6 Residents, 100 Years of History, Untold Tales: 3 Things You May Not Know About Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat is one Arizona’s most historic sites, boasting a 104-year-history, with the small Western town first serving as a stop along the Apache Trail in the 1900s. Over the years, it’s welcomed famous guests like President Teddy Roosevelt and Barbara Streisand and has been inspiration for books and movies.

Today, families can enjoy the history of Tortilla Flat by visiting the town’s schoolhouse-turned-museum or seeing the relics on the walls of the famed saloon. The town’s new owner, Katie Ellering, is also taking steps to preserve the town’s history and continue its legacy for another 100 years. She shared these three things that visitors may not know about the town.

#1. Est. 1904

Tortilla Flat was built as a settlement for the workers who hand-built the Roosevelt Dam. The town was never large enough to be officially recognized by the state, which is why we have such a hard time finding original town records. Most of what we know about Tortilla Flat has been passed from generation to generation by those who lived here or around the area. We learn new things about the town’s history every day and there’s still more we don’t know. About 20 years ago, a man came to town and started telling stories about how he grew up in Tortilla Flat — he even hand drew a map (on a napkin) of what it looked like when he was a resident. That drawing is now hanging in our museum, which is an exact replica of the Tortilla Flat schoolhouse that once taught the children in town. 

#2. It’s a really small town!

Boasting a population of six, Tortilla Flat offers many unique experiences. The Superstition Saloon and Restaurant has the best killer chili with a recipe that dates back to the 1940s. The Country Store sells more prickly pear gelato than anywhere else in the world and the mercantile offers unique treasures from local artists, handmade pottery, jewelry and toys for all ages!

#3. Colorful tales and hidden histories abound.

The town was originally built on the opposite side of the road but was washed away in a flood. Still to this day the creek holds secrets and some of the original foundation from the old days. Tortilla Flat also had a zoo, complete with a bear and many other animals back in the 1920s. A U.S. Post Office was established in the late 1920s, confirmed by historians and the U.S. Forest Service, and you can still ship your packages and postcards through the current day post office located in the mercantile.

Bonus fact:

The Tonto National Forest covers over 2.9 million acres and there are several recreation sites on and around Canyon Lake, just two miles from Tortilla Flat, that can be enjoyed on your day trip to Tortilla Flat.

Ellering says that the property is so unique and full of history that she and her partners knew it would be an amazing opportunity.

“We get to meet people visiting from all over the world and also build relationships with locals who enjoy all this area has to offer. Some of the various activities in the area include hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, boating, ATV/UTV off-roading and enjoying some of the most beautiful scenic views in all of Arizona.”

Looking ahead, Ellering added, “As caretakers of the property our goal is to keep the authentic feel of the Wild West and make minor upgrades throughout the town so it will still be here for the next 100 years. We did some major kitchen upgrades and are very proud of our new, fresh menu. We’ve also made several other internal changes that help improve efficiency and our guest experience. Tortilla Flat is a genuine, wild west, historic town and our goal is to keep that feeling so that people who visit get that authentic experience.”

For more information on Tortilla Flat, visit tortillaflataz.com or find them on Facebook.

JW Marriott: It’s Time for a Change of Space (And Recess!)

JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is offering to give those who are working and learning from home a much-needed break and change of scenery with its Learn, Work & Play Package, offered now through Dec. 31.

JW Marriott Desert Ridge is inviting parents and children to ditch their current “home office” and virtual “homeroom” views, pack up their laptops, backpacks and notebooks and head for an overnight staycation and a change in geography. The package offers plenty of opportunities and new experiences for parents who work remotely and whose children are learning virtually, with a little play and recess in between.

With Monday–Thursday rates begin at $179 per night, plus the package’s $100 resort credit per night, 50 percent off a second room, free unlimited golf for up to four golfers daily, 50 percent off cabanas, pool suites and VIP Griffin Bay Seating Monday–Thursday, and a $10 donation per stay, to support local educational programs in the Valley.

Find additional information on the resort’s amenities online. Book JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa’s Learn, Work & Play Package directly online or call 480.293.5000. Guests must use promo code: ZJL when booking the package.

For information on JW Marriott’s safety protocols, visit whattoexpect.marriott.com/phxdr. For additional information about the property, visit jwdesertridge.com.

