Friday, October 24, 2014

Tapas at El Gato Azul in Prescott AZ

At Prescott Pines Inn Bed and Breakfast, guests are always looking for suggestions on places to dine.

Prescott has plenty of wonderful dining options, often leaving the unaware person left feeling daunted. We certainly have our favorites around town, and one of them is El Gato Azul, yup, the blue cat!

It’s known as Prescott’s quirky, cozy, friendly place and so far, they have lived up to this reputation. Live music every Thursday, Friday & Sunday, and if you are lucky, you might catch Barry (chef & owner) belt out a tune or two!

Lunch, dinner & tapas are El Gato Azul's specialty. So what are tapas you ask? Well, this is what they aren’t:
  • Tapas are not a particular type of food. Anything can be tapas - paella, croquettes, ham and cheese on toast, truly anything. As long as it is small and served with your drink it is tapas. It doesn't even have to be Spanish.
  • Tapas are not a starter. If you start eating tapas, you finish eating tapas, and you don't stop until you're full. (Ok, that’s my rule).
  • Tapas are not a collection of small dishes brought out on a platter and eaten as a main course, although I eat multiple tapas as my main meal.

A tapa is invariably a small dish of something edible. It may be a smaller version (normally a quarter version) of something else on the menu or it may be sold exclusively as tapas.

When I first started eating tapas at El Gato Azul, I kept pretty close to the same thing every time. Fortunately, I have branched out into other offerings. I now encourage myself to try something different every time, and I must say, it’s been fun. So what are my favorites?
  • Sticky Chicken – marinated, grilled chicken skewers tossed in a Hoisin Sesame Sauce
  • Gambas Espinaca – Shrimp, Spinach & spicy cream sauce (thanks Barry for this)
  • Saffron Croquettes – rice, goat cheese and fresh herbs with Pico d’ Gallo (my newest try)
  • Baked Brie “Nachos” – pita triangles, topped with warmed brie, apricot drizzle, pickled red onion and a balsamic drizzle (quite possibly my favorite).

I could just keep going down the menu…however, I must say that it would be a shame if you left without having the Green Chile Mac & Cheese, while not a tapas, you can make it one by sharing it with others at your table, mmmmmm good!

El Gato Azul is located at 316 W. Goodwin St., just west of Prescott's Courthouse Plaza. Reservations are accepted, however, my experience is that they are required if you want to get a seat without waiting for quite some time. The inside seating area is small, however, there is a wonderful covered patio seating area (my preference), which is heated when the weather cools down here in Prescott.

Happy eating!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Experience the Predator Zip Line Over Out of Africa Wildlife Park

If you are into heart racing experiences, The Predator Zip Line over Out of Africa Wildlife Park is for you!

My 16 year old nephew from Florida was spending the summer with me and I wanted to provide him with some memorable excursions to return home with.

Yeah, hiking, biking, and Grand Canyon were sure fire hits, but I wanted something more. I had visited Out of Africa Wildlife Park several times and found it to be a rewarding experience, and remembered that they were adding the zip line.

I’ve been on many zip lines over the years and I enjoy that sort of thing. When we arrived at Out of Africa in Camp Verde, AZ, (about 1 hour from Prescott, AZ) we just followed the ZIP sign and began our intake process. One thing I found out was that reservations are required. Well, we didn’t have one, but as luck would have it there were 2 openings at the time we arrived (whew). We boarded a Unimog vehicle, fun in its own right, and headed to the first tower. What I didn’t know then was this would be the last time we touched terra firma for two and a half fun filled hours or so. There are 5 different towers that run throughout the park; one of them was 75 feet high. That’s a lot of climbing, but the remainder is downhill from there.

Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh my! Yep, we zipped right over the top of them all. I must admit, that made me somewhat nervous at first, I told myself that if there were any real danger, we wouldn’t be allowed to do this. We wore safety harnesses and were clipped in every single moment that we were off the ground and the staff was very supportive and helpful. That being noted, I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Now, when I do stuff like this, I always take photos, but not here. Cameras and phones are not allowed. Not because they want you to purchase the photos they take of you (they do), but for the safety of the animals. Cameras and phones dropped on their heads do not make for happy critters, not to mention how one of these devices might digest through the animal. There is an iPhone on display that someone took with them ("I won’t drop it" right - yeah), they dropped it and it was retrieved sometime later, never to chirp another ring tone. Speaking of photos, there is a photographer on the ground that follows the group through your entire tour. At the end of your tour you can look at slideshows, order prints, t-shirts, hats etc. We bought the entire CD for $50 and are able to print, post, etc, all we want.

