Monthly Archives: April 2009

WEEKENDER 5/1-5/3

Woohoo it’s time for another First Friday! And this one’s a biggie – here’s what’s happening…and for the rest of the weekend, too:

FIRST FRIDAY    

Seen the bands playing on the light rail? (Yes, playing ON the light rail. Like, inside the cars.) If you missed it, catch the videos here: www.traintracks.org. (I love Dry River Yacht Club and Miniature Tigers). Anyway, they are all playing at PHOENIX ART MUSEUM at 6pm for the quarter final. The winner ultimately gets to play at Tempe Music Festival, so get there and see it! FREE

Also – at MODIFIED ARTS – local artist Jonathan Howard paints architecture, communities, cities as a representation of ourselves and our culture. His Surrealist, existentialist and Ashcan influences create a contemporary exhibit. Howard says, “You can see the good, bad, hopes, dreams, nightmares and ambitions of mankind thorugh examining our urban footprint on the planet.” 6pm, FREE

At PERIHELION ARTS, the drummer from the band The Replacements is showing his dark side with an exhibit sure to bring in the masses. Located on Roosevelt Row, Perihelion is great about always having quality art, more artistic-pop than contemporary or modern. The owners and place are fanstastic. It’ s a must-see. FREE

 

SATURDAY 

TASTE OF THE NATION at DC Ranch is the place to be. It’s the only culinary event in AZ that gives 100% of the proceeds to charity. What charity? Share our Strength which ends childhood hunger. Amazing how many kids your ticket can feed! The Chadwicks (AMAZING band if you haven’t heard them) and chefs from restaurants like Lon’s at the Hermosa, Roka Akor, T.Cooks, Elements, Sassi, and very many more. 7pm, tix discounted from $125 to $75: www.tastearizona.org (use code TKSM when checking out to get discount!)

It’s apparently a big weekend for your tastebuds, because the TASTE OF GREECE FESTIVAL is happening all weekend at the Tempe Town Lake area. Traditional dances, activities, and food Food FOOD will be in abundance. And the admission is cheap – $2 for adults (what can you get for $2 these days?!) and $1 for seniors. Part of the proceeds go to charity. So get there and learn some new dance moves and grab something from the huge Greek menu. 11am-11pm May 1-2, 11am – 7pm May 3. www.atasteofgreeceaz.com

Urban Cookies

I drive past Urban Cookies nearly every day, and I always think to myself that I should really stop in and check it out. Well, I finally did. And they now have two new fans. I’m making it my  job to spread the word because a good cookie just makes life a little better.

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I had the Urban Cookie (dark chocolate, oats, walnuts, coconut) with a side of milk and Mike tried the Urban Trail (almonds, sunflower seeds, brown rice crisps, oats, raisins). We were both quite delighted with our choices and showed real willpower with our decision not to indulge in a second cookie. They offer two other regulars – Urban Simple and Urban Tropic with some seasonal flavors as well. Did I mention that these are organic cookies? If you don’t think “organic” is your thing, keep an open mind – these cookies are dee-licious!

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While we were devouring our cookies, we chatted with one of the owners, Brady, who refers to himself as “head dough boy.” He owns the business with his wife, and the two have a strong sense of community and social responsibility. These are such refreshing traits to find in a company and something we can certainly use a little more of these days. I also got a true sense of just how fresh the cookies are. While we were talking with Brady, a timer sounded from the kitchen and he excused himself to take out the latest batch of cookies. Just like being at Grandma’s.

For more  about the philosphy behind Urban Cookies and how you can get your own, check out www.urbancookies.com. Enjoy!

Rokerij

ROKE – er – eee (like “brokery” without the ‘b’)

Rokerij front     Cellar door

Door one, door two, open either and you’ll be taken from the palm trees of Central Phoenix to a cozy hideaway. It owesit’s design influence to stone, wine bottles, and chalkboard, but the essence of Rokerij is in the wood. Yes, beautiful wood floors and bar, but the wood in the fireplaces and the stoves move your senses to a different place. Next to the stove is a  barrel of conwood that is so fragrant, and before nearly every dish, a new log is thrown in. How’s that for home-cooked?

wood burning

Downstairs, The Cellar is a long bar with a full menu, but the seats to grab are the fireside leather couches, which is the best pairing I can think of for their wine list. Upstairs, the restaurant is just as quaint, but if you’re with party of more than two or three, this is where you can snag a cooshy booth or a seat at another extended bar. 