Kitchen Insider (Destinations Edition): Elote Cafe, Sedona

By Kathryn M. Miller

The award-winning Elote Cafe opened its new Sedona location in late July. Tucked off of Hwy. 89, the 4,800-square-foot location underwent a $2.5 million renovation to achieve the authentic Elote Cafe look and feel and is just over a mile away from the original Elote Cafe location. The new Elote Cafe opened with limited dine-in and patio seating via reservation only to start and take out, before expanding to its 130-seat capacity when it is safe to do so.

The opening is just another 2020 milestone for chef/owner Jeff Smedstad, which has included being a finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef Southwest and releasing Volume 2 of his Elote Cafe Cookbook (available now at elotecafe.com/cookbook).

Elote Cafe is located at 350 Jordan Road in Sedona. For reservations or additional information, call 928.203.0105 or visit elotecafe.com.

We caught up with the chef to learn a little about him and the inspiration behind his cooking and his restaurant. He was also gracious enough to share his Elote recipe with us!

Please, briefly introduce yourself.
I am Jeff Smedstad, a chef, author, husband and motorcycle fanatic.

How did you get into the restaurant business/where were you trained?
I have worked in kitchens since I was 15 and started cooking while in the Coast Guard. I used my GI Bill to go to Scottsdale Culinary Institute and later trained in Oaxaca, Mexico at Seasons of My Heart Cooking School.

From where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from the Southwest United States, as well as the entire country of Mexico.

How would you describe the flavor profile of your restaurant?
My flavor profile is bold yet nuanced as I try to coax the maximum flavor from all ingredients in a dish.

What are some of the interesting industry trends that you are seeing?
I am seeing a strong movement to local and sustainable.

Do you focus on sourcing local ingredients? If so, what is your philosophy behind that focus?
I use some local and foraged items such as blackberries and mushrooms foraged from Oak Creek Canyon. It gives my food a sense of place here in Sedona.

What is your favorite dish at your restaurant and why?
My favorite dish is our Lamb Adobo as I have been making it for 25 years and still love it.

What is your go-to dish to cook at home? Or do you let someone else take over the kitchen?
I love to make enchiladas for my wife on the weekend, low fuss, high flavor!

What are the elements that make for a memorable meal?
Elements for a great meal are when you look at a dish and layer flavors and textures to create a bigger sum. You balance texture with acid and richness and a dish becomes a star. |CST


What could bring to life the flavor of Mexico more than corn roasting and caramelizing over a grill? For that matter, these flavors would be at home in any backyard where there is barbeque going on. Typically, in Mexico this would be made with starchier corn, but I prefer the flavor of sweet corn; Silver Queen is my favorite and this dish always tastes better in the summer. —Chef Jeff Smedstad

6 ears of corn with the husk intact

1 cup of mayo

1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon each of salt pepper and sugar

1/4 cup of chicken stock

1/4 cup cotija cheese ground

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Pure ground chile to taste

Over a medium hot grill roast the corn until the husks are well charred, about 5 minutes, turning them occasionally so as not to completely burn the kernels underneath. Set them aside to cool enough to handle then shuck them and cut the corn off the cob. When ready to eat, mix the mayo, hot sauce, lime juice and chicken stock and warm in a sauté pan with the corn. Pour into a bowl and garnish with the cheese, cilantro and chile powder. Serve immediately.

Photos courtesy of Elote Cafe

Take a Virtual Adventure on the Arizona National Scenic Trail 

Passage 39, Grand Canyon — North Rim; Photo: Larry Simkins

Residents looking for a big goal to keep them healthy and motivated during a time of social distancing are invited to sign up for the Arizona Trail Virtual Adventure.

Passage 34, San Francisco Peaks; Photo: Larry Simkins

This do-it-yourself event encourages participants to hike, run or ride anywhere and accumulate miles toward completing all or a portion of the 800-mile Arizona Trail. There are great rewards for various miles completed, and all proceeds benefit the Arizona Trail Association (ATA) to help supplement revenue the ATA has lost through cancellation of its trail running events, Arizona Trail Day and other community events that are an important source of financial support for ATA programs and operations.
Choose from the 25-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 400-, 600- or 800-mile challenge. Participants can walk around their neighborhood, ride trails close to home, run on a treadmill or any form of non-motorized locomotion anywhere. Those who complete an average of 4 miles per day between now and the end of the year, will reach the 800-mile finish line. Shorter distances have a completion date of Sept. 30.

