MUSICAL LA QUINTA,CA AND SAVORY SCOTTSDALE, AZ
Some get-a-ways are about the location, some about the companions, and some about recapturing memories. May's wandering to Scottsdale was about friends, location and a LOT about cuisine.
I was fortunate enough to be the guest of my friend and neighbor, Bonnie,at her timeshare, the Westin Kierland Villas in Scottsdale, AZ. As usual I packed too much into my days prior to this trip.
Friday, May 22,Saturday, May 23-Sunday, May 24
Pam, in La Quinta, invited me to a concert at Fantasy Springs featuring the Doobie Brothers and the Allman Brothers. Who could resist that combination? Since I was there already for a hair appointment on Friday I said ,"Sure!" What I didn't know was that it was four hours long with a 35 minute intermission-yowza (What was I thinking? I was 20 something?) Thankfully, my favs, the Doobies were on first. It was a very high energy show with all of their fabulous hits played plus a new recording. How did that many aging hippies find themselves in one place and does that much tie dye really still exist? After about 20 minutes of the Allmans her husband, Doug, took my place and I was on my way home. At 1 A.M. I arrived in Oceanside, unpacked, repacked,to bed at 2:30, woke at 5:30, drove to work,began at 8:30,off at 2pm, changed clothes, drove to parking lot, shuttled to airport, departed at 5pm and arrived in Phoenix at 6:20. Did you get all that? For those of you who know me, yes, even I get tired (who else would do this to themselves)but it was worth it.
If you know the San Diego airport well you should probably skip this next part because I am going to address how user friendly I think this airport is. Arrival at Lindbergh Field gives you several choices. One is to arrive via the Amtrak Surfliner which has the fewest stops and also runs on Sunday. The commuter train option is to use Metrolink from LA or Orange County connecting in Oceanside with the southbound Coaster. These trains do NOT run on Sunday but make the most station stops and offer the most frequent times. Either train will end at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. From there it is about half a block walk to the bus stop on Broadway and Kettner (end of the tracks) where the red and white airport bus #992 will take you to the airport about every 15 minutes. It is free with a train ticket and $2.25 if not. This option doesn't usually work for me because my departure time is never when a Northbound train leaves.
The second option would be to drive down and park your car at one of the many lots close by the airport. This trip I used the Park and Go on Pacific Coast Highway. They average about $10 a day unless you go on line (which you can do if you want to make reservations to guarantee a spot)and find a coupon for $7. Most of these lots will let you reserve on line in advance necessary if over a holiday period. From there it is about a 5-10 minute ride to the airport via their free shuttle. Some lots will even wash your car while you are gone for an additional fee. Some lots also offer covered parking.
Southwest makes it so easy to check in on line and no baggage fees I like how they've eliminated the old jockeying for space in line by dividing the groups into 1-5, 6-10 etc. for preboarding.
Phoenix has the most organized rental car facility I've seen. All the rental car offices and lots are accessed by shuttle from the terminals. After comparing prices on both the car rental websites and on line with Orbitz, SideStep, Travelocity, Expedia, etc. I found the price for Enterprise on Hotwire. Through their tracking system they alerted me twice to price drops which enabled me to lower the cost from $184 on Enterprises' website to $74 for a four day compact rental. I cancelled and rebooked twice with no penalties. When I got to the Enterprise lot I was greeted with a cold bottle of water, maps, my route mapped out for me, a complimentary two class upgrade, and a personalized walk around the car for inspection. AND my young agent asked what kind of music I liked and set the radio dial for me, WOW! Of course this could have been because we had a nice chat about my concert going and foodie needs comparing restaurants (he validated some of my choices and gave me a few other leads). By the by, Enterprise now owns National (one of the few companies left that allows for a different pick and return destination with no extra charge) and Alamo. Shop around folks!
Without weekday traffic and relying on my GPS that I packed it was an easy ride to the Westin. This is a beautiful property linked to the hotel next door by a walkway and golf course. Bonnie came out to meet me and show me around the property. After checking out the spacious, luxurious two bedroom unit (I mean we each had our own bedroom, balcony, bathroom, living room, kitchen, 2 TVs, and Internet access, we walked over to the hotel in search of food and drink. The hotel was also impressive with a beautiful library adjacent to the lobby/lounge, cascading waterfalls, three restaurants (one pub style, one casual, and their signature restaurant, Deseo).
We opted to sit outside in the balmy 80 degree evening and chat over flatbread pizza and salad. Walking back it was d-a-r-k and tricky finding your way back to the timeshare, but we made it.
