Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Prickly Pear, Gammage, and Chris Bianco's Mom's Chocolate Cake
Life in Phoenix is not complete without a trip to Big Surf.
Welcome to the Phoenix Bucket List. Robrt Pela and Amy Silverman -- two New Times contributors and longtime Phoenicians -- have put together a list of 100 things to do in this city before you die. Each week we're presenting another 10; in March we'll wrap it all up in a cover story in New Times. For now, stay tuned to Valley Fever for more installments and be sure to share your suggestions in the comments section. Today, Amy Silverman presents the next 10 items on the list.
Catch a wave at Big Surf Sure, there are faster slides at bigger water parks in town, and there are others with wave pools -- but you can only wax (your surfboard) nostalgic at Big Surf, the first fake ocean in the country and a Valley institution. I have (not so) fond memories of wave pool face plants as a child; be careful. Ah, memories.
See also: Calle 16: A Mural Project
Eat mole at Barrio Cafe and tour the Calle 16 murals Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza serves up an amazing mole at her Barrio Cafe, a restaurant lauded by everyone from James Beard (well, the foundation) to Guy Fieri (he stopped by last year). She's not just committed to good cooking, Chef Silvana is also hell bent on celebrating local culture and fighting anti-immigration policies and sentiments. So several years ago, she began encouraging local artists to put murals up along 16th Street, where her restaurant is located. The result -- by many talented folks including Lalo Cato, Nomas, and Breeze -- is stunning and not to be missed.
See a show at Gammage Auditorium The acoustics at Frank Lloyd Wright's wedding cake-esque auditorium are terrible. The line for the ladies room is always crazy-long and I don't recommend the balcony if you have any doubts regarding your balance -- or a fear of heights. And yet there's nothing better than a good seat at a good touring show (and they book great stuff) at Gammage. It's a quintessential Phoenix experience.
See a Spring Training game Even if you're not a baseball fan, who can resist a cold beer, a hot dog, and a gorgeous afternoon? My favorite is Scottsdale Stadium, but you might want to try more than one ballpark, with new ones popping up all the time. Details here for the Cactus League.
This may be the scariest challenge on the Phoenix Bucket List.
Harvest prickly pear fruit You've certainly picked citrus -- if stealing a grapefruit off the neighbor's tree counts -- but have you harvested prickly pear? It's a popular flavor in everything from margaritas to marinade and if you have a pair of good gloves (they don't call it prickly for nothing) and some extra time on your hands, you can harvest your own prickly pear and make all kinds of things with the sweet, magenta fruit. It's an item undone on my list, but there's a lot of prickly pear outside the New Times building, so it might happen soon. The folks at Tonto Bar & Grill gave us some tips a while back.
Spend the morning at Lux Central Sure, you've got an office, but there's no coffee or fresh-baked pastries, and the people watching is terrible. Hang out with half of Phoenix at Lux Central -- for more than a decade it's been the coffeehouse away from home not just for hipsters but also elected officials, chefs and accompanied toddlers. A couple of years ago, the owners expanded -- a lot -- and now you can get a cocktail or some scrambled eggs in an industrial setting with concrete floors, vintage typewriters, and local art. See you there.
Spend the night at Arcosanti Paolo Soleri passed away last year, but Arcosanti lives on. Soleri may not have realized his utopian dream, but for $100 you can sleep on a platform under the stars in his futuristic structure in Cordes Junction. Don't forget to buy a wind chime as a souvenir.
There's a mountain in the middle of the city -- take advantage.
Hike Camelback Mountain How do we love Camelback Mountain? Let New Times staff writer Ray Stern count the ways in his recent cover story. Whether you hike scramble-y, challenging Echo Canyon or the somewhat mellower Cholla Trail, you'll still have bragging rights -- and a great view of the city.
Bianco's flourless chocolate cake with lemon marmalade.
Eat Chris Bianco's Mom's Flourless Chocolate Cake Yes, Chris Bianco makes one of the best pizzas in the world, and by all means you should have one if you haven't -- or two, since I have trouble choosing between the Wise Guy and the Rosa. But the Bianco family is a tour de force in Phoenix, and if all you've had is the pizza, you're missing out. Marco Bianco takes charge of the bread, and you can often find him at Pane Bianco, a sandwich shop that recently expanded its menu to include more classic Italian fare. And Francesca, the family matriarch, comes in to the Town and Country Pizzeria Bianco location from time to time to make desserts. You can see her recipes on display there, and try her handiwork. The flourless chocolate cake is sweet, rich and dense in all the right ways.
Shop at Last Chance There's Nordstrom and there's Nordstrom Rack -- and then there's Last Chance, where the merch that doesn't sell or gets returned lands at bargain basement prices. There's only one location in the whole country and it's right here in Central Phoenix, located in the basement (of course) at the Colonade Shopping Mall. And it's not for the faint of heart. Hard core shoppers gather before opening every day for a chance at bottom-of-the-barrel discounts on shoes, clothes and just about everything Nordstrom sells. The stuff that doesn't sell at Nordstrom or the Rack makes its way here, reduced to a fraction of its original cost. The prices aren't as epically good as they were 15 years ago, when you could get a Kate Spade bag for a few dollars or a name brand designer ball gown for $30. But it's still worth it, if you're willing to brave a sometimes ugly crime. A good find from Last Chance is a Phoenix badge of honor.
Previous Bucket Lists: Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do in Phoenix Before You Die: The Introduction Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Castles, Crescent, and Really Hot Mexican Food Phoenix Bucket List - 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Books, Bats, and the Biltmore
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