Semifinalists for 2023 Restaurant & Chef Awards announced

This morning The James Beard Foundation announced the Semifinalists for its 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards. Arizona is again well represented throughout several categories. Nominees will be announced Wednesday, March 29th and winners announced Monday, June 5th 2023 in Chicago. You can see the list of all 2023 semifinalists here.

The 2023 Arizona semifinalists are……

Outstanding Chef

Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Café, Phoenix

Outstanding Restaurant

Proper Meats + Provisions, Flagstaff

Emerging Chef

Christian Lowe, Shift Kitchen & Bar, Flagstaff

Outstanding Bakery

JL Patisserie, Phoenix and Scottsdale

Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker

Crystal Kass, Valentine, Phoenix

Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program

Glai Baan, Phoenix

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK)

Rene Andrade and Roberto Centeno, Bacanora, Phoenix

Jaren Bates and Brett Vibber, The Table at Junipine, Sedona

Nephi Craig, Café Gozhóó, Whiteriver

Wendy Garcia, Tumerico, Tucson

Fernando Hernández, Testal, Phoenix

Yotaka and Alex Martin, Lom Wong, Phoenix

Check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

Sips & Bites: News from the Phoenix restaurant community

Events & news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

Free bowl of menudo on New Year’s Day

All 35 Food City locations in Arizona celebrate National Menudo Month and National Hangover Day January 1st 2023 with a free bowl of menudo. The popular hangover remedy is available from 9-11 a.m. in the deli for dine-in only.

Famous 48 now serving lunch & weekend brunch

The standalone restaurant in the Shops at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale is now serving lunch 7 days a week starting at 11 a.m. Saturday & Sunday brunch starts at 10:30 a.m. until 3:00p.m.

Sunday Funday taco specials at Urban Margarita

Every Sunday from 1:30 p.m. til closing the Glendale restaurant has street tacos for only $2 each. Choose from grilled steak, chicken or carnitas and don’t forget the margarita to wash them down.

Batch Cookie Shop coming to Queen Creek in 2023

The family owned cookie shop in Gilbert announced its second location will be coming to Queen Creek this summer. It will be in front of the new Costco at Rittenhouse and Ellsworth Rds. More details will be available as they get closer to opening day.

OpenTable names local restaurants Top 100 Restaurants in America in 2022

Steak 44, Ocean 44 and Dominick’s Steakhouse in Phoenix and Scottsdale have been named to the prestigious list. All 3 restaurants are owned by father and sons Dennis, Michael & Jeff Mastro and partner Scott Trolio. The list is curated from over 13 million customer reviews on the website from October 31st 2021- September 30th 2022. Also making the list from Arizona is Mariposa in Sedona and The Henry in Phoenix.

Check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

20th anniversary celebration coming to Picazzo’s

One day over lunch in 2002 custom home builders Rick Freedman and Doug Stanton realized there was no good pizza in their new hometown of Sedona. So what did the Portland transplants do, they decided to open their first Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen, now their getting ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary Wednesday, November 9th.

In the 20 years since they opened the Sedona location they’ve opened five more in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Arrowhead, Tempe and Gilbert. Since day one the gourmet pizza restaurant has focused on dishes that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free with allergy-friendly options. They’ve since added Italian dishes with 95% of all ingredients being organic with many including sauces and dressings made from scratch.20th anniversary

“We pride ourselves on providing quality, healthy dining options for individuals who may have dietary restrictions as well as our guests who do not,” says Picazzo’s Managing Partner Chris Disney. “Picazzo’s is excited to celebrate our 20th year in business, and we’re even more excited looking towards the future and our continued growth. Our team can’t wait to celebrate with our many loyal customers, and we hope to see everyone on November 9!”

All 6 locations will be celebrating their 20th anniversary with happy hour specials from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. along with giveaways and fun photo opportunities. The first 20 guests over 18 at each location will receive a $20 gift card and those photos posted on Instagram and tagging Picazzo’s will be entered in a sweepstakes to win a $200 gift card. Details about the IG sweepstakes are available at each location which you can find at their website.

Hear more about Picazzo’s from Chris Disney listen to Episode 29 of Pulling Corks and Forks: The Podcast.

