Posts Tagged 'Phoenix'

An evening with Carlos and Paradiso

You have probably heard about the fine art of pairing wine with dinner. An up and coming alternative trend is to pair other types of beverages (such as beer or whiskey) with food. Last week I was privileged to attend an exclusive private dinner at The Phoenician Scottsdale starring the premium tequila El Tesoro paired with luscious gourmet cuisine prepared by their world-renown, award-winning culinary team.

Before we began our evening, the reception featured three cocktails to choose from. Always ready to sample, I had a bit of each – the El Tesoro Platinum Margarita (a margarita with Cointreau and a base of fresh lemon and lime juice), the Silvestri Suizo Sueco (a drier margarita with lingonberry puree, served very fittingly in a martini glass), and a twist on one of my favorites, the 5ive P (a fruit-infused bellini containing El Tesoro Paradiso, Pomegranate Liquor and prosecco).

After taking our seats in the dining room, before us we noticed two things that I never thought I would be served at a sit down dinner – a shot of tequila next to a trio of sushi made with baby octopus. Neither was very tempting to me, so I politely declined. During this time, Carlos Camarena, the owner of the El Tesoro distillery spoke to our small crowd of 60. He explained how his grandfather began making the fine tequila in its current location in 1937 and how his father, and now he, continued the tradition.

As owner and Master Distiller, Carlos’ stories held us captivated. He explained how his family’s tequila was crafted: The care that went in to selecting the right agave, how the product is pure and organic, and how much pride he and his family take in their business. For example, rather than mass produce tequila to 140-160 proof then adding water to make it 80 proof (as most distilleries do), El Tesoro is distilled by hand to be exactly 80 proof. El Tesoro was the first to do this, and is only one of two distilleries in the world who do.

After the wait staff removed the octopus which in all honesty was not easy to look at, but hard to look away from, they replaced it with a much more welcome treat – a Phoenician Tequila Sunrise (the traditional beverage enhanced with Pomegranate Liquor and a touch of sour mix) paired with mini quesadillas filled with roasted hot peppers and a sort of corn fungus that resembled truffles. The sweetness of the drink was the perfect match for the spicy dish. I nearly licked my plate clean and left not one drop in the glass.

Next up was our third course consisting of flaky seabass. Now if you know me, you know I am not a fish-eater, but this dish was actually delightful. Accompanying it was a bloody maria. The fourth course was the most tender pork tenderloin imaginable, in a spicy mole sauce. The beverage served was a traditional margarita made with Reposado tequila, nearly as delicious as the Tequila Sunrise.

As we awaited our next course, Carlos returned to tell more stories including another example of his groundbreaking techniques. A few years back, when he introduced the idea of aging tequila in oak barrels, his industry colleagues laughed at him. Once he tasted the product of this practice, he knew he had a hit and now has a selection of tequilas processed in this manner. Due to its brandy-like nature, the Añejo tequila was presented to us in miniature brandy snifters meant for sipping though doing so made my lips feel as though they were on fire! The accompanying dish was a delightful plate of Mexican cheeses, meant to clear the palate for what was to come – dessert.

The finale was a fabulously-crafted chocolate tequila cake. It was so beautiful – with a lemon custard meringe-like topping, gorgeous sugar work and layers of tequila-soaked dark chocolate cake, I almost didn’t want to touch it. Of course, I devoured it in about a minute! Another mini snifter was included, this time with the collectors-edition, extremely rare Aniversario tequila.

Carlos’ story of the Aniversario tequila is truly fascinating. You can read it in his own words here – the Coincidence of the Lucky 7s. Although I only had a bit of the cognac-like liquor, I knew it was something very, very special – only 2007 bottles were produced in honor of their 70th anniversary last year.

Fortunately I had the good sense to refrain from overindulging (in alcohol anyway) or I could have been in big trouble during the 45-minute drive home. I do feel that the experience was somewhat wasted on me, as someone who doesn’t know enough about tequila (or care to drink it much).

By the way, we did go home some goodie bags which had shot glasses and cocktail shakers. At upwards of $150 per bottle, there was no chance we’d all be taking the tequila home with us (though three lucky people did win bottles as a door prize). Nor is there any chance that I’ll be purchasing some myself. But – I did walk away with the privileged gift of having had a unique experience and a very interesting evening in the company of a master craftsman. For that – I will always be grateful.


