Spicy Chocolate Almonds
Carolina’s Chocolate owner Lisa Jaimes-Toon has been making chile-laced chocolates since 2014, showcasing the flavors of her Mexican heritage. Last year, while snacking on shards of her cayenne-spiked Spicy Sonoran chocolate and a handful of almonds, she had an epiphany. “I have to bring these two together,” she recalls. The result: Spicy Sonoran Almonds ($10), draped with 64-percent cacao tickled with cinnamon and cayenne. The first bite tastes like a chocolate-covered almond, and then the heat gradually explodes in your mouth. The spiciness lingers for a hot minute… and then you want to eat just one more. And then another. “The almonds pack a punch, but they finish like a cup of Mexican hot chocolate,” Jaimes-Toon says. Sold in 6 oz. bags, the non-GMO and gluten-free Spicy Sonoran Almonds have been a popular addition to the Carolina’s Chocolate repertoire. “Everybody loves them.”
Fruit Juice Sodas
When former Apple computer technician Ben Bowman discovered a dearth of artisanal sodas in the Valley, he took a shot at fashioning his own bubbly brew. Gradually, he elevated his hobby to the next level and now makes Simple Soda ($3 per bottle) in four Arizona-inspired flavors: grapefruit, lime, Arizona Orange and the biggest crowd pleaser, strawberry lemonade. He crafts his carbonated sodas in nifty glass bottles with juices from local Sun Orchard juicery. “We don’t use concentrates, we use real fruit juices,” he says. All flavors are tart, crisp and fruity, but Arizona Orange diverges from the pack with its unexpected Creamsicle taste that feels like a hug from childhood. After a brief hiatus this past spring, Bowman was due to restart bottling with new pineapple and non-alcoholic apple beer flavors.
Simple Soda Co.
Hand-Crafted Pasta Sauce
While Marcellino Ristorante at the Scottsdale Waterfront was closed for five weeks during the pandemic, chef/owner Marcellino Verzino started bottling his hand-crafted sauces for customers to enjoy at home, offering four varieties in 16 oz. jars (tomato, $12; sausage ragù, $14; beef ragù, $15; and Bolognese, $18). Verzino prepares sauce the way it’s been made for hundreds of years, according to his wife, Sima. “He uses the finest ingredients and never cuts corners,” she says. The Bolognese ragù is a bottled work of art, with tender bits of beef, veal, mortadella and house-made pork sausage adrift in a pool of San Marzano tomatoes, punctuated with herbs and red wine. Even the simple tomato sauce infused with fresh garlic steals the show. Verzino’s ability to translate centuries of culinary tradition into a jar is a gift. The sauces are only available at the restaurant.