Arizona Cocktail Weekend: Three Signature Events — One Spectacular February Weekend

The ‘Cocktail Carnival’ rides into Phoenix this February as the ninth annual Arizona Cocktail Weekend(AZCW) returns Feb. 15–17, with an amazing lineup of events, parties, seminars and cocktail-fueled ballyhoo. All-new for 2020, AZCW has partnered with Phoenix based and nationally renowned, Walter Productions to host the Cocktail Carnival kickoff party Saturday, Feb. 15, sure to be their largest, most fantastic party yet at their arts gallery and events space, Walter Where?House.

Headlined by a barnstorming performance by the 20-person national touring marching band, MarchFourth ( and housed inside this former 1940s paper mill that’s been transformed into a magical dream factory complete with stilt walkers and twirling acrobats, the Cocktail Carnival at Walter Where?House will have to been seen to be believed. Combined with show-stopping cocktails and spirits served up by than 30 of the biggest and brightest brands in the business.

“The 2020 Arizona Cocktail Weekend and the Cocktail Carnival is going to one amazingly spectacular event,” says co-founder, Ross Simon. “Aside from the world’s best liquor brands showcasing exciting new offerings and cutting-edge bartending and techniques inside custom-staged vignettes, the famously fun MarchFourth band will be playing while walking amidst the crowd. Plus, with Walter Productions co-producing, you know they will bring their signature over-the-top artistic elements, to this one-of-a-kind event. It’s going to be one hell of a show.”

Cocktail Weekend includes the return of Top Bars Sunday, Feb. 16., the annual tasting event showcasing pop-up versions of the finest cocktail lounges from around the state, country and across the globe, all in one location. Held at the historic warehouse and newly renovated event venue, The Croft, the 2020 lineup is available on the event website.

Finally, on President’s Day (Monday, Feb. 17), it’s the return of the highly anticipated Last Slinger Standing bartending competition, pitting top mixologists from across the Southwest in a live head-to-head bartending competition. Hosted by Young’s Market Company at their “7th & Union” building (aka the standalone bar located on the property of the Phoenix based liquor distributor), come cheer on as 2019 winner, Chanel Godwin-McMaken of Little Rituals defends her crown in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 cheering cocktail fans.

Top lounges, bars and restaurants across Downtown Phoenix and up and down Central Phoenix’s Light Rail will be hosting AZCW events, dinners and exclusive cocktail tastings. Participating venues include Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour, Blue Hound & Luster Rooftop Pool Bar, Chico Malo, Dust Cutter, Little Rituals, Melinda’s Alley, Nook Kitchen, So Far, So Good at The Churchill, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar and Ziggy’s Stardust.

Once again Arizona Cocktail Weekend is dedicated to giving back to the local community, including its own dedicated 501(c)(3) charity, The Jupiter Foundation, which in 2020 is focused on supporting beneficiaries such as Local First Arizona Foundation

For additional information and tickets, visit

James Beard Foundation Pop-Up Dinner to Celebrate Diversity of American Cooking

Phoenix will welcome the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® Wednesday, Feb. 26, for a pop-up dinner as part of the larger national tour, which brings delicious food and thought-provoking conversation surrounding the nonprofit’s mission of cultivating a better food world for all.

Spotlighting issues within the Foundation’s Good Food for Good™ platform, including food waste reduction, sustainability, inclusivity and chef advocacy, the seventh annual cross-country food series will highlight the organization’s mission-forward impact programs and initiatives, while dishing out tasty bites to the food-loving community of Phoenix.

Taste America’s Phoenix Pop Up Dinner starts at 6pm Wednesday, Feb. 26, at Wrigley Mansion. The intimate dinner will feature a menu crafted by Taste America visiting all-star Kristen Kish and local all-star and host Chef Christopher Gross. The dinner will celebrate the diverse flavors, cuisines, and backgrounds that contribute to American cooking.

The Foundation has partnered with Food Recovery Network to ensure that Taste America events are Food Recovery Verified, meaning that all surplus food from the series will be recovered and donated to hunger-fighting nonprofits, who support food-insecure individuals, in each city. Through Food Recovery Verified, the Foundation can do its part to reduce food waste and hunger at the community level. 

