Category Archives: places to go

Independents Week

It’s no secret that here at The Hot Sheet, we’re driven to showcase the best of the indie shops. Local businesses are what separates one city from another – one business from another. The charm, unique personality, service and – let’s just face it – they’re more fun places to be.

So as if you didn’t have enough reason to visit a local boutique, restaurant, coffee shop, bar (okay, you get the gist), then this is your week – Independents Week. From today (June 28) through July 4, you get 20% off your purchases at participating members of Local First Arizona, a local non-profit to support independently owned businesses. And because Local First is such a cool organization, pretty much all your favorite places are on the list. (Check out the full list of participating shops.)

But just in case – in all your excitement – you are perplexed about where to visit first, here are a few of our top picks (click their pic to check ’em out):


Urban Cookies

Urban Cookies

Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden

The Willows

The Willows

Bunky Boutique

Bunky Boutique

Heard Museum

Heard Museum

See, now your week was looking busier than you thought! To get your 20% off Golden Coupon, and to see a full list of participants, check out the Local First site. Happy outings!

Arizona Restaurant Week

Just announced, Arizona Restaurant Week has firmed up the dates for 2010, and will be returning from September 18 – 26. (Wallets and palates rejoice!) This year will feature over 100 restaurants, each offering three-course meals for either $29 or $39 per person, of course not including drinks, tax and tip.

Every year this is the must-do week of culinary exploration, and water coolers are filled with chatter about “What did you try?” Each year we get asked for our top picks, and withholding judgment until the full list is out, here are some big highlights:

Culinary Dropout
J&G Steakhouse
Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn
True Food Kitchen

A more comprehensive (and ever-growing) list can be accessed here. Some of the Phoenix area’s top chefs are already on the list and given previous years’ participation, we’re expecting a lot more to join soon.

One notable highlight this year –  restaurants will have the option to offer gluten-fee dishes, which will be noted on the Arizona Restaurant Week web site, so if gluten is not your friend, make sure to check the options first.

Oh, and feel free to log your anticipation of the event on twitter, with the hashtag #ARW2010.

Judgment of AZ Wine

Arizona wines have become recognized in the industry (even accepted by wine snobs) over the last few years, but everyone’s first question is – how do they fare compared to the best of California, Europe and elsewhere?

So Pavle Milic, co-owner of FnB (with his wife and chef, Charleen), decided to host a private blind tasting of Arizona wines, not an unlikely move for a restaurant that only serves Arizona wines. But they didn’t skimp and they got the best of the best to taste, including Gary Vaynerchuk (host of web-sensation WineLibraryTV and NYT bestseller Crush It), Laura Williamson (one of only 108 Master Sommeliers in the world), Anne Rosenzweig (chef/food anthropologist from NYC), Tadeo Borchardt (winemaker from Neyers Vineyards in Napa) and local chefs Mark Tarbell and Chris Bianco (yes, of that Pizzeria Bianco).

Ten whites and ten reds were tasted, five of each were from Arizona, the other five from around the globe, and after an intense waiting period while Sommelier Journal tabulated the scores, results were announced. And my friends, it tasted delicious. Arizona wines won the top ranking in both whites and reds, and just like the Judgment of Paris (have you ever seen the movie “Bottle Shock?”), gasps and cheers rang out from the audience.

Here’s the complete list of winners:

1. Callaghan 2008 ‘Lisa’s (AZ)
2. Santa Margherita 2008 Pinot Grigio (Italy)
3. Cakebread Cellars 2008 Chardonnay (CA)
4. Caduceus 2008 ‘Dos Ladrones’ (AZ)
5. Carlson Creek 2008 Chardonnay (AZ)
1. Caduceus 2008 ‘Nagual del Judith’ (AZ)
2. Condado de Haza 2006 Ribiera del Duero (Spain)
3. Keeling Schaefer 2007 ‘Three Sisters’ Syrah (AZ)
4. Arizona Stronghold 2008 ‘Nachise’ (AZ)
5. Mollydooker 2008 ‘The Boxer’ Shiraz (Australia)

Here’s all the participants:

1. Page Springs 2008 La Serrana (AZ)
2. Callaghan 2008 ‘Lisa’s (AZ)
3. Santa Margherita 2008 Pinot Grigio (Italy)
4. Conundrum 2008 Meritage (CA)
5. Caduceus 2008 ‘Dos Ladrones’ (AZ)
6. Freitas 2009 Malvasia Bianca Private Reserve (AZ)
7. Carlson Creek 2008 Chardonnay (AZ)
8. Doyenne 2006 Metier (WA)
9. Turley 2007 ‘The White Coat’ (CA)
10. Cakebread Cellars 2008 Chardonnay (CA)

