Staying in the Heart of Phoenix

Like every other New Yorker, I’ve had a tough few weeks.  First I was sick for a week.  Then along came Hurricane Sandy which took away our power for 10 days and certainly didn’t help me heal quickly.  Then we got hit with a snow storm.  Back in August, I met the people from the Greater Phoenix and Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau and they invited me on a press trip that was set to take place this weekend.  I was never going to cancel but I have wondered how I would actually ever get myself here this weekend.

But yesterday at 5am, I left my house and boarded the plane.  It’s never easy to leave my family for more than a few days but this was the hardest time to date.  Thankfully, we got power back this week, it stayed on, the kids returned to school and life returned to as normal a state as it could. Still what happened to my beloved city, state and region continues to weight heavily on my mind and a short reprieve from the stress I’ve endured isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

First stop: lunch.  After traveling for 8 hours, I was hungry.  My hosts took another writer and I to Angel’s Trumpet Ale House (810 North 2nd Street, Tel: 602-252-2630).  They feature an interesting menu full of specialty beer and comfort food that includes flatbreads, fish tacos, pizza, grilled cheese and something my eyes took note of on the menu called aThe Nutter (peanut butter, bananas, raspberry-chipotle jam plus homemade marshmellow fluff and peppered bacon).  My flight of beer and salad was absolutely delightful and I could see how this restaurant would be either good as a family spot or a date night. Prices are very reasonable, check out their menu here.

Angel Ale HouseI spent a few hours after my arrival exploring downtown Phoenix.  In recent years, this part of town has apparently gone through enormous change. They’ve spent $4 billion in public and private funds, recently completing a new light-rail system, the expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center, the construction of the largest hotel in Arizona, the creation of an urban campus for Arizona State University students, a multi-use retail, dining and entertainment district called CityScape, and the development of an international biomedical-research center. What’s amazing is that in the midst of hotels, business buildings, restaurants, museums and government buildings you are surrounded by the mountains of Arizona, constant reminders that the desert is just a short ride away.  There is certainly a Southwestern feeling of comfort that shadows you everywhere, with palm trees and greenery shouting out from all corners offering glimmers of what lies outside the center.

Downtown Phoenix

My hotel for this visit: Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar (2 East Jefferson Street, Tel: 253-6633).  I recently stayed in a Kimpton Hotel in Virginia (I called it a “treasure” in my write-up) so I had particular expectations before I arrived, and I have to say the experience has met them.  First of all, downtown Phoenix is very interesting – it’s urban and you get the sense that a lot of business takes place here yet the hotel is located in the center of the most beautiful Arizonan landscape.  Secondly, like the hotel in Virginia, the furniture and decor is eclectic yet modern and Kimpton takes extra care in comfort.  There is a signature Kimpton style and there are unique pieces of furniture in the lobby and scattered throughout the hotel. It all has an artistic flair but is cozy, a great combination. There are 242 guest rooms and suites, all with views of the city and mountains.  Guest have use of the Gold’s Gym across the way at no cost, and the hotel is right near CityScape, mentioned above. There is free coffee and tea in the mornings and a happy hour in the early evening in what they call the “Living Room” on the second floor.  The hotel staff is very warm and welcoming and the rooms are every bit as comfortable as they look in photos.  Best of all, the pool has stunning views and there are beautiful green cabanas I could just stay in all day.

We had the most gorgeous meal right in the hotel at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails (2 East Jefferson Street, tel: 602-258-0231).  The food is both unusual and inspiring.  It’s not really a place I’d take my kids, but I’d go running there on a date with my husband or with girlfriends.  They term it a “gastro lounge” because they infuse handmade cocktails with cleverly made food.  We had a chance to meet Executive Chef Stephen Jones who has used his connections with local, independent Arizona purveyors and farmers, to create an ingredient-driven menu with an extremely flavorful presentation.  He told us he literally “dreams up” his recipes and clearly has a knack for exploring the human palette.  His food is memorable: blending rubs, marinades and infusions with locally grown organic ingredients.  From our starters consisting of macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, olives and spicy nuts to my main dish of Monkfish Schnitzel to the scrumptious donuts dipped in chocolate to a pumpkinesque milkshake, my mouth was salivating.

All in all, a great introduction to Phoenix, the Valley of the Sun.  Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow.

Disclosure: I am on a press trip on behalf of The Greater Phoenix and Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau.  They are showing me the sites and I will be covering much of what I see on the travel sites that I write for.  Those descriptions will be more in depth.  Please note that all opinions expressed are completely my own



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