The Rain In Spain Stays Mainly In The Plain… Rain In May?

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”
A recent jaunt to the city for lunch with a very dear friend, sitting outside at Rose’s Cafe under overhead heaters, we shivered as rain dripped down the canvas awnings…Rain in May? Our corner table did afford us a ringside seat to greet all the friends who passed by; we held court and ignored the dreary rain, dreaming we were really in Paris! One of my best memories of a rainy lunch is of cuddling under an awning at a café in Paris; thunder reverberating off the classic masonry buildings, lightening illuminating the black sky, it was magnificent! Who was that man who took me to Paris? I will never forget the storm and the divine lunch.
I’m still enjoying my recent hues of RED phase; grief creates odd behavior; when I lost my parents in the recent months, I was inspired to paint the dining room and living room bright RED, with glossy black trim…my African art pops in the new environment. My painter’s impression of the first coat of RED: it’s panoramic, Spanish translation: she’s nuts! The RED movement migrated to one of my ‘outdoor rooms’ oversize comfy teak chairs overlooking the white rose garden- RED cushions, the Plaza Athenee RED afternoon sunspot. California living inspires hours in the garden, hours reading in the hammock, hours dining alfresco. I’m ready for patio dinners, reading the Times in the chaise, morning sunshine…
My recent picnic efforts have been hampered by the unusual rainy and cold weather. I vaguely remember one ‘summer’ picnic served in my bedroom with a colorful outdoor umbrella planted in the center of the room, overlooking another white rose garden, a rained out summer picnic…another El Nino spring?
Yummy homemade strawberry ice cream, grilled Argentine steak with Chimichurri sauce, 40 heads of Romaine lettuce sprouting in my summer garden have already provided several delicious Caesar salads; Amangiri chef served a spicy HOT HOT grilled Caesar salad, it will need to be served in the Gaucho Bodega, if the rain continues.
Evocative memories of meals served in outdoor settings: African bush breakfast – divine warm muffins, nuts, fruit and cheese, Kenyan coffee, listening to hippos bellowing from a pond. An Argentine picnic at a lookout at 12,000 feet, latte and petite sweets at The Ritz in Paris, a cold Coke and a bread snack after meeting the women of Langata prison in Nairobi. Sipping Champagne after hitting the ground hard in a hot air balloon, a well-deserved toast to the captain who avoided the herd of elephants and the small lake! Serving vessels and locations are as important as the food. Amangiri meals are delivered in three-tiered Indian baskets- perfect and dramatic – the opening act for the homemade pastries and granola. Set the stage! A late afternoon Tusker and chips in the bush, sundowner cocktails, speeding across the bay in a Venezia water taxi, English wicker basket with china in tow; mint tea and dates in a Moroccan oasis, white tablecloth dinner in a tree house high above the jungle floor, breakfast with the rising sun at the end of a wooden pier on Lake Victoria, monitor lizards swimming nearby…wherever you are, pause and linger and make each and every meal a moment to treasure.
To tempt you and remind you that spring is here and summer really is around the corner, photos of memorable alfresco meals.

Unplanned Layovers – Lemons to Lemonade


A short week ago I departed Santa Fe at dawn en-route to Utah, a brief layover in Phoenix turned into a 10 – hour unscheduled layover…grrr.

Always have a back up travel plan; sitting in an airport for 10 hours was not my plan. There are several luxury hotels nearby – and my favorite is the Arizona Biltmore.

The only existing hotel in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright influenced design, The Arizona Biltmore has been an Arizona landmark since its opening on Feb. 23,1929 when it was crowned “The Jewel of the Desert;” the resort was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. Perhaps the most obvious and dramatic design link to Wright is the use of indigenous materials that led to the creation of the “Biltmore Block.” The pre-cast concrete blocks were molded on-site and used in the total construction of the resort. Designed by McArthur and sculpted by Emry Kopta, a prominent southwestern sculptor, the “Biltmore Block” features a geometric pattern that is said to represent a freshly cut palm tree.

In 1930, when the estimated $1 million construction cost doubled, Chicago chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., one of the original investors in the project, became the sole owner. Over the next 44 years, the Wrigley family owned and operated the Arizona Biltmore and it became world renowned as the preferred luxury oasis for celebrities, heads of state, captains of industry and other famous travelers. Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, every sitting President, captains of industry have been guests. Mr. Wrigley’s famous ballroom and private movie theater are now beautiful ballrooms. Look upstairs in the Gold Room, you see the glassed in orchestra balcony. Romance and decadence, a celebrity playground and lifestyle! The ceiling reportedly contains as much gold leaf as the Taj Mahal, a stunning room which also holds legendary Western artist Maynard Dixon’s room size Hopi inspired murals, the art collection is truly amazing. One of the last evocative murals in existence, Maynard drew inspiration from the Hopi tribes he lived with, the mural’s main figures represent the Hopi people’s Father Sun and Mother Earth.

Thanks to conscientious owners who have been committed to preserving its architectural integrity, the resort is, in many ways, more “Wrightian” than when it was built. And, throughout the years, the Arizona Biltmore has set the standard for elegance and style. The guest rooms and suites pay homage to Frank Lloyd Wright in their mission-style furnishings, desert palette tones of beige, sand, and ivory and lamps that recall a1930’s flair.

A Catalina pottery collection, one pool and fountain constructed in Catalina tiles, gold leaf ballroom ceiling, several inspiring and evocative Maynard Dixon murals, endless manicured gardens, views of purple Phoenix peaks, the Biltmore art is museum quality, and not the only reason to visit! Nine pools, country club golf links, biking, cooking classes, destination award winning spa, tennis, private cabanas at the Paradise pool… the list of amenities is vast. The Biltmore is perfect for a family escape or a corporate retreat. The Legend lives in Phoenix.

Not many hotels offer such historic background, and the Arizona Biltmore has been lovingly maintained. Elegance and the bygone days of a genteel life are a part of daily life at the Biltmore; the Catalina pool is a delightful oasis, roam the grounds with a book and enjoy the many beautiful gardens, white adirondack chairs are comfortably located for guest lounging.

The beginning of my day looked bleak, and in the end, I was thrilled to spend a day at The Jewel of The Desert…I will be returning for a longer visit in the fall.

Thank you Arizona Biltmore for a delightful slice of the past and a very memorable day.