8 Local Blogs You Should Check Out

We might be our own personal favorite, but there are plenty of Arizona-owned and -operated blogs out there that you should know about (if you don’t already). Here are some new blogs we love to follow. Check ’em out!

AZ Kaos brings out some of the best in local punk. Check out “Skate & Annoy” wherein Mikey Kaos explores the relationship between skate boarding and punk here.

Valley Hype is pretty awesome. All things art, music, and events in the Valley of the Sun, even polo parties like the one covered here.

Courture in the Suburbs tries to keep us style-savvy for those nights we find ourselves in Scottsdale. I love love love statement jewelry like the ones featured in “Fall Trends at Kenda Scott“.

Design-conscious cat people, we have found your leader and it’s Kate Benjamin of hauspanther. Prepare yourself to be overwhelmed by cuteness… with a welcome nod toward style, functionality, and ethical production.

Metronome talks live music downtown with regard to two of our favorite Phoenix venues: The Trunk Space and the Crescent Ballroom.

TTD PHX highlights things to do in Phoenix and around the Valley. This weekend, for example, the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts on Saturday and the Phoenix Pagan Pride Day on Sunday are a’happening.

Craving Phoenix offers its readers local food reviews and events as well as recipes and cooking tips. That recipe for the Ginger Margarita from J & G Steakhouse looks pretty amazing…

Jalph.net comes straight out of Tucson, our friendly Southern neighbor. Check out their photos from PURE X at Club Congress here.

Restaurant Week is Happening Now!

Foodies should be overjoyed this week as Arizona Restaurant Week is underway and will continue to run through Saturday, September 28th. Get your grub on at a restaurant that probably doesn’t encourage use of the word “grub” when it comes to dining.

For $30 or $40 dollars a plate you can indulge in a three-course culinary experience. That might seem like a lot, especially to all the struggling artists and musicians that comprise/read our publication, but considering the usual price tag attached to such dining establishments, it’s a worthwhile deal. 
I have my heart set on Coup Des Tartes, a French restaurant in downtown Phoenix, and it’s not just for the desert option of Chocolate pots de Creme – a rich Belgium chocolate custard, topped with fresh cream. Maybe Prime Rib followed by luscious Mud Pie from the Chart House in Scottsdale is more your speed? Or, perhaps, the Watermelon and Ahi Tuna Ceviche with Honey Lime  followed by Open Flame Broiled Dorado (mahi-mahi) with a Onion & Tomato Marmalade from Tapas Papa Frita? 
Cafe Lalibela offers a special deal of only $30 per couple for a steaming platter of authentic Ethiopian samplings to share. Fear not, desert still comes separately. Olive & Ivy, Salty Sow, Fuego CityScape, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, and about 150 other restaurants have joined in this year’s event. For a complete list, head here
Make reservations today so you don’t miss out. Spaces fill up quickly. Be warned, taxes and gratuity are not included so keep that in mind when planning your evening. 
Happy dining! 

Show Picks of the Week!!

Some great shows this week starting tonight with a pretty happening First Friday. Northern Hustle kicks off their two-day release party for their first album at El Dub in Tempe. Meanwhile in Scottsdale, the Companeros, Mickey & the Mountains, and others will be rocking the Rogue. Also tonight at Last Exit Live in Phoenix is the First Friday after-party with a stellar lineup including Sun Ghost, Former Friends, Andrew Duncan Brown and more. Nami in Phoenix has a show this Sunday so you can nosh a tsoynami and listen to some tunes from Electrisad and Chloe Benson. And we might have saved the best for last because Thursday at the Trunk Space locals James Fella, Monophonic Hillside, and Dreamy Draw will be sharing the stage for a shoegaze/desert-pop extravaganza of epic proportions. Be there. 
For more Upcoming Shows, head here.

