Sustainability Event Comes to Tempe – Ticket Giveaway on IG

summit-invite-resizeMany of us are interested in lightening our carbon footprint and don’t know where to start. We can do so much more than blue recycle bins and the first Simple Solutions Summit at the Phoenix Marriot Tempe at the Buttes will help get us started. On Saturday, December 10 from 9am- 3pm, Green Living Magazine, Verde Xchange and dozens of other interactive vendors that will be on hand to teach you the best way to live a more sustainable life through the six pillars of sustainability: air, education, energy, food, water and waste.

There will be a panel of local experts discussing their simple solutions as well as 50 interactive booths, an Eco Tank for budding entrepreneurs, a fun and educational kids’ area and much more.

All are welcome to visit any of the local vendors that will be set up throughout the day offering their tips on living a sustainable life. Watch as models show off Hand-painted Dresses or visit with local company 2 Sistaz as they show children how to make doll houses out of recycling products! It’s a day of fun for the entire family!

Tickets are $10 for college students, $25 for a single ticket or a family pass is available for $40 with kids free. To buy tickets and for more information visit greenlivingaz.com/register.

Want free tickets to the event? Simply visit @yaybabyblog on Instagram for details on how to win a family pass (valued at $40).

AZ Dining: Char Kitchen + Bar

Taking over the space that once housed Binks Kitchen in Scottsdale Char Kitchen + Bar is bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to the Valley. Co-owner, Pauline Martinez brought us Perk Eatery and recently teamed up with her dad and brother on this delicious venture.

Both Martinez’s parents hail from Montenegro so expect fresh ingredients and flavors inspired from the Balkan country. Char Kitchen + Bar is making everything from scratch using the best ingredients they can get.

hummus

The appetizer is pretty pleasing with offerings such as a Crispy Calamari and a great Mezza Platter featuring fantastic hummus, rich and smooth and served with warm fluffy pita triangles, dill cucumber dip, and red pepper chutney.

chicken-lollis

I found the Chicken Lollis interesting and absolutely delicious. I have really never had anything quite like these. Bathed in a sticky pomegranate harissa BBQ sauce, topped with crumbled feta, and garnished with cilantro, lime and pickled onion, these chicken lollis played on very taste bud ranging from sweet to slightly spicy, tart, salty and creamy. I can only explain the experience of eating these to a firework spectacular for your mouth – explosive in flavors and deliciously awesome!

kababs

Char Kitchen + Bar is living up to their namesake expertly grilling their meats for that perfect char and flavor. You’ll find tender, well seasoned chicken and beef like these kababs served with some of the tastiest rice I have ever had. This is Mediterranean comfort food at it’s finest.

lamb-chops

The lamb chops were succulent and juicy with that same perfect charred taste. The chops were served on a bed of roasted veggies and topped with a bright chimichurri that added a fresh pop to the rich meat.

They also have one heck of a decadent dessert – Chocolate Mocha Hazelnut Cake, smothered in chocolate hazelnut sauce with a touch of raspberry for a tart contrast. It was so good I devoured it before I could snap a picture!

That’s what Char Kitchen + Bar is all about…good food and they are nailing it!

Char Kitchen + Bar is located at 6107 N. Scottsdale Road 85250 in the Hilton Village.

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Disclaimer: I attended a media dinner and received a complimentary meal to help facilitate this write-up, however all opinions stated in this post are entirely my own. 

Mermaid Magic at OdySea Aquarium

odyseaaquarium-mermaidmagicMermaid Magic has made it’s way to the desert and can be found at OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale. Now through November 27, 2016 visitors will be delighted and awed by these mythical wonders of the sea.

Last week I was able to take my 4 year-old daughter to OdySea for a sneak peak. It truly was magic to see my little girl’s excitement and enthusiasm. Mermaids are a pretty big deal to her, they rank at the top of her list with unicorns and pixies.

mermiad-3The mermaids are actual diving “mermaids” with beautiful fins and long flowing hair swimming in the Living Sea Carousel. We caught sight of one during our visit and my daughter’s 4 year-old enthusiasm was contagious, I was also struck with awe and excitement. It was amazing to watch the mermaid glide in the depths of the pool, swimming right up to the glass to wave and blow kisses, much to the delight of the guests on the ride. Jacquelyn was so thrilled she was ready to bolt out of her seat and run up to the glass. It was a memorable experience for all.

