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The Scottsdale architectural firm of Candelaria Design Associates is one of the premier luxury residential architecture firms in the country. Enjoy our blog which features our work, our travel, our recipes, wines, tips on design and decorating, and the lives of our clients and employees, etc.....its all the ingredients for the Candelaria Design Lifestyle. Contact Candelaria Design to start your dream residence 602-604-2001!

Happy Labor Day 2017


Ok, I know its September, but those of us who live in the Arizona desert know there is not a lot of difference between August and September….it’s just another month of summer. Not until Halloween are we officially done with the potential for 100º temps. Yes, we are watching football and we are tempted to plant geraniums but don’t get fooled.

I am looking forward to fall though, and being able to open everything up, driving with the sun roof open, and wearing fall sweaters, sport coats, and of course cooking!


This week we celebrated our 18th year of Candelaria Design! From that first year with just me and my two dogs, Lulu and Nacho to our 15 person firm now we have come a long way and it’s been quite the ride! More on that in a bit….


Plenty going on here at Candelaria Design. In addition to the three homes we had featured in August in the national publication, Elegant Homes Magazine we have another featured this month in Country French Magazine. This Candelaria Design ~ DeCesare Design ~ Berghoff Design collaboration features a beautiful home masterfully built by Schultz Development for none other than himself and his lovely wife, Denise. We will be featuring more of this home this Fall in one of our episodes of SKETCH on




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We have an amazing event coming on October 12th where we will be co-hosting a celebration kicking off the fall season with Scottsdale Modern Luxury Magazine promoting their Modern Man Issue which I will be a part of and the grand opening of La Galleria Stone right there in their off the chart warehouse! We will be making pasta live, and there will be fabulous Italian sports cars, fashion from Italy and plenty to eat and drink. You can order your pasta maker for your favorite foodie right here:

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So being it’s Labor Day I thought I would tribute this blog to those who make Candelaria Design go! My amazing Team! First and foremost, I love these guys and all they do to always improve and grow. As I mentioned we just celebrated our 18th anniversary on August 29th and my team gave me a nice celebration on Friday. So this blog is dedicated to my team!


First, my partner, Vivian Ayala, has been with me nearly 18 years as has my associate, Jeff Kramer. These two have been there during the good times and through the tough times. Add Evelyn Jung to this mix who has been with me 12 plus years and runs the business operations. They get it. It’s not about what can you do for me, its about what can we do as a team. I rely on them for their hard work, their caring attitude, their talent, but most importantly their friendship.

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Then let’s add Tim Mathewson, Meredith Thomson and Damon Wake who are my Team Directors and do a fantastic job not only with their projects but managing, mentoring and inspiring their teams. It has been so rewarding to watch them grow and mature into strong members of our team.


The next wave includes our Project Managers and Job Captains which include Mathew Grove, Hector Medina, Tyler Bulriss, Peter Ekema, Rebecca Struchen, Samar Kattan and our newest addition Jochen Walther. Let’s not forget our intern, Jake Ernst and of course our Director of First Impressions, Caitlin Cunningham who runs our front desk and does so much for all of us. This whole crew keeps the train moving working many times late into the night and sometimes into the early morning hours to get the job done.


What a great team! Let’s see…. Did I forget anyone???? Oh wait, my assistant, Stacey Payne!!!! I could not function without her. We start our days around 4am with texts to each other working out the details of the coming day and that continues many times until 10pm at night, including weekends many times. Not only does she manage things at the office but she keeps track of my personal affairs too and trust me, many times that’s more of a job than her tasks at the office. I am most grateful for all she does every day to keep me moving.


So, what is the common thread with all the members of my team? They have a passion for what they do and they all think Team First. We all work hard but we also all have fun together. They respect each other and they are kind to each other. It’s a wonderful family and I am so proud of all of them. Happy Labor Day to you all.

Of course, there is always some time to get some cooking in – especially over a three day weekend. This weekend we went with grilled and sliced ribeyes over arugla, then Saturday we went with grilled halibut then bathed in tomatoes, fennel, onions, capers and white wine and last night we made a herb cursted leg of lamb with a mint and Hatch green chile sauce. All to be posted over time.

MC's Limoncello Cream Pie


So what about another dessert to finish off the summer??? Plenty have been asking for my Limoncello Cheesecake Pie. So here we go:


 Let’s start with the crust. I like to but a box of triple chocolate biscotti’s from AJ’s and grind them up in the food processor – you want about 200 grams of crumbs. While grinding the crumbs, melt about ¾ of a small stick of butter. Pour the butter into the crumb mixture and then work the mixture into the pie pan bottom to form your crust. Refrigerate the pie pan crust for about 15 to 10 minutes so it all firms up.


