It’s exhilarating putting together a big magazine feature like Best of the Valley, with its strong community profile, panoramic cultural scope and packed armory of editorial gizmos and gadgets.
But it’s nerve-wracking, too – mostly because the feature has too many moving parts to definitively judge as a whole until it’s been mailed back from the printer. BOV requires the most contributors, the most design hours and the most challenging air-traffic control of any issue we do.
What’s the right metaphor here? Producing BOV is like overseeing a street mural involving two dozen different artists, that wraps around all four sides of a building… and you’re only allowed to look at it from 5 feet away. There’s no guarantee it will all mesh.
The upshot: When the PHOENIX editors and art directors sit down to compose this irrepressible, 62-page celebration of food, culture and people in the Valley of the Sun, themes and patterns emerge that we weren’t originally expecting. That’s true throughout the whole 288-page magazine, actually. Some themes I’m noticing as we put this one to bed:
“[Best of the Valley] requires the most contributors, the most design hours and the most challenging air-traffic control of any issue we do.”
D-backs love. We didn’t mean to include so much of it, honestly we didn’t. But they’re killing it in the NL West, so it seemed natural to toss in a showcase of the team’s freebie ballpark giveaways through the years in addition to our scheduled profile of breakout star Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Fanboy/girl restaurant over-coverage. As if our dish-by-dish ranking of Glai Baan’s Thai street food menu in 2022 wasn’t fawning enough, the restaurant has two items in this year’s BOV. So does Pizzeria Bianco. (Yeah, we’re really leading the pack with that one.) But there are a slew of original, idiosyncratic, non-obvious picks in there, too, I promise.
East Valley/West Valley advocacy. Two of our monthly, longer-form restaurant reviews this month are EV restaurants while associate editor Madison Rutherford hoofed it all the way out to Buckeye to spotlight the Verrado settlement for Day Trip. We also round up local restaurants in the WV.
Gardening/foraging. In addition to her jarring, heartfelt column about mental illness and homelessness in her Raising Phoenix column, writer Amy Silverman is also evidently trying to launch a second career as a gardening guru. She nominated so many plant nurseries and seed farms for Best of the Valley, we just gave the woman her own darn section (pg. 197). Also, my “sweet, meandering ode” to Oak Creek Canyon, as a colleague aptly put it, includes some cool foraging stuff with Atria chef Rochelle Daniel that you may want to try.
And so on. If you notice any other curious/amusing/brilliant/off-putting themes in the issue, please deconstruct and let us know. We’ll probably still be putting away the paint.
– Craig Outhier