Celebrate Dan Somers at the Grandest Night of the Season

I didn’t know Dan Somers well but I certainly knew his work. Not just through his own music but also through his work on the production side with a number of great local acts did Dan cross paths with many on our staff over the years. His loss was deeply felt locally and the tragedy echoed nationally calling attention to the PTSD crisis plaguing our veterans (see the CNN article here). 

On Saturday, August 24th, a number of the musicians Dan helped along the way are coming together to celebrate his life and raise funds for both his final expenses and other veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. The “Grandest Night of the Season,” as the event has been deemed promises to be just that. The music starts just after noon with Adam Allred kicking things off. With more than a dozen bands slated to perform, the day promises to be an action-packed musical adventure lasting long into the night. 

Sundressed, Diners, The Haymarket Squares, Midnight Vitals, and many other local favorites will be sharing the stage in honor of Dan. Make sure you’re there. For more about the event, head here
If you’re unable to attend the event (and you should attend this event), direct donations in Dan’s memory can be made through TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) here.  

Rocktronica at Rockbar – 07.20.13

The Rocktronica Show at The Rockbar, say that fast three times, in Scottsdale on Saturday night was in a word: a blast. OK, maybe that’s two words, but it was.

The night showcased four local Rock/Electronica bands, Russian Arms & Optics, A Life of Science, Zero Zero, and Tigerface, who closed out the show.

As it was an early start to the show, the sun was still coming in through the windows of the Rockbar. It was a bit weird, but RAAO didn’t seem to mind. This dynamo of a five-piece band roared through their set. The mix of guitars, synthesizers, drums and thumping bass combined with great vocals made them the perfect choice to kick off the night. They even managed to squeeze in a “Blondie” cover – good job guys.

A Life of Science (think Girl Talk meets Spandau Ballet) took the stage and blended multimedia and original vocals that had feet and bodies moving. I liked them a lot. By the end of their set they had won over the crowd as well.

From the very first note, Zero Zero had command of the crowd. It’s hard to believe that from the absolute blast of fuzz coming from the stage they are only a three-piece band. Great guitar licks, blazing really, and tight drums all lead by Nicole: their lead singer and keyboard player who absolutely had the crowd in the palm of her hands. The band sticker thrown from the stage was a nice touch. My apologies to the person I knocked to get one…

To say that I was impressed with Tigerface would be an understatement. In talking to the guys before the show, I found them to be crazy polite and soft-spoken. Obviously they were saving their energy for their show-ending set because it was up freakin’ tempo. The combination of hard-pounding rock, distorted synth and terrific vocals was hard to ignore. Not sure if I’d classify them as “Electronica” – I’d just say they were great.

As far as the Rockbar goes, the venue is long and narrow. But the sound was great. Good job Rockbar sound guy!

The G-Spot Scores this Summer

Olive Oil with Lemon Zest & Stracciatella. Note: the Rosemary provided is
to awaken the senses, do not eat. Photos courtesy of the Gelato Spot

This summer, the Gelato Spot has teamed up with some of the Valley’s hotshot chefs to benefit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital by offering a Top Chef Flavor competition that kicked off this month. Every month this summer (June, July, & August), the Gelato Spot will be featuring three artisan handcrafted flavors created by visiting chefs. The contest ends in September and the winner will present a $5,000 donation on their behalf to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Now, what exactly is gelato? When I asked a friend of mine in ‘the industry’ (yes, the gelato industry) to explain the relationship between gelato and ice cream this was the answer I received: gelato is sexy ice cream. I tried to move this one around in my brain. Sure, my favorite ice cream memories usually centered around fondly recalled childhood moments. The family at the ice cream parlor unexpectedly on a school night with tin roof sundaes. Drumsticks from the ice cream truck in summers. Grandpa’s heaping cones of butter pecan doled out on visits to their house. Ice cream is comforting and indulgent and decidedly not hot.