The entire aquarium is decked out for the occasion, mermaids obviously spread their wonder. During Mermaid Magic little girls will be delighted with mermaid face painting and hair braiding. Meet and greet opportunities are also available! And while I know little boys are sure to be wowed with the mermaid splendor, swashbuckling pirates will also be on-hand for photos and to regale visitors with tales of the sea!

Mermaid Magic is included in the cost of regular aquarium admission during regular hours. OdySea Aquarium is located at 9500 E. Via de Ventura Scottsdale, AZ 85256.

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Disclaimer: We received complimentary admission to OdySea to help facilitate this post. All opinions here are entirely my own. 

Chef for a Day at Granada Bar & Grill

es_granada01w_218x218_fittoboxsmalldimension_centerA couple months ago at a local food event I met the chef of the Granada Bar and Grill at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Scottsdale. At an event with dozens of the best local restaurants and chefs sampling their goods, the Granada stood out. Their offerings were superb, the presentation remarkable. I introduced myself to the man behind it all, Chef John du Toit and we’ve kept in touch.

Recently, du Toit invited me to visit his kitchens at The Granada to hang out, laugh and of course, eat! This was my first time in a commercial kitchen and it was interesting to see the back end of how it all works. I love to cook but seeing it done like this was daunting, and obviously hard work.

butcherAt Granada they are butchering their own meat, something I had never done before. Chef du Toit assigned me to the task and put me to work slicing off silver skin, cutting through tendon, and removing fat to create perfect filets and ribeyes.

Not to toot my own horn but I caught on pretty quick — must have been because I had such a good teacher.

The atmosphere of Granada’s kitchen was high energy, fast paced and at times stressful as the dining room filled up. Mingled into the orchestrated chaos was lots of joking, laughing and good-natured ribbing amongst the staff. The camaraderie was evident, it felt like family.

soup-croutonsWhen I was done with the steaks, Chef put me to work slicing bread for the “soup croutons.” And those weren’t just any croutons but crostini piled high with cheese and pulled roasted chicken and baked, more like an open faced sandwich to dip into the soup of the day.

My mouth was watering by the time I got those babies out of the oven and I was ready for a bowl of soup with one of my freshly-made croutons.

Chef obliged and I was in heaven. The soup was warm and delicious, the accompanying crostini rounded it out as a hearty, comforting meal, which is the best way to describe the entire menu at Granada, elevated comfort food. You will find familiar favorites with a gourmet twist.

crostini

soup

After sampling the soup, chef had me prepare my own meal, under his watchful eye and with the help of executive sous chef, Justin Olsen.

I grilled one of the perfectly cut ribeyes to medium rare and made myself some mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts (just kidding, I watched as Justin made it all for me). I gotta tell you, that Justin has a way with brussels sprouts. He naughties the innocent veggies up with heavy cream, parmesan and bacon and they are absolutely spectacular…and unfortunately not on the menu! But ask nicely when you visit Granada and maybe you’ll get lucky.

brussels steak

After a few hours in the kitchen I was wiped out, full of great food, and my cheeks were sore from smiling so much. I also gained a greater respect for chefs, cooks and waitstaff. As a dining customer you simply have to choose what you want to eat, and at any good restaurant the plate that is ultimately set before you is made with care and love. I got a behind the scenes look at what’s going on in Granada’s kitchen and there’s lots of care and love there. A happy, slightly dysfunctional, family who cares about each other and love the food they are putting out.

Thanks for welcoming me into your kitchen Chef du Toit!

Give the Gift of Joy: 2016 Edible AZ Holiday Gift Guide

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2016 has zipped by and we’ve already entered “the most wonderful time of the year!” A season of festive celebrations, time spent with family, merry making with friends and indulging on delicious food. Food is a big part of this season, it evokes happiness and is the centerpiece of pretty much every celebration. Practically everyone can find joy in something edible. So this year I am making it easy for you to give the gift of joy to your loved ones, maybe they will share a bite (or sip) and spread the love.

