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Chufi

Chilies In The Desert

125 posts in this topic

We just came back from our 3 week road trip through the American Southwest. It was our 4th vacation in the US (the first - California, the second - New England, the third (extensively documented here) - the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Ever since our first trip to California it seemed logical to visit the Southwest as a follow-up destination. But for some reason, I did not want to go to the desert. I was scared of the desert. So we visited lush New England and the green PNW on our next trips. This year, since January or so, the desert started calling me. Who knows why? But that´s the trip i started to plan, the one I asked advice for here.

We fell in love with the US all over again. The open road, the landscape, the people, big mugs of weak black coffee, the best burgers in the world, omnipresent bathrooms, small towns, the ease of travel. And this time I also fell in love with the desert, even though it wasn´t an easy love, not love at first sight, and we still have some issues to work out. But love.

This is a trip report about food. But it´s more a "we travelled around the Southwest and here´s what we ate" report than a "we went to the Southwest to eat the best food ever and this is what we ate" report. The desert, the red rocks and small town charm were defintely the main characters on this trip. It´s a lot harder to find great food in a tiny town in Utah, where you have your choice of 2 restaurants, than in, say, Seattle. But we had some great food nevertheless: moslty good meals, a couple of excellent ones, a number of just ok ones, and only 1 really bad one. I think that´s a pretty good score for 3 weeks of travelling in rural America!

For us, travelling in the US is a way to understand this country better and to learn about all aspects of it. Food is one of the best means to this end... and that´s why the junkfood pizza we had in Zion NP has just as much right to be in this report as the much coveted and swooned over Pizza Rosa at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

So here we go!

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Day 1 - Amsterdam -> Phoenix -> Prescott

After flying to Phoenix, we picked up our rental car and drove to Prescott. It´s about a 2 hours drive, but not to be underestimated after you just flew around the world. On arrival in Prescott we had a beer and a salad in a bar, I can´t remember anything about it except resenting the food because even though I was hungry, I wnated to get to bed as soon as possible! The next morning everything looked brighter. Prescott is a nice little town, and the breakfast served at the Hotel St Michael is just what you need when you wake up slightly jetlag-groggy:

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Edited by Chufi (log)

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Oh, Chufi, I can't wait! This is a part of the country which I have not explored; this is gonna be fun! :biggrin:


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Now that is a beautiful breakfast!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Day 2 - Prescott -> Flagstaff

Fortified, we drove to the tiny and utterly charming town of Jerome where we had coffee and cookies at the Sage Post coffeehouse, an interesting combo of coffeehouse, lunchspot, bookstore, and giftshop.

From there we drove on to Sedona.. where we were supposed to have lunch, but after walking up and down Main Street a couple of times, we felt that there was really nothing there we wanted to eat.. as beautiful as the landscape surrounding Sedona is, the town itself is completely overtaken by tourbuses and the inevitable giftshops.. so we left without lunch. Fortunately just a couple of miles north of Sedona on the road to Flagstaff, there´s a little convenience store annex deli, where they make great sandwiches to order which you can eat outside on the patio.

(as you can tell, the necessity of ´taking pictures of everything we ate´ hasn´t quite sunken in at this point :wink: )

Flagstaff: beer! We had dinner (and beers) at the Flagstaff Brewing Company.

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Beer makes you happy. (And sometimes you just look better in sepia. Trust me.)

Burgers make you happy, too. Good burgers do. And these were really good.

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A word about burgers. When you tell a Dutch person you had really good burgers in the US, they look at you like you´re crazy, and they ask you: "what do you mean? is McDonalds so much better in the US than it is here?".

The concept of a good burger is not very well known here. Burgers are really only associated with junkfood. Fortunately we know better know. I think that in its simplicity, the burger & fries dinner is just about perfect. Juicy, medium rare meat on hot bun. Crispy fries. A good pickle. Some tangy ketchup. Cheese, chiles, bacon, whatever, as add ons. Praise the universe for great burgers! I wish I could get a good one here in Amsterdam.. I´ll have to live on pictures for a while.

Here´s the outside of the brewpub.

