When the 13th annual Arizona Taco Festival returns on November 12th and 13th it will have a new home in the East Valley. Mesa’s Bell Bank Park will welcome the popular event along with special guest and celebrity host Aaron May and his Band of Celeb-U-Friends. May is known for his appearances on the Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” and the NFL’s annual Official Tailgate event before the “big game”.
This year’s Taco Festival will include popular events including Lucha Libre Wrestling, a Hot Chile Pepper & Taco Eating Contest, mariachis and more. New this year will be a Taco Queen Drag Contest, Hot Sauce Expo and Day of the Dead Wedding. The Tequila Expo is now the “Tequila Passport” and attendees can sample over 100 top shelf tequilas all day. “I’m going to make this year’s taco fest into a full Taco-Palooza of epic proportions. I might even get in the wrestling ring with the Luchas!” says May.
Let’s not forget that over 50 local taco vendors and restaurants will be on hand serving up tacos and more while trying to be crowned the “Top Taco” to win $$$ and more.
Doors open at 11 a.m. and goes until 6 p.m. This is a family friendly event with Early Bird tickets available online for $15 and kids under 12 get in for free. Bell Bank Park is at 1 Legacy Dr. Mesa 85212.
Scottsdale native Tess Levin was one of the recent winners on the new Hulu show “Baker’s Dozen” that premiered in early October. She wowed the judges on Episode 3 with her candy art to advance to round two where all remaining contestants made the identical signature dessert before narrowing it down to 3 people for the finals. The “culinary comedian” as Levin calls herself, won the coveted “Golden Rolling Pin” and cash by impressing the judges with her “Mermaid Under the Sea” themed macaron tower.
The 8-part Hulu series is hosted by Tamera Mowry- Housley of Sister, Sister fame and former White House pastry chef Bill Yosses. The 26 year old Levin currently lives in L.A. but grew up in Scottsdale attending Arcadia High School and makes frequent trips back to Arizona. You can see the trailer for the show here.
Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.
Oktoberfest at Pedal Haus Brewery October 2nd
Hard to believe its October and that means beer, brats and polka music in downtown Chandler. Saturdays celebration will include award-winning locally brewed beer and locally made brats from Von Hanson’s Meats along with pork schnitzel. Live music, a sausage eating contest and a stein hoisting contest are all part of the festivities. The Tempe location will be hosting its festival Saturday the 9th.
Wild Arizona dinner with Chef Brett Vibber hosted at Pillsbury Wine Company
Good news, two of my podcast guests are collaborating during the Willcox Wine Festival Weekend that’s coming up on October 16th & 17th. Sam Pillsbury’s award-winning winery is hosting a 6-course Wild Cuisine Dinner prepared by Chef Vibber. The $65 per person dinner starts at 5 p.m. and includes a glass of Rose 20. Bottles of wine are available for purchase and camping overnight is only $15. To see the full menu and purchase you tickets click on this link.
Smokin’ hot new menu items at Trapp Haus BBQ
Pitmaster Phil “The Grill” Johnson is adding to his menu starting today with Chicken Fried Nachos ($9.99) and more later this month. With Thanksgiving fast approaching (Yay!!) the downtown Phoenix restaurant debuts on October 18th a 1/2 lb. Cajun Fried Turkey Breast ($12.99) and a Turkey Monte Christo (13.99). Check out my interview with Phil here.
Press Coffee opening new downtown Phoenix location
The coffee roaster is opening its 9th location next Friday, October 8th at Van Buren and 2nd Street. During the opening weekend the community minded business will sell $1 drip coffees with 100% of its profits going to Pawsitive Friendships. The local non-profit provides animal assisted therapy for children with special needs. The downtown location will be open 7 days a week until 4 p.m.
Cooler weather means the return of farmers markets
The High Street Farmers Market returns this Sunday, October 3rd and goes through the Spring. Get locally sourced and made food, art and more from 10 a.m. – 1 :30 p.m. The Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market returns Saturday October 2nd from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Supporting local restaurants (and all businesses) continues to be a focal point in 2021 as the Coronavirus continues to take its toll on people’s health and local economies. The Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce is supporting its local member restaurants with its new “Scottsdale Carry-Out Challenge”.
