Candlelight, an intimate ambience, an exquisitely prepared dinner and possibly even a decadent dessert are the ingredients for a romantic dining out experience. Here are six tried-and-true local restaurants sure to inspire love.
BY SARAH BURTON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY THOMAS VENEKLASEN
Reforma Modern Mexican. Mezcal + Tequila
Whether you choose a spot on the picturesque patio overlooking St. Philip’s Plaza and its fountain, or a cozy place within the walls of Reforma’s urban chic interior, you’re in for a departure from your usual Sonoran-style Mexican eateries. Besides the difference in surroundings, the menu itself is inspired by the fresh flavors of central Mexico. While you look over the menu, Owner Grant Krueger recommends you take advantage of what he says is possibly one of the largest tequila selections in the state: “Start with a handselected tequila flight and let the servers take you through some of the finest agave spirits in the world.” From there, he opines that sharing is the way to go, so opt for the guacamole trio to start — an assortment of traditional sweet and spicy variations. And since romance often is synonymous with chocolate, why not go with the chicken mole, featuring deep flavors of chocolate and poblano. To ensure a delicious end to your special dinner with your sweetheart, linger over an order of the house-made churros
4340 N. Campbell Ave., Ste. 101, (520) 867-4134, reformatucson.com
High in the foothills, part of the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort & Spa property, sits a stately dining room with nearly panoramic views. You’re off to a good start here, before you’ve even glanced at the contemporary menu, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking both the city below and surrounding mountains — even better if the weather allows for a seat on the terrace. GOLD’s menu is made up of seasonally inspired modern American cuisine, with nods to the Southwest whenever possible. No matter what season, you can expect plenty of seafood options, as well as classics like steak, lamb and slow-roasted chicken. Whatever you order here, you can be assured an artful and well-balanced culinary experience. There’s a reason why the restaurant has won the prestigious AAA Four-Diamond Award for numerous years. “GOLD has been a romantic culinary destination for decades,” says Executive Chef Todd Sicolo. “I enjoy pairing the timeless, breathtaking views of Tucson with creatively reimagined dishes featuring regional products straight from our local partners.”
245 E. Ina Rd., (520) 297-1151, www.westwardlook.com/dining/gold
Kingfisher Bar & Grill
A longtime local favorite, Kingfisher has maintained its stellar reputation for carefully balanced classic dishes and an inspired menu for 25 years. Well known for seafood, the restaurant kicks off its menu with the likes of oysters, housesmoked ruby trout, steamed mussels and shrimp cakes. Once you get to entrées, look for even more seafood dishes, such as grilled sea bass or the macadamia nut crusted Hawaiian fish. Similarly tempting are standouts like baby back ribs, chicken pot pie or steak. Not sure what to order? That’s fine by Chef Jim Murphy: “I think romance is about slowing down and being thoughtful with one another — spending time savoring life together. “I would start with a half bottle of Veuve Cliquot alongside grilled and chilled shrimp, baked oysters Rockefeller, and a golden beet and heirloom tomato salad,” he says. For an entrée he points to sautéed Onaga long tail snapper, while suggesting that you leave room for banana-datepecan cake with candied pecans.
2564 E. Grant Rd., (520) 323-7739, kingfishertucson.com
For roughly 25 years, Tucsonans have counted on Jonathan’s Cork for their special occasion dinners out. And the décor, a homey throwback to the ’70s filled with dark wood and Southwestern art, accentuates that feeling of longstanding tradition. “We have several small, private rooms with their own fireplaces,” Chef Jonathan Landeen points out. If that’s not enough to set the scene for a special occasion meal, the menu boasts traditional starters like shrimp on ice, oysters and escargot, as well as classic entrées such as roast duck, steak, or ribs. More unusual offerings include bison, ostrich and venison. So, what would Chef Landeen recommend for a romantic meal? “I would share crab cakes, the grilled romaine salad, salmon or prime rib, and ostrich for the more adventurous,” he says. And since no meal is really complete without dessert, “I would finish the meal by sharing a bread pudding.”
6320 E. Tanque Verde Rd., (520) 296-1631, jonathanscork.com
It’s not difficult to make an eveningmemorable when you’re dining on the cuisineof Northern Italy. Caffe Torino truly brings authenticity to each dish offered by Owners Ollie Shouse and Daniela Borella, with a menu full of recipes passed down for generations by Borella’s family. “When guests come in from Italy, they tell us, ‘This tastes like home,’” shares Tony Frank, entertainment and social media director for Caffe Torino. Think beyond the spaghetti kiss, à la Lady and the Tramp, with more complex and heady dishes like the Tagliata al Gorgonzola (flat iron steak served with creamy Gorgonzola sauce) or the Scottadito di agnello (grilled lamb chops with citrus pesto). There’s definitely something for every palate, as well as all of the classics you’d expect, such as gnocchi, cioppino, lasagna, and eggplant Parmesan. Even with so many rich and textured flavors to choose from, nothing will conjure romance quite as much as dining on the patio under the stars. “We’re a small, intimate restaurant with a great romantic atmosphere,” says Frank. “Candlelit tables, low lighting, impeccable Italian food and an amazing wine list — not to mention jazz on the weekends.”
