Tyler Smith went from corporate life to his dream job when he opened Kitsune Brewing Co. in October 2022. The final blessing to make his dream happen came from his wife and business partner Rebecca who told him to do what made him happy. His dream was to push the envelope when making beer and to have local beer drinkers want more. Combine that of his love of Japanese culture and Kitsune “a protector” was born.
“I’ve been home brewing for more than 15 years. A family friend introduced me to it and I fell in love with the process,” says Smith, who’s worked for Nike and PetSmart. Throughout his career home brewing has remained his one constant in his life. “Right before I was about to take another job and move my family, my wife asked me if that would really make me happy or if I wanted to take my home brewing to the next level.”
With the Covid pandemic slowing his plan he used the time to find fellow brewer Marshall Norris of Simple Machine Brewing Company as a mentor and friend. Norris gave Smith space at Simple Machine to bring in two fermentation tanks and after a year and a half Tyler and Rebecca were ready to go at it on their own.
What’s brewing at Kitsune Brewing Co.
Known at first for IPAs, Kitsune Brewing Co. has become now known for its sour beers and pushing the envelope. Tyler wondered “How far we can push it” and released “Dirty Snowflake” a gray beer in appearance. He then wondered “Are people willing to try a gray beer?” and the response was “yes” they were.
There are between 14 and 16 beers rotating on tap with names and images inspired by Japanese culture. Kitsune Brewing Co. has also collaborated with local breweries Tombstone Brewing and Dark Sky Brewing Company. Food trucks on a rotating schedule park outside allow guests to enjoy food with their beers. They also have a BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) policy and allow for food to be delivered.
Future plans include distributing popular beers to local bottle shops and to open a ramen shop next door. “We want to expand so we can get more tanks,” he says of their future growth. “Hopefully, we will be successful enough to need more space.”
Guests can expect activities such as Trivia night every Tuesday at 6:30 and happy hour from 3 – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday. Kitsune Brewing Co. is at 3321 E. Bell Rd., Ste. B-5. Phoenix 85032.
Check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.
Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.
GenuWine Arizona celebrates 4th anniversary
The downtown Phoenix wine bar has successfully maneuvered the rocky last few years and is celebrating on Saturday January 8th. Starting at 2:30 p.m. there will be wine and beer tastings, Zydeco Louisiana Food Trucks starts serving at 1 p.m. and live music at 7:30.
eXperience Juncture dinner with TLC
The monthly supper club from Tom & Lin Catering is happening this month on Saturday January 22nd at Juncture in Phoenix. Chef Tom’s menu remains a mystery until you arrive for the reception that starts at 5 p.m. Dinner starts at 6 and seats are $150 per person and seats & gift certificates can be reserved or purchased here.
A new balanced seasonal menu is available at Pita Jungle
The Mediterranean inspired fast casual concept with 23 locations around Arizona is now serving the “It’s All About Balance” menu. Nuts, grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins are featured ingredients in dishes Chile Verde Beef, White Bean Hummus with Garlic Cilantro Pesto Shrimp, a plant based Gyro Super Hero and more.
Piled high hot pastrami sandwiches for only $12
Next Friday January 14th is National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day and fans can celebrate at Miracle Mile Deli. Choose from their Pastrami, New Yorker, Straw or Combo. All sandwiches come with a side dish & pickle and the special runs from 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. and is available for dine-in or take-out.
Feeding the Future fundraiser re-scheduled
The Blue Watermelon Project’s annual fundraiser scheduled for January 22nd has been re-scheduled until February 26th. The reason is safety concerns for student chefs with up tick on Covid positive cases. It will still be held at The Farm at South Mountain.
Don’t forget to check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.
When Robert Bogart graduated from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 2001 he knew he wanted to stay in Arizona to open his own restaurant. It didn’t happen as quickly as he wanted having gone to Denver to become executive chef at Elway’s Steakhouse at The Ritz- Carlton before heading to Temecula, California to open two restaurants. He decided that 2019 would be the year he returned to Arizona in pursuit of a restaurant to purchase. By early 2020 he decided that the popular central Phoenix restaurant St. Francis was the place. Not long after taking ownership not only did the pandemic hit but so did a kitchen fire. Now almost 2 years later after navigating the restrictions of Covid and a re-branding Bogart’s opened Oak on Camelback.
