Eight’s Check,Please! Arizona Festival Preview!

Last year was the first year for the up and coming Eight’s Check, Please! Arizona Festival. Taking a great TV show into the food festival realm seemed like a fantastic idea. Organizing and showcasing a large array of some the valley’s best restaurants in an enjoyable event setting isn’t an easy task, however Eight pulled it off seamlessly! You can read WSWE’s Weekly Spotlight coverage from last year here: Eight’s Check, Please! Arizona Festival Archive.

This year is expected to be larger and more exciting, rivaling the Phoenix Devoured event. It is, after all, becoming one of Arizona’s must see & eat foodie events of the year! The current list of participants are:

 

The WhereShouldWeEat.com crew will be covering the event sharing all the yummy details through all our social media and following up with a Weekly Spotlight showcasing our experience.  Don’t miss out on the fun! We look forward to seeing you at downtown Phoenix’s CityScape indulging along with us. Here are all the complete details on Eight’s Check, Please! Arizona Festival:

 

Tickets: http://www.protixonline.com/event-details?id=1841

Cost: $69 online or $79 at the gate

Location: CityScape – 1 East Washington St  Phoenix, AZ 85004

Date: Sunday March 30th, 2014

Time: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Additional Info: http://www.azpbs.org/checkplease/festival/index.php

Devoured Phoenix 2014

 

The city goes 70 days without rain and Mother Nature chooses one of the busiest days of the season to provide us with the much needed moisture. However, a little rain doesn’t stop one of the premiere food festivals in the valley from going off without a hitch. As popular as ever, this year’s event was a sellout as quickly as they put the tickets on sale. For the lucky few who were quick on the draw and were able to obtain tickets, they were in for a day of amazing food samples from some of the top restaurants in the metro area and a variety of wine. With plenty of tents and umbrellas to shield the guests and most people coming prepared with jackets and ponchos the focus was on the smells and tastes coming from the tables.

Located at the Phoenix Art Museum’s sculpture garden, this event brings in such high profile names as; T.Cook’s, Fox Restaurants, St. Francis, Roka Akor, Clever Koi, and FnB to name just a sampling. Everything you could think of from food to wine and beer was represented. Craving anything in particular and it was a good bet you would find it. No matter how you prepared for the event it would be impossible to experience it all in one day and in one stomach. Good thing the event spans 2 days as you would need a good night’s rest to make your rounds the following day. To make matters worse each day brings different food options. We recommend next year you arrive in a group and share the samples taking bites instead of the whole thing. That way you can possibly try them all.

So let’s talk about some of the food and drinks. There were some memorable stops along our tasting experience. SanTan Brewing had a flavorful ribeye marinated in a green chile aujus and accompanied by a mac and cheese side. It was clear the visitors to this tent were hoping for a beer sample as well but this year it was all about their food offerings. New valley restaurant Cuttlefish was handing out samples of the best gnocchi I have ever had the privilege to eat. Soft gnocchi filled with a spinach ricotta and covered in a white truffle cream sauce. It was decadent and rich and just the right amount of truffle flavor. The Post was serving up a grilled quail with a beautiful presentation. Sometimes you don’t know if you should stare at a dish or eat it. This provided both senses with a feast. Chelsea’s Kitchen was handing out slider versions of their famous Howie burger. Bootlegger’s pork belly on a sweet potato grit cake was perfectly cooked and the smell alone was impossible to resist. There was a good fish selection as well from many tables; including, St. Francis which had a Skuna Bay Salmon on citrus and beet cured dill pickled mustard seed and crème fraise. In the VIP section you could end your food exploration with the butterscotch pudding from FnB or down on the ground was a tasty vanilla and chocolate vacherin duet with crème anglaise and raspberry coulis.

If you were wanting to quench your thirst there were plenty of options for you in that department; including quite a few local breweries. Along beer row were Four Peaks, Mudshark, Sleepy Dog, Mother Road, and Prescott Brewery. If you prefer wine there were many vineyards to choose from both local and all along the west coast. Those with access to the VIP section had champagne to enjoy with Tendil and Lombardi Champagne. They were located throughout the event so you never had to go far to find the liquid of your choice.  Unlike other events where you might stand in line for some time trying to get just a small wine tasting there never seemed to be any wait at any station for a beverage. Additionally there were huge tubs filled with ice and bottles of water if you were being responsible, or just wanted to cleanse your palette.