While the crust is in the refrigerator, make the pie filling. Using the mixer, whip the mascarpone, sour cream, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, limoncello, salt, vanilla until all well mixed and smooth.


Pour over the pie crust and then back in a 325º oven for 40 minutes or just to the point where the sides of the filling start to brown. Then remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack and let cool. Once cool, set in the fridge to cool and set for about 4-5 hours.


To serve, cut into pie wedges and using a pie server, place on a dessert plate, top with vanilla or lemon whip cream, add a lime wedge and serve.

MC’s Limoncello Cream Pie

Crust –

One box 200 grams of Triple Chocolate Biscotti

¾ small stick of butter – appro. 90 grams

Filling –

8 oz. Marscapone Italian Cream Cheese

1 cup of sour cream

3 eggs

¼ cup of lemon juice

2 table spoons of Limoncello

1-1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

a pinch of salt



Update on Isabel

Isabel has reached her halfway point on her chemo treatments. Eight completed and eight to go. We both share the same hair style now so it doesn’t take either of us long to get ready. She has some cute and wild wigs so she is having fun with her different looks. She is amazing and so positive and so strong and keeps it going. Thanks to all of your thoughts, prayers, meals, flowers, books, wow! It has made such a difference to both of us to know we have all of your support.


A special thanks to Jennifer Gage and those who came to her treatment with a little surprise party last Wednesday. She loved it.

You can read more on Isabel’s Caring Bridge

On to the second half – the tough half. 


Gliding through August

Well we are only about halfway through August and it’s been an exciting month!

First, thank you to Sources for Design for naming me a Design Icon! What an honor and what a great turn out at fellow Icon of Design David Neishabori’s, Azadi Fine Rugs this past Thursday night. I cannot think of a better group to be inducted with:

Fred Unger – developer of the Royal Palms Resort and the Hermosa Inn

Anne Gale of Wiseman & Gale Interior Design.

John Schultz of Schultz Development Corp.

Craig Pearson of Pearson & Company

David Neishabori of Azadi Fine Rugs

Mark Boisclair of Mark Boisclair Photography

Isabel, MC and client, Phyllis Lerner

Isabel, MC and client, Phyllis Lerner

The CDA Team is support of their Icon!

The CDA Team is support of their Icon!

Post event dinner at Rancho Pinot with Isabel, Anthony and Gicela Dulcich from Long Beach and our sweet friend Rebecca. 

Post event dinner at Rancho Pinot with Isabel, Anthony and Gicela Dulcich from Long Beach and our sweet friend Rebecca. 

I thank all who attended including several of my friends, who came from beyond Arizona to celebrate with me, my team at Candelaria Design, and my wife and her crew from Earth and Images.




We also were happy to see three of our homes featured in the national publication, Elegant Homes Magazine. Our Zona Verde residence built by Desert Star Construction     was featured along with a home built by Schultz Development – our Santa Barbara Modern in Paradise Valley, and our Ranch Hacienda with a transitional twist built by Ron Barney. Three fantastic homes – all different styles.







To add to this, we had two of our homes win First Place ASID Awards at the gala last night at the Arizona Biltmore. Both homes are contemporary in style so yes we do design contemporary and these awards clearly demonstrate we are here to stay and proudly add this style to our repetoire. First, Interior Designer, Claire Ownby, ASID, received a first place award for a residence between 3500-6000 sf for this Candelaria Design contemporary home in Paradise Valley. We then also congratulate Interior Designer, Anita Lang, ASID, of IMI Design for receiving a first place award for the best Kitchen for our Village at Mountain Shadows project featuring a Bulthaup Kitchen . Two fantastic designers and two over the top projects.

First Place Best Residence between 3500-6000 sf, Claire Ownby Design, Candelaria Design. Architect, Schultz Development, Builder

First Place - Best Kitchen Design , Village at Mountain Shadows, Anita Lange, ASID, IMI Design, Candelaria Design, Architect, Cullum Homes Builder and Developer

We also see out HGTV Smart Home was featured in Scottsdale Modern Luxury Magazine and the home has now been given away!

Candelaria Design, Architect, Tiffany Brooks, Interiors, and Eagle Luxury Properties, Builder

Candelaria Design, Architect, Tiffany Brooks, Interiors, and Eagle Luxury Properties, Builder

Plenty of amazing projects on the boards and the remodeling work is booming. Yes, we do a ton of remodels and they actually make up about 70% of our workload. We love them. We have remodels as far away as Long Island so they don’t just have to be here.

And of course there is always some time to get some cooking in. As you know I love to cook – the gratification is a lot faster than architecture and I enjoy eating the creations…..not sure I would enjoy eating a set of plans. With this week’s posts on our social media its seems the smoked peaches got the most attention and requests for the recipe so here it goes:

Smoked Peaches over Cinnamon Swirl Ice Cream

Purchase some nice fresh peaches – not too firm and definitely not too ripe. Split the peaches in half and remove the pit. Brush the peaches with canola oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar and some ground clove. Go easy – just a nice dusting.

