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 guy who knows his food as well as his drink -- and if you don't believe us, check out his plan for a last meal(s) in Phoenix.
Tastemaker 30: Travis Nass
We've called him "the mustachioed master mixologist" and though he dreamed of being a teppanyaki chef, Valley boozehounds consider themselves lucky that Travis Nass ended up behind the bar instead of a grill. Since he left his post at Rancho Pinot, you can find Nass and his creative cocktails at The Hermosa Inn's Last Drop Bar. With more than a decade of experience crafting cocktails, Nass and his quirky bolo-tie-and-bowler-hat style have become pillars of the Phoenix-area drinking scene.
I arrived in Phoenix with... a foot-long orange mohawk, and my Benihana brother Timu Cho. He's still one of my favorite people and the best teppanyaki chef ever.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be...
1) My wife, Chianne, because it wouldn't be a dream dinner without her. She is my favorite person and usually knows better than I do what I want to eat.
2) Watson, my dog, because he never gets to eat with us when we go out.
3) William "The Only William" Schmidt, my favorite pre-Prohibition bartender famous for his punches, his Pousse Cafes, his Juleps, and his Manhattan. He had a small head and a giant mustache and loved "converting people who swore they liked nothing stronger than a lemonade."
4) David Wondrich, my favorite modern cocktail writer, and winner of the 2012 TOTC Spirited Award for best cocktail writing. His love of cocktail history surpasses my own, I can only imagine how long we could talk with "The Only William" (above).
5) Neil Hamburger, America's funnyman.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Rancho Pinot. Chrysa has an amazing palate and is a master of understated elegance. One of the reasons I think I am so drawn to her style of cooking is the same reason I am drawn to Japanese cuisine -- she curates ingredients as opposed to manipulating them.
One menu item this city could do without is... Candy-flavored vodka. Vodkas get a bad rap in general and flavored vodkas in particular. There are so many interesting and great flavors out there it's a shame that the industry has stooped to peddling sweet, artificial garbage to children. (Nobody over 21 is interested in your Fruit Loop, Swedish Fish, or Peanut Butter and Jelly Vodka.)
- Then over to Crudo for happy hour cocktails and multiple plates of pig's ears.
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- Dinner at FnB for lots of tasty veggies; Broccoli, cauliflower, squash blossoms, shihitos, and of course the leeks.
- Dessert at Citizen R+D for Fernet Milkshakes.
- Lastly a nightcap(s) at Shady's for Old Raj Bijous.
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 Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.