One of the best things about a destination that averages 330 days of sunshine per year is the endless opportunity for al fresco dining. Nothing beats true outdoor farm-to-table food in Phoenix, which you can find all around the city.
The Festival at the Farm
Once a local secret, Arizona’s wine is now making a name for itself on the national stage. In fact, conditions in the state’s growing regions have been compared to the likes of Napa Valley.
Come November, top local growers and wine producers converge on The Farm at South Mountain for Festival at the Farm. The outdoor event is your chance to sample the goods from approximately 30 of Arizona’s best wineries. Vino amateurs and experts alike will appreciate the celebration, which includes a picnic prepared by the farm’s own kitchen.
But the big-ticket item is really the Celebration of the Arizona Wine Growers Reception. It’s held under the night sky at the farm’s Quiessence restaurant, where chefs source almost entirely from their own gardens and area producers. It’s a pretty exclusive event, so you’ll want to snap your tickets up early.
Dinners Down the Orchard
Greater Phoenix’s Mesa suburb was named one of the country’s best “Food Drives” by National Geographic Traveler, and for good reason. This easygoing city’s roots run deep in farming, so you can just imagine the local flavour.
In the nearby town of Queen Creek is Schnepf Farms, a year-round agricultural playground with flourishing peach groves and U-pick veggie stations. Schnepf’s Dinner Down the Orchard series puts you smack in the middle of their organic groves for a four-course meal made by Phoenix’s star chefs.
In the springtime, the farm’s organic peaches are the stars of the show. Chefs make the most of the sweet fruit, concocting everything from poached peaches with pork, and, naturally, cobbler for dessert. Then there’s the vegetable garden for chefs to forage by day – Schnepf’s own squash blossoms, mini cucumbers and zucchini have all been featured in past dinners.
Tavolo Dinners at Trattoria del Piero
Just across the street from Schnepf is one of Greater Phoenix’s most unexpected but prized possessions – Queen Creek Olive Mill. Owner Perry Rea took the skills he acquired from working in Detroit’s auto industry and directed them toward a different kind of oil: olive. What started as a small operation now encompasses 2,000 olive trees.
The mill’s Tavolo Dinner series celebrates the flavours of the season in four or five courses with wine pairings. Past highlights include an Asian pear salad matched with an Arizona Riesling and California pinot noir to go with pan-seared halibut in the mill’s own sweet red pepper and olive tapenade.
In February, Queen Creek Olive Mill honours the Rea family cookbook with creamy tomato “zuppa” and homemade chicken Marsala, among other delights. You’ll break bread with other diners in the orchard and taste some of the family’s best oils, vinegars and stuffed olives along the way. And you can even pick up your favourites from dinner in the retail shop.
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Where was your most memorable farm-to-table meal? Have you sampled Phoenix’s orchard eateries? Share your thoughts with us below.
Written by Katarina Kovacevic