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Spring Training in Phoenix

Culinary couple Cheryl and Bill Jamison explores Arizona heartland cuisine.

This is a great time of the year to be in Phoenix. The sun shines brightly, bringing the desert alive with color, but the temperatures stay moderate. No one wants to be indoors, especially major-league baseball players and their fans.

Our favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, moved its spring training this year from Florida to the Phoenix suburb of Glendale. Along with the chance to see family in the area, we came to the Valley of the Sun to watch a couple of games and help inaugurate the new Dodgers stadium.

Spring training is baseball at its best, played in the original spirit of the sport with small crowds and a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone has fun, on the field and in the stands, which isn’t always the case after the regular season begins.

Baseball food, along with so much else in the sport, has changed considerably in the past decade. Vendors still sell plenty of hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks, but the options range much more broadly today. Deep in heartland America, enjoying what used to be called our national pastime, we found Greek salads, German bratwurst, Italian gelato, and Asian noodle and rice dishes.

Since we were visiting family in the Phoenix area, we ate mostly at restaurants that appealed to appetites of all ages. Pizza experts rate the metropolis just behind New York for great, thin-crust pies, and we had superior versions at a couple of Scottsdale branches of small, local chains, Grimaldi’s and Sauce.

Breakfast was even better two mornings in Phoenix proper at Over Easy and Matt’s Big Breakfast. At the former, Cheryl ordered the “Wolf Pack” (scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese between layers of hash browns) and Bill chose “The Disaster” (a spicy sandwich with a fried egg, hamburger patty, cheese, pepper and onions). At Matt’s, a humble diner that we loved, we had fantastic eggs Benedict, home fries and extra-crispy hash browns.

Popular lore praises the glories of springtime in Paris. For this year at least, for a quarter of the cost, we were thrilled to be in Phoenix instead.

Cheryl and Bill Jamison write about food and travel, always with mouthwatering results. Among their best-selling books are Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking and The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. They are also frequent contributors to Cooking Light and Bon Appétit. Married 22 years, they live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Jamisons’ newest book, Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, regales readers with a tasty account of their global travels in search of great local fare—from Bali to Brazil.

Learn more about Cheryl and Bill at cookingwiththejamisons.com. You can sign up to join them on a future trip by clicking on “culinary adventures.”

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