Desert Dining Glows at Palm Springs Restaurant Week

Desert Dining Glows at Palm Springs Restaurant Week

Receive the latest local updates in your inbox Email Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week a PALM SPRINGS… has a lot going in its favor, as do the towns that dot the spectacular desert resorts region. There are the luxe hotels, with their splashy pool scenes, and there’s the shopping, with its retro chic vibe, and there are the mid-century homes, with their rock walls and huge windows, and there’s that art-cool reputation, thanks to major events like “Desert X.” And the food? That has a way of garnering gushing, too, among those who’ve dined out around the desert. It’s always a little celebratory in this sunshiny spot, but when June kicks off, cuisine takes a more central role in the regional spotlight. Why? Because that’s when the… RESTAURANT WEEK MAGIC GROWS… around Palm Springs and environs. And if you’ve been wanting to prix-fixe-it-up around P.S. and Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage and La Quinta and other nearby towns, your moment is here, for the Greater Palm Springs Restaurant Week will soon begin with an almost overwhelming array of beautiful bites (though, of course, it all depends upon how you define “overwhelming”). Let’s start with the number of restaurants on the participants’ list — it’s over 100, so, indeed, that’s huge — and let’s look at the fact that this Restaurant Week actually encompasses 10 days, from May 31 through June 9. IS IT BIG? It’s as big as Mt. San Jacinto, which anyone visiting that stunning slice of desert knows is one of the biggest things around. The two-plus lunches kick off at $15, at select restaurants, while three-plus dinners start at $29. And offering the multi-course goodness? The Nest in Indian Wells, Jackalope Ranch in Indio, and several more. Get the flavorful 411 now on this foodie run of amazingness, and money-saving-ness, too. It’s a fabulous way to get up on what the resort hamlets have brewing in their kitchens, if you’d like to brush up on the dine-out desert scene.

