4th of July Ideas – Part 1 – Beverages

In looking for some refreshing summer beverages for the 4th of July, I was reminded of a delicious pitcher of Sangria that we had recently with some friends at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson.  If you haven’t visited El Charro Cafe in Old Town Tucson, it’s a place that’s well worth your time.  This is a view of the welcoming courtyard. When the weather’s nice (as it is for over half the year in this part of Arizona) it’s the most relaxing place to enjoy dinner or even just a drink with friends.

El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ
El Charro Courtyard - Tucson AZ

Ryans and Hanns

We happened to be in Tucson for Terry and Bob (aka The Catfish Hunters) to play at the Tucson Folk Festival and we had a chance to enjoy a wonderful dinner here with Bob & Helen.

But I digress.  This post is supposed to be about beverages and one of the sweet parts of the evening was our Summertime Blackberry Sangria. Doesn’t it look delicious!  I can taste it now.  Imagine washing down your chips and salsa with that colorful concoction.

So to bring this full circle.  I’ve been enjoying Sangria at a variety of spots this year and thought I’d share a patriotic version and eye-catching recipe for serving a group without having to make individual drinks for everyone.

Check out this Red, White and Blue Sangria from Recipe Girl!  (and she’s having a giveaway too)

She used pineapple for her stars, but I think I’d try star fruit since it already has the shape you need.   I LOVE the red strawberries, “white” (kinda) pineapple or star fruit, and blue-berries to carry through the patriotic theme.  Just imagine your giant glass beverage dispenser filled to the brim with all these summery ingredients.  It’s a party waiting to happen.  In case you haven’t seen it before, this is what star fruit looks like and here’s some more info about it too.  Hey, think about adding star fruit to your salads on the 4th as well!

…now where are the fireworks.

Let me know your plans for the 4th.  I’d love to hear how you celebrate.

Stay tuned for parts 2 (food) and 3 (DIY crafts and decorations) for the 4th of July series in the coming days.

Grand Canyon – On the way to the North Rim

This past week we took our 2nd annual trip up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  If you’ve never visited that side of the canyon, you’re really missing something.  The South Rim is where most of the visitors go.  It’s the easiest to get to and more or less on the way to a few other destinations.  Because of this, it’s also the most crowded.

But the North Rim…aahh, the North Rim.  The North side is harder to get to, much less crowded, several thousand feet higher in elevation and therefore cooler, and more heavily wooded.  We LOVE going there!

This year on the way up we made a quick stop at the Navajo Bridge which is the only bridge that spans the Colorado River for nearly 600 miles in the northern part of Arizona.  The original 2-lane bridge (on the left) was built in the 1920’s and the new and improved one (right) was built in 1994.

The bridges connect the steep cliffs of Marble Canyon.  We were able to walk onto the older bridge which is only open to pedestrians now.  Even though the water looks pretty nice, you can see from this photo what dry and rocky land comprises the Navajo Indian reservation.

We also stopped for lunch at Jacob Lake Inn.  This restaurant and inn has been open since 1923, so just imagine if these wall could talk! Can’t you see an old Model T Ford rambling up there with parched and weary passengers after hours and hours on the dusty roads.

Last year we stopped there because Arizona Highways magazine mentioned them as a great place to pick up fresh baked cookies, and we did just that.  This year lunch was very reasonably priced, so we had plenty of money left over to buy more cookies for the couples we would be meeting at the canyon.

Have you ever been to Northern Arizona?  What did you think about it?

Arizona Restaurant Week Sep 18-26

For those who live in Phoenix or Tucson and haven’t heard about Arizona Restaurant Week, check out this information.  It sounds like a great way to try out some new restaurants that might normally be out of your price range.   Each restaurant offers a 3-course menu and some even offer a glass of wine to go with dinner for a flat rate of either $29 or 39 per/person.  I even saw one restaurant that offered 2 meals for $29!  Now that’s a great deal!

We saw this last year, but weren’t able to take advantage of it because we were out of town.  We’re really hoping to be able to do it this year.  Check  out the extensive list of restaurants for Phoenix and Tucson!  There are quite a few that we’ve been thinking about trying and several that we’ve already tried and enjoyed, like Wildfish Seafood Grille, Bamboo Club and others.