Chef Bogart has introduced his globally inspired menu while keeping a few favorite dishes from St. Francis. He’s also kept the wood burning oven as the centerpiece of his cooking at Oak on Camelback. Wood fired cooking by the fire with his grandfather in Texas is where he found his love for cooking and with a wood fire. New menu items include Scallop & Risotto, a Banh Mi Pho Dip and Thai Peanut Salad. Dining at brunch you’ll see the likes of Lox Pizza and Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast on the menu. He continues to use high quality seasonal ingredients that compliment his cooking techniques.
Oak on Camelback is at 111 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix 85012. Hours are Tuesday – Thursday from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. For more information and to view the menus visit their website.
Saturday May 1st brings the return of The Kentucky Derby and in Phoenix that means the Bulleit Bourbon Derby DayClub at Turf Paradise. After 2020 cancelled the Spring event and moved to an audience-less September running of the ponies guests are welcome back to sip on Mint Juleps, dress up and bet on your favorite horses. The 2021 Derby DayClub will have 3 separate viewing areas all with limited capacity and following CDC protocols.
Reserving a seat and tickets
Reserve a table in the Sanderson Lincoln Black Label Lounge air-cooled tent close to the finish line. Betting terminals, a no-host bar serving Mint Juleps, champagne & cocktails and 65″ TVs are all close to food trucks and refreshments. Tables start at $250 for 2 and up to tables of 8 for $1000. Some packages offer complimentary champagne and food.
The Ketel One Botanical Garden offers an open air tent closer to the finish line further back off the track. Tables include a bucket of Ketel One Botanical Vodka Spritz Seltzers and access to betting terminals and more. Tables of 4 start at $275 and up to $400 for front row seating.
The new VIP Winner’s Circle covered tent and offers the best view of the finish line. Guest in the Winner’s Circle have access to the other tents and comes with a complimentary Mint Julep, French Fry Bar, large screen TVs, access to betting terminals & food trucks and a no-host bar. Tables of 4 start at $750 and up to 8 for $1,600. All tables include a complimentary bottle of Veuve Cliquot or Chandon Champagne.
General Admission to the DayClub are $30 until April 15th, $35 after the 15th and $40 at the door. General Admission does not include a reserved seat. All ticket can be purchased and more information found at their website. Gates open at 10:45 a.m., Turf Paradise live racing at 11:30 a.m. and the Derby broadcasted live at 4:05 p.m.
Festivals and gatherings are returning to social calendars after many had to cancel their 2020 events due to Covid-19. One of those festivals first to return is The Camp Verde Pecan & Wine Festival next weekend April 17th & 18th. The Town of Camp Verde and the Verde Valley Wine Consortium co-host the 20th annual event in downtown Camp Verde from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday and til 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Each day 8-12 wineries will be sampling their wines and pairing them with a variety of pecans. There will also be food trucks, a beer garden, live music, local artists and a competitive pie eating contest. All activities will follow CDC guidelines of social distancing, all areas cleaned and sanitized frequently and recommended mask wearing. Page Springs, Salt Mine Wine, Carlson Creek Vineyards and Winery 101 are a few of the wineries pouring wines at the event.
“We were saddened to have to cancel last year but it was with everyone’s safety and best interests in mind, as this is normally one of the town’s biggest events,” said Michael Marshall, Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Manager. “This annual tradition is a wonderful celebration of two local products of the region and we look forward to its return, with a number of additional safety precautions in mind”.
Entry to the festival is free and for all ages. Those 21 and older can pay $20 for six tasting tickets and a commemorative glass. Additional tickets can be purchased. For more information visit these websites http://www.cvaz.com and http://verdevalleywine.org
Photo credit: Jenelle Bonifeld & Arizona Wine Guide
Virtual kitchens/food halls continue to gain popularity with the local restaurant industry. Concept Entertainment Group (CEG), owners of Thirsty Lion Gastropub have opened Central Kitchen, a virtual food hall from the kitchen of Chandler’s Thirsty Lion. Arizona is the 4th state to open Central Kitchen which was launched late last year in Oregon then Texas and Colorado. Guests can order from five concepts Soy Joy Kitchen, Southern Jewel, Killer Wings, Pizza & Spice and Thirsty Lion.