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Being Indojin

By Aikta Kumar and Stephan Jarvis | Posted on May 31, 2019 “L ittle India” in Tokyo isn’t what you would imagine. Most people’s first thought of Little India is likely to bring preconceptions from other cities in Asia to mind. Typically this suggests a festive chaos — shambolic commercial enclaves infused with the aroma of sizzling fresh curries; mom and pop stores stacked with spices and grains spilling onto the sidewalk; and vibrant garlands, the offertory, dangling at majestic, carved shrines. All, of course, accompanied by the muffled score of a Bollywood song playing in the distance. Look around, however, and it will dawn that this picture is far from the ordered and functional Tokyo that rarely veers from its inherently disciplined character. Getting a taste of India in Tokyo requires stepping away from the swanky tourist spots and prying behind the primarily homogenous facade of residential Tokyo. Little pockets of India are sporadically developing in different parts of Tokyo. Indian engineers migrated to Japan when the IT sector opened up and made Edogawa ward their hub and have, ever since, supported a steady influx of Indian professionals to settle in the vicinity. Jewelers from India followed the economic boom in Japan to set up branches of their established business in the city and have called Okachimachi home for a couple of decades now. The Indian community has also spilled into Setagaya and Koto wards. Every locale sprung with a collective need — affordable housing, easy commute to work, business networks, proximity to Indian food supplies and shared values. Yet it takes a keen eye to spot one of Tokyo’s versions of Little India. Your first clue of nearing one would, at best, be that every third restaurant has an Indian flag fluttering at its porch and every fifth person you walk across is Indojin (Indian). The community which represents the Indian diaspora in Tokyo is numbered at just above 12,000 citizens. In India, there are 29 states, 22 official languages and thousands of regional cuisines. In Tokyo, an assemblage of associations aim to connect like minds within this diversity — Bengali, Marathi, Odiya, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Uttarakhand, Andhra, Rajasthan, Malayalee, Madhya Pradesh, just to name a few.
Sandeep Choudhury in front of the altar at the ISKCON temple in Funabori, Edogawa-ku, which also operates alongside the vegetarian Indian restaurant Govindas and a Vedic Culture Center that all members of the community, whatever their backgrounds, can make use. Sandeep works in IT alongside his voluntary role at the temple that involves general management, interacting with donors, cleaning and cooking.
Yogi (Yogendra Puranik) outside his home and family-owned restaurant Reka, in Kasai, Edogawa-ku. Yogi came to Japan 20 years ago and has been a popular and active member in the community ever since. In April 2019 he made history by becoming the first Indian to win an election in Japan. Supported by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), he was elected to Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward assembly as city councillor.
Anil Raj in the Kamiyacho branch of his Nirvanam restaurant chain in front of an authentic head decoration for elephants that is present in all of his restaurants. Raj came to Japan in 1998 and began working in the IT sector, but after noticing there was a shortage of authentic South Indian food, opened the first Nirvanam restaurant in Kamiyacho in 2005. The lunch menus have proved especially popular and his restaurants have won many awards over the years. The earliest connections between India and Japan can be traced to the 6th century, when Buddhism was introduced to Japan via Korea on the Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes that connected East Asia to trade with the rest of the world. Trade relations continued through the Meiji era. In 1885, when the ports of Kobe and Yokohama opened up, Indian businessmen, who traded in cotton and silk textiles, came to Japan. Following the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, many from the Indian community were forced to move to Kobe, thus laying the foundation for a network of Indians in Japan. The next significant inflow of Indians did not arrive until the postwar period and as a result of the Japanese economic miracle, during which many Indian traders of textiles, electronics and sundry items relocated to Japan. It was only in the 90s, however, when the IT sector in Japan opened up to the world and the conditions for granting visas to Indian professionals were eased, that a substantial Indian community was instituted in Tokyo. “The IT sector continues to be one of the biggest sectors where Indians have established their presence,” explains Prashant Godghate, Secretary General of Japan India Industrial Promotion Association (JIIPA). “Even with stringent regulations on quality, imports of Indian textiles, home furnishings, spices, tea and coffee are picking up in Japan. Efforts are being made to bring more awareness of the Indian market and bridge cultural differences to instill confidence in Japanese investors to invest in Indian businesses.” Priyanka Yoshikawa, Miss World Japan 2016, translator, interpreter and businesswoman, is one of the most high profile Indian/Japanese in the country. Born to a Japanese mother and Bengali Indian father, Yoshikawa considers herself as 100% Japanese and Indian. A role model for many mixed race people in Japan Yoshikawa is proud to embrace both her Indian and Japanese heritage. Unlike the somewhat rustic efficiency of life in India, the littlest things in Tokyo are well ordered and consumer goods are of very high quality. However, even with widely differing development-scapes in both countries, it is not difficult to find cultural similarities. For instance, it is also customary to take shoes off at the porch before entering the house in India; and spiritual influences like incense, bells and chants of Buddhist temples in Japan are also commonly seen in the subcontinent. Fundamentally, both countries showcase a steep sincerity toward traditions. Just like Japan has dentou (traditions) that are passed down through the generations, India has parampara , such as trade secrets or cooking techniques, handed down through generations. Both are patriarchal societies, wherein much reverence is given to male elders of the family. In fact, it was normal for (male) Indian professionals and businessmen to establish themselves in Tokyo before their family joined them. When the families of these individuals followed, the majority of Indian women drifted into the role of homemakers — in part, due to the lack of opportunities for Indian women, but also partly to facilitate life in Tokyo, amidst language barriers and dietary restrictions. Because dietary preferences are difficult to maintain in Tokyo, home cooking became an important aspect of the Indian community. “For certain religious occasions, a group of men and women from the community get together and prepare meals for hundreds of invitees. We gather our cooking equipment at one location, cooking roles are assigned to each person and finally, we also complete the food service for the guests,” shares Sunita Kumar, homemaker in Okachimachi who has been unfalteringly preparing home cooked meals for her family for over 25 years. “Indian ingredients are not always easily accessible, so I often adapt Indian recipes to Japanese ingredients. For instance, I use tofu in place of paneer (cottage cheese) in certain preparations.” Fortunately, today a number of grocery stores are now dedicated to meeting the demand for the plethora of Indian ingredients required for cooking. For those who appreciate a comforting curry take out, the Indian culinary community in Tokyo has also grown, from just a handful of Indian restaurants to one in practically every neighborhood . The demand, however, is not just from the Indian community. Owner of Indian restaurant Sitar in Yokohama, Kumar Mahtani shares that the demand for Indian cuisine has always been higher from the Japanese community. With great support from an established network of friends and family, the third generation Indojinopened doors to his restaurant 33 years back in Yokohama, realizing a vision of bringing authentic Indian food to Japan. He proudly brought out the book of the “Yokohama History of Archives” to point out the name of an import-export company that belonged to his grandfather, who came to Japan in the 1920s and returned to India when WWII broke out, but came back to settle in Japan in the 1950s. Growing up, Mahtani studied at an international school and went home to an Indian household that w as closely integrated with Japanese culture. At the time of Mahtani’s upbringing, there were no Indian schools in Tokyo, but as the Indian diaspora in the capital grew, so did the demand for Indian schools — parents wanted their children to have English-medium education and for them to learn about Indian history, language and culture. In 2004, India International School in Japan (IISJ) became the first Indian school in Tokyo, followed by a campus of the Singapore-based Global Indian International School (GIIS) in 2006. Both schools offered a CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) curriculum, a national level board education curriculum in India. The shared system of education also makes it easier for Indian professionals to relocate to India, if need be. Both Indian and Japanese students at GIIS begin the day at school by reciting the Indian national anthem and study with history, civics and geography textbooks that pertain to the Indian context. The emphasis of the curriculum on mathematics also attracts many Japanese students.
An elderly Indian woman blows through a conch shell that is used to invite the deities during the Maha Shivaratri, a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honor of Lord Shiva. The ceremony, which was also delivered in English and Japanese, was held at Vedic Culture Center in Funabori where many guests also brought flowers, fruit and milk for offering.
A young girl marks her mother’s forehead with blessed tilak during the Maha Shivaratri in Funabori.
Students in class at Global International Indian School’s Higashi-Kasai campus. Thanks to its curriculum, which is based primarily on India’s Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and the excellent reputation of it’s holistic approach to learning, the school has grown in popularity over the years with more than 40 percent of its students now coming from non-Indian backgrounds.
Members of Myoden Cricket Club enjoy a biryani lunch during the bitgrit Tokyo Premier League 2019 cricket tournament held on Edogawa Cricket Ground. Organized by Men In Blue Cricket Club, it’s the oldest tape tennis ball cricket tournament in Japan having started back in 2009. In a bid to strengthen cultural relations between Japan and India, the Vivekananda Cultural Centre at the Embassy of India in Tokyo conducts courses in yoga, tabla and Indian dance forms. By a sunny deck overlooking Chidorigafuchi moat, Dr. Reeta Sharma begins a morning yoga session with the peaceful chanting of Om Shanti mantra . An intermixed class of Japanese and Indian students repeats the mantra in perfect unison. Meanwhile, Bollywood dance teacher, Kyoko Nobi, has students grooving to the beats of Ek Ladki ko Dekha , the latest trending track in Bollywood. Takayo Wanami, a student of Bollywood dance, shares that lately she has not only expanded her knowledge of Indian culture, but also her palate for Indian cuisine. Her introduction to Indian culture was a South Indian movie, Muthu — Dancing Maharajah , that gained tremendous popularity in Japan in the 90s. But, today, she is knowledgeable about Bollywood, and with more restaurants serving South Indian cuisine in Tokyo, she also understands there is more to Indian cuisine beyond naan and curry and that rice is a staple food in South India.
A statue of Ganesha in the Embassy of India with the Japanese flag on its forehead.
A Bollywood dance class at the Embassy of India in Tokyo.
Dr. Reeta Sharma begins a morning yoga session at the Embassy of India in Tokyo. Feasts and festivals are the indispensable identity of every culture. So, how does the Indian community integrate their larger than life festivities in Tokyo? At the largest outdoor Indian festivals celebrated in Tokyo — Diwali (festival of lights) and Holi (festival of colors) — participation can go over a sizeable 1,500 people at a single venue. Hundreds of volunteers are engaged to manage proceedings throughout the event, including the rendering of special permissions to carry out certain traditions: “In one of the festivals, a model of Ravana is burned in an act that symbolizes the victory of good over evil,” says Rohan Agrawal of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) Japan, a non-profit organization that conducts community events and gatherings. “This required us to get permission from the fire department. We are fortunate to have received great support from the Japanese community to help us run the event smoothly. A third of the participants are Japanese who are conscious of their historical connections with India or have travelled to India. The Indian community in Japan is still maturing to what it is like in the US and UK. A lot more events are happening in Tokyo and throughout Japan. They help in creating a sense of community away from home and ultimately, in creating a network of Indians who support each other, even in legal and other matters.” Tokyo’s Little India is certainly unlike the Little Indias of other nations. There may be no focal point, no borough filled with commercial Indian stores and restaurants — but the Indian community here is well on its way to developing an identity based on personal relations and inclusive events. Our Little India is a close knit community effected by the 12,000 Indians who have worked hard to adapt to life in Tokyo while also striving to introduce Tokyo to the traditions that they are grounded in.

