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JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is thrilled to announce the debut of Tía Carmen, a new dining destination led by renowned Chef Angelo Sosa along with seasoned restaurant operator Mark Stone set to open in early April 2022.
Tía Carmen, named after chef Sosa’s aunt, celebrates the local landscape, farmers, and community of the Southwest while reflecting a mix of tradition and modernity with bold, elemental cooking and a diverse beverage program.
A protégé of Jean-George Vongerichten, Chef Sosa is known for his work alongside the most pedigreed restaurateurs, including Alain Ducasse, Stephen Starr, and Masaharu Morimoto. He is widely recognized for appearing on several television shows such as Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ for three seasons and HBO Max’s Selena + Chef. As the founding chef and partner in the Michelin-recommended Mexican hotspot, Añejo Restaurant in New York City, Chef Sosa is inspired by his Latin heritage and the diverse techniques from his mentors throughout his remarkable career.
“Throughout my life, my Tía Carmen instilled in me a passion and love for cooking, teaching me the impact and the power that food can have when made from a place of pure love,” said Chef Sosa. “The discovery of traveling through the Southwest gave me the opportunity to explore the region through the lens of ranchers, potters, farmers, and artisans. I have always had a deep fascination and appreciation for Southwestern food traditions. It has been an honor and privilege to be able to contribute to this beautiful and rich culinary narrative.”
Lamb ragu with mesquite noodles
Open for dinner, the menu will feature flavors imbued from a wood-fired grill highlighting the beauty and ingredients of the region. The menu is divided into three sections: light + fresh, maize + harina, and charcoal + wood + fire. Chef Sosa’s signature dishes at Tiá Carmen include Tuna Crudo with chilled corn coconut broth accented with jicama and garnished with dill; Southwestern style tri-tip kebabs garnished with Thai Basil, cilantro, pickles, and serrano chilis; Lamb Ragu with mesquite noodles; and Tía Carmen’s Chicken Guisado, a stew made with succulent pieces of thigh meat and seasoned with a mélange of cumin, annatto, arbol, and oregano.
Tuna crudo with chilled broth
Chef Sosa tapped long-time partner and restaurant operator Stone to help bring his vision for Tía Carmen to life, making this their first restaurant in Arizona. They are collaborating with a variety of Arizona-based purveyors, including Hypha Foods, the lead producer of foraged mushrooms; Ramona Farms, where he sources the iconic Tepary beans; and Arizona Grass Raised Beef and Top Knot Farms for responsibly raised meats. Additionally, Phoenix-based Blue Door Ceramics designed an exclusive collection of plateware in collaboration with Chef Sosa to showcase a bold, beautiful Southwestern tablescape.
To complement the Tía Carmen menu, Mitchel O. Bushell (formerly of Gwen, Gran Blanco and Accomplice) created a cocktail program focusing on local herbs and spices alongside local producers of small and large batched spirits such as Arizona’s own spirits Whiskey Del Bac and a broad program of artisanal agave spirits. Eduardo Dingler (formerly of Morimoto Restaurant Group) specially curated the wine program, which leans heavily on representation from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe as well as wines from the West Coast and emerging European producers.
Designed in collaboration with Thomas Schoos of Los Angeles-based hospitality design firm Schoos Design, guests can expect an ‘Earth meets Art’ theme when entering Tía Carmen. The 130-seat restaurant represents a clean, warm palette of sophisticated natural simplicity that was developed to harmonize with Chef Sosa’s inspiration, his ‘Tía Carmen’, a woman of passion, love, and humility. Her presence permeates the design with the use of soft curves and arches hugging the space and the organic natural forms of the local landscape, capturing the essence of the rolling desert rock formations and calming hues, which can be seen throughout the space. Handmade plaster light fixture clusters continue to soften the space with organic spherical shapes, allowing light to wash through the space with effortless ease.
Oversized natural woven dome fixtures hang over the bar area and highlight the plush, inviting lounge seating. With an array of cozy dining nooks to discover the rich flavors of Chef Sosa’s inspiring cuisine, several items are cooked on an impressive wood-fire grill as a centerpiece of the restaurant. The captivating exterior boasts a natural desert landscape, an open adobe-style fireplace, and native Southwestern Pueblo-style architectural Latilla structures.
