Paul Martin’s American Grill in Scottsdale serves delicious food in class, relaxing atmosphere

Paul Martin’s American Grill at The Borgata in Scottsdale is a relaxed, peaceful place perfectly conducive to business meetings or romantic rendezvous. I always love when an upscale joint also offers a killer happy hour, and this restaurant’s deals are a steal. During daily happy hour from 3-8 p.m., patrons can score $5 beer, wine and cocktails, as well as appetizers and shared plates for only $5 each.

Paul Martin's American Grill

The restaurant has been open for the past year and features a seasonal menu – the current menu lasts through September. The classy restaurant has beautiful ambiance, with large, cushy booths, cozy lighting from both large and small fixtures, an expansive patio, and a laid-back bar area. The staff, from the host to the servers to the manager, are all attentive and seem to genuinely care about their guests’ needs, as was evident when I went there recently for lunch.

Besides the pleasant atmosphere, the food was delicious. I started my meal with a House Champagne Lemonade ($11). The cocktail features house-infused Meyer lemon vodka, lemon juice, fresh basil and Piper Sonoma champagne, and the drink is very strong alcohol-wise and strikingly flavored. It was the perfect size for the meal and really refreshing for the warm weather. The cocktail menu features many more drinks made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, as well as a wide selection of beer and wine.

Paul Martin's American Grill

As for food, some of the popular menu items on the restaurant’s summer menu include the Blackened Pacific Redfish with Bloomsdale spinach and and lemon ($18) and Chimichurri Chicken, with wild mushroom farro, cipolline onion and Bloomsdale spinach ($17). My pal and I started with the Spinach Dip, made with Tillamook two-year aged white cheddar, Bloomsdale spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh bread ($15). We gobbled up every bite of the rich dip, which was chunky with vegetables and paired wonderfully with the crispy bread. It was so delicious, I would have eaten it plain by the spoonful.

Paul Martin's American Grill_Spinach Dip

For my entree, I tried the Three Mushroom Burger ($14), a vegetarian burger made with arugula and pesto aioli. I’d never had a veggie burger whose base was mushrooms, and this was so good. The mushroom flavor made my taste buds happy, and the consistency was perfect. I enjoyed the perfectly seasoned fries, and half of the meal made me more than full.

Paul Martin's American Grill_Mushroom Burger

My pal got the Steak Frites ($21), which was cooked to her specifications of little char. It was another greatly portioned meal, which she said she enjoyed.

Paul Martin's American Grill_Steak Frites

We split the Banana Cream Pie ($10) for dessert, which was richly topped with fresh whipped cream. It’s impressive all the restaurant’s desserts, including Lemon Crème Brûlée ($10) and Devil’s Food Cake ($10) are made in house, and this pie was my pal’s most memorable part of her meal.

Paul Martin's American Grill_Banana Cream Pie

For wine lovers, the restaurant hosts complimentary weekly wine tastings through August on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6-8 p.m. Head there July 16, 22, 23 and 30 and August 5, 6, 13, 19 and 20 to take advantage. For more information on Paul Martin’s American Grill, head here.

Scorpius Dance Theatre’s ‘Rock’ at Phoenix Theatre is drama in dance

The Valley is so lucky to have something as innovative as Scorpius Dance Theatre to bring unique theater-based dance to the stage. In their new production Rock, at Phoenix Theatre tonight, Friday, June 26, and tomorrow, Saturday, June 27, founder and choreographer Lisa Starry (whom you can learn all about here on Phoenix People) focuses on emotional narratives to drive the production, featuring vignettes on everything from lust and love to mental health.

Scorpius Dance Theatre ROCK Phoenix Theatre1

The nearly 20-person cast powered through more than a dozen dance numbers, set to ʾ60s, ʾ70s, and ʾ80s hits such as The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, “Across the Universe” by The Beatles, and “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp. Solo electric guitarist Chadwick Steinmetz played shredding solo sets, opening the show with Jim Hendrix’s rocking version of the “Star Spangled Banner” and coming back on stage throughout the show to play.

The varieties of dances on display were vast, ranging from the flamenco during The Doors’ “Spanish Caravan” (you can learn about dancer Carlos Montufar here on Phoenix People), to the sexy and sultry moves in the comedic odd-person-out story during Van Halen’s “Pretty Woman”. There were some big company numbers where myriad dancers moved at once, but I love that Starry and her fellow choreographers created dances based on stories, giving audiences plots to follow even though there was no dialogue.

I really appreciated the inclusion of a dance featuring a pair of male dancers, as well as an all-male dance to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” which featured a hot teacher in drag. During Joan Jett’s “Do You Wanna Touch,” all the male dancers deftly moved wearing high heels I would never even be able to walk in. Every dancer throughout the show seemed like they were having an absolute blast on stage, and that enthusiasm was contagious as it reached the audience.

Scorpius Dance Theatre ROCK Phoenix Theatre2

Besides the dancing, the aerial stunts in the show were amazing, including hanging from the ceiling by robe and fabric, and swinging through a hoop. The show also included a couple of really fun and beautifully produced videos, one featuring a dancer and her daughter, and another featuring the whole cast in hair metal garb at a roller rink. There were also some eye-catching costumes in the live show, making for a production that was constantly stimulating.

Every show I’ve seen by Scorpius Dance Theatre has been top-notch, and this one has to be my favorite so far. Tickets are $30 for shows tonight and tomorrow – get them here.

