10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in August

Categories: Saria

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Lauren Saria
Nocawich's pistacho and sour cherry doughnut.
Many restaurants are getting ready to reopen for the fall season, which means we can get ready to see a whole slew of new fall menus. And while I'm excited to see what's coming down the bend, I'll be sad to see some of my favorite summer dishes fall off menus until next year. This month's best eats and drinks is an eclectic mix of cuisines including a very special loaf of bread (well, at least if you're a bread nerd like me) and some fried chicken that's certainly worth waiting for.

I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.

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5 Most Irritating Things About Restaurant Menus

Categories: Saria

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Marcin Wichary/Flickr
Excessively large menus lead to "The Cheesecake Factory Effect."
When it's well-written, a menu is your map to a restaurant experience. It tells you what kind of food to expect and how much it's going to cost. It might even give you a little insight into the chef and his or her vision for the restaurant. When it's poorly put together, a menu can be incredibly frustrating, annoying, and eye-roll inducing. Here are the five most irritating things about restaurant menus

May you never have to experience them yourself.

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10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in July

Categories: Saria

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Lauren Saria
Ramen burger from Bitter & Twisted
I know summer is supposed to be the slow season for restaurants in this town but I can tell you I didn't notice anything slow during last month's dining excursions. A few of the items that make it on July's list of the best things I ate and drank are special creations that do a great job of showcasing just how incredible our dining and drinking scene has become. Not all are available on the restaurant's regular menu but I guarantee they're worth the wait if/when you do get the chance to try them again.

I hope you get to try some of it for yourself soon.

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5 Best New Metro Phoenix Restaurants of 2014 -- So Far

Categories: Saria, Top Lists

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Lauren Saria
A two-meat plate from Little Miss BBQ
If the first half of 2014 is an accurate indication of how the rest of this year's going to go, then we're in for quite a delicious ride. We've welcomed more than a few hot new dining spots to the scene, some of which didn't quite make this list but just need time and a few tweaks to become true top-notch spots for Valley diners.

Some of the places that top this list of the best new restaurants so far take a cue from the current dining trends, while others deliver classic cuisine done remarkably well. All of them play a part in making the city a more delicious place to dine with every passing year. In no particular order, here are five of my favorite restaurants to open so far in 2014.

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The Downside of Counter Service

Categories: Saria

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Jackie Mercandetti
The Market by Jennifer's tried a counter service model but switched after realizing it just didn't work.
Not so long ago, counter service was reserved for cafes and bars and coffee shops, places where you would order your drink or sandwich and then take a seat at whatever table you liked. At more traditional restaurants with longer menus and more expensive food, you could pretty much always expect to have a waiter.

Increasingly, that's less and less true. I understand that the fast-casual dining trend might be bringing better food to more people, and I agree that's a good thing. But I do think there's a downside to the change: counter service.

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5 Lessons Learned at Taste of Chicago, the World's Largest Outdoor Food Festival

Categories: Saria

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Lauren Saria
A taste of rib tips from Robinson's No. 1 Ribs
Taste of Chicago, or The Taste as it's usually referred to, is one of the nation's best-known food events. It's been around since long before Food Network was a social force and kale was cool. For many, it's a summer tradition that's as cherished as any, and this year was the event's 34th anniversary. Despite a one-day closure (the first in the event's history) due to rain, more than one million people ate their way through Grant Park during the five-day fest.

For a food lover, it's a pilgrimage. The experience gave me a good perspective on what it takes to make a successful food event, but I won't lie, it also made me happier than ever to get to attend several of Phoenix's food fests.

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Can I Get a Dress Code for Metro Phoenix Restaurants, Please?

Categories: Saria

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Maureen Didde/Flickr
See this? It's called a collar. And it's a good thing.
Dear Guy at an Upscale Phoenix Cocktail Lounge in a Tank Top,

You are why we can't have nice things.

Sincerely,

Lauren

There, I said it. And no, that's not a random, made-up reference. I was actually out at a fancy new bar -- er, "cocktail parlour" -- on a recent Saturday night and noticed another patron wearing shorts . . . and a tank top. I won't even get into the fact that man-tanks are almost never okay (unless you're at the beach) because what I really want to address is the fact that we'll never have truly upscale spots if we treat even the best eating and drinking establishments our city has to offer as if they are nothing special.

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10 Best Things I Ate and Drank in June

Categories: Saria

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Lauren Saria
If you follow our Chow Bella Instagram account (@chowbellaphx) and have been keeping up with our Food Tours series, then you already know that June included quite of bit of travel for the Chow Bella team -- including me. I don't always get to share details about the food I've eaten on my trips, so I included some of the highlights here. The rest of the list includes a handful of dishes from Phoenix spots -- and one local beer that you really ought to drink while you still can.

I hope you get to try some if it for yourself soon.

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9 Words We All Really Need to Stop Using When Talking About Food and Drinks. Please.

Categories: Saria

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theimpulsivebuy/Flickr
Artisan Tostitos? Really?
When you spend as much time as I do reading restaurant menus and websites and press releases, you start to notice that certain words get used quite a bit with regard to food and drink.

And then you start to look closer at those words and you realize that in many cases they're being used incorrectly or out of context. It's a shame, too, because sometimes we're talking about really good words that used to have important meaning. Then over time they've been bastardized and have come to mean nothing at all. There are also a few words that should just never, ever be used when talking about food. So read them here and them please erase them from your memory forever.

Thanks, on behalf of literate people everywhere.

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Eating Locally in Phoenix: We're Not Perfect, But We've Come a Long Way

Categories: Saria

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Evie Carpenter
Saturday Morning at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market
Hey, have you been paying attention out there? Because if so, then you might have noticed that in the period of less than a week we're written about how the Valley is a great place for local food lovers and also a horrible place for eating locally.

Wait, what?

Yeah, I know. That seems a little confusing. Here's the thing: You can make all the scientific calculations you want from afar, but I'm up close and I can tell you firsthand that this city has come a long way. So don't listen to anyone else, Phoenix, you're doing a great job.

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