But let’s not forget why you came – because you’re hungry. The food is amazing. The locals know the Richardson’s family of restaurants, which consists of Richardson’s, Dick’s Hideaway and Rokerij. Richardson’s and Dick’s are located just a few blocks away from Rokerij, both at 16th St and Bethany Home Road (on same corner as Luci’s Healthy Marketplace).  

Anyway – back to the food – the Richardson’s do everything right. Rokerij features everything from a burger to red chili osso bucco. My favorite part, though, are their small plates. I am minorly addicted to the beef tenderloin toasts with French triple creme brie (shown below), the tomatillo toasts with grilled chicken and ham, and the shortribs (also shown below). They are really reasonable and truly 1 – 1 1/2 will do you for a meal. 

 

Beef Tenderloin with Triple Creme Brie    Rokerij Shortribs

But everyone wants to know about deals so guess what – Rokerij has them. From 3-6pm, and 11pm – close, small plates are only $5 (usually $9), and well drinks and glasses of wine are $5 as well. The real kicker – a nightly special of dinner for two. Last time I was there – dinner for 2 was only $42 and read the chalkboard to see what it included: 

Rokerij Chalkboard

The dishes are absolutely mouthwatering. If you’re a local and haven’t been, you really need to get out more, and if you are coming to visit us in the Phoenix area, this is a can’t-miss. 

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www.burningembersphoenix.com

6335 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 287-8900

16th Street, just south of Maryland

Hiking Phoenix Mountain Preserve

I should really call this post, “Hiking, Biking, Walking, Horseback Riding Phoenix Mountain Preserve.” On the “Dreamy Draw,” there are acres and acres of desert au naturel, with trails winding through boulders, saguaros, all under the great open sky.  There are numerous starting points, and starting on one trail opens up many more to you.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve sign

Some days I take my dogs on a trail walk (occasionally break into a run), some days I bike, but mostly, I hike. I see that peak and I head straight up, which is just north of Piestawa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak). It’s literally a stone’s throw away. 

On the way up, though, the feeling of the open desert is all encompassing. With all the trails and space, it’s never crowded, even in the middle of Phoenix. The palo verde trees, barrel cacti, cresotes, all look absolutely untouched beside the trails. 

009-resized  Phx Mtn Preserve

 

My favorite way to enter Phoenix Mountain Preserve is go to 40th Street and Shea Boulevard, head south on 40th Street until it ends, park and head on up. You’ll cross Trail 100, which is what a lot of mountain bikers, trail runners, and horseback riders use. I go straight and head for the peak, which is pretty easy to see. (Okay, so the peak might not look huge there – but it’s not small!)

mountain trail

At a moderate pace it will take about 30-40 min to get to the top of the mountain, so it’s a quick way to get your heart rate up! It’s so worth  it – the views from the top are some of the best in the city!

 

Four Peaks

View of Four Peaks and McDowell Mountains

Camelback

Looking at the "head" of Camelback Mountain

view from the top

Other peaks in Phx Mountain Preserve

 

And when you go, say hello to my friends, for whom I still trying to think of a name. They look like brothers. Any ideas?

Saguaro brothers

If you’d like to see more photos, check out our hiking set on Flickr.  

For more info on Phoenix Mountain Preserve, see  http://phoenix.gov/parks/hikephx.html

Diamondbacks Game – Chase Field

There’s nothing like a good ol’ baseball game to help me reconnect with a little bit of Americana. And Chase Field in downtown Phoenix is the perfect place to do it . Now I don’t profess to be the world’s #1 baseball fan, but I’m always sure to get to at least a few Diamondbacks games each season. I mean, what’s summer without the “Boys of Summer”? And who can resist the Ketchup/Mustard/Relish Race up on the Jumbotron? I generally pull for Mustard. There’s also t-shirt tosses, the kiss cam and the seventh-inning stretch – all a part of baseball fun!

The crowd fills in

The crowd fills in

 

D'backs take the mound

D'backs take the mound

 

 Since I gave up meat, I no longer indulge in a Diamond Dog, but kettle corn and peanuts make me just as happy. In fact, I was pretty maxed out on kettle corn twenty minutes into this particular game. Uh oh! Oh well, it was totally worth it. We had killer seats for the game and the D’backs pulled out a win over the Cardinals after going into extra innings. The only thing missing was a souvenir fly ball – maybe next time.

