PHOENIX Magazine Editors’ Picks for June/July
A look at June and July through the eyes of our sister publication.
Somewhere to Go
Imagine a perfect piece of desert. Now imagine a small pocket of this deliciously lonesome paradise developed by tasteful, nature-minded individuals. Instead of demolishing a small mountain that sits on the building site, they wrap a swimming pool around it. Rather than hauling away the surrounding granite, they magically refashion it into a colony of elegant block domiciles with cinematic sightlines and burbling, recessed fountains. Such are the fanciful notions conjured by Amangiri resort and spa, a singular hideaway near Lake Powell that has captivated well-heeled Southwestern travelers since Aman Resorts opened it on a 600-acre parcel of private land in 2009. Catering to coastal jetsetters, European billionaires and other rarified clientele—see: clan, Kardashian—the resort successfully flew under the radar for most Arizonans through the first decade of its existence. But with the recent addition of nine luxury yurts that bring the total number of suites to 43, coupled with the spasm of intra-regional travel unleashed by the pandemic, Amangiri is a secret to Phoenicians no more. It is, in fact, our ultimate YOLO getaway. Here are some tips if you go. (aman.com)
Don’t call it “glamping.”
Yes, Amangiri’s nine new 1,400-square-foot desert suites are colloquially called “tents,” but don’t use the g-word when describing them. “Some people might classify it as glamping,” our concierge says during the walk-through. “But does glamping usually give you heated granite floors and private plunge pools?” Point taken. Unveiled last fall, the climate-controlled yurts collectively form Camp Sarika, conceived as a more secluded, more high-end alternative to the resort’s unmistakably luxury standard suites ($3,900/night vs. $2,800/night). The camp is sheltered by a remarkable 200-foot sandstone escarpment that looms over the whole settlement like a frozen orange tsunami. The illusion of rugged isolation is palpable—heated granite or no.
Get the mushrooms.
Given the resort’s isolated location, all meals (minus alcohol) are included in the daily fee—and eating in the 70-seat dining room is a playground unto itself. Authored by chef Anthony Marazita —who presumably picked up a few tricks working at Kai during his Valley period—the menus favor Native American traditions, from the intensely flavorful 60-day corn that the kitchen turns into a faintly spicy chowder to the dibe yazhi trio of grilled lamb, elk and heirloom beans. Absolutely unmissable: a wood-fired skillet of seasonal mushrooms in white truffle essence.
Bring the kids? You bet.
With its meditative vibe and reverent attention to detail, Amangiri does not obviously present itself as a family-friendly retreat. But it’s evolving, according to Julien Surget, the resort’s genial general manager. “We had a reckoning a few years back about adapting our programing to be a lot more family friendly, [such as] Native arts and crafts and paleontology.” Each yurt also comes with a telescope to scrutinize the crisp nighttime skies—a winner for kids of all ages.
Somewhere to Eat
Since opening in February, this midcentury modern bar and eatery in the Melrose district has become the city’s hippest hangout for its unique coffee drinks, classic but twisty cocktails and out-of-the-box Modern American cooking—namely, chef Donald Hawk’s trendy yet oddly comforting dishes, many wood-fired and made with Arizona ingredients. Hawk’s signature dish from The Gladly—hiramasa crudo ($19), anointed with brown butter and sparked with tangy tomatillo-fish sauce vinaigrette—shows up on the dinner menu, as do puckery citrus-peel and escabeche-marinated Castelvetrano olives ($6); ultra-crunchy, yellow-fleshed Huckleberry Gold potatoes ($12), strewn with fruit mostarda and salsa seca; and slippery, quark-dappled blue oyster mushrooms ($13), so mind-blowing they give new meaning to the words “Blue Oyster Cult.” 4130 N. Seventh Ave., (602) 277-5561, valentinephx.com
Something to Do
Wine & Wright Tour at Taliesin West
World-famous architecture destination Taliesin West, the winter home of revered architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is popping corks with a fun new offering. The Wine & Wright Tour happens on Fridays and includes a complimentary beverage of choice (wine or non-alcoholic selections) an hour before your property tour commences. It makes for a great date night or social hour with friends before taking in the beauty of Taliesin West. Bar hours are 4-6 p.m. Tours run at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. and last one hour. Advance reservations required, and tickets are $50/person. franklloydwright.org/taliesin-west/tickets-tours
Someone to Know
Nikola CEO Mark Russell
Will the Valley become a leader in the electric vehicle (EV) industry? Much of that question hinges on the fate of Nikola Motor Company, which suffered a public relations blowout in 2020 after founder Trevor Milton was accused of misrepresenting its zero-emission technology. CEO Mark Russell has since remodeled the company’s business plan, scrapping an initiative to build consumer pickup trucks and redoubling its focus on heavy-duty commercial transportation. We spoke to the Brigham Young University grad about his efforts to create a Tesla for the long-haul set.
How has Nikola worked to boost investor confidence?
A year ago, we had a lot more things going on that were distractions [such as a motorsports division]. We had to restructure our agreement with General Motors and change the arrangement we made with Republic Services [to collaborate on refuse truck development].
Nikola also has an ambitious plan for 700 hydrogen refueling stations. Will there be partners with that?
We have a partner out of Norway called Nel that has been making hydrogen out of water for decades. We’ve been working with them to develop a station infrastructure that can be built anywhere. Over the life of a hydrogen station, 90% of its cost will be electricity. That’s where the APS rate schedule is so critical. People don’t understand how big that is. That’s going to make Arizona the anchor of the new hydrogen economy.
The Biden administration has been vocal about addressing climate change. Where do you see Nikola in those plans?
The climate [for reversing climate change] has been favorable in Arizona for quite some time, but now we have a favorable climate in the nation. I think there’s a chance for us to be as aggressive and fast-moving as Europe.