This year marks the seventh time that the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America has visited Phoenix. Expanding for the first time to span nearly a full year, Taste America 2019–20 will travel to Atlanta; Boston; Charleston, SC; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Kansas City, MO; Los Angeles; Louisville, KY; Miami; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Nashville; New Orleans; Philadelphia; Portland, OR; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Tickets start at $225. For a more exclusive experience, tickets for dining in a private dining room are available for $500 and up to $1,000 for a personal experience while dining in the kitchen. The Taste America Phoenix Pop-Up Dinner is presented by Capital One. Additional information can be found at

Nook Kitchen Re-opens in New Arcadia Location

Nook Kitchen in Arcadia re-opened Dec. 3 in a larger location at 4231 East Indian School Road, Phoenix, a half mile down the road from its original spot.

Nook’s first restaurant opened in Fall 2013 on the southeast corner of 36th Street and Indian School. The restaurant was a small, cozy space in Arcadia and evolved into Nook Kitchen to distinguish it as a restaurant instead of what some thought was a bookstore.

Nook Kitchen offers original recipes and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The new location will be larger with 3,400 square feet compared to the original at 2,000 square feet. New interiors are a mix of glam and comfort, with overlays of Italian tradition in a decidedly modern setting.

“Our food is Modern American with Italian roots,” said Frank Vairo, owner of Nook Kitchen along with Chef Nick LaRosa and S. Barrett Rinzler of Square One Concepts. “The new interiors tell a similar story with the help of our in-house designers, CK Studio. Nook Kitchen’s iconic blue door welcomes you into the newly renovated space that has been dramatically transformed into an intimate dining experience. The interior is refined and sophisticated with a mix of dark and monochromatic patterns accented with pops of red and brass. The bold Instagram mural located on the front face of the building is sure to grab one’s eye and direct them into the chic and stylish new build.”

The new location has a larger black marble bar, and a larger dining area overall featuring large booths to accommodate big parties, and a floor-to-ceiling upholstered wall of banquettes that delivers inviting spaces for guests to enjoy leisurely, cozy dining.

A pizza counter invites diners to watch pizza-making action up close with the golden Acunto M. Napoli pizza oven imported from Naples, Italy, said to be the birthplace of pizza. Designed and built by hand by the Acunto family over four generations for more than 125 years, the authentic pizza oven is said to be “foundational” to the development of pizza itself.

Rinzler, president and CEO of Square One Concepts, and partner in this venture added: “The food is fantastic at Nook. The neighborhood is incredible and we’re delighted to join Frank and Nick on this newest version of Nook Kitchen. We know everyone in the area has been waiting for us to open and we’re pleased that Nick is at it again, delivering an excellent menu.”

Nook Kitchen in Arcadia presents a new menu, too, of modern American selections by Chef LaRosa, ranging from handcrafted pastas including Spaghetti and Meatballs, a lighter Ricotta Gnocchi and Joe’s Lasagna, in addition to entrees such as Espresso Rubbed Prime Filet, “Everything Salmon,” a combo of short rib and sirloin in a Handcrafted Burger, with plenty of tempting “beginnings” that include a popular holdover from the previous Nook Kitchen “Arancini” but adding Brussels Chips and Fried Calamari, among others. The new roster features refreshing custom cocktails and a wine list that doesn’t disappoint.

Nook Kitchen retains its celebrated location in Downtown Phoenix inside the Hilton Garden Inn, one that earned a 2016 Foodist Award by AZ BIG Media, and critically noted by Phoenix New Times for its city views, being among best new restaurants, Top 5 Places to Eat, among other accolades. The Vairo-LaRosa duo intend to continue the quality flavors that have earned them critical acclaim.

Nook Kitchen is located at 4231 East Indian School Road. Visit for more information.

Christmas ‘Miracle’ Pop-Up Bar Returns to Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

The holiday season is here and amid the hustle and bustle those who are looking for delicious craft cocktails, festive décor and maybe a place to hide from the in-laws are in luck. The holiday-themed pop-up cocktail bar “Miracle” is returning to Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails for the second year.

Through Christmas Day, holiday revelers around the Valley can descend on the Downtown Phoenix hotspot as this year’s pop-up extends beyond the bar and transforms the entire restaurant into an over-the-top winter wonderland. Miracle at Blue Hound will feature a new menu of seasonally themed cocktails and dishes served in a festive setting of nostalgic vintage Christmas decor. Think thousands of twinkling lights, ceilings swirling with icicles, colorful garland and ribbon and other holiday-themed knickknacks. Bartenders and staff will don ugly sweaters and festive holiday attire as well.