Which of the restaurants do you recommend?

Dinner at the Beeline Cafe

Sounds like the title to a country tune, doesn’t it?
Beeline Cafe Payson Arizona

Well, this weekend we had a chance to get out of town and spend some time at our friend’s place in Forest Lakes, AZ.  Terry was able to get off work a couple of hours early and since we weren’t planning to meet our friends up there until the evening, we decided to stop in Payson and give the Beeline Café a try.  We’d heard that it was a quaint little place that had held its own in this small town since the early 60’s.   And since our visit there, I also discovered that they were mentioned in the August issue of Sunset magazine.

Even though it was only around 5 o’clock, when we pulled in, the parking lot was already pretty full.   Walking though the door, we quickly realized that our presence was lowering the average age of the place by at least 20 years (including the staff).   We suspected that it was “Senior Hour”.  Now we have nothing against senior citizens.  Some of our favorite people are in that age group and we’re realizing more and more that those days are not so far away for us either…which is probably why it was easy for us to make ourselves at home.

Friday Fish Specials
The waitress that greeted and seated us was very friendly, so we settled into our booth and perused the traditional midwestern-style diner menu.  It included burgers, sandwiches, and lots of grilled and deep fried items.  Since it was Friday they were also offering a few fish specials.  One of the deals was two large pieces of breaded & deep fried fish with choice of potato and coleslaw for only $5.95.  Even though that sounded tempting, we decided on other items, but one of the couples nearby had ordered the special and decided to share it.  Now that’s a cheap date!  Feed two people for $6.00 plus tip.  Not bad…and as they walked out arm in arm, the waitress called out “Good bye.”  and “See you next week!”  Who knows how long this precious couple had been coming in to the Beeline Café for their Friday Fish Special date.  How sweet.
After a full review of the menu, Terry ordered a BBQ Beef Sandwich that came with fries and cole slaw for $5.95 and I ordered the Shrimp dinner for $8.95. (Great prices!)  I do need to let you know that it’s cash and checks only here though.  No credit or debit cards at the Beeline.
My food was tasty, traditional diner-type food and exactly the meal that my mom would have loved (shrimp is one of her favs).  Five crispy breaded shrimp came to the table, served with a baked potato, green beans (with bacon), a small wedge of watermelon, plus a dinner salad to start everything off.  My guess is that the green beans were from a can with a bit of bacon added, which for most people could be a turn-off, but being a girl raised on canned vegetables, it was a bit nostalgic for me.
Shrimp Dinner at Beeline Cafe

When our food came, Terry happened to be away from the table.  I was trying to take pics of the meals (for this blog) before we started eating and the waitress came over and helped by holding the plate up at an angle so I could get a good shot.  You can see her hard working hands in the photo.  That’s helpful service.

So all in all, if you’re expecting any kind of Nuevo cuisine, organic or fresh-picked fare, I doubt you’ll find it here.  But if you’re hungry for a good old fashioned diner-style meal, this is the place to stop when you’re in the Payson area.  I hear they have great pies and traditional breakfast as well.  We’ll surely stop again.
If you’re interested in more info, check out the Beeline Café Facebook page too and let them know that you’ll drop in sometime.

CiCi’s Cafe in Tarzana, California

Brunch with the Family

I have been so excited about sharing these photos with you!  These are from the restaurant where Andrew and Amy took us for Breakfast/Lunch the last morning we were in L.A.  It’s on Ventura Blvd, in the San Fernando Valley (Tarzana) and it’s called CiCi’s Cafe.   If you’re ever in the area, you MUST try it.

On Monday morning we drove down to A and A’s apartment from Santa Clarita and Kevin still hadn’t decided when he was going to fly home to Omaha.  After looking at some airline ticket prices and discussing logistics about how to get around if he stayed and how to get to the airport with Amy and Andrew working, he decided to ride back to Phoenix with us and fly out of the PHX airport the next day.  It saved him about $100 and we got to have a few more hours with him, which was great for us.