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Small Bites: Commonwealth Indian Opens in North Bethesda

Commonwealth Indian opened at Pike & Rose last week. Via Commonwealth Indian Commonwealth Indian opens in North Bethesda The Indian restaurant arrived at Pike & Rose last week, featuring appetizers, family-style entrees and a full bar with Indian-inspired cocktails. Commonwealth Indian is the most recent concept from Executive Chef Sunil Bastola, who owns and operates a pair of restaurants in Virginia, both named Bollywood Bistro. “We’re very excited to bring our second Indian restaurant concept to the DC-metro area and add a new cuisine to the Pike & Rose neighborhood,” Bastola said in a statement. “Whether our guests are gathering with family over dinner or stopping in for a quick work-day lunch, Commonwealth will bring the best of traditional Indian dishes served in a contemporary way that North Bethesda has not yet seen.” The menu includes traditional favorites such as Rajwadi Murgh (curry chicken), Mutton Ki Biryani (lamb) and Angrezi (butter chicken), along with fresh-baked bread and Indian salad. The bar has Indian beers and wines, and the restaurant will host a champagne brunch on Sundays.
Entrees range from $19 to $29, with the lunch menu items running a few dollars less. Signature cocktails are between $9 and $14.
La Gelatteria opens in Kensington on Friday
The gelato shop is the newest tenant to open at Knowles Station retail center, joining a Verizon store and Knowles Station Wine and Co. restaurant.
La Gelatteria will sell espresso in addition to 20 flavors of gelato, including lactose-free and vegan options.
The shop is at 10414 Detrick Ave.
Knowles Station was completed in February on the grounds of the former roadside stand Hawkins’ Produce. Dog Haus announces child hunger fundraiser The gourmet hot dog chain will bring back its Chef Collaboration Series in June, with five celebrity chefs creating limited-time items to benefit nonprofit No Kid Hungry. This year’s selections will include hot dogs, sausages, burgers, wings and a vegan item, with $1 from each purchase going to the charity organization. Dog Haus has also added a craft cocktail component, enlisting a trio of celebrity mixologists to join in the collaboration. “Childhood hunger is a constant battle, and Dog Haus is working hard with the culinary community to make an impact,” National Director of Chef and Culinary Relations for No Kid Hungry Jenny Dirksen said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing how this effort with some of the country’s top chefs and celebrity mixologists will benefit children in America.” King’s Hawaiian’s National Corporate Executive Chef Bert S. Agor Jr. will develop an item for June, then give way to Pastry Chef Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes. Chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage Co. will take August, then Chef Eric Greenspan of Alt Grub Faction in September. Dog Haus’ Würstmacher Adam Gertler will cover October and November, before Ramen Hood creator Ilan Hall closes the promotion. “Collaborating with No Kid Hungry and these amazing chefs is exciting for many reasons, but the most important part is giving back, because people matter,” Dog Haus Partner Hagop Giragossian said in a statement. “Working with chefs of this caliber naturally entices customers to check out new takes on our menu while supporting a worthy cause. Mixologists Phil Wills, Mia Mastroianni and Lisamarie Joyce of the Paramount Network series Bar Rescue will each create two unique cocktails, beginning in August. Just like the chef series, $1 from each purchase will go to No Kid Hungry. Dog Haus has a location in Bethesda and another coming to Gaithersburg. Takoma Trukgarten returns on Saturday The day-long festival will include more than 30 crafts beers, along with cider and a wine tent. Participants include Silver Branch Brewing Co. and Denizens Brewing Co. from Silver Spring and 7 Locks Brewing from Rockville. Takoma restaurants Cielo Rojo and Takoma Beverage Co. will provide food, along with Hardy’s BBQ from Bethesda and The Pretzel Bakery and Just AJ’s Veenies from the District. There will also be live music performances by Moose Jaw Bluegrass, Dan Wolff, Park Snakes, Miss Moon Rising, and Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark. Entry and tasting tickets are available online starting at $25, with designated drivers getting in for $10. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate starting at $35, and $10 for designated drivers.
Gates open at noon and the festival goes until 5 p.m.
This story was updated to include the La Gelatteria news.

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The Spice of Life: Kapoor’s Akbar in DTLA

The Spice of Life: Kapoor’s Akbar in DTLA By KerFree100 1 day ago Get2DTLA!
Downtown loves great dishes that leave long lasting memories on the palate. Lucky for all of us, Kapoor’s Akbar arrived to set the bar when it came to quantity and quality, presentation, taste, atmosphere and over all grade A dining experience. Avinash Kapoor – Photo by Eric Epperson
Chef Avinash Kapoor, owner and creator tells the tale of relocating from his previous 20 year old location in Pasadena to the southern edge of Chinatown, with a selection of signature dishes he describes as “Indian food with a twist”.
With all the many gifts from the seventh largest country in world many times over burdened throughout history by invaders, crusaders, religious sects and foreign ritual, Chef Kapoor completes this story with a combination of dishes prepared with dozens of spices as rich as India’s past. Brussels/ Chutney
The new location on Cesar E. Chavez is modest yet practical. There’s enough room to sit comfortably inside a row of booths while traditional interiors, complete with warm lighting, open kitchen and original art from India deliver the diner instantly to the Northern regions of Kapoor’s homeland. Great Food …Great Karma
The food and beverage menu at Kapoor’s Akbar is officially – enlightening.
Those familiar with Indian cuisine are destined to find their old favorites. And we mean old. At 8000 years in the making, India is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Rest assured the food which has been perfected throughout the ages is meant to heal the body, mind and the soul as well. This probably explains the sense of happiness and wonder that seems to cosmically arrive with every dish. Lamb Sliders of Kapoor’s Akbar
Vegan/Veggie favorites worth ordering for all eternity include sautéed brussel sprouts, watermelon and “spicy fries”, making Kapoor’s Akbar number one on Downtown Weekly’s list of 10 Great Places for Vegan dishes.
Kapoor’s offers all of India’s best, like potato and pea Samosas and Beef Masala prepared with the desirable blend of heat thanks to spiced additions of curry, garlic, turmeric, and other exotic blends of India. Still, expect the unexpected. Cheese Naan
As top chefs continue to make the pilgrimage to Downtown LA, it’s easy to become enamored while enjoying any of Downtown’s designer dishes. Enter CHEF AVINASH KAPOOR‘s Seventh Wonder of the Culinary World
There’s noting like hearing the approaching sound of Kapoor’s sizzling Tandoori Salmon coming from the kitchen to the table. There’s also nothing in downtown like the Blue Crab Curry especially when placed atop a perfectly prepared dish of Saffron basmati rice.
While other items labeled “Aloo Aam Tikka”, “Shahi Lamb” and “Papadum” may need a little explaining to anyone less familiar with Indian food’s more commercial namesakes, experienced and reasonably pride filled servers have little trouble compelling diners to partake in any of the many delicious culinary experiences at Kapoor’s Akbar.
Even the usual naan isn’t so usual at Kapoor’s Akbar, and comes in a list of varieties including garlic naan, naan filled with cheese, Onion Kulcha filled naan, and Kabuli Naan filled with fruits ready to carry the flavors of Kapoor’s sauces, chutneys, vegetable and meat dishes to tantalize your taste buds.
Here’s something your taste buddies just don’t taste everyday, making Kapoor’s Akbar a perfect way to impress a date or business acquaintance.
For many Kapoor’s Akbar may present their first experience with wine and beers from India, including Taj Beer, which lends a feeling of intoxicated bliss.
Best of all, at Kapoor’s Akbar, you will fill up with enough food to share or take home. It’s this combination coupled with their level of commitment to service, taste, quality and quantity that has surely kept the Kapoor’s Akbar brand in good food karmic standing for so many decades.
Official Downtown Weekly Rating: out of 5 stars, 5 of course.
Kapoor’s Akbar 701 W. Cesar E. Chavez, LA CA 90012 – 213-372-5590. Free Parking (Enter on N. Bunker Hill Street. For more info www.kapoorsakbar.com Get2DTLA!