Mystical Pizza Festival launches this weekend in Sedona

Restaurateur and chef Lisa Dahl is celebrating the opening her Oak Creek Village location of Pisa Lisa in a mystical Sedona way. The new Mystical Pizza Festival starts this Friday, September 16th and goes all weekend long with a pizza dough ribbon cutting, flying saucer unveiling, a cookbook signing and more.

The festivities start Friday at 5 p.m. with Kick-Off party and a welcome from the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, a Dedication and Blessing ceremony by an Uqualla medicine man and Drumming Ceremony with Sabina Sandoval. Saturday and Sunday starting at 11 a.m. guests can enjoy sound therapy, a gelato tasting, astrology readers, doggie meatball tasting with Chef Lisa, animal massages and more.

The Mystical Pizza Festival goes until 5 p.m. and there is no cost to attend but some weekend events may have a cost. Guests are encouraged to wear mystical attire for the many photo opportunities. Pisa Lisa is at 6657 AZ-179 Ste D1, Sedona, AZ 86351

 

Lisa Dahl opens second location of Pisa Lisa

Sedona’s Culinary Queen, Lisa Dahl has brought her popular restaurant and pizzeria Pisa Lisa to the Village of Oak Creek. This is Dahl’s sixth restaurant in the Sedona area and the first with a second location. The first Pisa Lisa opened in west Sedona in 2013 with the new location offering an expanded menu with favorites including wood-fired thin crust pizza, organic salads, tapas and locally made gelato.

Pisa Lisa gets its name from what Dahl’s father would affectionately say to her when giving her a pinch growing up, “I wanna little piece of Lisa”. “I put my heart and soul into the first Pisa Lisa location which is a testament to my dedication to serving people special experiences that will turn into cherished memories while honoring the adoration I feel for my family members who are no longer with us,” said Dahl.

A personal touch from Lisa Dahl on the menu

Guests will find many personal touches on the menu including naming dishes after family members. Da Dororthy pizza is named after her mother and made with Mother sauce, provolone-mozzarella, fennel sausage, picante peppers, Parm-Reggiano. The Justino pizza is dedicated to her late son and made with Ricotta, provolone-mozzarella, San Danielle prosciutto gold, organic arugula, and white-truffle oil.

New are the antipasto plates including Lisa’s Plate, an antipasti sampler with fresh bocconcini mozzarella, tomatoes, finnochio slaw, magic mushrooms, caselveltrano olives and fire-roasted artichokes. New from the pastry team for dessert is the Cookie Monster, a warm and molten giant chocolate chip cookie sundae with Strawberry-stracciatella plant-based gelato (vegan and gluten free).

Beverages include natural sodas, local mead, 16 taps for craft beers, and top selling wines. A wide-range of healthy grab-n-go items including paninis, prepped pizzas, morning treats, and locally sourced roasted coffee are available.

The restaurant has an industrial and bohemian look in its 3,500 square feet. The raised bar is surrounded by Rock n Roll memorabilia from Capitol Records from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Indoor and outdoor seating is available as is communal seating at two large tables.

“This new location enables us to expand this heartfelt concept to a larger audience as it is ultimately a culmination of my work and passion for the Sedona culinary scene and my gratitude for those who dine at Pisa Lisa and stand with me in the belief that Rock ‘n’ Roll is here to stay!”

Pisa Lisa in the Village of Oak Creek is located at 6657 AZ-179 Ste D1, Sedona, AZ 86351. For more information visit their website.

Stagecoach Country Roadhouse opens in Sedona

Wild Thyme Restaurant Group recently transformed the former Olde Sedona Grill to the new Stagecoach Country Roadhouse that’s now open for business. Led by Founder and CEO Heinrich Stasiuk, Wild Thyme bought the property late last year then spent $3 million remodeling it inside and out. The result is gorgeous views of the surrounding red rocks from the the dining room and rooftop bar and a menu designed by James Beard recognized Chef Roberto Madrid.

“After being part of the Sedona community for close to a decade, we are thrilled to open an upscale steakhouse and lively saloon in the heart of town,” said Heinrich Stasiuk, Founder and CEO of Wild Thyme Restaurant Group. “There is nothing like a great steak or hearty BBQ after a long day on the trails, and Stagecoach is the perfect place to dust off your boots for outstanding food, drinks and fun,” he said.

