My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge returns April 13th

Do your friends and family tell you that you make delicious salsa or margaritas? If so then you may want to enter My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge or the Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix-Off. All entrants have until March 20th to to sign up for the April 13th event at Sloan Field in Mesa.

Not only could you win money with the best recipe but you’ll help to raise money for the Arizona Hemophilia Association. This is the 35th annual fundraiser for the organization.

My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge

Anybody can win a piece of the $3,500 in prizes awarded to winner, first runner-up, second runner-up and third runner-up by the judges. You also have the chance to win Arizona Diamondbacks tickets. Individuals, non-profits and restaurants/business will compete for the winning salsa in three categories…Hot, Mild and Anything Goes.

Professional and celebrity judges will pick the winners in a double-blind tastings based on color, taste, after taste and more.

My Nana's Best Tasting Salsa Challenge

Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix-Off

At 12:30 bartenders from across the area will shake things up to win the $500 grand prize for best margarita. Audience members can bid on the winning margaritas with proceeds going to the hemophilia association. They will also be able to bid on vacation packages, sports memorabilia and more.

To enter the contest go to https://salsachallenge.com/contestants/

During the 8 hour event their will be live music, a kid’s zone, a 5K run and more festivities.

The festival starts at 10 a.m. at Sloan Park 2330 E. Rio Salaldo Pkwy in Mesa. For more information and to purchase tickets head to their website

 

Merkin Vineyards opens its wine bar in downtown Scottsdale

Shelves are stocked, menus have been printed and Merkin Vineyards have opened their wine bar in downtown Scottsdale. The Jerome based winery flipped the “Open” sign Thursday March 14th as the bureaucracy paperwork was complete.

Wines from Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars will be poured their 7 days week. The location has a rich history in the Scottsdale wine community as the tasting room is housed in what was the wine eccentric restaurant FnB and most recently cocktail bar Counter Intuitive.

Merkin Vineyards wines

You’ll find mostly Spanish and Italian varietals poured at the wine bar from high elevation vineyards. Grapes for Merkin and Caduceus wines are grown at the wineries estate vineyards in Verde Valley and Willcox. The vineyards encompass 110 acres and the wines are made by MJ & Jen Keenan, Tim White and Erin Center. All wines are sustainably made.

A small menu of fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses are available. The fruits and vegetables are grown at the wineries Verde Valley greenhouse, gardens and orchards. Other Arizona farmers provide for what they don’t grow.

Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale is open Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. It’ s at 7133 E. Stetson Dr. Scottsdale 85251 and you can visit their website for more information.

Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade launches Spring Seasonal Menu

With Spring approaching the need to keep hydrated becomes necessary and there’s no better way that with lemonade. Just in time is Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade releasing their new Spring Seasonal menu of lemonades, smoothies, bowls and more.

It also celebrates the Grand Opening of their new Happy Valley location. The Happy Valley location joins locations in Scottsdale, Tempe and Ahwatukee.

Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade Spring menu

The seasonal menu will be available from March 15th – May 31st. Here is the list of new Spring Seasonal menu.

Desert Vibes Lemonade – Served raw and cold pressed, this refreshing mango, strawberry lemonade is mixed with a hint of fresh turmeric. The ombré yellow, orange, red color reminiscent of the colorful desert sunsets.

Desert Vibes Smoothie Bowl. – Similar to the lemonade, the colorful bowl is flavored high with tropical coconut taste and a hint of sparkling kombucha.

Blue Hawaii Toast – Sea inspired toast topped with house made cashew butter spread with blue spirulina, and star cut kiwi, blueberry, organic coconut flakes and local honey.

Paleo Mint Chip Smoothie – A pastel twist on the fan-favorite drink. Nutrient dense and delicious, the mint chip smoothie uses fresh mint, kale and raw cacao, with a drizzle of cacao sauce.

