On the first Sunday of every month, Cal Lundmark and Blaise Faber invite friends and acquaintances into their home, transforming the Encanto-area duplex into Desert Spoon. Don't get any funny ideas, though: the events, which include a spirit tasting, class, three-course dinner, and a cocktail party to celebrate, aren't some underground (and illegal) speakeasy. Lundmark and Faber are doing it all for the sake of their love of hospitality and craft cocktails--and, to be totally clear, for free.
"We think that there's no higher form of hospitality than actually welcoming people into your home. The house is a generally a very private space, and to invite individuals to join you there, and strive to make them comfortable and taken care of, is very rewarding," Lundmark explains. "We want to engage people with genuine interest and kindness, without pretense or expectation."
And that's exactly what the soon-to-be-married couple did on Sunday, October 5. As the seventh event in Desert Spoon's brief history, Lundmark says they've worked out the kinks and presented a very professional event, though it took place in their yard and living room.
Starting off, Faber led an eight person spirit tasting and class on agave spirits including tequila, mezcal, sotol, and bacanora. During the class, he quickly answered guests' questions while providing insight into the history, production, and tasting notes of each of the spirits. Both Lundmark and Faber are fans of agave spirits, naming their brand after the plant sotol is distilled from. Lundmark explains that their name embraces the Southwest, which is important to the couple as they're both locals.
"We think it's a shame that agave spirits are not as embraced as an artisan spirit here in Phoenix as they are in other US cities. We're proud to be from Phoenix, and we want to celebrate the Southwest," she says. "Also, agave spirits are delicious. "
As Faber brought out the night's first cocktail, a mix of tequila, mezcal, Campari, and homemade crème de cacao from Dandelion Chocolate cacao beans, Lundmark began the meal.
The three courses consisted of a Hayden Flour Mills durum wheat and beet ravioli filled with lemon and sage ricotta, red snapper paired with a parsnip and yam mash on a bed of vanilla-fennel cream, and a honey cake with caramelized pear and crème fraiche. While all of it was restaurant-quality, the pairing of the cream sauce, mash, and fish on the second course displayed Lundmark's ability to creatively pair flavors, while executing the elements flawlessly.
As dinner wrapped up, the guests whisked the dishes and glassware (both of which come from the couple's beautifully curated collection) to the kitchen and about 40 more people showed up. Crowding around the indoor bar which the couple custom made, Faber and Pizzeria Bianco's Roman Barreras whipped out cocktails from a four drink specialty menu made for specifically for the evening.
The menu included craft spirits and some of Faber's own creations like a beet syrup, peach and vanilla shrub, and a fig and Darjeeling infused rye. Faber once worked behind Lux's bar and also in bars in Seattle for a time, so he's used to making up drinks off the cuff. Faber wowed guests with those on-the-spot drink making skills, crafting cocktails to their tastes. My favorite combined Few rye, Manzanilla sherry, and a handmade raspberry syrup.
"Planning and hosting Desert Spoon events has its own unique set of rewards. We get to keep our skills sharp - Blaise continually works on his cocktails and ingredients, I get to challenge myself to make better and more interesting food," Lundmark says.
Since the couple does this all for free, Lundmark says they also just enjoy being in a group of "like-minded, local-centric individuals" that they brought together. However, the practice also gives them insight into what to expect should they open a bar and restaurant in the future. She says they even go so far as to measure bottle usage to keep track.
"Our hope is to find a location for our business somewhere in central Phoenix," Lundmark says. "We both grew up in that area, and it would be an understatement to say that we're deeply invested in the people and businesses there. We want to create an intimate space where guests and staff can create good rapport, guests can enjoy each other's company, and ultimately doesn't feel too different than what we've been doing here in our home. "
In terms of menu, Lundmark imagines a "cocktail-centric" spot with classics and new inventions at the bar, though she'd want beer, wine, and even non-alcoholic drinks to be held to the same standard. The food, she imagines, could be anything from a "full-blown kitchen program" to a simpler, small plate and sharable snack concept. Regardless, she wants the place to be homey and not intimidating.
"Cocktails can be off-putting to the uninitiated, and that cocktail bars have a reputation for pretentiousness," Lundmark explains. "So we want to put a lot of energy into creating a program that is approachable to everyone from around the Valley, and has something for every palate."
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On the off chance any rich investor types read this, I do recommend someone put money behind this couple's concept soon, as they have a very clear and delicious vision in mind. Hopefully it won't be too long until everyone can stop in and try what Desert Spoon offers in a commercial space. However, until then, Faber and Lundmark will keep doing what they do for friends, honing their skills and enforcing Phoenix cocktail culture on the homefront.