http://phoenix.gov/PARKS/hikephx.html
McDowell Mountains – Keep an eye out for deer and even coyotes or javelinas. You’ll feel like a true Davey Crockett after you finish. For information, visit: http://www.maricopa.gov/parks/mcdowell/
Take me out to the ballgame
Whether you chat your way through nine innings or you’re a diehard, statistic taking fan, a baseball game is always a guaranteed good time. So grab your family or friends, buy some cheap or pricey seats, grab yourself a hot dog and beer (or soda) and prepare your vocal cords to belt out “take me out to the ballgame. “The Diamondback’s season is in full gear and the tickets are shockingly low in price. Get your tickets here: http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=ari. If you are in the mood to make it an event, ask about availability at TGI Friday’s Front Row.
I can hear the Easter bunny hopping down the street in anticipation of the approaching spring fever holiday. Yes, spring is in the air right now not only in sun kissed Arizona, but in cities all across the US…except the poor states back east where it’s flooding. I hope the rain fairies let up on you by this weekend. So, pick out your favorite Easter dress and join me in paying homage to three springtime musts. Chocolate, Sunday Brunch and Flowers — you might say random, but I think they define the bunny holiday!
I blame the Easter bunny for the chocolate temptations around town lately. It seems like everywhere I look another scrumptious treat is staring at me, begging me to give it a taste. I don’t want to hurt feelings, so of course I must have a small itty bitty bite.
But, chocolate each day keeps the doctor away, right? Ok, so my waistline might not agree but a little dark chocolate is good for the heart and as a true believer in a heart healthy lifestyle, a tribute to this dark treat is only fitting.
The chocolate pick of the week.
Cerreta Chocolate Factory – Glendale, Arizona
Sadly, Arizona isn’t home to many headquarters, but the ones we have deserve all the desert love they can get! Did you know we have our very own chocolate factory nestled right in the heart of Glendale, Arizona? Cerreta has been in business and family operated for over 40 years. Home to not only delectable chocolate (trust me, the second you walk into the factory you’ll leave with bags full), they also offer factory tours, free and fun children’s activities (like Italian Chocolate Pizza making) and custom chocolate treats for special occasions and parties. As you step inside the factory, you feel like you’re home for Sunday dinner. So, keep our local spots in business and fill your Easter baskets with treats from Arizona’s very own chocolate factory. Did I also mention the family is about as sweet as the chocolate they serve? In the midst of the Easter Mayhem, Marisa (the wife of Joe, the owner) dropped the yellow Easter bunny she was decorating and created adorable gift boxes for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. That’s the true definition of customer service. www.cerreta.com
Make it a Sunday Affair
I live for the weekends, don’t you? Whether it’s by taking a road trip, spending time with friends and family, lounging the day away or working on projects that slipped away from you during the week; weekends are your oyster. But, Sunday’s are a day of rest. The Bible says so. In honor of lazy Sundays, why not spend the day brunching. Brunch is a universal concept, so look around your town and find your favorite brunch spots to choose from. Arizonian’s, here are just a couple of my local favorites.
Le Grand L’Orange – This is a post- church hotspot so be sure to arrive early to secure a coveted table outside. I love Le Grand L’Orange because it makes me feel like I’ve left the desert and traveled to a far away European village where the pastries are moist and the fruit is fresh. Purchase homemade English muffins to keep the experience going through the week! http://www.lagrandeorangepizzeria.com/
Olive and Ivy- I’m not biased. You can visit Olive and Ivy any day of the week (not just Sunday) and nibble on their flatbread pizzas and salads. Try the Mediterranean Salad. I give it two thumbs up. www.foxrc.com/olive_ivy.html
Camelback Inn – Nestled in the heart of the Camelback Mountains, locals and visitors alike will enjoy the breathtaking views, scrumptious food and live music. It’s the perfect stay’cation for a Sunday afternoon. www.camelbackinn.com/
Arcadia Farms Cafe – Salad lovers beware. The menu is so tasty you will want to try everything … at the same time. Arcadia Farm is perfect for a girl’s lunch or even a baby or bridal shower. It’s another gem that’s hidden from the outside world making you feel as if you found the key to the secret garden itself. www.arcadiafarmscafe.com
Postino Wine Cafe- Winos, this is your weekend spot. Panini’s, brucshetta and wine. Need I say more? Ok, I will say one more thing. Great patio. www.postinowinecafe.com
The Flower Children of Phoenix
The jury’s still out on whether I posses a green thumb or not, but I’ll pretend I do until the votes are counted. The good news about the heavy rainfall this year is that the desert actually has some green to it. Not a lot, but as Phoenicians we take what we can get. Take full advantage of the blossoms and visit some of the floweriest spots around town. Hay fever victims, don’t forget the Claritin.
