The Arizona Biltmore Reimagined
My friends at Visit Phoenix asked if I could share some of my favorite Summer Secrets. I have to admit I may have cheated a bit. I picked an old favorite, that's been a Valley staple since 1929, the Arizona Biltmore. But here's the catch, the Biltmore, which closed in March 2020 for extensive renovations, reopened last month. The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired property has maintained all the best parts of the original property. The design team of Virserius Studio and PHX Architecture reimagined the property in what can only be called an effortless sense of magic.
The new property, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, is both family-friendly and a great location for a romantic getaway. Valley locals who aren't looking for an overnight visit, can still take advantage of the incredible new dining options as well as a visit to the spa...which is absolutely in the running to be my new favorite. Read on to learn all the details on this reimagined classic.
The resort offers 701 rooms, 36 suites, 28 cottages (some with private rooftops) and 54 villas. Additionally there are seven pools and multiple dining and bar options. I could write all day about the history of the resort: the stained glass, the infamous Biltmore blocks, the Sprite statues (because who doesn't love the good luck that fairies bring) but I'm picking and choosing my favorites. It was not as easy as I thought it would be because there are so much to love.
DINING AND BARS
Open for dinner only, with a menu that is described as "refined Latin", Renata's is around the philosophy of "the essence of smoke". In addition to innovative food, the decor details are just as enticing. Upon entering the restaurant, take a peak into the cocktail room (to your left) or the guacamole and tapas room (to your right). Enjoy the upscale decor and wide windows as you settle into an evening that is certain to be a delight.
Frank and Albert's
The bistro, name for architect Albert Chase McArthur and consulting architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is inspired by our local Southwest ingredients. My favorite was the bread bowl with fontina cheese. Firstly, because who doesn't love interactive food? Secondly, because it's so thin and light it's hardly counts as carbs (at least that's what I'm telling myself).
The Spire Bar
Front and center as you walk out of the lobby doors with amazing views of Piestewa Peak. Cozy lounge areas, fire pits and multiple televisions around the bar make it the social hub of the resort. It's the perfect place to settle in for sunset, happy hour or to watch the latest sporting events. The centerpiece of the Spire bar is the 30-foot spire on the center lawn. It's one of the newer pieces to the property and a tribute to Mr. Wright himself.
The Wright Bar
You can't help but to feel glamorous having a cocktail here. The decor, glassware and lighting all make you feel effortlessly fabulous and like you've stepped back into a golden age. Fun fact...the original Tequila Sunrise was created there.
Tierra Luna Spa
This new space features 12 treatment rooms and some innovative new treatments as well. Not only do you feel immediately relaxed upon walking through the front doors, the signature scent they've selected makes you want to stay all day. Therapies are inspired by the Sonoran Desert. My favorites include the mud and crystal bar, an onsite astrologist, and the celestial circadian ritual. Find the full spa menu here.
The resort offers seven pools, but two were the clear standouts for me.
The Paradise Pool
Perfect for a day with family and friends. The cabanas have been updated to include air-conditioning and private bathrooms. It also boasts a swim up bar and a splash pad for the kids. But the highlight is absolutely the 65' triple water slide. It's a perfect place to spend our Arizona summer days.
The Saguaro Pool
This adult only pool, located on the far side of the lawn opposite the Spire Bar, has chic cabanas and day beds. Mosaic pieces, with glass imported from Italy, offer unique poolside decor in a spot that is both tranquil and fun.
My final take....
It's summer in Phoenix and it's HOT. If you want a break from your day to day, reserve a couple of days the the Biltmore. I suggest a cottage for a couple, booking a couple's massage with happy hour at The Wright Bar and dinner at Renata's. Or gather the family, rent a cabana and spend the day in The Paradise Pool and settle into The Spire Bar to watch the sunset.
The updated property isn't going to be a secret for long. Book now to enjoy a chic way to cool down as the Valley heats up.
Dining in...we've been adapting to more at home time and I've been playing around with different presentations to keep things interesting. I usually like to share new places and experiences with you all but there is so little of that happening these days as we practice social distancing. I've been pulling inspiration from some of my at home and entertaining and grazing board pages. They're great for our family because as we are working on puzzles, playing games or just watching Netflix, they offer the opportunity to snack away. Something that I'm enjoying immensely now and will probably regret when I finally try to put jeans on again, LOL.
