I'm on my way to Mexico with the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, an organization of Mexican produce growers who want to export more of their stuff to the United States and Canada. So they're going to show me and some other journalists -- all women, except for me, it seems -- how nice everything is in Mexico, and how contaminant-free their stuff is and how nicely the workers are treated.
But at the moment I'm in Tempe, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, where we all arrived last night. Our hostess, Allison Moore, wanted to take us to dinner at a nice chain restaurant nearby.
Now, I have nothing against chain restaurants, but I think the expression on my face when I said, "I know it; it's a chain," betrayed my desire to try something local.
So we all went to Monti's La Casa Vieja. The building it's in was built in 1871 and is the oldest in Tempe. It was built by Charles Trumbull Hayden, whom the locals called "Don Carlos," as part of a ferry service across the Salt River. Until 1879, Tempe's name was Hayden's Ferry.
These are the sorts of things you learn from souvenir placemats.
We all had the evening's special, a 7-ounce filet mignon with "Roman bread" (sort of like ciabatta), soup or salad and choice of potato for $9.95. For the table we also ordered a variety of side dishes, including house specialties such as onion rings and some spicy sauteed vegetables loaded with jalapenos.
We started talking about regional dining habits in the United States -- I started it by marveling at the ranch dressing in which we were dipping everything, a habit that's common in my hometown of Denver, too.
Allison said that in Charlottesville, Va., where she went to college, pizza was served with ranch dressing and honey. They dip the pizza in the ranch. Honey is for the crust. I knew about honey on pizza crust, that's the common dessert at Beau Jo's, a pizza chain out of Idaho Springs, Colo.
The dipping of pizza in ranch dressing has since spread to Allison's hometown of Tazewell, Va.
We started talking about candy on the way back to the hotel. The result of that conversation was a stop at the Circle-K where my fellow travelers bought far more candybars than I had anticipated.
This bodes well for the trip.