Desert Botanical Garden – Jazz and Flowers http://www.dbg.org/
The desert botanical gardens use their gorgeous grounds year-round and they don’t let us down in the spring. Jazz fans, this is for you. Fill your Friday nights with music and jazz in a garden of your dreams. Performances run from March-June and include well-known names like Blues musician Big Pete Pearson and Latin Jazz performers such as Fuerza Caribe. Be sure to purchase your tickets early. The shows will sell out! http://www.dbg.org/index.php/plan/calendar/jazzingarden
Wildflower walks at county parks
According to AZ Central, this is a once a year opportunity to witness beautiful wildflower blossoms in Arizona. Visit Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area or Cave Creek Regional Park to partake in a walk on the wild side. The wildflower side that is. Visit AZCentral for more details: http://www.azcentral.com/thingstodo/events/articles/2010/03/29/20100329wildflower-walks-spur-cross.html
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
When: 8-11 a.m. Friday; 2-5 p.m. Saturday; 8-11 a.m. Sunday.
Where: 44000 N. Spur Cross Road, Cave Creek.
Admission: $3 per person park entry fee.
Details: , maricopa.gov/parks/spur_cross.
Cave Creek Regional Park
When: 1-2:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: 37019 N. Lava Lane, Cave Creek.
Admission: $6 per vehicle park entry fee.
Details: , maricopa.gov/parks/cave_creek.
It’s the prettiest time of year in Arizona and probably the reason the streets have twice as many cars and the restaurants have hour-long waits. If you have ever been to Arizona in March, you know its worth it. Picture this. On a typical March day, the weather is a perfect 75-80 degrees with a cool breeze. Arizona is known for their orange blossoms and when spring hits, Phoenix smells like its been kissed by the fragrance gods. The aroma puts anyone in a good mood. In Phoenix, we are lucky to have Spring Training visit us once a year and with that comes tourists…a lot of tourists. But, it’s good for the local businesses and as a fan of these businesses I support anything that keeps them afloat! With the gorgeous weather, the land blossoming, the birds chirping and the town flowing with events and fun in the sun, the month of March makes me realize how Pollyanna felt in her story. It’s easy to be in a good mood during this lovely month of March. Call me in August and my attitude might be a bit different!
Take full advantage of your Saturdays, wake up early and walk or drive to your nearest farmer’s market. Here, our very own locals sell their homemade goodies and treats. Have you ever had goats milk fudge from Strawberry? You’ll get your chance to try it at the farmer’s markets! In honor of the outdoor season, here are some farmer’s markets to explore before the heat locks us inside for the summer.
Downtown Phoenix Public Market – This market used be on Saturdays, but due to its popularity, it grew to a full-blown Urban Grocery Store, with a wine bar! This is a great spot for a day with the family, your loved one or just friends. The grocery store operates Tuesday-Saturdays and the open-air market is on Wednesday and Saturday. http://www.foodconnect.org/phoenixmarket/
The Camelback Market– This is one of the classic markets in town and a chance to take a day trip to France. This delectable market is open October – May. Walk the market streets and give your taste buds a treat with Panini sandwiches, shrimp skewers, lamb chops and word fired pizzas. If you’re looking for gifts, why not give French-made a shot and buy honey olive oil and French Soaps. https://www.vincentsoncamelback.com/bistro/market.php
Old Town Farmer’s Market – I’ve fullfilled my craving for goat’s milk fudge (don’t let the name scare you, it’s good!) at this quaint market nestled in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Visitors can find fresh produce, home essentials and tasty treats. Be sure to wake up early, because it only runs on Saturdays! http://www.arizonafarmersmarkets.com/pageScottsdaleOldtown/ScottsdaleOTsat.htm
Whether it’s fact or fiction about the true life of a foodie, I wish I had that title. Just picture it. Your job is to review restaurants – the atmosphere, experience, service and food. I could do that. I do that without getting paid. I’d do it pro-bono! A restaurant isn’t just about the food. To me, it’s about the entire experience.