The main dish here is Shakshuka - an easy to make Middle Eastern dish. I also roasted chick peas and paired with crusty bread, extra feta for garnish and some other goodies.
Here's the recipe for you guys!
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tbsp feta cheese
Heat a large skillet on medium. Add olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.
Add the diced bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes.
Add tomatoes to pan, stir until blended. Add spices, stir, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until it starts to reduce.
Add salt and more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka.
Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. Eggs will cook "over easy" on top of sauce.
Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced.
In this time of social distancing, or as a friend said yesterday we really should be calling it physical distancing because these days we need our social connections more than ever, we all seem to have a little more time than usual on our hands. I'm trying to find the bright side of this situation and in addition to more family time I'm finally working my way through my book list that I've been wanted to get through. I don't know about you guys, but personally getting lost in someone else's fictional reality for a few hours sounds pretty good to me.
Here are my current recommendations as well as some upcoming books I'm really excited about that come out between now and May...because who knows how long we are goin to be physically distancing ourselves for at this point.
One other thing I wanted to briefly mention, with many household incomes in flux these days people may be thinking twice about spending discretionary income on electronic and physical books. In addition, many public libraries are closed until further notice. If that is your situation I encourage you all to download the www.overdrive.com/ app and see if your local library participates. If so, you can electronically link your existing library card or in some cases even request a brand new card.
Ok...so on to the good stuff...and please let me know in the comments what you are reading.
In Five Years - Rebecca Serle
One thing that stayed with me after I finished the poignant and funny novel was that it's all about perceptive. But you don't realize it until the last page. A true love story, but not for the reasons you'll think.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.
But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.
After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.
That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.
Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.
Good Girls Lie - J.T. Ellison
I've been a fan of J.. Ellison for ages and this was one of my favorites. That's saying a lot given that I've read literally everything else she wrote preceding this new novel.
Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond.
But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.
In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder.
When a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.
But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.
TheUnhoneymooners - Christina Lauren
It's funny, It's light...and these days we need that. You're not going to be surprised, but you are going to be entertained.
Olive is always unlucky:
in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.
Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Oliv
e and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.
Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.
The Woman In The Window - A.J. Finn
If I could encourage you to read this one first If you're so inclined. The movie starring Amy Adams is slated to be released later this Spring. It's well written and you won't see the ending coming!
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
Reputation - Sara Shepard
By the author of The Heiresses - it was a great reminder that you don't want to put anything in writing that you wouldn't want anyone to eventually read.
Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people's e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning's handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit's sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn't right about the night Greg was killed, and she's determined to find the truth. What she doesn't expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.
Told from multiple points of view, Reputation is full of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. It's a story of intrigue, sabotage, and the secrets we keep—and how far we go to keep them hidden. Number one bestseller Sara Shepard is at the top of her game in this brand-new adult novel.
Summer of '79 - Elin Hilderbrand
This short story is a follow up to Summer of '69 if you are a Hilderbrand fan. It will be published in print in spring 2021 as part of a Dorothea Benton Frank tribute anthology but is available digitally (via Amazon only but it's only $1.99).
The Boy From The Woods - Harlan Coben
Harlan Coben is another author I've been a fan of for years. It's a book both you and your husband will love...it's not chick lit I promise.
Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. Now an adult, he still doesn't know where he comes from, and another child has gone missing.
No one seems to take Naomi Pine's disappearance seriously, not even her father-with one exception. Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney, knows through her grandson that Naomi was relentlessly bullied at school. Hester asks Wilde-with whom she shares a tragic connection-to use his unique skills to help find Naomi.
Wilde can't ignore an outcast in trouble, but in order to find Naomi he must venture back into the community where he has never fit in, a place where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it's too late.
The K Team - David Rosenfelt
Full disclosure folks, David is a family friend. I've known him for years and have been reading his books for over a decade. His Andy Carpenter series is by far and away my favorite, but all of his books are great reads, including this one.
Corey Douglas and his K-9 partner, Simon Garfunkel, have recently retired from the police force. Not ready to give up the life yet, they come up with a proposal for fellow former cop, Laurie Carpenter, and her investigating partner, Marcus. Laurie and Marcus – who help out Laurie’s lawyer husband Andy on cases – have been chafing to jump back into investigating on their own, so they are in.
