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					Sierra Vista - Phoenix Magazine                                                                                Page 1 of 3


 Author: Elin Jeffords
 Issue: January, 2010, Page 58

 Southeastern Arizona is magnificent:
 Expansive valleys undulate gently upward into
 imposing mountain ranges with soft color
 palettes. Dotted with former mining towns,
 vineyards, spectacular caverns and sprawling
 ranches, the area is infused with the spirit of
 the Old West.

 This is the home of Tombstone, the town too
 tough to die. It was the ancestral land of
 Geronimo and Cochise. Here, the Apaches
 first fought the invading Spanish and
 Mexicans and then resisted the American
 ranchers and prospectors who began settling
 the area. Fort Huachuca, founded in 1877,
 was intended both to provide defense against             Photos by Nicole Roegner
 the Indians and secure the Mexican border.
                                                          Back road on the base of Fort Huachuca
 The 73,000-acre fort was annexed by the city
 of Sierra Vista in 1971, and the resulting
 amalgamation is the hub of Cochise County. Sierra Vista is a modern community of well-kept
 neighborhoods stitched together with strips of commercial and retail. It’s a congenial, convenient
 and surprisingly foodie-friendly place to headquarter when exploring the region, which is easily
 done over a well-planned weekend.

 After checking into the comfortable Windemere Hotel, we relaxed with a complimentary evening
 cocktail and commenced plotting our his-and-hers weekend. Nature and history were on the
 agenda (his), as was some serious eating (hers). There are a disproportionate number of
 noteworthy restaurants in Sierra Vista, thanks to the busy fort and the international community
 that has colonized the area.

                                                            That evening we headed to Sophia’s Italian
                                                            Ristorante. Open less than a year and located
                                                            in a strip mall, tiny Sophia’s has a chic,
                                                            understated look and the happy bustle that
                                                            promises a good experience.

                                                            We put ourselves in the hands of chef/owner
                                                            Zeke Wray. Smart move. His cleanly
                                                            executed, contemporary take on Italian
                                                            cuisine is built on flawless ingredients. We
                                                            chomped happily through a menu that
                                                            included traditional bruschetta with the
                                                            addition of satiny, house-made mozzarella
                                                            and a dollop of balsamic reduction followed by
                                                            prosciutto cradling a layer of cream cheese
                                                            and matchstick asparagus. Rollatini of
                                                            mozzarella and tomato pesto on greens was a
                                                            welcome salad substitute. The rolled
                                                            technique also worked nicely for fresh spinach
                                                            pasta and sausage with bright-tasting
 salmon with asparagus and crème brûlée at The Mesquite     marinara sauce. For the main course, cloud-
 Tree                                                       textured sea bass and a flawless chunk of filet
                                                            mignon with stone ground mustard sauce
                                                            cozied up to a buttery-rich purée of leeks and

 The next day we made the short trip to Fort
 Huachuca. (Entrance is contingent on
 producing a current photo ID, vehicle
 registration and proof of insurance.)

 Past the front gate, the curving streets and
 pleasant housing could be the marks of any
 small town, but suddenly we could feel the
 years start dropping away as the Old Post and
 Parade Ground came into view. The
 territorial-style barracks look little different
 from pictures taken when they were built in
 1889. 2/8/2010
Sierra Vista - Phoenix Magazine                                                                              Page 2 of 3

 It’s an appropriate introduction to the
 remarkably complete museum. Housed in a
 building that was bachelor officers’ quarters in
 the 1800s, the displays whisk you through
 the decades of the fort’s service. Special
 attention goes to the famed African-American
 regiments known as the Buffalo Soldiers. The
 nearby Army Intelligence Museum with its
 code machines, decoding devices and a big
 hunk of the Berlin Wall was like catnip to the
 James Bond fan in our small party.

 Afterward, we grabbed lunch at the popular       along the banks of the San Pedro Rive
 Bobke’s Bread Basket, a tiny cottage that is
 half bakery/half café. Chubby bratwurst
 stuffed in a freshly made bun with mustardy potato salad and a rich beef goulash were followed
 by crescent-shaped pastries filled with almond paste, each end dipped in semi-sweet chocolate
 and almond flakes. I vowed to stock up on more before leaving town.

 Invigorated, we headed for the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The San Pedro is
 one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest and hallowed ground for birdwatchers,
 naturalists and hikers. This is a major migratory corridor where up to 350 species of birds show
 up at various times of the year. Docents orient newbies with interpretive walks, or there are miles
 of trails for the self-motivated to explore on their own.