10325 N. La Canada Dr. (Oro Valley), (520) 297-3777; 5605 E. River Rd., Ste. 121 (Foothills), (520) 300-6860, caffetorinotucson.com
Harvest on River
With any special occasion, having a great view or unique atmosphere can take it to the next level. Harvest on River, tucked into the second floor of a shopping center with a patio overlooking the city, is a great locale for a quiet dinner with your special someone. When Reza Shapouri and his wife Lisa took over ownership of Harvest in Oro Valley in 2011, they kept the focus on what the restaurant is known for: local and seasonally inspired fare. The same is true at this newer location in the Catalina Foothills, which the Shapouris opened in 2015 in partnership with Executive Chef Michael Veres. The menu offers everything from roasted cauliflower tacos and vegan gnocchi to burgers and short ribs. With a little bit of everything, and a menu perfect for sharing, Shapouri points out they see their fair share of date nights. “We have a great wine selection, house-made cocktails, and you can’t forget our fantastic desserts — like the triple chocolate cake made in house by my wife, our pastry chef.”
5605 E. River Rd., Ste. 201, (520) 529-7180, harvestonriver.com
Many factors can play into a heart attack, including genetic predisposition, lifestyle, and excessive stress. Here is one local woman’s firsthand account of the path that led her to a heart attack, and the road back.
I had a heart attack on Feb. 9, 2018. It scared the you-know-what out of me, but it also annoyed me no end! I was so busy — doing things for everybody and being everywhere. My days were planned to the max with no wiggle room for delays. I was irritable with stress and now peeved because things didn’t go my way. How inconvenient! I was in the middle of a late-life career path — teaching writing, publishing a book, running a writer’s group, and tons of other social stuff. My to-do list was a mile long, and I liked my busy lifestyle. But something wasn’t right. I was ridiculously tired to the point of fatigue. I couldn’t get through the day without lying down, and if I didn’t get an afternoon rest, I was uncharacteristically cranky in the evening. I was getting up at 5:30 in the morning to tackle that to-do list, thinking I was just sleeping poorly. I blamed everything from my pillow to the full moon. Unbeknownst to me, that nagging pain in my collarbone and the occasional lightheadedness were common signs of heart attacks in women. Women experience a heart attack differently than men. Men typically have the “Hollywood” attacks we see in movies. You know the kind: pain in the left arm, clutching the chest, collapsing. But I had none of those. However, the day before my heart attack, I had nine symptoms in total and still refused to go to the emergency room — fatigue, cold sweats, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, pain in my collarbone, cold/numb fingers and toes, shortness of breath, dizziness, and feeling faint. I believed I could be just having an anxiety attack. I was too busy and “didn’t have time” to have a major health issue interrupt my full schedule. On Thursday, Feb. 8, I was the spotlight speaker at one of my networking groups. This meant I had 10 minutes to stand before the group and give a presentation. That morning my fingers and toes were icy cold. I was tired and hadn’t been sleeping well, but I chalked it up to one of any number of things: a poor dinner choice the night before, a case of nerves, or maybe sleep apnea. My collarbone ached like someone was pinching it. As I wrote my speech notes onto blue note cards, I felt like I’d been holding my breath. While loading the supplies into my SUV, I noticed I was winded even from that effort. At the restaurant, I took an end seat so I could get up easily to do my presentation. When it was my turn to speak, I stood at the front and grasped the microphone for dear life. I talked easily for 10 minutes, though I realized I was getting short of breath. Then my heart started pounding, because (I thought) I was probably holding my breath — until it pounded faster, and I mean really pounded. It took everything I had to appear calm and composed. Then I started feeling lightheaded to the point of dizziness. At the end of my time, I took a few questions and sat down just before the room started to spin. Immediately, sweat formed at my hairline and trickled down my forehead like a menopausal hot flash. I dabbed at my forehead with a napkin, desperate to be “fine.” A friend noticed that all the color had drained from my face. She brought me water and the waiter gave me a Sprite. They wanted to call 911, but I resisted, saying, “NO! I’m fine, just feeling a bit woozy….” I sensed I might pass out, and wanted to lie down, but there was nowhere I could do that. So, I just kept saying, “I’m fine. Honest, I’m fine.” Finally, after lots of water and napkins to mop up the cold sweat pouring from my scalp, I felt somewhat recovered. Knowing I couldn’t drive in this condition, I called my husband Tomas to come and take me home. Once there, I lay on the couch, very still, and Googled my symptoms. Voila! It’s an anxiety attack. That explained everything! Somehow that made me feel better, even though I couldn’t imagine what I might have been anxious about — but anxiety had to be it. On Friday, Feb. 9, I awoke with a head full of plans and a long to-do list. In the shower, raising my arms to wash my hair seemed like such an effort. I was quickly out of breath. So, with a towel wrapped around my head, I put on my robe and lay down on the bed until my breathing returned to normal.
