A couple months ago I was feeling a little overwhelmed with life and I shot a quick text to my best friend, Kyla.
Haven't met Kyla? Well, that's a bummer because you would probably love her - most people do. She doesn't really love having her picture taken, she would rather not take risks with her food, she's friendly to (literally) everyone who crosses her path, and is one of the most self-sacrificial, compassionate people I've ever met. She isn't necessarily the opposite of me, but maybe pretty close. We've known each other since the 3rd grade, and even when I lived in Canada, we somehow found a way to see each other a couple times a year. Now that we live closer though, we're able to get together every couple months.
People would ask me what I was planning on doing on this trip, and my answers were usually along the lines of "I don't know, not have to be back home by naptime? Enjoy not changing any diapers and not worrying about making dinner?" Well, guess what?! That's exactly what we did! We soaked up the lifestyle of walking everywhere since we had an Airbnb near the main square. We ate wonderfully, hit up the spa, saw a couple movies and enjoyed just being together for a couple days. Overall, it was just what I wanted, but a few things stood out from the rest.
When I started researching places to eat (because that's what I usually start with when it comes to vacation planning), I ran across Diego Pops all over Instagram and knew we would need to try it out. Every corner of this place is an Instagrammer's dream - the decor was so fun. Plus, the food was awesome! We sat by the fireplace outside, had a good round of watermelon mint margaritas and enjoyed the atmosphere, people and food. This place was all about tacos, and they were great, but the real winner at this place were the Brussels Sprouts Nachos. With corn, all kinds of queso, chilis, pickled onion (which you know I love), and topped with a roasted garlic beet cream sauce and a fried egg, it was an absolute work of art.
The second highlight was the first place we went to after landing, Berdenas Cafe. We got coffee on our first visit, which was very much needed since we got up at 4am to head out for our flight. The next time we stopped by, we had to try their "Smashed" Avocado Toast which won the title of Best Avocado Toast in Phoenix in 2017 by the Phoenix New Times. Turns out, the title fits. It was so good. It seems relatively simple enough that I think i could try to replicate it at home. I didn't expect to see it topped with cold-pressed olive oil. That's definitely a little avocado toast secret I took home with me! Anyway, we stopped by to try this out along with a couple cute lattes and the "Banana Breadosaurus" which, even though we clearly only got it because it was adorable, tasted fantastic. Berdenas delivered good coffee, good food, a friendly staff and the environment was spot on!
When I started asking for suggestions on where to go when we were here, I had a huge number of people all say the same place: The Mission. I feel pretty confident that I can speak for both me and Kyla in that this was the best meal we had while in town. It's a very dimly lit restaurant which was made more apparent by the guy next to us using his phone's flashlight to read the menu. The decor isn't my thing, but since it was so dark and the food was fantastic, I was easily willing to overlook the number of borderline kitschy chandeliers that were hanging from the ceiling. That night was a real win because I was also able to push Kyla out of her comfort zone a bit and try some new foods.
We started off with the Duck Carnitas Empanada appetizer which consisted of a duck confit, foie gras, orange habanero glaze, oregano, mushroom & queso Oaxaca. Kyla and I both agreed that this was definitely the best part of the vacation.
The margaritas were fantastic. I stuck with their signature margarita, "The Mission" for the night. It had tequila, lime, OJ, agave nectar, egg white and a little splash of Grand Marnier. It was fabulous. For entrees, I went with the Chorizo Porchetta and Kyla had the Marinated Jidori Chicken. Both were phenomenal, but honestly, after the appetizer, it was just a bonus. Oh, and I can't forget when they surprised us with a massive pink Himalayan salt block which held our extra tortillas. We ended up sharing the Pumpkin Bread Pudding topped with pomegranate seeds for dessert. I make mention of the pomegranate because it isn't a pairing I would have considered, but goodness, it somehow came together beautifully. Overall, this restaurant was every bit deserving of the hype around it and I'm now one of those people who will make sure to suggest it to anyone who heads that way!
Ok, ok, I promise we did more than just eat while we were there. Scottsdale is known for their spas, and it was difficult to choose which one we would end up at. We eventually chose to spend our afternoon at The Sanctuary on Camelback Spa, part of the stunningly beautiful and luxurious Sanctuary Resort. It was such a wonderful experience and that unwinding was a huge part of what we came to town for. After our treatments, we wandered the grounds and soaked up the views for a bit. The only thing that could have made it better would be if the weather had been warm enough to swim!
On our last day there, we got up extra early to hit up The Desert Botanical Garden. I can't really express how excited I was for this. The sun hadn't fully come up yet, so we were bundled up in the 38-40F weather. Every bit of this was so fun and stunningly beautiful. We learned about all kinds of cacti that we didn't know even existed, got to learn a little bit more about agave plants when one of the guides offered up some fun facts, and stumbled on the rosemary bush of my dreams. We walked the garden as long as we could before we had to head out for the day but we could have stayed there all day.
The last thing that we did may not seem like anything that exciting, but it was pretty huge to us. We went and saw two movies - definitely something I can't do with a toddler. We saw I, Tonya which was was great, but I wanted to love it more. We also saw Call Me By Your Name which is one of the best movies I've seen in recent history. I just can't get over what a beautiful experience it was. If you're able to catch me, I'd love to talk more in detail about each movie, but I wont spend the last bit of my blog about a weekend away doing a film review.