Wild Thyme’s other restaurants in Sedona include Shorebird and Timo Wine Bar and they manage the Spoke and Wheel Tavern at the nearby Los Abrigados Resort & Spa. They also own & manage other restaurants in Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah and the Caribbean.

What to expect at Stagecoach Country Roadhouse

Executive Chef Bert Bonnarens handles day to day operations in the kitchen that features bone-in and hand cut steaks, fresh seafood and country roadhouse fare with a Southwestern twist. Bonnarens previously worked in hotels and resorts as did Wild Thyme’s Corporate Chef Madrid who formerly worked at Deseo at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.

The finest cuts of prime Angus certified beef include a cowboy style Ribeye Steak, Filet Mignon and a Wagyu spiral cut. The Smoking Wagon will crank out fall of the bone St. Louis style ribs, pulled pork, Andouille sausage and more. Burgers are piled high with all the gourmet toppings and fixins’ and plenty of salads are on the menu along with a Vegetable Tower and more for vegetarians. Signature dishes include Scottish Salmon, Bison Short Ribs and Sedona Red Clay Chicken. A full compliment of starters, classic side dishes and desserts round out the menu.

Beverage Director Topher Bray’s curated the wine list and his cocktail menu includes a variety of tequila and mezcal cocktails. The Sedona Sunset and Blood Orange Mezcalita are a couple of his signature cocktails.

On weekends guests can burn off the calories on the dance floor to live music or ride the mechanical bull. Private and semi-private rooms are available for parties of up to 80 people.

Stagecoach Country Roadhouse is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:00AM to 9:00PM. Saloon hours are 9:00PM – Midnight (Sun – Wed), 9:00PM – 1:00AM (Thu – Sat). Stagecoach Country Roadhouse is at 1405 AZ- 89A. For more information visit their website.

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.

Burger and pairings from local chefs

Americans eat almost 50 billion hamburgers a year and there are just as many combinations of toppings for your burger. The debate on whether the hamburger was created in Hamburg Germany or in Texas still goes on. May is National Hamburger Month and May 28th is National Hamburger Day, here a few Arizona chefs offer up their restaurant’s favorite burger and pairings.

The Gringo Burger at Butterfly Burger– Sedona

Chef and Owner Lisa Dahl’s burger was the “People’s Choice” winner at the 2016 Scottsdale Burger Battle and she made it on the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay”. She also featured it in her new cookbook and memoir “A Romance with Food” where a chapter, “Bodacious Burgers and Their Buddies” is dedicated to the hamburger.

Topped with Tillamook White Aged Cheddar, Louis Remoulade, Shredded Romaine & Crispy Onion Strings on Artisan Bun, Dahl likes to pair it with a Luscious Skinny Margarita. Feature photo credit: Scott Yates

W & W Burger at Weft & Warp– Scottsdale

Chef Dushyant Singh prepares this burger with Angus chuck/brisket blend, Hobbs Bacon, Organic Tomato Jam, Bibb Lettuce, Chive Gloucester Cheddar, Mustard Aioli. It comes with a side of Truffle Fries and his suggested pairing is See You Amaro – berry-infused amaro, bulleit rye whiskey orgeat, and egg white.

Burgers and pairings
Photo credit: Dushyant Singh

Triple B burger at Black Angus Steakhouse- Multiple locations

Chef Fernando Garcia resurrected this popular burger from years gone by for National Hamburger Month. This hand-formed, half-pound, Certified Angus Beef® ground chuck burger is stacked high with bacon, bleu cheese and balsamic red onions. He pairs it with a cold Bullseye Brew.

 

 

 

The Wilde Resort & Spa opens signature restaurant Rascal

Sedona’s newest resort, The Wilde Resort & Spa, opened in September has introduced Rascal, its signature restaurant with Executive Chef Mercer Mohr. Rascal serves diner comfort food with Chef Mohr’s innovative and market driven ingredients and dishes.

“We are thrilled to officially be opening our doors and can’t wait to share the amazing menu we’ve created with our local community and visitors,” says Mohr. “In addition to incredible food, Rascal will deliver a unique vibe and sense of place that is integral to The Wilde Resort & Spa experience.”

