Friday, May 4, 2012

Arizona Biltmore for History, Spa and More

The morning started with breakfast in the executive lounge at the Ocatilla section of the Arizona Biltmore. The selection rivaled many restaurant buffets. I sat down with my croissant, yogurt and fruit alongside Susan Campbell, my friend and fellow travel writer, and Becky Blaine of the Biltmore.

Ocatilla was opened in 2009 as a preferred club for guests who wanted a more personalized experience. The section has its own pool and executive lounge, with access available for all staying in the building. Everyone also gets extra amenities, such as complimentary shoe shining, clothes pressing, coffee with your morning paper and a concierge available to you at all times.

I was surprised to learn just how much American history was in this Waldorf Astoria property. It had been designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and owned by William Wrigley, giving this Phoenix hotel some Chicago ties. To further the connection, the Cubs have spring training in the area and baseball fans often stay at this hotel to catch their favorite major league team in the off season.

Becky also told us about how John McCain gave his concession speech on the lawn of the Arizona Biltmore, and both Oprah and current president Barack Obama have been guests. I was also interested in the Hollywood & Wines events that give guests access to some top stars performing under the stars, like CSI’s Gary Sinisse.

The only thing that wasn’t great about our second day at the Arizona Biltmore was something no one had any control over – the weather. There was still record breaking cold, along with rain.  After taking a brief tour of the property, we decided to spend the rest of the day indoors – at the spa.

I was battling a sinus infection that was threatening to put a damper on the week. Fortunately, I discovered a temporary remedy that was readily available – eucalyptus steam baths.  The spa at the Arizona Biltmore introduced me to them and they became part of the daily ritual. There’s no doubt those steam rooms got the credit for my making it through (and enjoying) the trip, but the Biltmore also threw in a heavenly spa treatment.

The treatment was the Dreamcatcher and it was definitely a dream come true. Using a combination of hot stones, hot towels and a gentle massage, I was relaxed from the tip of my toes to my scalp by the time I was done.  I headed to the relaxation area after for a cup of tea and felt like I could just melt into a comfortable cocoon forever!

I did eventually leave the spa and get ready for dinner at Frank & Albert’s, also on the Arizona Biltmore property. This restaurant gives a new meaning to the word comfort food and Latif, our waiter, made sure we tasted a good deal of the menu.

I started off with a Prickly Peartini which had just enough fruit for a slight sweetness. It went well with the bread selection, served with a tasty pesto aioli. The Green Chili Empanada was excellent, and though I thought the Violet Flirtini was too sour, Susan enjoyed it after she finished her Wild Raspberry Ale.

The food continued to come with a sweet and flavorful meatloaf, perfectly cooked short ribs and decadent Duck Fat French Fries and mac and cheese. We also had a basket of Oversized Onion Rings that Susan said were incredible and couldn’t stop talking about.

I had a Nutty Irishman Coffee while we both attempted to get our appetite back for dessert. It took quite a while, but eventually we managed to get through the scrumptious Sundae Sampler – Cherries Jubilee, Strawberries Romanoff, Bananas Foster and Crêpes Suzette!  Other desserts on the menu included Butterscotch Pudding and Homemade Twinkie & Jam.

Despite the obvious food (and sugar) overload, I managed to sleep well my last night at the Arizona Biltmore, dreaming about massages and hoping the Sanctuary at Camelback would be just as wonderful. 

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