Passage 31 – Marshall Lake Trailhead, Walnut Canyon

Every mile achievement has Arizona Trail rewards to keep folks motivated, including a hat, bandana, Buff, coaster, coupons, socks, custom 3-D wooden map of Arizona and more.

Coconino National Forest; Photo: Daniel Snyder

Learn more about the event by visiting the Arizona Trail Virtual Adventure website. Visit raceroster.com to sign up.

The Arizona National Scenic Trail is a complete non-motorized path, stretching 800 diverse miles across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It links deserts, mountains, canyons, forests, communities and people. The ATA’s mission is to protect, maintain, enhance, promote and sustain the Arizona Trail as a unique encounter with the land. Learn more at aztrail.org.

All photos Courtesy of Arizona Trail Association

Recreate Responsibly This Summer


All photos courtesy of Arizona Office of Tourism

Thousands of residents and visitors enjoy Arizona’s amazing parks, trails, forests, refuges, wildlife areas, historic sites, wilderness areas, rivers, lakes and reservoirs every year.

As summer arrives and state “Stay Home” orders lift, the Arizona Office of Tourism wants to encourage residents to enjoy all that Arizona has to offer in a responsible manner — while adhering to the COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state says that it is committed to keeping all public lands open and “as accessible as possible while protecting staff and visitors,” and provides these Top 10 Common-Sense Guidelines:

  • Practice physical distancing outdoors by staying at least 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid crowded locations where physical distancing may be difficult.
  • Do not gather in large groups.
  • Limit group activities to members of your household.
  • Plan ahead, as services and facilities will be limited.
  • Pack out trash.
  • Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
  • Be respectful of public lands.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Do your part!

Valley residents who are looking for a summer getaway can plan ahead by confirming open sites online. The USDA National Forest Service began reopening select recreation sites in Arizona May 15. Each reopened site has been evaluated per federal, state and local guidelines and deemed safe for public use. Visitors are strongly urged to contact their local district ranger office or check Forest Service websites for information on specific recreation sites prior to traveling or making plans. For open sites in the Southwestern Region, visit www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r3/home.

The Arizona State Parks and Trails website can help residents find outdoor recreation in the state or find a new adventure from home with online resources.

Finally, for those who are staying close to home this summer but would still like to enjoy the sights and sounds of our National Parks, visit National Parks Service website and click on the “Find Your Virtual Park” link for online discovery for the whole family.

For additional information go to www.visitarizona.com.

Rocky Point Sees Its First Cruise Ship Set Sail

After much anticipation and planning, the first cruise liner departed Thursday, Jan. 9, from Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, commonly known in the United States as Rocky Point. The Astoria Cruise Liner, owned and operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, is currently sailing around the Sea of Cortez and returning back to Rocky Point Jan. 20.

“This is a major step in Rocky Point’s development and growth,” stated Keith Allen, director of sales of a new and contemporary condo development Encantame Towers and founding member of Peñasco Business Coalition. “With the launch of this cruise, we are hoping that Rocky Point, with its unique location on the Sea of Cortez, will be seen as a premier, local cruise ship port. It’s just another wonderful amenity added to this safe, beautiful beach town.”

The Astoria set sail on the cruise titled “Treasures of the Sea of Cortez.” Over the course of the 11-day voyage, the ship will take passengers to eight ports along the Sea of Cortez, including Topolobampo, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Bahia Loreto, Santa Rosalia and Guaymas. The ship itself has 250 cabins and can hold around 550 people. In addition, Cruise and Maritime Voyages arranged ground transportation from Phoenix and Tucson to Rocky Point. Most of the passengers are anticipated to be Arizonans and people from surrounding western states.

“With so many transplants to the Southwest from other parts of the U.S., there’s a huge number of people who’ve yet to experience the charm of Rocky Point first-hand,” said Steve Schwab, founder and president of Casago, a leading property management and vacation rentals company, founding member of Peñasco Business Coalition, and passenger on the Astoria. “This is yet another reason for first-time and seasoned visitors to experience Rocky Point and all its year-round offerings.”

“Puerto Peñasco is well prepared for the already growing tourism our community is seeing and we are proud to see the launch of the much-anticipated cruise, Treasures of the Sea of Cortez,” said Puerto Peñasco Mayor Kiko Munro. “New businesses, new development, and the hard work of our public safety officials make Puerto Peñasco an ideal beach destination for many Arizonans.”

