AZ Cocktail Week(End)
Three sensational new developments concerning Arizona Cocktail Week, the state’s premier showcase of cocktail artistry, which takes place February 17-19:
1. It’s no longer a “week.”
The producers have wisely condensed the festivities, competitions and seminars into a single three-day block, which suits us just fine. Who’s crushing Manhattans on a Wednesday night, anyway? (Don’t answer that.)
2. It now takes place solely in Downtown Phoenix.
The old AZCW was an ambitious but ungainly thing, with events throughout the Valley. Now it’s walkable. On Saturday, grab a tipple at Bitter & Twisted, then skip to the music-themed Cocktail Jam at The Van Buren. Or save your brain cells for Sunday, when the illustrious Top Bars competition goes down at The Croft, a new event space in the warehouse district.
3. It no longer conflicts with the Strong Beer Festival (February 10) nor the coolest parts of Arizona Beer Week (arizonabeerweek.com). Because that was always a Sophie’s Choice dilemma for us.
Arcadia Lite for $100
Once a flavorless, beige boulevard of tool-rental lots and mediocre pizza joints, Arcadia Lite has done blowed-up. However, it’s still possible to enjoy a food-and-drink crawl without breaking the bank.
Start your crawl at Aaron Pool’s new Camelback offshoot of his charming “enchiladas and soup” concept. It’s fast-casual dining, but the you-build-it enchiladas ($8-$9) – available in such rarified styles as tomatillo chicken and Modelo-braised bison, with a glorious selection of add-ons – are superior to sit-down versions that cost twice as much. Cost for two (with cans of Mexican lager): $30.
4031 E. Camelback Rd. 602-279-5080, gadzooksaz.com
2. Tacos Tequila Whiskey
Walk, bike or Uber a mile south to this Denver import for a nibble and a drink. We generally avoid giving carpetbaggers ink, but the silky Monterey Jack fundido – served on a hot skillet with soy-kissed, house-made chips – is truly on point. The mescal-dominated cocktail menu is nice, too. Cost for app and two cocktails: $40. 3950 E. Indian School Rd. 602-603-9411, tacostequilawhiskey.com
Conclude your cost-contained Arcadia adventure with the one true splurge: a cocktail from this subterranean tiki lounge’s new winter menu. Each selection is a miracle of texture and flavor-balance, but our favorite is the Man-O-War, a baroque knockout made with dark rum, sherry, amaro, walnut liqueur and Creole shrub. The drinks are a little pricey, but they knock you on your tuchus, matey. Cost for two: $30.
3620 E. Indian School Rd. undertowphx.com
PAV ON JUICE:
A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.
Valentine’s Day lands on a Wednesday this year, and if you want to take your sweetheart to a restaurant, make those reservations pronto. But if you want to mix things up, I have a couple grape escape options for you.
The folks at LDV Winery in Old Town Scottsdale are offering a wine and chocolate pairing on Valentine’s Day from noon to 7 p.m. Indulge in a flight of three different wines paired with chocolate for $8. Best part: No reservations needed. Want to splurge? Get the “P.S., I Love You” gift box. For $82, you get a bottle each of the 2012 and 2013 Petit Sirah and their dessert wine, Epilogue. You do need to reserve the box.
6951 E. First St., Scottsdale
Page Springs Cellars – located in Cornville about a 90-minute drive north of Phoenix – is offering the Chocolate Decadence Package ($200) the whole month of February. Enjoy a 60-minute couples massage on-site using Lulu’s Chocolate butter, made from heirloom Arriba cacao from Ecuador. Then head over to the tasting room to sip a glass of wine paired with chocolate truffles. Pro tip: Create a playlist of your early dating songs to play on the way up.
1500 N. Page Springs Rd., Cornville