Category Archives: Wining & Dining
In anticipation of our state’s 100th birthday, we’ll be posting Centennial-related posts so you’ll know what’s what as we approach February 14 — a.k.a THE BIG DAY.
For those of you who love to cook (and those of you planning on celebrating the Centennial with food), this cookbook is a must-have, plus it’s been designated an official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission.
Translation: This book is a big deal.
100 Years, 100 Chefs, 100 Recipes is a collection of recipes from chefs across the state…. We’re talking famous James Beard award winners, distinguished chefs and even mom and pop cooks — folks who have helped shaped the way people taste the Grand Canyon State.
The book was compiled by writers Nikki Buchanan (Arizona Highways, The Arizona Republic), Michele Laudig (The Arizona Republic, Edible Phoenix) and Dawson Fearnow (Scottsdale CVB, Phoenix New Times, The Arizona Republic, former editor-in-chief at Desert Living Today and Arizona Foothills Magazine). Arizona’s Historian, Marshall Trimble, will introduce each region of Arizona with a bit of history about the cities, economy, businesses, agriculture and gastronomical achievements of each area.
So, who made the cut? Let’s just say it’s a pretty impressive roster and here are just a few names:
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza
The Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge
Chef Amanda Stine
House of Tricks
Chef Kelly Eugene Fletcher
St. Francis Restaurant
Chef Aaron Chamberlin
Chef David Schmidt
Litchfield’s at Wigwam
Chef Matt McLinn
Chef Lester Gonzalez
Chef Mark Tarbell
Molly Butler Lodge
Chef Ruben Irigoyan
Chef Matt McTigue
Chef Jeff Smedstad
In case you haven’t noticed, we are loco for local here at Arizona Highways (you’ll see what I mean when our March 2012 issue hits stands), and it’s always great to read about the fantastic progress being made by our very own Local First Arizona.
The organization recently posted their year-in-review on their Website and I have to say, I was really impressed…. this group is working incredibly hard to promote local businesses throughout the state, while at the same time, making Arizona a destination — that’s good for me, for you and for future Arizonans.
OK, so check it out:
The Buy Local movement has over 2,000 members across the state and that number continues to grow every day.
The movement has managed to “capture the attention of the Arizona media in a profound and meaningful way. The “Buy Local” movement has been featured:”
- Over 28 times on TV! Members AZ-TV and Channel 8 continue to graciously support us, as well as Channel 3 Phoenix, Channel 13 Tucson and Channel 15 Phoenix. Sonoran Living and Your Life A to Z have invited us back again and again to tell the local story! Thanks for all of the coverage and support and thanks to all of our members who helped us put the segments together!
- Over 22 times on the radio! We’ve been featured on the Steve Henry show, several times on Rosie on the House, The McMahon Group, All Things Considered, and more. Thanks to the support of KJZZ, KTAR and others who continue to champion local causes
- Articles in Arizona Highways, Phoenix New Times, Arizona Republic, Arcadia News, Desert Living Today, The Business Journal, East Valley Tribune, Arizona Daily Sun, The Camp Verde/Cottonwood Journal, Payson Roundup, Sierra Vista Herald, Williams News, The State Press, The College Times, The Downtown Devil, frontdoors, Raising Arizona Kids, Downtown Phoenix Journal, Your West Valley, Tucson Weekly, Inside Tucson Business, Tucson Citizen, Sonoran News, Phoenix Magazine, Green Living Magazine, Discover the Region and lots more!
- The Independents Week celebration in July brought over 9,200 visitors to our Golden Coupon page on the Local First website, and we got over 620 BUY LOCAL mentions on NPR radio in one week!
- This year’s Certified Local Fall Festival at the Duck and Decanter attracted over 6,000 people, 65+ vendors and 40+ volunteers. Thanks to the huge number of participants this year- it’s such a great day to celebrate Arizona!
- Local First launched our first Verde Valley Small Wonders map featuring retail and dining destinations in Jerome and Cottonwood.
- Local First helped to form a coalition called Devour Phoenix, a group of 25+ restaurateurs in and around the Phoenix area that have banded together to promote the city as a premier dining destination.
- The second annual Devoured Culinary Classic at the Phoenix Art Museum won best Southwestern Culinary Festival from the New York Times and received other amazing accolades across the country. The event sold out and local chefs reported they had an amazing experience. Next year’s Culinary Classic will be March 10th and 11th, and you can get your tickets now at www.devouredphoenix.com.
- Local First Arizona won a grant from the ACA to expand programs into rural communities across Arizona, and boy have we expanded! Our team went to Cottonwood, Bisbee, Sonoita, Prescott and Kingman to share tools and resources to help strengthen the main streets in each of these communities.
Well done friends and keep up the good work!
And hey, don’t forget to tell us your favorite local hotspot!