All of the items I have chosen to feature are locally owned, produced or have a tie-in to Arizona.

Chompies Deli
chompies
Chompies Deli: The bagels at Chompies are the real deal and would be the perfect gift for an east coast transplant missing the delicacies of the big city. They would also be a welcome addition to any holiday brunch! In addition, to excellent bagels, Chompies has loads of pastries and breads, for those trying to watch their carb intake, there is Carbs…Not Bread, a low carbohydrate, high protein loaf available in cinnamon, multigrain and sesame varieties. Carbs…Not Bread and bagels along with many other edibles are available in-store (5 valley locations) or can be ordered online and shipped.

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Fairytale Brownies
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Fairytale Brownies: Producers of some of the most decadent goodies in all of AZ, Fairytale Brownies is sure to please everyone on the nice list. Available in a variety of flavors and three different sizes they are perfect stocking stuffers. And the goodness FTB is offering is not limited to brownies, they are also baking up six flavors of cookies and six flavors of blondies and bars. Order an assortment and send a little sweetness to your loved ones. You can order online or at the Fairytale Brownies bakery located in Tempe.

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Sphinx Date Company
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Sphinx Date Company: Give the gift of an exotic treat from an Arizona institution that has been around for over 60 years! A Medjool date gift tray from Sphinx Date Co. features AZ grown dates stuffed with walnuts, Arizona pecans, or rolled in coconut flakes. These sweet morsels make a great hostess gift or the perfect addition to a holiday cheese board. In addition to sweet and sticky dates you will find a variety of date products like mini loaves of date bread and a Date Salsa Trio, a unique spin on the southwestern classic. Also available are dried fruits, caramels and loads of other edible gifts. Order online!

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LDV Wineries
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LDV Wineries: It’s not a celebration without the wine! Made from grapes grown in southeastern Arizona, Lawrence Dunham Vineyards (LDV) offers a variety of varietals to suite any palate. Stop by the gallery located in Scottsdale and peruse the selection or order online or by telephone. Gift baskets are also available.

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Vitani
vitani
Vitani: So, this brand of pre-mixed premium martinis are the only products on this list that are not made in AZ. However they still have strong ties to our beautiful state; one of the founders is an ASU alum (Go Devils!) plus, Phoenix is the only city outside Chicago to offer the product! The sleek aluminum packaging allows the martinis to chill quickly and look pretty cool, making them an excellent offering at your next festive gathering. Vitani is available in five flavors including: cosmo, dirty martini, citrus ginger, cucumber, and elderpear. You can find them at the Westin Kierland Resort and at AJ’s Fine Foods throughout the Valley. Click here to find Vitani.

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Nutsack Foods
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Nutsack Foods: A perfect gift for anyone with an insatiable snack habit or a cheeky sense of humor (who doesn’t giggle at the name?)! Nutsack Foods offers the freshest, tastiest nuts in town. The nuts comes in three sizes, Loaded (12 oz), Original (6 oz) and Mini (2.5 oz) and several varieties including roasted salted pecans, almonds, and cashews and hickory smoked almonds, they also offer a few nut medleys like premium, spicy and metro mixes. Nutsack’s are hand packaged and hand-stamped with care. They are available in dozens of eateries around town or order online.

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Brat Haus
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Brat Haus: This is one of the best deals in this guide! Starting Black Friday, Brat Haus in Scottsdale is offering growlers for $15 and that includes a gift certificate good towards one fill ($25 value) good for beers ranging from $12-$18 per fill. While you’re picking up your growlers be sure to snag a gift card to go with it. The Brat Haus bonus gift card deal is pretty sweet, buy one for a friend and get one to keep – purchase $25 and get $5, purchase $50 and get $10, purchase $100 and get $20. Brats and beer, spread the cheer!

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Bobby Q’s Barbeque Sauce
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Bobby Q’s Barbeque Sauce: This joint has been offering up some of the best ‘que in town for years! One of the secrets to the deliciousness is the rich and zesty sauces they’re slathering on their meats. Since BBQ season is winter in these parts of the country, a jug of Bobby Q’s sauce would make a fabulous gift for the carnivores in your life! Pair the sauce with a gift card for a unique and fun gift sure to please any grill/smoke master! You can purchase the sauce by the bottle ( 2 sizes) or jug at either Bobby Q’s locations (Phoenix and Mesa).

