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Food Lover’s Oasis in Central Arizona

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If food and drink are on your brain every second of every day, look no further than central Arizona for a foodie-themed escape. Fine-dining establishments and eclectic eateries can be found all over greater Phoenix, boasting local purveyors and family recipes passed down through generations.

Head to one of these three destinations for memorable dining experiences this summer:

Greater Phoenix. Grab a bite and a cultural experience at one of Arizona’s fascinating museums – the Heard Museum’s Courtyard Café is open daily and offers locally grown ingredients and the Café at MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) provides a variety of regional dishes, including vegetarian and vegan options. If it’s a table with a view you’re seeking, visit one of the Valley’s many swanky resorts, like Elements at the Sanctuary on Camelback, and see the city in a whole new way. Urbanites can also head to Kierland Commons for an assortment of restaurants offering everything from casual happy hour spots to upscale steakhouses.


Jerome. Literally built onto the side of Cleopatra Hill, Jerome is one of the most unique cities you’ll ever encounter. The rolling green hills are occupied by a community of artists, musicians and winemakers making it a popular destination for travelers seeking shopping, live music and fine dining. Be sure to stop by the Mile High Inn & Grille, which has been serving up delicious dishes since 1899.


Cottonwood. It might be hard to imagine rolling vineyards but wine country in Arizona exists, and it’s only a short drive away. Located in the heart of Verde Valley, Cottonwood produces some of the most flavorful wines in the country. Check out any of the award-winning wineries like Alcantara Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, Oak Creek Vineyards and Javelina Leap Vineyards, or six local tasting rooms to experience the varietals. Cottonwood is also a growing culinary hotspot, offering visitors outstanding restaurants like 15 Quince Grill & Cantina and Pizzeria Bocce, set to a backdrop of charming, historic surroundings.

Visit summerinaz.com for more ideas on planning the perfect foodie getaway this summer.  


Featured Chef: Gregory J. Weiner

Executive Chef Gregory J. Wiener of Top of the Rock, Marriott at the Buttes.



Featured Chef: Cory Lattuca

Executive Chef Cory Lattuca of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.



Arizona Black Label® Bacon Fest Returns Bigger and Better than Ever

by David A. Bowers

The Second Annual Bacon Fest returns to Tucson on Saturday, June 7, 2014 with new title sponsor Hormel and Black Label® Bacon. The event quickly outgrew its inaugural event space and will be held at the Kino Sports Complex from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. under the lights of the ballpark. General admission starts at 6pm.

Joining title sponsor Hormel will be local sponsors Harley Davidson of Tucson, RideNow Power Sports, Rock 102.1, KLPX 96.1, NBC affiliate, KVOA 4 and KNST.

Bacon Cotton Candy

“We learned our lessons from last year,” festival creator Rob Betanourt told me. “We are cutting off ticket sales and requiring participating restaurants to guarantee samples.”

Last year’s inaugural festival met with several issues including long lines, excessive heat with no area of retreat from the beating sun. Once entrants braved the long lines and the heat, they were met with several empty booths that had already ran out of food.

“We had only sold 50 pre-sale tickets prior to the event last year and had no idea what to expect,” Betancourt said. “We are better prepared this year and look to redeem ourselves from last year.”

This year’s festival will be held in a much larger venue to combat the long lines, it will be held at night to answer the heat problem and the eateries are bringing a guaranteed number of samples to fix the issue of running out of food early. 

Festival goers will be treated with bacon-centric samplings from 30+ local restaurants and 20 breweries from Tucson, across Arizona and even Canada’s Parallel 49 Brewing Company. Chefs will compete with their bacon-filled creations submitted to a panel of celebrity judges from television and radio for the title of “ABF Best in Show.”

Attendees will also receive a 4-oz. tasting glass to taste the latest craft beer offerings and to learn about proper pairing of styles of beer with different types of food. Live music from Love Boat delivering “Yacht Rock” and Evolution bringing “Arena Anthem Rock” will provide the entertainment with DJs Super Mario and Michael “DJ Bignut” Lopez spinning party music in between sets.


This 21 and over event will also provide interactive games such as horseshoe toss, steer roping and much more.

Tickets start at $40 in advance from local Tucson merchants Brushfire BBQ, Plaza Liquors and Lindy’s on 4th Avenue. Online tickets can be purchased at www.arizonabaconfest.net for $45 with VIP packages at $100. The VIP package will allow you an hour early entrance, a separate gated entrance, t-shirt and a tented “trough” with a waitress to deliver the beer and bacon.

Free parking will be available onsite as well as hotel accommodations at Fairfield Inn and Suites offering free shuttle service to and from the festival and a promo code for that Bacon Discount.

A portion of the proceeds will go to La Frontera of Arizona’s Rally Point. Rally Point is a service of military veterans helping veterans. Whether it be substance abuse, family violence, housing crises or medical issues, Rally Point is at the front line to fight the war at home.

Event Details:

  • When: Saturday, June 7, 6-10 pm
  • Where: Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Cost: General Admission - $40 pre-sale at local merchants, $45 pre-sale online, $50 day of event. VIP - $100, online only.
  • AZ BaconFest

How to Eat Like a Vegan King

Veganism is the new trending cuisine. Whether you have chosen to go au natural for health reasons or animal rights, you don’t have to skimp on the “good stuff.” Eating vegan foods can be just as tasty, satisfying, and delectable. With help from Executive Chef Michael Stebner of True Food Kitchen, Certified Holistic Nutritionist Kirstin Carey of Nourish, and Certified Personal Trainer Anthony DiNobile of All In Fitness & Wellness, you and your family can eat like vegan royalty.


