In the past when I would fantasize about where our next family trip was going to be, Arizona was the last place on my list, if I can be honest. I had my reasons. Ignorance, perhaps. It also felt transient. The landscape is dry and it is hotter than hell. For the love of Pete that’s not for me and I know for a fact that everyone out there is sporting aluminum-full deodorant. AZ is no place for a gal who is trying to live in an antiperspirant free world. It just didn’t speak to me, but I am in a different place now, and as you can see, I really have changed… because we booked some flights and are headed west to visit our favorite family and if it goes as planned, blow a couple of 7 year old’s minds I know.
In the midst of planning our trip to AZ, something slightly serendipitous happened. The sisters and I got an invitation to Arizona Expedition, Monteverde in Chicago. Kind of a big deal considering the wait to get a reservation at this hot new spot is long. As it turns out, the peeps of Arizona want you to know how great their state is, so Visit Arizona, partnered with Condé Nast and created an incredible culinary experience for a bunch of lucky people including us, The Sister Project. Um, our chef was Top Chef finalist and Monteverde Owner, Sarah Gruenberg. #PinchMe. I guess it should come as no surprise that the meal was incredible. The menu was a collaborative effort by Sarah and Chef Kevin Binkley, a four time James Beard Award winner and chef/owner of Binkley’s Restaurants in Arizona. It was as if the universe was aware of my disdain for Arizona and it wanted to show me what I had been missing. This event, the whole experience, absolutely changed my whole perception of the state of Arizona.
While we were teleported to the Grand Canyon state, we ate and we drank Arizona wine and Arizona inspired fare. Pillsbury Winery shared some of their delicious wine and although I am not the wine enthusiast Lauren and the Mr. Project are, I partook and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Rest assured they are obsessed, majorly impressed and have already made plans to head back to visit Mr. Pillsbury later this spring. I had no idea grapes even stood a chance in the desert. Who knew? LOL. The food was stupid good and it NEVER ENDED! We ate for two hours, dining on everything from melt in your mouth prosciutto, homemade pasta, steak tartare, guinea fowl, roasted vegetables and polenta, OH THE POLENTA! We ate until our hearts were content, all while listening to live music and chatting it up with super cool peeps from all over the country. Such a fun night at a great Chicago spot!
Monteverde is a beautiful space, the bar set up sits around the Pastificio. This is the spot where all of the magic happens. Fresh pasta is made daily and hung alongside the bar until it is ready for the eating. Like they state on Monteverde’s website, “flour is power.” I loved the rustic yet elegant dining experience Sarah and Monteverde provide and through the eyes of three incredibly cool, gorgeous, interesting young traveling and cooking Instagrammers, we went on their journey with them as they experienced the Grand Canyon State for themselves. If you aren’t following these cool ass travelers on Instagram, then get on it. Prepare to be blown away.
After the video ended Chef Gruenberg and Chef Binkley said a few words. I found something Chef Binkley had to say to be poignant about food and agriculture in Arizona. He encouraged us to come visit Arizona and try the fare and enjoy the cuisine. Was he speaking to me directly? I think so. My very perception was that the only thing growing out there was tumbleweed and cacti. Binkley assured us that was not the case at all. In fact, grapes aren’t the only thing that can grow out there. Arizona has a wonderfully long, nine month growing season and sh!t gets big! He had my ear.
As the evening came to a close, I left my sister and The Mister Project.
They went off to show our new friends a little fun in the Windy City and I headed home to prepare for our next adventure. I had some things already planned, but upon leaving the event at Monteverde, I was extra inspired. I have a new found perspective on Arizona and I know wholeheartedly this trip is going to be even better than I imagined. I am taking a page out of The Mid Sis’s book and plan on having the experience of a lifetime. We will for sure be soaking up the rays, becoming one with nature and eating and drinking everything that comes our way. Arizona here we come!
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