At Hog Wild Restaurant, Dawn and Mike West marinate their baby back ribs for hours and slow-smoke their beef brisket and pork. It’s this Chicago-style “low-and-slow” cooking method that has helped the couple—who opened a pair of restaurants in the Windy City before relocating to Cottonwood—repeatedly win the Verde Valley Readers’ Choice Award for Best Barbecue in the Verde Independent. And the good press doesn’t end there; in 2009, the eatery earned recognition as one of the top six barbecue places in Arizona from the Arizona Republic, which praised the cooks for their “unforgettable” baby back ribs with “pitch-perfect sweet sauce.”
Hog Wild supplements its tender beef brisket, pulled pork, and ribs with nonbarbecue items, fittingly from the Wests’ hometown. Italian beef sandwiched between Chicago’s soft Gonnella bread, Italian sausages, and hot dogs topped with very specific fixings round out the menu.
Sourcing grapes from their own vineyard?as well as four other vineyards across the state?the winemakers at Page Spring Cellars are able to craft an eclectic variety of wines at a sunny, picturesque estate. Imagined and brought to fruition by owner and winemaker Eric Glomski, vintages and blends range in style from a delicate and nuanced sangiovese to the understated chenin blanc. At the stately tasting room, curious visitors sip samples from the collection of wines or, every third Thursday, work their way through a tapas-style winemaker dinner with pairings. Perhaps more spectacular are the outdoor spaces, which host summer stargazing with astrophysicists or picnics enjoyed on a deck that runs alongside a gurgling creek with splendid oral hygiene.
As the name implies, the folks at Passion Cellars are passionate about great wine?and most of all, sharing it with others. The founders created the winery after learning about the thriving wine industry in Arizona. With the owners' love of local libations, it's no surprise that Passion Cellars offers wines made with Arizona-grown grapes. Visitors can sip samples of a wide variety of wines, from the smoky, peppery syrah to the unique agave-ginger wine.
The Orion Bread Co.'s bakers craft natural, additive-free breads with an involved bread-making process. The Taylor family's hefty ovens churn out white french bread, challah, three types of rye bread, and six styles of loaf derived from a redrock sourdough base. The Old Town bakery also operates a café, where it serves pastries, espresso drinks, and sandwiches piled betwixt slices of fresh bread.
The Taylor family has a running joke that the Orion constellation wields a baguette and peel instead of a sword and shield. More than lending the shop his name and guiding bakers lost at sea, Orion holds a special meaning for the Taylors. Coowner Ryan grew up under the aegis of Orion, and it was that celestial hunter that shone in the sky in 2006 when his wife, Trecia, gave birth to their first son, Eron Dee Orion Taylor. The Taylor family itself forms a loving constellation that sustains the natural bakery from day to day—behind the scenes, Ryan's parents, Mark and Hellga, knead bread side by side with their son and Trecia.
In about a century's time, the city of Cottonwood has gone from mining to artisan cheese making, Al Capone to craft beers. Once known as the bootleg capital of Arizona, it later served as a location for Wild West films before becoming a destination for fine foods. Old Town fixture Crema Cafe reaches out to neighborhood pubs, bistros, bakeries, and chocolatiers to assemble afternoons of strolling, sipping, snacking, and soaking up history for vacationers and hungry locals alike.