A Saturday Afternoon Downtown

Saturday we met some friends downtown at the Phoenix Public Market. Normally the outdoor market closes up shop at 1 p.m. and we rarely make it in time. But thanks to the craziness of football, they decided to make a party out of it this week and keep the booths open until 10. And Kalliope was there. A tiny slice of Burning Man right there in the light of day in the middle of town.

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I’m willing to bet it was super fun to be there at night. But I’m more of a day-time cool mom, so we were there right at 3. There were hula-hoops!

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And I took the boys up to the top – which I have to admit was a little scary. Here is Kristina, down below, having a fabulous time.

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I am happy to report that I am still able to hula hoop. And honestly I could have stayed there all day, but a small pack of young boys is not easily amused so we moved on to the True DT Phx music festival.

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Again, I’m sure (and I hope) this was way better at night. Just a suggestion to the organizers, it might be a benefit to hire bands with some type of following. People will come to hear great music, especially outdoors on such a beautiful day.

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This is Captain Squeegee. 7 guys from Mesa who are all classically trained musicians and exactly one person who was singing along in the (lack-of) crowd. I can say that there were certain great moments for this band, mainly when the singer was playing his trumpet instead of singing. And I must give the guy credit for performing as if there were thousands of people. He pointed at my son and said something like “This is for all the children out there.” Jack turned to me and said “Mom, that’s creepy.

We did not go down to the NFL Experience, mainly because it costs 8 million dollars to get in and none of us really care enough about football. Our neighbor went and had a fabulous time, but he’s a kid who can recite where everyone went to college, what their stats are, and where all they have played. So he’s a little more in to the scene than my boys.

Overall the Public Market was a win, the True Music festival was not. I hope more people showed up later, although looking at the lineup I’m skeptical.

We hopped back in our car and headed back to Ten for dinner. My parents and boys had not yet been there, even though it was my fourth visit. Every single thing I’ve eaten has been amazing, and the steak is no exception.

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The chef butchers this Denver cut himself, and made a point to come say hello to our table. They made Nick macaroni and cheese (not on the menu) and he declared it the best ever. Jack’s burger was also great, but he said next time he wants the steak. On Sunday they asked if we could go back for lunch. I would say they are fans.

This coming weekend promises to have a million more people and a million more activities. I’m sad to be missing American Authors play, but I don’t particularly want to spend $100 on a ticket and drive out to Glendale. I will likely take the boys downtown again to check out the Superbowl Experience, but this time I think we will take the light rail instead of parking. And there will likely be another visit to TEN in our future, because I haven’t tried everything on the menu yet.

 

A New Restaurant – how did I miss this?

One of my greatest joys in life is discovering something new, especially when it is a complete surprise. This happened to me last month when Augustana played at Crescent Ballroom and I just happened upon the show because I felt like going out that night.

This is their most well-known song – you might recognize it. When they played it about halfway through the show I said “Oh! This band! I know them!” (I’ve never been accused of being super-quick. And since I write a blog about what’s going on in Phoenix, this is somewhat of a detriment to me. Which is likely why no one pays me to do it.)

So last week I was taking a friend to see a movie at Esplanade because he had never been, a fact that made me gasp out loud. How could you miss this delightful experience? There are giant recliners. And people bring you wine. We were torn about where to eat. I wasn’t super hungry and he’s not super picky, so we thought about just getting food at the theater. It’s not great but not terrible either – just standard and dull bar food. We walked around where Fuego Taco used to be and much to my shock there was a new restaurant open for business that I did not know about.

So apparently Ten has been open a month. And has been mentioned in Chow Bella. And is a great place with cool owners, yummy food, and a bartender who actually cares about being a bartender. On my first visit, he gave us a small lesson on pouring beer and then made me this cucumber gimlet.

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Since it was a Wednesday night it wasn’t too crowded and we got to chat with Chef/Owner Jeff Hostenske and his wife Jen, who is the one who encouraged him to follow his dream now instead of later. Quite impressive – I’m all about people following their dreams right now instead of talking incessantly about ‘one day’. (I’m the worst offender, as my dreams sit here on my shelf, probably growing mold.)

For dinner I ordered the braised beef tacos on the appetizer menu because I was not starving.

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Yes, that is bacon and a fried egg with tacos. I ate every last bite, and tasted the hushpuppies and Cordon Bleu sandwich. Everything was completely delicious.

I was so excited to find a new place, I went back Saturday night. I’m happy to report it was crowded and Jeff did not have as much time for casual chatter. He was busy in the kitchen keeping everyone in the dining room happy and fed.

This time I had the pot roast. It’s one of my favorite dishes and I was not disappointed.

