Every week, there's a cornucopia of Phoenix food news, features, and reviews to report here at Chow Bella. If you're like most people, you probably just don't have the time to get to all of it. It's kind of like those burgers at Old Town Whiskey; it just won't all fit in your mouth ... or in this case, your day. So, here's a recap of some of the top stories from the week that you may have missed.
A friend and I met for lunch at Chris Bianco's Italian Restaurant the other day and I was so pleased to find an independent serving lunch (in the summer no less!), especially when it's a restaurant wedded to local and seasonal ingredients.
Flooded with natural light and hung with a unique collection of art (courtesy of Bianco's dad), the room has a homey quality, the food is terrific and -- What! Ho! -- the natives are friendly. I can't wait to go back.
For starters, we were greeted warmly when we walked in, so the snooty attitude that was an issue with some customers in the past seems to have been 86'd.
If you happen to be at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, the "contemporary gastro-lounge" at CityScape's new Hotel Palomar, and feel a slight pain in your arm, it could be from pinching yourself. The restaurant, headed up by 32-year-old chef Stephen Jones is not only satisfyingly delicious, but feels like an honest-to-goodness downtown restaurant and (gasp!) a reason to visit CityScape.
Nearly every dish on Jones' menu is available in two sizes, giving diners the option to go solo or sample a few plates with friends. Which on my visit, seemed to be most popular.
Move over Margarita, your Spanish 3rd cousin, Sangria is popping up on menus all over town.
The refreshing summertime concoction of red (or white) wine and boozy fruit layered over ice has become a menu staple for Valley restaurants. Check out the list of 10 of our very favorite sangrias.
Stacy Phipps is having a tough year. The owner and pit master of Stacy's Smokehouse says the second location of his barbecue joint in Scottsdale, which closed at the beginning of the year and was only open for around six months, cost him around $120,000.
"I had customers, but I didn't have enough," Phipps tells me. "And I made some bad decisions regarding the rent and making upgrades to the place."
And since January, Phipps says he's no longer involved with the original location of Stacy's Smokehouse, the purple building in east Phoenix, just off State Route 51, where he relocated from Jefferson Street in 2008. Phipps' wife is now overseeing the business (and keeping the name).
"The food is there, but the originator is here," Phipps tells me.
"Here" is in Sunnyslope. Where on Monday, Phipps opened his barbecue joint for the fourth time.
Dwayne Allen and Danielle Leoni bring a taste of the Caribbean to downtown Phoenix via The Breadfruit and Rum Bar -- the one a cheery Jamaican restaurant and the other a cozy hideaway featuring more than 100 brands of premium rum. Now that summer is in full swing, the two have decided customers need something else -- namely, liquor and possibly lots of it -- to put them in an Islands state-of-mind.
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To that end, they've launched "a-RUM-a-therapy," a social hour (aka happy hour) based on a weekly changing rum punch ($5) and small plates ($6), offered every weekday from 5-7 pm.
Don't forget to check out Chow Bella's continuing list of 100 Tastemakers.