“We’ve been fostering the idea of a kitchen focused on takeout and delivery for the last year,” said John Plew, president and CEO of Thirsty Lion Gastropub. “The pandemic put the process into hyper speed, and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to pivot with the climate and launch an idea that aligns with current consumer demands. Central Kitchen fills a need in the restaurant space by providing multiple culinary offerings from one hub. Guests can order the food that everyone in their home is craving under one ticket.”
All menus include scratch made dishes created by Keith Castro, CEG’s VP of Food and Beverage Executive Chef. Guests can order take-out and delivery from one central website with ease and efficiency.
Soy Joy Kitchen specializes in rice bowls, sushi, ramen and other Asian favorites. Southern Jewel offers Southern fried chicken, Nashville hot chicken, sliders and Southern specialties. Killer Wings serves boneless and traditional wings with a variety of house made sauces. Pizza and Spice has a large selection of gourmet specialty pizzas and salads. Don’t forget burgers, salads, sandwiches and more from the Thirsty Lion and vegetarian options are available from most concepts. Starting January 26th Central Kitchen will offer 25% off each to-go meal ordered at the central website.
The popular and award-winning cocktail bar Undertow has taken its below ground concept to street level with a pop-up at the Hotel Valley Ho. From August of 2016 to December 2020 was housed below Sip Coffee & Beer Garage in Phoenix, a converted quick oil change business. With Covid-19 taking over 2020 owners Rich Furnari and Jason Asher decided to move Undertow next door to its Century Grand location.
In addition to the new Undertow, Century Grand will be adding new concepts Platform 18 and The Grey Hen Rx with construction ending in March. Until then Undertow has taken over the former Trader Vic’s restaurant at the Scottsdale hotel for a 4-day a week “Best of Menus Past” pop-up.
“UnderTow has a strong following, and we always wanted to have a little more space to accommodate additional guests and larger parties, all without compromising the intimate guest experience” says Furnari. With UnderTow’s lease ending in 2020, and our difficult decision to permanently close the restaurant element of Century Grand, there was a prime opportunity to re-locate UnderTow into a larger space in the same geographic neighborhood. In addition, the more flexible physical infrastructure in the new location will allow us to continue to offer our guests the most advanced and enjoyable immersive environment for years to come”.
The two have worked day and night with Hotel Valley Ho’s Food and Beverage Director Andre Nicholson to bridge the gap until construction ends in Phoenix. Housed in the Sands venue at the hotel, the pop-up will be open Thursday through Sunday serving many retired top-selling signature cocktails. Limited food will be served from local chefs who will rotate their own pop- up restaurant. A Sunday market could also be added once things are up and running and the tiki/tropical decor from local artists gives Undertow its laid back vibe.
Hotel Valley Ho is at 6850 E. Main St. Scottsdale 85251 and you can find more information about the pop-up at their website.
Who thought that on December 31st 2019 the word “Zoom” would become a household name and conjure up flashback’s to the PBS children’s show from my youth. 2020 has been a crazy year we all want to put behind us, the year started like any other with plans for travel, eat my way food festivals and anticipating new restaurant openings. Two months in things changed and 2020 wasn’t going to be typical year. It got serious for me when around St. Patrick’s when the NBA put the season on hold. Before you knew it lock downs were in place, toilet paper was at the top of every bodies doomsday “must have” list and distilleries were making hand sanitizer.
Zoom to a virtual happy hour then a Teams meeting as businesses learned to pivot their business model on a moment’s notice. April and May were like a hazy version of Groundhog’s Day and I was foodie version of Bill Murray’s character. Eating in parking lots and collecting plastic utensils became the norm, taking out from neighborhood favorites wondering how dine-in restaurants are adapting. Some restaurants took a hiatus to figure it out, others stocked up on to-go containers and others closed all together. Food festivals and small, medium and large gatherings were cancelled on a daily basis as many still are into early 2021.