Phoenix is on fire!

The Ethan Fire burns in South Phoenix  Photo taken from a downtown office building - not a storm cloud, that's smoke! 

I don’t know how much national news coverage there has been on the fire in South Phoenix but it’s the top news story here. I was driving home Wednesday night when I spotted two huge billowing clouds of smoke emanating from the South valley. At first glance they resembled two tornadoes and with the cloud coverage and 56 degree dewpoint I knew there was a potential for a dust storm/haboob/monsoon. Once my eyes adjusted to the sight, I realized it was smoke. With flat terrain in the valley we are accustomed to seeing house fires from very far away, but I could tell this was no house fire as it was much, much larger. The radio newscast said it was a brush fire caused by lightning strikes.

Fire may eventually threaten homes

Although officials originally thought the fire – now named the Ethan Fire – would be fairly easily doused, it has jumped the containment line and may eventually threaten some homes. The problem is that it started in a remote brush area where there are no roads and it was difficult to get equipment in time to get it under control. Also, the California wildfires are using some of the Phoenix-area resources at the moment. Even now, days later, a big black cloud hangs over the valley, blocking out the sun in some areas.

In case you were wondering, we aren’t in any danger. Our home is about 50 miles away, though we will be praying for the residents in the area as well as the fire crews. We are far enough away from any sort of brush that would cause this type of damage.

Post-birthday, running, lacrosse, Super Bowl Sunday, Phoenix weather report

I hate doing blog “updates” – they seem so droll. I did this – and I did that. Anyway, I haven’t done one in a while so here’s what’s up in our household…

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes! Once you get to be my age, you don’t really like birthdays but it sure beats the alternative. Mine was really nice – I went to see 27 Dresses with my friend Kathy, then got a pedicure. Our family went out to dinner at Rigatony’s which was fabulous. Tomorrow night we’re going out dancing with our neighbors & friends to celebrate. As for the present report – I got a pretty bracelet and some pecans from my sister Allison and some mad money from my mom (which I’ve used toward some camera accessories). Terry and the kids gave me one of those newfangled digital photo frames which I absolutely love. I set it up on the end table in the living room but hopefully soon I will have a desk to place it on.

Last weekend Terry and I ran in the “Run for the Islands 5K” and did pretty well. I beat my time from my last race, but they haven’t posted the actual time yet. I came in at about 35 minutes and Terry and our friend Todd were about a half a minute behind me. I think the reason they were lagging might have something to do with the beers they had the night before maybe? We were just happy we made it to the finish line. I think our next race will be the Pat Tillman Run, which I’ll write about in a future post (it deserves its own).

Eric has his first lacrosse game on Saturday – in Tucson! We’re not looking forward to that drive, but he’s playing on the Varsity team so that’s a good experience for him, considering he’s a freshman! It’s about time he has a game though – he’s been practicing for over three months!

Justin is psyched for the Super Bowl. He’s hoping the Giants will win. The rest of our household is cheering for them as well, but mostly because we just don’t want to see the Patriots get more rings. We decided just to have a low-key family party like last year, when we had tacos and root beer floats, which the kids loved of course. The city is in a frenzy – they are predicting over 600,000 people converging on the valley this weekend! Fortunately the event is on the other side of the city from us, but the FBR Open golf tournament (being held on the same day, as always) is in Scottsdale which is contributing to the crowds.

It’s been freezing here – well, maybe not freezing but it’s been cold! I’ve been wearing sweaters and sweatshirts, and it doesn’t even warm up mid-day with the sun. But I suppose I have no right to complain considering all the horrid weather the Midwest and Northeast are getting. Must be all those Patriots and Giants fans, bringing their frigid climates with them!

Lazy summer Sunday

Hot – hot – hot! That’s the best way to describe life in Phoenix right now. Yesterday we went to Jim & Kathy’s for a little get-together. They had guests in from back home (they are from Buffalo) and we had fun hanging out with them and some of our neighbors. Surprisingly, once the sun went down it was not really that hot. I didn’t even get in the pool, and never broke a sweat. Kathy made beef on weck and we all brought side dishes. Her cousin Kathy S. brought her signature Chicken Wing Dip which is to die for. I ate way too much of it.