1. Cotes du Rhone 2006 E. Guigal (France)
2. Carlson Creek 2008 Sangiovese (AZ)
3. Arizona Stronghold 2008 ‘Nachise’ (AZ)
4. Ruffino 2007 ‘Aziano’ Chianti Classico (Italy)
5. Dos Cabezas 2008 ‘El Campo’ (AZ)
6. Mollydooker 2008 ‘The Boxer’ Shiraz (Australia)
7. Caduceus 2008 ‘Nagual del Judith’ (AZ)
8. Keeling Schaefer 2007 ‘Three Sisters’ Syrah (AZ)
9. Chateau Lynch Bages 2005 Paulliac ‘Grand Cru’ (France)
10. Condado de Haza 2006 Ribiera del Duero (Spain)

Congratulations to all! Now scoot out to FnB to get your taste of the goodness:

FnB Restaurant
7133 E Stetson Drive, Ste. 2
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Sea Life Aquarium

When you think of Arizona, large bodies of water, diverse marine creatures and underwater ecosystem probably aren’t the first things to come to mind. Tomorrow, though, the Sea Life Aquarium opens at Arizona Mills Mall. It’s a big deal – it’s only the second in the United States of its kind – and will have over 5,000 marine creatures, which visitors can see by walking through “tubes” where the sea will be all around you, but you don’t have to get wet. You observe the oh-so-natural habitats up-close and personal in 12 different habitats, making it a truly unique experience.

Sea Life also has a children’s center and educational areas, so bring the whole family. Adult admission is $18.50, kids are $10.50.

Check back on the blog for pics soon!

Sea Life Aquarium
Arizona Mills Mall
5000 Arizona Mills Circle
Tempe, AZ

Mother’s Day Top Picks

You’ve gotta do something special for your mom, sister, wife or friend this Mother’s Day, so how about some good conversation over a very good meal. But you don’t want to do something too typical, right? Right. So here are our top three-ish options for where to take her for something special.

1. Quiessence at the Farm at South Mountain

Quiessence is known for it’s literal farm-to-table meals, for it’s amazing Chef LaPrad and the very scenic beauty. Just driving up, you feel like you’re somewhere magical. Well, it gets better for Mom’s Day, because in addition to a very affordable $59 per person three-course dinner, you can also get your mama a massage and take family photos on the beautiful grounds. The food is amazing too; choices of Creamy French Onion Soup, Alaskan Halibut, Pan Seared Chicken – all local, all amazing.

Seating times for dinner are 4-5pm or 6-7pm, with the massages and photos from 4:30-6:30, depending on your dinner time.

Check out the menu and call 602-276-0601 for details and reservations.

Quiessence at the Farm at the South Mountain

Quiessence at the Farm at the South Mountain

2. Cafe Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho

Let’s say your mom is kinda hip, a little funky, but classy all the way. Where should you take her? One word – Zuzu. You can sit in their retro dining room, or outside under the palms, to enjoy their food from the much beloved Chef Charles Wiley. The Thick Belgian Waffles with Sun-dried Cherry Butter is a sure winner, or the Stuffed French Toast made with brioche and filled with lemon cream cheese and berries. It’s all a la carte, and more standard breakfast options are available as well.

Brunch runs from 6am – 3pm, but the special menu doesn’t start till 11am.

Call 480.421.7997 for details or visit

3. Greater Phoenix Resorts

You really can’t go wrong with any of the resorts here, but hit Prado at the Montelucia, the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge or the Fairmont Scottsdale for some elegant and special brunches. Frank & Albert’s at the Arizona Biltmore is a more casual but still very nice choice, and while it’s not really a resort, the Wrigley Mansion is super cool and sophisticated and will be very memorable, both from the food and the ambience.

Megan Finnerty’s Dream Night

On a night not so long ago, we had a blazing fun time shooting Megan Finnerty’s Dream Night. You might know her as @122degrees on Twitter, but she’s better known as the nightlife editor at The Arizona Republic and one of Phoenix’s best gals for going out.

For these videos, we really do let our hosts pick their favorite places, and Megan’s list was so much fun. I could go on, but I’ll let you watch for yourself.

