February 12th, 2011

A great year for bad-ass cocktails.

A little R&D and brainstorming session at Citizen Public House’s hidden upstairs bar. Work can be tough.

A little R&D and brainstorming session at Citizen Public House’s hidden upstairs bar. Work can be tough.

Travis Nass (Rancho Pinot), Jason Asher (Magnum), Bill DeGroot (Consultant), Richie Moe (Citizen Public House), Ross Simon (Consultant), Micah Olsen (Jade Bar)… these are local names you should know.

Say hello to our kings of cocktails. These guys know their shit. Don’t order off the menu, a little trust goes a long way with these master mixologists. Ask them to surprise you with something new and you’re guaranteed a fantastic drink… sometimes classic, sometimes original.  Expect perfection.

If you stalk me on Foursquare, Facebook or Twitter you’ve seen my extensive research, chronicling the surge of true cocktail culture hidden throughout the Valley. I thought I’d share some pics and comments here on the blog.

Dear Brand X Custom T-Shrits, I need an “Official Cocktail Taste Tester” t-shirt, size medium.

Dear Brand X Custom T-Shrits, I need an “Official Cocktail Taste Tester” t-shirt, size medium.

Looking for choco-tinis, mundane mojitos or Red Bull vodkas? Stick to the ridiculous champagne bars, trashy/trendy dance clubs or Applebee’s happy hours.

The purpose of these visits will be revealed soon. (once I figure that out myself). Til then, just enjoy some boozy pics. Salud.

What’s the sexiest thing in this picture? (taken at Modern Steak)

What’s the sexiest thing in this picture? (taken at Modern Steak)

A perfect Pendennis Club at Jade Bar, a new (old) favorite drink.

A perfect Pendennis Club at Jade Bar, a new (old) favorite drink.

Pisco Sour at Citizen Public House.

Pisco Sour at Citizen Public House.

Fireside imbibe at Camelback Inn.

Fireside imbibe at Camelback Inn.

The legendary Yuzu Beet Gimlet at Jade Bar.

The legendary Yuzu Beet Gimlet at Jade Bar.

No boring margs at Jade Bar.

No boring margs at Jade Bar.

This pea appears to be sunning itself poolside.

This pea appears to be sunning itself poolside.

Winding down at The Vig.

Winding down at The Vig.

PS --- Craft beer culture is hot too, but that’s another story. (Taste of Tops)

PS --- Craft beer culture is hot too, but that’s another story. (Taste of Tops)

–Moment of honestly, I work with Citizen Public House. They rock. Now you know.

December 21st, 2010

REVIEW: Rancho Pinot in Scottsdale still a favorite, now with lunch.

Rancho Pinot lunch menu

It’s dangerous having an office located in downtown Scottsdale. The proximity to restaurants and watering holes can easily lead to lengthy lunches and copious amounts of cocktails. Now that Rancho Pinot has added a weekday lunch menu, I fear my productivity level just dropped.


Although it seems this place has fallen off the foodnik radar, the stellar Arizona-accented cooking is still earning the “5-STARS” awarded by the Republic. A delectable new lunch menu makes it even more accessible.

Inside Rancho Pinot

Heading inside, you’ll see that kitsch is king.

Imagine cowboys, comics, saguaro ribs, and white table cloths. It’s a dreamy culture clash of whimsy to match the eclecticism of the cuisine.

Travis Nass's bar

Brandishing his bola tie, bartender Travis Nass is on a mission to elevate the city’s cocktail scene. He makes his own… well… everything. His bar is stocked little vials and vessels (pictured) containing homemade concoctions and bartender essentials.

His perfect Manhattan provoked this tweet to @kkrader, “I had a cocktail today that made me quiver. That good, or I just had the alchy shakes. I’m ok w either.”

Add in lunch by Chef Chrysa and I’m still shaking.

Rancho Pinot on Urbanspoon

November 14th, 2010

“Let’s put beer on the dinner table”

My friend in food (and beer) Rob Fullmer has a passion/obsession for beer.

He also has a mission: Let’s put beer on the dinner table.

How can we help? Watch the video, follow him on Twitter and stay tuned here for some cheery beery news from me and other friends in the industry. Arizona beers and beverages are about to take a giant step forward very soon.

Also check out the beer blog/website beerphxation.com

November 12th, 2010

Is there such a thing as a food hangover?

