Growing up on the East Coast of Florida, my version of ‘out West’ usually meant a friend’s house out past the turnpike – a laboriously long voyage at least 15 minutes away. So, when Johnny told me we’d be celebrating Thanksgiving in Paradise Valley, a posh area outside of Scotsdale, Arizona, I excitedly packed my boots and my belt buckles, slathered on an extra layer of moisturizer and giddy’ed on up to the airport. Unfortunately, Johnny told me about the trip in October, so it was slightly awkward when security told me I’d have to wait a month.
But hey, if you saw this area, you would have rushed to the airport, too. In fact, you probably would have tried to craft a plane out of cardboard and duct tape, just to not miss a sunset over the saguaros on Camelback Mountain. Or you would have just bought an earlier ticket. But, I don’t have that kind of coin, so cardboard and duct tape seem like the obvious solution to me.
We spent the holiday with family, lounging around in our pjs, napping under the mesquite tree, sipping mimosas and cooking, cooking, cooking and eating, eating, eating (and watching the Rockettes in the Macy’s Parade, of course.)
We even put the little ones to work, but that’s only because Maddie makes the best guacamole this side of the equator – she could put Rick Bayless to shame. No, seriously, this kid is like an avocado prodigy.
Every now and then we would wrap our distended bellies in loose clothing and head out to mingle with civilized people who actually brush their hair on the weekends. Mainly just so we could eat in a different setting, although the backyard was pretty hard to beat:
People always ponder over what they would do if they won the lottery. Four minutes in La Grande Orange and I’m already planning to spend the winnings on buying this shop. It is cute. It is cool. It is delicious. Win. Win. Win.
We scarfed down Croque Madames and Huevos Rancheros in a matter of minutes. And like pure heathens, we washed it all down with boatloads of their incredible take on Vietnamese Coffees – complete with fattening, rich and wonderful condensed milk. If you live in or around this area and you don’t come here every day, well, shame on you. There are a few spots in the sun outside, but the good seats are inside, staring at the industrial architecture or the hip handmade chalkboards or the people. It’s always fun to stare at people.
Another one of our walkabouts led us to the Pinnacle Peak General Store in Pima. Part gas station, part convenience store, part antique shop, part Post Office, and, most importantly, part oh-yeah-baby breakfast spot, this delightful little nook has all the makings of a memorable meal. I kind of felt like I was eating in the middle of a pawn shop, but once I dug into those pancakes, I could have been eating in the middle of a delivery room for all I cared. Was this food gourmet? Not a chance. But was it good as all get out? You bet your ass.
So, what do you do when you are so full of pancakes and sausage gravy that you just want to die? You do what all families on Thanksgiving vacation do – you go to a notorious biker bar in the middle of nowhere.
Greasewood Flat, a 130-year-old bunkhouse turned bar and burger joint, has been named ‘One of the oldest, quirkiest, most classic bars in America.’ Who dubbed it that? I haven’t a clue, but old and quirky it was – in spades. Dollars pinned, hung and placed in every conceivable nook and cranny, old wooden tables, fire pits and cool, rusted metal lamp posts made this place distinctly one-of-a-kind.
And although I barely got a picture of the gorgeous grounds at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, I did manage to get this shot of an awesome mirror hanging on the wall at the hotel’s restaurant, T. Cook’s.
So, that should tell you more than you need to know – the restaurant is awesome enough to have this mirror, plus a lobster and fennel bisque and a short rib that you’d cut a priest for, thus, it’s worth checking out. We sat in a sunlit courtyard, with lush foliage and the sound of chirping birds and had a truly magnificent meal in a setting meant for long lunches and afternoon cocktails. This would be a perfect date spot.
But, alas, the best part of my trip were the meals made at home. Lame and sappy, I know, but when you make sugar cookies and homemade s’mores, while sipping on Veuve near a roaring fireplace, it’s hard not to feel like
a mothafuckin’ rockstar there’s no place like home. Even if it’s not your home.
Plus, they had this mini-pony in my room. And, although I was staying in a 6-year-old girl’s room, I’d like to think they put it there just for me.
Have you been to Paradise Valley and/or Scotsdale? What’d you think?