For more information about Tía Carmen, please visit @TiaCarmen.PHX on Instagram.
Ironically, Keyla Aguilar’s journey to veganism began when she worked at a burger joint. Her then manager was a proud vegetarian, which helped inspire Aguilar to go herbivore. These days Aguilar, the co-owner of Earth Plant Based Cuisine, is still dishing out burgers — as well as tacos, burritos, and other classic Mexican dishes — only now she gets to share in the feast knowing that no animals were harmed in the making.
When Aguilar first gave up the carnivorous lifestyle, it caused some headaches around her family’s dinner table. Meat was an essential part of the traditional Hispanic cuisine they shared, or so it seemed. After two and a half years as a vegetarian, Aguilar finally relented to her parent’s protestations about the difficulty in accommodating her diet. However, soon her little sister jumped on the plant-eating bandwagon too. A familial tipping point was reached and a few weeks later her parents also made the plunge. Soon after, the whole family went vegan.
While carnitas and chicharrones were out, the Aguilar clan refused to give up the traditional tapestry of spices and textures that had always brought them together at mealtime. Of course, they had to show a little flexibility and patience in order to get there.
“It took a while to transition all of the recipes to vegan,” Aguilar explained. “There was a lot of trial and error, but we still liked our food, our flavor.”
Their experimentation proved fruitful. Soon they were eating healthier than ever without scrimping any on taste. Another benefit was cooking and cleaning sans animal flesh proved simpler and faster. This was good because, vegan or not, demand for their eats quickly outstripped supply.
“Every time we would have a family gathering or a potluck or something, we would bring our food,” Aguilar explained. “People would always like it even if they weren’t vegan. Our food would always be finished before everyone else’s.”
The Aguilar sisters started discussing taking their family cookbook pro. They surveyed the Phoenix food scene. There were many Mexican restaurants and a few vegan eateries, but no specifically Mexican vegan ones. A lot of places offered token or place-holder vegan options that didn’t do much to dispel the idea that such food is bland and boring. A restaurant serving vegan dishes that even the most blood-thirsty diners could enjoy seemed like the perfect niche.
First things first, they found a space on Grand Avenue in the same shopping complex as Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge. The family put the planet-friendly policies they used in the kitchen into practice during construction. Everything that could be saved or reused was, including building tables and a ceiling from old wooden pallets. On September 5, 2019, Earth Plant Based Cuisine had its grand opening.
Of course, after a few months of success, COVID-19 reared its spikey viral head. Even as the new restaurant shutdown in-person dining during the pandemic’s earlier days, community support kept rolling in. While things looked bleak, enough business kept coming to keep the new spot open. In the recent weeks, Aguilar has seen orders slowly growing again.
My first visit came on a Wednesday evening in late October. I found it easy to place my order online and then set off towards the westside. Finding a spot for my vehicle was likewise a breeze since the shopping complex sports its own ample parking lot, saving me the headache of parallel parking on the busy diagonal thoroughfare.
The complex also boasts a massive, bricked courtyard and covered outside dining area, something so critical for a restaurant’s success in these plague-ridden times. In fact, while I planned to dine and dash — after picking up and paying for my to-go meal, of course — the spacing of the dining tables on the patio made me feel comfortable enough to eat there, the first time I’ve done so in a very long time. The staff quickly switched my meal to real plates with no fuss. As I watched a classic pink and lavender Arizona sunset, I felt some small sense of normalcy returning, if only until I foolishly glanced at the day’s headlines on my phone.
For starters, the affordable pricing allowed a friend and I to enjoy a meat-free feast. There was even enough leftover in the dining budget for a second visit the following day. Normally good vegan food costs an arm and a leg, but this place saves both animal and financial appendages.
For an appetizer, we ordered the chorizo fries. They were buried under a massive pile of meatless chorizo, guacamole, tomatoes, onions, and plenty of cheese sauce. The fries remained crisp and warm despite the mountain of smokey, citrus-infused toppings. This could serve as a meal for one or possibly even two.
We also tried the buffalo wings, which really are something special. Not only did the fake meat come liberally slathered in a tangy buffalo glaze, but they also even sported “bones.” While not actual skeleton, these made for easy handling and really added to the carnivorous verisimilitude. Chewy, meaty, and smothered in smokey sauce, I felt a bit like Fabio in that I almost couldn’t believe this was really all vegan. A house-made ranch rounded out this delightful dish, which I highly recommend.
