Phoenix Now Has My Heart
I have officially fallen in love with Phoenix, AZ. I truly adore it. When I booked this trip to Phoenix, I didn’t really know what to expect because my last experience was a whopping 24 hour long trip while book tour hopping throughout cities. And when I was there last time, I wasn’t overly impressed with our dinner, which is pretty much the whole premise behind my trips – if it doesn’t have delicious food, I don’t want to go there.
This trip to Phoenix completely exceeded my expectations. The weather was cooler than usual, but compared to Denver, it was absolutely perfect. I even spent part of my days in a bikini pool side, soaking up any sunshine I could get! 60 degrees in Phoenix feels much different than 60 degrees in Denver.
When we landed in Phoenix our first day, we went to our first hotel, the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale and were welcomed by friendly staff and by far the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed at. The hotel opened in 1956 but since then has been renovated and has a restaurant, amazing bar, a spa and also a pool. AND they are have an insanely amazing gym, which is super important to me. They have so much equipment, which is so helpful when you’re trying to stick to your goals! We stayed in the Tower Suite which had SO MANY amenities including a full kitchen, gigantic bathroom, a living room and a comfortable bed! It seriously felt like we were living in an apartment. After getting there the first day and having drinks and dinner, we honestly didn’t even want to leave our room because it felt so welcoming and comfortable.
Our first night, we started the evening off with drinks at their bar and I had THREE of this amazing cocktail that included vodka, strawberry, basil and jalapeño. It was to die for. I couldn’t stop. Then after one too many drinks, we had dinner at their restaurant inside the hotel, called ZuZu. Hotel restaurants can be so hit or miss, you really never know what you’re going to get. Luckily, ZuZu is BombBomb. My husband told me I keep saying bomb lately, but I can’t stop. Can’t stop, won’t stop. We started our dinner off with the seared ahi tuna starter then I had the filet mignon with mashed potatoes, crispy brussels sprouts and yuzu hollandaise. Absolutely amazing. And what I loved about their menu is they mark everything that is gluten free, so you don’t have to ask. It made it super easy to pick an entree! And since it was vacation, we OF COURSE had dessert! We tried the chocolate and caramel bavarian torte and it was perfect! Desserts are the best part of vacation! And what’s cool about ZuZu is that they use many local farmers and suppliers and list them on their website!
After a very delicious and filling perfect first night, we ordered breakfast to our room which was super easy and on time. I’m so used to hotels NEVER being on time with room service so that was a pleasant surprise! They have a long list for breakfast, including a cinnamon roll that looked to die for, but I stuck with the gluten free (and egg free) choices like sausage, tomatoes, berries, and potatoes.
We then left early in the morning to go mountain biking in Usery Mountain in Mesa! There is a ton of trails and mountains to hike around there, but since I hate walking uphill for pleasure, we hopped on bikes with a guide from Arizona Outdoor Adventures that took us through the trails and taught us about the mountains and the landscape. Our guide was adorable and knew pretty much anything we threw at him. The trails were super easy, but I’m sure they have more advanced trails if you ask for that!
After mountain biking, we got to go see a place called True Garden, which is a 5,000-square-foot vertical urban farm that is also a place to show others how to produce healthy and nutritious food using no soil. We not only got to tour their cool facility that grows for many companies, restaurants and events in town, but we were also able to taste many of the vegetables that they were growing like arugula, cilantro, chives, celery, and a crap ton of other veggies. And for real, it tastes SO DIFFERENT than what we are use to in our own grocery store. It was amazing. And you can totally do this at home, too! Such a cool idea!
After snacking on veggies at True Garden, we headed to the Queen Creek Olive Mill to grab lunch. This adorable family-owned and operated working olive mill and farm is a place where olives are grown and pressed for the production of high quality extra virgin olive oil. But they also have a beautiful farm and store so you can grab lunch, shop some of their hundreds of products that they make with the olive oil, and tour the facility to see how the olive oil is made! We started with lunch which was FANTASTIC! I had half a chicken with potatoes and brussels sprouts along with this gravy herb dressing on top. It was so.good. After lunch, we toured the facility. And honestly, it didn’t interest me very much. I think what they are doing is amazing, but olive pressing just isn’t my thing. Call me crazy. What I did enjoy was shopping all their products and being able to taste most of them. They have olive oils, vinegars, spreads, body products, chocolate and more. And let me tell you, the chocolate is INSANE! We bought a bunch of stuff and shipped it home, but I kept the chocolates with me and they were gone so fast. I wish I would have bought more. So if you ever go there, LOAD UP! Those chocolates are insane. And now I can’t wait to get our package of goodies in the mailing coming this week!