Blow-drying my hair caused the same effect. Holding a brush in one hand and the blow-dryer in the other with my arms above my head was a challenge. I was again exhausted and short of breath. Back to bed I went, lying down for the second time that morning — and it wasn’t even eight o’clock. I thought, This is unacceptable. I have too much to do to be lying down every five minutes! Knowing something wasn’t right, I was determined to push through and prepare for my writing class the next morning. So, I charged off to shop for groceries. I knew exactly where to find all my favorite foods for the class, but in the cookie aisle, it hit me. I reached for a pack of gourmet cookies and they fell to the floor. As I bent down to retrieve them, I suddenly knew I’d faint if I leaned all the way down. I left the cookies on the floor and retreated to the register to check out. My legs felt so heavy, I could barely move. Thinking a jolt of caffeine and sugar would pick me up, I grabbed a cold soda from the case and gulped it down. I slowly loaded the two bags of groceries into the back of my SUV as if I were moving through syrup. I was short of breath again and recognized the pain in my collarbone as constant. After I got home, I finally gave in and called my primary care doctor. “Sorry, he’s out of town,” said the nurse who answered the phone. “Is someone covering for him? Who can I see?” I begged. Her answer was short and sweet. I could either call my cardiologist or go to the hospital emergency room. “I can’t go to the ER. I have too much to do!” I wailed. Her reply would haunt me for weeks, months, even longer: “You can’t do anything if you’re dead.” Thankfully, I had a cardiologist to call. The receptionist found my file (it had been 10 years since my last visit) and said the doctor could work me in that day. I called Tomas and we drove there together. After I was hooked up to an EKG, the tech shook his head as he watched the needle move. Cardiologist Timothy Marshall, M.D., entered the room, stared at the EKG machine, and I knew something was up. “Susan, you’re having a heart attack right now,” Dr. Marshall said. What? It can’t be. I thought he would just give me blood pressure pills and send me on my way. Terrified, I looked over at my husband who appeared terrified, too. The doctor said we had to go to the ER — now. Then things happened fast. The tech gave me a baby aspirin and had me place a nitroglycerine tab under my tongue. I heard Dr. Marshall on the phone swiftly making arrangements for me. Oh, God, I prayed silently.
Tomas dropped me off at Tucson Medical Center’s ER entrance, which was only four blocks from the doctor’s office. I was whisked inside and placed on a gurney. I winced as the attendant peeled off my brand-new black leggings and my underwear. I was allowed to take off my top and bra myself, and the hospital gown went on so quickly, nobody could see my nakedness. The medics swarmed around me. Doctors, nurses, techs, all said their names and what they would do to me. Calmly, they took some blood, put in a needle for an IV, and asked about my health history, my medications, and my nail polish. Yes, my nail polish. They wanted to remove it so they could clip a heart monitor onto my finger. They said the polish would interfere, but I knew it wouldn’t come off because it’s made of shellac. I tried to explain this but to no avail. Instead, they attached a heart monitor to my ear. I felt a breeze on my face from the speed of the moving gurney. They rolled me to the Cath Lab, explaining every movement and location along the way. But having received anesthesia, soon I didn’t care. Surrounded by nurses, equipment, and blinking monitors, the doctor threaded a tiny wire with a balloon on the end through the catheter tube in my groin. From there, he inserted a stent in my right coronary artery. It was 95 percent blocked and resistant to opening, but with the stent in place, my blood flow improved to 60 percent. Less than 20 minutes had passed since I walked into the ER. When I woke up from the anesthesia, I found myself in a private room with nurses, techs, and orderlies coming in and out. Tomas was there and so was my son Tim. I was starving, but I couldn’t eat until another round of tests were run. That night was a blur of fitful sleep, bad dreams, a dinner tray at 10 p.m. and a constant struggle to get comfortable.
The early morning ushered in more nurses drawing blood, bringing pills,and taking my vitals. My breathing was still labored, and my collarbone pain had moved to my chest. Three doctors visited and determined I wasn’t better, so they ordered a few tests. They gave me something for the pain and to get the fluid off my lungs, then sent me off for a chest x-ray. After that, I was wheeled out on yet another gurney for an echocardiogram, a test that uses ultrasound to evaluate one’s heart muscle and heart valves. Hours later, the hospital’s cardiologist Dr. Thomas Waggoner told me he was taking me back to the Cath Lab to fix another artery with a stent. I trusted him. I knew something had to be done because I felt so bad — constant chest pain, shortness of breath, fitful sleeping and non-stop sweating. And I saw how the nurses frowned with concern when they took my blood pressure and peered at my monitors. After receiving a second stent, I improved dramatically. The second stent opened up the left circumflex artery, improving the blood flow along with oxygen to my body. My test results improved. Everyone noticed! This fix marked the beginning of a slow recovery as my heart began to grow stronger.