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Edited by Chufi (log)

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Day 3 - Flagstaff -> Grand Canyon -> Cameron

We had breakfast the next morning at Macy´s in Flagstaff. It´s located just opposite the brewpub, and we had noted the night before that they opened at 6 - which was convenient because we wanted to get an early start for the drive to the Grand Canyon. We had what is basically our favorite breakfast (joghurt, fruit, granola) which was fresh and good, but we saw lots of tasty looking hot breakfasts all around. It´s a vegetarian place, so no bacon though!

On to the Grand Canyon. I had considered skipping a visit to the GC. Many people (both on eG and elsewhere) persuaded me not to skip it! In retrospect, I feel ambivalent about it....I´m glad we went, but I feel that the only way to really appreciate the impressiveness and vastness of this place, would be to hike down into the Canyon.. and take a couple of days to do that! I had initially planned to hike down an hour or so and then back up. But I realized as soon as we got there that I could not do it... the heat, the altitude, lack of shade. So we stayed on the rim, although we managed to get away from the crowds and spend an hour or so on a quiet rock just looking out over the Canyon.

We had a not bad but not memorable sandwich from the Grand Canyon Village deli.

Oh and this sure was a nice place to have a cup of coffee.....

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We spent the night in Cameron, at the Cameron Trading Post. While the motel is absolutely perfect (just east of the GC, clean, large, nicely decorated, inexpensive rooms) the downside is that when you stay there, you pretty much have to eat there too.

Behold the Gravy Crater:

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I´ll let that speak for itself.


Edited by Chufi (log)

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Day 4 - Cameron -> Page, Lake Powell -> Kanab

The next day we drove from Cameron to Kanab, stopping along the way in Page and with a short visit to Lake Powell.

Near Page, we made the short hike to Horseshoe Bend.. and got a real feeling for the desert as we hiked back up in the midday heat, ofcourse we did not bring water thinking it was ´just a very short hike´. Heat and sun and a little physical exercise really affect you very differently in the desert.

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Fortunately Page had a Safeways and I got my first taste (on this trip) of the Big American Supermarket. Big American Supermarkets make me happy. Can you tell?

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We couldn´t really find a nice place to have lunch in Page, so we got picnic supplies at Safeways and drove to the lake. Decent food, with a splendid view.

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Edited by Chufi (log)

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Love that picture of you holding your grocery bags in the supermarket - with the lady behind you looking like - "why would anyone take a picture of someone holding grocery bags?"

She's obviously not the eG type!

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Welcome back, Chufi. This is a great report so far.

I know what you mean about being a bit afraid of the desert. I never had that feeling until I had that "call" to go to the desert on Colombia, and had no idea what I was in for. We got onto a bus leading to the Guajira, and when the bus broke down, it left us in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but vultures soaring overhead. On the other hand, there is a peace and beauty to be found amongst the cacti and sand dunes.

Sedona is really beautiful, I was there 6 years ago. Did you find the Grand Canyon was overrun with tourism and tourists? If so, did that detract from the awe of the place?

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. . . . Where's your bike?

Now that's a memorable way to see the desert!

Chufi, your words and images are lovely as usual. I'm another reader reacting with hunger and nostalgia.


Edited by Peter the eater (log)

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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In case you missed it, Chufi made the local paper HERE..  Its a Gannett paper so that makes her just about famous.

That's a nice article. I think being famous in Silver City is an enviable thing to be.

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Fortunately Page had a Safeways and I got my first taste (on this trip) of the Big American Supermarket. Big American Supermarkets make me happy. Can you tell?

Yes, I can tell -- you're positively glowing! Care to share why Big American Supermarkets make you happy?


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Great report so far. Thanks!


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Day 4 - continued

From Page, we drove onto Kanab, Utah, a nice little town where the first thing we saw was the Three Bears Icecream Shop. Icecream is just what you need after a hot dusty drive! gallery_21505_6252_546216.jpg

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Kanab´s fine dining establishment, Parry Lodge.

