Shortly before I left Indy, I got an email from Queen Creek Olives. It referenced the Camelback store. Hmmm. Many years ago when our friends Mary and Fred were spending the winter in Queen Creek, AZ, we went to visit. They took us to the original location and we fell in love. Often, we send a package from Queen Creek as a hostess gift. A couple of trips to Phoenix I've toyed with the idea of renting a car to be able to visit the original location again. But, it's not practical. All of the sudden I realized that there just might be a store across the street from the hotel where the conference was being held.
Now, I've got to tell you a side story here... When I called the concierge to find out about the best transportation options from the airport, I was told the ExecuCar was slightly more expensive but MUCH better. Sold. Then, I sent an email to the other women coming in a day early. Did anyone want to share my car? Connie laughed and said a guy would never do that. He was so right. Got an email back almost immediately from one of the other women saying that's what she loves about this conference. And, she said, a guy would never do that. LOL. So, my friend Phyllis from Ocean City, MD e'd me back and said she'd be coming in about half an hour after me. I was happy to wait.
Once we got to the hotel I was going to run across to Queen Creek and then head to my room and work. Phyllis really wanted to go along. And, she was SO happy she did. A boatload of Christmas presents were purchased. And, I had a fun time stocking my Queen Creek pantry. Normally, we order a case of a dozen different olives. Maytag blue, marcona almond, feta/oregano, sundried tomato... This time I bought vanilla bean olive oil. Can you imagine that on some grilled fruit???? And, a couple of jars of tapenade. One is opened. The other is in Connie's Christmas stack. The one that's opened is asiago, parmesan, basil and garlic in evoo. It's pretty amazing. Then, I got a couple of barbecue sauces. The whiskey garlic one has been opened. And, yes, the other is for Connie. There's a jar of fig balsamic glaze. I'm thinking pork for that one. And, a jar of parmesan crema. It's pretty good on just about anything. Last but not least, a set of rosemary olive oil with a cranberry balsamic vinegar. Holiday in a spoon! Thanks to Joan for taking such good care of us and putting up with a couple of ladies who wanted to try EVERYTHING! Spoiler alert - Connie, don't look at the photos!
After our shopping excursion, Phyllis and I repaired to the bar at ZinBurger so I could watch football and we could talk. From there we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and meet for dinner. Joan had recommended a place called Pizzeria Bianco. One word: AMAZING! Everything we had. From the caprese salad appetizer to the Brussels sprout salad to the pizzas to the pastas. It's on my list to go back to!!! Here's Phyllis, Jennifer, Andrea, Nadine and Di. What a wonderful group of women to spend an evening with.
And, here's the food - well the part that the photos were OK - the chandeliers and the owner. Our pizzas were the Sonny Boy with tomato sauce, salami, olives and fresh mozzarella. The Rosa with red onion, pistachios, rosemary and parmesan reggiano (my favorite.) And, the Wiseguy with house smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage and roasted onions. Along with the pizzas we had a Brussels sprout salad with apples, pasta with Sunday gravy and pasta with garlic sauce. The pizzas were amazing. Crispy, thin crust from a wood-fired oven. We were told Chris, the owner, even used to import his own water to get the right stuff...
Monday we met for a fabulous breakfast in Bistro 24 at the hotel. I had short rib hash with basted eggs and a lime crema. YUM!
Then, we hunkered down in a meeting room from about 8-3. All too soon it was time to go hear the opening speaker. Then, it was time to head to the reception. The Ritz outdid themselves with the food this time. Coconut shrimp that was amazing. Salads, soups, vegetables, potatoes, fish, beef... What a buffet. Tuesday we were in session all day. My friend Maura did one of the presentations. She's the kind of person you hope your kids turn out to be like: smart, interesting, humble, fun to be around. Wendy wore her arms out recording the presentation on her phone.
Tuesday night was dinner at Del Friscos. Ahi tuna tacos and cheesesteak eggroll appetizers. Salads. Pittsburgh style filets with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Dessert was coconut cream pie and lemon cake. I'm not a fan of cake. But, I'd give up chocolate for a year if I could replace it with that cake! We were in the coolest room.
Finally, Wednesday came and it was time to head home after our morning meetings. Packed and ready to go. One last look out the window at the mountains...
My flight was delayed in Minneapolis so home was finally in sight about midnight. Thursday, I was off to a full day in my Columbus office. Friday, it was time to dig in in the Indy office. And, wait for the package from Queen Creek to be delivered. Yes, indeed, it was. I opened most of the goodies and let Connie taste them. We'd headed to the grocery on the way home from the office so I once again had a rotisserie chicken and fresh greens and fresh mushrooms and fresh asparagus. A holiday salad sounded great. All of the above plus a handful of dried cranberries, some truffle croutons and a handful of bacon bits. With a generous dose of rosemary olive oil and an equally generous dose of cranberry balsamic. Along with a lovely glass of Pinot Noir, we were happy campers.