We’ve been getting around quite a bit lately! Just since July, we visited our first glacier on an Alaskan cruise, surprised Adam’s grandparents on a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas, flew to Detroit for some of the best vegan burgers we’ve ever tasted, spent six days in paradise on the beautiful island of Kauai, cooked an epic Thanksgiving dinner in Portland with Ryan’s family, and just last weekend explored the deserts—and desserts—of Phoenix, Arizona.
This was our first time visiting Phoenix together. Adam had played there with his band, including waking up at the crack of dawn during one tour to play live on Good Morning Arizona, and another time performing with the great Ray Davies at the Comerica Theatre. Thankfully this trip was a bit more relaxing and we were grateful to spend it with each other! We were invited by The Feedfeed and The Luxury Collection for a weekend of food, fun, and adventure at the newly-transformed Phoenician Resort, a beautiful hotel in the middle of the desert. It lies at the base of Camelback Mountain—which glows a deep orange-red from the rich iron in the soil—making an impressive backdrop to this expansive 250-acre property, home of nine restaurants and bars, 645 guest rooms, a brand-new rejuvenation spa opening this Spring, and a fully-refurbished 18-hole golf course. Our spacious room was stylish and comfortable, with a marble bathroom nearly as big as our entire house and an oversized bathtub fully stocked with soft robes, slippers, and scented bath salts. The view from our private balcony looked out over one of the many pool areas ornamented by palm trees, with red-rock mountains rising in the distance. The entire property was landscaped beautifully with desert plants and cacti, and we enjoyed walking around exploring the native gardens.
The vacation officially began with craft cocktails for everyone. When we read that the first activity on the itinerary was a welcome reception at the hotel’s Mowry & Cotton bar, we knew we were in for a fun weekend. Within minutes of checking into the hotel, we had refreshments in hand and were raising our glasses in a toast, surrounded by the other bloggers who had flown in from all over the country. Ryan warmed up with a Sunlight and Shadow, a light sparkling drink made with gin, cucumber, basil, yuzu, lemon bitters, and tonic, while Adam sipped on a delicious Hi-Yo Silver, mixed with vodka, lime, ginger beer, and smoked with mesquite. We could have stayed and mingled at the bar all night, but we didn’t want to miss the “make your own flatbread” class with Chef Tandy Peterson, so we brought our glasses into the restaurant area next door where each of us assembled our own flatbread pizza—which cooked in under thirty seconds in their fiery hearth oven. With a variety of vegetarian topping options, we loaded our pizzas with kale pesto, goat cheese, arugula, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, and olives, but the most interesting of all were the pickled blueberries (yes, you read that right) which added a bright tanginess and an unexpected pop of color. No two flatbreads were alike, and you can watch us make ours in the video below! Dessert featured homemade donuts with customizable drizzles—chocolate, caramel, and strawberry-rhubarb—plus panna cotta topped with homemade caramel corn and a scoop of vanilla ice cream for those who were still hungry. After a long day of travel and this do-it-yourself dinner we were absolutely exhausted, so we headed to our room, dimmed the lights, and concluded the evening with a hot bath scented with citrus and sage.
Saturday morning started with a guided hike at sunrise. The group met bright and early at the hotel’s Marketplace, a European-style cafe that serves coffee, pastries, and artisan sandwiches. The staff had prepared each of us a breakfast-to-go care package, complete with a blueberry muffin, a flaky spinach and feta croissant, a mixed berry parfait, fresh fruit, and orange juice. With fuel for our adventure and plenty of water for the exceedingly dry weather conditions, we were dressed in extra-warm layers of clothing for the brisk early-morning temperatures that we Angelenos are unaccustomed to. Cholla Trail at Camelback Mountain was a just short walk from the hotel, and in less than an hour of climbing steep rocks and winding around narrow corners with cactus lining the trail, we were greeted at the summit with breathtaking views of the city below.
Six bottles of water and a half-tube of chapstick later, it was time for lunch. The Phoenician’s Relish Burger Bistro—known for their gourmet customizable burgers—went all out for our group. They started the table off with drinks and a delicious spicy fried pickle appetizer, and the two of us ordered the vegetarian black bean patty for the main course. There were skillet cookies with vanilla ice cream for dessert, but the gold medal went to the tabletop s’mores stocked with all the individual components: graham crackers, chocolate squares, and marshmallows on sticks, plus a stone bowl filled with glowing charcoal ready for roasting. Every calorie we burned off during the hike re-entered our bodies, and we were ready for the next activity, a cocktail mixology class at the hotel’s Thirsty Camel.
We were treated to a delicious demonstration. The first cocktail was called The Cortez, made with tequila, mezcal, hibiscus spice syrup, orange bitters, and garnished with a pink orchid. It was tangy and smoky, had a striking deep purple color, and the delicate fresh flower on top was the perfect finishing touch. Next in line was The Sonoran Samurai, Robert the bartender’s original creation, made with gin, puréed red bell pepper juice, chile syrup, lemon, and apple. Our thirst was quenched during the sixty minute class, then everyone had three hours to either explore Scottsdale or relax by the pool at the hotel. We took a brief trip into town, peeked into a few shops, then decided to go back to our room and edit photos to share on Instagram.
The person who planned this itinerary clearly knew we were coming: only three hours had passed since our last cocktail demonstration, and it was now time for more drinks at the Canyon Lounge, also located on the hotel grounds. The first round was a 2407’ (named after the elevation of Camelback Mountain), made with bourbon, ginger liqueur, rosemary-infused smoked mesquite honey, lemon juice, lemon bitters, and garnished with rosemary and lemon. This was the first time we had seen a cocktail being smoked before and we fell in love with the process: it adds a wonderful dimension of aroma and flavor plus it’s visually stunning to watch, as you can see in the video below (if Santa’s reading this post, please take note). As we were browsing the menu, lo and behold, another cocktail caught our eye. This one, known as Thyme is of the Essence—made with vodka, cointreau, fresh-squeezed orange and lemon, carrot juice, and a thyme black pepper syrup—was delicious, healthy (all that fresh juice, right?), and garnished with a thin carrot ribbon and a sprig of thyme. Then it was thyme for dinner at another one of the hotel’s restaurants, J&G Steakhouse, where they prepared vegetarian entrees just for us. Ryan tried the roasted green romanesco with sesame vinaigrette and herbs, and Adam had the roasted beet risotto with meyer lemon. Both were tasty, but we were so full from all the prior food and drinks that we packed most of it up for the next day. We brought the boxes to our room and quickly changed into warmer clothes to prepare for the final activity of the day: S’mores and stargazing. Again, our hats off to whoever scheduled all-day cocktails and endless s’mores: this is how you vacation.
There was a special visitor during our breakfast the following morning. Fletcher the trained falcon was working security duty on the patio at Mowry & Cotton, scaring off the smaller birds to prevent them from eating the guests’ food. We were lucky to get a closer view when his trainer walked up to our table holding the large majestic bird, and we wanted to take him home with us (Santa, hope you’re still reading), but Sylvia would probably not be thrilled with a giant falcon as her new roommate. Our weekend at the Phoenician was the perfect getaway, and since it’s an easy ninety minute flight from Los Angeles, we are excited to return one day soon. In the meantime, we’ll be exploring all the hotels that make up The Luxury Collection. Which one will be next…?