They call themselves the K Team, in honor of Simon. Their first job as private investigators comes to them from Judge Henry Henderson, who's known as a very tough but fair judge, and they've all come up against him in court at one time or another. Though it's hard to believe, Judge Henderson is being blackmailed and extorted, and he doesn't want to involve the police--he needs the K Team to figure out why.
When Life Gives You Lemons – Fiona Gibson
Between tending to the whims of her seven-year-old and the demands of her boss, Viv barely gets a moment to herself. It’s not quite the life she wanted, but she hasn’t run screaming for the hills yet.
But then Viv’s husband Andy makes his mid-life crisis her problem. He’s having an affair with his (infuriatingly age-appropriate) colleague, a woman who – unlike Viv – doesn’t put on weight when she so much as glances at a cream cake.
Viv suddenly finds herself single, with zero desire to mingle. Should she be mourning the end of life as she knows it, or could this be the perfect chance to put herself first?
When life gives you lemons, lemonade just won’t cut it. Bring on the gin!
Confessions of a Forty Something F**K Up – Alexandra Potter (April 2020)
Nell Stevens’ life is a mess.
When her business goes bust and her fiancé with it, Nell’s happy ever after in California falls apart and she moves back to London to start over. But a lot has changed since she’s been gone. All her single friends are now married with children, sky-high rents force her to rent a room in a stranger’s house and in a world of perfect instagram lives, she feels like a f*ck up. Even worse, a forty-something f*ck-up.
But when she lands a job writing obituaries, Nell meets the fabulous Cricket, an eighty-something widow with challenges of her own, and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they begin to help each other heal their aching hearts, cope with the loss of the lives they had planned, and push each other into new adventures and unexpected joys.
Because Nell is determined. Next year things are going to be very different. It's time to turn her life around.
The Wedding War – Liz Talley (April 2020)
Once upon a time, Melanie Layton and Tennyson O’Rourke were inseparable—but their friends-4ever promises were shattered when an explosive secret was revealed at Mel’s wedding, a secret that destroyed her family. The two haven’t spoken for the past twenty-some-odd years, and they’d be happy if they never crossed paths again.
But now Mel’s daughter and Teeny’s son have fallen in love—and announced their engagement.
Which means the two women must tolerate one another and play nice long enough to plan their children’s dream wedding. From the beginning, they clash. Melanie imagines a classy, elegant event, in keeping with tradition. Teeny’s vision is a bit more extravagant, and thanks to her habit of marrying well, she’s got the cash to plan the flashiest wedding of the season.
Complicating matters are the men in their lives: Tennyson is falling for the wrong guy, and Melanie is trying to hold on to a flailing marriage. Amid the flurry of cake tastings, dress fittings, seating charts, and bridal showers, Mel and Teeny confront their past mistakes—with twenty years of pent-up drama.
When the day of the wedding finally arrives, their friendship might just be something old and something new.
Big Summer - Jennifer Weiner (April 2020)
Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.
Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.
A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.
Hello Summer - Mary Kay Andrews (May 2020)
It’s a new season...
Conley Hawkins left her family’s small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, in the rearview mirror years ago. Now a star reporter for a big-city paper, Conley is exactly where she wants to be and is about to take a fancy new position in Washington, D.C. Or so she thinks.
For small town scandals...
When the new job goes up in smoke, Conley finds herself right back where she started, working for her sister, who is trying to keep The Silver Bay Beacon afloat—and she doesn’t exactly have warm feelings for Conley. Soon she is given the unenviable task of overseeing the local gossip column, “Hello, Summer.”
And big-time secrets.
Then Conley witnesses an accident that ends in the death of a local congressman—a beloved war hero with a shady past. The more she digs into the story, the more dangerous it gets. As an old heartbreaker causes trouble and a new flame ignites, it soon looks like their sleepy beach town is the most scandalous hotspot of the summer.
Siri, Who Am I? – Sam Tschida (May 2020)
A Millennial with amnesia uses her Instagram account to piece together her identity in this hilarious and whip-smart comedy about the ups and downs of influencer culture.
Mia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can’t remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she’s wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in her posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they’re in love, Mia is living the good life, and he’ll be back that weekend.
But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover an ugly truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Did Mia have it coming? And if so, is it too late for her to rewrite her story?
