A crack of dawn flight left behind the early morning darkness of New York for the desert heat of Arizona. We arrived in Scottsdale for 3 days of being comfortably captive in a large business-resort hotel, and now it's time to break free on our own adventures. First on the horizon was driving out to Frank Lloyd Wrights’ Eleysian West. As we left the busy suburbs for saguaro-dotted foothills, I read up on his life, vaguely recalling that there had been some intrigue but having quite forgotten the details and depth of drama. Murders, house fires, divorces, and even a 2nd degree connection to Stalin…the artist seldom lives a dull life.
As all the sordid details swirled through my head we joined the guided house tour retracing Wright’s steps: walls of orange and brown, sharply angled beams, the austerity of his office and sleeping alcove. All the while taking in the seamless melding of landscape and structure that he strove for. Elysian, which started as a summer camp for the architect and his protégés as they fled brutal Midwestern winters, still hosts an active architectural program. Behind large-paned windows current students hunched over the slant of drafting tables as they put the finishing touches on their projects.
Back out on the highway we loop north, out past the city limits, and start climbing up the Colorado Plateau. It is an austere landscape filled in an empty way with dry, beige rock and scrublands. The road, though wide and well-paved, gives off that vibe that late-night drives here might call for extra vigilance as there’s not much to occupy the mind. But for now it is early in the day.
Nearing Sedona the landscape changes. This is red rock country now, where the prettiest time of day by far is dusk and dawn when slanting sunlight has the outcrops aglow in a terracotta wash.
I’ve researched that the best place to eat is the Elote Café. We park in a little lot in town, alongside the rock-bottomed creek now dry after the winter thaw has passed. Next door, shops and restaurants are tucked away in a tight labyrinth of tiled courtyards. Gnarled sycamores and eucalyptus grow right up against stucco walls casting a cooling shade. We wander back out into the bright sunlight , cross the creek, and stroll along the street until until we spot Elote nestled on the hillside. It’s 5:30 in the afternoon now and we dodge Sedona’s version of rush hour traffic. Gravel and sedges crunch underfoot as we stop in the median to let a noisy truck rumble past.
Climbing up two sets of wooden steps we feel lucky to be seated right away at the bar (Elote is known to have 1-2 hour waits for a table). Behind the bar, bartender Juan muddled mint for mojitos and served up margaritas with a deft hand. The Café even offers flights of tequila and margaritas.
We decide on the eponymous Elote appetizer. Traditionally, elote is a Mexican street food of a roasted ear of corn slathered with butter, cheese and mayo. This version has it served up in a bowl as a slightly warm, creamy dip served with corn chips.
6 small or 4 large ears of corn
½ cup grated Cotija Cheese (can substitute queso fresco or other soft cheese)
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro leaves
fresh lime juice
·Grill or boil the corn, let cool to the touch, strip kernels onto cutting board
·Coarsely chop the kernels, place in a mixing bowl
·Add the cheese and let the heat of the corn melt it. If needed, heat mixture for a few seconds in the microwave for cheese to melt.
·Add the mayonnaise, lime, spices and cilantro, season with salt
·Mix well, serve warm with corn chips