I was already loosening my belt when we started our main courses. I opted for the Bruno burger, which bears a striking resemblance to the platonic ideal of a Big Mac you might see in some glossy ad. Like the wings, the delight is in the cook’s attention to detail. The golden bun is bedazzled with lightly charred sesame seeds. The large, thick patty slightly overhangs the bun, just as I prefer. Thousand island dressing, onions, tomatoes, and fresh lettuce complete the package.
My dining companion went for an order of three “Fish” tacos. These were each little works of art decorated with purple cabbage, red tomatoes, and a glowing orange sauce. Tucked under this riot of color were plenty of chunks of soy-based faux fish. Again, the realness of the fake meat is greatly enhanced by the careful spicing and fresh accoutrements. Still, the star of this dish had to be the tortillas themselves. Baked in house, they were soft like goose-down pillows yet also plenty chewy.
Walking back to our vehicle, we caught sight of a nearby couple sharing a luxurious looking diary-free milkshake. We couldn’t quite find the room for it that evening or during the next day’s lunch I was already plotting, but the pair of lovers looked as content in their dessert as they did with each other.
The following afternoon, my gluttony again conspired with Earth’s well-priced menu. Even after all that food the night before, I was able to order a crazy “shrimp” burrito and a hot diggity dog without going over budget. It was too much for one man, but that didn’t stop me from inhaling it all before retiring for a delightfully unproductive afternoon food coma.
The meatless hot dog came loaded with colorful toppings and a heaping portion of golden fries. An homage to the southwest’s world-famous Sonoran dogs, this protein cylinder was smothered in not only ketchup and mustard, but also pinto beans, crema, avocado salsa, tomatoes and onions. This good dog offers a whole lot of bark for the buck.
Getting a little fishier, I then ordered a fake shrimp burrito on the owner’s recommendation. I was glad I did. I actually enjoyed the fake shrimp ever so slightly more than the fake fish from the day before. The breading, texture and flavor were so real. Aguilar explained they use seaweed to capture that certain oceanic essence, which means big flavors and big phytonutrients. Again, the tortilla's warm chewiness made it far more than just a vehicle for the tasty innards. The fake shrimp can also be had on tacos, which I think I’ll try on my next visit.
If you need to feed a family of mixed palettes on a limited budget, Earth Plant Based Cuisine is just the planet for you. This West Side treat is a true triple threat: tasty, affordable and environmentally conscious. What more could you or Mother Earth ask for?
It was about five years ago that Devon Norris, a local banking professional with a promising modeling career, took a shot on a new kind of networking. In July 2015 he met the founder of Roxx Vodka, Angie Nielsen, while she and a group of RoxxStars were out promoting in the Valley.
Norris recalls being incredibly impressed with the “premium” brand that he describes as sophisticated, sexy and edgy. So when Nielsen asked him if he’d like to become a part of the team, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t say no to.
Echo caught up with Norris to find out what this past year as a Roxx brand development manager and brand ambassador (lovingly referred to as a RoxxStar) has involved – and what these experiences mean to him.
Devon NorrisScotty Kirby
OUTvoices: Describe your role with Roxx?
Norris: My role has varied a lot over the past year, which I absolutely love! Most people probably recognize my involvement with Roxx from my role as a spokesmodel in our print and digital advertising, or as a promotional model in our LGBTQ market … Beyond my duties as a RoxxStar however, I also contribute to our social media presence, design apparel, consult on community involvement opportunities and represent our LGBT division in print and radio interviews. My role is constantly evolving as the needs of the brand grow – no one in the Roxx family has only one job.
How did your relationship with Roxx come to be?
Norris: I actually met the founder of the company, Angie Nielsen, and a group of RoxxStars out promoting for a party at the Westgate Entertainment District. I was super impressed with the Roxx display they had set up and went over to visit with their promo models and sample the product. I ended up chatting with Angie and she asked if I would be interested in modeling for the company at an upcoming event they had scheduled at BS West in Scottsdale the following week. I worked my first promo that next week and the rest is history.
What is Roxx all about? What's their mission?