Success would be the word I’d use to describe this event. Every year it seems to get better and better, with more food and drink options. Not everyone knows about this event but those in the know, know it is the event everyone looks to as a guideline. We look forward to seeing what happens next year.

Pig & Pickle Experience

He Said

 

Tucked away in the corner of a strip mall (isn’t this the way all stories start in Phoenix when talking about great new local restaurants?) just outside the Old Town area was a sign with a big pig on it. I immediately thought, maybe this is going to be my favorite new BBQ place. It turned out to be something completely unexpected and different. The pig and of course pickled items were prominently on the menu but really the depth of options surprised me. I think you will be pleasantly surprised as even veggie focused people will find something of interest. It wasn’t super busy the night we visited to do a little He Said/She Said investigation, but it kept a steady stream of customers as we had arrived early. They aren’t open for lunch but they do have a nice happy hour I’d happily enjoy again on our next visit and it starts at 4 so you could consider it an early dinner for Linner even. They focus on local ingredients as all good restaurants should and even our selection of alcohol tended to be less of the national variety and more of the local or regional variety. They have a nice side patio and I believe an attractive bar setup. We were seated right away and sat at a high top near the bar. Perfect for people watching and getting a good idea of how well service was in this very family friendly place. I would call the service comfortable and casual, almost as if you were eating at a friend’s house who had invited you to a nice meal they had prepared.
We started with a few drinks and the “Beer Cheese with things to dip in it” because it was still happy hour. The beer cheese was enjoyable and had a mix of tastes some of which we could not pinpoint. It came with a few tomatoes and 2 different kinds of bread. It seemed to me to be a pretzel and a rye bread. I favored the pretzel but that’s not shocking as I have a secret love of it (whether it’s on my diet or not). They provided extra bread on request and didn’t charge for the additional “things to dip in it”. It always frustrates me when a restaurant wants to charge you extra for something so insignificant. I wasn’t impressed by my wine, a sauvignon blanc. It wasn’t horrible but I don’t think I’d order it again. But my dining partner’s dirty martini looked fantastic.
For our dinner I chose the apocalypse sow burger and got the “tots”. I use quotes because in a minute you will agree with me these aren’t tots. The burger was made of pork and had a spice to it that included garlic (as I would continue to smell it all evening). It was covered in a Havarti cheese, bacon, and a garlic aioli. From the first bite to the last I savored it all. So different, so distinct, so amazing! I love burgers and have had many fantastic burgers in this city but this one stands out hand down! So we know the burger is worth a trip all on its own, but for an extra $1.50 you will experience what they call “tots”. Imagine golf ball size fried balls; yes you get two of them, filled with gruyere cheese and spices. They came with a dipping sauce but I wanted them just as they were so I could remember the beautiful flavor of the tot all by itself.
We had already over done it, but of course our friendly server drops the dessert menu and runs away. He knew we wanted to yell at him for even attempting to suggest more food. But we both immediately eyed the chocolate bourbon pecan pie. We ordered it, we ate it, and we starred at each other with pure gluttony in our eyes. It comes with a scoop of ice cream but it’s the smooth center that will peak your taste buds. Unlike some other bourbon pies I have had this isn’t overwhelming and had it not been in the title I might have overlooked it. So save room, if you like things like, bourbon, chocolate, pecans, and perfectly cooked crust.
So don’t get me wrong, this place isn’t about diet food or sensible meals. If you need to control yourself and eat 250 calories for dinner, don’t stop by this location. But if you want a flavorful, rich, and memorable meal then put it on your list your stomach won’t regret it.

She Said

 

Hungry and near to Old Town Scottsdale, “He” and I decided to pop into the Pig and Pickle. This unpretentious spot sits in a strip mall on the corner of Hayden and Thomas. I wasn’t really sure what type of restaurant I was walking into and for some reason I guessed BBQ. By the name it wasn’t hard to guess this place favored pork inspired dishes, but BBQ this was not!

It was Happy Hour and we took advantage by ordering drinks and a starter. I got a dirty martini, which the waiter informed me was made with more of a pickle flavor then a green olive flavor, I was on board and ended up loving it. Garnished with olives stuffed with pickled green beans was a nice touch.