Gelato, on the other hand, is a sensual indulgence. This falsely nicknamed “Italian ice cream” uses more whole milk than cream to achieve a delicacy lower in fat but somehow richer in consistency than ice cream. Part of this also has to do with the slow-churned speed of gelato which allows for less air in the mixture and results in a lusciously denser, silkier concoction.

The Gelato Spot, also known as the G-Spot, approaches frozen delights from the sensuous side. They offer Epicurean experiences for the cultured palate as well as a scoop of bubble gum for the kiddos or chocolate for the staunch traditionalist.

This Top Chef Flavor competition seems set to solidify the G-Spot as a Valley tastemaker for their innovative approach to summer. The editorial staff dropped in for a sampling of the flavors set to be unveiled over the summer. Owner Tommy Plato set forth nine separate cups, each containing a perfectly scooped and adorned serving. The chefs requested that their flavors not be mixed so the flavor will not be obscured by any other tastes. Remember this is a contest, people.

Sitting down with the nine summer gelato flavors

Oh my goodness. Nothing quite prepared me for the distinctive deliciousness that followed. Picking a favorite will be so much harder than I ever thought possible. Thankfully, I can pick one for each month!

June’s flavors include the Arizona Drunken Date Cake created by Payton Curry of BratHaus, Tracy Dempsey’s (of  Tracy Dempsy Originals) Shoyu Caramel Chocolate with Candied Coconut Peanut Streusel & Toasted Marshmallow Sauce, and Bananas Foster with Aji Amarillo. The most surprising flavor of summer is perhaps the Banana Foster with Aji Amarillo from Matt Carter, chef at The Mission and Zinc Bistro. The sweet of the Banana Foster is followed by the slow spice of the aji amarillo for a well-developed and carefully crafted flavor experience. The Arizona Drunken Date Cake – think medjool dates not sorority girls – is an early favorite among patrons and YabYum staffers.

In July patrons will have the opportunity to sample The Elvis envisioned by Keen Bosworth and Joshua Reisner of Pig & Pickle which combines banana, strawberry sauce, and a cookie crunch with a strong bacon finish. Yes, bacon. Also available in July are the The PB & J (Peanut Butter with Raspberry Port Brown Butter Sauce, to be exact) from Chef James Fox of Bootleggers and, my personal favorite, the Olive Oil with Lemon Zest & Stracciatella from Cullen Campbell of Crudo which is served with a fresh sprig of rosemary. Something about the subtle hues of olive oil and lemon zest lead me to describe the flavor as graceful and then I’m left thinking, “Did I just describe my dessert as graceful?” Yes!

August introduces the final three flavors of the contest. The Strawberry Miso from Chef Josh Hebert of Posh elevates traditional strawberry to whole new levels with the addition of the ever so slightly salty miso. Walter Sterling offers the only sorbet found in the mix; a delightfully refreshing medley of Coconut, Lime, and Ginger. The Schnepf Farms Peach Cobbler from Chefs Justin Beckett and Jeff Schoening of Beckett’s Table perfectly captures the intricate flavor of fresh Southern pie made with ripe peaches locally grown.

There are several ways to vote. A point is given for each vote sent by text message or every mentioned favorite on Yelp or Facebook. A point is also given for every scoop sold and six points for each party pack so your purchasing power holds sway. Plan a visit to any of the Gelato Spot’s Valley locations. Actually plan at least three trips, one per month, to sample all the summer flavors. Start tonight with the location on 32nd Street and Camelback Road where the featured chefs for June will be discussing their creations and offering tastings from 6:30 to 9PM.

Show Picks of the Week!!