 Upriver, the Fairbank Historic Townsite is interesting not only for its early Arizona railroad
 background and restored 1920s schoolhouse, but for some classic movie lore as well. John Ford’s
 Red River was filmed here, and because the width and flow of the San Pedro was deemed
 cinematically insufficient, the river was dammed for one of only five times in its history.

                                                      Nature of a different sort was on the
                                                      evening’s agenda as we retired to The
                                                      Mesquite Tree restaurant. The Tree is to
                                                      Sierra Vista as Durant’s is to Phoenix – well
                                                      established and much loved. The spacious,
                                                      eclectically decorated building fronts an
                                                      intimate walled patio dominated by a monster
                                                      200-year-old mesquite tree. We sat beneath
                                                      its branches with the stars twinkling above.

                                                      Prime rib is the house specialty. Rightfully so
                                                      – it was well trimmed and succulent – and the
                                                      so-called “atomic” horseradish will bring a big
                                                      man to his knees. I, meanwhile, dug into a rib
                                                      eye special lavished with caramelized onions
                                                      and melted Gruyère, a neat take on French
                                                      onion soup. A fun side option to dinner is the
                                                      fluffy chile relleno casserole.

 cake from Bobke’s Bread Basket

 Birds were the next day’s quarries. First, we
 took a cool, scenic stroll through Ramsey
 Canyon Preserve, afloat with darting
 hummingbirds and clouds of butterflies, then
 came back to the fort to watch hummingbird
 banding. This most delicate of operations
 involves licensed experts from the
 Hummingbird Monitoring Network netting,
 weighing and measuring the birds and
 carefully wrapping an identifying tag around
 one toothpick-sized leg. The kids watching
 were enthralled, and so was I, when a bander
 carefully handed me a bird to release back         bratwurst from Sophie's with potato salad from Bobke’s
 into the wild.                                     Bread Basket

 Our dinner at The German Café was a terrific
 send-off. The intimate, old-fashioned space was buzzing with customers conversing in German. A
 good sign, as they say. Lightly crusted golden schnitzel with deep-flavored mushroom gravy and
 irregular little spaetzle was as good as anything I’ve had in its country of origin. A generous wurst
 salad made with chopped sausage, cheese, pickles, hard-boiled egg and onion dressed with tart
 vinaigrette was served with a tidy loaf of pretzel bread. Schlag-drifted chocolate and rum cakes
 put a sweet exclamation point on the meal.

 Along with abundant history and natural splendors, Sierra Vista is a hotbed of community
 activities. The weekend we visited, there was a wine tasting featuring local vintners and a Celtic 2/8/2010
Sierra Vista - Phoenix Magazine                                                                       Page 3 of 3

 fiddle contest. A little ways out of town, the Arizona Folklore Preserve hosts Western performance
 artists almost every weekend throughout the year.

 And there are plenty of excellent restaurants for those who believe the real way to get to know a
 place is to eat our way through it.

                                                     The Basics
                                                     Elevation: 4,623 feet
                                                     Temperature: January, 33/61;
                                                     February, 36/65; March, 41/70

                                                     Sleep & Stay
                                                     Windemere Hotel & Conference Center
                                                     2047 S. Hwy 92, Sierra Vista
                                                     520-459-5900 •

                                                     Eat & Drink
                                                     Bobke’s Bread Basket
                                                     355 W. Wilcox Drive,

                                                     The German Café
                                                     1805 Paseo San Luis,

                                                     The Mesquite Tree
 A deer in the Ramsey Canyon Preserve area           South Hwy 92 and Carr Canyon Road,

 Sophia’s Italian Ristorante
 1630 E. Fry Blvd.,

 Arizona Folklore Preserve
 56 Folklore Trail, Hereford
 520-378-6165 •

 Fairbank Historic Townsite
 Between Whetstone and
 Tombstone on Hwy 92
 520-457-3062 •

 Fort Huachuca Hummingbird Banding
 Fort Huachuca •

 Fort Huachuca Museums
 Main Gate, Fort Huachuca,

 Ramsey Canyon Preserve
 27 E. Ramsey Canyon Rd., Hereford
 520-378-2785 •

 San Pedro House and Riparian
 National Conservation Area
 9800 E. Hwy 90
 520-508-4445 •

 Sierra Vista Visitor Center
 3020 E. Tacoma St., 1-800-288-3861 or 520-417-6960 • 2/8/2010