Norris: If I had to choose one word to describe Roxx Vodka’s mission I would simply say, “premium.” I personally describe the brand as sophisticated, sexy and edgy. As a company we are confident that our unique recipe has created the smoothest and most refreshing vodka possible. Roxx is crafted in Poland, which has been the home of master distillers for centuries. Roxx is committed to using only premium ingredients, distilling our product six times and ultimately presenting a clean, silky taste for the discerning palate. We are a premium brand and compliment your premium lifestyle. If you appreciate edgy sophistication, Roxx is the vodka for you.
What can you tell us about Roxx’s involvement in the local LGBTQ community?
Norris: I absolutely love this question because I think it is so important for companies to get involved in supporting the communities they serve. It was a very proud moment for Roxx to be recognized during the Night for Life event, and I was honored to celebrate with the community that evening. Roxx has also participated in/sponsored several other local events supporting the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus and LGBTQ fundraising campaigns hosted throughout the Valley …
The Roxx family and culture is very diverse and supportive of equality for all communities. Roxx understands the importance of making sure that our business culture is inclusive ... [and] the Roxx demographic is very colorful, diverse and inclusive.
RoxxStars Nevaeh McKenzie and Devon Norris. Photo by Scotty Kirby.
Roxx brought Nevaeh McKenzie on board during her reign as Miss Gay Arizona; what was it like working with her throughout the past year or so?
Norris: I absolutely adore and respect Nevaeh McKenzie, but more importantly, I have grown to be great friends with Karrington Valenzuela. I first approached Nevaeh to join the Roxx family after she hosted a big event last summer where she absolutely blew me away with her commanding presence and sexy, edgy performance style. Nevaeh’s personality and stage presence is larger than life and has brought such a special element to the RoxxStar culture. Neveah embodies so many of the values that Roxx values, and brings us deeper into the LGBTQ community in such a dynamic way. Neveah is a symbol of excellence, and I always have a great time working with her. Neveah is a true RoxxStar and I live for her.
Have you been on any trips for Roxx? Where to/what for?
Norris: I have been so fortunate when it comes to travel opportunities with Roxx. We have a very large footprint in West Hollywood, so I’ve had the chance to travel there several times over the last year. We hosted a huge gifting suite for the MTV Video Music Awards last year, which was such an amazing experience for our team. We also hosted a Halloween/Birthday party for Ryan Seacrest’s on air DJ, Manny Streetz, last October. I also had the opportunity to model swimwear at an Atlantis Cruise launch party Roxx hosted, and party with the cruise guests before their departure. I love traveling with Roxx because it is such a fun mixture of business and pleasure – how could it not be when you are representing such a fun and sexy brand?!
In what ways has your role with Roxx served as a networking tool for you and your career?
Norris: Being involved with Roxx has been such a cool networking experience for me. My work experience has been in a corporate banking environment, so having the opportunity to learn from such a successful and knowledgeable entrepreneur has been a great networking experience in itself. The founder, Angie, has so much experience in launching successful businesses, and I am always in awe of her tenacity and work ethic … The Roxx family has so many diverse talents [which] create a great atmosphere to learn new skills. Any time I walk into a Roxx meeting I know I am going to meet new people who will expand my professional network somehow.
How has working with Roxx opened doors for you professionally?
Norris: Being recognized from Roxx events has really opened up opportunities for local modeling jobs, which have been a lot of fun. I recently partnered with a local fashion designer Roberto D’Silva to model his new line of fashion swimwear (available now at robertodsilva.com). I have also met several executives in fashion and marketing while traveling, which has presented prospective modeling opportunities. I also really enjoy the opportunities Roxx has presented for me to give back and volunteer – the team at the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS has been awesome in that regard.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In what ways to you feel like Roxx will assist you getting there?
Norris: I have found myself at an interesting crossroad in life this year. I turned 30 in April and have been looking at my future opportunities through what feels like a whole new set of eyes. I am very happy for all of the great people in my life and the opportunities that come my way. I would love to find a way to channel some of my more creative talents in liberal arts and design in new ways I haven’t been able to explore yet. I love to create, I love to consult and I love meeting new people. Being involved with Roxx has already opened so many doors so far, so as long as the opportunities keep coming, it is just up to me to call deep on my courage and answer when it calls.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your time representing Roxx?