Pea Flower Lemonade – Served raw and cold pressed, this lemonade’s rich purple color comes from Butterfly Pea Flower, which turns a pinkish lavender when fully mixed into the mojito lemonade. It features sprigs of mint and a hint of lime.

Adaptogen Cold Brew – Cold brew mixed with the new adaptogen* blend and coconut cream is a must-try.

Breakfast Cold Brew Smoothie – A morning kick bursting with flavor and nutrients. This smoothie is hand crafted with almond butter, adaptogens*, raw cacao, MCT oil, and paleo/grain-free/organic vegan protein. The best way to start your day!

*The local lemonade shop is introducing a new adaptogen blend on the menu that offers a hybrid of four of nature’s best adaptogen mushrooms which have a wide range of health benefits including immunity support, hormone balance, energy boost and many disease fighting benefits.

To find the closest Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade to you check out their website.

 

 

Meat the Ball to open at Biltmore Fashion Park next week

Stefano Fabbri, owner of popular Phoenix restaurants Mora Italian and Pomo Pizzeria announced he’s opening a new restaurant, Meat the Ball. The full-service restaurant will open Thursday March 21st at the Biltmore Fashion Park.

Meat the ball
Photos courtesy of Kassidy Mcdonald at Evolve Marketing and PR.

The menu will include an impressive line-up of meatballs made with sausage, veal, salmon and more. In addition to meatballs the restaurant will offer appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts.

“I’m thrilled to introduce Meat the Ball, a mini restaurant with a big personality centered on the quintessential meatball and its street food friends. We will have authentic recipes prepared with locally sourced and organic products to celebrate today’s healthy dining, Italian style,” says Fabbri.

The 1,500 square foot restaurant will look like a 50’s style diner and decorated with pop-art and a retro theme.

Meat the Ball will be open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Biltmore Fashion Park is at 2502 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix 85016. For more information visit their website.

Opinion: Pump down the volume, why are restaurants so loud?

I consider myself as a blogger a messenger of information about the local restaurant and food community. Posts on food festivals, restaurants opening, wine tastings and on rare occasion my opinion may get in the way based on an experience(s).

Was it Gene Simmons or David Lee Roth who said “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”. I remember me and my sister telling that to our parents as teenagers as we cranked up the radio listening to Van Halen and Led Zeppelin around the house and in the car. Now it’s me that’s too old as I can’t understand why restaurants need to crank it up with DJs or loud music during our dining experience. Loud music is one of  a few pet peeves I have about the restaurant industry.

Recently I visited an establishment for brunch hoping to enjoy several dishes, cocktails and a visit with friends. Instead we were one and done as it was simply to loud to hold a conversation. On weekends it’s the norm in old town Scottsdale and other parts of the valley to wake up to loud music with your eggs bendict and Bloody Mary, but why?

It’s not just brunch you need to bring ear plugs to as were seeing more restaurants turning the volume up during lunch and dinner.

Loud music in restaurants isn’t new.

This trend isn’t new as this Bon Appetit article from 2010 suggests. I guess to a certain demographic loud music says a restaurant is “lively and successful”, to me it means ” you’re not getting my business at this time”. Many articles have been written since then and not just in restaurant related magazines and websites.

This Vox article mentions how the loud decibel level can be a health threat and this 2015 Bloomberg article calls out chef’s and restaurateurs to turn the volume down.

Acoustic technology and a restaurants design have effected the decibel level but the volume dial can cure that on a daily basis.

Good thing the Phoenix area has a diverse community of restaurants so I’ll patronize those offering good food, service and dialed down noise level.

What do you think about restaurant noise levels? Drop me an email or comment about what your restaurant pet peeves are and I may address it.

Picture credit: Seattle Times

Celebrate St. Patrick’s day now at Thirsty Lion Gastropub

No reason to wait til March 17th to celebrate the luck of the Irish as Thirsty Lion Gastropub’s have already started. Their St. Patrick’s Day Season Specials is available until the 17th and includes 9 edible options with a modern twist.

