Caramelpalooza 2013: And the Winners Are....

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Amy Silverman
Winner, winner, caramel dinner.
Twenty chefs, hundreds of people, and thousands of caramels -- Smeeks and Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013, held Friday night at Biltmore Fashion Park, was (if we say so ourselves) the biggest and best yet.

Stay tuned this week for a complete caramel play-by-play by judge JK Grence, who writes Chow Bella's weekly Guilty Pleasures column. Thanks to Grence and our other judges, Christopher Gross of (among others) Christopher's; Aaron Eckburg of go lb salt; Helen Yung of Sweet Republic; Christine Heltsley of Julia Baker; Brendan McCaskey of Smeeks; and Josh Rhodes, who won our reader contest.

See also:
- Caramelpalooza 2013 in Photos
- Frybread from The Stand Might Be the Best-Kept Secret in Metro Phoenix

Big thanks to the Smeeks and Frances team; the folks from UNION, Biltmore Fashion Park and the Arizona Humane Society; and Chow Bella and New Times staff.

Oh, wait, you want to know who won, don't you? Here you go:

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Caramelpalooza 2013: An Illustrated Field Guide for April 5

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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illustration by Claire Lawton
Click on the image (or right here) for a full-size version and grab a copy at Friday's event. 

Tomorrow night's the night, people! Caramelpalooza 2013 is here: Friday, April 5, 7 p.m. (and don't dawdle, the caramel's gone fast in previous years). If you haven't already bought tickets, no worries -- there will be plenty for sale at the event: $10 for five tickets, with proceeds benefiting the Arizona Humane Society. Remember, the location has changed: This year's event will go down on the east side of BIltmore Fashion Park, outside UNION, the new home of Smeeks candy store.

See also:
- Crepe Bar's Jeff Kraus
- 5 ft. Latina's Kathryn James
- Announcing the Candy Makers for Caramelpalooza 2013

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Caramelpalooza 2013: The Winner of Our Contest to Be a Judge Is . . .

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Tedd Roundy
Paletas Betty made the winning entry at last year's Caramelpalooza.
Who knew we had so many poets out there? You wowed us with your sweet words about caramel, Phoenix, but there can be only one winner in our contest to choose a judge for Friday's fourth annual Caramelpalooza, and that person is . . .

See also:
- Caramelpalooza 2013: Buy Tasting Tickets Now
- Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!

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Caramelpalooza 2013: Wanna Be a Judge?!

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Amy Silverman
It's a sticky sweet job, but somebody's gotta try all that caramel.
With just a week to go before the fourth annual Caramelpalooza, the candy makers are busy boiling sugar and over here at Chow Bella, we're tightening up the dental work in anticipation.

What about you? Do you have your tasting tickets yet? Get 'em quick online or wait til the night of. Or -- enter our contest to join the official judging panel for this year's Caramelpalooza.

See also:
- Caramelpalooza 2013: Buy Tasting Tickets Now
- Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!

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Millie's Caramel's Jill McNamara: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Photos by Lauren Saria
Jill McNamara of Millie's Caramels photographed at her home in Phoenix
As the chefs competing in Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual Caramelpalooza -- coming 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- get out the candy thermometers, we've got our pens ready to introduce you to the faces behind the caramel.

She might be new to the caramel scene, but Jill McNamara, a self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur," is no newbie to small-business ownership. She and her husband, both photojournalists, also operate a wedding portrait business -- and that's on top of her other gigs as a portrait photographer and photo editor.

See also:
- Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!
- Muñeca Mexicana's Minerva Orduño Rincón: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

With all that in the mix, she still found time to start selling her sweet and savory caramels at Valley farmers markets and restaurants last November under the name Millie's Caramels. (Millie was her grandmother.) You can get them for now at Astor House and JAM in Scottsdale. She offers modern flavors created with local ingredients, including a rosemary and black pepper caramel made with rosemary from the plant just outside her front door.

She's a vegetarian fan of Blue Bell French vanilla ice cream who enjoys Postino's tuna sandwich and being creative. If you don't believe us -- which you totally would if you could peek inside her adorable home -- just wait . . . and taste.

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Crepe Bar's Jeff Kraus: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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All photos by Lauren Saria
Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar in Tempe
As the chefs competing in Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual Caramelpalooza -- coming 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- get out the candy thermometers, we've got our pens ready to introduce you to the faces behind the caramel.

Crepe Bar isn't the kind of restaurant people would be likely stumble across by chance. It's inconspicuously located in one of Tempe's many strip malls with nothing but a plain red sign up top. Plenty of chefs would probably take one look at the spot and think, "It's restaurant suicide."

But that's just not how Jeff Kraus rolls. Despite the less-than-stellar location, he's turned the space into a favorite spot for fans of his unique take on French cuisine. They see it as a place that's more than worth the drive.