There are three scheduled departures from Rocky Point for the Treasures of the Sea of Cortez Cruise on Jan. 9, Jan. 20 and Jan. 31. Following these three cruises, the Astoria will move on to other scheduled cruises launching from England in 2020. Cruise and Maritime Voyages will determine the 2021 schedule of the Astoria at a later date.

More information on the Treasures of the Sea of Cortez cruise can be found at https://us.cruiseandmaritime.com/cruise/r008/treasures-of-the-sea-of-cortez.

Wickenburg to Host Fortieth Annual Bluegrass Festival & Fiddle Championship

The Four Corner States Wickenburg Bluegrass Festival, Nov. 8–10, is sponsored by the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, and it is one of the oldest bluegrass festivals in the Southwest.

Featured bands entertaining all three days at the festival are Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Incidental Bluegrass, and The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. Additionally, contestants will compete in eight categories for prizes and cash awards. Some of the categories bring championship designation, such as fiddle, mandolin, flat pick guitar and banjo.

The festival is held outdoors at the Everett Bowman Rodeo Grounds, 935 Constellation Road, just a half mile east of Highway 60/93 in Wickenburg. Limited reserved self-contained RV camping in Constellation Park is arranged through the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, as well a limited space in the tent camping area.

The festival opens Friday to the public at 11am, with entertainment from 1pm to 5pm. Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 7am for a pancake breakfast, and entertainment follows from 9am to 4:30pm.

At the festival for the three days, attendees will find food and drink concessions, beer booth, arts/crafts and a designated Kids Zone, Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm. Organizers prohibit bringing in alcoholic beverages, dogs, food and coolers. A covered grandstand seating area is available; however, spectators are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.

Tickets for the Bluegrass Festival are $18 adults, $15 senior citizens, $10 children; three-day passes are $ 45, $40 and $25 at the gate. For more information and tickets call the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, 928.684.5479, or visit www.wickenburgchamber.com.

Camp Verde Performing Arts Center Announces New Season

The Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts Foundation announced that its 2019–20 concert schedule will kick off with the annual Labor Day Jazz Festival Aug. 30, featuring the Bresnan Unplugged Ensemble. The Festival continues Aug. 31 with the Dom Moio Quintet. Moio will be joined by Nick Manson, a jazz pianist and two-time Emmy Award winner, with bassist Dwight Kilian, saxophonist Andrew Gross and percussionist Joe Garcia.

The Sweetwater Strings ensemble presents “Strings at the Movies,” a classical pop concert, Sept. 22 featuring some of the most loved and unique movie themes. The Camp Verde Blues Project follows on Oct. 5 featuring Innocent Joe Kopicki and the Silent Witnesses.

The holiday season offers two concerts. On Dec. 5 the Sahnas Brothers blend the sounds of their Greek culture, the Desert Southwest, and the warm inviting romance of the Spanish guitar, and 2019 will come to a close with the “Almost New Years’ Eve” concert Dec. 28, featuring the Uptown Big Band with vocalist and dancers presenting the sounds of the Big Band era.

The Center for the Performing Arts is located at 210 Camp Lincoln Road, Camp Verde, one mile south of the Cliff Castle Hotel and Casino. For additional information, call 928.593.0364 or visit www.pecpaf.com.

Waking Up In Budapest

By Kathi Kovach Koenig

It’s just before dusk as we slowly head into the city. Suddenly, our driver takes a quick turn, skirting traffic. Circling a flower-lined roundabout, he stops in front of a glistening hotel set in a centuries-old backdrop.

I’m immediately struck by the beauty of fading light and color, the mix of old and new, all playing off the reflection of the river Danube. It’s taken years of planning, but my brothers and I are finally here — ready to discover our hometown heritage of generations before us.

Waking up in Budapest is a travel moment to remember.

Looking across the fairy-tale scenery from the hotel’s picture window, there’s a sense of elation being in Hungary’s capital city. The feeling is contagious, as our extended Arizona family gathers on the ground floor of the sleek hotel. We’re on a mission. With no time to waste, we split up to explore the massive Buda Castle, the Gothic Revival designed Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Budapest is a tale of two cities. Buda and Pest lie on either side of the Danube. The two towns merged into one over a century ago. We are staying on the Buda side, directly across the historic Széchenyi Chain Bridge that connects to Pest. Our Hungarian grandparents spoke about its significance as one of the city’s most famous landmarks — yet its beauty and setting are beyond description. Impressive stone lion statues guard both bridgeheads, carved by sculptor János Marschalkó back in 1852.