Course 20 something out of 238.

Course 20 something out of 238.

Yes. After 29 courses in one dinner (yes . . . twenty-nine), you may succumb to a food hangover. A recent dinner at Binkley’s Restaurant left me with epicurean euphoria, but also a hard-earned foodhang over.

Symptoms are similar to a booze hangover. Fatigue, decreased alertness, short breath and maybe a little achiness. Possibly the meat sweats.

But completing a marathon tasting dinner at Binkely’s is like earning a food nerd badge of honor. You wear it proudly on the waistline the next day.

November 11th, 2010

VIDEO: Deep thoughts about living in Phoenix.

Part II of the Arizona InTheMo project: The team wanted some dish on my life here in the Phoenix area.  (food, things to do, etc)

Ignore my gordo-ness (this was a year ago when I was at my heaviest). Also ignore the awful hair day and the lazy eye (allergies). Other than that, jab away!!!

November 10th, 2010

This is one of my favorite places in the universe.

Here’s why . . .

The InTheMo production team passed through the Valley last year.  It was great to spend the day with them and talk all things restaurants and dining culture in Arizona. The result was a  beautifully produced video of Quiessence and a few other spots. This is is my favorite and captures everything I love about this place, food and the chef. Enjoy.

November 8th, 2010

Alright bitches, the blogger is back.

Yeah, yeah . . . I’ve been busy with work, but that’s no excuse for leave you hanging. Professional note: if there are any clients that get  annoyed with this post, you know I love you and these are things I’ve already said to you in person, so there.

On with the show!

Loving it:


Quiessence's barrel-aged cocktails.

Killer cocktails at Quiessence. Why do I love them so much? Maybe because helped put them together. Kick-ass cocktail consultant Bill Degroot made my dreams come true with his Farmhouse Cocktails and his 90-day aged Manhattans.

Yep. Barrel-aged cocktails are the shit. Huge thanks to Bill!

New restaurant openings: A few new spots that pique my interest: Jimmy Woo’s, Amaro Pizzeria & Vino Lounge and Vitamin T.

Nobuo at Teeter House

Nobuo-san, making my dreams come true with his omakase.

The return of adventurous dining: Thank god we’re getting over the “safety food” phase. Don’t get me wrong, “comfort food” will always have a place in our regular rotation (for obvious reasons), but dumbed down eats are just plain boring and over. Thanks to the food gods for bringing back spots like Nobuo At Teeter House and his omakase experience that made me quiver during my back-to-back visits within 7 days (reviewed here by local food blog god Dominic).

I’ve had the pork sweats before, but never the seafood sweats. ‘Nough said.

Luke warm about it:

Food trucks. Yep, I’m that asshole. Yet . . . I’m the biggest fan of the concept. So since I want to see this grow to greatness, I won’t name names. But event the ones I do like, I know you’ll keep getting better (I hope)!

My POV: Either do great food truck-y street eats, or do something chef driven and gourmet. No middle road. Drop the gimmicky menus and deliver, or simply feed me.

Let it die:

Bruschetta. I understand the market for it. You wanna feed the bottom feeders and hungry masses. (which often  includes me too!!!) Let’s all just own that truth and live with the shame. I sounded like Dr. Phil there for a moment.

Burger bonanza. Shut up with your crazy gourmet burgers made with wine, truffles and fired by coal, junk yard tires or cosmic nuclear energy. Quit it.

Annoying advertisers. Completely unrelated to this post, but god dammit quit calling me with every “hot new restaurant directory.”

Always end on a happy note:

Recent things/people I love: You make my life so awesome. I raise my glass of cheap wine (from Tops Liquor) to you! @olllllo, Luxardo, @TheWildLavender, “That waving-paper-thin-fish-pie thingy” (Okonomiyaki, as described by Lisa Polacheck), @StacyPearson, Carlyn Mumm, Rivers Cuomo Fancy Pants III, The Grits at @BeckettsTable, Crystal Light and of course . . .

Judge Judy. May your justice continue to lord over us all.

Grits for the gods.

I pledge allegiance to the grits. And justice.

Moment of honesty: Quiessence and Nobuo are clients of mine, but c’mon . . . But you already know they rock and everything I say about them is totally blog worthy. That’s why I work with them.

October 1st, 2010

It’s 11:45 and I’m tired.