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8 Best Restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach

Culture 8 Best Restaurants in San Francisco’s North Beach North Beach draws people from near and afar and its dining scene can dazzle if you know the right places to go. On 5/30/19 at 3:19 PM EDT Share Culture Travel San Francisco
Dining in North Beach can be a culinary crap shoot. A visitor are often bewildered by this neighborhood that’s dotted with tourist trap restaurants and inferior I-talian eateries serving subpar slop. But the eight great eateries below are a sure bet you’ll walk away from North Beach satiated and satisfied. 1. Comstock Saloon
Comstock Saloon (155 Columbus Ave). Comstock Saloon
A recreated piece of San Francisco history, the Comstock is meant to be a throwback to the Barbary Coast era during the Gold Rush when San Francisco was a wild, debauch-laden frontier town (it still is, in a way). The wood-clad, high-ceilinged, cocktail-forward spot serves up comfort food, often with an Asian twist such as the lo mein cacio e pepe, garlic-miso tater tots, and honey-walnut calamari.
155 Columbus Ave. 2. Il Pollaio
The Italian word for “chicken coop,” Il Pollaio has perfected the art of grilling meat – and not just all manner of clucking fowl, as the name would suggest. This no-frills North Beach restaurant grills a mean a lamb, rabbit, sausage, and whatever else is available that week.
55 Columbus Ave. 3. Joe’s
Joe’s (601 Union St). Joe’s
Established by a Croatian immigrant in 1937, Joe’s is an SF eating institution. Italian-American cuisine doesn’t get a lot of respect in the culinary world but comforting dishes here are worthy of your palate’s attention. You can have your spaghetti and meatballs and other Italian-American classics but the signature burger, between a sourdough roll, is tops at Joe’s.
601 Union St. 4. Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Curry House
Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Curry House (1040 Columbus Ave). Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Curry House
If Ireland and India were to collide over San Francisco it would look, feel, and taste a lot like this place, the best Irish pub/Indian restaurant in the country. Oh, and probably the only one. Sip your Guinness while noshing on crispy, fried veggie-stuffed pakora and chicken vindaloo. And don’t skip the south Indian dosas.
1040 Columbus Ave. 5. Mama’s
Mama’s (1701 Stockton St). Mama’s
Beloved Francis “Mama” Sanchez may have departed for that great kitchen in the sky, but this decades-old institution is still churning out edible TLC in the form of incredible omelets – or in this case “M’omelets” – as well as burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Join the constant queue and be sure to come hungry.
1701 Stockton St. 6. 15 Romolo
15 Romolo (15 Romolo Pl). 15 Romolo
Set in the former Basque Hotel space, this sleek cocktail-shaking spot feels like a welcome relief from the bright lights and bustle around Columbus Avenue and Broadway. Sip a mezcal-loaded “Baker Beach” cocktail while grazing on above-average tapas dishes, like goat cheese-stuffed croquettes, wagyu meatballs, and tempura veggies.
15 Romolo Pl. 7. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton St). Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
Pizza pro Tony Gemignani slings excellent pies here. Given the name, it would be understandable to assume Tony’s mainly does the Neapolitan-style pizza here (he does and they are incredible) but there’s a much bigger variety on offer, such as Roman, Sicilian, New York, Californian, Detroit, St. Louis, and others. It’s a serious study in regional pizza varieties.
1570 Stockton St. 8. Tosca
Tosca (242 Columbus Ave) Tosca
For generations Tosca was a staid café and bar with a glorious past as a speakeasy. And then chef April Bloomfield turned up. She added a state-of-the-art kitchen and left the dark moody interior the same and now Tosca is a topnotch dining destination, attracting a food-loving crowd who come here to dine on Roman bucatini noodles in a tomato and guanciale sauce or the deliciously tender roasted chicken for two.
242 Columbus Ave.

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Nine Surprising Fruits and Vegetables You Can Find at The Farmers’ Market This Summer

