From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Today: A truly grape man.
Tastemaker 12; Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson is a native New Mexican who worked as a cowboy until adulthood. After a brief military career, he ended up in a new career category: hospitality, specifically wine. These days Dave is a sommelier and currently works as an assistant general manager at Davanti Enoteca with chef Peter DeRuvo.
I arrived in Phoenix with... a great deal of relief. I had the great displeasure of spending a year in the Old Pueblo (when I moved to Arizona from San Fran). It was one of the most miserable periods in my life. I was stuck in a boring, provincial, and unimaginative quagmire. I had two cars stolen in the span of six months. I was surrounded by moronic and sophomoric co-workers at my job as a sommelier at a new prime steakhouse. Once I exhausted all the museums and dive bars in Tucson, it was time to bolt north. I have nicknamed Tucson, "Whoville" - and this Grinch had no time for Whoville. Phoenix for me was a Godsend, and I rose from the ashes here. I met my wife, and things turned around for me here. I have enjoyed my life here in Phoenix!
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... Thomas Jefferson, Rabbie Burns, François Vatel, Jean-Louis Palladin, and my grandpa, Talmage Johnson. It would be a fine and festive meal fit for warriors, poets, and statesmen. I would decant claret with Mr. Jefferson. Mr. Burns would decant the single malts, while regaling us with wit. MM. Vatel and Palladin would prepare a stellar meal, while fighting in a tenacious Gallic fashion. My granddad, Tal, would say grace and argue literature, religion, and politics with all in attendance, as he was always prone to do.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Cornish Pasty Company. You can get great sushi, steak, and Mexican food in most major cities you visit. There is inherently nothing unique about many fine restaurants in our town other than great food. Pasties (the British Empanada) were the fuel that filled the bellies of Welsh and Cornish miners from Bisbee to the Anaconda mine. It took a sensible and thoughtful man like Dean from Cornwall to show us what a heritage food in our state is truly. Geez, have you had his lamb vindaloo pasty? It is zaftig, delish, and soulful.
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One menu item this city could do without... is buttery flabby California Chardonnay that is less appealing than squeezing a bottle of Parkay liquid margarine into your mouth.
My last meal in Phoenix would be... a simple carnitas burrito with salsa verde and a large to-go cup of Agua de jamaica from a drive-thru. Why complicate things? ...simple is good and Sonoran Comida Deluxe perfectly encompasses my life in Phoenix.
The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong 95: Eric Schaefer 94: Hanna Gabrielsson 93: Shinji Kurita 92: Silvana Salcido Esparza 91: Mike Pitt 90: Christina Barrueta 89: Christopher Gross 88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung 87: DJ Fernandes 86: Cullen Campbell 85: Chris Lee 84. Gwen Ashley Walters 83: Tony Morales 82: Lylah Ledner 81: Andrea White 80: Lori Hashimoto 79. Mrs. White 78: Eugenia Theodosopolous 77: Lou & Lovey Borenstein 76: Anthony Patafio 75: Carl Seacat 74: Sacha Levine 73: Sharon Salomon 72: Johnny Chu 71: Susie Timm 70: Jason Silberschlag 69: Gina Miller 68: Cindy Gentry 67: Amy Binkley 66: Dave Anderson 65: Mark Tarbell 64: Marianne Belardi 63: Audrey Lasalle 62: Brandon Gauthier 61: Brad and Kat Moore 60: Denise Clayton 59: Nobuo Fukuda 58: Richie Moe 57: Robin Trick 56: Alberto Della Casa and Letizia de Lucia 55: Farah Khalid 54: Dave Andrea 53: Vincent Guerithault 52: Danielle Leoni 51: Stan Zawatski 50: Maya Dailey 49: Duc Liao 48: Lisa Reinhardt 47: Isam Saed 46: Greg Peterson 45: Marco Bianco 44: Mark Fratu 43: Wendell Crow 42. Barb Harris 41: Michael Perry 40: Jeff Kraus 39: Ryan Avery 38: Charleen Badman 37: Damon Brasch 36: Dwayne Allen 35: Jason Asher 34: Pamela Hamilton 33: Victoria Chavez 32: Giovanni Scorzo 31: Tim Wilson 30: Travis Nass 29: Jason Alford 28: Clint Spotleson 27: Daniel Wayne 26: Korina Adkins 25: Carla Wade Logan 24: Jeff Zimmerman 23: Gabriele Bertaccini 22: Claudio Urciuoli 21: Peter DeRuvo 20: Natalie Morris 19: Eliot Wexler 18: Sam Fox 17: Bryan Dooley 16: Bernie Kantak 15: Jim Cerreta Sr. 14: Josh Hebert 13: Michael Brown