“This year, we’re dialing it up even more by creating a fully immersive holiday experience throughout the entire restaurant. Whether you’re looking to host a festive luncheon with colleagues in the dining room, grab a cocktail in the bar with friends or enjoy an unforgettable date night on our patio overlooking the ice rink, Miracle at Blue Hound really serves as the holiday headquarters in Downtown Phoenix,” said Wade Gruenewald, general manager, restaurants and bars at Blue Hound. “You never know how people will respond when you introduce a brand-new concept to the market and we were blown away by the 5,000 locals and hotel guests that visited Miracle at Blue Hound last year.”

This year’s cocktail menu will feature nine Christmas concoctions, including a number of favorites from last year’s menu including:

  • Snowball Old Fashioned ($16): Caramelized pecan bourbon, spiced molasses syrup, wormwood bitters and orange essence.
  • Bad Santa ($14): Rum, Batavia Arrack, black chai tea, date-infused oat milk and vanilla syrup. Served hot.
  • Koala-La La La, La La La La ($16): Gin, pine tea cordial, grapefruit oleo and Eucalyptus bitters.
  • Gingerbread Flip ($16): Rye whiskey, gingerbread syrup, tiki bitters, whole egg and ginger snap cookie crumbs.
  • Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! ($16): Barbados rum, Cachaça, Trinidad Overproof Rum, purple yam, coconut orgeat and pineapple.
  • Jingle Balls Nog ($14): Brown butter and cinnamon fat-washed cognac, Amontillado Sherry, almond milk, cream, sugar, egg, vanilla and nutmeg.
  • Christmas Carol Barrel ($16): Blanco Tequila, coffee liqueur, coco-nib infused orange and cognac liqueur, iced hot chocolate and Mexican spices.

In addition to the cocktails, Executive Chef Dushyant Singh is also getting into the spirit by debuting five new dishes that will be added to the regular lunch and dinner menus throughout the season. These include the Baa, No Humbug ($18) with three lamb chops, curry pickled shallots, quince squash puree and house mint jelly; Holiday Fries ($9) with sweet potato frites, house spice dust and white barbecue sauce; Soup for You ($9) with roasted heirloom carrots, honey crisp apple soup, ginger espuma and apple chips. The popular Hammy Sammy from last year’s menu will also be making a comeback as the Bringing Hammy Back ($13) with black forest ham, speck, Havarti, Tillamook cheddar, brie poblano spread and Noble bread.

For those who feel one night of Miracle just won’t be enough, Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix is also offering the “Miracle Experience” stay package with best flexible rates starting from $179 per night. Available to book through Tuesday, Dec. 24, the package includes overnight accommodations in a Deluxe Guestroom, a $50 dining credit at Blue Hound, two tickets to CitySkate at CityScape Phoenix with skate rentals included and two Miracle holiday mugs. To book a stay, visit

Miracle at Blue Hound will be open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 1am. For more information about Miracle at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, visit or call 602.258.0231. For more information about the Miracle pop-up, visit

Arizona’s Largest Local Wine Festival Finds New Home at Kierland Commons

The Arizona Wine Growers Association (AWGA) will partner with azcentral, and the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance (SAACA) to present the Grand Wine Festival, Saturday, Nov. 16, 11am–8pm. The largest celebration of Arizona wine in the country, the Festival will feature more than 30 Arizona wineries, paired with live music and dance performances, art installations, food vendors and other local artisans.

Now in its 11th year, the Grand Festival has relocated to Kierland Commons as part of Kierland POP: Art in Unexpected Places to accommodate for growing crowds, a wine marketplace and a record number of wineries from across Arizona.

According to Kate Marquez, SAACA executive director, “The Festival is delighted to be moving to Kierland Commons. The move truly reflects our team’s combined efforts to better tell the story of Arizona wine as we raise the bar for local wine enthusiasts.”

In addition to sampling, the Festival will also offer attendees the opportunity to purchase full bottles of wine in preparation for the holiday season, including several Festival exclusives that are not available in stores. Attendees will also enjoy live entertainment, an open-air artisan’s marketplace featuring artists’ original works, and delectable treats from gourmet specialty food vendors. The event main stage will host live music throughout the day.