It’s pretty simple, order carry-out from a member restaurant in February on this list and post a picture social media. Tag the restaurant, the Chamber and #ScottsdaleCarryOutChallenge to be entered in a weekly contest for member restaurant $100 gift cards. Tag 2 friends and challenge them to get take-out and encourage them to tag to friends and so on. With the Super Bowl this weekend and Valentine’s Day coming up why not take-out a try to win a gift card for future visits.
There are 81 member restaurants in the Scottsdale Chamber for every taste and price point, recently opened and old favorites to choose from. Check back weekly to see which new restaurants has joined the Chamber. Follow the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
2020 brought many surprises good and bad to the valley’s dining scene. One of the biggest surprises was the return of restaurateur Peter Kasperski in December. He and valley mixologist Richie Moe III have again joined forces to open Character Distinctive Dining in the Roosevelt Arts District. The two have known each other for over 30 years going back to their days in Chicago when Moe’s father was Kasperski’s mentor.
Moe helped Kasperski open Cowboy Ciao in the 1990s then Kazmierz Wine Bar before they went their separate ways. Moe had gone on to open and run cocktail programs at Citizen Public House, The Gladly and Bourbon and Bones. Kasperski has been lying low the last few years plotting his next move since he closed Cowboy Ciao.
Downtown Phoenix’s Character Distinctive Dining is a classic American dinner house with cuisines from around the world made using modern cooking techniques. Kasperski’s love for eclectic wines and Moe’s inventive cocktail list have also made their way downtown from Scottsdale. Some will see similarities with Cowboy Ciao especially the popular dinner events. One of those events is the monthly Somm Showdown with Peter Kasperski and a local wine sommelier go head to head picking the best pairings for a five-course dinner. The first Somm Showdown is Sunday January 24th 2021 with Synergy Fine Wines’ Steve Cannon. Seating is limited to 30 people and dinner is $90 ++ per person.
The pair are also opening Alias, a speakeasy, later this year out back of Character. Three nights a week Moe and Chef Justin “Red” Hauska will create mixology/gastronomy dinners pairing cocktails and food with science and surprises. After dinner starting at 9 p.m. Alias will become a craft cocktail bar until 2 a.m.
Character / Alias is at 218 E Portland St. Phoenix, AZ 85004. For more information check their website, Facebook and Instagram.
Culinary inspired teens aged 12-20 have until October 16th to submit their burger and or shake recipe to win gift cards and bragging rights. Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers will benefit from the winning recipes and partners with Aioli Gourmet Burgers as host and chef Tommy D’Ambrosio as mentor.
“I can’t wait to see what fresh new ideas the kids come up with and I’m very excited to partner with Alice Cooper’s Teen Centers. I was once a culinary student too, so I know how fun it can be to have opportunities like this. Plus, we’re thrilled to support a great organization that offers free arts programs for teens,” said Tommy D’Ambrosio, Chef, Aioli Gourmet Burgers.
3 winners will be announced on October 19th based on emailed recipes to email@example.com. Online public voting takes place October 20-28th with winners announced October 29th during a live concert at Ailoi’s 32nd St & Shea location. The winning burger and shake will be featured on the menu at all 3 Aioli locations in November with 10% of sales donated to Alice Cooper’s Rock Solid Teen Centers.
“Experiences like this are so valuable and vital for teenagers in the community” said Randy Spencer, Partnerships and Development, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers. “We love providing unique opportunities like this for the youth we serve with great brands like Aioli Gourmet Burgers. Alice and Sheryl Cooper, our staff and board members are excited to try the burger and shake that the winning teens create!”
First place winners win a $200 gift card, cook with Tommy and menu feature. Second and third place winners will win a $100 and $50 gift card. For more information visit their website.
A bowl of spicy chili, a shot of bourbon and a cold beer to wash it down sounds pretty good. Enjoy all three at the 3rd annual KMLE Country Chili, Bourbon & Beer Festival when it returns to downtown Chandler on Saturday February 29th. The festival at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park invites home cooks to the chili cook-off to see how they stack up against local restaurants.
A dozen top shelf bourbons, cocktails and craft beer will be featured along with a day’s worth of live music. Southbound, Western Fusion Band & Jim Bachman and the Day Drinkers are a few bands filling their air with country music. Life size lawn games and cornbread, chili dog and Frito pie eating contests will keep the day fun and festive.
“The event is a great combination of favor and flair,” said Landon Evans creative director of HDE Agency, the event’s producer. “From mild to unbearably hot chili offerings and over a dozen of top shelf bourbons you’re likely not to try – we welcome all to indulge, experience and engage with the variety of bourbons, beers and bands.”
