Friday, January 18, 2008

Queen Creek Olive Mill

Before our trip to Scottsdale, I searched the web for places to visit. The top of my list was Queen Creek Olive Mill. The directions on their website are great. From Scottsdale, there is a lot of road, housing and commercial construction. The highway walls (for lack of a better term) are often works of art. Patterns and images are embedded into the concrete. The large interchange just before our exit was awesome - a spaghetti junction with style that actually blends into the landscape. The supports are adorned with geometric patterns and images that complement the Arizona mountainous background.

Once we left the highway, there was more construction. It looks like someone says, "Hey, lets build a city over here" and then they start by building roads. Houses and commercial developments follow once the roads are completed. Such a great idea! In Georgia, we like to build the houses and commercial properties and then say "Wow, we need some roads to get there!"

When we arrived at the Olive Mill, my first reaction was that we had driven a long way for nothing. The drab butler building had a few olive trees planted in the front and that seemed about it. As we got out of the car, we noticed a lot of others had made the drive and the car tags were from Iowa, Canada and other faraway places. In front of the building is a charming outdoor seating/dining area. Once you enter the building, you impression quickly changes. The interior is industrial in style, but warm and inviting. The delicious products are displayes on shelves and a tasting bar allows to try everything before you buy.

A small restaurant is nestled in the corner. The display case has some yummy treats. Cindy and I decide to split the day's specials, a turkey panini and roasted red pepper soup. Both were delicious. After lunch, I stock up on my favorites:
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Gourmet Dipping Olive Oil
  • Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Tapenade
  • Carmelized Red Onion and Fig Tapenade

We leave the Olive Mill and take a different route back to Scottsdale. Queen Creek seems to be one of those new cities, complete with Target and Walmart. We travel to Highway 60 and decide to leave the highways behind and exit on Rural Road and go through Tempe and downtown Scottsdale.

We end our search for the restaurant we enjoyed on our last visit. The night before we searched in vain for the restaurant, but today we found it about 2 blocks from the intersection of N. Scottsdale Road and Shea. That was our destination for dinner. Unfortunately, the food was not as good as we remembered and we were quite disappointed.


The trip to Sedona from Scottsdale is interesting. During the ride, you can't help but be amazed at the Saguaro Cactus. They are everywhere! As we head up the mountain, they disappear from the countryside and are replaced by much smaller cacti and cows grazing on the hilly terrain.

We travel on the plateau for miles. As we descend into the Verde Valley, the landscape changes to deciduous trees with mistletoe. I ask for everyone's one word description of Arizona:
  • Mike - treeless
  • Kenny - dry
  • Cindy - cactus
  • Susan - brown

Brown is my word. Everything is brown! The landscape, houses, even the trees are greenish brown.

We leave Interstate 17 and take 179 North to Sedona. We immediately see the red hills in the distance. The altitude is 4000 feet and we pass by an icy stream. And I was thinking it would be warm! At Sedona, the altitude is 4500 feet. We stop just below Bell Mountain to take a look at the view. There is a t-shirt stand at the stop. "Just tell me what size!" says the vendor.

The town in Sedona is a typical tourist town full of restaurants and shops. We check out the Doggie Bakery and buy some treats for Bella. Lunch is at the Cowboy Club. The food is good with the highlight being cactus fries. The fries are made from the prickly pear cactus. The cactus is peeled, sliced into strips and marinated in a vinegar mixture. The strips are battered and flash fried. They are served hot with a wonderful sweet and sour sauce made from the prickly pear fruit. What a wonderful regional treat!