How the West is Winning

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The San Antonio Spurs score in the NBA final. The L.A. Kings capture the Stanley Cup. What’s up? The western U.S. is on a roll, and it goes beyond the sporting life. Here, four reasons why you should go west

1 L.A. Confidential
The powers that be in the City of Angels have been touting its downtown core as the next “it” spot to tantalize locals and tourists alike for the past decade or more. The latest hint that such a revitalization may be happening is the grand opening of the Marriott’s two-in-one hotel concept, the Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live. Situated on a bustling corner adjacent to the Staples Center and L.A. Live – an entertainment hub that includes the Nokia Theatre, the Grammy Museum and the Lucky Strike Bowling Center plus a slew of chain restaurants out to satiate starving sports and music fans, this is only the second time that Marriott has chosen to house both its signature brands inside one property (the other is in New York). Meaning that depending on your taste and budget you can opt for the Courtyard rooms or, on the other side of the same hallways, a suite at the Residence Inn complete with full kitchen – stainless steel appliances up the luxe quotient and addresses the longer stay factor. Local politicians are banking that the new hotel will serve up $89 million in new tourist dollars to the area.
hotels/travel/laxjw-jw-marriott-los-angeles-la-live  —Kim Izzo

2 Brewing Colorado

Forget Mary Jane. Colorado, America’s greatest beer state – home to Coors, the largest single brewing facility in the world, and hundreds of handcrafted micro-brews – is developing a taste for another potent industry. Entrepreneurial imbibers in the Centennial State are now turning their attention to distilling. By the Colorado Distillers Guild’s own estimate, there are now more than 50 craft distillers making everything from vodka and gin to brandy and absinthe and just about every kind of spirit in between.

The state’s long and cordial association with breweries has meant that the regulatory barriers distilleries often face in less tipple-friendly places are much easier to navigate. This has led to an influx of eager, talented craftspeople into the state. Today, producers like Leopold Brothers, makers of vodka, whiskey and herbal

liqueur among other esoterica, and Peak Spirits, the state’s leading maker of organic vodka, as well as Downslope Distillery, Roundhouse Spirits and Stranahan’s are winning international awards for their handcrafted liquor.
While those distillers –  some of them only little more than six years old (!) –  represent the establishment, the thirst for new and interesting handcrafted spirits shows no sign of slowing down. Ten new distillers, covering the spectrum from Crème de Violette and dry Curaçao to agave reposado and oak wine barrel-aged rum, opened in 2013 alone with more slated for this year. Cheers!  —Chris Johns

San Antonio’s Oyster
You think we’re in the Old West, but there’s no shootout at dawn, just shot glasses on the bar. The district, where this bar sits, is known as the Pearl, and its history may be long but not quite to saloon days. Cured at Pearl, chef Steve McHugh’s dining spot, is housed in what was once a brewery complex built in the early 1900s. Think Toronto’s Distillery District or Vancouver’s Gastown  – now, the Pearl is a place for walkways, Saturday farmers markets, coffee shops, art galleries, the CIA (Culinary Institute of America, not the federal agency and, yes, McHugh is a graduate) and Cured.
McHugh is a champion of the tradition of curing, partly inspired by his own 10-year recovery from non-Hodgins lymphoma, which spurred him to work with and serve foods that benefit human health. The glass Charcuterie Tank over the bar is the first thing most guests see when they enter: a living art piece, with McHugh’s signature hams and sausages – all preservative-free – in phases of the curing process. But there’s more than just charcuterie. McHugh grew up with six brothers on a Wisconsin farm and experienced first-hand what bounty working the land can bring. He’s given bitters, vinegars and veggies his “cured” all-natural pickling process, pairing preserved legumes with classics like sliders and oysters, grills up line-caught fish and has a delicate hand with field-raised beef. Have the burger but don’t skip the charcuterie plate. For every order, McHugh gives a dollar to charity.  —Vivian Vassos

4 Raising (Olives in) Arizona

Belly up to the bar – the olive oil bar, that is – and taste one of the handcrafted extra virgin olive oils at Arizona’s only working olive farm and mill, Queen Creek Olive Mill. Canadians Perry and Brenda Rea moved from Detroit with their four children (and one on the way) 15 years ago (“I went from motor oil to olive oil,” says Perry) and planted 1,000 olive trees on 90 acres at the base of the San Tan Mountains, about 50 kilometres southeast of Phoenix. Today, with more than 7,000 trees and 16 varieties of olives, the Reas run an olive empire that includes an 11,000-square foot marketplace and café serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Olivespa Home and Body line of products, three retail stores (Oils and Olives) and a thriving agriturismo as they partner with other eco-friendly farmers in the area.

Originally from London, Ont., Perry and his Montreal-raised wife, Brenda, are accredited as two of only 20 Certified Olive Oil Sommeliers in the world. And their tasting bar epitomizes the respect with which they treat their “vintages” (olives are pressed within 24 hours of harvesting – fresh really is best). After a bit of retail therapy in the Marketplace (body lotions, specialty cheeses, local honey, cookbooks and kitchenware), drop into the Eatery for a kalamata sandwich – it was featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” End on a sweet note with a Triple Chocolate Sea Salt Cookie made with Queen Creek’s own chocolate olive oil.  —Arlene Stacey

Zoomer magazine, September 2014