This weekend, come out to the Duck and Decanter in PHX and celebrate locally owned businesses at the 7th Annual Certified Local Fall Festival presented by Local First Arizona. This is a fantastic opportunity to support those local businesses (think Zia Records, Desert Song Yoga, Noble Beast Pet Boutique, Bookmans, Smeeks Candy Shop and a WHOLE lot more) that help boost the state’s economy.
Local First Arizona is the largest dues-paying alliance of independent businesses in the country, working to strengthen communities and local economies through supporting, maintaining and celebrating locally owned business throughout the state.
Now, you might think buying local costs more or maybe it doesn’t really impact our economy very much… Well, think again. We spoke with Kimber Lanning, the Founder and Executive Director of Local First Arizona, about this weekend’s event and why buying local is a very good thing.
Why should Arizonans care about purchasing local?
Dollars spent locally circulate up to three times more in the local economy. When someone chooses to buy locally, that local business owner in turn hires a local attorney, accountant, graphic designer, PR company and/or sign maker to help support their business. This keeps money re-circulating locally and helps creates jobs.
How did this festival get started?
Seven years ago, we decided we needed a “day to celebrate Arizona,” and so we called some of our members and the festival was born.
How can buying local make a difference within the community?
Buying locally keeps more dollars at home and creates more tax revenues for things like libraries, schools and fire departments. In addition, jobs and opportunities are created when local businesses thrive.
What are some local brands that people may already be familiar with?
Hickman’s Eggs, Harkins’ Theaters, Bashas’ and Food City, Shamrock Dairy products, China Mist Tea, Community Tire, are just a few you may have heard of.
What can folks expect from the festival?
Over 60 local vendors including Bookman’s, Frances, Practical Art, Kidstop Toys, Mountainside Fitness and more will be on hand; 15 of the best restaurants in town will be giving out free food samples, including Postino, Spinato’s, America’s Taco, Green, St Francis, and more; there will be live music, a beer and wine garden serving up Arizona wine and beer; and fun stuff for kids of all ages, including a craft booth, rock climbing wall and a bounce house.
Some people may think local costs more to buy… Is this true?
It’s definitely not always more expensive to buy locally. Harkins’ Theaters, for example, is the exact same price as their national competitor. Local tireshops, pharmacies, services of all kinds and, of course, things like Hickman’s Eggs are not more expensive. There are also lots of local second hand businesses like Bookman’s, Changing Hands, Buffalo Exchange and more.
Where: Duck and Decanter, 1651 E Camelback, Phoenix
When: Saturday, Nov 12
>>Photo by Rick D’Elia of D’Elia Photographic © 2010
Arizona is definitely a foodie’s paradise… despite what some of the critics might say, we serve up some tasty food (a road trip crisscrossing the state will certainly prove me right), and we have a knack for taking a really good invention — like the taco — and making it WAY better.
So it’s not surprising that cities across our state play host to various culinary events, which focus on the art of food… however, when I heard about this particular event, I was intrigued.
The Second Annual Taco Festival, held on October 15, brought out pros and amateurs alike to battle it out for a $7,500 prize… and, of course, bragging rights. Scoff if you will, but this event not only brought out around 10,000 people, but it was a serious competition for some folks… and for the Grand Champion, the event was a sort of coming out party.
Chef Dave Conn — the Chef de Cuisine for three dining destinations by Chef Jose Garces, including Distrito at The Saguaro in Downtown Scottsdale — and his team took down the competition and set the stage for things to come at Distrito… like really good food.
Below, Conn talks about his big win and why the taco has been elevated to an art form.
What team were you on? How many people were on your team?
I competed in the Arizona Taco Festival with my colleagues from Distrito at The Saguaro. Distrito is a modern Mexican restaurant owned by Chef Jose Garces, who also created our menu (including the tacos), and The Saguaro is a new boutique hotel opening this November in Scottsdale. Distrito will be open in mid-December. In all, 8 people joined our team for the Taco Festival.
You’re a well-known chef… Why decide to compete in a taco making competition?
Well, actually I work with Chef Garces, who is well-known across the county for his amazing restaurants and as one of seven Iron Chef’s on the Food Network. As a team, we participated because it seemed like a great way to introduce ourselves to our new neighbors here in Scottsdale. Not to mention that it was a lot of fun!
What do you say to people, cynics, who are like, ‘it’s just a taco?‘
Two words: try one.
What sets your taco apart from the masses?
Our tacos are made from top quality ingredients and prepared relatively simply; the slow-roasted ropa vieja chicken and fresh toppings really shine that way.
So, what does this win mean to you, your career?
I am looking at this win as a warm welcome from our new home and an invitation to settle right into the Scottsdale food scene. We’re thrilled to be here.
What did you win?
The overall prize for Grand Champion; we also took the second place in the chicken and beef categories. And of course, we’re thrilled to have the signature ‘really gaudy trophy,’ as well.