UPDATE: check out the behind the scenes photos on our Flickr page:

Fiesta Bowl Events

Ah, the TCU Horned Frogs versus the Boise State Broncos. Their impressive undefeated seasons have led them to each other in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and it’s sure to be a great rematch of the Poinsettia Bowl last year, where TCU beat the Broncos 17-16. This year’s game is on January 4, but there are events starting on Dec. 31. (And in case you can’t make it to the game, watch it on Fox at 6 p.m. MST.)

The tickets to the big game are sold out, but here are the best events leading up to the big game:

Fiesta Bowl Block Party
Tempe has the biggest NYE bash, all on Tempe Town Lake and through the streets around Mill Avenue. The Doobie Brothers are headlining this year’s events, but the full lineup starts playing at 5pm. There are also stages throughout the area with all sorts of entertainment. The parking is better the early you go, of course, so if you’re going to go, get there early.

Mill Avenue District – Tempe, AZ
Thursday, December 31, 2009
5:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Tickets: Discount Tickets at Fry’s Food Stores – $15.00 (and buy three discount tickets and you will receive a fourth ticket for FREE. General Admission & Gate Tickets – $20.00

See more details.

21st Annual Insight Bowl

Minnesota and Iowa State will play to win the 21st Annual Insight Bowl on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. EST.  It’s the perfect warm-up to the Fiesta Bowl, and will be broadcast on NFL Network in case you can’t make it to the game. If you go, stick around afterwards on the streets of Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl Block Party.

See more details.

39th Annual Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade

11:00 a.m.,  Saturday, January 2

The Fort McDowell Fiesta Bowl Parade is one of the most anticipated events by Phoenix locals and the visiting fans. Tons of bands, vibrant floats, huge helium balloons,  equestrian units and all the makings of an amazing parade.  Spectators line the two-mile parade route in central Phoenix to see the parade, so get there early to get a good parking (and standing) spot, but it’s worth it.

See more details and a parade map.

College Football’s Biggest Party

Noon, Monday, January 4, Glendale Youth Sports Complex

Thousands of fans tailgate together for the “ultimate tailgating experience.” It’s like a huge pep-rally, with bands, cheer squads, games, and food booths.

See more details.

32nd Annual Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship

Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium
City: Glendale, AZ
Date: Friday, January 1, 2010

Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium
City: Glendale, AZ
Date: Friday, January 1, 2010

One of the longest Fiesta Bowl traditions, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship presented by University of Phoenix, is one of the most prestigious high school marching band competitions in the USA. The country’s best bands each give a 10-minute show, for the judges as well as the crowd.   The top bands from the preliminary competition are invited to compete for the coveted Grand Master’s Trophy in the event finals.

See more details and which bands are competing.


The cooler temps are here and so are all the great events!

The weekends are jam-packed with things to do, and here’s a recap of some of our favorites:

First Friday

Tonight is the Q3 quarterfinals for Train Tracks. Each week, one local band performs on the Metro Light Rail and their performances are taped and shown here. After voting, the top three bands perform a whole set each at the Phoenix Art Museum. Live voting that night determines the winner.

It’s a cash bar, event takes place from 6-10pm in the huge exhibit area which is totally transformed into a concert venue (it’s like magic).

See the Train Tracks videos to acquaint yourself, and check here for the event details.

After the event, head over to Roosevelt Row and get some Tammie Coe cupcakes, then head up to Grand Avenue for some of the most cultivated galleries around. And you can take it all by a free shuttle that conveniently departs from Phoenix Art Museum.

Train Tracks at Phx Art Museum

Scottsdale Fashion Week

The fashion scene in Phoenix and Scottsdale is undeniable, and the Fashion Week event has grown and morphed over the years to become the hot-spot it is this year. This is going to be the best year ever because the local talent is mixing with the big boys, so-to-speak. On both Friday and Saturday nights, there will be two runways, one at Southbridge at the Waterfront, and one just across the bridge at the main tent. Southbridge will host the local designers, staggered by the shows from the main design shops at the main tent.

Who to go for? You want to make sure you see iuk iuk (who won designer of the year), Angela Johnson, Kevan Hall, Zhao Bandi (who presents a whole panda show in fashion as a form of contemporary art), VMarie, Amelia Walsh. I’d also attend the Carolina Herrara and Barney’s New York in the big shows, too.

Check out the entire schedule here, and all the ticket, parking details here.


