Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Desert and The Sun

I have been to Phoenix and back. I forgot how much energy it takes to travel and remain sane on either end of the trip. Being away usually seems to work out just fine as long as one can manage to stay healthy after breathing the recycled air on the plane. (I have some secret weapons that I use when traveling that almost always help, and Airborne is not one of them.)

I spent two days in Tempe, the college town next to Phoenix, with a young woman named Diana, who could not have been nicer. I went to the local coop and got some bulk food, fruits, and veggies to munch on during the day. One night I ate at an Ethiopian restaurant nearby called The Blue Nile. The food was plentiful, flavorful and affordable ($9.95). I couldn't even finish my entree which consisted of injera (a large pancake made of fermented teff flour) and 5 small vegetarian dishes. I didn't want to take it home because I didn't think that it would taste good the next day but the waitress (possible owner) suggested that I do so and it was quite delicious reheated the next morning. The injera was some of the best that I have had. Maybe the desert heat, or the Ethiopian stout, improves the taste.

I hiked up Camelback Mountain that day and the view was spectacular but would have been more so without the smog. Having 111 days without rain did not make that Valley more hospitable.

The following day I stopped at The Farm at South Mountain which is an oasis in the desert. I met Terri, one of the Barn Godddesses at Garden Territory onsite. I had set up a cooking class for the group of dietitians that I would be meeting at my conference (the reason for heading to the area). I definitely met a kindred spirit and recommend a trip to The Farm at South Mountain or for anyone going to Phoenix. It will make you feel grounded.

From there I joined my group of dietitians, most of whom are true foodies. We heard speakers including Deborah Madison (speaking about meat, of all things) and Terry Conlan from Lake Austin Spa in Texas. I had two great meals out - one at Rancho Pinot Grill where you'll get one of the freshest and most filling roasted vegetable plates ever, and the other at Elements at The Sanctuary which featured Chef Beau Macmillan. His sesame-crusted tofu did not meet my standards but the small plate (that's what they called it but it wasn't) of White Cheddar Grits with Roasted Maitake Mushrooms was incredible. The decor and view are stunning and the prices reflect that.

We spent the entire day at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. It was interesting watching other teachers in action. I leanrned mostly that one must have a sense of humor and be open to anything happening. We started the day with chocolate and ended with wine. What could be wrong with that?

I am once gain happy to be on my home turf and get back to work and some kind of routine. I do hope that I can get my newsletter done in time to send it out in February. Time for other writing but first let me think, what shall I eat?

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