See also:
- At Crepe Bar, a New King of Crepes Is Crowned
- Muñeca Mexicana's Minerva Orduño Rincón: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013
- Jeff Kraus Makes the "First Time Crepe" -- Nutella, Elderflower, Spiced Walnuts and More

Kraus is a high-energy type who's not easy to redirect once he's set his mind to something. The combination of drive and creativity definitely shows in his food, which tends to be artistic in a slightly whimsical way, elaborate without being fussy. Before Crepe Bar, he and his wife/partner Erin Ware operated a highly successful food truck and a culinary concept called ++experience++ gastro.


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Caramelpalooza 2013: Buy Tasting Tickets Now

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Jonathan McNamara
Caramelpalooza 2011 -- in style.
Polish off that sweet tooth, Phoenix, because Caramelpalooza 2013's just a little more than a week away.

Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual caramel tasting will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- a new location but the same sugar rush (more, in fact) you've enjoyed in years past.

For the past few weeks we've been getting cozy with the caramel makers, and now we have some news about how to get tasting tickets for the event.

See also:
- Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!
- Muñeca Mexicana's Minerva Orduño Rincón: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

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Tonto Bar & Grill's Amanda Crick and Erin Glassburn: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Katie Johnson
As the chefs competing in Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual Caramelpalooza -- coming 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- get out the candy thermometers, we've got our pens ready to introduce you to the faces behind the caramel.

Amanda Crick and Erin Glassburn are bona fide Southern girls. Crick, born in Tennessee, and Glassburn, originally from Missouri, worked their way through all aspects of the restaurant business to eventually form a team as executive and assistant pastry chefs, respectively, at Tonto Bar & Grill at Rancho Mañana and its sister restaurant, Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House in Cave Creek.

See Also:
Eric Flatt of Tonto Bar & Grill and Cartwright's Talks Hunting in Arizona
Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!

Although the two chefs discovered their love of pastry differently (Crick through her nights plating desserts and Glassburn through early days of holiday baking with her mom) they both share a love of experimenting with sweets.

At Tonto's and Cartwright's, Crick and Glassburn can really let their crafty sides out, making many of their ingredients from scratch and playing with Southwestern ingredients like Mexican chocolate and prickly pear. With their flair for desert-inspired desserts and local ingredients, we're curious to see what this duo brings to this year's Caramelpalooza.

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Muñeca Mexicana's Minerva Orduño Rincón: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Katie Johnson
As the chefs competing in Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual Caramelpalooza -- coming 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- get out the candy thermometers, we've got our pens ready to introduce you to the faces behind the caramel.

Minerva Orduño Rincón is a chef who knows how to keep it real. The former FnB line cook turned Upward Projects and Chow Bella contributor has gotten much praise from her line of Mexican crafted products, Muñeca Mexicana.

See Also:
Welcome to Minervaland
Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!
Pistol Whipped Pastry's Rachel Miller: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

The handmade brand of specialty goods such as Mole Poblano, Spiced Hot Cocoa Mix, and Coyotas captures the authentic flavors of Mexican food that Minerva grew up eating but found wanting in Phoenix.

Although the first-time Caramelpalooza chef claims she's not a candymaker, her Goat's Milk Caramel begs to differ. Derived from the traditional methods used in Celaya, Mexico, this all-natural sauce provides a rich and creamy supplement to pastries, ice cream -- you name it. So you can say what you will about your candy-making skills, Mrs. Orduño Rincón, but we think the handcrafted caramel will speak for itself.


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Denise Is Cooking's Denise Clayton: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

Categories: Caramelpalooza

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Katie Johnson
As the chefs competing in Smeeks and Chow Bella's fourth annual Caramelpalooza -- coming 7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at UNION -- get out the candy thermometers, we've got our pens ready to introduce you to the faces behind the caramel.

If you've ever taken a cooking class with Denise Clayton, chances are you've felt right at home -- because it is her home. The private caterer teaches everything from canning and preserving to tamale making and baking basics inside an adorable 1920s bungalow in Phoenix's historic Coronado district. Although Clayton's been teaching full time only since August, her love of cooking has been with her since childhood.

See Also:
Announcing the Caramel Makers for Smeeks & Chow Bella's Caramelpalooza 2013!
60: Denise Clayton

As we stand in Clayton's cozy vintage kitchen, admiring an eclectic mix of colorful dishware and antique canning equipment, Clayton tells stories of the real source behind her love of working in the kitchen -- her mom.

"She liked to entertain, and I got a lot of that." Clayton recalls her mother's New Year's Day tradition of hosting an open house and acting as short order cook to the hundred-plus guests walking through while a young Denise handed out menus, took orders, and collected tips. "It makes my heart happy to feed people," she says.

Well, we're happy to hear it, Ms. Clayton -- because on April 5, you'll be feeding a whole lot of people (tell your heart we said, you're welcome).

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