After Kevin booked his flight for the next day we loaded up and drove a short distance to one of Andrew’s favorite places.  He said that he orders from there a lot for work as well and I can see why.  Everything that I saw and tasted looked delicious and their menu is HUGE!  It would take years to get thru everything on the menu unless you ate their every day, which would not be hard to do.

The restaurant itself is fairly unassuming.  It’s located in a strip mall so you’d never know it was so appetizing unless someone took you there.  This is the basic dining room below.  They definitely need to expand because Andrew says they’re always busy.

So…photos from top to bottom – here are 3 of the gorgeous and delicious meals:

  • Andrew’s Steak Salad
  • Terry’s Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes (not low carb!)
  • My sandwich, which is seem to recall had turkey, swiss cheese, artichoke hearts and arugala (and maybe more) plus sweet potato french fries.  MMMMMM!!

Don’t they all look amazing?  Kevin had some kind of an egg scramble which really doesn’t photograph too well, so you don’t need to see it here.

Sadly, Amy ordered some food, but then didn’t feel good enough to stay and eat with us.  So we said goodbye to her there so she could go home, rest  and try to feel better before going to work.  I’m happy to report that she has gone to the doctor since then and they’re trying to figure why she hasn’t been feeling well for a while.  We love her and were sad that she couldn’t stay and eat with us.  We hope that they figure it out soon.

Birthday Surprise (Day 2) An extra special dinner!

After having a low key day, we all got dressed to go to dinner. The only requirement was that the guys needed to wear slacks and a collared shirt. That’s about as dressy as things get in Arizona, which was totally fine with all of us. We had a reservation, which Terry timed to be right around sunset. None of us knew the place that he had chosen for dinner, except Terry, but as we drove out to the western end of Sedona the red rocks were absolutely gorgeous!

After about a half hour of driving to the base of the red rocks we came up to a guard gate for the Enchantment Resort which was tucked away in the shadow of the Sedona rock formations. It appears that the only way we could get thru the gate was to have a reservation for either a room or dinner, which Terry fortunately had made.

Once inside we found our way to the Yavapai Restaurant thru this wonderful ivy covered arch. The weather was perfect and the sky was clear so we chose to sit outside on the balcony for dinner. This was by far the best choice because it was as though we could reach out and touch the red rocks nearby, as you can see in the background of the pictures of Kevin and Terry.

We started out with some drinks and salads, then on to the more important stuff.

Terry and Andrew both ordered BUFFALO TENDERLOIN (steak) It also was served with quail which was stuffed with quail sausage, along with sweet potato risotto, and a blackberry chipotle demi-glace.

I had the SEA BASS which melted in my mouth and arrived on tasmanian crab, heirloom tomato and mache salad, with a meyer lemon lavender vinaigrette. I would love to have the recipe for the a meyer lemon lavender vinaigrette. Doesn’t that sound fresh and simply delicious?  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  It was the best dish I’ve had in a very VERY long time.

Amy & Kevin both chose the FILET MIGNON, which was melt-in-your-mouth tender and scrumptious.

The service was impeccable, the meals were amazing and the surroundings were so relaxing and awe-inspiring.  We enjoyed dinner at a leisurely pace spanning a couple of hours and at the end of the evening, we didn’t want to leave.

At the end of the meal, our waitress brought out this amazing dessert with dark chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, with a little bit of raspberry to top it off. These are two of my very favorite flavors. Wow! It was the perfect end to our meal!!!

My husband, Terry made an excellent choice for my birthday weekend! I am so blessed to be so well taken care of…and yes, maybe a bit spoiled.

Happy Anniversary Sweetie!

Just a few pics from our Anniversary day. This window scene was from the front of a shop in Carefree. Looks like it should be on the front of a notecard.

Terry and I had dinner at Cartwright’s in Cave Creek. They have great fireplaces everywhere. These candles were right next to our table too. I’ll post more pics of the room soon. We had an excellent meal and topped it off with this creme brule! mmmmm…delicious! What a wonderful husband I’ve been blessed with. He’s always looking for ways to treat me special and dinner out is just one of those.

More anniversary details to come.