AFM: What are two of your favorite vegan dishes?

MS: I love the Kale Crunch salad from True Food Kitchen. It’s a combination of kale, cabbage and watercress tossed with grapefruit, avocado and radishes in a chili garlic dressing. I also love the Tofu Scramble Wrap from the brunch menu. We add nutritional yeast flakes to very firm tofu, which really gives it a nice egg flavor. Then we season a mixture of soy chorizo, peppers, onions with chili and cumin to give it a little kick and some great flavor. This is a dish that mimics a traditional breakfast burrito, but without the meat or cheese. I feel great after eating it – unlike the way I feel after eating a traditional breakfast burrito.

KC: Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad – roasted sweet potatoes, avocados, tossed in an Asian dressing. Raw Veggie Pasta with Pesto – spiralized butternut squash, beets, sweet potato, zucchini, and carrots tossed in pesto.

AD: Tofu Salsa – organic/sprouted tofu, organic tempeh, organic crushed tomatoes, organic red bell pepper, organic sweet onion, chili powder.  I love how the tofu and tempeh absorb the flavors of these ingredients. Being a bodybuilder, the high, complete protein content is appealing to me. Smoothie – raw protein powder, chia, sprulina, cinnamon, organic spinach, organic banana, vanilla, stevia.  This is so refreshing and sprulina not only has the highest protein content by weight on the planet, it’s very high in chlorophyll which filters the blood. 

AFM: Why is eating vegan better for you?

MS: Vegan food is generally lower in saturated fat and if you do it right, you can easily get your recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

KC: Simply eating foods without animal proteins isn’t necessarily better for you. French fries and tomato pie are vegan – but they’re not clean foods. Eating clean vegan can be an incredibly healthy way to eat, as it relies so heavily on plant-based, whole foods – which support the immune system, increases alkalinity, and decreases the opportunity for illness.

AD: In my opinion, and most people agree, when you eat animal products, the body has to work harder to process and digest them than when eating plants. So now the body can take that extra energy and focus it on repair, recovery and replenishment.

AFM: How can people slowly transition from a meat-eating or vegetarian lifestyle to a vegan one?

MS: Try starting off with “meatless Mondays,” or eat at vegan-friendly restaurants. You can also eat seasonally inspired produce from your local farm or farmers’ market – when you start with great ingredients you may find that you don't need to add meat or cheese.

KC: Adding in one meal a day that is clean vegan is an easy way to transition. Smoothies are a great way to start, then adding in more plant-based meals over time.

AC: Experiment and find out what ‘meat’ alternatives you might like. Tofu, tempeh, seitan (if gluten is not an issue), chicken-free strips are good starters and begin working them in and animal proteins out.

AFM: Where are some of the best produce markets in the Valley?

MS: Town & Country Farmers Market in Phoenix on Wednesdays, Scottsdale Old Town Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and Singh Farms in Scottsdale on Saturdays.

KC: Farm Box by Sunizona Farms is a fabulous resource as all of their produce is veganically grown (totally organic and no animal products used in the growing process).

AC: Sprouts and Whole Foods.

AFM: What about vegan foods/products do you like the most?

MS: What I love the most is how good I feel when I leave out the meat and cheese for a few meals. You have to remember that just because its vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Try to eat whole soy foods with a lot of fruits and vegetables and stay away from highly processed vegan foods with soy isolate and other vegan fillers.

KC: I’m not a fan of “vegan products” as they usually contain a lot of “nonsense” like preservatives or processed foods. So I generally lean into raw vegan products such as Go Raw or Hail Merry products.

AC: How little I have to cook now. Before, I used to cook literally 10 pounds  of chicken, three dozen eggs, two pound of fish and several sweet potatoes for the week.  Now I cook a batch of tofu salsa.

AFM: How can home cooks transform typical foods like pasta, burgers, and seafood into a vegan delight?

MS: I like to look at it like I look at eating in general; start with high-quality ingredients, prepare them simply, leave out the meat and cheese and let the other ingredients stand out. Great quality dry pasta tossed with fresh peas, asparagus, green garlic, lemon zest and organic EVOO is a great dish. I also love falafel burgers and quinoa tacos.

KC: Since pasta is a processed food, I don’t recommend it to anyone even if it’s vegan. I would recommend shifting to veggie pasta – literally made from the whole vegetable such as zucchini and spiralized into pastalike string. We also make a vegan protein burger at Nourish that isn’t processed and includes no soy. It is made up of nuts, beans, quinoa, spaghetti squash, seeds, and spices. It’s amazing!

AC:  Substitute some of those foods for things like quinoa, portabella mushroom, and vegan seafood.

AFM: What are some of your favorite restaurants that cater to vegans?

MS: True Food Kitchen, of course. I also love Chef Sara's Raw Vegan Cafe in Carefree and Fox Restaurant Concepts’ latest fast-casual restaurant, Flower Child, on 44th and Camelback in Phoenix.

KC: Nourish, Desert Roots in Tempe, and 24 Carrots in Tempe

AC: Desert Roots Kitchen, Herb N’ Flavors, Pomegranate Café  and Nourish.

For more information on healthy eating, visit www.nourish123.com, www.allinfitnessandwellness.com, and www.truefoodkitchen.com

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