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.
The hospitality industry continues to adapt to the changing dining habits due to the pandemic that has burdened 2020. The latest is downtown Phoenix’s FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel which signature restaurant Match Restaurant & Lounge has transformed into Match Market & Bar. The new quick service and to-go dining concept debuted Monday October 12th after the hotel re-opened on October 1st.
“Match Market & Bar is designed to fill a much-needed void in the downtown dining and marketplace scene,” says Tim Sprague of the FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel. “MMB is a warm and inviting spot for neighbors and hotel guests alike to gather for a relaxed, comfortable and casual meal and cold drinks; a convenient place to pick up a unique gift or a specialty ingredient for a recipe; or a late-night pit-stop to grab an in-room or on-the-way-home midnight snack.”
Quick service dining options
The artisan market offers quick service breakfast, lunch and dinner along with to-go meals and wine, curbside pick-up and a pantry with staples & gifts. Locals and hotel guests can expect trunk shows and pop-up shops that will feature gifts from locals and others like those found in the curated market. The comfortable bar and lounge features specialty cocktails, an extensive wine list, an inviting patio and nightly happy hour.
“We’ve recreated our signature concept to perfectly fit the neighborhood and serve the needs of our guests — whether they are business or social travelers.” say Sprague. Hotel staff is working hard to provide a safe and healthy environment by following strict CDC guidelines. The hotel is looking to hire in several positions throughout the hotel, market & bar. Qualified applicants can submit a resume to email@example.com
The Market and Kitchen is open from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily; the Espresso Bar is open from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily; and the Bar opens for service at 11:00 a.m. FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel is at 1100 N. Central Ave. Phoenix 85003.
If all goes as planned with the expiration of the current Covid-19 lock down on Monday July 27th south Scottsdale could have a new beer and wine bar in early August. Regardless of the lock down Rift Tap and Wine Bar opens for curbside pick-up and delivery that same Monday. Rift is the brainchild of owners Damien Kanser, a wine industry veteran and friend Jon Coppins, the winemaker at Su Vino Winery.
Named after a Phish album that inspired Kanser since his childhood, Rift converted a spot that was a convenience store at Fillmore and Scottsdale Rd.. With little or nothing for craft beer and wine between old town Scottsdale and Tempe they felt this would be the perfect location for their neighborhood bar. The neighborhood is home to many service industry people and young professionals who have had nowhere to gather since Papago Brewing Co. closed a few years ago.
Rift will feature affordable wines and beers from local brewers and wineries and from across the country and the world. 25 beers on tap will be poured along with wines by the glass as guests gather at the 23 seat bar, high top tables or couches. Food trucks will be scheduled for guests to enjoy a bite to eat with their beer and wine. Coolers will house cold beers to go along with a few racks of retail wines. Kanser envisions Rift’s retail component as a quick grab n go for people to purchase on a regular basis to enjoy with dinner or by the pool. They’re sourcing limited production small batch beers directly from brewers giving the shop a unique selection by the bottle and tap.
The wine club at Rift Tap and Wine Bar
This fall Rift will house a studio for their “Spilling the Truth” podcast they started in late 2018. Windows to the studio will allow guests to view podcasts live with brewers and winemakers joining the podcast.
Two wine clubs will be offered featuring local wines and wines to a national audience based on wineries visiting the podcast.
Rift is at 431 N. Scottsdale Rd. Scottsdale 85257. For updates check out their Facebook page.
A new development in downtown Chandler just snagged the popular Nashville bar and restaurant The Stillery to move in. When it opens this fall at the New Square mixed use development downtown it will be its first location outside of Nashville. Other tenants include a Hilton Garden Inn, the first hotel built downtown since the San Marcos Resort over 100 years ago and the 10 year old DC Steakhouse moves south of its current location.
Chandler residents Steve and Alane Kovach founded The Stillery and once opened it will serve elevated comfort food and be the largest music venue in Chandler. Signature dishes include Nashville hot chicken, double stacked burgers, wood-fired pizzas and more. Grab a southern style cocktail, beer or moonshine at the horseshoe shaped bar before you hit the dance floor.
A stage, lighting and a state-of-the-art sound system will give downtown Chandler an indoor venue for live music. The historic neighborhood is popular with music & food festivals at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park and restaurants and bars .
New Square started construction in 2018 and is a partnership between local developer Spike Lawrence Ventures and HCW LLC. The development is slated to have tenants move in this spring with a grand opening celebration on March 25th.
“At New Square, we’ve brought together a selection of businesses that fill a need and bring great meaning to the community. The Stillery is such an exciting addition and will help to further elevate downtown Chandler’s dining and nightlife scene,” said Spike Lawrence, founder of Spike Lawrence Ventures. To stay up to date about The Stillery’s open date head to their website.
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.
When Little Rituals opened last week in downtown Phoenix it raised the bar for other hotel bars. Located on the 4th floor of the Courtyard by Marriott/Residence Inn the cocktail bar is the mastermind of mixologists Aaron Defeo and Ross Simon. DeFeo is no stranger to hotel bars as he was property mixologist at Tucson’s Casino del Sol Resort. Simon is the owner of downtown’s Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
The bar joins Broken Shaker ( Miami, L.A., Chicago & NYC) and Death Co. (NYC & Denver) to offer guests and locals a unique hotel bar experience. Open daily from 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. guests can expect 30 custom cocktails along with beer, wine and gourmet bites from consulting chef Bob Tam. Interesting touches at the independently owned bar include hand stamped ice, espresso martinis on tap and a pairing menu.
Preparation and education is key
What you don’t see is as important as what you see and sip on. DeFeo and Simon have created a culture of extensive staff training and drink preparation. Cocktails are made with house-made foams, infusions, garnishes, syrups and more. The menu focuses on the use of aromatic vermouth’s and sherry’s.
The cocktails are in 6 categories with 5 cocktails each.
Daily Rituals (Boilermakers, Siroco Spritz and a precisely-chilled, grapefruit-finished Session Martini)
Delicious Rituals (exciting flavor combinations such as the honey, citrus and curry-spiced Daiqurry)
Cooling Rituals (heat-busting combos such as the frothy Amalfi Frappe or the cucumber-y Touch of Evil)
Stirred & Silky Rituals (elegant twists on classics such as the sherry-spiked Cask of Amontillado)
Indulgent Rituals (complex flavors such as the Cartographer with overproof rum, cardamom and creole bitters)
Shared Rituals (ever-changing selection of punches, pitchers and the aforementioned Bubbles & Fries)
Apertivo hour is from 4-6 p.m. daily and offers discounted prices on a rotating list of cocktails, beer, wine and bites.
The bar bites menu offers 10 dishes including Beet Carpacio, Millionaire’s Bacon Board and Carbonara Lo Mein from the Hong Kong born chef Tam. Make sure you save room for the High Spirited Desserts.
The hotel is at 132 S. Central Ave. Phoenix 85004. 602-603-2050. Visit the website and their Facebook page for more information.