The Wolk Morais Diary: A Trip To The Arizona Biltmore

by The Daily Front Row

Brian Wolk and Claude Morais of Wolk Morais were on the road again! This time they took a trip to the elegant Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona to take in this stunning one-of-a-kind American treasure. They write in with memories of their visit and a little history lesson for our readers! 

Some like it Hot

The City of Phoenix, Arizona has become a rising star for Hollywood types and expat New Yorkers. The delightfully warm climate, spectacular landscape, and diverse multicultural offerings have elevated the city to its current international status. But long before Phoenix was a hot spot for bright young things, the city was a destination for bohemian thrill seekers. In the early 1920’s Warren and Charles McArthur were so taken by Phoenix’s natural wonder they abandoned their native Chicago and pimped their ride (a Dodge Truck) with extra seats to take visitors to local landmarks. “The Wonderbus,” as they branded it, was so successful that in 1927 the brothers formed The Arizona Biltmore Corporation. The ambitious duo secured a million dollars worth of financing, and soon became a trio, by convincing their architect brother Albert Chase McArthur (a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple) to head up the design and construction of The Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

Doing it Wright

To this day The Arizona Biltmore is unrivaled as Phoenix’s most iconic and luxurious hotel. Encompassing 39 Acres, 7 pools, and surrounded by two magnificent golf courses, the property is truly a wonder of the world.  Although not the architect of record, Frank Lloyd Wright’s essence is the bedrock for the compelling organic modernist resort. From its grand opening in 1929, The Arizona Biltmore has always been on the forefront of the future, and following an incredible 70 million dollar renovation in 2021 overseen by PHX Architecture, it is still wowing its most discerning clientele. Never has indoor/outdoor entertaining and open concept floor plans been more relevant. This contemporary design sensibility and flow are authentic to the resort’s DNA and it’s aesthetic forefather Mr. Wright.

Grand Entrance

Entering the hotel’s lobby is a transcendental experience that evokes the golden age of Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elton John and President Barack Obama all promenaded beneath the majestic Art Deco chandeliers and dined under the world’s largest gold leaf ceiling west of the Taj Mahal. Although Wright’s work is formally referred to as The Prairie style, one grasps a multitude of inspirations that served the designer’s imagination ranging from Aztec temples to Egyptian Pyramids. Hand blown glass floor lamps and exquisite Arts and Craft style rugs bring warmth to this awe inspiring cathedralic space that is both ancient and modern at once. 

Cottage Life

With a sprawling campus of textile block buildings, hotel guests have their choice of many gorgeous and architecturally significant structures to stay in. We were lucky enough to stay in one of the newly refreshed cottage suites. The cottages of the resort that surround the Saguaro Pool were originally intended for nannies and staff of the hotel guests. These charming bungalows have quickly become the most desired accommodations to reside in at the hotel. The living room of the suite is a perfect place to entertain, have a private meal, or drink champagne in front of the roaring fireplace.  Every textile selection, item of furniture, and Objet d’art were meticulously selected by Virserius Studio to respect the property’s provenance and reflect the modern needs of the hotel’s luxury minded guests. The bedroom of the suite, replete with frame canopy bed, beamed ceilings, and a sexy settee is immaculately lit to reveal the handsome details. The pièce de résistance of our cottage suite was the incredible patio and fire pit where the warmth of flames under vast desert stars makes every evening a magical experience.

Pool Hopping

The hierarchy of Pools at The Arizona Biltmore is a culture upon itself. There is a body of water for every mood and moment. If you are feeling sultry and social, spend the afternoon at adults-only Saguaro Pool where the crowd is sexy and in shape. The swim-up bar allows guests to endlessly stay satiated without ever drying off. For family fun check out the Paradise Pool where the multi-story twist slide provides hours of entertainment for both kids and adults. If you desire something a bit more privé, The Catalina Pool, built by the Wrigley family, was a personal favorite of Marilyn Monroe. None of those suit your fancy? The Ocatilla, Terrace Court and Bougainvillea Pool all have personalities as distinct as the diverse crowd who frequents the resort.

Hearth and Home

Located in the former ladies solarium of the Hotel, Renata’s Hearth is the hotel’s fine dining institution. The Spanish-Latin fusion cuisine is smokey, sophisticated and elegantly served. We began our culinary adventure with a flight of Spanish Vermouth, house potato chips, and imported cured meats and cheeses. The combinations of the flavors were both subtle and distinctive. For our main course we opted to share family style pork belly roast and grilled branzino served with warm tortillas, verde, roja and chipotle cashew salsa. The knowledgeable sommelier recommended the perfect tempranillo to compliment both our land and sea selections. Every bite at Renata’s Hearth was as enticing as the seductively designed dining room and as alluring as the fashionable young Phoenicians who patronized this not to missed restaurant.

Raising the Bar

Bar none, the spirits department at Arizona Biltmore continues to measure up to its founding father, 1930’s bartender Gene Sulit. As legend goes, when a hotel guest asked the mixology maestro to come up with a refreshing poolside cocktail, the resulting creation was the iconic Tequila Sunrise. The original effervescent elixir consisted of a delicate blend of tequila, soda, crème de cassis and lime juice. This divine concoction is still served today in the deco-chic Wright Bar. For those who prefer their tipple under the big desert sky, no trip to the Biltmore is complete without a visit to the impressive Spire Bar, the social center of the hotel. The al fresco satellite lobby of the property is always bubbling with inspirations for one’s taste buds and eyes.

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