5/30/19 share:
Ah, summer. The season when the farmers’ market is bursting at the seams with corn , tomatoes , peaches , berries and more. And while we’re fans of those classics, and the season’s bumper crop of zucchini , there are some oft-forgotten items we also love to seek out this time of year. From the tropical flavors of ground cherries and the bright pop of currants to the crisp bite of purslane , here are nine ingredients you may not recognize at your neighborhood market stall. Now you will, and we highly suggest you try them out! Currants. By circleps/ Adobe Stock Currants
Although they resemble winter’s mistletoe buds, currants are in fact a tart, just-sweet-enough summer berry. You’ll find them in black, red, white and pink varieties, most likely at the farmers’ market, from July to August, depending on where you live. Delicious eaten out of hand, currants can also be used to make preserves , substituted in for dried fruits in baked goods , tossed into salads and turned into sauce to accompany roasted meats. Choose shiny and plump currants that are still attached to their stem.
Get more information about cooking and shopping for currants in the Real Food Encyclopedia. Bitter Melon
This summer fruit is not lying about its name — its bite is so bitter, those unfamiliar might reject it at first taste. But the fruit (cousin to cucumbers and melons ) is grown extensively in India, Southern China and other parts of Southeast Asia for good reason — bitter melon is packed with nutrients and its sharp flavor is the perfect addition spicy and rich foods like curry , stir-fry (often prepared with Chinese black beans ), and stews . In the US, you’ll most likely find it at summer markets from farmers specializing in Asian produce (or Asian specialty grocers); when you do, look for the green ones if you prefer bitter flavor or orange-to-yellow ones for aif you prefer things milder.
Get more information about cooking and shopping for bitter melon in the Real Food Encyclopedia. Apriums/Pluots/Plumcots
While you’re probably familiar with plums and you may love apricots , there are several cross-bred varieties of these jewels you might not know. This summer keep an eye out for apriums, pluots, plumcots and apriplums — all plum-apricot hybrids. By mixing the two varieties, you get results that range wildly in size, color (like the deep green skin of Emerald Drops or the golden yellows of Tropical Sunrise), sweetness (Flavorosas are super sweet!) and flavor undertones (try Flavor Grenade for a tropical, pineapple flavor). Use them the same way you enjoy plums or apricots: toss them into fruit salad , bake them into pie , cook them into preserves or puree them and mix into cockails . That is, if you don’t bite into them immediately after nabbing them at the market. Fresh green gooseberries. By missmimimina / Adobe Stock. Gooseberries
Similar in spherical shape and translucent appearance to currants, gooseberries are much more common in Europe, especially England, than the US. Gooseberries have quite a tart bite — most recipes suggest cooking them with sugar, like rhubarb , to soften the flavor. They are also often paired with sweet, fragrant elderflower. The traditional dish for this classic English berry is the fool , a simple dessert made with sweetened gooseberries and whipped cream. Try using them similarly to currants, for jam , sauce and as a cocktail mix-in . You’ll find them from June to August, depending on variety and location, at the farmers’ market or a produce specialty store.
Get more information about cooking and shopping for gooseberries in the Real Food Encyclopedia. Kohlrabi
You may have seen kohlrabi at the farmers’ market and said, “What is that alien-looking thing?” Kohlrabi’s certainly got a unique look, with its knobby bulb, long stretched-out stems and big, flat leaves. The blub has a tough outer skin that must be trimmed away, but once you’ve mastered that, the veggie — which tastes similar to broccoli-stems — is wonderful added into coleslaws , mashed with potatoes or roasted as a side dish . Use the leaves like kale, raw, cooked, roasted, etc . Available in purple or green, the plant starts appearing in late May and goes through the end of November, depending on your location. In warmer climates it may also be available in winter. Look for firm, smaller bulbs (they’ll be more tender) with no brown spots and crisp leaves.
Get more information about cooking and shopping for kohlrabi in the Real Food Encyclopedia. Prickly Pears and Nopales
Prickly pears are so important in Mexican cuisine that the fruit appears on the Mexican flag . This national cactus pride is not surprising — cactus paddles, nopales, and their fruit, prickly pears, are nutrient- and fiber-rich and have been used to treat everything from arthritis pain to hangovers. You’re more likely to spot these at the farmers’ market in southwestern states starting mid-summer; in other areas look for them at specialty grocers. Choose bright green paddles that are soft, but not floppy, and fruit that is firm and blemish free. Because both the pears and cactus have prickly cacti spikes, be careful when cleaning them . Once you’ve done the prep, try the paddles — which have a similar flavor to green peppers — in nopales tacos , roasted with meats or fried with tofu , or breaded and fried into cactus fries . Prickly pears make an excellent dipping sauce for those fries, can be turned into a delicious jelly , and are a favorite flavor addition to margaritas . Ground cherries at the market. By mbruxelle/ Adobe Stock. Ground Cherries
With a tempting flavor profile of pineapple, strawberry and green grapes, it’s surprising that ground cherries aren’t more popular. Also called cape gooseberries, the tropical-tasting, yellow-orange fruits are enrobed in a papery husk. You’ll find them starting around July; look for gooseberries with husks that are papery and straw-to-tan colored (similar to a tomatillo husk ). Remove the husks, then snack on them raw, or use them for desserts , salads or dip them in chocolate for a cute party treat. Ground cherries have a short but sweet season — from late summer through the beginnings of fall — so catch them when you can.
Get more information about cooking and shopping for ground cherries in the Real Food Encyclopedia. Lamb’s Quarters
Despite the fact that it’s a common garden weed, this spinach-like green is highly popular in Indian, Korean and Chinese cuisine, and making headway on the American palate . Look for bright, plump leaves when shopping for lamb’s quarters at the farmers’ market — the only place you’re likely to find it, as this is a foraged, not cultivated item — in season from early summer through the fall’s first frost. Swap it in for any spinach recipe, or try using lamb’s quarters in kimchi , pesto , creamy soup or even your morning smoothie .
Get more information about cooking and shopping for lamb’s quarters in the Real Food Encyclopedia. Purslane
Snacking on purslane is one of those good-for-you, good-for-environment things, since it’s a common weed that you can eat instead of toss out, and which also happens to be delicious and nutritious. But be careful where you get it! Cultivated and wild-foraged purslane is a wonderful addition to your salad bowl, but because it is considered invasive in many places (such as industrial agricultural settings), the plant is often sprayed with noxious herbicides . You’ll start seeing purslane at the farmers’ market in early June through the end of fall; look for stems and leaves that are firm and fleshy to the touch. Tart and succulent, purslane is a great mix-in for salads , but it can also be sautéed , stewed and pickled .

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Saigon Restaurant – Albuquerque, New Mexico

