It's no secret that here at The Hot Sheet, we're driven to showcase the best of the indie shops. Local businesses are what separates one city from another - one business from another. The charm, unique personality, service and - let's just face it - they're more fun places to be.
So as if you didn't have enough reason to visit a local boutique, restaurant, coffee shop, bar (okay, you get the gist), then this is your week - Independents Week. From today (June 28) through July 4, you get 20% off your purchases at participating members of Local First Arizona, a local non-profit to support independently owned businesses. And because Local First is such a cool organization, pretty much all your favorite places are on the list. (Check out the full list of participating shops.)
But just in case - in all your excitement - you are perplexed about where to visit first, here are a few of our top picks (click their pic to check 'em out):
See, now your week was looking busier than you thought! To get your 20% off Golden Coupon, and to see a full list of participants, check out the Local First site. Happy outings!
Ah, El Chorro - One of the icons of Phoenix dining, as much for it's food (including their famous sticky buns) as for the view - a straight shot of Camelback Mountain from the north side.
It started out in the '30s as a girls' school, then became a restaurant for all the hip-and-happening in the '50s. It had been run for decades by the same sweet couple, the Millers. But in 2009, after the Millers had said goodbye, Jacquie Dorrance (her husband, Bennett, an heir of Campbell's Soup) purchased it and set out to remodel a pillar of old Phoenix.
The Dorrances are known around town - if not personally, than in their philanthropy. The planetarium at the Arizona Science Center and the sculpture garden at Phoenix Art Museum bear the Dorrance name. So for their next project to be El Chorro was fitting to their history here and their love of Phoenix. The public, though, held its collective breath as rumors swirled about whether or not the new version of the restaurant would live up to its name.
El Chorro has been open for months now, and the verdict is in: It is every bit as amazing as the original (and maybe even more).
The views of Camelback Mountain were improved upon by nearly doubling the patio dining areas, the interior and exterior are bridged by a huge bar, and the inside of the restaurant was completely redesigned to be brighter. In every sense, though, it is the glamorously rustic space you hope for, and the feeling of the old El Chorro hasn't changed, thanks in part to the photos of old Phoenix set on the walls, the socializing under the sky, and yes - even the sticky buns are back.
There are also new, tucked-away areas that provide loads of charm. The patio has more fireplaces for the winter with big, cushy chairs (and by the way, misters run throughout the patio so even in the summer, the patio is 85 degrees), there is the organic garden, and beautiful lawns for events.
The food is equally impressive, even in the bar which draws the happy hour crowd to nosh on delicious appetizers and cool beverages.
All-in-all, El Chorro is not to be missed. It is in the top 5 places I would recommend to my own family and friends coming to town, so take that, dear readers, as a good recommendation.
El Chorro Lodge
5550 E Lincoln Dr.
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Just announced, Arizona Restaurant Week has firmed up the dates for 2010, and will be returning from September 18 - 26. (Wallets and palates rejoice!) This year will feature over 100 restaurants, each offering three-course meals for either $29 or $39 per person, of course not including drinks, tax and tip.
Every year this is the must-do week of culinary exploration, and water coolers are filled with chatter about "What did you try?" Each year we get asked for our top picks, and withholding judgment until the full list is out, here are some big highlights:
Lon's at the Hermosa Inn
True Food Kitchen
A more comprehensive (and ever-growing) list can be accessed here. Some of the Phoenix area's top chefs are already on the list and given previous years' participation, we're expecting a lot more to join soon.
One notable highlight this year - restaurants will have the option to offer gluten-fee dishes, which will be noted on the Arizona Restaurant Week web site, so if gluten is not your friend, make sure to check the options first.
Oh, and feel free to log your anticipation of the event on twitter, with the hashtag #ARW2010.
Arizona wines have become recognized in the industry (even accepted by wine snobs) over the last few years, but everyone's first question is - how do they fare compared to the best of California, Europe and elsewhere?
So Pavle Milic, co-owner of FnB (with his wife and chef, Charleen), decided to host a private blind tasting of Arizona wines, not an unlikely move for a restaurant that only serves Arizona wines. But they didn't skimp and they got the best of the best to taste, including Gary Vaynerchuk (host of web-sensation WineLibraryTV and NYT bestseller Crush It), Laura Williamson (one of only 108 Master Sommeliers in the world), Anne Rosenzweig (chef/food anthropologist from NYC), Tadeo Borchardt (winemaker from Neyers Vineyards in Napa) and local chefs Mark Tarbell and Chris Bianco (yes, of that Pizzeria Bianco).
