Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies on Indigenous-Inspired Cocktails, Local Farmers, and More

Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies on Indigenous-Inspired Cocktails, Local Farmers, and More
Courtesy of Monika Woolsey

From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.

40. Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies

Monika Woolsey wants you to eat cactus. So much so, in fact, that her advocacy firm, Hip Veggies, sells tote bags with the slogan "Shut up and eat your nopales!" It's just part of her work to get more people to eat native foods and to help create entrepreneurial solutions for communities that that lack access to healthy local foods. The registered dietitian recently launched an indigenous foods brand, Modern Metate, and also provides bilingual nutrition services to the Milwaukee Brewers at their Maryvale complex.

Today, she dishes on her current obsession with South American food and her favorite local food resources. 

My go-to place for indigenous-inspired cocktails in Phoenix is LON's at the Hermosa Inn. There is nothing better to cap off the day than enjoying one of our incredible monsoon sunsets over a mesquite sour on this beautiful patio. I don't take for granted that people travel from all over the world for the experience I get to call my backyard.

The best-kept secret in Phoenix is our landscape! There are so many foods in our yards we either don't use or don't know how to use. We have not even started to tap that culinary potential.

Right now I'm totally into South American and Caribbean food. My baseball work has introduced me to so many interesting world cuisines that I am now crazy about! Arepas, mofongo, pupusas, salchipapas, pastelón ... all so delicious. Don't get out of this life without exploring these foods!

And totally over superfoods. Oh, wait. I was never into those in the first place.

If I were a veggie I'd be an I'itoi onion, of course! Those heat and drought-tolerant guys are completely indestructible. Our curious kindergarteners at Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Academy kept digging them up ... we'd put them back in the ground, and they would keep on truckin'. When it came time to harvest, the amount of multiplying that had happened underground was incredible. On a recent steamy day, after we killed ourselves to pull the garden through the summer heat, and even the zucchini gave up, a perky green I'itoi suddenly popped up as if to say, "Hey! Where did everyone go?" That is how I'd like to be. 1. Resilient and persistent 2. Doing the unseen work that matters in the end 3. Fresh and enthusiastic regardless of the circumstances.

My three favorite food resources in metro Phoenix are: 

1. Our local farmers. They feed way more than their felllow Arizonans. No matter where you shop, from farmers market to big box, if you buy produce, there's a good chance you support an Arizona farmer. They do their work in some often really unpleasant conditions. In any climate, farming is a labor of love. In Arizona, it requires a special dedication. We are incredibly lucky to have them as our neighbors and local resource.

2. Native Seeds/SEARCH based in Tucson. This nonprofit is increasing its outreach presence in Phoenix. Best resource ever for anything indigenous foods-related.

3. The local landfill. The volume of stuff we throw in there because we don't use it wisely, or even recognize it as edible, is something I hope we can all reduce together. It's a big job to tackle, but we've got a great team of tastemakers and really smart people here in Phoenix who are easily capable of taking it on. I look forward to addressing the challenge with all of them.

The 2016 Tastemakers so far: 

100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour 
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo 
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails 
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm Shares His Go-To Place For Beer That Tastes "Like Arizona"
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room 
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company  
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild
49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab
48. Ramona Button of Ramona Farms
47. Justin Piazza of La Piazza Al Forno and La Piazza PHX
46. Andrew Gooi of Food Talkies
45. Jason Raducha of Noble Bread and Noble Eatery
44. Ty Largo of Awe Collective
43. Christopher Gross of Christopher's and Crush Lounge
42. Heidi Lee of Into The Soup
41. ET Rivera of Tres Leches Cafe


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