– 17 Comments. Saigon Restaurant in the Northeast Heights
According to some stereotypes, when you eat Chinese food, you’ll be hungry an hour later. That stereotype is known as the “Chinese food paradox.” One of the culprits behind that stereotype is rice, a very starchy food which metabolizes quickly. Others blame monosodium glutamate (MSG) when hunger creeps in shortly after finishing a meal. Italian food is also shrouded in stereotype. “ The trouble with eating Italian food ,” according to British writer George Miller, “ is that five or six days later you’ll be hungry again .” With Italian food–at least Americanized Italian food served in some of the ubiquitous chains–portions are often enough to feed a village in a developing country. A plethora of pasta, tons of tomato sauce, mountains of meatballs. Is it any wonder Alka Seltzer’s most famous commercial depicted a poor sap bemoaning the consumption of dozens of Mamma Mia’s spicy meatballs?
These stereotypes may have been fashioned in humor, but there may be some elements of truth behind them. Unfortunately many of the stereotypes about Vietnamese food are based on inaccurate and xenophobic untruths perpetuated in many cases by people who haven’t tried Vietnamese food. The stereotype which should persist about Vietnamese food is that it leaves an indelible impression on your taste buds that leaves you craving it again and again. Of course, being wholly accurate, you couldn’t call it a stereotype. Chef Vicky Truoung, the heart and soul of Saigon.
If taste buds and olfactory senses have a memory, there’s nothing more memorable than Vietnamese food. Hours after each Vietnamese dining experience, taste buds beckon for a return…and soon. Fortunately Albuquerque is blessed with several outstanding Vietnamese restaurants. That makes it a real challenge determining which one will quell our nearly wanton longing for divinely inspired cuisine–cuisine whose pedigree includes the creative influences of French, Chinese, Indian traditions, ingredients and techniques.
Saigon is somewhat of an anomaly in that it’s not located anywhere near Albuquerque’s tightly-knit Vietnamese neighborhoods, most of which seem to be concentrated on the southeast quadrant of the city. That didn’t stop chef and proprietor Vicky Truong from cultivating a loyal and diverse patron base who visit her restaurant to partake of a 145-item menu which features the distinct flavors and unique preparation of the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine in town. It also hasn’t stopped the Vietnamese community from frequenting Saigon perhaps moreso than any other Vietnamese restaurant in town. Fried Mussels with Tamarind
Chef Truong learned her trade in San Jose before plying it in the Duke City where at one point she had operated her Saigon restaurant for eight years without a day off (although the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays). The affable chef flits between the kitchen and the dining room, addressing her guests as “honey” or “sweetie” and ensuring their comfort. For years, her “staff” consisted solely her sister, the genial and peripatetic Mai Tran. Since then she’s cultivated a trusty kitchen staff who meet her high standards though she does all the cooking. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Pop Muzak reverberates throughout the large, well-lit dining room where diners sink into oversized maroon vinyl booths and study a menu replete with tempting options. While some items are pretty standard fare, fix your eyes and take a chance on some of the entrees and appetizers not served anywhere else. Your adventurous spirit will be result in a unique and flavorful meal you’ll want to duplicate soon. Steamed Mussels with Lemongrass Most Recent Visit: 24 May 2019
Start your meal with an appetizer of fried mussels with tamarind . The sea-sealed brininess of the mussels contrasts beautifully with the sweet, sour and slightly acidic taste of the tamarind-based sauce in which the mussels swim together with grilled white onions under a canopy of cilantro leaves. It’s a delicious feast of complementary yet contrasting tastes. As with most dishes at Saigon, it is plated and presented beautifully. My preference would have been for New Zealand green lip mussels which are larger and meatier, but even smaller mussels are a magnificent mollusk with plenty of flavor.
Saigon actually offers three different appetizers showcasing mussels. Two, including mussels with sesame seed, are fried. The other, steamed mussels in lemongrass is more akin to the mussels dishes in a broth you find in French restaurants. With its minty-lemony notes, lemongrass won’t necessarily remind you of the influence of white wine when paired with mussels, but it too, lends palate-pleasing qualities. Jalapeños, of course, lend piquancy. Altogether, herbaceous qualities meld very well with the almost ethereal ocean flavor of mussels. Egg Rolls
Saigon is the only restaurant for which I’d list egg rolls as an absolute “must have.” These cigar-shaped treasures, served with a tangy fish sauce, are among the very best I’ve had anywhere. They explode with the flavor of perfectly seasoned ground pork and vegetables encased in a crispy, deep-fried yellow wrapper. Served six to an order, it might be advisable to request two orders to keep peace in the family. As with other appetizers, the greenery (cilantro, mint and Thai basil) isn’t there solely as plate decoration. Vickye expects that her guests will wrap their egg rolls on a lettuce leaf and add cilantro and Thai basil to taste–and if you don’t, she’ll certainly talk you into it.
If you ever espy a diner at one of the Duke City’s Vietnamese restaurants wrapping something that’s already wrapped (egg rolls) in lettuce, chances they picked up that habit at Saigon under Vicky’s tutelage. It’s the way we now like them, but only at Saigon. We’ve found no other egg rolls worthy. My friend and colleague Tuan Bui who lived in Vietnam until age 12 had never had egg rolls wrapped “Vicky-style,” but he’s hooked. The fresh greenery adds textural and freshness components to the egg rolls. Bun Bo Hue
On my eleventh day of suffering from a debilitating cold-flu-malaise, my friend Tuan suggested bun bo Hue might be just what the doctor ordered to clear my congestion. Bun bo Hue, as faithful readers might recognize, is my very favorite of all Vietnamese soups. Yes, even over pho, the national national dish of Vietnam, a comfort food favorite that has captured the affections of diners the world over. When both Tuan and I ordered it, our server explained that while Tuan would probably enjoy it, it might be too “pungent” for me. Tuan, who’s called me “the most Asian Caucasian he’s ever met,” laughed and assured her I could handle it.
While the Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup had a nice depth of flavor and discernible heat, it wasn’t as “authentic” as this Asian-Caucasian would have liked. The traditional Bun Bo Hue recipe calls for beef shank and gelatinous pig blood. Yes, sanguine swine! Eating the multifaceted brew of pork broth, pork balls, vermicelli-like rice noodles and congealed pork blood is just part of the Bun Bo Hue fun. Sadly, most Vietnamese restaurants in the Duke City take that fun away. Still, Saigon’s Bun Bo Hue is some of the best in the city, but it didn’t take my congestion away. Previous Visits
30 May 2009 : Another artful appetizer unique to Saigon is the shrimp cup with fish sauce and salad . Shrimp cups are similar to puff pastries, but have a unique flavor resultant from the marriage of tiny shrimp, shrimp powder and a moist pastry wrapper. The pastry wrapper seems very definitely influenced by French culinary practices which is no surprise considering France occupied Vietnam for decades. Still another French influenced appetizer is the roasted quail–two perfectly roasted and impeccably seasoned quail. This is the epitome of finger-licking good. That’s due, in part, to the delicately small quail itself, which by virtue of its size has to be held by both hands even as you nibble tiny bites of the sinewy flesh. A slice of lime is squeezed onto small plate of spices (salt, pepper, garlic and more) to provide a unique dipping sauce which impacts a wonderful flavor to the quail. Rice stick noodles with egg rolls and grilled beef
Unlike some American restaurants, it’s not only the meat entrees that warrant their own special sections on the menu. Saigon’s menu pays tribute to rice and noodles, two Southeast Asia staples. Rice plates and noodle plates can be ordered with various meats, fish shrimp or egg rolls (one appetizer order just isn’t enough), all of which are wonderful. One of our favorite combinations includes shredded pork and pork chops, both incomparably grilled and seasoned with anise and other spices.
13 September 2013 : Many rice entrees begin with “dry rice stick noodles” which despite an unappetizing name, really means long-grain rice vermicelli noodles prepared with no sauce. There’s nothing dry about them despite the name–and after these noodles absorb the flavors of all with which they’re prepared, you’ll have a fun feast slurping up these waifishly thin noodles. In the photo above, dry rice stick noodles are practically covered with halved egg rolls and grilled onion beef. Julienned carrots and white onions along with crushed peanuts add to the menagerie of flavors which you can then douse liberally with fish sauce if you’d like. Steamed vermicelli with grilled onion beef
30 August 2009 : Every time we think Vicky has outdone herself with an entree that surprises us, we uncover another dish we swear might be better than anything else on the menu. That makes it difficult to pinpoint one favorite. Instead, you’re bound to find one new favorite every visit. During an August, 2009 visit, we discovered the special clay pot rice with grilled chicken (#70 on the menu). Clay pot cooking is popular throughout Asia where the clay pot is used as both pot and serving dish. As you eat, the clay pot remains piping hot throughout your meal which allows the slightly smoky sauce of chicken simmered and slightly caramelized on the pot to waft invitingly for the duration of your meal.
Grilled chicken is but one of the centerpieces of this entree which also includes mushrooms, ginger and Chinese sausage (an unbelievably delicious sausage). The flavors coalesce with the fine-grain rice to form a delicious composite, a soul-warming Vietnamese comfort food that might make you long for a cold winter day. Special clay pot rice with grilled chicken
Sai Gon may have been the first restaurant in town to offer durian shakes and I may be the only non-Asian in town who orders them. Considered the world’s stinkiest fruit, durian exudes a light aroma reminiscent of tropical fruit and garlic, but my stand-up comic friend Bill Resnik insists it is closer to the malodorous emanation of “feet and perspiration.”
If you’re not into adventurous beverages (at least those without alcohol), a lesser risky beverage you might enjoy is a Jackfruit shake (although when ripe and unopen, it may have a malodorous fragrance, too) with tapioca (boba). Jackfruit tastes a bit like pineapple only not quite as sweet or juicy. Another option is an avocado shake which might remind you a bit of sweet guacamole which you drink. The menu also ofers a Guyabano shake which sounds almost too good to be true. Guyabano is a heart-shaped fruit with a dark green, leathery and spike-like skin. Its flesh is creamy and delicious as well as being high in carbohydrates and vitamins while being low in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium.
Sai Gon is one of the very best Vietnamese restaurants in a city replete with outstanding Vietnamese restaurants. It’s where we go to get our exotic fix as its menu offers options heretofore not found at other restaurants in town. More than the rest of them, Sai Gon has that memorability that makes us long for return visits.
Saigon Restaurant 6001 D4 San Mateo, N.E. Albuquerque, New Mexico

