Photography by Emma Krasov
Arizona turns 100 years in 2012, and I celebrated the centenary of its statehood by visiting the city of Phoenix and its environs this spring. Out of Arizona’s five “C”s – Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus, and Climate – the latter impressed me the most. Arizonian desert climate is dry, sunny, and very comfortable, especially when it’s wet and windy in the rest of the country.
I was also impressed with the brazen amount of copper everywhere. Copper cocktail mugs, copper salt and pepper shakers at restaurants, copper door handles, copper railings, and copper banisters in public buildings, etc.
I even engaged in making a copper jewelry piece at the Mesa Arts Center – the largest in the state – with four theatres, five galleries, and 14 visual and performing arts studious on its seven-acre lovingly designed campus. Arizona citrus is plentiful, too, like in fresh-squeezed juices at The Breakfast Club, located in downtown Phoenix – a growing oasis of ambitious architecture, public art, and fine dining establishments.
District American Kitchen & Wine Bar occupies the first floor of the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel and serves the freshest herbs and vegetables from the hotel’s own rooftop garden. The property implemented a triple-filtered water system that uses ultra-violet light to help purify water that then fills out Sheraton logo water bottles used at the restaurant. The locavore movement in Arizona grows fast.
Queen Creek Olive Mill just outside Mesa is a family-owned farm and olive mill engaged in growing and pressing its own fruit. It is readily patronized by the locals and tourists alike. Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe near Arizona State University is popular due to its original hand-crafted ales, like Scottish-style “Kilt Lifter” and Arizona Peach Ale.
Dinners Down the Orchard are in high demand at Schnepf Farms – the largest peach grower in Arizona. Open to the public and served in the peach orchard of the family farm several times a year, these dinners are prepared by the famous guest chefs. There is no shortage of upscale eateries in Greater Phoenix with its many high-end hotels for business travelers and snowbird vacationers.
Deseo at The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale is an elegant restaurant serving delectable ceviche with lobster, crab, shrimp, and tuna; Kobe beef on Cuban flat bread, and lamb cutlets with truffle chimichurri.
The best place for a royal Arizona experience is also located in Scottsdale and is called The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
Its multi-level Willow Stream Spa design was inspired by Havasu Falls within the Grand Canyon. During my stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, I had a Hacienda Retreat body treatment, after which I happily joined the signature Snakebite Tequila Tasting at one of the hotel’s restaurants – La Hacienda, where fresh guacamole and flaming coffee are prepared tableside.
If you must stay and play in downtown, The Westin Phoenix Downtown is one of the top ten new hotels in the country. Its modern minimalist décor, clean lines, and overall sophistication are only rivaled by the amazing views of the high-rises outside its glass walls and from its rooftop swimming pool. Downtown Phoenix unfolds outside the Westin walls with all its old and newly added attractions, like the expanded Phoenix Convention Center; light-rail system, recently added to the city scene; urban campus for Arizona State U; a retail, dining and entertaining district named CityScape; and newly renovated performance art venues and museums.
One of the not-to-be-missed venues is the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) which offers much more excitement than its name implies. Opened only two years ago and occupying a two-story 190 000 sq. ft. building, the museum boasts a mind-boggling 5 000-piece collection of musical instruments from around the world and from different time periods. The most fascinating experiences are offered through the wireless headphones and hi-res video screens that come to life whenever you enter their zone without you pushing any buttons or searching for explanations. Prepare to be amazed and to spend much more time here than you usually spend at a museum.
And then there is Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort – a contemporary hotel and a living museum. Conceived by the McArthur brothers, it was built in 1929 on a 200-acre land planted with orange groves outside Phoenix. Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, not only followed his mentor’s ideas, but invited the famous architect, who called Arizona “a vast battleground of titanic natural forces” to be his consultant on the Biltmore project. Wright’s design is in the concrete blocks pattern that makes Biltmore outer walls look like brocade; in the gilded and patinated ceilings with wrought-iron light fixtures, in spacious guest rooms with sharp angles, and in a stained glass Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers from 1927 in the hotel lobby. Wright’s at the Biltmore is a historic restaurant that still serves timeless classics, like Waldorf salad and Beef Wellington.
Sedona is among the most remarkable places in Arizona. Its red ferrous sandstone forms flat-top mountains that look like Parthenon, or like Jefferson Memorial, or like an enchanted castle. The Enchantment Resort in Sedona’s Boynton Canyon is surrounded by wind-carved red rocks. The best part of staying here is getting spa treatments at Mii amo, a Destination Spa at Enchantment. After Intentional Aromatherapy Massage, enhanced with my favorite scents of rose and lavender, I had a shot of wheatgrass at the Mii amo Café, and learned from a detailed description on the juice bar menu that it contained about 70% of chlorophyll – the life blood of plants; vitamin A; and all known minerals.
Mii Amo provides “journey” treatment programs for three, four, and seven nights that include lodging, meals, and all kinds of physical and spiritual activities. There is a meditation room, called Crystal Grotto, where every morning a staff member leads a group meditation for the guests to guide them “toward acknowledging and understanding their intentions for the day.”
A skylight of the grotto is aligned with a crystal positioned right in the center of the round room. During summer solstice, a sunbeam hits the crystal exactly at noon on June 21. Many Mii amo guidance-seekers try to align their vacation time with this annual event. There is a fabulous Che-Ah-Chi restaurant (Executive Chef David Schmidt) located at the Enchantment’s newly renovated Clubhouse, equipped with a fireplace, beautiful lounge spaces, and sliding glass walls overlooking the Martian canyon.