Today is just R&R – Justin has some buddies over and they’re playing their usual video games. Too hot to play outside, though they were in the pool a little while ago. Eric hasn’t been feeling well – he’s got a cold. There’s nothing worse than to have a stuffy nose in the summertime, especially when it’s so brutally hot.

Earlier today I made a short trip to Tempe to check out our local Whole Foods store.  I’ve been to the authentic one in Austin and found ours to be a micro-version of it. Although I was successful in finding one specialty item I haven’t seen elsewhere in Phoenix – Salt Lick Barbecue Sauce – there really wasn’t anything else I couldn’t have found at the Sunflower Market only 1/2 mile from my house. I’m glad I checked it out though, because now tonight’s barbecue ribs will have real Texas flavor!

Tomorrow it’s back to work :( and Tuesday more of the same, then I’m out of the office until Friday the 13th. I have vacation days at the end of this week, and traveling out of town for a site visit next week. I’m hoping to do the “carry-on only” thing for this trip so we’ll see how that goes. I haven’t attempted this since the new liquid restrictions went into place.

Hmmmm… I think I’m going to go for a dip in the pool and start a new book while floating on my raft til dinner is ready (I put the ribs in the crock pot this morning). I just love summertime! Here’s the recipe for Chicken Wing Dip – serve it with Wheat Thins, carrot sticks and/or celery sticks.

Hey! Don’t make fun of my haboobs!

ha·boob – (he-bōōb’) n. A penetrating sandstorm or dust storm with violent winds, occurring chiefly in Arabia, North Africa, and India.

Last May I was in Charleston, NC at a meeting. On the local morning news they were talking about how a “haboob” had worked its way across the Phoenix area. Having lived in Phoenix for over five years I wondered what the heck they were talking about. I looked up from applying my eyeliner and saw a photo similar to what you see above. “Oh,” I thought, “it’s just a dust storm.”

Every late spring/early summer, maybe every 8-10 days or so, we get these dust storms. In fact, we’re overdue right now. The storms always seem to hit during the evening commute, between about 4pm and 6pm, though of course not always on a weekday – that would just be eerie. They disrupt traffic, coat our cars with a veil of desert dirt, deposit leaves and branches into our swimming pools and blow empty trash barrels around in the streets. As the first big snowstorm was always the big local news story in New York, the first dust storm of the year is always big local news here.

If you’re lucky you might get to see an actual tumbleweed blow by in front of you on the freeway – yes, just like in Roadrunner cartoons and John Wayne movies. If you’re really lucky, the storm might even bring a drop or two of rain – usually BIG drops, though few and far between.

If we’re at home, we usually have to run out to the back yard and rescue the patio chairs from certain doom: Blowing into our swimming pool. Blinking back the dirt from our eyes and attempting to ignore the grittiness in our teeth, we rush to make sure anything that isn’t nailed down is either brought inside or tethered. Potted plants overturn, hummingbird feeders whip in the wind and I’ve even seen the patio umbrellas take off from neighbors’ back yards like kites. If we’re not at home when one blows through, we can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Yes, it’s all very cool to watch, and you’d better like it because there ain’t nothin’ on TV while this storm is happening – the satellite isn’t likely to be getting much of a signal what with all the hubbub going on outdoors. But the good news is, it’s all likely to be over in 30-45 minutes and we can go out back to retrieve our forgotten pool towels from the bottom of the hot tub.

Getting back to my recollection of that Charleston morning news broadcast last year, I watched as the newscasters made fun of Phoenicians and our “haboobs”. Their taunting made us out to look like wierdos who enjoy some sort of strange vocabulary – though I was more than slightly insulted since I had obviously never heard anyone refer to a “dust storm” in such a manner. Karma came only moments later, in the next story when the plasticized, big-haired news “reporter” was interviewing an alligator expert about a recent increase in Florida alligator attacks.

BIG HAIR: “So, Mr. Davis, tell me. If an alligator comes at you, what should you do?”

ALLIGATOR EXPERT: (pausing to look at her in disbelief) “Well, you RUN.”

Well, duh!