You can then grill these on your weber or gas grille or even on a grill pan on the stove or a panni press. Or you can set them on your smoker and smoke them for about an hour and soak up that smoky flavor.

Serve a scoop (or two) of cinnamon swirl ice cream, and dice the smoked/grilled peaches and top the ice cream. Add a sprig of mint and fresh whip cream and you can always add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Delicious!

Update on Isabel

Again thank you for all the calls, posts, cards, flowers, dinners, and most importantly, prayers!!! We appreciate them so much and they definitely make a difference to both of us. Isabel continues to do great. Her hairline is in fact catching up with mine and she wore some of her fun wigs this weekend. Her attitude constantly inspires me and lifts me up. The side effects are still, thank God, minimal so that is good. Five treatments completed so we are done with the first quarter. Thanks everyone for your energy. 

Candelaria Design Wine Tour in Spain

Wine Tour in Rioja and the Basque Country

A couple quick updates, my three Team Directors attended a three day workshop on management, goal setting, and strategic planning in Newport, CA and then my Associates, Vivian, Evelyn, and I joined them after they completed the program for a weekend retreat where we could all work together to lay out our one year, five year, and ten year goals. We had a very productive weekend and we have some super exciting goals and plans for the years ahead! I am so proud of this group and their commitment to our company’s vision, their team members, and each other. Such fantastic energy and the future of Candelaria Design is set for years to come.

Ok so I have not finished the Spain blogs so let’s get back to that…..

Halfway through our Candelaria Spain Tour now and settled in at our hotel in LaGuardia in the wonderful Basque Wine Country. Today is Monday and our day to get into the wine of the region and some of the fantastic architecture just a stone’s throw from our village.

Our first stop was the spectacular Ysios Winery with off the chart architecture. Designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatravas, the structure celebrates and mimics the undulating Sierra de Cantabria mountains that form the backdrop to this architectural sculpture.

The 8000 square foot building feels like a church and I could not but help feel the spirituality and celebration of wine in this space. To top it off the wine was spectacular but not available anywhere outside of Spain so we purchased several bottles to enjoy while here.

From San Ysios we drove a few miles to the Hotel and Bodegas Marque’s de Riscal designed by American architect, Frank Gehry. This place is amazing and I have always admired Frank Gehry’s work but never been like a huge fan but that changed on this trip. This hotel, like most of his work, is a sculpture, a piece of art, you can walk into. But beyond that his work incorporates cutting edge technology – with glass, metal, structure. The perfect blend of art and technology – the embodiment of the word “architecture”

We enjoyed a nice lunch on the terrace with the old architecture of the neighboring village in the distance – the perfect contrast. What a fabulous light lunch of an egg over roasted red peppers in oil and garlic, smoked octopus, beef cheek sliders all topped off with some spectacular wine. Delicious.

We then made our way to the nearby village to just relax in the main plaza and simply enjoy the people and a Monday afternoon. Many times it’s the simple things like this that just put a trip like this in perspective – its real.

After our day in wine country it was time to come back to LaGuardia and catch up with the rest of our crew for dinner. Everyone went on their own little adventures – another big advantage to having your own cars. What is fun now is sharing our stories and experiences from the day. We all gathered in a fun little restaurant right in the heart of LaGuardia. Quiet and only locals including the town priest enjoying a glass of wine at the bar on what I’m sure he thought would be just another uneventful Monday evening. Little did he know the Candelaria Tour Spain was ready for some fun. Fabulous food, fantastic wine, which led to singing, transitioning to dancing, and we had no choice but to get the town priest involved in our festivities! What a fantastic evening, finishing with cigars and port back at the hotel with the owner of our hotel where we discussed travel, architecture, life, and cooking! Through it all I was offered the opportunity to spend an evening in the kitchen with the hotel restaurant chef….but that’s another blog to come!


Update on Isabel

First and foremost, thanks for all the cards, flowers, dinners, and most importantly, prayers!!! They are all appreciated so much by both of us and its so nice to not feel alone in this journey. You are ALL wonderful and we are truly blessed. Isabel is doing great – her hairline is catching up with mine but I must say I love her new do! The side effects have been minimal so far and she is a quarter of the way through her chemo treatments. She inspires me with her attitude and sense of humor. She is amazing! 

Summer Adventures

Happy July to you all. I hope you are all managing to get some escape time from the Arizona heat and now let’s tack on the monsoon!

