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Arizona’s Camelback Inn and Major League Spring Training

BLT Steak, Regional Home-style and Spa Cuisine

By Ann Hattes

Photos by Neil Hattes (except where noted)

Stay at “Bill” Marriott’s favorite hotel and catch great games at cheap prices. Get close and personal with the players in the Phoenix, Arizona’s Cactus League spring training exhibition held annually during the month of March (February 25 through April 2, 2009). Baseball fans might choose from 7 different games on a day, all within a 35 mile driving radius. Twelve teams come to the Phoenix area: Chicago Cubs; Chicago White Sox; Kansas City Royals; Milwaukee Brewers; Cleveland Indians; Los Angeles Dodgers; Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Oakland Athletics; San Francisco Giants; San Diego Padres; Texas Rangers; Seattle Mariners. And in 2010, the Cincinnati Reds move here from Florida’s Grapefruit League.

Camelback Inn, a world class retreat in the Sonoran Desert, makes a restful hideaway from which to venture to see a favorite team or to explore the greater Phoenix area. Camelback Inn, the first hotel built in Scottsdale, originally had a dirt road in front with no houses or businesses for quite some distance. Folks would ride horseback up from the city to stay. Since 1936 it has been hosting Hollywood legends and presidents.

“Bill” Marriott, Chairman and CEO of Marriott International, has been coming here for 61 years, since he was 16. Twenty years after his first visit, Camelback Inn was purchased to become the first Marriott Resort, now part of Marriott’s 100 plus resort portfolio worldwide.

When asked about his favorite hotel, “Bill” Marriott says: “That’s hard to say because we’ve got 3,000 of them and some of them are absolutely spectacular. But, you know, it goes back to, ‘Where are your roots?’ and ‘Where have you spent your happiest days?’ and it always comes back to Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona.”

“Bill” Marriott returns yearly with his family for his birthday to this favored spot with happy memories. One of the longest running five diamond properties in the U.S., Camelback Inn is a historic landmark offering a true Arizona experience with Southwest charm.

A recent renovation preserved historical elements including original adobe which was painstakingly reclaimed in a process requiring each brick to be set in individual hand-made forms and baked in the sun for up to two weeks. The lobby blends old and new with an adjacent Arizona Discovery Room displaying photos of famous guests like Bing Crosby, Clark Gable and Bette Davis, plus books and reference materials about the area’s history.

The property’s culinary experience mixes local and regional flavors, organic ingredients and a dash of celebrity sparkle with the recently opened Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak. Striking views of Camelback Mountain, which resembles a seated camel, afford guests a memorable setting for the bistro’s signature blend of American flair and French technique.

At Rita’s Kitchen guests enjoy simple, fresh Southwestern cuisine with Mexican influences in a rustic setting. Adobe walls, beamed ceilings and stone and copper throughout create a casual atmosphere for serving specialties like Huevos Rancheros, Chicken Enchiladas, Flat Iron Steak, organic lettuces, house-made soft corn tortillas, plus regional desserts like Mexican Chocolate Fondue, Hot Oaxacan Chocolate Cookies, and Indian Peach Cobbler.

The spirit of the Southwest also imbues R Bar where guests enjoy tequilas, sangrias, margaritas, and the bartender’s fresh herb martinis with herbs from the organic herb gardens on site. R Bar’s small plates menu features popular items like pork burritos, Angus sliders and chicken quesadillas.

The Spa at Camelback Inn, nestled at the foot of Mummy Mountain, offers some unique Southwestern signature treatments like the Healing Drum Circle and the Adobe Clay Purification Treatment. At Sprouts, the Spa’s café, the chefs incorporate creative spice blends rather than oils and butter to bring out the natural flavor of foods. The menu focuses on fresh, local and organic ingredients, plus a unique cocktail menu utilizing organic liquor and antioxidant-rich ingredients. A Green Apple Tea’ni, for example, uses Juniper Green organic gin, gunpowder green tea, green apple puree and house-made lemon sour, while the Bloody Mary is garnished with fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil.

The lodging casitas meander through 125 acres of lush desert gardens and Palo Verde trees. The outdoor “Great Room” adjacent to the lobby, R Bar and Rita’s Kitchen offer guests a place to enjoy the sunshine or evening stars in a spacious courtyard with water elements and juniper logs burning in fire pits. At night the Arizona sky feels so close it seems one could almost touch the stars.

Recreation beyond attending baseball games includes opportunities for golfing championship courses, mountain biking, eco-hiking, Hummer and Jeep touring, and visits to artist galleries or a sculptor’s studio.

“Camelback is not marble and brass but adobe,” says Clark Albright, Director of Sales and Marketing. “You can’t pick it up and put it in another city. There is a kind of spirit and soul to the place.” Guests agree as they return year after year for superb service and the authenticity of an Arizona experience.

Information Sources

* Camelback Inn
* Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau
* Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau
* Marriott Hotels and Resorts

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