Benedict's Catering and Cafe’s owner draws from more than 20 years of experience planning events for Estée Lauder. She leads a team of servers, bartenders, chefs, and baristas during catering services for events large and small. At her intimate French bistro, she turns the reins over to an American Culinary Federation–certified pastry chef, who bakes sweet pastries full of chocolate and pecans, and crafts a range of savory brunch and lunch dishes made from locally sourced eggs, dairy, and vegetables. Diners can complement their meals with mugs of custom-blended dark roast coffee and glasses of mango iced tea. The pasty chef also showcases her techniques in small-size cooking classes, which cover culinary styles such as Greek, Italian, and Spanish and cooking methods such as grilling and poaching. Once done with a class or two, students are ready to host their own dinner parties or test whether a grilled steak can really be thrown further than a raw one.
Executive chef and manager Devin Walsh builds relationships with quality farms throughout Arizona and the West Coast to craft elegant dishes on Calistro's DC Ranch Crossing and Hilton Village menus with the freshest ingredients available. Terrines of mixed vegetables or beets crown grains or salads of crisp lettuce, and elaborate sauces such as cabernet-tarragon jus and red-wine-and-black-truffle gastriques drizzle across duck confit or cuts of grass-fed meats. Behind the bar, house-infused spirits shake with slices of fruit or sparkling sodas, and taps unleash foamy rivulets of seasonal and local beers. Cream-and-rust-colored walls soften the dining rooms’ warm, intimate lighting, casting fire-like glimmers across the hardwood floors and polished tables. The sounds of a busy line and scent of fresh food emanate from the open kitchen, and shelves behind the bar hold liquors in boxes designed to look like framed pictures or Prohibition Wanted posters.
Cien Agaves curates a cultured and diverse selection of authentic Mexican specialties including 13 taco varieties and 100 pure agave tequilas. The bar staff carefully selects the handcrafted reposado, añejo, and blanco varieties, which lend their spicy warmth to mixed drinks that have garnered the Phoenix New Times's 2011 award for Best Specialty Margaritas. Citrus-marinated steak and beer-battered shrimp comprise a few of the tacos, available by the handful or platter.
The multileveled restaurant features catwalk seating in the upper level and an outdoor beer garden with stone fire pits that crackle along with the laughter of evening guests. During regularly scheduled tasting events, Cien Agaves features three specialty tequila artisans and welcomes guests to sample their craft. Representatives from each company are available at the events to answer questions and encourage responsible tasting.
Indulge Burgers has 100,000 different burgers on its menu––or, rather, 100,000 topping combinations. To manage this behemoth selection, each patron is offered a pencil and special burger-customizing sheet. With a simple checkmark, salmon, bison, turkey, and all-natural-beef patties can be outfitted with more than 50 sumptuous toppings ranging from carrot strings to fresh pineapple. Vegetarian options are also aplenty, including homemade black-bean burgers on gluten-free bread and adult peanut-butter sandwiches made with bananas and onion strings and served wrapped in 1040 tax forms.
In the light from floor-to-ceiling windows, burger and hot-dog sculptures prepare diners for chili-slathered dogs and signature Vesuvius Volcanic burger patties filled with a molten pocket of cheese. After enjoying fried pickle chips or a cool milkshake on the outdoor patio, patrons can peruse the dining room's vintage sports photos of Charles Barkley smiling politely and Muhammad Ali stinging a bee.
Michael Merendino grew up hearing stories about his family history. Sitting in his father's pizzeria, he learned how the Merendinos left Sicily for Long Island in the 1900s, and about the bits of Old World culture that they brought along with them. One such touchstone was the rustica: a small, pizza-like creation traditionally made with unused pieces of bread dough. Michael brought the rustica with him when he moved from the East Coast to the East Valley, making it the star of his menus at Crust Restaurants.
Crust's hand-stretched rusticas arrive topped with everything from marinated tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to arugula and prosciutto, and are sized for individual diners. To help feed larger groups, the chefs also bake 20-inch, thin-crust pies as well as square pizzas ideal for diners on a strict Euclidean diet. Hearty entr?es such as homemade meatball parmigiana, chicken marsala, and shrimp scampi, round out the menu of comforting Italian-American favorites.
Successfully polishing off one of Blu Burger's signature creations isn't always an easy feat. These meaty towers and onion buns teeter under the weight of generous portions of applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and melted cheeses dripping with housemade sauces. Though some diners try to tackle the five signature selections, others extend their culinary creativity to design their own burgers, choosing from an eclectic variety of bases?including Black Angus or Kobe beef, bison, and portobello mushrooms. Customers further customize patties with their choices of buns, cheeses, specialty toppings, and more than 10 types of sauces, which join the selection of 12 craft beers on tap.
In the bustling dining room, tinted windows cast a blue hue on funky artwork and colorful hanging lights. Outside, blue umbrellas speckle the courtyard, protecting diners from both the elements and the notice of paragliding Hamburglars.