Desert Digest

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2022 is here, and it’s fitting to reflect as we commence another year. Back in 2004, while driving south on Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail after helping at Neyers Vineyards with my friend Tadeo Borchardt, I whispered to myself that one day I would be involved in the world of making wine. Was I mollifying my own existential anxiety over the future by dreaming the impossible? Perhaps. “Be careful what you wish for,” the saying goes....

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At 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon, Buddha’s Ritual in North Scottsdale entertains a small, relaxed crowd — six or seven jeans-clad guys in their 30s having a beer-y business lunch and three pairs of 20-something women nibbling light bites and sipping cocktails. The garage doors are open, and a breeze blows across the bar, riffling the napkins as two equally young barkeeps make photogenic herb-laden cocktails for a photo shoot that will announce Buddha’s soon-to-launch...

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Photo by Jacob Tyler Dunn   All the news that’s fit to nosh.  Fry Baby: Back off, burgers. Hop along, hot dogs. Check you later, chicken fingers. French fries are once again emerging from their supporting role to take center stage at FRIED French Fry & Music Festival on Saturday, April 9. Downtown Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park will host the potatopalooza, which has been on a pandemic hiatus since its debut in 2019. The...

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Photo courtesy Hotel Valley Ho   The Girl Scout Cookie Dessert Challenge is back for its eighth year. After taking a break last year due to the pandemic, Arizona chefs are back in the kitchen whipping up delicious desserts inspired by Girl Scout cookies. February 1 through 28, 21 esteemed chefs from venues across the state will be showcasing their concoctions made with Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils and Lemon-Ups. “The participating chefs will...

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Photo courtesy Cartel Roasting Co.   Cartel Coffee Lab started as a small family-owned operation in Tempe and has since expanded to 10 locations across the Southwest and continues to lean into sustainable growth – all with a new name and look. The local coffee roaster and retailer is now known as Cartel Roasting Co. to better reflect its mission and vision as a force in the coffee production industry. A new 12,000-square-foot roasting, canning...

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OBON Sushi + Ramen recently announced its third location will be opening at Biltmore Fashion Park this February. The Arizona restaurant chain currently has two Scottsdale locations and delivers both innovative and traditional dishes including tuna carpaccio and mackerel toast served on local bread. OBON chef Paul Im will helm the new location with a dedication to sustainability and the use of locally sourced ingredients. The new OBON will use the Japanese hard charcoal grilling...

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“You don’t win friends with salad,” they sang on The Simpsons. Clearly, those Springfield silly billies never tried these enticing ensaladas. Chicken Panzanella Nothing wins over a salad skeptic like panzanella, Italy’s glorious salad of crusty bread soaking up vinaigrette and tomato juices. Federal Pizza adds chicken ($13.75). federalpizza.com Grilled Watermelon Salad No ho-hum fruit plate at the larder + the delta. Chef Stephen Jones grills his watermelon and playfully pairs it with watermelon radishes,...

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THE SCENE In life, we often write off whole categories of experiences when they don’t jibe with our personalities. Afraid of heights? You’re probably passing on roller-coasters at every theme park you visit. Nut allergy? No pecan pie, trail mix or turtle candies for you. Hate exercising in front of strangers? Gyms aren’t your jam, and likely never will be. There’s something refreshing and clarifying about knowing yourself well enough to know what suits you...

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Yelp’s ninth annual Top 100 Places to Eat in 2022 list came out this week and Cocina Madrigal in Phoenix snagged the top spot in the country. Owned by Latinx chef Leo Madrigal, Cocina Madrigal is known for hand-crafted dishes including al pastor tacos, beef birria enchiladas, achiote chicken burritos and made-to-order guacamole. The south Phoenix restaurant has been open since 2018 and first made the Top 100 list in 2019. Yelp determines which restaurants...

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   I don’t know about you, but a Caribbean vacation sounds pretty good to me right now. Short of hopping a plane to Jamaica, the next best thing might be a trip to Ms. Martha’s Caribbean Kitchen at 19th Avenue and Northern. The restaurant sits on the west end of a lovely ’40s-era Spanish Colonial building (the former Good Shepherd Home for Girls), and owner Martha Laurencin keeps the religious theme...

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All the news that’s fit to nosh.   Egging Us On: Another high-profile athlete has joined the plant-based fray. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray recently announced a partnership with JUST Egg, the popular vegan egg alternative. In addition to billboards trumpeting the plant-based brand on the 101 near Westgate Entertainment District, Murray’s ambassadorial role includes a collaboration with Westgate restaurants The Lola and McFadden’s and Downtown Phoenix’s The Ainsworth on The Kyler sandwich. The JUST Egg...

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Photo by Kristy Durkin    Kura Sushi is on the cutting edge of the revolving sushi concept internationally and now nationally. We are lucky enough to have a new location right here in the heart of Phoenix. Located at 20th St and Camelback Rd at the shopping center anchored by Fry’s, you will spot the unassuming location by the line of patrons outside. Lines seem to start forming just before they open at 11 a.m....

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