Eat Play Love

Written by Geri Koeppel Category: Lifestyle Issue: February 2012
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Adult marshmallows at Different Pointe of View
Best for: Fire-worshipping foodies and cost-cutting city campers
With its multi-tiered patio perched 1,800 feet above the glittering city lights, this restaurant and bar at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort is a popular place to pop the question. But even if you’re already hitched, it’s a ravishing spot to rekindle the flame. Cozy up to the cliffside fire pit – so capacious it could accommodate a bed – and roast homemade “adult” marshmallows spiked with Baileys Irish Cream, Frangelico, Amaretto and Kahlua, then dunk them in caramel, chocolate and vanilla cream sauces. Bonus: It’s budget seduction; the aphrodisiac confections are complimentary with purchase of an alcoholic drink.
11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-866-6350,


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Tour de Old Town Scottsdale
Best for: Stylish, art-loving, peripatetic Francophiles
With its illuminated galleries and al fresco art, Old Town is ideal for walkable wooing. Begin with dinner at the charming, French-inspired Petite Maison and request the table by the outdoor fireplace – but call well in advance to ensure you snag it. Then rendezvous at the chic Casablanca Lounge for a nightcap. You won’t have trouble reading the drinks menu in the dark because the battery-powered menu is backlit. End the evening with a hand-in-hand stroll to Civic Center Mall, where you can steal a kiss in front of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture.
Petite Maison: 7216 E. Shoeman Lane, Scottsdale, 480-991-6887,; The Casablanca Lounge: 7134 E. Stetson Dr., Third Floor, Scottsdale, 480-970-7888,

Celestial Picnic at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
Best for: Luxury-minded amateur astronomers
There’s something universally romantic about gazing up at the infinite cosmos, and when you add a basket of goodies from Executive Chef Mel Mecinas, a chart of constellations and a blanket for cuddling on the lawn of the Four Seasons, this stellar pursuit becomes downright swoon-worthy. If you don’t mind a third wheel, a professional astronomer with a telescope will point out heavenly bodies, or you can request a personal butler, a musician or a photographer. You don’t have to be a resort guest to enjoy the picnic, but “getting a room” is not a bad idea – especially if you opt for a post-prandial moonlight massage at your casita. Picnic price starts at $80; book a week out.
10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale, 480-513-5090,

Couples massage at Joya Spa, Montelucia Resort & Spa
Best for: Spa-loving sybarites and Scottsdale sultans
With its sumptuous Moroccan decor, elaborate drapery, infinity-edge bathtub, and pillar candles surrounding dual massage tables, the 800-square-foot Grand Palace room at Joya Spa feels like a harem for two. After a mint-and-argan-oil massage, retreat to your private terrace (with priority service) for moonlit views of Camelback Mountain, snuggle by the fireplace or test drive the king-sized bed. Non-sultans can opt for one of four more (less expensive) spa suites, including two with private outdoor bathing options for sexy soaking under the stars. Rates begin at $149 per person for a 50-minute massage; half-day rental is $495; full day is $895.
4949 E. Lincoln Dr., Scottsdale, 480-627-3020,

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Gondola rides at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort
Best for: Moonstruck Pavarotti fans with limited vacation time
There’s no need to jet off to Italy when you and your amore can enjoy a leisurely float on the waterways that girdle the lushly landscaped Hyatt resort, serenaded by an operatic tenor in a custom-made Venetian gondola. Before or after your quaint water cruise, cozy up to the indoor/outdoor Center Stage Bar, surrounded by cascading waterfalls, fireplaces and nightly live music (upgraded last fall to a lineup of sultry, edgy performers). You don’t have to be a resort guest to ride the gondola: Cost is $10 per person, or free if you have dinner at the resort’s Alto ristorante e bar. Rides run 6-10:30 p.m. during the winter season.
7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale, 480-444-1234,

Dinner on the patio at Kai
Best for: Urban cowboys/girls, meta-locavores and couples whose song is “Wild Horses”
If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the four tables at Kai’s west-facing patio overlooking the serene Estrella Mountains, you’ll have box seats for a breathtaking sunset. If you’re even luckier, you’ll glimpse herds of wild horses galloping across the flats (sightings are reported at least once or twice a month). Even if you don’t get that lucky, an exquisite meal is a sure thing at this AAA five-star restaurant, where the Native American-accented menu features rich, earthy fare like red deer venison loin, and the doting staff treats diners like royalty. Call early to request a patio table; they’re not guaranteed, and Valentine’s Day fills up fast.
Kai at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler, 602-385-5726,

Romance at The Boulders Resort
Best for: New Age-y adventure seekers in tune with the Earth
One of the most romance-oriented resorts in town, The Boulders offers an inspiring menu of activities to get you in the mood. Zodiac-minded duos can get a “soul reading” from the resident astrologer to check for star-alignment, or improve communication and self-awareness with a numerology reading. Adventurous amours can soar in a hot air balloon at sunrise, or helicopter to a mountaintop for a secluded dinner. Earthy soul mates can get down on bended knee during a private sunset dinner in the garden, or take vows at Promise Rock, with panoramic vistas, “his and hers” cactuses symbolizing partnership, and 12-million-year-old boulders signifying lasting love.
34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree, 480-488-9009,

A Romantic ramble near Cave Creek
Best for: Cliff Bar-packing nature enthusiasts seeking splendid isolation
The Valley boasts several scenic summits, but how romantic is a hike when you’re surrounded by scores of sweaty fitness fiends? For a more secluded excursion, PHOENIX magazine hiking expert Mare Czinar nominates Cave Creek Trail No. 4 in the Tonto National Forest’s Seven Springs Recreation Area as her top choice for a lovers’ lope. Pack a picnic – tables are available and alcohol is acceptable (but glass is not) – and time your trek to sunrise or sunset, when views along the access road are superb. The 8.3-mile roundtrip ramble begins with a mile of lush, riparian creekside hiking before opening to pristine, panoramic desert.