Last on our foodie trail that day was Agritopia, which is a community around an organic farm that was designed to flourish in the urban setting. So instead of a huge field of one crop, you find a patchwork of numerous specialty crops. Then around those crops, you have Joe’s Farm Grill and The Coffee Shop along with a ton of land for people and kids to hang out in. The community also has a place called Barnone which features a micro-winery, nano-brewery and micro-distillery, a culinary machinist designing kitchen tools for the serious home chef, a restaurant called Dine at Fire & Brimstone featuring hearth-based cooking using locally grown and foraged ingredients, and even a salon! After sipping on some coffee and checking out their amazing farm community, we headed to dinner.
Dinner that night was at Postino, which I was very pleasantly surprised to find out they have one in Colorado! Postino is bites and bruschetta wine cafe, and luckily, they have all gluten free options when it comes to their bruschetta. We didn’t think we would be hungry since we had eaten such a big lunch, but as soon as we bit into one of their bruschetta, we couldn’t stop. It was SO GOOD. They have you choose 4 different pieces of bruschetta, then every piece is cut into 4 pieces so it’s perfect for sharing! We had the Brie & Apples with Fig Spread, Prosciutto with Figs & Mascarpone, Smoked Salmon with Pesto, and Burrata, Bacon, Arugula & Tomato. Everything was amazing, but I think my favorite was the burrata BAT. I may have to start making something like that at home because I pretty much wanted to bathe in it.
The next morning at Hotel Valley Ho, I tried out a yoga class which ended up being just me and the instructor. Private class! I’m not much of a yoga person, I’ve tried many times but I either just don’t really like it or haven’t found the right class or instructor. This yoga was pretty basic yoga since she knew I was a novice. It was challenging in the fact I couldn’t get into most positions since I’m so tight, but it was still enjoyable. I like trying some of the classes that hotel gyms have to offer because it mixes up my own routine and keeps me moving when I’m not feeling like a normal workout. The instructor was honestly awesome, but man, I was just so bored. I need to work on my zen.
After yoga, we headed to lunch at Flower Child, which is part of the Fox Restaurant Concepts that creates progressive restaurant concepts spearheaded by James Beard recognized restaurateur Sam Fox. Yes, I copy and pasted that but it had to sound more important than my jibber jabber sounds. AKA – this restaurant is a big deal because it’s part of other restaurants that are also big deals. Big deals = amazing food. When I mentioned I was going to AZ, so many people recommended this restaurant and I now see why. I ordered the madras curry with chicken then we all grabbed a bunch of sides including the sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. The sides were amazing. I could have eaten all sides, honestly. We also got a couple Juby True juices to try, including a green juice and this pink juice that had cranberries in it. The pink one was so refreshing and would honestly make a great mixer with alcohol in the summer, if that’s your thing! The food at Flower Child was clean and marked as vegan, vegetarian and gluten free, so it’s easy to make decisions there. They need to get one in Denver ASAP!
After Flower Child, we headed to a new hotel, the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. This hotel is a true resort. It feels like a resort in the Bahamas or Mexico. It’s absolutely gigantic, has beautiful pools, grounds, restaurants, bars, and an amazing spa. Since our hot air balloon ride was cancelled in the afternoon due to wind (sad panda over here), we decided to hang out at the hotel, go to the pool and hot tub all before drinks and dinner. We sipped on some dirty martinis by the fire then we headed to Crujiente for dinner. If you love tacos, you need to try this place. We had the housemade tortilla chips with guacamole, a watermelon appetizer, a shrimp appetizer then a whole lot of tacos. At Cru, they have both street tacos and crunchy tacos. And the crunchy tacos – straight money. They were some of the best tacos I’ve had in a while. And we were able to meet the chef who was so incredibly passionate about what he did and it showed in his food. It’s always fun to meet the chef and see what inspires them!
On our last day in Phoenix, we headed out early in the morning to drive all the way out to Black Canyon City to hop on some UTV’s with a group at Arizona Outdoor Fun. The trails in the Bradshaw Mountains are super rugged that call for lots of climbing in your UTV then some fast roads and hills. We went on a shorter trip, only 2 hours, but you can go on a 5 hour long trip that takes you to some of the Native American ruins and even an abandoned mining town from the late 1800’s. Our guide was super cool and taught us about the history of the mountains and the land. It was an awesome experience that I highly recommend, but definitely go on the longer trip if you’re into outdoor sports and, well, fun! After doing this in AZ, I’m totally going to book at ATV or UTV tour in Costa Rica for our 1 year anniversary! It was seriously a blast!