The Happy Hour menu had lots of choices and we indulged in the “Beer Cheese with Some Dipping Things.” Two types of bread accompanies this thick and flavorful dip. As I ate I got flashes of summers in Wisconsin. The beer and cheese combo is always a winner in my book but this had something extra. A traditional base with some unidentified seasoning that gave this more depth than just a cheese based dip.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the menu. All the food had an artistic foodie element to it. P&P take well known dishes and amp them up! For dinner I decided on the Croque Madame Sammie and when it arrived at the table my jaw dropped. The portions are extremely generous! This French favorite comes open face on a thick slice of bread, piled with ham, gruyere cheese and two sunny side eggs all smothered in rich Béchamel sauce. P&P nailed it, this sandwich is sinfully good. Rich and creamy with salty hints from the ham will be teasing my taste buds and for weeks.

You have your choice of fries, salad or tots with the Sammies. The waiter recommended the tots so I went for it. WOWSER! Can these even be called tots? Two tots (that look more like arancini balls) are filled with herbs and gruyere cheese that give a stuffing/dressing consistency inside with a fried crispy outside. They are definitely the most complex tots I’ve ever had and should not be missed!

Not like we had room but went ahead and ordered the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. I am glad we did! This southern favorite was rich and decedent but not too sweet. The scoop of vanilla ice cream and buttery crust made this a perfect ending to this superb meal.

When I am in the mood for a comforting splurge I am DEFINITELY heading to Pig&Pickle!

 

Read our Listing on this restaurant now.

Chandler’s Best Food Truck Festival 2014

This was the first year for Best Food Truck Festival held in Chandler over the past weekend. $12 got you in and unlike other food festivals who have a ticket/card/coin system these trucks and vendors were taking cash and card. As you entered you got a wristband with 3 voting tabs on it, if you favored a truck you ripped the tab off and placed it in their envelope.

Best Food Truck FestivalVoting Wristband

The event advertised 50 trucks but there was only about 30 trucks present but that didn’t stop us from getting our Food Truck fill. Once again we went on an eating frenzy and logged our afternoon:

 

 

Two Fat Guy’s Grilled Cheese

 

Sweet Magnolia Smokehouse

 

Gourmet Commend Center 

 

Big John’s Texas BBQ

 

Chuckies

 

Planet of the Crepes

 

GringoDillas

 

 

Dewey Destin’s Experience

He Said

 
Beautiful beaches and a small town atmosphere make Destin a place I have always loved to visit. Growing up in Florida and attending college only a few hours away made this the spring break location of choice for me. It’s funny how you see things differently as you grow up. What was once all about drinking and maybe a few regrettable experiences turned into a relaxing and amazing foodie experience.
As usual, work caused me to travel to the area to do a project work with Eglin AFB. My parents who go there frequently for their own needs gave me the idea to visit Dewey of Destin’s. As my mom put it, “Go to the shack and not the nice restaurant, you’ll enjoy the basic quality of it”. She wasn’t kidding! Siri kept trying to take me to the more formal (although still beach casual) and newer restaurant version. I had to convince her that I wanted the original dive seafood shack. I finally found it only 5 minutes away from their newer location. Not complaining about the newer location, it is nice, and right on the gulf, but it doesn’t provide that really authentic feel you get when dining on the bay right on the pier.

Once you finally find the spot you will park on the gravel lot and start your walk towards the trailer and semi-permanent building built right into the pier. What’s nice is that all the tables line two piers and connect to the kitchen where you order. After you order you can help yourself to the fresh brewed tea or other drink options . Be warned that during spring break and high season you could wait in a really long line to order. I was lucky in that my project brought me in during the low season. The problem with that of course is that their hours were limited, but I made it happen multiple times during my trip. The staff is there to help first timers make a decision on what to order as they did on my first visit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for suggestions. I also have to be very honest, the owners are all Auburn grads and/or fans and being an Auburn grad myself I had an instant connection with the crew. For me, this made me love Dewey’s all the more. But truth be told, it doesn’t matter where you went to school because you are about to be in for some of the best seafood you have ever had.

So deciding what to eat will be your biggest decision. The rest of the time you will be stress free and relaxing on the pier while you wait for your food to be delivered. In my opinion you have two choices, the fried shrimp basket or the grilled grouper. They have lots of daily specials and other fresh catch selections you will have to ponder when you make your choice. For me, the shrimp is the choice of the day. It is fried in a very light batter that allows you to really enjoy flavors of the freshly caught shrimp and not be over burdened by the taste of just batter. It will be accompanied by crinkle cut fries, jalapeno hush puppies (that can be a bit spicy but, even as a non-spicey guy I enjoyed them), and coleslaw which is great but not the focus of my attention. It’s a big basket and the butterfly shrimp are plenty. Depending on your hunger pains it might be enough to share between two. Here is a hint, the owners don’t mind if you order kids versions which is a bit less.

