Monday, April 27, 2009

Trippin' to Tucson

Chapter 1: Midterms. Chapter 2: Spring Break in New Orleans. Chapter 3: Old Friends Come to Visit. And that brings us to chapter 4 of "Where Has Gina Been Since March?" and that is Tucson, AZ for the PBGV Regional and National Specialties. Two days after my out-of-town guests left, I was on a plane again, heading west to my annual "dog thing," as my co-workers refer to it each spring. It's a little hard to explain to the uninitiated, but it is the annual gathering of our national breed club, incorporating two specialty (conformation) shows, performance events like some or all of the following--obedience, rally, agility, tracking, freestyle dancing, and also workshops, demonstrations, lectures, health screenings, club meetings, banquets, annual awards, and so on. In short, it's the biggest gathering of our breed fanciers each year, and it rotates from east to central to west each time. Last year was Orlando (east), the year before that, it was Nashville (central), and so this year, it was west to sunny Tucson.

Normally, I would be thrilled to leave the chilly, brown, late winter scene that is Plattsburgh, NY in early April for the warmer climes of the southwest. However, I was just EXHAUSTED from everything that I had going on, and it was SO far to travel (driving down to Albany, then making two connections to AZ=15 hours of travel time to get there). Plus, the sad thing about these conferences is that you're so busy attending all of the events, that you rarely leave the hotel! I can confirm that the weather was balmy and lovely as I crossed from my room past the pool to conference rooms several times a day, but I didn't even have enough exposure to warrant sunscreen. Furthermore, I thought I might get a chance to visit nearby Nogales, just to be able to say that I'd been to Mexico. But again, federal warnings to spring breakers near border towns notwithstanding, time did not allow for international crossings. Boo hiss.

At least I was able to escape for one evening and get some great Mexican food, which we have a terrible dearth of here in the North Country. My friend Jo, the show chair, suggested a place called El Charro, which Gourmet Magazine named one of the "21 Legendary American Restaurants You Must Visit." So a gang of us went there Thursday night in lieu of attending a dog grooming workshop. This restaurant lays (a doubtful) claim to inventing the chimichanga, and I tried one filled with the house specialty, "carne seca" or sun-dried beef cured with lime juice and spices. This was named one of the "50 Top Plates in America" by USA Today, and though the one I had was ginormous, they make an even bigger one in honor of the USA Today, and is reported to be the same size as that newspaper when rolled up! In any case, my carne seca chimi was very good, but I think the highlight of the evening was when my friend Karen, whose veteran bitch (sorry--but that's the lingo in the dog show world) Hazel won Best Veteran and Best of Opposite in the regional specialty that day, started buying celebratory prickly pear margaritas for any takers at the table. Man, were they good! I rarely drink, but once or twice a year, I will have a margarita, and I like them on the sweet side, usually rounded out with a good glug of orange juice. But this one was sweetened with prickly pear juice, which also tinted it a lovely pink. Yum!

I wish I had more southwestern cuisine reviews for you, but it was pretty much yucky banquet food and snacks from the gift shop for the rest of my time in Tucson. :-( I did grab some deliciously spicy Popeye's chicken during a layover on my way back, but that's about all I have to report, food-wise. Oh, but I do have a couple of product recommendations for you. First, you know those wonderful speculaas-type spice cookies that you get as a snack on Delta and I think American Airlines? I LOVE them!
They are called Biscoff, and they are available for order online. Not only does this company make an excellent product, they also have terrific customer service. My order of cookies was delivered with one end of the box opened and some of the cookies got crushed. I called their customer service, and I had a second box shipped to me straightaway, with no questions asked! I highly recommend doing business with these pleasant folks.

Secondly, though it was my great misfortune to have the WORST Mexican food EVER at one of the banquets at my conference in Tucson, I had an uncharacteristic stroke of luck that night when I won a beautiful basket of gourmet goodies in a health foundation raffle! Of course, I'd never be able to get it home intact, so my friends and I opened it up and ate most of the snacks in our hotel room. It contained pretzels sticks and a teeny jar of honey mustard, summer sausage, pepper cheese, Manzanita olives, flavored almonds, two nice bottles of wine, a corkscrew, and two lovely glasses with a PBGV etched on each. But the BEST thing included in the basket may have been a box of cheese crisps which we quickly devoured, and then both my friend, Lynn, and I went online and ordered more. They have four different flavors, including Smoked Jalapeno, White Onion, and Melting Romano, but the best is their basic Cheddar & Asiago. Another highly recommended commercial product, and another company with great service, as my cheese crisps arrived at my remote home a mere 30 hours after I clicked "enter" to submit my order! Wow!

1 comment:

Randi said...

Funny about those cookies. I loved them when I had them in March on my flight to and from Cali. I made friends with the gay flight attendents and he gave me 5 more packages( I didnt even ask). I ended up giving a couple packages to my friends kids( she didnt have any cookies in the house for them) when I was in SF. I have one package left that I've been saving. I'm surprised I like them since they're made with oil and I'm usually a butter snob.