After a morning of outdoor sports and working out at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale gym, I headed to the spa which is TOTALLY something you should do if you ever stay at this hotel. Not only is this Hyatt a perfect place to go for a weekend getaway with your love, but it’s the perfect hotel for a girls weekend. Mostly because the spa is such a fun girls thing to do. It is gigantic, they have A TON of services, and you can hang out with your girlfriends in the jacuzzi and order food and drink. It’s just a fun way to enjoy your time there. I even ended up showering in the spa after my amazing massage simply because the showers have probably 8 shower heads that can go all at the same time. It’s like you’re getting a massage while you shower. Magical. My masseuse was bubbly, sweet and did a really good job. Wish she was in Denver because then I would actually get massages more often.
After a relaxing afternoon at the spa and more cocktails by the fireplace, we ended our last evening in Arizona staying at the hotel, going to their Wine Me, Dine Me experience at SWB. And let me get one thing straight here – I believe this may have been the best meal of my entire life. Every bite was better than the last. We sat at the bar that overlooks the kitchen and chatted with Chef Juan about what inspires him, where the food is sourced from, and his experience at the Hyatt over the past 23 years. 23 YEARS! The chef customizes the menu based on what is in season and what they have and pairs the meal with a tequila and wine tasting. With our 4 course dinner, we had a shot of tequila, a glass of white wine, a glass of red wine, and a glass of rosé to end it. I honestly could have cared less about the alcohol, my husband drank most of mine, but the food…my lord, the food. The starter was pistachio crusted lamb chops with apples, then a salad with passionfruit dressing, an entree of filet mignon atop a cheese mixture with polenta on the side and carrots, as well, then a dessert of three different cheesecakes. Since we asked for the meal to be gluten free, the pastry chef made our desserts on top of gluten free cookies and the cheesecakes were topped with meringue. There was a lavender cheesecake, a lemon one, and a blood orange, and every single cheesecake was outstanding. Luckily, my husband did most of my drinking for me so I finished off his dessert since he was too full. Winning!
I am usually good at putting my fork down when I’m full, but I didn’t want this meal to ever end. If I ever go back to Arizona, I’m going straight back to the hotel for this dining experience. It was true perfection! And chef Juan is pretty much the most adorable man ever. I love him.
I wish I could say we did something super cool the last night, but both of us were too full and happy to function after dinner. And we were completely satisfied with every moment of our trip. The only thing I wish we could have done was go on our hot air balloon ride. Definitely going back to do that again someday! In the end, I would absolutely recommend Phoenix and anywhere around it, to anyone. It obviously gets super hot in the summer there so they recommend spring as the best time to visit. And that’s also when Spring Training is going on, so there is even more to see! I’ve recently had lots of friends get pregnant and since Zika virus is so prevalent in most places, the only real safe place to go is Arizona. And now I see that it is the perfect vacation spot for anyone, including my girlfriends heading on their baby moon! As soon as I got back from my trip, I texted my girlfriend to tell her where she needed to stay and what she needed to do because AZ is truly amazing. Clean, well kept, and perfect for the lazy pool side person or the active outdoors type!
Quick Summary of Arizona Favorites:
- Hotel Valley Ho – super retro hotel that has an amazing pool and party vibe, especially in the warmer months
- ZuZu – restaurant in Hotel that has amazing food
- Hyatt Regency Scottsdale – resort-feel hotel with ton of amenities and thing to do
- Arizona Outdoor Adventures – for mountain biking and other outdoor adventures like hiking tour, river adventures, and backpacking trips
- Arizona Outdoor Fun – for ATV, UTV, and dirt bike rentals and tours
- True Garden – to see the future of growing sustainable veggies
- Queen Creek Olive Mill – spend the day here having lunch, coffee, trying their products and hanging out on the grounds
- Agritopia – check out this community, take the family, and just see what a cool community this is
- Postino’s – for gluten free bruschetta and wine
- Flower Child – for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options
- Juby True – clean, delicious juices
- Crujiente – the best crunchy tacos of your life
- Visit Phoenix – for all things to do in Phoenix
- Visit Mesa – for all things to do and check out in Mesa
This trip was sponsored by Visit Phoenix, but all opinions are your own!
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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