Among the more than 30 participating Arizona wineries will be recognized favorites such as Alcantara Vineyard, Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards, Callaghan Vineyards, Dos Cabezas WineWorks, Keeling Schaefer Vinyards, Page Springs Cellars and Pillsbury Wine Company. Relatively newer winemakers will also make an appearance, including Birds and Barrels Vineyards (2015), Garage-East (2016) and Rune (2013), along with wineries that do not have established tasting rooms, such as Heart Wood Cellars, High Lonesome Vineyards and Woods Bay Winery — the Grand Wine Festival will offer the rare opportunity for guests to taste and buy their wine onsite (full glass and full bottle sales are available for purchase, in addition to the tasting pours with entry). To learn more about the wines being poured at the 2019 event, visit AWGA online.

“Each of the wines poured at the Grand Wine Festival is a testament to the AWGA’s members mission to make outstanding wine, and our deep love for the region,” says Kris Pothier, president of the Arizona Wine Growers Association. “As consumers taste our wines, they’ll recognize the quality and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle and understand the great potential of Arizona as a wine growing region.”

Festival tickets, which include a commemorative wine glass and eight wine tasting tickets, are available for purchase for $35 in advance of the event ($30 if you purchase by Oct. 31) and $45 day-of. Additional tasting tickets can be purchased onsite. Designated Driver tickets, which include full festival access but no tasting tickets or wine glass, are available for $15. For additional information about the Grand Wine Festival or to purchase tickets, visit

LDV Winery Tasting Room Celebrates One Year

The LDV family invites guests to join them in celebrating the one-year anniversary of the LDV Winery Tasting Room Sunday, Oct. 20, from noon to 6pm at its Stetson Drive location in Old Town Scottsdale. In honor of this milestone, LDV Winery will be releasing its 2014 Grenache — a true representative of the winery’s estate located in the southeastern Arizona Chiricahua Mountains — made with estate-grown, 100 percent Grenache that has been aged for 34 months in 100 percent new French oak barrels. During the event, guests can enjoy a complimentary first taste of this new release along with birthday cake to celebrate the occasion.

LDV Winery Tasting Room is located at 7134 East Stetson Drive, Suite B110, in Scottsdale. For additional information, call 480.664.4822 or visit

Arizona Taco Festival Returns for its 10-Year ‘Taco-versary’

The 10th Annual Arizona Taco Festival, sponsored by the City of Scottsdale, is celebrating a decade of tacos by offering more taco amusement and milestone munchies, including more than 50 taco teams dishing out creative $3 steak, pork, seafood, veggie and even vegan tacos, as they compete for $10,000 and bragging rights in this esteemed taco competition.

The festival will commence Oct. 12–13 at its new, larger WestWorld of Scottsdale location. The taco playground will expand and take over 300 acres, featuring the fan-favorites, plus a whole new line-up of entertainment during the two-day festival.

New festivities at the 10th Annual Arizona Taco Festival include:

  • Lucha Libre Arena and Lucha Bar: Wrestlers slam down under a structured tent, and bleacher seating with its own bar and band with a Tijuana meets Quentin Tarantino vibe.
  • Taco Society Culture Tent: Taco-centric fashion, art, photography, music and more to get into the full taco spirit, mind, body and soul, co-curated by local artist Gennaro Garcia.
  • Holy Hot Sauce: This expo tent will feature 100 hot sauces to sample, buy, and vote for the People’s Choice award. All hot sauces will be curated by Vic Clinco, the owner of the largest private collection of hot sauces in the world.
  • Day of the Dead Wedding: For one lucky couple who gets hitched on the main stage Day of the Dead style and then celebrates with their wedding party in a private cabana.
  • Tequila Expo: Guests will be able to sample from over 100 types of tequila and other agave-based spirits. Expo tickets are $20, and hours are from noon to 5pm.
  • Technicolored Instagrammable cooking demo hosted by AZFoodie

Returning festival favorites include a solid line-up of over 50 taco vendors including Arizona’s top taquerias, taco food trucks, and taco titans will bring the best of the best tacos for $3 each; the Main Taco Competition, where local chefs battle for the best taco titles as well as $10,000 in cash prizes, trophies and bragging rights; interactive photo booths and photo experiences; Hot Chili Pepper eating contest; Mucho Taco Eating contests where 10 strong stomached volunteers see how many tacos they can consume in a short amount of time; and the Ay! Chihuahua Beauty Pageant where over 20 chihuahuas in vibrant costumes strut their stuff with eccentric owners in tow.