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A Gay Guy’s Weekend Guide to Amsterdam

0 Slim, colorful houses, with dozens of peoples on bikes or sitting in a café, contemplating the soft movement of the water in the canals. There are many scenes like this in Amsterdam, and the city is without a doubt one of the best of Europe’s many LGBTQ-friendly destinations. Immortalized in many paintings by the Dutch masters, A’dam – how locals call it – Amsterdam is both classic and modern, a city of culture and some might say of decadence, and the home of some of the friendliest people in the world.
Amsterdam is particularly famous for its Red Light District with promises of sexual pleasure or for its coffee shops with magic brownies and hallucinogen mushrooms. But beyond this hedonistic atmosphere, Amsterdam is surprisingly diverse and a place where there is always something to do. Amsterdam has hundreds of canals throughout the city Amsterdam’s Neighborhoods
Indeed, much of the city’s life occurs outdoors. Walk around the Jordaan neighborhood , for example, to discover trendy shops, street art and great coffees (especially for foodies, try the apple tart). Another option is to wander around Westergasfabriek, a former industrial complex now dedicated to art galleries, shops and cafes. The De Pijp neigborhood , and the traditional Albert Cuyp market , invite the visitor to try new exotic foods and to wander around the many old-school pubs and hip restaurants.
And in the north of Amsterdam, the Noord neighborhood is especially hip and cool—the heart of hipster Amsterdam. In the East, the Oost Amsterdam neighborhood is a new thriving district of the city—a great place to discover quality restaurants and many budget hotels, too. Take a walk through the Jordaan and De Pijp neighborhoods to discover cool antique shops and other quirky buildings .
Cultural Things to do in Amsterdam
Of the many small and big museums and galleries, some are definitely a must: Of course, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt House are in the top list of every Amsterdam travel guide, and the Rijksmuseum is in my opinion the perfect introduction to the Dutch art tradition. For those interested to learn about the saddest and cruelest moments of European history, the Anne Frank museum is a place for reflection about peace, hate, and war politics. Inside the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam where you’ll find works by the Dutch masters, most notably Rembrandt Also inspired by the WWII conflict, the Homomonument remembers the LGBTQ people who have lost their lives in campaigns of hate and bigotry. Indeed, many locals and tourists bring flowers to show solidarity with LGBTQ issues. Every August, during Amsterdam Gay Pride , the Homomonument also becomes a place of party, together with the many canals that are used for the parade, with sexy boys, pop music, feathers and decorated boats. Amsterdam’s Homomonument is a unique site to see—and an important historical marker for LGBTQ travelers Where to Eat, Drink and Party
Amsterdam’s gay nightlife is pretty well focused on a single street in the city center, Reguliersdwarsstraat , where some of the city’s more popular bars are located. Sex shops and some other gay bars are located in and around the Red Light District, mostly on Warmoesstraat —just follow the rainbow flags. 🏳️‍🌈
Spijker Bar , in Kerkstraat, is considered the oldest and friendliest gay bar in A’dam, because it combines good music with a pool table, pinball, and a fireplace. For cocktails, hit one of the favorites for local and visitors, the disco-bar PRIK in Spuistraat, a venue that frequently host top DJs and with many themed parties. Amsterdam Gay Pride
Also great with DJs and with regular drag shows, The Queen’s Head located in Zeedijk is one of the most welcoming gay bars, and it offers a striking view over the famous Amsterdam canals. For those who want to dance and enjoy the music scene, both the Club NYX and the ChUrch host themed parties, going from electronic nights to fetish themes. (Visit ChUrch on Thursday nights for their most popular and tourist-friendly gay party.)
The Jordaan neighborhood is famous for its food and you can find practically every culture there: Indian, Italian, Spanish and also traditional Dutch cuisine are among the many options, both fast food, veggies and gourmet. Walking distance from the Red Light District, the Chinatown in Amsterdam is another neighborhood worth to visit, with its many Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, being the perfect place to find steamed veggies, dumplings and ducks. Chinatown is also famous for the tattoo parlors, acupuncture and its Buddhist temple.
Fast food is also really popular in Amsterdam, and you can enjoy grease ribs and good burgers and fries almost anywhere in the city center, and both local and visitors frequently visit sport bars for cheap beer and American football. Coco’s Outback (an Australian sport sbar in Thorbeckeplein) and the Saloon Smoking Bull are there to indulge your fast food sins. Amsterdam Hotels
One of Amsterdam’s coolest hotels isn’t in the exact city center—but that’s a good thing. In Amsterdam’s Oost neighborhood, the Volkshotel is a trendy, affordable option that’s surprisingly convenient. And even more convenient because there are so many things to do in the hotel itself. From a rooftop bar (with an awesome city skyline view), to a hip club in the basement, and a popular café with local freelancers in the lobby—there’s little reason to leave the Volkshotel . Plus: the rooms are pretty cool, too!
Another great hotel option in Amsterdam—especially for those looking to be close to the city center—is the Room Mate Aitana . The hotel is located a short walk (under 8 minutes) from Centraal Station, and it’s an especially gay-friendly hotel option. The Room Mate hotel collection is famous for their LGBTQ-inclusivity and close partnership with many gay pride events and LGBTQ rights initiatives. Rooms at the Room Mate Aitana Hotel are all uniquely designed, making it an attractive choice for a beautiful weekend in Amsterdam. Adam Groffman In 2009, Adam Groffman quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and went on a 15+ month trip around the world. The life-changing journey took him to places like North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. Since 2011 Adam has been living in Berlin—Europe’s most hipster city. Travels of Adam is a hipster travel & lifestyle blog for sharing his personal experiences and alternative & indie travel tips from around the world. He also is the editor of My Gay Travel Guide —a gay travel website written by gay travelers for gay travelers.

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Everyone’s hit the Armenian/regional food, but for other cuisines…
Hans & Franz for steak/sausages.
The Club and Tapastan for a mix of kinda unique European stuff.
Ako for sushi.
Dragon Garden or Beijing for general Asian.
Indian Mehak for.. Indian.
Pit Stop for American fast food/sharma.
Mexican isn’t great anywhere but Cactus and Jose are decent.