My brain was on overload trying to take in every face, test result, and procedure explanation. I had three cardiologists, four nurses, a dietician, a pharmacist, a physiologist, and a hospitalist who managed my case. One nurse was a counselor who had a soothing voice and wore a fuzzy cardigan. Dr. Juan Pena, my hospitalist, visited me every day. He’d squat down to look me in the eye, hold my hand, and ask if I knew what happened to me. His soft voice calmed me. He made sure I knew I’d had a heart attack and then stent surgery procedures. Whatever the circumstance, he took care to explain the details to me. Sarah, the nurse with the fuzzy cardigan, told me, “Because you almost died, you’ll find yourself feeling depressed. Just expect this to happen at some time.” A kid in blue scrubs (a cardiac rehab intern) said he’d walk me down the hall to see how far I could go. This excited me! I wanted to prove I was strong enough to be released. He offered his arm, and we started our walk. Yet I could only make it a few steps out the door of my room before I was so winded that I had to stop. My ankles felt wobbly, my legs weak.
Then came Debbie, whose job it was to explain how to use a defibrillator life vest. She opened a color brochure describing a contraption I was supposed to wear 24/7 for the next six weeks. The vest, like a fabric sports bra with metal paddles in the back, would shock my heart if I should have a heart attack while wearing it. It’s also full of sensors to monitor everything about my heart and transmit the data to a far-away location via modem. Because it was a Sunday, though, I wouldn’t get the actual vest until Monday. A dietician wearing red scrubs was sweet as she launched into long explanations of what I should be eating for the rest of my life. I was especially intrigued with her visual of the desired salt intake. “Just make a little mound about the size of a dime in the palm of your hand,” she said. “That’s how much salt you can have in a day. Not just from the salt shaker but from everything you eat.” Then she showed me how to read labels on food products, especially the sodium content. At one point in our conversation, my eyelids drooped as I cradled the stack of brochures she’d brought. “This is a lot to take in!” I declared. Before I drifted off, I heard Tomas and my doctor talking about the “ejection fraction” or EF numbers. EF is a measure of how well the left ventricle is pumping blood to the right ventricle, and my EF was low at 15 (with a normal heart putting out 35 to 55 EF). This explained the need for wearing a defibrillator vest. That afternoon, I ordered heart-healthy chicken soup for dinner, but it tasted like dish water. So I ate the saltine crackers, I craved salt so badly! I dozed off again and heard the clicking of heels come into my room. I opened my eyes and saw my best friend bearing a vase of flowers. ”Happy birthday,” she said. “I told you not to come!” I blurted. “I had to see you with my own eyes to make sure you’re okay,” she replied. That’s when I started to cry. I didn’t want anyone to see me so debilitated — oxygen tube, catheter bag, tubes and needles in both arms, bruises on every visible surface. I wanted to tell her I almost died and how scared I was, but my breathing was so labored, I couldn’t get out any more words. We simply hugged.
Finally, Monday morning came and so did a flurry of activity. A young man in gray scrubs went through my discharge papers. One by one, he explained what they meant so I could knowledgeably sign the papers. Most important was getting the long list of drugs, their names, dosages, and what they would do for me. It felt like a barrage of instructions: Do this, do that, make an appointment for this doctor, that blood test. Then a chipper nurse dressed in brown corduroy came in with a lot of enthusiasm and a defibrillator life vest. She showed me how to put it together by inserting the paddles into the slots and the round sensors with their skinny black cords. I noticed a two-and-a-half-pound battery pack was attached with a cord on the side. “Put on the life vest and get me out of here!” I wanted to shout. But no, I’d have to prove to her I could put it together as she did. The vest already was complicated, and it came with a long list of things to do every day. I knew that no slacking off was allowed; wearing this vest was serious, life-saving stuff! The kid in scrubs came to walk me again. This time, I made it farther than before. I wanted to jump for joy, but my arm wouldn’t let go of his.
My First Night Home
Tomas and I decided I should sleep in the guest room and keep the walker nearby. I would need it when I got up to go to the bathroom — I wasn’t strong enough to make it there on my own. That night, I had a nightmare, awoke with a start, and begin to hyperventilate. My breath wouldn’t come — I was terrified. I made my way to the family room, got into the recliner, and covered up with an afghan. I realized I could breathe better sitting up. While in that chair, I had a long talk with God thanking him for sparing my life. I asked Him to help me breathe better right now! Then I asked Him what I did to deserve this and what I could do to repay Him for saving me. Over the next few months, I followed my doctor’s orders strictly. That meant attending cardiac rehab three times a week, eating heart-healthy meals, and taking my meds faithfully. The hardest order was eliminating stress from my life. Weeks passed and gradually I regained my strength. My ejection fraction or EF rose to 55, which meant getting released from the defibrillator life vest. In the meantime, I cancelled my writing groups, gave up teaching classes, and reimbursed my students for money they’d paid. I also stopped networking and posting on Facebook, plus I quit being annoyed at interruptions. Thankfully, I began feeling like a normal human being. I learned to drop the “too busy” persona and practiced my new mantra: “JUST BE.”
