Tasty local news bites to whet your appetite.

Amuse-Bouches

Written by Craig Outhier, Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: September 2017
Group Free

Food Buzz: Dual Threats
Legendary Valley confectionnaire Tracy Dempsey is getting into the wine game. The chef and her husband, Chuck, are expanding their stand-alone Tempe bakeshop to include an adjacent bottle shop. Dubbed ODV Wines and specializing in Arizona wines and small-lot curios, the shop was slated to open late August (odvwines.com) at press time. Other notable short-commute ownership hubs:

Windsor/Churn: Upward Projects principals Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey are maestros of the two-off, here pairing their scene-y gastropub with an artisanal ice cream shop. upwardprojects.com

Barnone/Liberty Market: You’re in Gilbert. You’re looking for a handcrafted bottle opener and goose eggs. Joe Johnston has you covered. barnoneaz.comlibertymarket.com

Cactus Flower Florists/Vines, Hops & Blooms: Pick up some flowers to apologize for whatever, and a bottle of something nice to close the deal. Brill! cactusflower.com

3 Best Places to Drink This Month: Self-Serve Beverages
An NPR reporter once drove across our increasingly automated country to see how far he could get without having to interact with anyone. Drinking in the Valley would have been a breeze.

Sorso Wine Room: Get a keycard from the server, and go to town on the Scottsdale Quarter lounge’s 32-selection automated “wine tower.” Try a flight of white Burgundies, or just fill a 32 oz. cup with your favorite Zin. You have the power. 15323 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-951-4344, sorsowineroom.com

The Park: Downtown’s “indoor beer garden” has about a dozen automated, credit-card-activated taps, but the beer itself is kind of banal. Have fun with it by seeing who can correctly identify Bud Light, Miller Lite and other watery domestics in a blind tasting. 3 S. Second St., Phoenix, 602-362-5627, thepark.bar

Blast & Brew: Build your own pizza, then pour your own beer with the help of a microchipped wristband that keeps track of your beer consumption. This in-the-works “concept” is still looking for Arizona investors. No truth to the rumor that the chip swipes a bit of your DNA while you pour Hoegaardens. blastandbrew.com

Pav on Juice: Wine Spectator Awards 
A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.

Wine Spectator magazine is a great resource for wine lovers, both professional and novice. Editors blind-taste 15,000 wines a year, publishing reviews with tasting notes in the “Buying Guide” section of the monthly magazine. 

Wine Spectator is also known for its annual awards. The magazine released its 2017 winners in July, and 51 Arizona restaurants are represented among 3,592 winners across the world – most of which receive something called the Award of Excellence. How does a restaurant qualify? It should have at least 90 interesting selections; selections should be appropriate to the cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers; and the wines should be widely available. Two other, more competitive categories require larger selections.

Valley sister restaurants Beckett’s Table (6 years) and Southern Rail (3 years) are Wine Spectator regulars. They also love showcasing Arizona wines, thanks to the ownership partners, including beverage gurus (and husband and wife) Scott and Katie Stephens. I had a chance to ask Scott about this latest nod.

PM: Why do you choose to submit your list to the Wine Spectator Awards? 
SS: Their features on the industry are both precisely national yet globally focused, always highlighting a nod to up-and-coming winemakers and undiscovered regions. Our wine lists appear to echo that process.

PM: In the WS award listing, it states California and France are your strengths. Why was Arizona not listed as a strength?
SS: That’s funny – we thought the same thing, as we have 15 selections representing Arizona at Beckett’s Table. Arizona is still in its infancy and only claims two AVAs [American Viticultural Areas]. As more restaurants and bars collectively include Arizona wines on their lists, WS will surely take notice. 

PM: Compared to when you first opened in 2010, have you noticed a change in the collective Arizona palate about its local wine? 
SS: A glorious seismic shift. The look of bewilderment, paired with a snicker from a guest sarcastically uttering, “Arizona makes... wine?” is now only a distant memory. In both restaurants we have championed the Arizona wine movement by offering half off wines on Sunday nights (and Monday nights at Southern Rail). 

southernrailaz.combeckettstable.com