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Things to do in Gilbert, AZ

Goat Yoga in Gilbert Agritopia in Gilbert
The Farm at Agritopia is an 11-acre USDA Certified Organic urban farm. More than 100 crops are grown here including olives, oranges, dates, veggies, as well as honey produced from honeybees. You can walk around the pathways to see the farm in action. Agritopia offers u-pick throughout the growing season and a farmers market open every day. Plus, much of the produce grown here ends up on the plates at the restaurants located on the property like Joe’s Farm Grill making it more like table in the farm rather than farm-to-table.
Originally started as a hay farm in 1927 when Gilbert was known as the “Hay capital of the world,” the farm was purchased in the 1960s by a young farmer, Jim Johnston and his wife Virginia. In order to preserve the land, the family created a community where the farm could remain at the heart of everything.
Working with land planners, builders and the town of Gilbert, the community of Agritopia was created to not only preserve the farm in a new urban setting, but to create a village atmosphere with commerce and a vibrant neighborhood surrounding the farm. There are more than 450 homes here on 160 acres with special features like community pools, parks, a tennis court and monthly parties. It’s either really cool or more like the town of Stepford!
Right alongside the farm, Barnone is a modern maker-space and the home to skilled, local craftsmen ranging from woodworkers to florists to experimental winemakers.
Made from a converted 1950s Quonset hut (a semi-circulcar steel pre-fab structure), which used to serve as the barn for the farm at Agritopia, the space now houses an artisan marketplace, studios, and places to eat.
Also, on the grounds of the farm, are a couple of eating and drinking establishments. Garage-East
At Garage-East , fruit grown nearby in Willcox and Elgin is turned into not only traditional grape wine, but also other base fruits to create some experimental (and quite tasty!) wines. Opened by a former battalion chief for the Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department, they make some wines right on site, allowing you to try some straight out of the barrel during different stages of fermentation.
One of my favorites was the “breakfast wine” in a can, a blend of white wine and seasonal local fruit with a bit of carbonation. The perfect fun beverage for a picnic in the park or outdoor concert! You can nosh on a lovely meat and cheese board or order food from the neighboring eateries while sampling the wines
Downtown Gilbert
Also known as the Heritage District , some of the best new food in metro Phoenix can be found in downtown Gilbert, under the eponymous water tower along Gilbert Road. In fact, twenty-six restaurants have been added in just the last five years! From local favorites, farm-to-table spots, and sprawling outdoor patio seating, the corridor feels like a real entertainment district. Some popular spots include Joe’s BBQ, Nico’s Heirloom Kitchen, Postino East, and the Farmhouse restaurant.
For a fun breakfast or brunch, duck into Snooze . Capturing the trendy vibe of the districts food scene, Snooze offers a creative twist on favorite breakfast classics and some more inventive quinoa bowls and my choice: the bibimbap in a fun and vibrant atmosphere.
Liberty Market is a local’s favorite. It literally began as a small supermarket with its historic building and name dating back to 1935. With a deep connection to local farmers and suppliers, the chefs cook up creative yet approachable cuisine in a unique, informal atmosphere. Don’t be taken aback by slightly odd juxtaposition of counter service in a nicer restaurant, the food is very good!
Just down the street you can stop for a local coffee at Bergies and then hang awhile on their tree-shaded patio.
Head down the stairs (if you can find them!) and back in time to the White Rabbit , a new speakeasy in downtown Gilbert. No detail was overlooked here. The space is gorgeous and transports you back to the 1920s. Don’t miss the bathrooms.
Also right in the downtown is the Hale Centre Theatre , 365-seat theater in the round for family-friendly stage shows. And every spring and fall, you can catch a free concert under the water tower at the Downtown Concert Series.
See my video of Gilbert here Gilbert Breweries
Love visiting craft breweries when you travel? Gilbert has a growing scene.
AZ Wilderness Brewing Co , was Gilbert’s first craft brewery. The brewers have a passion for Arizona’s agricultural community and have woven Arizona wild-grown and farm-grown products into their craft beer. You can order a flight of five 3-ounce pours and see what tickles your tastebuds.
12 West Brewing Co ., offers a dozen beers at a time, also incorporating local ingredients like the blood-oranges grown right next door at the Farm at Agritopia.
Other local breweries to check out include OHSO Brewery in downtown Gilbert, Desert Monks Brewing, and Flying Basset Brewing. Outdoors in Gilbert at the Riparian Preserve
With such great weather, it’s great to get outdoors. There are tons of places all around the Gilbert area for beautiful day hikes and camping. If you’re looking for something easier with the family for just a few hours, check out the Riparian Preserve.
Created as an innovative and unique ways to combine water resource development with wildlife habitat, educational and recreational opportunities, the Riparian Preserve features an urban fishing lake, over 4.5 miles of trails, and wildlife and bird watching (299 species of birds have been sighted). There’s even a dinosaur dig site for future paleontologists. I really enjoyed this peaceful spot. It’s a great place to take pleasure in a quiet stroll and be in the moment with nature.
Playball! Spring Training near Gilbert
Head to Gilbert and the surrounding area each spring for the Cactus League Spring Training.
Every year, I see Chicagoans all around me flying to Mesa to watch some Cubs spring training. The aptly named Cactus League gets going every February through the end of March with 15 major league teams playing more than 200 games across Greater Phoenix.
The area now has the greatest concentration of professional baseball facilities found anywhere in the United States.
For baseball lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game. There are ten different ballparks here including a mini-Wrigley Field called Sloan Park in Mesa, set right inside the local streets of Clark, Sheffield and Waveland of course.
We were lucky to catch the Cubs take on the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the first Major League Baseball Spring Training facility to be built on Indian land in the nation. The complex is spread over 140 acres of scenic landscape that has stellar views of Camelback Mountain, the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, Red Mountain, and the Superstition Mountains. The stadium design immerses fans in the all-American pastime, while still using Native American influence and regional architecture.
The facility was new and full of great food and a fun lawn seating area in the outfield where you can bring a blanket and have basically a picnic at the ballpark. Goat Yoga in Gilbert
OMG. I have wanted to try goat yoga for at least a year now. Can I reveal that this one possibly the main reason I traveled across the country? I mean I know there’s goat yoga in other cities, but it was a huge selling point for me to come here for a visit! Doing a yoga class. Sure. Hanging out with goats, while I hold warrior two pose? Hell, yes! Honestly, it’s all about the goats. The yoga is just extra.
Arizona Goat Yoga has several classes a week for $15 ahead of time (or $20 as a drop-in).
There are different class themes like Hawaiian baby goat yoga (goats are wearing leis and Hawaiian shirts!) and fairy tale baby goat yoga (goats are dressed like your fave fairy tale characters!).
They bring out several goats and baby goats (squeeee!). Let’s just say that this was not the most intense (or relaxing!) yoga class I’ve ever done…not because of the goats, but due to all the squealing and shrieking participants around me.
Be warned though…the class is done out in a field and yes, these goats might have to relieve themselves. But it’s fine! As they say on their site:
All of our classes are held outside in a beautiful grassy field, so any poo becomes part of the Earth. Goats poo little tiny pellets, with no smell, and full of minerals, and makes incredible manure for your gardens. We give it away for free… so if you are interested, bring a bag and take as much as you want! Goats don’t usually poo on you, so if they do, brush it off and consider yourself lucky!
The helpers have treats and constantly are temping the goats to jump from back to back of each participant. If you are looking for a calming, zen time to really do some hard-core yoga, this was not it. But if you want to grin for an hour and spend a little time hugging and loving on some adorable goats, do it!
Pin it for later!
Disclosure: I was hosted by Discover Gilbert. As always, all my writing and opinions are my own.

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