MONDAY, MAY 25
After much needed sleep when Monday morning came, it was difficult even then to leave that trademark Heavenly bed! I actually slept in which is 7:30 for me. Was it because of the blackout curtain? Armed with a pot of Starbucks coffee brewed in room, and book I headed for the balcony. Later we two weary travelers headed for lunch at the hotel (great salad)fortification for our shopping outing to the Kierland Commons, an outside shopping mall with lots and I mean LOTS of good restaurants to choose from, across from the hotel. Westin makes it very convenient to get around and you really don't even need a car. They will take you from the lobby of either the hotel or the villas to the Commons and drop you off at whatever store or restaurant you desire. When you are ready to come home the shop or restaurant will call for the shuttle (which can be either a golf cart or a van) and you are picked up within 5-o10 minutes. Needless to say we used it a LOT, but we usually tried to walk at least one way to get our exercise and work off calories. You try it in 100 degree weather. Bonnie hits Chico's with a vengeance so we don't get past one store before it is time to go back to the Villas for a wine tasting event. In all fairness we did get a late start and I did find a couple of choice items too. We even found stuff for you, Mel!
Held in the lobby with superb appetizers prepared by the executive chef from Deseo, our host, Tony Miller, expounded on the values of a 2007 Selby Sauvignon Blanc from Healdsburg paired with Chipotle crab salad, a 2006 Marc Bredif Vouvray from France paired with Shrimp Crostini with Curry-Line Aioli, a 2006 Kalleske Clarry's Red from Australia paired with Goat Cheese Crostini with Tomato-Herb Salad, and a 2006 Luca "Laborde Double Select" Syrah from Argentina paired with Mushroom Duxelle in Puff Pastry (yes, Phillis and Linda, I actually ate the mushrooms). While I am not really a white wine lover these two were terrific. What I liked about Tony Miller is that he looks for value and taste and finds more "out of the box" wineries. He gave us notes about some other wines that we didn't taste but that he values highly.
Mellowed out, appetites whetted we shuttled over to the Commons and selected a restaurant called Zinc Bistro (named for its zinc topped bar) http://www.zincbistro.com/
Enjoying our outside table we found the food great. Bonnie ordered short ribs bordelaise with zinc potato gratin, garlic and nutmeg cream,(these were fab), while my selection was Braised lamb shank with honey roasted peppers, fontina polenta, nicoise and picholine. A memorable ending to our day.
TUESDAY, May 26
This was to be a lounging day, yes another 100 degrees plus causing us to move slowly, eventually lunching at North, a modern Italian cuisine restaurant. This trendy spot is part of the Fox group (you can't go wrong with any of their places). Prompted by our Fabio look alike waiter we tried fried zuchini chips and split a goat cheese, asparagus pizza with a yummy salad. Everything was to die for. Our shuttle arrives upon our call and back to the hotel we go.
Dinner takes us away from the Commons to Scottsdale's waterfront area (and I use the term loosely) which is basically some fountains. Cowboy Ciao, http://www.cowboyciao.com,7133/ Stetson Drive, 480-946-3111, Scottsdale, AZ
billed as contemporary American food. It is highly grazeable, vegetable rich , small plates, salads and entree kind of place. The Stetson Chopped Salad we ordered was made up of smoked salmon, couscous, trail mix, and other ingredients is an absolutely amazing surprise . When the waitress heard me trying to recreate it out loud for home she printed out the recipe for me. Wow! Is that unusual or what? No writing in to the RSVP section of the Times now. I'm impressed. So readers I'm adding it below for you to try-you WON'T be disappointed. I'm not a big fan of smoked salmon but I was wowed. One of my favorite features of this restaurant is that you can watch the chefs in the kitchen, the best seat being at the bar. They boast an extensive wine list too. Bonnie ordered the Espresso rubbed steak with cabernet demi glace, tortilla smashed Yukon gold potatoes and chipotle aioli while I tried the slow roasted short ribs with dried cherry barbecue sauce, pecan grits, and pan grilled veggies. For dessert she tries the Cowboy Chocolate Chip Cookie which has chopped bacon in it for a twist. She loved it , but not my cup of tea-too smoky. Waddling back to our room, we try not to think about all the calories we consumed focusing instead on tomorrow's eateries.
My last day has arrived so I savor an early morning rise, reading with coffee on the balcony watching the golfers cook and the jackrabbits scamper (yes, they have them here too) until Bonnie rises at 9:30. After more coffee and a walk around the grounds we head for lunch at Tommy Bahamas which is always a favorite and then back to wait for my replacement, Lori, to arrive. Thanks to Bonnie for inviting me.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COW BOY CIAO'S STETSON CHOPPED SALAD
Israeli or "pearl" cous cous (cooked 2 oz)
Argula 2 oz chopped
Roma tomatoes 2 oz chopped
Smoked salmon 1 1/2 oz
Pepitas 1/2 oz
Black currants 1/2 oz
super sweet dried corn 1 oz
pesto (prepared) 1/2 c
shallot, 1 roughly chopped
Aioli (mayo) 1 C
Buttermilk 1 C
Coarse black pepper 1/2 tsp
1/2 lemon juice only
salt and pepper to taste
Add first three ingredients to food processor and blend thoroughly. With motor running pour in buttermilk. Add remaining ingredients to combine. Store in refrigerator.
Well, I hope this whetted your appetites and when in Scottsdale you take advantage of their culinary options.... what else is there to do when it is so hot but eat and swim, yes?
Until next time , your wandering gourmand,c