Savor the last Sweet seconds of Spring with this Punchy preview of our favorite outdoor Valley happenings
1. Scottsdale Culinary Festival
April 14-15, Scottsdale Civic Center Mall
With its rowdy Tito’s Handmade Vodka lounge and acres of grassy chill space, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival has always been a great party. Celebrating 40 years in 2018, organizers are also determined to restore the festival’s luster as a blue-chip foodie destination. Out: Food Network celeb symposiums and big-box restaurants. In: craft beer and chef-driven food booths.
As part of the festival’s foodie makeover, the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall will be divvied up into seven thematically distinct food districts, with names like Latin Hill and BBQ Country. Local, chef-forward fare is the order of the day, with offerings from homegrown eateries like Sonata’s Restaurant, Famous 48, Honey Bear’s BBQ, Pho King Food Truck and more.
Nosh on food samples from Valley eateries Grassroots, Twisted Grove and Wally’s at PHOENIX magazine’s Liquid Arizona experience at the festival. For more deets, turn the page!
Where did you get the idea to start a shandy program?
I was inspired when I traveled around San Francisco with my dad, Wally, a few years back before Twisted Grove had even become a concept on paper. I’m sure you can imagine that when you add liquor plus beer, it’s kind of a good time.
What’s the secret to making a good shandy?
Knowing your ingredients. There are many styles of beer, from porters to pilsners to ales, and then it’s kind of that mad scientist approach as to what kind of liquor, mixer and garnish to use.
What’s the most unusual shandy you offer?
The Blueberry Smash. It has Oberon beer, St-Germain [elderflower liqueur], mashed blueberries for the mixer, and [is] garnished with lemon. It’s outrageously good.
After you’ve sipped and sampled on Saturday, stick around for ’90s rock groups Everclear and Eve 6. Other Saturday music includes local hard rockers The Black Moods, Arizona ’80s cover band Rock Lobster and genre-bending rockers/blues brothers/reggae musicians Joel Maze & Kung Fu Grip. Sunday festivalgoers will be treated to the music of Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Spark Jack Daddy and Jay Allan & the Uncommon Good. All entertainment is included with a $12-$15 general admission ticket.
|Blueberry Smash||Southern Style||Victory Lap||Home Grown||Dark & Shandy|
2. My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge
April 14-15, Sloan Park, 2330 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Mesa
From talented amateurs to restaurant pros, more than 100 of the Valley’s top salsa “chefs” will go pepper-to-pepper at this annual two-day festival. Now in its 34th year – and first at Sloan Park in Mesa – the festival promises loads of salsa and chips, an abundance of beer and margaritas, live music and a chance to vote for the best salsa. Proceeds benefit the Arizona Hemophilia Association.
For nearly 20 years, PHOENIX magazine calendar editor Judy Harper has served as a judge. “I’ve dunked countless tortilla chips into hundreds of unknown spicy potions, tasting the good, the bad and the ugly,” Harper says. “Traditional entries tend to get my vote. I love a good hot sauce, pico de gallo or a nice mango salsa on a piece of fish. But this is a salsa festival, amigo.”
3 Tasting Tips with Judge Judy
#1 “Look for hints of sweetness and tartness underneath a fresh flavor of tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.”
#2 “Are the tomatoes roasted?” Roasted tomatoes make for rich, smoky salsa. Unroasted imparts a cleaner, fruitier flavor. Know the difference!
#3 Check for vegetables that are chopped by hand and not pulverized in a food processor. “That’s the mark of a good salsa.”
3. Outdoor dining
Cool evenings will soon be a thing of hazy recollection in the Valley of the Sun. Maximize your outdoor time with one of the Valley’s spring alfresco dining experiences.
Cloth & Flame
Patio dining is de rigueur in Arizona, but for an immersive open-air experience, Cloth & Flame has cornered the market. The culinary event company stages regular multicourse shared dinners in the North Phoenix desert and Superstition Mountains for $135 per person, which includes a welcome cocktail and wine with appetizers and a four-course dinner. Flagstaff and Sedona dinners run about $10 more. Cloth & Flame also stages special one-off dinners (see sidebar).
A Taste of Cloth & Flame with Chef Aurore Yasinsky
What’s it like to cook in the wilderness?
It’s like starting a new kitchen every time. We cook with open fire and it’s always a challenge.
Is there anything you won’t cook outdoors?
A soufflé. There’s no way to get an accurate temperature.
Most surprising comment?
“We wanted to have the experience, but weren’t expecting a good dinner. The dinner is as good as in a restaurant.”
Desert Table Retreat with Bon AppÉtit
Talk about destination dining. This three-day food getaway in a TBD location is C&F’s most ambitious event yet. $1,900 per person. (April 13-15)
Flagstaff Aspen Forest Dinner Dine amid the budding aspen trees of the Coconino National Forest, courtesy of the stars of Flagstaff’s flourishing food scene. $155-$205 per person. (May 12)
Tonto natural Bridge dinner
When the weather gets warm here, C&F heads for the hills – or the mountains, in this case – for a twilight dinner on the banks of Pine Creek, under the world’s largest travertine bridge. $205 per person. (May 26)
Dining Down the Orchard April 28
Celebrate farm-to-table dining under the leafy peach trees at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek on April 28 with a special four-course dinner commemorating 10 years of Dining Down the Orchard. All vegetables used for the dinner will be picked that day from the farm’s organic garden. And you don’t have to wonder about dessert – they’ll be serving warm pie brimming with Schnepf Farms peaches topped with vanilla bean ice cream. The cost is $95 per person and includes wine.
Phoenix Zoo Roars & Pours
April 5 & May 3
Feeling wild? Stop by the Phoenix Zoo’s Roars & Pours happy hour from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on April 5 and May 3. Meander through the zoo while enjoying beer, wine and food (available for purchase) and revel in animal encounters, yard games and live music. Ages 21+; $10 admission.
4. See a Show
There’s a concert for every music lover under the (Valley of the) sun this spring.
7th Annual International
Jazz Day Festival
International Jazz Day falls on April 30 this year, but Arizona enthusiasts can celebrate three weeks earlier when local and national artists, including guitarist Tina Estes, vocalists Lisa Hightower and Bernard Wright, trumpeter Mario Abney and saxophonist Doc Jones light up the stage at Scottsdale Civic Center Park.
Spread out a blanket or plant yourself in a lawn chair for an afternoon of free music at Scottsdale Civic Center Park. Groove to the cross-cultural, world rhythms of Sugahbeat and the “funky New Orleans-flavored soul” of the Wes Williams Band. Bring a picnic or purchase food and alcoholic beverages from vendors.
Creatives will swoon over this New Age retreat and festival held in the desert eco-city of Arcosanti. Be prepared to immerse yourself in three days of live music, talks/panels, workshops, experiential art, films, new technologies and outdoor/wellness activities. The star-laden 2018 lineup includes Chance the Rapper, Courtney Barnett, Beach House and EDM superstar Skrillex. Onsite camping accommodations are available, or stay offsite.
Roll & Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd take the stage at Ak-Chin Pavilion for the Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour. After more than 40 years, the iconic Southern rock band is calling it quits, so now’s your last chance to sing along live to “Free Bird.” The Outlaws and Bad Company open the show.
5. Pedal and Hike
For maximum high-season outdoor appreciation, you could hardly do better than this cardio-centric duo.
Lace up your hiking boots for the Full Moon Hike at Usery Mountain Regional Park, April 28. Meet at the trailhead and take a 2-mile hike under the full moon with a park ranger. Bring a flashlight and water. Leave Fido at home.