Girls of Summer - Nancy Thayer (May 2020)
One life-changing summer on Nantucket brings about exhilarating revelations for a single mother and her two grown children in this sensational novel from New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer.
Lisa Hawley is perfectly satisfied living on her own. Having fully recovered from a brutal divorce nearly two decades earlier, she has successfully raised her kids, Juliet and Theo, seeing them off to college and beyond. As the owner of a popular boutique on Nantucket, she’s built a fulfilling life for herself on the island where she grew up. With her beloved house in desperate need of repair, Lisa calls on Mack Whitney, a friendly—and very handsome—local contractor and fellow single parent, to do the work. The two begin to grow close, and Lisa is stunned to realize that she might be willing to open up again after all . . . despite the fact that Mack is ten years her junior.
Juliet and Theo worry that Mack will only break their mother’s heart—and they can’t bear to see her hurt again. Both stuck in ruts of their own, they each hope that a summer on Nantucket will provide them with the clarity they’ve been searching for. When handsome entrepreneur Ryder Hastings moves to the island to expand his environmental nonprofit, Juliet, an MIT-educated web designer, feels an immediate attraction, one her rocky love life history pushes her to deny at first. Meanwhile, free spirit Theo finds his California bliss comes to a brutal halt when a surfing injury forces him back to the East Coast. Upon his return, he has eyes only for Mack’s daughter, Beth, to whom he is bound by an unspeakable tragedy from high school. Can they overcome their past?
As the season unfolds, a storm threatens to shatter the peace of the golden island, forcing Lisa, Juliet, and Theo to decide whether their summer romances are destined for something more profound. Nancy Thayer dazzles again in this delightful tale of family, a reminder that sometimes, finding our way back home can bring us unexpected gifts.
Admission – Julie Buxbaum (May 2020)
From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes an of-the-moment novel that peeks inside the private lives of the hypercompetitive and the hyperprivileged and takes on the college admissions bribery scandal that rocked the country.
It's good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She's headed off to the college of her dreams. She's going to prom with the boy she's had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It's good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer--at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.
As she loses everything she's long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?
Everything is Fine – Gillian Harvey (May 2020)
Jessica Bradley has it all: the perfect boyfriend; influential healthy-eating blog; successful PR company and wonderful daughter, Anna. Or at least that is what her thousands of followers believe.
The truth is, her boyfriend just broke up with her in four words on a post-it; her zest for healthy-eating has all but disappeared; her PR success is all reliant on her now not-so-honest online-life and she just got caught eating her daughter's Coco-Pops.
So as they say: fake it 'til you make it. A few little white lies and phoney smiling selfies and Jess can keep up appearances. But when her real-life starts to spiral out of control how can Jess tell the truth from the lies? And will she be able to seize real happiness when it is right in front of her?
The Minute I Saw You – Paige Toon (May 2020)
Some people believe that it’s possible to fall in love simply by gazing into another person’s eyes . . .
When Hannah and Sonny meet, a spark ignites that is hard to ignore and impossible to forget. Weeks later, their paths cross again, but Sonny appears distant and reluctant to meet Hannah’s eye. It soon transpires that Sonny is at a crossroads. He’s committed to making serious life changes – ones that can’t and won’t include romance.
Hannah has her own reasons for wanting to keep their budding friendship platonic. Plus, she’s only in town temporarily, housesitting for her uncle. But as the summer hots up and the chemistry between them intensifies, Hannah and Sonny discover that there’s more to each other than meets the eye...
These trying times have us longing for things of comfort, especially food. As we all begin to practice social distancing, I am trying to bring at least some routine to our new normal. Family game night and this chili grazing platter seemed like a good way to start.
Beef Chili Recipe
Cook garlic and onion together in a large pot over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add ground beef and brown. Drain any fat. Add cumin; cook and stir until the beef is completely browned, 7 to 10 minutes.
Stir diced tomatoes, broth, chili powder, salt, black pepper, and hot sauce into the beef mixture; bring to a simmer and cook until thick, about 1 hour.
Five minutes before cooking complete, add drained beans to heat through.
Chili Grazing Board
For the grazing board I added scooped tortilla chips, spicy and regular fritos, scallions, sour cream, chopped olives, green chilies, chopped onion, lime wedges and my famous homemade corn bread with a lime and chile infused butter. Recipe for that to follow soon!