Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dinner with Lidia Bastianich at Avanti's

I love how life is sometimes like the waves of an ocean in that the tide comes in and then goes out and then comes back in again…..

Last night, Isabel and I enjoyed a wonderful presentation and dinner with a true cuisine rock star, Lidia Bastianich, at our good friend Patricia Livi’s restaurant here in Phoenix, Avanit’s. What a treat to spend an evening with her and get to personally know her and exchange thoughts and ideas. This lady is amazing. 69 years young this lady is full of energy and life and uses her cooking to share her message.

Flash back to 1979, I had just moved to Tempe as a sophomore college student from Durango, Colorado and didn’t know a single person with the exception of one friend from Durango, Danny Brown. Danny and I went to High School in Durango and I also shared time and a job with him on the Durango to Silverton steam train. Danny Brown is now the City Attorney for the City of Phoenix. 

Well our railroad boss and family friend, Bill Griffin and his wife Della, were in town enjoying a winter getaway and knew that Danny and I were down here at ASU. He tracked me down and asked if he could take us to dinner. Of course he was expecting something like the Chuck Box or the Dash Inn…. Of course I guess even back then I had good taste, I grabbed the Yellow Pages (remember those) and looked up restaurants, and found an Italian place called Avanti’s that caught my eye. Made reservations and met them there. My boss never let me forget that – “ask the kid to pick a place for dinner, and he picks this place with duck under glass!”

Now some 37 years later here I am with my wife having a fabulous Osso Bucco dinner with Lidia Bastianich in the same Avanit restaurant sitting next to one of the PBS Producers and his wife….. Add to it, over the course of the years I’ve become friends and the architect for the wife and co-owner of Avanti, Patricia Livi. If someone would have told me about this evening 37 years ago I would have laughed and never believed it. What is even more fascinating, is how many times I have watched Lidia and her shows on PBS, studied her cookbooks, and enjoyed dinners at her Eataly in NYC and now in Florence and then to sit with her and share dessert was just magical and so inspirational.

At 69 she is going strong, she is out promoting her show on PBS Lidia Celebrates America, her new book Lidia’s – Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, speaking and book signings across the world with trips to Dubai and South America. Truly an inspiration. I encourage you to try her recipes. They are authentic and generally simple.

So as the tide flows in and then flows out, I wonder 37 years from now what I’ll be blogging about. I do not think this story is over – in fact based on our conversation last night, this story is just beginning!!!!

By the way, here is the link to my Osso Bucco just in case you want to make it this evening! Enjoy and Live Different!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Candelaria Design Tour Italy - 2 Spots Open for June

I hope everyone is out enjoying the wonderful weather here in AZ! The weather is great but the allergies are in full force!

Busy week last week as Isabel and I finished our trip to Buckhead. What a wonderful time and very informative as there is a lot going on in the Design Industry. We enjoyed inspiring presentations by designers Cynthia Rowley, India HicksNathan Turner, and Mary McDonald. Throw in a couple wonderful dinners, Sunday night at Barcelona Wine Bar with Chris Meeks of Hartman Windows & Doors and his lovely daughter Whitley, followed by dinner Monday night at Hal's Steak House  with The Design Network founder and CEO, Jason Harris hosted by Surya President, Satya Tiwari.  

Isabel and I returned just in time to kick off Spring Training with a day at the Scottsdale Charros Lodge at Scottsdale Stadium for our two companies – Candelaria Design & Earth and Images. What a wonderful afternoon! I encourage all of you to get out just one day and take in an afternoon at the ballpark – it is definitely one of the best and very unique experiences here in AZ.

The rest of the week was all about work – including this weekend! We have some wonderful projects going from coast to coast. Isabel and I are heading to Albuquerque this coming week to move the design forward on a home there. Several projects are just starting and several are coming to the finish line and our clients moving in soon! So exciting!
Grand Hall

Breakfast Room nearing completion on this Candelaria Design ~ Earth and Images home on the Paradise Valley Country Club being built by Desert Star Construction.

Meanwhile – we have had two spots open up for our June Candelaria Design Tour Italy! I have several couples that have expressed interest so I know these spots will be gone soon. This will be our thirteenth tour and I have a wonderful group of travelers coming from across the country. Our pre-trip dinner is coming on April 1st so if you are thinking about going you definitely want to sign up and meet your fellow travelers at this pre-trip dinner.

Our departure date is June 1st and we will fly into Florence, Italy where we will spend two days and two nights in this center of the Renaissance with a fabulous welcome dinner at the Villa San Michele. From Florence we will all drive in our convoy of private sedans to the countryside of Umbria where we will reside in a lovely 19th century farmhouse compound.

From our base in Umbria we will visit Cortona, Assisi, Siena, San Gimignano, and the wine country of Tuscany with our private guide, Pino. We will dedicate a day towards cooking and relaxing at the farmhouse compound when our private chef, Elizabeth Wholey, will guide us through authentic recipes from Umbria.

After a week in the country, we will then convoy to the luxurious Villa d’Este on Lake Como. From the rustic elegance of the country to the over the top ambiance of Lake Como you will experience the beautiful diversity of Italy.

What’s special about our trip is the fact that you really do not have to do anything but show up and start enjoying. Our trip runs $7500 for a single and $14k for a couple. This includes coach air-fare (upgrades are available), hotels, houses, your rental car, hotel transfers, several meals during the trip, cooking class, and wine tour. Add in the pre-trip dinner and post trip dinner and it is a total bargain.

One of the special outcomes of this trip for me and my travelers are the friendships that have been formed. There is something special that happens when cooking and dining and traveling that creates lasting memories and friendships. I have many repeat travelers and several coming on this June trip. Visit some of my past blogs and our website for more detail. Don’t wait though…..Let’s go to ITALY!