 

Pretty sweet seats

Pretty sweet seats

 

D'backs homerun

D'backs homerun

Check out a game and cheer on your Arizona Diamondbacks – www.azdiamondbacks.com

 

Crowd gets fired up

Crowd gets fired up

Cork ‘n Cleaver

There is something that needs clearing up. I get a lot of questions like, “What is an authentic Phoenix place to eat?” How does one answer that. Most locals would reply with something southwestern or Mexican, which is a great response and you know I love that food. But there is a whole category of rustic, deeply devoted Phoenix restaurants that needs to be included.  Cork ‘n Cleaver is one of them. 

Cork 'n Cleaver

A casual, southwest-inspired, rustic ambience awaits you through the cantina-style doors, as do the wafts of steak and potatoes. It feels like an old home because of all the different rooms (which, for some reason, I absolutely love in restaurants across the board), but the people also feel like Phoenix. Any given night, a few “famous” faces who just need a good steak (who doesn’t), the golfers dining in the bar, the neighbors who stroll in wearing Tommy Bahama shirts, the gals in cotton skirts and sandals – everyone seemingly recuperating from a great day outside. It’s that kind of neighborhood place.

But let’s not miss the dining highlights – first of all, the menu is actually on a cleaver. 

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And it’s heavy. To work off the famous mud pie that I knew I was having for dessert, I did bicep curls under the table when the waiter wasn’t looking. Just kidding. Sort of. (Cleaver curls?)

They also have a salad bar, and you know how that goes – you’ve gotta scope it out. But this, fellas, is a classy salad bar, where the vegetables have color and are crispy-fresh. The salad bar is always about piling-on-the-goodies, which must be why they end the run with gummi bears and m&ms. 

If you’re going, I recommend the fish of the day – it’s perfectly cooked. But start with the blackened shrimp appetizer, let your date get a steak and share, and then end with the aforementioned mud pie.

Before you leave, take note of the photos taken by Barry Goldwater in the lobby – hard to come by anywhere in Phoenix. If it’s good enough for Barry, it’s good enough for me. 

Located on 44th Street and Camelback

5101 N 44th St
Phoenix, AZ 85018
(602) 952-0585

Lux Coffeebar

We’re writing this blog to tell you our favorite things in Phoenix. Lux Coffeebar is on my favorite-of-favorites list, which is why I was actually stunned to see that I haven’t written about it before.  I swore I had -I would have bet money (the fake monopoly kind, but still) that I had not missed the eclectic coffeeshop,  a real gem in Downtown Phoenix. 

So let me not continue this disservice any longer. Introducing……Lux Coffeebar to The Hot Sheet.

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What’s so great about Lux? The unpretentiousness, the freedom, the vibe (the same vibe that makes me want to set up a home office inside Lux), the mindfulness. It is the grand mother of all my favorite coffee spots – Lola’s, LGO, Luci’s – and included in the group because of the awesomely superior beans and blend (they use a small coffee bean roaster so the beans are roasted fresh daily), but what makes all these places so unique is the setting. And even within the Lovely ‘L’s of coffee, Lux is unreplicated. Uncopied. Original. 

Lux in Phoenix

The art space on the wall, the tables for open internet usage, the loungey chairs, and the fab location of being right next to Pane Bianco in central Phoenix, all make it so indie, so cool.  It inspires their patrons to be philosophical, even asking questions  – 

Lux Ambition sign

"What is ambition? Do you have any?"

One particular day, that very question nearly stopped me in my tracks when placing my usual latte order, and I stared dumb at the cashier who had to repeat to me, “What can I get you from the coffee bar today?” As if I didn’t know what I wanted. But I did – that day, a vanilla latte with a shot of ambition, apparently.  It’s a good thing they weren’t asking about self control because I also stuttered over which delightful pastry to order, settling on a gooey brownie, that topped off my caprese sandwich from their neighbor.  Since it’s right off the light rail stop at Campbell and Central Avenue, that brownie/latte combo is drop-in accessible.

Lux is the kind of place that I want to yell about from the mountaintops, as even Phoenix loyalists have sometimes not heard about it. Not because it’s not wonderful, but because it’s humble. Like me, I’m sure many dedicated Lux patrons would like to keep it a secret, but no-can-do for a place that has realized its own ambitions so well.

Lux interior

http://luxcoffee.com/