One of the most locally-loved boutiques in the Phoenix area is Domestic Bliss, which pretty much lives up to the name. While the store is fantastic any day of the year, this Friday night and Saturday all day will be Blissfest.

Friday, is literally “The Grand Fandango,” with a Western theme and dancing, good eats, fashion shows, silent auction, live music – you get the gist. Anything Domestic Bliss touches turns – well – to bliss, to it’s bound to be a good time. You get in free if you are dressed up in Western wear (and there’s a contest, so make it count).

Saturday is the market in which over 50 shops and artisans will be set up to accommodate your purchasing dreams. Expect jewelry, paintings, accessories, and of course, great finds for the home. There will also be live music, craft booths, stagecoach rides, face painting – the whole kit and caboodle. All-in-all, it will keep families (read: kids and husbands) entertained.

Stephanie Nielsen will also be attending the events, accompanied by her husband Christian. Both lived in Mesa with their darling children when they barely survived a fiery plane crash last August. They live in Utah now, but they’re coming back to see the great event put on by Domestic Bliss, since Stephanie used to be a part of their great team.

Fall Events: Rawhide Doomtown


If Sergio Leone — the creative mind behind spaghetti Westerns such as “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” — had ever directed a slasher movie, I suppose it would have looked a lot like Doomtown.

Imagine an Old West town, populated by ghostly cowboys, headless horsemen and dust-covered zombies, all of them swaggering about at an unhurried pace, sizing up at interlopers and ignoring open wounds.

The unspoken dilemma of these undead, uninhibited townsfolk seems to be this: Should I make this kid cry or not?

Doomtown is the annual October incarnation of Rawhide Western Town at Wild Horse Pass. In the spirit of Halloween, the purveyors and performers at this replica of an 1880s Arizona boomtown don ghoulish garb and paint the town red, white and bluish — with fake blood, spider webs and black lights.

Halloween Train

I love Halloween but don’t scare particularly easily, so I carried a healthy bit of skepticism into last night’s sneak peek of Doomtown for media members. But I was instantly encouraged to see a pre-teen girl clutching her mother’s had and crying, “I want to go home!” as a headless horseman and pistol-waving cowboy circled her family aboard inky-black steeds.

This could be good, I thought. And it was.

Crying child aside, I can confidently report that Doomtown is fun for the whole family. The degree to which you frighten yourself is entirely up to you.

Our cadre of Doomtown expeditionaries consisted of five media/PR types and one very cool 11-year-old boy. The latter’s emotions vacillated from (1) pretending not to be scared, (2) pretending not to be scared while laughing loudly, (3) being scared without pretense, (4) being absolutely terrified as a chain-saw-wielding zombie chased him out of a haunted house.

We adults lubricated our fearlessness with salt-rimmed beverages and whiskey cocktails — neither of which, by the way, I would recommend taking on the Train of Terror unless you want to disembark with wet clothes. The 12-minute ride aboard this miniature train (whose conductor looked as though he were the illegitimate spawn of Bea Arthur and Ozzy Osbourne) was my favorite Doomtown attraction. It was dark, creaky and full of surprises — everything Halloween should be.


You can scare up a ticket to Doomtown for $13, but I suggest forking out $24 for the combo pass, which gets you into all the attractions (including the Train of Terror and the Rawhide Roughriders stunt show) as well as two haunted houses (the Asylum and Crypt).

For more information about Doomtown, including hours, pricing and directions, visit Rawhide’s Web site at The event runs through Nov.1.

Grand Avenue Festival

Grand Avenue runs diagonally through Phoenix. “Off the grid,” so to speak. So it’s only appropriate that they have some of the hippest shops, restaurants, galleries around. It’s an eclectic group, and the Festival this weekend is the place to be.

Grand Avenue is popular for its First Friday crowd in particular, but their all-day Festival THIS Saturday, Sept. 26th, will have live music from noon to midnight, three fashion shows (including “Boho haute hippie”), and historic/adaptive re-use tours (basically, old historic buildings that are once again shiny).

Over 15 galleries and studios will be open for perusing, including painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, and more, more, more. Restaurants will be open and bustling (don’t miss The Paisley Violin – it’s a local staple), and shops have crafty, urban, creative gear (my personal fave is Butter Toast).

To find out where to go, see the map. Parking should be easy on any of the side streets, and weather will be beautiful for walking.

Tilt Gallery

Tilt Gallery

For all the details, check out the Grand Avenue Festival page. See you there!