Sips & Sweets 2017 is a mere week away (get your tickets here at a discounted rate of $15 per ticket from now through Saturday, while supplies last)!
This year, an all-star lineup of 10 mixologists and nearly two dozen sweets makers will be flexing their creative culinary muscles at the event. And though you probably already known many of them from their posts at top bars, restaurants, and sweet shops, we wanted to get the know these talented folks a little better before sampling their crafts on June 17.
Meet Brad and Kat Moore, Owners of Short Leash Hotdogs and Rollover Doughnuts
We started Short Leash Hotdogs and Rollover Doughnuts, because we believe in doing the things you love in life, eating well and surrounding yourself with people who make you happy. Short Leash Hotdogs and Rollover Doughnuts combine these things and allows us to work with each other. Our mission is to serve a unique twist on a classic favorite.
Our fare is simple and straightforward, with a focus on using local purveyors and natural ingredients. One of the most exciting new ingredients we discovered this year were flavored sugars like lavender sugar, which we used to make our lavender sugar doughnut. We have been having fun playing with different flavor combinations.
Meet Elizabeth Strimbu, Owner of Salted Serenity Sweets Uncommon Caramel
I have always had a sweet tooth and enjoy creating cakes, cookies, and candy with a twist on "traditional" flavors. I experimented with several caramel recipes one holiday for handmade gifts for friends and family. After a lot of work in the kitchen, I could not find a recipe that I found extraordinary, so I created my own! Salted Serenity Sweets Uncommon Caramel was born after several caramel connoisseurs tried my Original Salted Caramel.
Two years later, I am still finding ways to incorporate my favorite obsessions (matcha tea, basil leaves, and whiskey) into an amazing tasting, melt-in-your-mouth buttery caramel. I am a huge fan of using as much local love as I can, so I try and use local ingredients whenever possible. What started off as a hobby has grown into a business with the sole purpose of making people smile, one caramel at a time.
I have always loved the dark, rich flavor of Stout beer and, this year, I combined it with dark chocolate to create a Salted Dark Chocolate Stout Caramel topped with Black Pearl Salt. It is very sophisticated!
Meet Liza Loewenhagen, General Manager at The Vig Fillmore Phoenix
I have been bartending for 11 years. I've worked in a variety of atmospheres: college bars, martini bars, sports bars, modern taverns. I find each one to be fun and challenging in its own way, and I have learned a new skill within each atmosphere, which I appreciate since it has helped me become a well-rounded bartender. In my opinion, though, I think Phoenix needs less fancy nightclubs and more low-key, comfortable neighborhood bars with great cocktails.
Currently, I work for Genuine Concepts as the general manager of the Vig Fillmore while still bartending weekends at one of our other concepts. I love to participate in competitions, and in the last one I participated in, I had the chance to play with agar agar for the first time. I ended up using it to make a cucumber caviar for a garnish.
Meet Clarissa Robinson, Pastry Chef at The Buttes Marriott
I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and also studied at Valhrona's l'Ecole New York and Jean-Marie Auboine in Las Vegas. Now, I am the pastry chef at The Buttes Marriott, where I oversee all of the desserts and pastries for banquets, amenities, and Top of the Rock restaurant.
At the restaurant, I have the chance to create a constantly evolving dessert menu featuring locally sourced ingredients. This year, I rediscovered all the different varieties of peppercorns, and have started creating desserts that use them as their main flavors, as opposed to a seasoning on the savory side. For example, I made a black peppercorn ice cream that was paired with a seasonal fruit cobbler. It was just the right amount of heat and unexpected flavor to complement the fruit.
Meet Matt Minsky, Mixologist at Hula's Modern Tiki
I was born in Redondo Beach and have been tending bar for more than a decade in both L.A. and Phoenix. After honing my skills in downtown L.A., I came back to the Valley in search of a more chill, up-and-coming area. I ended up at Hula's Modern Tiki in uptown.
Phoenix needs fewer "bartenders" slinging Bud Lights, and more actual craftsmen who want to give their guests something unique and unexpected. To that end, I like to work with all kinds of fresh fruits, and herbs. They were my inspiration for the blackberry-basil puree' I'm using in the Hula's Summer Beach Bum, which we are serving at this year's Sips & Sweets.
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Meet Maureen and Jim Elitzak, Owners of Zak's Chocolate
Our business grew out of a hobby and a desire to find grea-tasting organic chocolate, and it has been amazing to explore the wide range of natural flavor profiles of various cocoa beans. We are chocolatiers, but also chocolate makers. We make 100 percent of our own chocolate in-house, starting with ethically sourced cocoa beans to craft chocolate bars that are vegan, gluten free, and dairy free.
Each chocolate tastes different based on its origins and how the beans are roasted. Like coffee and wine, each cocoa bean comes from a unique terroir that impacts its flavor. Cocoa beans continue to be new and exciting for us. We keep exploring new varieties and new ways to introduce the many unique, natural flavors of fine cacao and craft chocolate, not only to our customers, but also to others in the AZ food community, like the AZ Wilderness Brewery, which is using our cocoa nibs in several of their beers.
Our single-origin dark chocolate bars are made using a method that yields a chocolate that is creamy and smooth, but not bitter. But our craft is about more than chocolate for us; it is about knowing where food comes from, considering environmental, social, and economic concerns, and continuing to explore flavor possibilities.