Thursday, May 29, 2014

And Then There's Never Enough, That's When the Sun Starts Comin' Up

Went to Arizona for a short trip to see my folks.  A chance to eat some real Mexican food!! Or at least get a taste of how the locals make their dishes.  I'm not sticking to my no bread or cheese migraine restrictions on this trip but as much as I can, I'll try only to avoid the dreaded incident of a major headache on the road.

But first we'd have to endure plane or airport food.  This salad actually was darn good except the croutons were soft, not crunchy like they looked.  I think they should have kept them packaged in a separate bag so as not to pick up the moisture.  But all in all, well worth the hundred dollars we spent on them at the airport.

The folks were up in Queen Creek, so we had to drive up from Tucson and were staying in a hotel in Mesa. On the way up, we stopped somewhere to eat this taco, now I can't remember if I loved it or not.  Probably. Hard to mess up a carne asada taco.

The first night we were tired but realized that bad food was gonna make it worse so we went to a grocery store like dweebs and bought a roasted chicken with hummus and pre-cut vegetables.  We had to buy paper plates and the rest.  There is something kind of off-putting about eating grocery store chicken in a hotel room but we were tired, too much to even take a photo.  It was good enough. The pool was under repair until the morning we left and then of course it was good to go.  But I got a slammin' deal, less than $35 bucks a night just by joining some dumb app.  Marriott in Mesa.

The next morning we were off to Queen Creek to see the folks and stopped off for breakfast at the Cozy Corner Cafe.  I got the suggestion from the internet and when we saw it was in a strip mall we were afraid it was gonna be another food mistake.  But when we walked in it was so cute, like a city diner only if you're Aunt Betty decorated it.  The food was just what we needed and the waitress was super friendly.

I didn't eat my potatoes and she whispered if it was because they were over done.  But it was only because I'm trying not to eat fried foods and if I had to explain the whole story about my diet, she would have died of boredom so I just said no.

We continued our chicken fest with more store bought roasted birds and salad for the crew that night. Although it ended with a last minute run to In and Out Burger for the kids.  We almost resisted until we saw them and I'd never had so we split one in the car like savage beasts.  It was so good, a bit of heaven.  Big ole onion slice and toasted bun with that hamburger grease on it.  We stole a fry out of the kids bag and went back.  We officially broke the diet, so now of course it's a free for all.
The next day we met my brother, his wife and son to have breakfast and we ended up a Mexican Restaurant, again in a strip mall but again the inside felt so different.  I loved it but I was still semi-determined to try to eat right.  I had the corn tamale and chicken taco with black beans .  Their hot sauce was served with chips for free (something that is going away more and more in the city) and there were two.  One a pico type sauce and the other was a thin tart sauce that I liked with a Mexican oregano flavor and something else I couldn't place but have always loved.

My brother's plate looked the best to me, the tostada combo plate, always a favorite of mine.  The rice was the right color and he had refried pinto beans, the way it should be.  Funny he ate them with a fork.  I have to pick tostadas up for the ultimate experience.

Back to see the folks and that night, my niece's husband walked in with literally a stack of pizza boxes, like there must have been 10 for the crew.  Lots of fun flavors.  I musta been too disoriented because I didn't get pics.  Almost everyone in the group wasn't eating white flour products for some reason or other including my dad but we all had some and it was great.  My mom and dad looked incredible and its such a joy to see them.  It's heart-wrenching to leave once you realize how much you love and miss them.  My dad is 90 and he's out there watering the lawn and looking spry.  Mom mom gave me some gems but mostly when I told her goodbye she looked right in my eyes and acknowledged me and told me she loved me.  I love her hands. You treasure those moments with her.  Her hair was bright shiny silver in a little flip.  She has the best skin and hair.  How can someone be so beautiful at 91?

That night we drove back down to Tucson which took much longer than expected.  Not sure if we were stopping too much along the way or what but we didn't end up getting to the hotel until after dark.
The hotel was a resort and P surprised me because I let him pick it and he did Good!  Real good.  Plus they were running a deal, so we got it for the price of a regular hotel in town.  As a matter of fact we stopped at Losbetos and picked up, you guessed it, roasted chicken but this time with side of pinto beans and chips and guacamole and a salad for good measure.  They served it with these warmed corn tortillas that tasted like heaven!  We thought the resort was too upscale and I felt bad for walking in with my plastic sack of hot food but we quickly got over it when we saw that there were tons of regular people walking about in casual dress.

The lobby of the hotel was modest but they had super cool extras like this nice lounge area, several restaurants, and almost a museum like setting of rocks and plants of the desert, chess tables, a nice clothing shop, a very accommodating gift shop and...
 or should I say but. But the room itself was the sanctuary.  The bed was king and high!  Felt like a midget. Nice sheets super comfy.  A deck with chairs.

 A tv in the bathroom and a tub the size of a small town.  Huge shower head and good shampoo!

Firstly, let me say this place was a dream.  Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. Sits right at the base of the canyon and you look up and you're right at the mountains.  Gorgeous.  Tucson like I've never seen it.  The owner's aim was to not disturb nature and that made a big difference everywhere.
You know you're in the Southwest when the regular breakast buffet comes with two salsas.
The sunsets were awesome.  And we had two days to eat as much as we possibly could and soak up sun and calm and beauty before heading back to Brokelyn.  We had breakfast at the hotel, al fresco, ah hem.

we spent time at this gorgeous pool where we were given Italian Ice, cold towels for cooling off and frozen grape kabobs!  The sunscreen was free and there were these great fruit infused ice water stations everywhere.

There was a path leading to a waterfall at the hotel.  Just a small hike but all the details were thought out at this place.

This is the home of the Saguaro cactus, the most famous and big of all cacti.  Some were blooming and all were amazing.  There was a lake with loads of fish and turtles, ducks and lizards were everywhere.

we had burgers poolside!

shrimp cerviche as an appetizer....poolside mind you.
there was a golf course beyond the lake and we sat at the 18th hole and saw some really bad golfers end their games.
We took a drive around town and to where my niece lives and now my parents.  

We drove up to the famed Mt Lemmon, a place we've always planned to go when visiting but it's never worked out.  It was worth it.  A 45 minute drive straight up with tons of view points until you get to the tippy top.  There was a fire up there years ago but they are still recovering.  We ate at the Iron Door Restaurant where they had the cutest patio overlooking the ski slope and tons of hummingbird feeders.  We shared sandwiches and the best iced tea.  
 Record heat in Tucson that week, so it was 25 degrees cooler up in the mountain.

The absolute best food moment was this mixed berry pie ala mode with fresh whipped cream all warm and just baked tasting.  Up there on that mountain with those hummingbirds and that view, eating that pie, I felt like my soul was cleansed and refreshed.  It almost didn't matter what happens next because seeing my family, my sister and my brother, and their families was something I needed very much and it meant the world to me.  And I hope this blessed feeling can stay with me as long as possible.

The last night we had mushroom pizza and they delivered it in a box, just like the real deal.  And the guy laid everything out with a white table cloth. How cute is that? We also had these great spinach salads dressed in black currants and walnut oil.
Yes we ate our way through the state of Arizona and except for one morning did I get a major headache.  All in all, a beautiful trip.

I was trying to stay positive after the plane landed and the terrain and view drastically changed.  I looked over and P's face said it all...
...we're back in New York.