Bacon Cheddar Potato Cakes

Irish favorites include Traditional Scotch Eggs, Irish Shepherd’s Pie, Corned Beef Mac & Cheese and Oven Roasted Lamb Shank.

Raise your glass of Irish whiskey, beer and craft cocktails with your meal.

$2 of every Flight of Irish Whiskey, Irish Mule and Irish Old Fashioned will be donated to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The foundation helps to fight childhood cancer.

celebrate
Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich

Rotating taps of Guinness Irish Stout and an Arizona Black & Tan, SanTan’s Devil’s Ale and Guinness are being poured.

Celebrate at the 3 Thirsty Lion Gastropub’s in the Phoenix area at Scottsdale Fashion Square, Tempe Marketplace and SanTan Village.

Tryst Cafe brings its healthy menu to new Chandler location

Owners Lisa and Sami Khnanisho have had their award-winning Tryst Cafe in the Desert Ridge neighborhood of north Phoenix for 9 years before expanding. With numerous offers to come to all parts of the valley they decided on a south Chandler location. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner Tryst serves naturally delicious assortment of sandwiches, salads, breakfast classics and more.

“We are excited to bring our affair with naturally delicious food to Chandler,” Co-Owner Lisa Khnanisho says. “The new location brings everything Tryst Cafe is about to the next-level.”

Egg Benedict

The healthy menu offers something for every diet and has been hailed by the vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian communities. Banana Quinoa Pancakes, Hawaiian 2-Egg organic Breakfast, Avocado Toast, Pork Adobo Tacos and a Bison Burger are a few of the dishes available.

The full service restaurant offers a walk-in coffee & juice bar, organic beverages including botanicals, Kombucha and a full bar.

The 3,500 square foot restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating, a private dining room and meeting space for 14 people.

“Our menu is natural, healthy, and clean with something for everyone from the vegan diner to the meat-and-potatoes lover,” Khnanisho explains. “We believe everyone can have an affair with naturally delicious food.”

Bison Burger

As part of the grand opening celebration Tryst Cafe will host an Organic Wine Taste & Vote event. On March 13th in Chandler (20th at Desert Ridge) guests can taste 5 organic wines and vote for one to be added to the wine list. The 21+ event is $10 per person with guests tasting appetizers. Guests staying for dinner will receive a free dessert.

Tryst Cafe is at 4205 S. Gilbert Rd Chandler 85249 and 21050 N. Tatum Blvd. Phoenix 85050. For more information visit their website.

CB Live doesn’t stop the party during new Om-Lit! Brunch

If you like loud DJ pumped music with your morning coffee, Bloody Mary or Mimosa there’s plenty of Phoenix restaurants that will keep the party going into the afternoon. The newest is served up CB Live at Desert Ridge Marketplace which kicked off their Om-Lit! brunch this past Sunday.

“We are so excited to launch OM-LIT! at CB Live. Phoenix has some of the best brunch weather in the country and with our amazing patio and a menu like the one we’ve created, we’re thrilled to start making a splash for breakfast, in addition to lunch and dinner.” said Ryan Handelsman, marketing and business director for CB Live.

The boozy breakfast starts every Sunday at 11 a.m. with a new breakfast menu along with Bottomless Mimosas and BYO Bloody Mary’s. The menu includes breakfast classics with inventive twists such as eggs benedict, fried chicken and waffles and omelettes. Healthy food options such as coconut oatmeal are available as well.

Throughout out brunch DJ Myth and DJ V-Easy pump out music from their turntables at the stage above the bar.

CB Live at Desert Ridge Marketplace is at 21001 N. Tatum Blvd. Phoenix 85050. For more information see their website.

Arizona Tiki Oasis brings tiki culture to Hotel Valley Ho

For one weekend in April tiki culture takes over Scottsdale’s Hotel Valley Ho when Arizona Tiki Oasis comes to town. The three-day Polynesian lifestyle event offers seminars, live music, art, cocktails and food April 12-14th. Tiki Oasis started in Palm Springs as a fund-raiser in 2000 before moving to San Diego.

