Food news tends to slow as summer settles in. Not many new restaurants are opening, chefs take hard-earned vacations, and some days all you want is a cold lunch and a few drinks. But we've had some pretty cool things happen in the past few weeks. Nominations. Awards. Fellowships. And chefs on the move. Here are four pieces of food news you need to keep you updated on the metro Phoenix food scene.
Bitter & Twisted Earns Nominations from Tales of The Cocktail
Tales of the Cocktail, a global mixology summit held annually in New Orleans, is kind of like the Oscars of the cocktail universe. Bitter & Twisted received two nominations: World's Best Cocktail Menu (second year in a row) and Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar.
These nominations stem from the quality of Bitter & Twisted's new drink menu. Mixologist Ross Simon and his team of bartenders drop a new menu every year. They spent months developing the 2018 menu. The theme of last year's menu was fairy tales. This year's 19-page compendium keeps the same theme, but with a darker twist. "The place is called Bitter & Twisted," Simon says, tracing the logic of the change. "Why don’t we do a logical, dark, villainous twist on it? And all the bad guys get their days in the spotlight?"
These nominations are high honors. Unfortunately, B&T did not take home the category wins, but, considering the prestige of a nomination, Phoenix cocktail drinkers have to feel pretty happy here.
New Times Critic Patricia Escárcega Is a Finalist for the Association of Food Journalists Award
Phoenix New Times food critic Patricia Escárcega's essay "Mother's Milk" has been named a finalist in the Association of Food Journalists' 2018 journalism competition. She is one of five finalists in the essay category. The winners in all categories will be announced on Thursday, September 27, at the Sheraton Grand downtown, where the AFJ is holding its annual conference. Escárcega is the only finalist from Arizona. Here is an excerpt for her essay on her search for pajarete, a combination of raw milk, alcohol, and coffee:
"Pajarete, in a larger context, is part of that glorious pantheon of drinks invented to make freezing winter mornings slightly more bearable. It’s a body-warming drink, one that wipes the fog out of your eyes and eases you into the day with grace. It’s a farmhand communion, an easygoing ritual among neighbors and workers. Pajarete, in other words, is not something you drink alone."
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The Breadfruit's Danielle Leoni Scoops Up a Fresh James Beard Honor
Danielle Leoni, chef at The Breadfruit, has been chosen by the James Beard Foundation as a 2018 fellow for the group's Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership program. This shouldn't shock anyone familiar with Leoni's intensity as a chef and her commitment to local, sustainable cooking. "It's a tremendous honor because it's more than receiving a fellowship," Leoni says. "It's a mark of confidence from the James Beard Foundation. And they're leading the nation in food sustainability." Twenty women were selected for the second-year program. As one of the recipients, Leoni will attend a five-day workshop at Babson College. This isn't Leoni's first tango with the Beard Foundation. In June 2017, she participated in a seafood program at the foundation's invitation. The program educated chefs on the nuances of sourcing seafood. The foundation awarded Leoni a "Seafood Sustainability Seal."
Tamara Stanger Leaving Helio Basin for New Arizona-Centric Spot in Tempe
Tamara Stanger is one of the most innovative chefs in the Valley. She has masterminded beer flights paired with ice cream. She has gone into the desert to forage for progressive multicourse dinners. She is using ingredients from the Sonoran to forge a new chapter in the ageless story of Arizona cuisine. But suddenly, the setting of that chapter has changed.
Later this summer, she'll start as chef at Cotton & Copper, a new restaurant currently under construction. The 50-seat eatery, which Stanger says will be more mixology- than food-focused, will open later this summer in south Tempe. Cocktails will be forward-thinking and use indigenous Arizona ingredients. With Stanger at the stoves, the food will be in a similar progressive Sonoran vein. Stanger expresses deep gratitude to Helio for giving her a shot. "I'm very glad I got an opportunity to grow at Helio," she says. "That was the place where I really blossomed. Without that, I wouldn't be the chef that I am."