If you saw my desk, you’d see how obsessed I am about food. It’s scary. Brochures, menus, napkin notes, biz cards . . . it’s nuts.

I’m nuts.

The foodie biz is great and I’m so close to announcing some big news that will change the game. Stay tuned!

SIDE NOTE: Looking for interns . un-paid, but well-fed and never thirsty. Seriously, you will never eat better in your life! Email me.

September 18th, 2010

Quick 4: Your “must-go” spots for Arizona Restaurant Week

It is here. Toss out the skinny jeans and dust off the eatin’ dress. (Sorry Gwen, the gourmand garb is JxP territory! HAHA!)

Before we get started here’s a big tip: TIP! Please tip appropriately. During Restaurant Week, the food is discounted, but the appreciation for service shouldn’t be. If you’re second guessing, just double the tip.

Atlas Bistro — This is a wickedly under-appreciated gem in our city. It tops my Arizona Restaurant Week list, but should also be in the rotation of best restaurants in Arizona. BYOB is made easy with an epic wine shop next door. Make your reservations NOW. Last year, we had to pull some strings to get in during restaurant week.

WEBSITE: http://www.atlasbistro.wordpress.com/
MENU: http://arizonarestaurantweek.com/phoenix_detail.php?id=135

Iruna* –The unstoppable indie restaurateur, Chef Aaron May (watch out Sam Fox) is flexing his culinary muscles as confidently as ever, serving destination-dining worthy Spanish tapas at an already affordable price point. Restaurant Week only sweetens the deal. Don’t miss the Pollo Colonial, Fliet Mingon, and one of my new favorite obsessions — the Marcona Almond Turron (Frozen almond souffle that takes like cereal and milk)!

WEBSITE: http://www.irunaaz.com/
MENU: http://arizonarestaurantweek.com/phoenix_detail.php?id=275

Vincent’s – Cauliflower Soup with Chipotle Brioche Croutons. Lobster Omelette. Need I say more? With long history in the Valley, Vincent is still a prized chef and his charm-oozing spot on Camelback should regular repeat on your list of fave restaurants. PS — A weekend morning at his outdoor food market is culinary paradise.

WEBSITE: http://www.vincentsoncamelback.com/
MENU: http://arizonarestaurantweek.com/phoenix_detail.php?id=142

Talavera at Four Seasons Resort — So much for keeping resorts off the list. Foodie pal EricEatsOut treated me to an amazing dinner here recently and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since. The AZRW menu doesn’t hold back with starters like Corn Bisque-Snow Crab, Bell Pepper and Fennel Pollen!

WEBSITE: http://www.talaverarestaurant.com/
MENU: http://arizonarestaurantweek.com/phoenix_detail.php?id=97

Forgive the “local rant,” but please, for the love of god, skip the chain-y spots. This is AZ Restaurant Week! Go for uniquely AZ spots!

(And no, I’m not one of those local everything in the universe people… Just this week.)

Oh and click over to Pen & Fork for even better-ly written strategies for AZRW. Gwen is great!

*The honest truth! Iruna is a client of mine, but as you know, I only work with the BEST! I hand pick who I work with and this place has the goods!

August 21st, 2010

Goat makes the exclusive invite list to my surprise birthday party.


Cheers to you friends.

After a looooong day at work yesterday, Nikki and I hit The W for cocktails then Harpers Nursery to pickup flowers for the office. Little did I know that she was buying extra time for the organizers of my very own surprise birthday party!!!

Holy shit! A surprise birthday party!????

Tis true. Last night, my little house in Tempe was packed with my nearest and dearest pals. Sangria and friends, what could anyone ask for?

I’ll tell ya.

Catering by my new local fave, Taste of the Caribbean!!! (4.5 Stars by The Republic) Curried Goat, Braised Oxtail, Plantains… jebus christ this was all so awesome.

IMG_2886And the guests kept showing up! Including Mrs. Largo herself!

Everyone: Thanks for the gifts, eats but more importantly… thanks for being my friends and spending your evening with me at casa largo. I need you all in my life and I’m so grateful that we’re pals. xoxoxo.

Super shout out to Adam for putting it all together. If you were here, you know how awesometown it was. Yes, this was the best bday gift ever.


EDITOR’S NOTE: My birthday is really on Monday, so there’s still time to send gifts and cocktails. (writer’s note: I have no editor)