“We are thrilled to introduce Tiki Oasis’ rich and varied history to Scottsdale travelers and locals. Hotel Valley Ho is the ideal location for the largest and longest-running Tiki festival in the world, as the property perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the 1950s that we celebrate through classic Tiki culture.” – Tiki Oasis / AZTO organizers Otto and Baby Doe Stroheim.

Arizona Tiki Oasis events

The Tiki-Tiki-Ho-Ho Luau will kick off the weekend around the OH pool with a traditional pig roast and poke bar. Over 60 international tiki artists will take part in a pop-up art show at the marketplace including Japan’s Mookie Sato and LA’s Josh Angle a.k.a Shag. A pool side fashion show from  Fashion by Robert Black is also scheduled.

Over 20 seminars are planned with topics such as History of Tiki Culture in the Southwest and Tropical Drink Mixology.  Authors Sven Kirsten, Beachbum Berry and Shannon Mustipher will also make appearances.

At night tiki torches will light up roof top parties and cocktail lounge styled dinners. In between seminars Tikiphiles can lounge around the pool sipping on fruity colorful drinks. Spa treatments will be available at the VH Spa and guests can explore the city with the hotel’s new Insider Mid-Century Tour of Scottsdale.

Tickets are sold a la carte with seminars starting at $10 to an evening hotel pass for $80. Limited tickets for the opening nights luau are $99 until April 12th.

Part of the proceeds from the weekend will go to the Arizona Preservation Foundation. For more information and to purchase tickets head to the website.

 

Myke’s Pizza finds a permanent home in an expanded Cider Corps

If you’ve been to downtown Mesa at night in the last few years you’ve smelt delicious pizza being made. The aromas come from Myke Olsen of Myke’s Pizza, the pop-up who will soon have a permanent home inside Cider Corps. It’s part of Cider Corps expansion to accommodate the growing demand for the its popular ciders.

Myke's Pizza
Photo courtesy of Myke’s Pizza

From pop-up to fast casual at Myke’s Pizza

Myke’s pop-up is outside of Cider Corps and before was around the corner on Main St. Myke’s Pizza has received many accolades since he started making pizzas in 2016 with fans making the trip to Mesa.

Making pizza one at a time on a table top oven the new home will allow Myke to make five pizzas at once in the Renato wood-fired oven. Myke has only made pizzas at the pop-up but once the build out is done he will offer side dishes and salads.

Cider Corps expansion

When Cider Corps opened in 2017 brothers Josh and Jason Duren knew they were onto something but didn’t expect they’d need to expand less than two years later. They’re using 2,000 square feet to add a new bottling line fermentation tanks. Until now they’ve only been able to keg ciders and the bottling line will let customers take the ciders home. Bottles will also allow for retail placement on store shelves.

“We’re excited to have the ability to provide our cider not just to craft beverage bars but also to more restaurants and package stores,” said Cider Corps co-owner Josh Duren.

Myke's Pizza
Mango cider Slushie. Photo courtesy of Cider Corps

The new  tanks allow four times more cider to be made and the opportunity to experiment with fermentation styles and techniques. The expansion also includes a new patio along Robson St. that will seat 40 people.

“When we started Cider Corps, we wanted the taproom to be a place where people could gather to honor great sacrifice and discover great cider,” he said. “What we also discovered was an amazing culinary community that’s committed to showing off what’s local to our state.“

The new partnership is what Duren hoped would happen when he opened Cider Corps.

During the build out of Myke’s Pizza will be there Wednesday – Saturday nights and will add Tuesday once completed. When Myke isn’t making pizza Cider Corps will still have food trucks available.

Cider Corps has extended their hours during spring training to stay open later.

The cidery is at 31 S. Robson St. Mesa 85210  and information about Myke’s Pzza can be found on his website.