Ten whites and ten reds were tasted, five of each were from Arizona, the other five from around the globe, and after an intense waiting period while Sommelier Journal tabulated the scores, results were announced. And my friends, it tasted delicious. Arizona wines won the top ranking in both whites and reds, and just like the Judgment of Paris (have you ever seen the movie "Bottle Shock?"), gasps and cheers rang out from the audience.
Here's the complete list of winners:
1. Callaghan 2008 'Lisa's (AZ)
2. Santa Margherita 2008 Pinot Grigio (Italy)
3. Cakebread Cellars 2008 Chardonnay (CA)
4. Caduceus 2008 'Dos Ladrones' (AZ)
5. Carlson Creek 2008 Chardonnay (AZ)
1. Caduceus 2008 'Nagual del Judith' (AZ)
2. Condado de Haza 2006 Ribiera del Duero (Spain)
3. Keeling Schaefer 2007 'Three Sisters' Syrah (AZ)
4. Arizona Stronghold 2008 'Nachise' (AZ)
5. Mollydooker 2008 'The Boxer' Shiraz (Australia)
Here's all the participants:
1. Page Springs 2008 La Serrana (AZ)
2. Callaghan 2008 'Lisa's (AZ)
3. Santa Margherita 2008 Pinot Grigio (Italy)
4. Conundrum 2008 Meritage (CA)
5. Caduceus 2008 'Dos Ladrones' (AZ)
6. Freitas 2009 Malvasia Bianca Private Reserve (AZ)
7. Carlson Creek 2008 Chardonnay (AZ)
8. Doyenne 2006 Metier (WA)
9. Turley 2007 'The White Coat' (CA)
10. Cakebread Cellars 2008 Chardonnay (CA)
1. Cotes du Rhone 2006 E. Guigal (France)
2. Carlson Creek 2008 Sangiovese (AZ)
3. Arizona Stronghold 2008 'Nachise' (AZ)
4. Ruffino 2007 'Aziano' Chianti Classico (Italy)
5. Dos Cabezas 2008 'El Campo' (AZ)
6. Mollydooker 2008 'The Boxer' Shiraz (Australia)
7. Caduceus 2008 'Nagual del Judith' (AZ)
8. Keeling Schaefer 2007 'Three Sisters' Syrah (AZ)
9. Chateau Lynch Bages 2005 Paulliac 'Grand Cru' (France)
10. Condado de Haza 2006 Ribiera del Duero (Spain)
Congratulations to all! Now scoot out to FnB to get your taste of the goodness:
7133 E Stetson Drive, Ste. 2
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
When you think of Arizona, large bodies of water, diverse marine creatures and underwater ecosystem probably aren't the first things to come to mind. Tomorrow, though, the Sea Life Aquarium opens at Arizona Mills Mall. It's a big deal - it's only the second in the United States of its kind - and will have over 5,000 marine creatures, which visitors can see by walking through "tubes" where the sea will be all around you, but you don't have to get wet. You observe the oh-so-natural habitats up-close and personal in 12 different habitats, making it a truly unique experience.
Sea Life also has a children's center and educational areas, so bring the whole family. Adult admission is $18.50, kids are $10.50.
Check back on the blog for pics soon!
Sea Life Aquarium
Arizona Mills Mall
5000 Arizona Mills Circle
For locals or out-of-towners alike, when people ask me where to go for a seriously unique experience, my list always includes Vincent's, in one form or another. There's the "real" restaurant (Vincent on Camelback), the Market Bistro (which is adjacent to the restaurant), or the most casual but equally delicious affair, the Camelback Market.
Why so many "Vincents?" Because it all stems from James Beard Award-Winning Chef Vincent Guerithault, who takes his French background and descent and melds it with his Southwestern home. That's what makes his food so unique.
Anyway, we've written about the Market before, and all the locals know that every Saturday morning from October - May, it's the place to be. Well in case you've slept in a few Saturdays, this is your reminder that the Market is going on for two more weeks, ending on May 22nd.
Remember to come hungry: about 1/4 of the Market is actual produce, but the rest is filled with pastries, and everything from paella to oven-fired pizzas made-to-order, to the most delicious roasted chicken and potatoes ever. Be sure to get in line for the crepes - savory or sweet (Grand Marnier, I'm coming for you) - and also for the mimosas - you'll get a bottle of Champagne, and as many cups of OJ as you want.
Now that your mouth is watering, I'll let you rally your friends to go. It goes from 9am - 1pm. Happy Brunching!