As mentioned in my previous blog, last weekend we flew to Arizona to attend Rick’s daughter’s (I consider her one of mine as well). The accommodations were amazing. The hotel itself, oddly called the Valley Ho, was originally built in the 1950’s. Investors, obviously seeing potential there, painstakingly renovated the hotel holding firm to the original retro style. The attention to detail evident everywhere was mind-blowing. Seated outside poolside, Johnny’s Angel could be heard playing the background, or perhaps The Beach Boys cooing Little Surfer Girl.
Two pools as well as a hot tub decorated the beautifully landscaped grounds. The larger of the two pools mainly attracted the younger group also prevalent in the outside bar areas at night. Afternoons this pool was well populated with well tanned abs. Umbrella bedecked drinks passed by on round trays and a band, playing mostly country rock, helped set the party like mood. Towards the back of the property was a large lap pool where families with children and the older crowd slathered on suntan lotion and reclined in the luxurious chairs provided for guests.
It’s been a long time since I’ve said something excellent about customer service, but if asked to grade this hotel I’d give them an A+. Whatever you needed seemed almost to appear in a Disneylike fashion at your fingertips.
Small touches in the rooms such as a silver tray of high-end liquors available at a price naturally, chrome racks with rolled fluffy towels in the bathroom, a spa robe for your use while there, and brightly colored walls with complimentary accents on the bed made staying there fun. A large private patio overlooking the pool was a great place to open up a book or enjoy a quick nap. Room service, if you wanted it, arrived quickly and the food was excellent and the coffee hot. Truly not one complaint from this guest, who would stay again in a hot minute.
On the day of our arrival we were instructed to meet downstairs at 3:00 for the wedding rehearsal. The weather, for Phoenix, was ideal. Hovering in the mid to high eighties with a slight breeze, it was desert living at it’s best. Phoenix at this time of year lures you to relocate. However, go there in a few months when the asphalt is so hot midday your shoes stick to the surface, and at least I will rethink any such thoughts and shelve them for another day.
At three we hopped on the elevator with other wedding party members and took it to the 8th floor. Doors opened onto a beautiful deck with a panoramic view of the city. The wedding, scheduled for 6:15 the following evening, promised to be spectacular. The minister, also the stepfather of the bride, put the wedding party through their paces. I sat with a glass of ice water enjoying the breeze against my skin and taking in the interesting rock formations all around me and the general hustle and bustle of the city traffic below us. Gorgeous.
Rehearsal over, we were told to meet once again in the lobby to carpool to the groom’s mother’s home for the rehearsal dinner. I have to say I was totally looking forward to the “dinner” part of this statement as nothing had passed my lips since breakfast and my stomach was starting to complain. The home where the event was held was incredible. A rambling ranch style home in Scottsdale, Arizona, reminiscent of homes you see displayed across glossy pages in magazines such as Sunset or House Beautiful. Each room was perfectly attired, walls lined with fabulous artwork, huge vases overflowing with unusual floral arrangements. Happily I would have settled in in the massive kitchen and made myself at home. Asking if there was anything I could help with, I was told the hostess was a little stressed because her housekeepers were off for the day. Hmmmmm. That must be stressful. Since they’re off perhaps they could head to my house. There’s work to be done.
Outside through French doors leading off the kitchen a massive covered patio made way for a huge expanse of well manicured lawn. To the left a fire pit flickered and off to the right a bartender stood behind a fully stocked bar waiting to fill your glass. Music coming from two incredibly small, but powerful, speakers helped to set the mood.
As the clock pushed forward and appetizers dwindled guests began politely inquiring about dinner. News came out the caterers had experienced plumbing problems and dinner was not, as originally thought, on it’s way to the table. Ach. I should have accepted that second prawn when asked. People gathered around the appetizer table as though the earth was on twenty-four hour alert and there was no more food to be had.
The hostess, now looking a bit the worse for wear, announced pizzas would be arriving in 30 minutes. There is a God. Crowds dispersed, weapons were holstered, and peace ruled the land once again.
In the end it was a glorious night. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who sends out signals to mosquitos in the area that the dining room is open and seating is available. Like a bear I kept rubbing up against whatever was handy trying to stop the infernal itching. By the next morning my skin looked like a relief map, but after a quick trip to the pharmacy calmed down a bit.
After lunch we grabbed ride from Uber to the Scottsdale Fashion Square. First time on Uber. Other than the driver getting lost coming to get us it was a good cheap way to get around town I have to say. The mall was impressive. OMG. I could have stayed there for hours, possibly days. I’m not a born shopper, but even I was enticed by the heady aromas of expensive soaps and perfumes and gorgeous window displays. Every elegant store yet created was represented. The trip, however, was to get Rick a shirt. The one we’d brought with us was cutting off his air. At Macy’s we located the right neck size but couldn’t pair it with the proper sleeve length. In the end we grabbed the one that allowed him to breathe and decided he’d hike up the sleeves the ceremony. If you’ve heard the expression, what a dog and pony show, please insert it here.
On to the wedding.
Yesterday Rick requested a homeland dish for him. Koshari is a traditional Egyptian dish. A bit of work but in the end proves to be an excellent meal with layers of flavors. This can be made ahead of time and pulled together at the last minute for serving. Yum.
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
For the rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup medium grain rice
2 cups vegetable broth
Heat olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add rice and cook and stir until rice is a light golden brown (about 4-5 mins.) Add vegetable broth to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 mins. or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 mins. Fluff with fork. Keep warm.
For the lentils
1 cup brown lentils
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Rinse and sort lentils. Place in medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and partially cover. Cook for 25-30 mins. until lentils are tender. Drain. Keep warm.
For the macaroni
2 cups dry small elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain. Add butter and mix. Keep warm.
For the sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. Baharat spice blend (see recipe below)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 6 mins. or until onion is translucent. Add garlic. Cook until lightly browned.
Using food processor emulsion blender puree tomatoes with juice and 2 Tbsp. tomato paste. Add to skillet. Add tomato sauce, Baharat spices, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on simmer for 20 mins. Salt and pepper to taste.
2 onions sliced thin
oil for frying
Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add onions in batches and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Baharat Seasoning Blend
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 cardamon pods ground
Whisk together in small bowl. You will have seasoning left over. Keep for later use in sealed plastic bag.
Mix together rice, lentils and macaroni. Top with generous dollop of sauce, a sprinkling of chickpeas and the crunchy fried onions.