Quick update on Isabel – First, thank you all so much for the prayers, kind words, and healing energy she is getting. We feel so blessed to have so many wonderful friends and the power of this is definitely felt and appreciated. Isabel had her first chemo treatment this past Wednesday and so far, she is doing well and has had no adverse side effects so please keep those prayers coming. She is busy attending meetings, designing, and working away with her team at Earth and Images which she loves so much. She has set up a Caring Bridge account at and so I invite you to follow her battle there!

Meanwhile, we did get away to Colorado for the week of the Fourth with some family time in the high country off the grid with no cell service or wifi for nine days! I made it….and actually really enjoyed it. We stayed in a wonderful cabin compound in a small mining village of Platoro, Colorado up at about the 10,000 foot elevation. Ok this is not Park City, Telluride or Tahoe….. no this is Platoro. Simple, isolated, unpretentious and totally casual and just what we needed given the last few weeks.

As we always manage to do in Candelaria Style we threw in some excitement. This time in the form of rolling Isabel’s Highlander down a 40’ embankment while jeeping in the high country. Fortunately, Isabel was not with us but I had my two girls and Isabel’s mom in the car when we went over the edge. Basically, another car was coming up while we were going down and as we nudged over for us both to pass we got a little too close to the edge and the next thing we knew we were rolling down the embankment. Fortunately, a spruce tree stopped us or we would have gone a lot further. We landed upright, crawled out of the vehicle and shimmied up the embankment which was actually more of a challenge than the roll down the hill. We all made it without a scratch and the people who passed by us kindly helped us with the rescue and then took us back to our cabins. Needless to say, it was a miracle we all survived and especially with no injuries.

We had a great time the rest of the trip. All of Isabel’s cousins and their kids, and her Aunt and Uncle, all made it up towards the end of the trip and we had some fun jeeping, caught some fish, did some hiking, plenty of good cooking and I also had time to paint a painting of my Isabel while on a boat on Lake Como on our wedding day! I hadn’t painted in years so it was nice to draw/paint something other than roof tiles and stucco! I am definitely going to do more so get ready as I plan to paint my friends and clients, travels, and of course – architecture. 

We are all safely home now and back to work. Lots of cool projects on the boards and under construction now with projects from the Hamptons to the Oregon Coast line. I love it. We also are very proud to be featured in the current issue of Luxe Magazine with a beautiful home we created with Vallone Design , Berghoff Design  and masterfully constructed by Schultz Development on the Paradise Valley Country Club. Outstanding job by my associate, architect, Jeff Kramer! What a wonderful home for absolutely fantastic clients and friends. Pick up a copy and check it out!

We also just had a remodel featured in Houzz. This project was a whole house remodel built by True Performance with interiors by my wife, Isabel and her team at Earth and Images. The project was spearheaded by our Project Manager, Damon Wake. Houzz featured the Kitchen Makeover – our Kitchen is number three – Transitional  More to come on this makeover I am sure.

We are also happy to see the winner announced on our Candelaria Design HGTV Smart Home 2017 right here in Scottsdale, AZ. So exciting to see her happiness and I look forward to cooking a Candelaria meal in her new kitchen! 

Finally, make sure to give us your VOTE on the Ranking Arizona site for best residential architect! We have ranked number 1 I believe 5 out of the last 6 years so THANK YOU for the votes. Go to Real Estate – Residential, then Architectural Firms Residential, then scroll to Candelaria Design and cast your vote. You can vote every day for the next 15 days!!!!

Finally, this week a group of our Candelaria Team will be heading to Newport Beach, CA for our second year of leadership, management, and career development training with MAPS I first did this program in 1999 and have loved what it has done for me. A group of us did this last year and we are excited to get more members of our team on board. So we may be a bit shorthanded as we head to the end of the week as Vivian, Evelyn, and I will also be flying out to do some long term planning with our other team members.

We are excited about the second half of the year. It is definitely getting busier and the Phoenix market is picking up for sure. Ok off to the drafting table! Have a great July everyone! 


Life's Challenges - Our Unique Journey

Life is never truly real. Our perception of the world is unique to us and only exists in our reality and through our experiences. As much as we think everyone sees and experiences the world as we do there can really be nothing more further from the truth. We are born, we grow, we love, we mate and some of us create offspring and then we die….no different than any of the plants and animals of the earth. I have been fortunate to have really done it all. I have lived and continue to live a full life. I have done far more than I ever imagined as a child. I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams with three beautiful daughters who I love more than they will ever know. I have married and divorced, married and divorced and finally married my dream love of my life – my Isabel. It is all my reality…..No one else can understand my experience and none of us have any idea where life will take us from here.