A portion of the proceeds from the KMLE Country Chili, Bourbon & Beer Festival will be donated to the Greater Cause Foundation. The non-profit gives back to communities greater causes including a children’s welfare, anti-bullying, hunger, animal abuse and more.
Tickets for the festival that starts at 12 noon are available at the festival’s website. Dr A.J. Chandler Park is at 178 E. Commonwealth Ave. Chandler.
Think you can eat a lot of food in a short amount of time? If so Chompie’s invites you to stop in to any of its Phoenix area locations and try the “A Day at the Deli” Challenge. Those that accept the challenge will need to eat 4 pounds of food in 30 minutes to win the challenge.
Make sure you wear your stretchy pants to consume deli favorites that include 6 pastrami & Swiss sliders on potato latkes, a bowl of Matzo Ball soup, a bowl of cole slaw and 6 Black & White cookies. Eat all in a half an hour and win two 40th anniversary travel mugs, their winning picture on Facebook and bragging rights to friends and family. Win or lose the day’s worth of food will cost you $40.
The “Day at the Deli” Challenge is available during business hours at their Tempe, Phoenix, Chandler, Scottsdale and Glendale locations. For more information visit Chompie’s website.
In Arizona we debate about who makes the best pizza, tacos, hot sauce and now coffee cocktails join the debate. Provision Coffee set the bar as they placed 5th in the “Coffee in Good Spirits” competition at the U.S. Coffee Championships. The Chandler coffee roaster was represented by Joel Cronenberg who was among baristas and roasters from around the country competing.
“We are so excited to be recognized in this category by such a prestigious organization,” says Dan Suh, co-founder of Provision Coffee. “The U.S. Coffee Championships brings together the best of the best in the coffee industry and we could not be more proud of Joel representing us among this talented group.”
The “Coffee in Good Spirits” competition gives baristas 10 minutes to create a cold and warm/hot coffee cocktails for judging. The Faema espresso machine must be used for one of the drinks.
The U.S. Coffee Championships were held in Kansas City in March and drew baristas and coffee roasters from around the country to compete. Categories included Barista, Brewer’s Cup, Cup Tasters and Coffee in Good Spirits.
Provision Coffee is a modern coffee roaster who is doing away with the rules of coffee-making and drinking. Suh and co-founder Lawrence Jarvey focus on making “really, really good” coffee while having fun at it. A variety of coffee beverages, Nitro Cold Brews, espresso & teas and coffee cocktails are served.
Provision Coffee is at 4501 N. 32nd St. Phoenix 85018 and with Palette Collective at 2100 S. Gilbert Rd. Chandler 85286. For more information check out their website.
Not many people have a festival named after them but actor/TV host Mario Lopez is a modern day personality that has his own Cinco de Mario festival and it comes to Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza on Saturday May 5th. Hopefully there is still room on your party schedule as this is a busy day with both the Kentucky Derby & Cinco de Mayo festivities around town.
It’s Cinco de Mario that will have bad ass actor turned taco & donut entrepreneur Danny Trejo on stage with Mario along with comedian Frankie Quinones and legendary hip hop group Sugarhill Gang.
Cinco de Mario events
The day long festival starts at 11 a.m. and for the next 7 hours festival attendees can head to the Super Mucho Merchado for gourmet foods and traditional Mexican fare in a farmer’s market setting.
Attendees will be able to sample tacos and more from El Jefe, The Mission, Don Jose Mexican food and other local food producers. Make your way to the craft beer garden and rose wine garden to quench your thirst from all the spicy foods.
Fun will be had when “Saved By The Bell” alum and festival host Mario judge’s a “Saved by The Bell” look a like contest and local bands Mariachi Rodriguez and Ritmo Latino perform before we get down with the Sugarhill Gang’s old school performance.
A lounge to watch The Kentucky Derby will be available.
Getting your tickets
General Admission tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. Mansion VIP tickets are $100 online in advance and get a plate of food from The Mission, 5 drink tickets, private bar and a lounge area.
Experience it all and a meet & greet with Mario Lopez with VIP Mario Sky Deck for $200 online in advance that gets you food & drink all day from The Mission and high-end lounge furniture to relax in.
Entry to craft beer & rose garden is $20 for 8 tasting tickets.
Kids under 12 are free. Purchase your tickets here.