Desert Digest

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Eggplant with Calabrian Chile Marmalade and Burrata at Restaurant Progress Chef-owner TJ Culp recently put a new fall menu in place, and it’s the most playful one I’ve seen from him yet. Imagine raw oysters topped with caviar and steak tartare (what??) or French onion soup dumplings, fashioned like gyoza and served with beefy jus. One of my favorites of the evening was two big slabs of eggplant, breaded and...

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Photo courtesy Tarbell’s    When you dine at Tarbell’s, you will embark on an odyssey of opposites. This, you’ll soon learn, is a large part of its lasting charm. Mark Tarbell opened the restaurant in 1994 to immediate acclaim. The eatery soon became synonymous with fine dining in the Valley, attracting a welter of well-heeled patrons and possessing a certain je ne sais quoi that generated a positive buzz. Nearly three decades later, the Tarbell’s...

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Both Aioli Gourmet Burgers and Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour are all about being innovative and ever evolving. The two award-winning concepts are now joining forces to bring an expanded menu of elevated street food to Downtown Phoenix. Aioli’s executive chef, Vicktor Velez, has taken the reins as the head of B & T’s in-house food program, introducing a gourmet, globally influenced menu that pairs perfectly with the cocktails at the lauded Downtown lounge. Bitter...

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Mesquite Fresh Street Mex co-founders and brothers Ahmad and Naser Alatrash  are taking a different approach to marketing their modern Mexican cuisine. Instead of spending money on social media and other advertising, they’ve launched a “Free Taco Tour” available to businesses located within a four-mile radius of their Surprise, Gilbert, Mesa and Happy Valley locations. The tour gives the brothers an opportunity to connect with local businesses and area residents, Ahmad says. To take part...

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A new family-run pizzeria has opened in Downtown Phoenix. While it’s still finding its footing, it’s jumping off to a tasty start. Located on the corner of Van Buren Street and Fifth Avenue next to We’ve Got Flowers! is the new Via Della Slice Shop. Its housed in a historical warehouse, which I discovered after scrolling back through Via Della’s Instagram. I learned that the building was originally built in the 1920s as a car...

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Photo by Leah LeMoine   THE SCENE To stay connected during the pandemic – and to nurture our shared love of cooking – my friend Kristy suggested a weekly FaceTime cooking date. Her proposal: We’d take turns selecting recipes to cook along with the other, virtually. A cooking club for two? I said yes without hesitation. We started Quarantine Culinarians in July 2020 and have miraculously kept it up since, with a few skipped weeks and a brief hiatus this past summer. (I promise this will lead to a happy hour write-up – just stay with...

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Banh Xeo at Belly My beau and I put away an impressive number of dishes at Southeast Asian-inflected Belly last weekend, and crispy banh xeo was among the standouts. Banh means “bread” and xeo means “sizzle” — a misleading description for Vietnam’s savory seafood crepe, which surely sizzles in the pan but looks more like an omelet-pancake-crepe situation than bread. The batter is made with rice flour, which gives the...

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Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails at the Hotel Palomar in Downtown Phoenix has long been lauded for its creative cocktail program and deftly executed New American dishes. Now, the restaurant has a new chef, who recently revamped the menu to reflect the vibrancy and energy of its location and quality ingredients from local farmers. Blue Hound also launched an all-new drink lineup, a coterie of cocktails that pair perfectly with the thoughtful fare coming out...

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All the news that’s fit to nosh.  PSL Alert: You don’t have to hit Starbucks for your autumnal coffee fix. This year, respected local coffee shops like Press Coffee and Peixoto Coffee are getting in the spirit with seasonal offerings. Press’s first pumpkin spice latte will be served at all nine of its locations, including the outpost opening this Friday, October 8, in Downtown Phoenix. Peixoto’s buttered pumpkin latte comes heaped with marshmallow fluff from locally owned marshmallow café Toasted Mallow. You can...

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Photo by Nikki Buchanan   I’m a sucker for good fried chicken, so when I read about Fryd Bird, a new fast-casual in Mesa, getting rave reviews, I grabbed a friend and headed there for lunch. Modern and cheerful, one yolk-yellow wall displaying a huge rendering of an UN-fried, alive and kicking bird, the place had a small, steady line during the lunch hour. Lots of the customers appeared to be working guys, there for...

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Photo courtesy Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant  Openings Air Guitar Combination corner store and coffee bar with grab-and-go meals and a nice beer and wine selection lands in Gilbert. 1566 S. Higley Rd., Gilbert, airguitar4life.com Blue 32 Sports Grill This popular East Valley sports bar has opened a third location that serves everything from Buffalo wings and salads to burgers and steaks. 2028 N. Gilbert Rd., Mesa, 480-590-3569, blue32sportsgrill.com Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant A...

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  Photo by Nikki Buchanan   Bún Thit Nuong with Cha Giò at Banh Mi Bistro While it’s true that BMB is famous for its banh mi, it’s also true that their noodle salad bowls — bún, in Vietnamese — are every bit as good and maybe a wee bit lighter. You get your choice of two items to put in the bowl (grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, tofu and the like), but I always go...

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