What I have learned is life is constantly changing, evolving, and provoking us. Just when you think you have made it through all the potholes and hurdles of life, God in his infinite wisdom finds new challenges to confront you with. And so God, and his unfathomable sense of humor, has set before Isabel and I a whole new reality that we will now deal with. You see a few weeks ago, my lovely Isabel, the love of my life, my angel on earth, was diagnosed with cancer. It doesn't even seem real that I’m typing this yet in some strange way it is so therapeutic to get this out and share it with all of you. I know how much I love her and I also know how much you all do too. There is so much strength in sharing this and the healing energy it will manifest.

In the weeks and months ahead this will be of primary focus along with the needs of my family. My team at Candelaria Design and Isabel’s team at Earth and Images are ready and more than willing to help us through this. Isabel and I will still be designing and working on all of our shared projects as our work is really who we are, but we will be doing so more from home and calling in for meetings so I hope you all understand and we both thank you all in advance. We will likely have some meetings at Casa Candelaria and of course will do our best to keep up with the Sunday Family Meals at Casa Candelaria. We hope you can all come by as these are so healing for both of us.

I ask you to all hold Isabel in your prayers in the weeks and months ahead. She had her first surgery yesterday to get her “port” installed for her chemo delivery system and is resting this weekend. Overall she is feeling fine and is strong and ready for this challenge. Of course we are both apprehensive of what lies ahead but we are filled with faith in God’s path for us and knowing our friends and family are there makes an enormous difference. God bless you all and we will do our best to keep you informed of her progress with her fight ahead. 

A Free Day in the Basque Wine Country

It's about this point on our tours where everyone just needs a good down day and given it was Sunday and we had all settled into the Basque Wine Country it was the perfect day to just chill.

Our Hospederia de los Parajes has a lovely spa so Isabel and I decided that today we would sleep in and then start our day with some spa time at 11 am followed by a massage. Not a bad way to unwind for sure. The spa here is down in the basement in essence a cave – what a great feeling, dark, cool and because your reserve the spa area it was nice and private. Alternating between the spa and the steam shower for an hour followed by the massage was absolute heaven.




We then went for a walk through the village and a wonderful lunch on the street – likely one of my best meals of the trip. So nice to just chill and have nothing on our agenda but to sit an chat about our lives, our futures, and our dreams to the sounds of conversations in Spanish that we cannot understand so they sort of become this lovely non distracting background noise.

Another afternoon siesta and then it was time to gather our troops, who had also all had a free day, and head to the Rioja capital of Haro. Isabel, my good friend Laurie, my girls and I stayed here over the Holidays on our scouting trip and so it was quite interesting to see it now in the summer. Just as lovely but definitely with a more upbeat and lively vibe. We enjoyed cocktails first at our rendezvous spot, the Hotel Los Agustinos  and its lovely atrium courtyard. Gradually all of our travelers made it and we all began to compare notes on our free day. It was wonderful to hear all of the stories from spa time for some, to some who got an early start on the wine tours, another two went and explored nearby villages and then finally two of my travelers who found a golf course and got 18 holes in and buried a golf cart in quicksand along the way! Like I say, having our own cars is the best and I could see my travelers starting to get their wings underneath them and starting to explore!

Hotel Los Augustinos in Haro

Hotel Los Augustinos in Haro

With our initial cocktails enjoyed we then walked the streets of Haro past the main plaza to the street with the cathedral and our restaurant, Beethoven II . My family and our good friend Laurie had a fabulous dinner here during the Holidays, and it did not disappoint again!


With dinner completed along with several bottles of wine it was time to make our way back but not until I caught the sound of a local gentleman singing to a friend. I could not resist and came up on them to capture his singing in a video, whereby when he finished I commenced to offer my own part to this composition! I loved the look on his buddies when I broke into full opera. What fun and what a great way to make more friends in Spain!

On the Road to Laguardia and the Basque Wine Country

We had a fantastic time in San Sebastián – its pretty hard not to!

So now it was time to head to the country just like we do on our Italy tours. Of course most tours would charter a bus but I have found that my travelers love having their own cars and the freedom and privacy it affords them, especially in the country. So we did board several vans at the Hotel Londres for the San Sebastián airport and Europcar where we rented our sedans. Each couple has their own car and we get our convoy in order and head out for the Basque Wine country.

First, I cannot tell you how nice the roads and highways are in Spain! Impeccable! Wider than Italy, well marked, and not one pothole this entire trip. Yes there are tolls along the way, but I would say well worth the price.

The road trip from San Sebastián to the Basque Wine country starts with lush greenery brought to life from the sea. As you rise in elevation the trees transition to pines and if I just woke up from a nap you would swear you were on I-90 driving through western Montana. Absolutely beautiful.

Once you cross the divide the mountains act as a dam for the sea moisture just like the Sierra Nevada do in California and then the air dries and the greenery slowly diminishes to what then looks like the landscape around Cordes Junction which also has now a number of wineries. Rolling hills line with vineyards all embraced by lovely mountain ranges.