Everyone should have an amazing weekend given all the awesome shows happening around town.
Don’t be lame, get out there!
Pistoleros and Dead Hot Workshop?!?!
Be still my 17 year old heart, I can’t take the pressure 15 years later.
Monophonic Hillside is one of the best kept secrets in the Valley. Did we give them an award for that? Anyway, this show promises to be spectacular.
Okay, I know Cinco de Mayo is traditionally the day to celebrate but with a show like this why not start a day early? 
So, Spirit Cave is awesome and they’re sharing the stage with some out of towners as well as Ashley Creighton, one of our Singing Songwriting Sisters, this Sunday!
Cinco de Mona is the place to be on Cinco de Mayo. Festivities start at 11:30 am and continue on through the day with some of our favorite locals to party with in attendance, including The Pubes and Treasurefruit. There or square, kids.

Havana Cafe

Frituras de Frijoles Negros

I dream of visiting Cuba: home to Castro, Santeria, and Mojitos. My summer travel plans, however, are restricted to domestic air fares so I’m planning several stay-cations and in-state adventures. Cuba needn’t remain too distant a dream with my recently discovered love for the Havana Cafe. Sure, I’ve heard of the Havana Cafe, even driven by their two Valley locations (one in Scottsdale and one in Phoenix), but until you’ve partaken of the Arroz con Pollo or Frituras de Frijoles Negros (black bean fritters with avocado dip) you just don’t know. Havana Cafe is definitely a place to know.

Arroz con Pollo

The menu at Havana hosts a seemingly inexhaustible number of exotic fare from Salmon Tropical to the Masas de Puerco Fritas (crisp pork morsels with mojo-garlic lime sauce). For the vegetarian in your party, I suggest the Cho Cho, a chayote sqaush filled with lentils and vegetables with a mild Jamaican curry sauce. I swear by the Arroz con Pollo, a classic dish perfected by the good folks of the Havana Cafe: bone-in chicken, saffron rice, chorizo, peas, and white asparagus.

And, don’t forget about the Tapas. The Havana Cafe offers a more than respectable amount of tapas selections on their menu. Whether you prefer the traditional offerings like Seviche and Meijillones al Ajillo (sauteed mussels) or the more exotic selections like the Datiles de Chorizo (medjool dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon), the Havana Cafe can provide.

Plan a trip there and drink a Mojito for Hemingway. Meet some friends out for tapas or take a date and stay for dinner. And, maybe, dessert.

Pollo Parrilla

Weekly Web Round Up

Every Thursday we bring you some of our favorite web findings from AZ Bloggers.
There are so many wonderful AZ music festivals happening in March and thanks to The Spec now we can all start planning ahead for the coming adventures. 
The First Friday Art Walk has expanded the Trolley Tour. Downtown Phoenix Journal has the story and a full-sized map of the First Friday Art Walk.

Phoenix Comicon is hosting a Badge Art Contest. Learn more from Lightning Octopus, the official blog for Phoenix Comicon 2013.
Not sure what to do this Valentine’s Day? Phoenix Bites has the restaurant guide to help your planning along.
The Fairy Godmothers of AZ are hosting the Prom Fair, an event to help high school girls facing financial hardship attend their prom. Scottsdale Fashionista has more information, including how to donate, here!

Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market

Who knew there were so many craft mavens, retro repurposers, and vintage hounds around town? Apparently, the ladies of Junk in the Trunk were aware when they planned out their latest vintage market just in time for the holiday season! Here are a few snapshots from our adventures that very cold morning. For more images of the event head here to check out Instragrams from attendees and participants!

The always fabulous Ashley Eaton of Merry May was on hand with her collection of vintage treasures (including her super-amazing-I-can’t-believe-how-jealous-I-am trailer). A portion of the proceeds earned from Merry May this weekend were donated to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, read more here.

A number of Valley shops and collectors brought their treasures down to WestWorld of Scottsdale for the event. Take a moment to peruse some links to local merchants. Maybe you’ll come across the perfect handcrafted or vintage find all while avoiding the chaos of the holiday season all while supporting the local economy! It’s a win-win-win… 
If you were a vendor who participated in the event and your link is not included in the above list please post your link in the comments section… We’ll be making a list of local vintage merchants and crafters. Thanks!