That wasn´t really what we were in the mood for though so we went to a Mexican place, Escobar's, instead - it was recommended by another motelguest. Before we went out I asked the friendly motelowner if he could recommend a nice bar in town? he said Sure, just take that road and keep on driving till you´re back in Arizona. lots of nice bars there. We don´t have no bars, and if we did, you would not want to drink there, cause all the beer´s only 3.2 % anyway, you might as well stay home and drink water.

Welcome to the liquor laws of Utah.

Fortunately, when we approached Escobar's, we saw someone sipping a Corona!

They served it in glasses so cold that the foam froze in the glass.

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Chips and salsa (nice and spicy)

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Then we had 2 of those Mexican dinners that you really can´t tell what they are anymore when you look at the picture... you think you don't have to take notes, the picture will remind you what you ate, but you don´t realize that all those rolled up-smothered with sauce-things look pretty much the same! Anyway I think Dennis had a pork & green chile combination platter and I had a beef & red chili combination platter. It was good, satisfying comfortfood.

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Edited by Chufi (log)

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Fortunately Page had a Safeways and I got my first taste (on this trip) of the Big American Supermarket. Big American Supermarkets make me happy. Can you tell?

Yes, I can tell -- you're positively glowing! Care to share why Big American Supermarkets make you happy?

Ah yes. The supermarket issue. I love supermarkets in most countries (France, Italy, England, the US) that I´ve visited. To understand my love of them you have to know that the concept of a large, very large supermarket just outside a town, is unknown here. Dutch supermarkets are more like what you would call a convenience store.. they have a little bit of most daily necessities, nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. So here the supermarket is not ´super´, it´s just a shop to go to for milk and butter and bottled water and fruitjuice and the occasional vegetable, and detergent and toiletpaper etc... but then for good cheese, good pasta, good vegetables, good meat, etc you have to go somewhere else. Most people don´t do that ofcourse. What I love about the really big supermarkets is that, because they have so much space, they can offer you organic meat and regular meat... cheap pasta brands and really good artisinal ones.. so it´s your choice. And for me as a visitor, it gives me a nice view of what´s for sale in a country.

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Day 5 - Kanab -> Zion NP -> Tropic, Utah

The next day was pretty much dedicated to visiting Zion NP. Its an awe inspiring place:

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We managed to get away from the crowds and hike in relative peace until the early afternoon. It was about 2pm when we arrived back at the store/deli, famished and ready to eat anything they had! So we had a slice of pizza, salad, a burger... not fantastic food but not too bad.

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Our place to stay for the next 2 nights was in Tropic, a hamlet with 1 pizza place and one place, Clarke´s, that doubled (tripled) as general store, gasstation and restaurant. People were lining up for it and at 7pm, there was already a 45 minute wait.. this was apparently the place to be in Tropic!

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I kept trying to peek inside to see if they were serving any wine and beer... :wink: Turns out they did and when we were finally seated, here´s what we had:

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Nothing wrong with it.. maybe not very exciting or creative, but when we´re eating out every day, we don´t really need creative every day. It was good and basic.. and they had wine!!

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Then we had 2 of those Mexican dinners that you really can´t tell what they are anymore when you look at the picture... you think you don't have to take notes, the picture will remind you what you ate, but you don´t realize that all those rolled up-smothered with sauce-things look pretty much the same! Anyway I think Dennis had a pork & green chile combination platter and I had a beef & red chili combination platter. It was good, satisfying comfortfood. 

First, thanks for doing this...even though I got a sneak preview of these pics, it's really not the same without the gently teasing pace of the eG travelblog...and of course Chufi's writing. :smile:

Secondly: I was going to ask about the Mexican plates above. They look (disappointingly) a little like standard-issue AmeriMexican...could you taste the chiles? Was the beef ground or not, etc.

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Day 6 - Bryce Canyon NP

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Its hard not to love a landscape like this.

it makes it so easy to enjoy a lunch made up from snackfoods from what seemed to be the only store in Bryce NP:

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btw I LOVED these! We bought lots more of them during the rest of the trip.

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The evening brought us back to Clarke´s.

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Chicken and ribs with barbecue sauce, and some very good blueberry pie for dessert:

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Edited by Chufi (log)

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