We drive up and down the hills and slowly make our way to our next venue, Laguardia. Laguardia is one of many little walled, medieval, hilltop villages that time has forgotten. Of course we were arriving on a Saturday and let’s just say the tourists as well as the locals have not forgotten this town – it was packed. No place to park so we just had to wait our turns for stalls to open in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. With the cars parked we needed to schlep our bags up the hill, through the walled entrance, and through the narrow streets to our hotel, the Hospederia de Los Parajes.

What a lovely spot right in the middle of the village and a very cool mix of the old with the modern. We got settled in and then all made our way outside to explore the village, grab some lunch and then a nice siesta….yes we were all unknowingly embracing the life of a Spaniard!

Well, one true trait of Spanish culture is the fact that dinner does not start until 9 pm. Usually, Isabel and I are just wrapping up for the evening as we both like to get up at 4am. But not here in Spain. Our first dinner in the country was a welcome dinner hosted by Candelaria Design right here in the hotel and starting at 9pm and finishing sometime around midnight! Fabulous way to start our time in the country and the food was fantastic.

The evening finished with a walk around the village perimeter and then down the narrow streets with a nightcap and a cigar and stories shared by all of our journey to the Basque Wine Country. 

San Sebastian Day 4 - Fine Dining at Akelare'

On Day 4 we all got a chance to enjoy San Sebastián but it would be our last full day here.

I started the day with a nice walk with my good friend Larry Peery who along with his lovely partner, Gloria Ipock, were joining us on their second trip together and Larry’s third trip with me. Larry and I met in 1983 when we collaborated on back in 1983 with him as the builder and me as architect. Some 34 years later we are still the best of friends. What an absolute pleasure it is to have this time together and enjoy some good chats, some wonderful meals and of course a cigar or two along the way.

We enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and some pastries and then made our way back to the hotel to rendezvous with our ladies for a day of sightseeing and shopping. The girls shopped and had a total blast and I enjoyed the architecture.

We stopped for a nice glass of wine and some spritzes and just enjoyed Spain passing by. So nice to just take some time with no rush and just daydream, laugh and chat with two of my most repeat travelers!!! Boy have the four of us had fun over the years and how our lives have changed and transitioned since our first trip together which was in 2012. On that trip to Italy I was still going through my divorce, Isabel was on her first trip with me, and Rebecca had just separated from her husband. Now Isabel and I are happily married, and Rebecca is happily remarried, and Gicela is still just plain happy – as always! I wonder where we will all be five years from now…..?




To finish our time in San Sebastián a group of us booked dinner at the 3 star Michelin restaurant, Akelarre just outside of San Sebastián.

Ok first – the architecture and setting are beyond words so even if the food was average I would have been thrilled but then the food comes over a 16 courses and four hours and satisfied is a mere understatement. This is beyond spectacular.


Here was the Menu:

Prawns and Green Beans cooked in “Orujo” Flame and sea roes

Chickpeas and Violet Potato, not Conventional at all

Sourced kokotxa, white Garlic Pil-Pil

Hake in Seaweed stem, Piancton and Oyster Leaf

Squid as a Risotto, Butter Flower

Grilled Lamb Loin. Salad in Skein. Mushrooms and Sweetbreads

Melting Cupcake

A Different Apple Tart

Add a spectacular sunset, fine wine, and of course our wonderful group of travelers and all the ingredients were in place for one of the most memorable dinners of my life.

San Sebastian - Cooking in the Basque Country

With our first two days completed comprised mostly of travel and one fun evening here in San Sebastián it was now time for our first full day in this marvelous country. And of course there is only one way to get into the culture and style of this Basque region than through cooking! Our first full day would start at the Mimo San Sebastián School of Cooking and a 4 hour cooking class followed by dinner paired with Basque wines from the region. Nothing like starting this at 10 am!!!

We started the day waking up to a beautiful moon set on one horizon and a lovely sun rise on the other. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and then a nice ten minute walk through San Sebastián to the Hotel Maria Cristina where we enjoyed a quick café con leche and water and then it was time to get the aprons on and get down to business!

I love to cook as you all know. Architecture is a slow process many times taking years while a meal can be prepared and enjoyed in a few hours! So many similarities between the two however, from planning, executing, key ingredients, composition and patience.

Our menu today consisted of delicious langostinos, seared steaks, peppers and sausages with tortillas, and a sous vide hake. All fabulous. I highly recommend the Mimi School of Cooking as a way to appreciate the culture of the Basque region. This is gourmet cooking at its best and what is wonderful is how fun they make the experience. Definitely nothing to be intimidated about. They explained the techniques, science, and traditions of this amazing cuisine which only made our subsequent meals so much more meaningful.

