Foraging Chef Christopher Gross of Christopher’s and Crush Lounge (2502 E. Camelback Road, Ste. #102, Scottsdale, 602.522.2344) admits he leaves the hard work of foraging for mushrooms to an expert, but many of our local toques are more than happy to get their own hands dirty hunting for wild ingredients. Executive Chef Ryan Peters from Tonto Bar & Grill (5736 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., Cave Creek, 480.488.0698) uses fruits, herbs and edible seeds found on his missions, while chef Aaron Chamberlin, co-owner of St. Francis (111 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.200.8111) and Phoenix Public Market (14 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602.253.2700), has been known to grind mesquite pods into flour and use handpicked berries for cocktails.
Gastropubs Granted, the Valley was a little slow following this trend, which reportedly originated in London circa 1991, but it was worth the wait. Now instead of chewing on nachos and chicken tenders, diners can indulge on the likes of handpulled Common Ground mozzarella with crispy pancetta ($10) at the recently reinvented Wally’s American Gastropub (7704 E. Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale, 480.596.7978), black iron pizzas with PAB King George Amber in the dough from Central Kitchen (5813 N. Seventh St., Ste. 140, Phoenix, 602.313.8713), and yakisoba bowls garnished with radish ($12) at Copper Blues Rock Pub & Kitchen (50 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 480.719.5005).
Poké Move over, ahi tuna tartare: Thanks to the ahi poké bowl explosion in the Valley, poké, a more savory, silky and gratifying option, has taken over the town, with chefs putting their own unique twist on the Hawaiian classic. Beginners can trust Crujiente Tacos in Arcadia (3961 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.687.7777) to deliver authentic flavors, highlighting those ruby-red tuna cubes with taro root, seaweed, sesame and green onion, packaged in a taco shell ($5 each), while fans head to Crab & Mermaid (4218 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480.758.4994) for its new build-your-own option for a roll or bowl (each $11 to $14) with rice, greens and choice of any of more than a dozen toppings.
Tiki Drinks Though Tiki Bars anchored themselves in the desert years ago (Bikini Lounge has been around since 1947), sourcing a mai tai elsewhere was quite the challenge—until recently. Now tiki drinks are popping up on menus from Market Street Kitchen in Scottsdale (20825 N. Pima Road, 480.278.7044) to The Ostrich in Chandler (10 N. San Marcos Place, 480.917.4903), and in August haoles unearthed UnderTow, a subterranean tiki bar below Sip Coffee & Beer Garage (3620 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, 602.753.6504). It is decorated to resemble the innards of an 1800s clipper and serves up aloha-induced concoctions like Ain’t No Bali High Enough ($12), made with coconut cream, local cold brew, cognac, pineapple and more.
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