Norris: I think the biggest thing I have learned from my time representing Roxx is not to be afraid to say “yes.” So many times in life we are presented with opportunities that seem scary, or hard or something for “other people, but not me.” I think back to that night that I was first approached to promote a Roxx event – if I had said “no” I would have been saying no to a year of absolutely amazing, life-changing experiences. I would have missed out on meeting some amazing RoxxStars – Christine Bundy I love you! I would never be able to say I’ve jumped out of a giant cake wearing a rhinestone speedo. I would have been saying “no” to so many chances to live outside of my comfort zone. I am so thankful that the universe urged me to say “yes” that night, and grateful for every “yes” it has led to since.
Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Norris: I just want to say thank you – thank you for giving me a platform to share a bit of my story. Oh, and for anyone who hasn’t tried Roxx Vodka yet, I assure you it’s worth a shot.
— Interview by KJ Philp
Shame, Arizona, shame! A new report has revealed that the Grand Canyon State is America's No. 1 offender when it comes to wasting food. And with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner it looks like Arizonans will be throwing out more food than ever before.
Thanksgiving might be the tastiest holiday, but it's also the waste-iest, according to this study. About 30–40% of the national food supply goes to waste each year, and 200 million pounds of that waste comes from Thanksgiving turkeys alone.
Some states contribute more to that total than others.
LawnStarter collected data on the 50 states to find 2022’s States That Waste the Most Food, factoring in how much food each state wastes, how much it repurposes, and what measures it has in place to reduce food loss.
Arizona is our No. 1 state that wastes the most food for a cornucopia of reasons. Among the 50 states, the Grand Canyon State registered the highest share of food wasted and the lowest share recycled. It also ranked No. 3 for the lowest share of food donated to people in need.
Some Arizonans are doing their best to minimize food loss, though. The state has more organizations providing food waste solutions than over half the country.
Imperial Western Products (IWP) diverts the most food waste from landfills in Arizona. The company saves about 1.23 million tons of food waste annually by recycling and reusing materials from agricultural sites, restaurants, and bakeries.
Local tip: This year after Thanksgiving dinner, follow IWP’s lead and find a way to recycle your green bean casserole (Arizona’s favorite side dish) into leftover meals, or donate it instead of adding on to Arizona’s already grand food waste problem.
Other Desert Offender:
Las Vegas is famous for its buffets, but where does all that leftover food go? Most of it ends up in the nearby Apex Regional Landfill, one of the largest landfills in the world. No wonder Nevada ranked No. 4 overall among States That Waste the Most Food.
However, many resorts on the Strip are working toward a less wasteful future. They're using leftover food to make compost, donating it to food banks, and even sending it off to feed pigs.
Why and How to Reduce Food Waste
Why do some states make such an effort to reduce their food waste? Here’s one reason: Food waste in landfills produces about 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.
If saving the planet isn’t enough of a reason to reduce your food waste, how about saving money? The average American spends around $3.62 per day on food that never gets eaten. That adds up to more than $100 per month and more than $1,300 per year.
With just one year of food waste savings, you could fill your car with gas 20 or 30 times (depending on where you live) — or spend 1.5 weeks at Disney World.
Whether you’re an eco-warrior or a thrifty spender, here are a few tips to help you reduce your personal food waste:
- Plan ahead. Before hitting the grocery store, think about how many meals you’ll need to make at home for the week. Plan different dishes that use some of the same ingredients to minimize waste.
- Buy frozen or canned. Fruits and vegetables make up about 30% of food waste in the U.S. because they spoil so quickly. Frozen or canned fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh produce, and they last much longer!
- Freeze perishable items. Bread, meat, fruits, vegetables, and other perishables often go bad before you have a chance to eat them. If you know you won’t finish them in the next few days, store perishable items in the freezer for a longer shelf life. Wash, dry, and slice or chop fruits and veggies before freezing them.
- Eat leftovers. Whether you’re at home or at a restaurant, save any food you don’t eat for later. If you don’t want to eat the same thing again, look up recipes online for ways to transform your leftovers into something new.
- Compost food waste. Even when you give it your best effort, you’ll end up with some food scraps. Instead of sending them off to a landfill, start a compost pile in your backyard. Composting is a 2-for-1 deal: You recycle your food waste, and you can use the compost for your garden or potted plants. (Make sure to check composting rules beforehand.)
Check out LawnStarter's full ranking and analysis here.