With our cooking class completed we were all free to enjoy the day as we chose. Some (actually most) of us went back for siestas – a well practiced tradition here in Spain! What was crazy was when we laid down for our hiatus it was sunny no 85º and when we woke up from our three hour rest it was cold, cloudy and ready to rain! I thought maybe I had slept through the entire day. But that’s how fast the weather can change here on the north coast of Spain!

With a little catch up on the rest we did a little shopping and time to take in some of the fabulous architecture and then of course it was tapas time again! Nothing quite like the roasted beef cheek on mashed potatoes or the duck foie gras served with white chocolate foam and vanilla toasts! Heaven. Our final two travelers arrived after their two day excursion and then the party was really on. Our Candelaria Design Tour Spain was fully underway!

Hola from Espana 2017

We are off to Spain on our first Candelaria Design Tour Spain! We are having a fantastic time and I am writing this blog from Laguardia, Spain and the Hotel de los Parajes.  in the Basque Wine Country.


This is our 15th Candelaria Design Tour with of course 14 of them being in Italy but our repeat travelers were ready for something new and Spain is one of my favorite countries and this tour is totally reconfirming this! Eight of my 13 travelers are repeat travelers with three of my travelers having joined me on over six trips.

We started this year’s tour of Spain in the absolutely spectacular city of San Sebastian’ on the north coast of Spain in the heart of the Basque Country. This is one of my favorite cities in the world and has more restaurants per capita than any city in the world including a number of three star Michelin restaurants. If you are a foodie then this is your heaven on this earth.

Our journey began in Phoenix and we flew through London then a stop in Madrid and then our final destination, San Sebastian. All in all some 22 hours of traveling having left Phoenix at 2:30 pm local time on Tuesday and arriving in San Sebastian on Wednesday at 5pm local time (8am in Phoenix). Of course, with a couple tight connections due to flight delays our bags didn’t quite keep pace with us so our trip from the airport to our hotel was nice and light! We were fortunate to rendezvous with two of our travelers who came early and had just arrived from France. Another traveler came by train from Madrid and my two other travelers from Atlanta had their flight canceled in Atlanta and so they had an extra day of travel thrown onto their itinerary!


From the airport to the hotel was about a 30-minute ride that just gets more and more beautiful as we make our way towards the city center and our arrival at the Hotel Londres! I love this hotel and stayed here with the family over the Holidays on our scouting trip. Located in the heart of the city, the hotel is situated along the beach of the La Concha Bay with stellar views from all of our rooms of the beach and city. The weather was perfect and after getting settled and freshened up, it was time to go and get some tapas/pinchos!

The tapas/pinchos experience in Spain is unique and never the same in the States. First of all, with all of our codes and health requirements you can’t just have tapas sitting on an open platter for everyone to grab. With a glass screen guard separating you it loses its magic! Not here – grab a plate and start making your selections. Take your plate to the bartender, grab a glass of vino tinto or a cerveza and close out your tab and enjoy. Try a few in one place and move onto the next…..talking, laughing and never really ever filling up!

Dinnertime in Spain is late and we got started about 9pm which after flying for 22 hours seemed impossible, but the adrenaline kicks in and off you go with new life and energy fueled further by the fantastic nourishment from the fresh and un-doctored food and wine from Spain!

After several hours of tapas hopping we finished in style by eating fresh cheesecake on the street with red wine! Our trip to food heaven had begun!

Summer is Here - We are off to Spain!

Welcome to Summer…. Yes those 100º plus days are here!

In fact, in just 2 days we are off on our first Candelaria Design Tour Spain! We have 13 travelers going on what I know is going to be a spectacular trip. From the wildly creative architecture of Antonio Gaudi to the equally out of the box work of Frank Gehry, my travelers are going to see some amazing architecture and experience some fabulous Spanish wine and cuisine. You can follow our tour right here on our blog and on our Candelaria Design Tours Page on Facebook and Instagram.


We do have a number of spots still open for our September Candelaria Design Tour Italy Tour departing September 20th and finishing in Venice on October 4th! This will be a fantastic tour – our 15th – and we already have a wonderful group going so don’t wait to join us on this year’s tour!