My definition of a true restaurant experience
- The build up – “Where do you want to eat tonight?” The question is on the table. So, what do you say? Well first up is figuring out what you’re in the mood for. Do you want to eat outside? Looking for good wine? Great Italian? Tasty Pizza? Spicy Mexican? So many questions, but it’s crucial to figure out your mood before you decide on the place.
- Time to do some searching. Checking out sources like yelp (www.yelp.com), AZ Central (www.azcentral.com), Urban Spoon (www.urbanspoon.com) local blogs and magazines. These sources are always a great way to find some hidden gems around town.
- Expectations – We all create them for whatever we are doing whether it’s imagining the perfect dress or finding the perfect dinner spot. But, the way you keep your expectations at a reasonable level is by deciding what you will actually define as a success. Then, you’ve got to stick with the expectations set in place. If you’re visiting Arizona and you want a true cowboy feel, you might want to lower expectations for a 5-star meal. If you are looking for that 5-star cuisine, be willing to fork out the cash to get it. It’s all about realistic expectations and it’s important to set those before you go into the night.
- Dinner time! The moment you’ve been waiting for. Dinner time is here and you’re finally on your way to your dining destination of choice. Ok. Are you ready? I hope you’re hungry and in a good mood! When you get there, think about your “checklist” for a good meal and let the adventure begin!
Lindsey’s Top Five Ways to decide if it’s a Keeper:
- Does it have a good atmosphere? Is it unique and not like 10 others you’ve been to?
- Can you have a conversation without screaming or feeling like the awkwardly silent couple next to you is listening to your every word.
- How are the waiters? Good or bad? Do they come by too often? Not often enough? Or do they bring you a refill when you still have ¾ of your drink left so now you have two drinks sitting in front of you?
- How’s the food selection? Is it the cuisine you were hoping for? Is it tasty enough to want your plate and your neighbor’s too?
- Overall, how do they treat you as a guest? Do you leave wishing you could experience it all over again?
If the restaurant lives up to your checklist’s expectations then you’ve found your treasure my friend. Be sure to tell others (www.yelp.com) subscribe to the restaurant’s newsletters (specials!!) and visit often so they know they are loved!
To my Arizonians, here are just a couple restaurants that passed my checklist test depending on my mood of the moment. Share your favorites too!
Le Grande Orange – www.lagrandeorangepizzeria.com/
Chelsea’s Kitchen – www.chelseaskitchenaz.com/
Tommy Bahamas – www.tommybahama.com
Postino – www.postinowinecafe.com/
Arcadia Farm – www.arcadiafarmscafe.com/
Olive and Ivy – www.foxrc.com/olive_ivy.html
Blanco Taco – www.foxrc.com/blanco.html
Carlsbad Tavern – www.carlsbadtavern.com/
House of Tricks – www.houseoftricks.com/
Rustler’s Roost – www.rustlersrooste.com/
Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse – www.pppatio.com/
Spotted Donkey Cantina - www.spotteddonkeycantina.com/
Hanny’s – www.hannys.net/
Rokerji – www.burningembersphoenix.com/
Dick’s Hideaway – www.burningembersphoenix.com/
Zoe’s Kitchen – www.zoeskitchen.com/
Duck ‘n’ Decanter – www.duckanddecanter.com
Tru Food Kitchen – www.foxrc.com/true_food_kitchen.html
Tee Pee – www.teepeemexicanfood.com/
Coronado Café – www.coronadocafe.com/
My Florist – www.myfloristcafe.com/
America’s Taco Shop – www.americastacoshop.net/
Honey Bears BBQ – www.honeybearsbbq.com/
Two Hippies – www.twohippiesburgers.com/
Bandera – www.hillstone.com
Cien Agave – www.cienagaves.com/
Old Town Tortilla Factory – www.oldtowntortillafactory.com/
Grimaldi’s – www.grimaldis.com/
Deluxe – www.deluxburger.com/
Bungalow – www.bungalowbarandgrill.com/
Sauce – www.foxrc.com/sauce.html
Stingray – www.stingraysushi.com/
Branding; Marketing and Pr. These techniques are the commonly known ways for a business to earn (hopefully positive) recognition and excel in their market. Geico’s Gecko put their name on the map. “Redbull gives you wings” caught the eye of the energy drinker. I’ll never forget the Budweiser frogs. But, while traditional marketing and PR catches the customer’s eye, what makes them a lifelong member of the family?