The grilled grouper is for the healthier person in your group. This is Florida after all and Grouper is the fish of choice. But it is so flavorful and perfectly cooked it was always a tossup for me between it and the shrimp. Great grill marks and not an ounce of dryness you will not believe your taste buds. This basket is just as large but because the sides tend to border on the healthier side you can easily eat the whole thing by yourself. It comes with corn on the cob, red potatoes and coleslaw.
So if you ever find yourself in Destin for a vacation and are looking for a great dive and casual seafood place make siri take you to the right Dewey’s. But if you end up at the fancier version feel free to enjoy it because they have some fabulous options you won’t find at the dive version. But eventually find the original and enjoy the best casual fresh seafood you will ever have an opportunity to experience.

View our Listing on this restaurant now.

Local Bistro Experience

He Said

 

Who doesn’t want to enjoy a great brunch experience? My first exposure to this north Scottsdale restaurant was for a brunch that I was invited to join with a group of NoSco located friends. It has become their go to lunch location and for good reason. Endless mimosas and bloody mary’s helped to convince me to make the trek up. The menu and quality would cause me to recommend it as a subsequent visit for lunch and drinks after the Phoenix Open.
The brunch menu is varied so you are sure to find something you are craving. I decided to go full speed and order the Croque Madame. First of all it comes in a skillet, not your IHOP kind of skillet but in fact a amazing mess of gooey goodness. It’s not a sandwich like you would expect in traditional shops but a knife and fork situation. Hang over or not this is a selection that you will secretly think about every morning, even as you try to be good. I didn’t try it but a companion ordered the monkey bread toast and it looks super sweet and perfect for the sweet tooth in us all. Toast with bacon, syrup, fruit, and mascarpone? I also use the word toast because they call it that but it’s not the toast and butter you are picturing.
The space itself is so nice and open with mostly windows and nice outdoor area you really get a relaxed feeling about it. The staff is friendly and given most of the clientele are locals it feels like everyone knows you. There is no rush here, they let you enjoy the experience. I have been to many places where I feel a rush, like they look at you as just a turnable table. Not the case here, in fact my party had arrived early from the bigger group and we enjoyed coffee and talked shop for a while and they were more than accommodating.
Just about the time I had my brunch experience, the owners were working on a new location called Central Bistro. Lucky for me that was about 5 minutes away. I’ll save that experience for another write up. But it was nice to know the comfort food I experienced was only going to be minutes away.
I feel like I have explored it all here, brunch, lunch, dinner, and drinks and apps at the bar. Always consistently good, always friendly, and always an enjoyable experience.

She Said

 

Located in Grayhawk in the shopping center anchored by Fry’s Marketplace, Local Bistro is truly a neighborhood gem. The huge windows during the day let in tons of light which give it an open inviting atmosphere. At night the dimly lit restaurant becomes cozier with a lively buzz. You can always count on neighborhood regulars sitting at the bar and a friendly welcoming staff. The menu has great variety focusing on Italian, French and Spanish inspired foods.

Some of my favorite dishes include the Kanger Platter. What a great appetizer! It has a little something for everyone. Very lightly fried calamari is the main star of this dish accompanied by cured meats, cheeses and Trio of dips. The trio includes tapenade, pesto and a sundried tomato spread that are perfect to dip the accompanying flatbread and pita into. A fantastic starter before dinner or a dish to share over drinks!

A lighter choice is The Arugula Salad. Arugula, roasted beets, goat cheese, marcona almonds, fennel and a light lemon dressing make this salad a fresh favorite. For some extra protein I add salmon. Yum!

The wood fired pizzas are tasty! My favorite is mushroom with truffle oil (for a guiltier pleasure I always add prosciutto.) What a nice blend of salty and savory flavors topped off with fresh arugula to give it an earthy taste. The crisp thin crust completes this flavorful pie.

Any of the risottos are mouthwatering. Always cooked perfectly and oozing with flavor, this hearty dish is sure to fill you up!

They also have a chalk board with Daily Specials which reflect the seasons. Lighter fares in the hot summer and heavier comfort dishes in the winter. I’ve never been disappointed when ordering off this board!

I have to mention the Sunday Brunches. From 9 am until 2 pm Local Bistro offers $13 unlimited Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s. Pair with the Eggs benedicts, French Toast or Omelets and you’re sure to start your Sunday off right!

Read ourListingon this restaurant now.