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Brilliant Sky Bakery
brilliant_sky_cookies
Brilliant Sky Bakery: Makers of the softest cookies you’ll ever eat, Brilliant Sky Bakery uses only the best ingredients and handcrafts all of their baked goods with quality and care. You can taste the love in their cake-like cookies, cake truffles and biscotti. Imagine the delight of opening up Brilliant Sky Bakery’s signature blue box and discovering the decadence within! Be sure to get your order in before December 5, 2016 to ensure your treats arrive in time for the holidays!

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SanTan Brewing Company
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SanTan Brewing Company: Cheers! This local brewery offers an array of gift options but our favorite is the Variety Pack which includes 12 cans of the very best STB has to offer. The variety pack includes three each of Devil’s Ale, Mr. Pineapple, HefeWeizen, and SunSpot Gold. Click here to find the retailer closest to you.  Oh, and SanTan Brewing Company also has a gift card deal available for online gift card purchases. Use promo code: SANTAN10 to get a $10 bonus card with the purchase of a $50 gift card. Or use SANTAN25 for a $25 bonus card with the purchase of a $100 gift card.

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Cucina Tagliani Sauces
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Cucina Tagliani Sauces: This Italian restaurant has been serving up Italian classics in the West Valley since 1993 and you can bring your favorite sauces home with you, or give them to others this holiday season. Available in marinara and pepperoncini sauces, adding a jar to a gift basket with a box of pasta and a bottle of wine would make a thoughtful and unique gift for the foodie on your list. The sauces are available for purchase at both Cucina Tagliani locations.

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AZ Bitters Lab
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AZ Bitters Lab: These bitters and flavor extracts are a fabulous gift for a cocktail enthusiast or a budding mixologist! AZ Bitters Lab is Arizona’s first research and production laboratory for the creation of small-batch, hand-crafted bitters. Print off a few of the recipes available on their website and give them with a bottle. The bitters are available in four flavors including – Mi Casa, Orange Sunshine, Figgy Pudding and Mas Mole and they aren’t just for cocktails, they are perfect additions for a pop of flavor to many recipes. Click here to find a retailer near you. 

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Iconic Cocktail Co.
iconic
Iconic Cocktail Co.: A bottle of any one of these small-batch cocktail mixers is sure to put a smile on the receiver’s face. They mix up a tasty drink with or without alcohol so be sure to have a few on hand to shake up a beverage at your next merry gathering. You can even add some to sparkling water for a refreshing mocktail. Flavors include: Kaffir Lime Tonic, Ginga Syrup and Spiced Honey and seasonal flavor, Cranberry Thyme. Order online here.

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Zak’s Chocolate
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Zak’s Chocolate: The gift of Zak’s is truly special. Every step of the process is done by hand, from the sorting of the cocoa beans to the wrapping of each individual chocolate bar. Visit the shop and be floored by the decadent and luxurious treats. Zak’s offers many confections with local tie-ins from a peanut butter cup, using a local peanut butter maker, PB Americano, to a mocha chocolate made with local favorite, Peixoto Coffee. All chocolates are gorgeously hand-painted and the bars are hand-wrapped in rich, fine papers making for stunning presentations. You can order Zak’s online . Be sure to get your order in soon if you want it to arrive in time for the holidays, but we highly recommend a visit to the store in Scottsdale.

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Homeboy’s Hot Sauce
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Homeboy’s Hot Sauce: Stuff those stockings with something spicy! Homeboy’s hot sauces will warm things up this holiday season. Available in three varieties – Habanero, Jalapeño and Verde, these sauces are made in small batches using fresh, natural ingredients, and they are vegan-friendly and gluten-free! Order online or find a location selling Homeboy’s near you.

 

Well, there you have it! A round-up of some of the tastiest gifts Arizona has to offer. I know there is something on this list to please everyone on yours! Happy holidays!

All photography by Timothy Fox Photography, he’s kinda of amazing, don’t you think?
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Disclaimer: Some of the companies listed above provided complimentary product for photography purposes and to help facilitate this gift guide. All opinions within this post are entirely my own. 

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