Six Months Later
Grief, Guilt, and Gratitude
When I had my heart attack, I almost died. I mean, I could have died, but I didn’t. Faced with my mortality in this drastic and incontrovertible way, I realized it was possible I might live a shorter life than I’d anticipated. I suffered grief for the life I’d lost. No, I didn’t die, but my old life was gone for good. I grieved over what I might have missed with my husband, my children, my grandkids, my sisters and my friends. And I grieved for all I will miss in the future when I do die. Now, I make it a priority to fill my heart with memories of love, joy, and togetherness with those I hold dear. I try extra hard to say how much I appreciate them and make an effort to spend time together. Then there is the guilt, which can take on many faces. My counselor told me these feelings are normal. That brings me to gratitude. Today, I’m so grateful God gave me a reality check and a second chance. I discovered that my busy schedule was not the most important thing in my life. I thought stress was anything that caused me great upset or anxiety. But I learned from a soft-spoken cardiac nurse that stress is more than that. “Basically,” she said, “it’s taking on too much. Doing too many things without enough time. Many women take time to take care of everybody else before they even think about caring for themselves.” “Hmmm,” I thought, “she’s describing me to a T!” I had to face facts: my stress was selfinduced. The old me always said yes to everything, never realizing it was causing stress. But I’m not that person anymore. I now can say no to things that will get done without me. I have to pull back. I know my strength doesn’t have to come from a laundry list of accomplishments. I can relax. I am very lucky I didn’t die. But my life as I used to live it? That’s over.
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
The most common symptom is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pain. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
Shortness of breath
Pain in one or both arms
Nausea or vomiting
Lightheadedness or dizziness
These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe their chest pain as pressure or a tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.
Susan Smith is a heart attack survivor, writer, speaker, and Mayo Clinictrained WomenHeart Champion. She is writing a book titled “My Inconvenient Heart Attack.”
BY KIRSTEN ALMQUIST | PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY EACH DUDE RANCH
With warm Western hospitality, well-trained horses, great food and wonderful accommodations, these four dude ranches allow everyone to play cowboy and cowgirl.
Tanque Verde Ranch
Spanish for “green pool,” Tanque Verde designates an expanse of land east of Tucson ascending into the Rincon Mountains. It’s here that this old-time cattle and guest ranch is located.
After a colorful history dating back to the late 1800s, the ranch was acquired by Brownie Cote in 1957. It has remained in the Cote family ever since. Today, Tanque Verde Ranch has 640 acres, leasing an additional 60,000 acres from the U.S. Forest Service for its cattle operation.
Guests can travel back through time and experience the dramatic days of yore in luxury. The ranch offers a variety of lodging options that combine the spirit of the Old West with today’s modern amenities. With an abundance of activities for all ages, there is never a dull moment. Whether a guest seeks to explore the desert and mountains, relax and unwind, satisfy a creative craving, or burn up some energy with a challenging game of tennis or volleyball, there’s something for everyone. Opportunities include spending the morning on miles of exciting horse trails, then winding down at La Sonora Spa. Afterward, guests are invited to head down to Cottonwood Grove for a down-home ranch barbecue experience, and even top off the evening with a cowboy cocktail at The Dog House Saloon.
14301 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ, (520) 296-6275, tanqueverderanch.com
Fifty miles southwest of Tucson sits Elkhorn Ranch, at an altitude of 3,700 feet. The picturesque Baboquivari Mountains and the open Sonoran Desert terrain of Altar Valley encompass the ranch.
A classic winter season dude ranch experience is provided by the third generation of the Miller Family and their crew. From November to April guests participate in exemplary horseback riding and comfortable living. Most guests stay for a least a week, but many winter visitors settle in for longer stays.
Whether traveling solo, as a couple, or with family, vacationers will find camaraderie, relaxation and adventure around the ranch and on miles of mountain and desert trails.
The Elkhorn Ranch’s herd of around 120 saddle horses, along with breeding stock and colts, graze in large pastures surrounding the ranch headquarters. They are raised on the property or brought to the ranch as young horses. Having learned to live in the rough country, Elkhorn horses are sure-footed and strong — the perfect companions on the trail.
Home-cooked meals are served buffet-style at the Long House three times a day. For a healthy start, guests can order a hot breakfast of their choice. A picnic lunch cooked over an open fire is a weekly treat. Other options include all-day rides with sack lunches or camp cooking. Evening entertainment is casual, with beer, wine and soft drinks available at the ranch office store for guests to enjoy at their own cabins.
27000 W. Elkhorn Ranch Rd., Tucson, AZ, (520) 822-1040, elkhornranch.com
Circle Z Ranch
The crackle of a campfire, the creak of a leather saddle and rugged vistas without end transport vacationers to a time when days were spent on horseback and nights under the stars. Corralled in Southern Arizona’s Sky Islands, Circle Z Ranch is the oldest, continually operating guest ranch in Arizona. The ranch, located in Patagonia, started as a sheep-herding operation in the 1880s and developed into a dude ranch in the 1920s.
After changing hands several times, Circle Z has been owned and operated by the Nash family since 1976. Mrs. Nash’s many visits to the ranch as a child launched her interest in the facility. The family’s avowed aim has been to run a traditional- style ranch with an emphasis on recreational riding, good food and congenial guests.