All in all it was a wonderful experience; I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, my nephew or me. I would definitely do this again.

A few points to remember:
  • Make a reservation
  • Don’t bring your phone or camera (really)
  • Plan to purchase the photos, t-shirts, etc  at the end (nice memento and can print, post, etc.)
  • Bring money to tip your guides, they do a great job
  • Plan to tour Out of Africa another day. After the zipline experience there is not enough time to catch all the other sites.

Friday, October 17, 2014

10 Things You Should Know About Hiking in Prescott AZ

Amidst the ponderosa pine, alligator juniper, granite, and mazanita you'll find that Prescott offers an impressive network of trails for hiking.

At an elevation of a little over a mile, Prescott provides some of the most beautiful and scenic trails and views. However, being a mountain desert climate at such an elevation often befuddles otherwise avid and prepared hikers.

We're here to help with that. This checklist for hiking at high elevation will address some of the more popular questions and concerns we've received regarding hiking in Prescott, AZ.

1) Always let someone know where you are going. Additionally, if there is a sign-in sheet at trailheads, make sure to scribble in your name. No one plans to get lost or stranded, but it is wise to take all precautions just in case.

2) Hydrate. When I first moved to Prescott, I wasn't much of a water-drinker, and now I can't seem to drink enough! Three things contribute to the pressing need to hydrate more often: our elevation, our drier weather, and the intensity of a hike. Make sure to drink water before, during, and after a hike. If you notice early symptoms of dehydration (dry mouth, headache, etc.) it is best to cancel the hike and make your way back to your cars.

3) Layers. Again, it is our elevation and climate that are the culprits. While a day might start off dry and warm, it may soon turn dark, wet, and cold...or all three! The best way to be prepared for this is to wear layers. A fleece and/or waterproof jacket is the outermost layer, followed by a top and shorts/pants.

4) Footwear. While many of us may be familiar with hiking in gym shoes or old tennis shoes, I would strongly advise wearing sturdier footwear, such as a pair of light to midweight boots. Higher and thicker socks that breathe well are also recommended. Good socks and sturdy shoes are an invaluable asset when hiking in Prescott simply because things here are sharp...everything is out to poke you!

5) Snacks. Adequate nutrition is also an important element in being prepared. Having a hearty breakfast (such as the sumptous ones served at Prescott Pines Inn B&B) is a must. When packing for a longer hike, it is especially smart to add in some high-protein, high-energy snacks, such a granola bars, nuts, or fruit (or the granola at Prescott Pines Inn B&B). Be sure to pack the snacks your body needs.

6) Sun Protection. With a higher elevation and a desert climate, the sun is always going to be on your back, literally. Depending on your skins tolerance to the sun, you might just need a 30 spf sunscreen and sunglasses. If you are fairer in skin color and/or sunburn easily, wearing protective clothing (such as a broad sunhat and longsleeves) can greatly increase your protection from harmful sunrays.

7) Cellphone. Many of us own cellphones and carry them with us. It makes sense to take our cellphone along with us during the hike, but make sure it is fully charged!

8) Map. If your trail is a bit off the beaten path or you can't remember trail markers well, a map might be a good item to take with you. A map can better help you visualize when you are. You can view the Mile-High Trail System or download a trail map at the City of Prescott website.

9) First Aid. It's a great idea to take along some minor emergency first aid supplies, such a bandaids and a pair of tweezers. For longer or more advanced hikes, a first aid emergency kit (available at several stores in the area) may be a better idea. Better safe than sorry.

10) Emergency Items. Though not absolutely essential, packing emergency items may save your life. These items can maximize your chances of survival in an emergency situation. A flash light, firestarting kit (or lighter), poncho, emergency shelter, compass, and knife are all helpful items in dire situations.

Whew! There you have it, now you know the 10 most important things about hiking in Prescott AZ!

Happy Trail Blazing!