The drawing for the winner of the Candelaria Design HGTV Smart Home 2017 will be coming up June 12th so stay tune to that on HGTV! You can enter each day right here -


Last weekend Isabel and I enjoyed a wonderful weekend at the Mii Amo Spa at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona that I designed with my mentor and former partner, the late, George W. Christensen. I have not spent a night here since 1987 some thirty years ago. I am not sure what I have been waiting for! I love this place and especially the spa. We did not design the spa but I wish I did – it is fabulous. I have been to many spas across the world and this definitely ranks as one of the best I have ever experienced. What fun to stay here and relive so many memories of the creation of this place which you can read in my blog about Enchantment -

The late John Gardiner, Merv Griffin, George Christensen and Mark Candelaria

The late John Gardiner, Merv Griffin, George Christensen and Mark Candelaria

The Enchantment Clubhouse

The Enchantment Clubhouse

The Enchantment Clubhouse

The Enchantment Clubhouse

The Enchantment Casita

The Enchantment Casita


Isabel and I enjoyed two days here after our Friday/Saturday trip to Flagstaff to check on two of our projects in Pine Canyon, and a potential new one in Forest Highlands! I love it up here and it’s so nice for this Durango, Colorado boy to be doing some more mountain work!

New Candelaria Design home on Pine Canyon Country Club

New Candelaria Design home on Pine Canyon Country Club

Isabel, Ryan Serhant, and MC

Isabel, Ryan Serhant, and MC

Just before our trip to Flagstaff we were in New York for the Premiere of our friend Ryan Serhant’s show Million Dollar Listings, NYC! We were proud to be a sponsor so graciously set up by our good friend Margurite Brown who also appointed me to a panel with Caesarstone at the Hearst Publications Tower where we spoke about the trends in Kitchen design. What an honor to be a part of this panel with designers from across the world. I will write a separate blog about the trends that were identified by the panel which I know you will find interesting.

MC at Caesarstone Design Panel at Hearst Publishing, NYC

MC at Caesarstone Design Panel at Hearst Publishing, NYC

Enjoying the premier of Million Dollar Listing in NYC

Enjoying the premier of Million Dollar Listing in NYC


The day before our trip to New York, Isabel and I made paella for the highest bidder of one of our catered dinners in her home on behalf of PANDA which we are big supporters of -

Well the winner happened to be our client Sue Ross who won the same dinner a year ago. We had so much fun last year that she made sure she won it again this year. What wonderful guests, one of my client’s and former editor for Food and Wine Magazine in NY, Susy Davidson and her husband Bill Entringer, whose home I remodeled in Troon and their friend, Barbara Fenzl, who is the head of the Les Gourmettes Cooking School. Ok no pressure. Well we nailed it including a new limoncello pie I made that morning at 3am. It turned out great and I will share the recipe because it is a good one for summer.

MC and client/friend Sue Ross in her fabulous Kitchen

MC and client/friend Sue Ross in her fabulous Kitchen


Ok that was last week….. this week after our return home from Sedona Isabel and I appeared on Sonoran Living on Arizona ABC 15 compliments of our good friend, David Neshibori, of AZADI Fine Rugs. Love seeing our Candelaria Design project on their banner page!

In our three minute spot we spoke about de-browning homes and a recent home where we did a de-brown makeover! Fun time and wonderful exposure – thanks again David!


Then it was off to Lake Tahoe with good friend, Frank DeBlasi Wealth Manager for US Bank, where I visited Martis Camp and met with the sales team to get some Candelaria Design projects going there with a focus on the remodel and renovation market which is growing incredibly now that the project is nearly built out. Yes, Martis Camp needs to be de-browned too! We had a great trip and met many interesting people. What a beautiful development and area and if you get a chance to consider the perfect spot for a second mountain home, Martis Camp would be one of my first choices.     

Mark Murrell, Martis Camp Sales Team, MC and Frank DeBlasi US Bank - Lake Tahoe

Mark Murrell, Martis Camp Sales Team, MC and Frank DeBlasi US Bank - Lake Tahoe


So, in the midst of all these travels we do have a couple announcements. First, we announced our Candelaria Design MVP for 2017 chosen by the Candelaria Design staff themselves. This year’s winner is Meredith Thomson!!!! I am so proud to announce this as Meredith is a rock star. I will be writing a blog just about her, her career, and her time here at Candelaria Design. We are very fortunate to have her as a part of our team.

Meredith Thomson

Meredith Thomson


Then to just add to our rock stars of women at CDA, Vivian Ayala officially purchased her first shares of Candelaria Design and is now officially a Principal and Partner of Candelaria Design. Vivian has been with me over 18 years and is so deserving of this partnership promotion and opportunity. I’m not retiring – yet! I still have a 6th grader so I have a way to go but it is nice to have this all in place with our new operating agreement that allows not only Vivian, but others, to take ownership of the firm when I am ready to slow down!

Principal / Partner Vivian Ayala

Principal / Partner Vivian Ayala

Finally, we do say goodbye to Rob Banach who joined us about five years ago. Rob will be missed for sure and we wish him and his lovely family all the best!




Well more to come along with some wonderful recipes and of course our Spain trip in the days and weeks ahead so stay tuned. Where is everyone off to for the summer???? Thanks for reading and viewing our Candelaria Design Blog!