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Tour de Tempe
Best for: Low-key lovers with well-toned legs
Water lapping seductively. Sunset gilding the shimmering surface. Rhythmic paddling. OK, it’s Tempe Town Lake. But for couples who gag at mushy movies but want to savor some outdoorsy one-on-one, it’s an ideal locale for a laid-back liaison. First, get your pulse racing on a pedal boat (or a motorized boat) from Tempe Town Lake Rentals. Then slow it down with a stroll in the cool blue glow of the Town Lake pedestrian bridge. Finish with a Mediterranean-inspired dinner at garden-like House of Tricks, consistently named one of the Valley’s most romantic restaurants.
Tempe Beach Park, Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway, 480-350-5200,; Tempe Town Lake Rentals, 72 W. Rio Salado Parkway, 480-303-9803; House of Tricks, 114 E. Seventh St., 480-968-1114,

Winter concert series at Desert Botanical Garden
Best for: Horticulture vultures and horn-y Latin music enthusiasts
Wander through the aromatic flora to Ullman Terrace, where the winter concert series spices up Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. with live music and food. In February, watch Latin sensation Quetzal Guerrero, jazz crooner Dennis Rowland, flamenco guitarist Chris Burton Jácome or the Bad Cactus Brass Band perform, backdropped majestically by the Papago Buttes. Tickets cost $15 for members, $21 for nonmembers. Come early or stay late to explore the entire garden, and be sure to pause at the Desert Towers sculptures by Dale Chihuly before you enter the gates.
1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, 480-941-1225,

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Paramour Activity

Looking for something far cooler and less cliché than dinner and a movie? Impress your partner with these five offbeat, interactive date ideas.

Love on the Rocks: ClimbMax Climbing Gym
You’re guaranteed to get belayed at ClimbMax rock climbing gym’s “date night” every Wednesday, when couples get half off admission and gear ($9; regularly $18) from 5-10 p.m. It’s an excellent way to break the ice on a first date or increase teamwork and communication in a long-term relationship. There’s even a climb-through cave for adults only. The facility has extra-thick padding on the floors, so you don’t need to worry about breaking anything other than your heart. 1330 W. Auto Drive, Tempe, 480-626-7755,

Grape Expectations: Make Wine at Su Vino
Wine is a time-honored intimacy advancer, especially when you’re choosing one that pairs with your mutual palates (“You like vanilla undertones, too? I thought I was the only one.”). At Su Vino, Scottsdale’s award-winning commercial winery, wannabe winemakers begin with a tasting, choosing from among 15 to 20 grape varietals and identifying characteristics you prefer (more or less oak; sweeter or drier). Then return in two to five months for the bottling, bringing a photo for personalized labels – it’s ideal for weddings or anniversaries. Cost is $185-$275 for 15 bottles; $310-$460 for 30. 7035 E. Main St., Scottsdale, 480-994-8466,

Rub Me Tender: Loving Touch couples massage workshop
Give a man a massage, and you relax him for a day. Teach a man to massage, and you have your own personal masseur for a lifetime. Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess offers a private lesson with an expert massage therapist on how to give the ultimate rub-down. Guided by an instructor, you and your partner take turns learning and receiving the time-honored ministrations of Swedish massage. You’ll take home a bottle of massage oil, a brochure on muscle anatomy and massage movements, and a tantalizing new skill set. Cost is $249 per couple, plus 18 percent tip for 75 minutes, and includes access to the 44,000-square-foot facility’s amenities. 7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, 480-585-2732,

Turn Up the Heat: Couples cooking class with Thyme for a Chef
Cook that candlelight dinner together at home with guidance from Chef David Hall of Ahwatukee Foothills – he’ll even clean up and leave the recipes. Hall works with couples to create a custom menu based on their preferences: Recreate that honeymoon in Paris with a French meal, for instance, or learn to make your favorite Thai treats. He brings everything, even pots and pans, and can book pre-dinner massages or live music. You don’t even have to help cook if you just want to eat. Call early; he books up months in advance. Cost starts at $325, depending on ingredients. Thyme for a Chef, 480-226-0444,

Works of Heart: Art classes at Me The Artist
During February, Me The Artist in CityNorth offers two-hour painting classes for couples or any friendly duo ($60 for two; a $20 discount). Create a pair of complementary paintings to display in your home, and bring a bottle of wine for an extra-intoxicating experience. On February 10, the “Art of Love” session caters specifically to sweethearts and includes wine, appetizers and painting class for two for $80. The Brush Bar in Old Town Scottsdale also offers couples painting classes in February and has a bar stocked with wine, beer and champagne. Me The Artist, 5355 E. High St., Phoenix, 480-822-7999,; The Brush Bar, 4165 N. Craftsman Court, Scottsdale, 480-947-8700,