Guided by expert wranglers, visitors can explore trails across thousands of scenic acres that have been the backdrops for many Western movies. Back at the ranch, there is the option to partake in other outdoor activities like yoga and hiking, or join fellow guests fireside at the ranch’s rustic lodge.
In true cowboy fashion, meals are cooked from scratch using locally grown ingredients. Circle Z Ranch offers three cookouts each week in addition to their regular buffet-style spread: Monday Steak Cookout, Wednesday Picnic Cookout, and Saturday Chuck-Wagon. After dinner, families can go their separate ways — kids to the game room and parents to the BYOB Cantina where stories from the day are shared and friendships are forged.
1476 AZ Highway 82, Patagonia, AZ, (520) 394-2525, circlez.com
White Stallion Ranch
What began as a cattle ranch in the 1930s now represents more than 50 years of mindful stewardship of the land and exceptional guest services provided by the third-generation True family. In 1965, Allen and Cynthia True, with two kids in tow, came from Colorado to make the ranch their home. Back then the ranch consisted
of 17 rooms, 17 horses and 200 acres. The Trues didn’t waste any time and soon began purchasing adjacent land as it became available, increasing the ranch to 3,000 acres. Today, the property features 43 guest rooms and a five-bedroom hacienda.
Located at the base of the Tucson Mountains, the ranch has spacious and charming accommodations with spectacular views of the cactus gardens, mountains and corrals. Nightly rates include lodging, all meals and most activities.
There is no shortage of activities to enjoy, including tennis, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, hayrides and shooting. However, the real adventure — the one for which most people visit the ranch
— requires a sturdy pair of jeans and some boots. White Stallion Ranch owns one of the largest private herds of horses in Arizona. Guests can choose from slow rides, fast rides, hayrides and all-day rides. The experienced horse owner, the “first-time” rider and everyone in between can find an equestrian experience to fit their interests and abilities. One unique feature of this dude ranch is WSR’s weekly rodeo, where wranglers, family and friends practice skills with team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and more. At the end of a long day, guests can enjoy dinner that’s been grilled over an outdoor fire, accompanied by home-style side dishes and a delectable dessert. Evening entertainment can be everything from art classes, to campfire songs, to line dancing.
9251 W. Twin Peaks Rd., Tucson, AZ, (520) 297-0252, whitestallion.com
Here are a few restaurants that offer small plates and tapas.
BY Sarah Burton
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Thomas Veneklasen
It’s a fresh, new year ahead. We spent the holidays saying yes to rich seasonal flavors, family recipes, and savoring those decadent treats. We’re ready to get serious, buckle down, and clean up our acts a bit. But the food-lovers out there can still enjoy a perfect bite out in local eateries — maybe just scaled down a bit. Here are five local spots where you can enjoy a smaller plate, or lighter fare.
The popular style of dining in Japan known as Izakaya has something in common with Irish pubs and tapas bars. It’s all about gathering with friends and family after a long day to relax and catch up while sharing several smaller dishes. Ginza Sushi offers an Izakaya-style dining experience, with both sushi and classic Izakaya menus.
You can order any of their signature sushi rolls, sashimi, or really go for the full experience and incorporate a few orders from the Izakaya offerings like fried baby octopus, green mussels, pork gyoza, fried Japanese eggplant, broiled mackerel, or even some yamaimo (Japanese mountain potato).
You really can’t go wrong with the fresh, bright flavors found throughout Contigo’s menu. Inspired by recipes from South America and Spain, the made-from-scratch offerings span everything from gazpacho and jicama salad to short rib tacos and a beef-and-chorizo burger to die for. But you also can select smaller plates from their tapas menu.
Come with friends and order several to share — as is the traditional way to enjoy a tapas menu. First and foremost, you must start with Contigo’s house-cured olives. Another small plate you’d be remiss to leave out, and one of their most popular, is the one featuring Spanish chorizo-stuffed dates. Go for the carpaccio with a juniper-tarragon vinaigrette, the empanada of the day, or an ever-changing cured meat and cheese platter.
Take special note, with Contigo’s prime real estate on site at The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, the view and food go hand in hand. If it is warm enough, aim for a spot on the patio, where weeknights during happy hour you can save money while you sample many of their tapas and other small-plate versions of their regular menu.
On Tucson’s northeast side, Commoner & Co. offers a new take on American cuisine. And although some of their fan favorites could be considered more on the hearty side (think chorizo mac and cheese or flat iron pork), many of their inventive entrées will give you all of the flavor in just a few right-sized bites.
Starters such as plump empanadas, roasted beets with goat cheese, or the goat cheese tart promise all of the flavor and none of the uncomfortably stuffed feelings. Of course, there’s also the classic mussels and fries (here cooked in a Thai curry). Or if you can’t make up your mind, simply let the chef decide for you: The chef’s tile always promises a delectable assortment of meat and cheese.