The festival is open Saturday, Oct. 12, and Sunday, Oct. 13, from 11am to 7pm. One-day general admission will begin at $10 per ticket in honor of the 10th anniversary for the first 2,019 ticket buyers and increase to $15 per ticket. Military members will receive half off their ticket. The VIP Cantina will offer chef curated food, private bars, entertainment, private bathrooms, seating for $135 per day. Tickets are only sold online on and food and beverages cost extra. Arizona Taco Festival is a cashless event.

WestWorld of Scottsdale is located at 16601 North Pima Road, Scottsdale. For an up-to-date lineup of 10-year anniversary festivities, restaurants, spirits and entertainment, visit

Downtown Phoenix Oktoberfest Returns Sept. 28

Downtown Phoenix Oktoberfest returns for a second year with live music, a brat eating contest and, of course, plenty of beer. Hosted by HDE Agency, the 21 and over event will be held in Civic Space Park Saturday, Sept. 28, from 3pm to 9pm.

This year, the event will feature plenty of beer and traditional German food such as bratwurst, weisswurst, currywurst, soft pretzels, schnitzel, spatzel and sauerkraut. The Downtown Phoenix Oktoberfest brings authentic fare from local restaurants and food purveyors including Eur Haus food truck, Brat Haus, Copper Blues and Hooters.

“The Downtown Phoenix Oktoberfest is a chance for everyone to be German for the day,” said owner of HDE Agency, Landon Evans. “Oktoberfest is a long-running tradition in Germany and we love bringing it to Cityscape providing an authentic experience, live entertainment and plenty of fun.”

This year’s event will feature live music from Funkhaus Brass Band, Arizona’s new high energy New Orleans style band. A partnership with Huss Brewing will ensure local liquid gold will be flowing plus eight German beers will be on tap including Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn, the most popular beer served at the German Oktoberfest and Hofbrau Lager. Additionally, servers from Hooters will be on site serving up food and drinks to guests and they will host a championship stein holding contest and a Beer Maid contest. A brat eating contest will test attendee’s enthusiasm for sausages. Corn hole, Jenga, Ladder Ball and more will also provide entertainment for festival goers.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit ICM Food & Clothing Bank. Started in 1983 ICM has been supporting working poor families with basic human needs including food, clothing, toiletries, diapers, and more. The nonprofit is fueled by the support of the community and volunteers. Learn more at

Single tickets to the event are $10 online and $15 day of. Admission includes access to the festival grounds, entertainment, games and contests. Food and beverages are sold separately.

Civic Space Park is located at 424 North Central Avenue in Phoenix. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit


The Horny Toad Celebrates Forty-Three Years in Cave Creek

This month, Cave Creek’s The Horny Toad celebrates its 43rd anniversary, and the family-owned restaurant and bar will hold a celebration Saturday, Sept. 21, with live music, giveaways and special pricing on a few of their famous menu items.

From 11am to 10pm, patrons can enjoy food and drink specials including:

  • Two pieces of Fried Chicken and quarter Rack of Ribs for $11.69 – That’s $4.30 off the regular price.
  • Half order of Strawberry Shortcake for $4.30.
  • Drink specials for $4.30, which include the House Margarita, Michelob Ultra, Coors Light and The Horny Toad’s very own Horny Toad Draft.

Music will fill the patio from noon to 4pm. Entertainment for the celebration will be provided by the talented performers of Rock the District. Along with the giveaways throughout the day, this event will offer fun for the whole family.

The Horny Toad is located at 6738 East Cave Creek Road. For additional information, call 480.488.9542 or visit

Save the Dates for Fall Carefree Restaurant Week

The Carefree Restaurant Association invites Valley residents to Carefree’s very own Fall Restaurant Week, which will be held Sept. 29 – Oct. 5. During Restaurant Week, customers will have an opportunity to sample new and exciting menu offerings and in doing so support their local restaurants.

Carefree restaurants will offer exciting prix fixe lunch and dinner menus. Specials for the week include a two-course lunch for $18, a three-course dinner for $35 and a four-course dinner for $45 (excludes alcohol).

From Latin cuisine or family-style Italian to modern American, soul food, high tea or simply a good old-fashioned burger, there is something to suit every palate. Participating restaurants include Alberto’s Ristorante, Confluence, Corrado’s Cucina Italiana, English Rose Tea Room, Giordano’s Trattoria Romana, Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse, Raven’s View Wine Bar, Terras at Civana and Venues Café.

For a complete list of all Association restaurants and more details on Carefree Restaurant Week, including menus, visit

Photo: Charcuterie at Raven’s View

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