A delicious mix of languages flow through the air — yet everyone seems to understand one another. I recognize the eyes of my grandmother in women along the streets — and can almost hear the hearty laugh of my grandfather drifting from a local café. All so vaguely familiar, yet not quite understood. To our delight, sounds of Hungarian rhapsodies are still woven throughout the districts, and my brothers and I nod to each other, affectionately remembering our grandfather playing his violin for us as children.

The extraordinary beauty of the crown jewel of Europe shows up in its historic buildings and sculpture that skim the landscape. Walking through the city lost in thought — my past sits before me like an Old World painting in the Hungarian National Gallery — which itself is a work of art.

The gallery is located inside the massive Buda Castle, where you’ll find the finest panoramic views offered in the city.

If Budapest is a truly a feast for the eyes, it’s also a fabulous choice for foodies. They say one of the strongest forms of memory is taste. Must be true, because it takes us three great restaurants to discover our grandmother’s Chicken Paprikash (chicken and dumplings) recipe. With one bite, we’re all transformed back to her dinner table. Paprika is a staple here. Hungarians put in on just about everything.

Colorful architecture, cobblestone streets and cafés line each side of the river along with a lively mix of locals and tourists. The landscape can be sun-drenched and rain-soaked all in the same day.

At twilight, while cruising the Danube, the landscape transforms again with the stunning lights of Pest shining like glittery jewels along the shore. We talk about our Hungarian past — our late parents and grandparents — while taking it all in under the spell of a deep sapphire night sky.

At the end of a perfect summer evening, it’s time to head back across the Chain Bridge to our hotel. I may be 6,000 miles away from Arizona, but it feels like I’m finally home.

Kathi Kovach Koenig is a former television and print journalist who continues to write about her travels.

Collaboration Pairs Wildlife Conservation With Craft Beer

Through an innovative public-private partnership, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Mother Road Brewing Co. present Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch.

In a creative twist on funding for wildlife conservation, Flagstaff-based Mother Road Brewing Co. has released special-edition cans of its Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch-style ale. As the sunset-orange, purple-mountain colored label says, “Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch is best enjoyed pulled from a cold river, and straight from the can. It pairs well with fresh air, wild-caught fish, and good company.”

For a limited time, wildlife enthusiasts can contribute to the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission to conserve and protect wildlife in a new way. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch cans will be donated to AZGFD to support its on-the-ground conservation work that is done without any general fund tax dollars. Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch will be available statewide.

“We want all Arizonans to know about the agency’s efforts to conserve and protect 800-plus wildlife species in the state,” said Ty Gray, director of AZGFD. “With Mother Road’s launch of Conserve and Protect Kӧlsch, we’re talking to a new audience that cares about sustainability, enjoys the outdoors and wants to contribute to wildlife conservation.”

Mother Road branded its summertime Kӧlsch with the agency’s Conserve and Protect messaging at no cost to the department.

“Assisting with wildlife and habitat conservation in Arizona is a natural fit for Mother Road as it dovetails with our mission of ‘building community one pint at a time,’” said CEO Michael Marquess.

In addition to supporting this unique collaboration, the public can contribute directly to Arizona’s wildlife by becoming a Conservation Member at www.azwildlifehero.com/join. The public also is invited to share their love of Arizona wildlife and support of the collaboration by tagging photos with #cheerstoAZwildlife.

The mission of the Arizona Game and Fish Department is to conserve and protect the state’s 800-plus species of wildlife. AZGFD receives zero general fund tax dollars. Funding is primarily provided by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, tags or stamps, and via a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Learn more at www.azgfd.gov.

Mother Road Brewing Company is an Arizona top-five craft microbrewery located along Route 66 in Flagstaff. Mother Road was John Steinbeck’s name for Route 66 in The Grapes of Wrath. The original brewery on Mikes Pike, the 1926 alignment of Route 66, is dedicated to experimental beers and processes, while the new Butler Avenue brewery brews for distribution in kegs and cans. Both breweries welcome guests into the tap rooms for pints, conversation, games, merchandise, and tours. Mother Road distributes statewide in Arizona with Hensley Beverage Company and its partners. For more information, visit www.motherroadbeer.com.

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