Why is the taco being elevated to an art form?
All food is art, if it’s done right. Tacos are just finally getting their day in the sun.
Why is street food becoming so popular? What’s this shift all about?
Street food is authentic, flavorful, easy to eat and affordable – what’s not to like about that?
It’s the latest trend in gourmet food… food trucks. Yep, and if you haven’t had your lunch handed to you through a food truck window, you haven’t lived — truly.
Well, if you haven’t noshed on tasty eats from food truck (or you happen to REALLY love food truck eats), then you ought to check out the first EVER food truck festival happening this Saturday from 4-11pm on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. Tickets cost $30.
Think about it:
Good, local food.
Beer and wine garden (courtesy of Four Peaks Beer Truck and Dos Cabezas Winery).
OK, so while some people are in the food-truck-know, a lot of people just don’t get this trend that is blanketing the country… well, we thought we’d ask the man behind the mobile food movement here in Phoenix just what the fuss is all about, why people should hit up the festival and why these food trucks are NOT roach coaches…
Brad Moore is both the president of the Food Truck Coalition and one of its co-founders, and he and his wife own Short Leash Hotdogs (really yummy hotdogs made from Schreiners Fine Sausages and local ingredients, all served up on naan bread). Besides dishing out dogs from his truck with his partner-in-crime, Brad is also responsible for the creation of Food Truck Fridays in downtown Phoenix…
Check out our Q&A below:
So, this is the First Annual Food Truck Festival. How did it come to be?
We have an organization called The Phoenix Street Food Coalition and we are quickly growing. The members had the goal of having a festival and when Cindy Dach approached us with the possibility, we jumped on it. The partnership with her organization (Roosevelt Row CDC) has been remarkable, and without them it would not have been possible. They have helped us with the funding, organization and the basic support in believing in what we are building.
What can folks expect from this Saturday’s fest?
We have tried to learn from the big cities with hundreds of food trucks and what they have done with their festivals. What we have heard is that people would have to wait in line for tickets and then wait in line again for one truck’s food.
So, we are making this a more interactive event. Instead of full menus, we will be offering samples to encourage the customers to roam from truck to truck. It’s basically all you can eat. We will also have Four Peaks Beer Truck and Dos Cabezas Wine available for purchase. The purpose of our organization is to promote responsible street vending and collaboration. This event is a celebration of how far we have come and how much we have done as a group and we want people to taste each of our truck’s food.
OK, food trucks have had a pretty bad rap — how are you or how have you overcome that?
To be a member of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, you must meet our requirements and we vet each of the applicants based on the following: Concept and menu, independently owned and not a national franchise, the food must be specialty in nature, which includes scratch-made or artisan, and focused on local production in Arizona. All vendors are required to have 30% of their menu comprised of products produced in Arizona, must have a valid Maricopa County Environmental Service Permit, and all members must be compliant with city and state regulations. We believe that these standards set us apart from roach coaches and are changing the way the people view street food.
How does one get into the food truck business?
Jump and pray! Seriously! You have to do a lot of foot work. We have set up some basic check lists and details on our coalition website, but people really need to do their research. It’s interesting how many people come to us with $2000 and idea, but no research has been done. It costs a minimum of $50,000 to start up this kind of business and it is a lot of hard work. I always tell people it’s easiest to come up with a menu and work from a detailed business plan. This will help you determine the kind of truck you need and what equipment and will help you budget your food costs.
The festival sounds like a pretty good deal, what all is included in the ticket price?
It’s a great deal! You can eat from 26 trucks, plus there will be beer and wine for sale. We also have a full line-up of music hosted by Stinkweeds.
Any food trucks or brands I may have heard of?
We are proud to announce that we (Short Leash Hotdogs) just got awarded “Best Food Truck” in Phoenix this year by Phoenix New Times, Sweet Republic was voted USA Today’s top ice cream for 2011 and the Hey Joe truck won the “2011 Big Brain” award from the “Phoenix New Times.”
Food trucks have really taken off in PHX, what’s the appeal?
It’s funny, they haven’t taken off at the same speed of other cities. Our city is cautious, but loyal. They like what they like, and they really have to warm up to the idea. We started this group with five companies and have grown to 30, but have lost four along the way. In my opinion, the appeal for our particular group is that we are responsible, locally focused and have excellent products.
Do you think it’ll continue to grow?
It will keep growing and it’s interesting to see how the different cities will respond to the regulations and the trends. We have between 4-to-8 people approach us each week with their ideas and plans, and we have seen many of these people start the process. I expect to double that number by this time next year (or sooner).
You obviously have a coalition of food trucks, what’s next?
We have many locations that we are planning to develop or are in the process of developing. What we want to see is some permanent locations for trucks to go and be able to set up at all times — so you can always find truck food. We are hoping to unveil a location for this soon. We also want to do several more festivals and events.
>>Image provided by Brad Moore