The Wilde Resort & Spa
Dry rub St. Louis pork ribs

The classic diner fare with an upscale twist, Rascal serves breakfast all day & lunch til 3 p.m. with happy hour and dinner starting at 4. Guests can expect all-American dishes including Rascal eggs benedict, biscuits & gravy and beef brisket hash and poached egg. Other highlights include crispy southern fried chicken, lamb chop lolli-pops, grilled salmon with Greek lemon pasta and more.

Handcrafted cocktails compliment the menu serving classic cocktails that are playful and sophisticated. The “Old Rascal” features Old Grand Dad bourbon with baked apple demerara, house bitters and ginger mist. The “Young Rascallion” is made with Rittenhouse rye, peach, orgeat, smoked bitters, lemon and aquafaba. Local craft beers including Mother Road Brewing and Four Peaks are poured as are small format wineries from the Sedona area and beyond.

For more information about Rascal check out their website.

 

Firecreek Coffee Company opens first Phoenix location

Flagstaff’s Firecreek Coffee Company has opened its first Phoenix area location and fourth in the state, this week on Thomas Rd. and 46th St. It’s Founder’s Mike Funk’s second go round in the Phoenix coffee community after he opened Cafe Tech in downtown Phoenix in the early 1990s. He gained his coffee “know how” in the 1980s when he was in the coffee industry where else, in Seattle. He moved to Flagstaff to open his first location in 2008 with locations in Sedona and Cottonwood soon following.

“It’s extremely rewarding to be back in the Phoenix area and to be continuing the Firecreek Coffee legacy here in the Valley,” says Mike Funk, founder of Firecreek Coffee Company. “We can’t wait to introduce our unique culture to the Arcadia neighborhood and look forward to becoming a part of the community for years to come.”

Funk has been in every aspect of the coffee industry including building espresso carts, importing coffee machines, opening coffee bars and supplying hotels & restaurants with premium coffee. He plans to open other Phoenix area locations and a roasting facility at 16th St. & McDowell Rd. which will also double as event and concert venue. Firecreek Coffee Company

Firecreek offers small batch coffee, small bites and sweet treats made by pastry chefs in the morning and afternoon. Guests can enjoy quiche, toast options, salads, Paninis and pastries with their coffee drinks. Consumers have been buying whole beans at AJ’s Fine Foods and Whole Foods throughout Arizona and Firecreek supplies other coffee shops with their beans.

The Phoenix location is opened from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. with plans for longer hours in the future to offer craft cocktails and more. For more information visit their website.

 

Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen opens 6th location

Arizona and family -owned Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen opened its newest restaurant in Gilbert with a limited schedule. Currently opened Thursday – Sunday the new location will gradually open on other days in the coming weeks. Picazzo’s originally started in Sedona serving organic and healthy pizzas, salads and other Italian specialties but in the years since have grown to include the flavors of Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican ingredients.

“We can’t wait to welcome the Gilbert community to Picazzo’s!” says Picazzo’s Operations Manager, Chris Disney. It’s our pleasure to offer a variety of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and allergy-friendly items. Families can enjoy a meal at Picazzo’s and get their favorite dishes, whether they have special dietary needs or preferences or not. We’ve actually had guests cry with happiness when they realize they can order exactly what they want, how they want it!”

The menu in Gilbert is the same as the other locations and includes 95% organic ingredients for its pizzas, pastas, entrees, salads and more. Guests will notice a new modern look that will be rolled out to the other restaurants in the future.  A separate vegan menu is available using plant- based ingredients from Follow Your Heart, Daiya and Beyond Meat.

Picazzo’s new modern look

The restaurant’s spacious 4,300 square feet includes a roll-up garage door connecting the indoors and outdoors. “We thought a lot about our consumer when designing the new restaurant,” explains Disney. “That means creating a space that can accommodate solo diners and couples just as easily as large families. We also focused on selecting aesthetically pleasing textures and surfaces on everything from countertops to walls to the patio decking. We think our guests are going to love the experience here – and we hope they take advantage of the Instagram-worthy setting for taking photos with family and friends!”

Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen is at 884 E. Williams Field Rd. Gilbert 85295 with the other locations in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Tempe/Chandler, Arrowhead and Sedona. To find the location closest to you and to view the menu, visit their website.

 

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