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Word of Mouth: Scottsdale

We discover local flavor in food and design throughout the resort town

by Julie Wolfson in Travel on 16 January 2013

The Sonoran desert and foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale inspired Frank Lloyd Wright to build Taliesin West as his personal winter home in 1937, and since that time the gorgeous topography has continued to draw people to the region. In the growing resort town known for galleries filled with Southwestern art, shops piled high with turquoise jewelry and a massive number of resorts, Scottsdale welcomes the creativity of a variety of makers in the design and culinary realms who continue the legacy of crafting handmade things with an independent spirit. Serving as a hub for the increasingly vibrant community is the downtown farmers' market where vendors sell everything from fresh produce to hot sauces and award winning salsas by Amor y Fuego and Desert Smoke BBQ. From there, on a recent trip, we came across a handful of spots showcasing the exciting developments in food and design taking over the area.

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Cartel Coffee Lab

For a great cup of coffee or espresso drink, head to Cartel Coffee Lab on Fifth Avenue. Opened by Jason Silberschlag in 2007 as one of Arizona's first forays into specialty coffee, Cartel serves coffees he sources himself—in bags labeled with the name of the farm—and roasts beans in house at the original Tempe location. Though selling hot beverages in a desert climate can be a challenge, Cartel now has thriving stores in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tucson as well. Set in the center of the quaint shopping district, the Scottsdale coffee bar offers a rustic indoor space and airy patio set up with chessboards.

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SMOCA/ SMOCA Lounge

A visit to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA) revealed a truly inspired series of exhibits in the kind of contemporary space often found in urban settings. With an ambitious combination of exhibits, lectures, films and events, SMOCA aims to investigate contemporary culture through art and architecture. Housed in a building designed by architect Will Bruder, SMOCA has become a hub for artists to connect with the local and international contemporary art community. The SMOCA Lounge designed by Janis Leonard serves as a laboratory and community space for creatively quirky happenings like their popular fundraiser Arm Wrestling for Art.

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AZ Wine Merchants

Chef Charleen Badman and co-owner Pavle Milic have built on the sucecss of their popular FnB restaurant to open AZ Wine Merchants and Bodega Market in the spirit of showcasing local ingredients. We were particularly impressed with the wine shop, which features seminars and a rotating list of 24 Arizona wines curated by Milic and Brian Reader, alongside a small selection of their favorite bottles from wine regions around the world.

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Brat Haus

The Brat Haus beer garden is quickly becoming Scottsdale's gathering place to eat award-winning fried chicken and waffles, hand-twisted pretzels and house-made artisan sausages served on chewy French rolls. The heart and soul of the company can be found in their carefully curated beer list including 28 German, Belgian and North American choices on draft and more than 30 unique bottled offerings. The Brat Haus vintage VW mini van sits in the festive, enclosed patio along with a ping pong table and wall mural that local artists change seasonally.

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Lisa Sette Gallery

The exhibits at the Lisa Sette Gallery focus on contemporary art and installation by highlighting new work by local and international artists. In 2012, Jessica Joslin showed her eerie and whimsical Gilded Beats sculptures, while several prominent Arizona artists exhibit their work on an ongoing basis including Rachel Bess, Angela Ellsworth, Alan Bur Johnson and Carrie Marill.

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Hotel Valley Ho

One step inside the colorful modern Hotel Valley Ho reveals the charming midcentury architecture that made this property so popular when it opened in the1950s. Vintage images of famous hotel guests line an upper hallway, including Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood (who were married at the hotel), as well as poolside fashion shows and other nostalgic events. Located in downtown Scottsdale, Hotel Valley Ho has been completely restored and updated to preserve the best elements of the midcentury design with modern amenities. The atmospheric lobby lounge and pool area, as well as suites with sleek yellow kitchens and plenty of seating offer the perfect setting for a relaxing, slightly nostalgic cocktail hour.

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The House Brasserie

Just down the street from Hotel Valley Ho, The House carries the vibe of having been a cozy local secret for years, but is actually a brand new brasserie that has taken up residence one of the oldest residences in Scottsdale. Chef Matt Carter serves up inventive ingredient combinations of mostly Mediterranean, Italian and Asian influences and an Argentinian-style coal grill. Don't miss the Arizona ricotta on Sicilian pistachio toast served with roasted radishes. Diners can reserve table inside the house or around the picturesque patio.

Images by Julie Wolfson, Lisa Sette Gallery and Hotel Valley Ho

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