“We have several great options for smaller plates or tapas, our most popular being the house-made pork carnitas empanadas and brûléed goat cheese tart,” points out Chef Kyle Nottingham. “Sharing small dishes family style is our favorite way to dine, and the best way to get the full Commoner experience.”
Another no-brainer for locales where you can dig in and not feel overloaded, is an eatery dedicated to plant-based foods: The Tasteful Kitchen. Most of the dishes in this modern vegetarian restaurant are vegan and gluten-free, and change seasonally. Fresh vegetable dishes abound here, and many are prepared with little oil or salt.
“After indulging in heavy calorie-laden holiday foods, people are looking for lighter, healthier fare, which they’ll definitely find here,” says Chef Laura Clawson. “Our favorite light appetizer is our spring rolls, which are virtually fat free and very refreshing.”
Another approach is to follow suit with regular customers, and go for The Tasteful Kitchen’s most popular year-round dish: Miso eggplant. Here, glazed eggplant is paired with coconut black rice and bok choy — rich enough to satisfy during cold months but not make diners feel weighed down when ordered in the summer.
Café à la C’art steps up to the smaller plate or lighter fare challenge with their own well-curated style of New American cuisine. Dine inside this historic adobe building, or choose the patio, where you can nosh beneath a shade canopy and twisting vines. You’ll have fun trying to choose from the likes of pork belly sitting atop a bed of roasted Brussels sprouts or a carefully balanced avocado and peach salad, with cotija cheese and fresno chiles.
“For those craving something hearty but light and satisfying, our most popular salad is the grilled flank steak with mixed greens and arugula,” says Owner Mark Jorbin. “It has all the right stuff: heirloom tomatoes, feta, grilled red onions, olives, roasted sweet peppers and crispy onions with a citrus balsamic vinaigrette.” Lighter still, the house salad is another tempting option, a bed of organic greens with fennel, pepitas, roasted peppers, and an herb vinaigrette.
There are plenty of other less-filling choices on the menu of this unique spot, like the grilled salmon served alongside perfect flavor matches of oranges, red onion, greens, fennel and kalamata olives. Whatever you choose, make sure to allow plenty of time to stroll around the grounds, which the café just so happens to share with the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.
With a lineup that includes Pink Martini, Trombone Shorty and Bobby McFerrin, the 5th Annual Tucson Jazz Festival offers something for every music fan, including those who don’t think they like jazz.
For the festival’s Artistic Director Yvonne Ervin, the diverse groups who will be performing in the Old Pueblo Jan. 11-21 represent both some of her long-time favorites and newer discoveries. The lineup also demonstrates how seamlessly this 10-day celebration combines the programs offered by multiple arts organizations to create a wonderful experience for concertgoers.
One of the biggest shows of the festival is Asleep at the Wheel, coming to the Fox Tucson Theatre on Jan. 17. For those who think of this Austin-based group as more of a country act, consider the fact that three of the band’s albums are centered around the music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Wills gets the credit for being the pioneer of country swing, infusing jazz instrumentation (including a horn section) and the soulfulness of performers like Blues legend Bessie Smith, into his toe-tapping sound. Asked about the decision to book that band, Ervin notes, “The Tucson Desert Song Festival and the TSO are bringing in Kristin Chenoweth on that day, so I was scratching my head thinking, ‘What am I going to put up against her that won’t take away audiences from either side?’ I had a little party the last time I was visiting New York City. One of my friends who attended is a journalist and into Dixieland and straight-ahead jazz. He told me that he had seen Asleep at the Wheel at the Rochester Jazz Festival and thought they were awesome. I’m like, ‘Ah! What a great idea.’”
And another awesome concert — on Jan. 16 at the Fox — is the Magos Herrera Quartet, joining forces with Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. Herrera is a singer/songwriter from Mexico City, and Maqueque is a group of Cuban all-star female jazz musicians assembled by award-winning sax/ flute/piano player Bunnett. With a decidedly Latin-influence to the music, the concert is the perfect choice to kick off this year’s Tucson Desert Song Festival.
Ervin explains that she had been trying to bring Herrera to Tucson for years. Another top act that also has long been on her wish list will be here for the festival, too, Trombone Shorty, who UA Presents is bringing to Centennial Hall on Jan. 18. Shorty (whose real name is Troy Andrews), began playing the trombone at age four, attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and has performed with everyone from Lenny Kravitz to Hall & Oates.
Contemporary jazz icons Groover Quartet (made up of keyboard player Mike LeDonne, saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Joe Farnsworth) play a show with Special EFX that will include sax player Eric Marienthal and violinist Regina Carter on Jan. 12 at the Fox. Enthuses Ervin, “The Groover Quartet is a band that I used to see in New York all the time. They played at a club that was two blocks from me. One of my favorite tenor sax players is in the band. We’re hoping to get a little tenor battle between the two Erics at the end of that concert. You never know … it’s jazz. Anything can happen!”
A big change this year is that the free, all-day concert known as the Downtown Fiesta (taking place Jan. 21 at various stages) will have a headliner. “We got a grant from Arizona Commission on the Arts, and Rio Nuevo increased their support, so we were able to pay Poncho Sanchez to come in for that. That’s pretty big. That’s going to bring even more people downtown.”