Marketing and Branding is vital to a company’s visibility, but customers look for more than a catchy song. They look for a positive experience at a coffee shop, a smiling face at the counter of the clothing store and a handyman that goes out of their way to get the job done. To find this service, the paperless land of today’s technology-inclined world unfolds a new retro type of marketing. Yelp (www.yelp.com) calls it “Real Reviews by Real People.” Who would you trust more; a business listing their rankings or 20 consumers providing a first-hand account of their experience with the product or service? I enjoy looking at the newest restaurant’s advertising, but before I pick up my fork, I’m going to read what others have to say. The two topics of self-reviewing on the shelf today will be my favorite stop for reviews, Yelp and the ever so popular trend of blogging.
I’ve joined the Yelp bandwagon. How? The good old fashioned way… word of mouth. My friend Alice swears by it and since I trust her, I had to check it out. Now I might need to join Yelp Addicts Anonymous. Before I go on, let me explain Yelp. Yelp’s philosophy is simple. Real people provide real reviews. Review what you want. Did you like your service and food at Chelsea’s Kitchen . Yelp it and tell others they need to visit immediately. Did you visit a new boutique in town and discover the best deals since the invention of Ebay? Yelp it out! Tell others. On the flip side, real people provide REAL reviews. Real reviews mean honest reviews. Yelp doesn’t discriminate. If you had a bad experience, you can Yelp it and warn others. It not only helps the consumer but it might even help the business in the long run. I could Yelp about Yelp all day long, but instead, I suggest you check out their site (www.yelp.com). Before you know it, you’ll be visiting spots around town and itching to just get home and Yelp about it!
Yelp doesn’t just offer reviews. They share:
- Events around town
- Special invite-only events
- Social Networking capabilities
- Like a Yelper? Follow them and read all their reviews.
Top five reasons to use Yelp
- You can find services with great customer service. Yelpers told me about a Handyman. They gave him such high reviews I had to check him out. I approve. http://www.yelp.com/biz/diamond-d-handyman-phoenix
- Your opinion can FINALLY be heard and appreciated.
- Itching to be a reporter around town? Until Lifestyle magazine calls you, practice your writing skills on Yelp.
- Looking for something to do? Yelp will tell you.
So, my advice is this. If you need Help, just Yelp.
Blogs to Blog About
Yes, the blogging trend started years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s losing its shape for providing a great resource of important information. I live for local blogs, fashion blogs, crafting blogs, etc. Here, others share their super secret tips you’d almost pay money for.
Check out some of my favorite blogs:
Valley Girl – Check this blog daily for the latest tips about excitement around town. http://www.arizonafoothillsmagazine.com/valleygirlblog/
Jaime Rose – Well-known AZ Central (www.azcentral.com) columnist knows all the ins and outs of the latest trends, local tips and more. I read her column daily. http://www.azcentral.com/members/Blog/JaimeeRose
Downtown Phoenix Journal - http://www.downtownphoenixjournal.com/ Not so much a blog, but if you live in Phoenix, it’s a great way to stay up-to-date with happenings around town.
City Girl Blog – Emily Style’s “City Life and Adventures” – I heart SF. As a Nor Cal girl living in the desert, I read about Emily’s latest adventures in my favorite city by the bay http://emilystyle.blogspot.com/
Those with a sweet tooth, beware. After reading this delicious blog you’ll want to run to the store and make these tasty treats yourself. http://milkeggschocolate.blogspot.com/
House Designer’s Haven - http://vivafullhouse.blogspot.com/ I want my place to look like every picture in her blog.
Elements of Style – Great tips and visuals for furnishings. I’d take this home style too. http://www.elementsofstyleblog.com/
Walking down the Aisle? Dreaming of doing so one day? Click here and you’ll have your wedding planned in no time. http://100layercake.com/blog/
Looking for a blog? Check out http://www.blogcatalog.com/. It’s your one stop shop for the best blogs in town.