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You’ll also notice my cocktail, which was made exclusively for me off the menu by Bretton, who you can see in the background. He asked what I liked and made things up for me as the night went on. Here was his final concoction:

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Thank goodness for Uber. I have no idea what went into this final drink but it was delightful. I may have a tiny (ok, giant) crush on Bretton now. My goal now is to get a drink named after me, so if you go and see a Phoenista on the menu, know I have succeeded.

 

My Perfunctory Review of Freezing First Friday

Maybe I’m too lazy in general, or I just don’t like crowds and loudness. I’m also coming down with a cold, and the holiday mayhem wore me out. So maybe Artlink’s First Friday downtown this week wasn’t the best choice, and perhaps I shouldn’t even be writing this review. Because I sincerely believe First Friday is a great thing for Phoenix, and I absolutely want you all to run downtown and look at art as much as possible.

If you do, just be ready for DJs blasting atrocious electronic music from rooftops (I have nothing against electronic music, but bad electronic music is like bad country music. It feels like your ear canals have begun to produce acid instead of wax.) I have recently been given a brief education in the entire EDM scene, in fact, so here is an example of what I mean by good electronic music. (And don’t feel bad if you have to google EDM. I did too.)

Also be ready for roaming bands of teenagers, some dressed like stuffed animals. To be honest, I wish we had something like this to go to when I was a teenager, instead of sitting around eating cheesecake brownies at Coffee Plantation on Mill. Although I likely never would have dressed in a furry costume.

If you can get past these minor impositions, along with the often paralyzing crowds, and if you go with a better plan than I did (which was this exactly: go to Lost Leaf, wander around, search out food for my starving but amiable companion, see some art, don’t freeze to death), you will likely have an amazing time. There is a new trolley system that connects everything together – you can park at the Phoenix Art Museum, for example, and trolley all around to Grand Avenue, down to City Scape, then over to Roosevelt Row. It’s really brilliant.

Due to my general malaise, we stuck close to Roosevelt Row. Food trucks were aplenty so no one starved. As I started writing this, a mere two days later, I am confused about what art we saw in which gallery. I am trying to piece everything together, but EyeLounge is confusing me. I know we saw pieces by Merkel McLendon. (I am not an art writer, clearly, because I struggle to describe what we saw, or even how one would display such works at home. I recognized a lot of shoe trees repurposed as fish, and an Elvis themed wall display. I decided at the end I would really like to be friends with someone who collected art like this.)

In the crowded back room, or “Project Room”, the walls were filled with clay faces by Cheryl Brandon and Constance McBride. We did not go in, but I would like very much to go back. Something about a warm room crammed with people looking at clay faces on the walls felt uncomfortable. (I didn’t take any photos, but if you go to the gallery page linked above you can see two of the faces. You’ll get what I mean.)

According to the Website, we also saw this incredible photography exhibit titled “Smoke and Mirrors” by Sean Deckert. I have zero idea how these pieces were created but they left me astounded. If I had any spare money in the world I would bought one that somehow juxtaposed a photo of downtown with a photo of a mountain. As you moved in front of the picture it slowly changed, like magic.

Next we went to Modified Arts, where they have an incredible exhibition called “Visions of Phoenix: Reality and Surreality”. Again I was totally wishing it wasn’t so dang crowded because the paintings were cool. There were a few of the Westward Ho, which has long been a fascinating building to me. Once many years ago, my friend Justin and I convinced the front desk lady to let us in to go look around. It was one of the more depressing places I have ever been. You can see the former grand hotel slowly decaying along with the people inside. I keep holding out hopes that someone will buy it and bring it back to a great, swanky place. But then, where would all those people go? It is currently a low-income nursing home of sorts, and I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of other options out there.

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A painting at Modified Arts

From there we wandered down Roosevelt and found a sign that promised live glass blowing. Live! You don’t want to miss that. It turned out to be a giant lie, however, and we found ourselves in a store selling bongs and pipes and t-shirts. Great marketing I guess, but I felt misled.

And I was cold. And tired. And clearly I had seen enough art because it was all swimming around in my head together. So we made our way to Mother Bunch Brewing for a cocktail and to rest our feet.

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I wish we had come here for dinner. I love the vibe, the menu looked great, and they have Mason Sauvignon Blanc. We also tried the Gingerbread Ale, because it is still somewhat holidayish. I apologize for this fuzzy photo – I probably didn’t need more wine, but look at the great color of that beer. It was delicious.

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I promise to go back, ride the trolly, visit more galleries, and develop a more coherent review of this event. For now I’m going to get under a blanket on the couch, take some cold medicine, and wait for Downton Abbey to start.