Indeed it will. Sanchez, a Mexican American singer and musician, is a Grammy winner who has worked with such notables as Hugh Masekela, Art Pepper and Tower of Power. But there are many other not-to-be-missed concerts that are part of the festival, including the return of trumpeter Terrell Stafford to perform with pianist Joey Alexander and the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band (Jan. 11 at the Fox). On Jan. 14, singer Kathleen Grace teams up with pianist Larry Goldings for an intimate show at Club Congress.
Fans of Pink Martini know that this genre-spanning group mixes world music, jazz, and pop together for an irresistible concoction, and pairing them with the TSO increases the fun factor tenfold. You can hear the results at the TCC Music Hall on Jan 19 and 20. And two well-known singers will show off their distinctive styles as part of the festival. Sheila Jordan (with bassist Cameron Brown) will play the Temple of Music and Art on Jan. 19, and Bobby McFerrin, joined by a select group of a cappella singers will electrify the Fox on Jan. 20.
One show with a very strong local connection is Tucson Swings Brightly: The Music of Nelson Riddle (Jan. 13 at the Fox). The enormously talented composer and arranger, who worked with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Tucson native Linda Ronstadt, will be paid tribute in a show featuring Ann Hampton Callaway, Katherine Byrnes, Joe Bourne and Jeff Haskell. Riddle, who passed away in 1985, developed a special connection with Tucson while collaborating with Ronstadt, and Riddle’s family established an endowed chair and library at the UA Fred Fox School of Music.
Ervin marvels at not only the contributions of Riddle to the jazz world (he is credited by many for reviving Frank Sinatra’s career in the 1960s), but also what a huge undertaking the concert utilizing his classic arrangements will be. “It’s quite a production,” she sums up. “We have a full orchestra and a full big band on the stage. I’m still not sure how we’re going to get the singers in. I was teasing Ann that we’re going to drop her in on a swing. That concert is going to be something else.” For more information visit www.tucsonjazzfestival.org.
“My dad was a journalist and a writer, and my mom was a singer, pianist and a voice teacher,” reflects Ann Hampton Callaway. “I really feel that I’m such an amalgam of both of their passions.”
Passion definitely describes how Callaway approaches her many projects, which over the years have included everything for writing music for previously unreleased Cole Porter lyrics, to writing and recording the theme for the TV show The Nanny, to collaborating with such industry icons as Barbra Streisand.
As a composer and singer who is very in-tune with arrangements, she is a perfect choice for headlining a show featuring Nelson Riddle’s work. She laughs about her response when Yvonne Ervin approached her to be part of it. “My reaction was, ‘What part of yes don’t you understand?’ First of all, I’m a huge fan. Every time I hear a great arrangement, I think, ‘Oh
Ann my gosh, who did that? It’s Nelson Riddle!’ Because he studied French composers such as Debussy and Ravel, and had a tremendously rich harmonic sense, along with a beautiful understanding of how to layer instruments, nobody else could do what he did. So many of my favorite records by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt and many others feature his arrangements.”
She can point to a number of works that illustrate her point. “One of my favorite arrangements of his was for ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin.’ I think he did it overnight. Sinatra was told he should have three more songs for his record. So Nelson said to him, ‘What do you want to have happen in I’ve Got You Under My Skin? And Frank said, ‘Just put a crescendo in there.’ And the excitement in that recording — the sense of when you’re in love with somebody and you can’t wait to be close to them — is just unbelievable to me. Every time I hear it I get excited. I just wish I could have been there at the recording because it must have been such a thrill.”
Her latest album, Jazz Goes to the Movies, features a direct connection to Riddle. “One of the songs was inspired by Peggy Lee’s gorgeous recording of Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of ‘The Folks Who Live on the Hill,’” she reveals. “For Peggy, Sinatra was in the studio conducting the recording. It’s so wistful, and I think it expresses how she felt about the song. It made such an impact on me that my emotional reading of the song is completely based on imagining what Peggy was feeling when she was in the studio.”
As a singer, Callaway marvels at Riddle’s restraint. “Another skill he had, which even some of the best arrangers don’t have a clue how to do, is knowing when to have the orchestra loud, full and rich, and when to get out of the way of the singer so that they can tell the story. So often when I’ve been doing a big band show, the arrangements overpower me, and I have a really powerful voice.”
The concert will mark a reunion of sorts. Callaway will be performing with pianist/conductor Jeff Haskell, whom she has worked with before. “He’s a wonderful pianist, and I’m really excited to be reunited with him,” she says. Another thing that generates waves of enthusiasm for her is continuing to explore Tucson, which she and her wife Kari now call home. “It’s so beautiful here. I’m so happy living in Tucson,” she observes. “Every night I look at the sunset and think, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to write songs based on what I’m seeing.’ It’s so powerful. It’s funny how a place can give you new horizons musically.” For more information on Ann Hampton Callaway visit her website: www.annhamptoncallaway.com. TL
Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.
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