Taking a break from New York…in the arid desert

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Just back from a long weekend in Tucson, Arizona, and I am still adjusting to the change in topography and weather.

While some days and nights were quite cold, most of the time the sky was bright blue with delightful warm sunshine and desert breezes. While there, I learned the name of a chili pepper I had not known: the hatch chili. This green pepper was infused in a decanter of lemonade. Spicy, piquant, it wakes up your taste buds.

I am a big fan of the jalapeno margarita, so this non-alcoholic version of a tangy beverage is a nice way to enjoy a southwestern style lunch. The hatch chili pepper, by the way, is named for the peppers harvested in the Hatch Valley Region of New Mexico.

So, just where did this lunch take place? At my friend’s stunning and lush (in the middle of the desert) park on her event space property, the Medella Vina Ranch in Tucson. At this ranch, there are gorgeous and unique spaces to rent (from weddings and corporate events to little girl teas and intimate cocktail parties), wine tastings, trail rides and artisan and antique fairs on Sundays. It truly is THE place to be in Tucson!

A posse of people from the New York area flew in to celebrate a special birthday last weekend, and to welcome us, my dear friend brought in a company that creates luxurious picnics, including an “Alice in Wonderland” type table, adorned with lovely place settings, flowers, and pillows.

What an amazing lunch! Although the company that creates these experiences serves only the Tucson and Phoenix areas, next time you are visiting the state, you might want to look into this beautiful and lush way to enjoy lunch outdoors. Picnic de la Creme

And, by all means, check out the many events and activities at the Medella Vina Ranch.


  • Valerie Smaldone

    Five-time Billboard Award-winning media personality Valerie Smaldone is a theatre, food, lifestyle and entertainment enthusiast. She is a celebrity interviewer, accomplished voice-over artist and actress. Recent appearances on episodic tv include Law and Order, Criminal Intent, The Other Two (on HBO Max), Tommy, Manifest and Blue Bloods. She is an audiobook narrator and producer. A live event emcee, moderator, and "Voice of God" at events and award ceremonies, Valerie has joined The Story Plant Entertainment Company and is currently working on a film and Broadway play. Visit her website at www.valeriesmaldone.com

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