In mid-May when Governor Ducey lifted restrictions while adding new restrictions for restaurants we wondered if we would dine-in and was it safe even wearing masks and washing our hands. I thought I would still do take-out and eat in parking lots or take food home. On Day 2 of dine-in I found myself sitting at the bar alone at The Stockyard’s Restaurant for a burger. To this day I haven’t been afraid to dine-in early and before restaurants get crowded by 2020 standards. By the time summer rolled around more people were venturing out & about and us foodies started to gather. Not at festivals but cautiously as new restaurants began to open after several delays.
I’m still not sure what my final meal will be for 2020 or my first meal of 2021. Still pondering my future meals I’m looking for what 2021 will bring. Less Zoom meetings for sure, in the food world I’m curious how Arizona’s new legalization of recreational cannabis will open new opportunities for cannabis infused meals, foods and restaurants. What new restaurants will be anticipated and which favorites will close their doors. What will the long term effect will 2020 have on local businesses and society? Many un-answered questions going forward into 2021 but I do know one thing……in order to survive we MUST eat and drink. Cheers and to a better 2021!!!
2021 is almost here but we’re not out of the woods yet from Covid-19 so virtual get togethers are still happening in the new year. Continuing to support local restaurants Local First Arizona announced their annual Devour Culinary Classic is going online with Devour at Home the weekend of February 27-28.
Each day local chefs will prepare and have delivered a special prix-fixe meal to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. There will be a limited amount of meals offered with each meal being $200 and feeds 4 people. Each meal includes wine glasses, warming instructions, chef bios, a 2021 Devour at Home place mat and a commemorative thermal tote.
Chefs participating in Devour at Home include Danielle Leoni of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, Stephen Jones of The Larder +Delta, Silvana Salcido Esparanza of Barrio Cafe and others. Attendees can show off their plating skills from home to win prizes selected by the chefs and other virtual experiences. The nationally recognized event plans to return in person when CDC guidelines allow.
The participating restaurants will receive 100% of all proceeds from the weekend’s event. You can order your meals starting on February 15th and get more information at https://www.devourphoenix.com/.
When restaurants shut down dining rooms in March due to Covid 19 they had to rely on takeout and delivery until the lock down ended in May. Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao was no different furloughing 90% of staff with managers becoming cooks, order takers and delivery drivers. The restaurant offered Fogo to Go butchered raw meats, meals to go, catered off site meals for small groups and Caipirinha cocktail kits. Management at the headquarters in Dallas were devising a plan for locations throughout the country as how to adapt to the new reality when dine-in service resumed.
Fogo de Chao is known for its generous assortment of meats skewered and served table side by gauchos but also for its generous assortment of cold salads, meats and cheeses at it salad bar. That’s where it biggest challenge would be on how to serve guests who were used to making their way to the salad bar stocked with over 30 items.
The new normal at Fogo de Chao
A recent visit to the Scottsdale location I found out what has changed since they re-opened for dine-in service last month. The changes were obvious once you enter to restaurant, hostess’s and all employees wear face masks, a poster board next to the hostess stand reviews their commitment to health and safety and fewer tables in the dining room for social distancing. Gone were menus, salt & pepper shakers and the green (Go) and red (Stop) coaster cards diners use to let gauchos know whether to approach you for more meat.
As for the buffet, selections have been reduced. Servers now bring a charcuterie board of meats, cheeses and olives followed by courses of salads to choose from. Gauchos continue to roam the room carving slices of beef, chicken, pork and lamb to your heart’s desire as they did prior to Covid 19. Only difference is they approach you asking if you’d like more meat.
Fogo continues to offer Fogo- to-Go’s butcher shop, catering with curbside pick-up and contact-less delivery. Summer promotions are being finalized and I will update as soon I as I hear what they are.
The Scottsdale location is at 6300 N. Scottsdale Rd. Scottsdale 85250. The restaurant offers full service dining as well as group dining, an outdoor patio and bar. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner & brunch on weekends. For more information and to make a reservation head to their website.