By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
"Modern Spirit" at Phoenix Art Museum: Phoenix Art Museum fashion curator Dennita Sewell outdid herself with the exhibition "Modern Spirit: Fashion of the 1920s." Featuring wearables beyond the obvious selections of fringed frocks and opulent accessories, the show revealed everything a woman would wear from innovative undergarments (no corsets here) to daytime pleated dresses and Asian-influenced evening gowns. Of course, the unmistakably '20s dresses by Coco Chanel, the innovative designer largely responsible for women's Jazz Age dress, perfectly encapsulated the era.
Torch Theatre Hosting Jackalope Ranch Bingo at Crescent Ballroom: Time for a little self-love: Jackalope Ranch bingo was wild. Every Wednesday in August, the lovely folks at Crescent Ballroom let us put on a bingo night. And it was gangbusters. Between a troll-bedecked Marshall Shore, who hosted half the game nights, Tania Katan, who instigated an impromptu dance party onstage, and Torch Theatre, it was supremely entertaining. But it was Torch that put on the most riotous installment. Torch member and New Times contributor Jose Gonzalez and his team brought the proverbial cuckoo to bingo, having a contestant drink a shot that first passed through Gonzalez's beard (real!) and encouraging competitors to do as many pushups as possible for a chance to win a mystery shot. Don't worry. I saved links to all the Vine videos and TwitPics.
The year's most outstanding dishes in the Valley run the culinary gamut — from the exquisitely unique to artfully crafted re-inventions of elemental flavors. In no particular order, put them on your plate and prepare to be wowed.
Scallops at Virtù Honest Craft: At chef-owner Gio Osso's tiny, wonderful Mediterranean-inspired café in Scottsdale, the menu may be different today from what it was yesterday and similar tomorrow, perhaps, but it's always in flux. If Osso has prepared his pan-seared scallops for you on the evening you visit Virtù, the culinary stars have aligned in your favor. Delicately light and sweet, they are impossibly pristine, served atop a tidy arrangement of butternut squash, caramelized onion, and bits of bacon with a white chocolate beurre blanc that is even more decadent than you thought possible. (3701 North Marshall Way, Scottsdale, 480-946-3477, www.virtuscottsdale.com)
El Español at Otro Café: Further playing upon the success of his first restaurant, Gallo Blanco, chef Doug Robson creates Mexican and Spanish-influenced dishes at his newest project in north Central Phoenix that run from traditionally impeccable to memorably sublime. Among the latter is the El Español, a shareable plate of thin-sliced ham, serrano peppers, avocados, olives, and red onion in a savory citrus dressing ready to be scooped up with crunchy pieces of bolillo bread. Lightly earthy, a little spicy, and entirely refreshing, you can picture it coming out of a tapas-style cafe in Spain. (6035 North Seventh Street, 602-266-0831, www.otrocafe.com)
Guthi Vengaya Curry at Karaikudi Palace: If Karaikudi Palace in North Scottsdale has a specialty, it is the South Indian dishes, which, given the menu's 130-plus selections, are not always the easiest to find. One in particular, the guthi vengaya curry (pro tip: It's number 60) is especially worth pursuing. Consisting of whole baby eggplants stuffed with onions and spices then cooked with ingredients like peanuts and tamarind, the smoky and spicy creation is both a thoughtful nod to its home state of Andhra Pradesh, on India's southeastern coast, as well as a magnificent dish in and of itself. (8752 East Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale, 480-998-6006, www.karaikudipalaceaz.com)
The Ivan Burger at The Attic: Like many people, I had my first Ivan Burger at The Attic even though it was on the menu for two years at Cave & Ives, a Mediterranean restaurant in the same space and from the same owners as the Attic's. Like any good hamburger, it's a well-balanced mix of flavors and textures, but its house-ground well-seasoned patty and locally made pretzel bun put it over the top. At the moment, it's the best burger in town. The only secrets, George Bernard Shaw said, are the secrets that keep themselves. (4247 East Indian School Road, 602-955-1967, www.facebook.com/theattic4247)
Kale & Chard Kim Chee on Brauns-chweiger Pâté at Renegade by MOD (R.I.P.): Cutting-edge cuisine was never so brilliant (or so brief) as it was at Renegade by MOD, the risk-taking restaurant in North Scottsdale from former Kai chef Michael O'Dowd and partner Ed Leclere. In November, after just six months, the two called it quits, the restaurant's name changing to Renegade and O'Dowd's menu of re-invented foods from around the globe left intact (for now) but sans its creator. [Editor's note: On Monday, December 30, it was announced that the restaurant had closed altogether.] To the dearly departed, I offer a fond memory of my most favorite dish: dense, black rye bread layered with supremely flavored braunschweiger along with kale, kimchi, and bits of crisp cured forcemeat topped with a perfectly poached egg. (9343 East Shea Boulevard, Scottsdale, 480-614-9400, www.renegadescottsdale.com)
Shrimp and Corn Tamale at The Blind Pig: By the time you've taken in the mammoth butcher's case and perused the restaurant's meat-centric menu, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect at The Blind Pig, the Scottsdale hangout from restaurateurs Bob and Sally Ann Molinari and Hobe Meats owner Bret Pont. Still, the Shrimp and Corn Tamale, with its plump grilled prawns, lightly sweet masa cake, and luscious cream sauce of corn and cilantro, is surprising. Despite its elegant appearance, the dish's flavor is bolder than you might expect and the plate is brought to you by way of a server who calls you "Hon." You wouldn't have it any other way. (3370 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale, 480-994-1055,www.blindpigaz.com)