Phoenix Ballet’s ‘Rising’ at Mesa Arts Center awes

Last night, the Phoenix Ballet put on an emotional, innovative, entertaining performance melding traditional and contemporary ballet dance styles in its Rising show at Mesa Arts Center. The performance included five segments by five different choreographers, with music ranging from Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” to a very cute and humorous take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterThe hour-and-a-half show touched on themes including love and death, with a cast of about a dozen graceful dancers whose technical movements never ceased to amaze. Their second show, today at 2 p.m. at Mesa Arts Center, is inexpensive to attend for the level of talent you’ll see — tickets start at only $20.

Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center

The nonprofit takes its act on the road next to the Sedona Performing Arts Center on Thursday, May 21, then to Poland for the Lodz International Ballet Festival May 26 and May 27. The troupe has more in store for the Valley, too, and I can’t wait to see what’s next by this group whose talent is reaching worldwide destinations.

Learn more about Phoenix Ballet here, and get tickets to today’s show here.

Fired Pie in Scottsdale a fast, casual, custom pizza destination

The idea of a fast casual pizza joint is definitely intriguing, and I was grateful to be invited to dinner at Fired Pie in Scottsdale last week to check out the concept myself. There are 10 Fired Pie locations in the Valley, and I visited the Northsight Boulevard location.

Fired Pie in Scottsdale

Walk in, and you’ll see a list of ingredients, including sauce type, cheese, toppings and seasonings. I’ve never had alfredo or pesto sauce pizzas, but you can get those here, as well as buffalo and barbecue sauces, which I thought was unique.

Fired Pie in Scottsdale

Cheese include everything from feta to gorgonzola, and a variety of meats, veggies and fresh herbs are available for toppings on the gluten-free dough. The 11-inch pizza ($7.95) is ready in about five minutes, and it’s nice beer and wine are available as drink choices.

Fired Pie in Scottsdale

Fired Pie in Scottsdale

If you’re not into carbs, load up on a salad instead. One of my favorite parts of the meal was the $3 “pookie,” a baked cookie pie topped with vanilla ice cream. It was absolutely perfect to share and mighty tasty.

Fired Pie in Scottsdale

I liked my fresh mozzarella, kalamata olive, artichoke and tomato sauce pizza (my friend got sausage, spinach and artichoke with alfredo — she loved it), and it was really filling for one person – I ate all of mine because I was starving but would normally take a couple slices home. The only thing I’d try next time is asking for it a little less crispy — I’m a doughy pizza lover.

I loved the patio seating options, and the atmosphere was relaxed, friendly and fun.

Learn more about Fired Pie here.

Strawberry Hedgehog Beauty Detox 101 workshop teaches why loving your skin is important

Your skin is your largest organ, and accordingly, what you put on your body is just as important as what you put inside it. That was one of the biggest lessons I learned at Tracy Perkins‘ Beauty Detox 101 workshop at Strawberry Hedgehog natural body care shop in Phoenix this past weekend. The workshop provided lots of valuable advice when it came to being aware of the toxins your body ingests through products, with informative sessions covering ingredients to avoid and beauty myths to squash.

Tracy Perkins of Strawberry HedgehogAs founder of Strawberry Hedgehog, which includes soaps, body butter and deodorant, Perkins is highly knowledgeable about the value of vegan beauty products — learn more about Perkins here on Phoenix People. Perkins used to work at a major beauty brand before getting sick from their products. Now she creates her own adorable goodies, using natural ingredients with no harsh chemicals or toxins. I’m a huge fan of her line, which you can learn more about here.

Besides getting to know ingredients to avoid on labels (fragrance is a HUGE one), workshop participants were also treated to delicious vegan eats and tea, and we even made our own facial and body scrubs using essential oils. The two-hour workshop was so much fun, and we left with a ton of recipes to continue healthy beauty rituals at home.

Strawberry Hedgehog Strawberry HedgehogPerkins regularly hosts workshops on a variety of topics, and you can learn all about them here. Her next one, Saturday, April 18, is Essential Oil First Aid and costs $40 — get tickets here.

Thirsty Lion at Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall serves tasty eats, wait staff

My experience from beginning to end at the new Thirsty Lion at Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall was great — attentive hostesses who greeted me as soon as I walked in, a waitress who eagerly gave recommendations off the menu, a team-effort staff that checked on our table even when it wasn’t theirs, delicious food (spinach dip with pita chips and a caprese sandwich), hoppy beer that made me crave more, and a spacious patio that lent itself to enjoying this beautiful spring Arizona weather.

Thirsty Lion in Scottsdale

Thirsty Lion in Scottsdale

Thirsty Lion in Scottsdale

Thirsty Lion in Scottsdale

Thirsty Lion in Scottsdale

The spot, with an attractive mostly female wait staff, should surely be a hit in the Old Town Scottsdale area, and it’s nice there’s an affordable restaurant with quality food connected to the mall. If you like sports, there are plenty of TVs to keep you entertained, and I’d recommend it for its generous portions. Learn more about the restaurant here.

Tara Logsdon’s ‘BEARial Ground’ at Frontal Lobe Gallery presents things to ‘beary’

Tara Logsdon believes values and practices such as slavery, torture, money and gender should be eliminated from society. She’s conveying that belief by using teddy bears at her current BEARial Ground Frontal Lobe Gallery show in Phoenix.

Bearial Ground at Frontal Lobe Gallery

The multimedia artist assembled colorful bears on crucifixes with shovels attached, covered in symbols relating to their ideologies.

Bearial Ground

The result is a thought-provoking exhibit, complete with a meditative center visitors can enter after they’ve made the gallery rounds, to contemplate how they can speak up against negative issues in their own lives.

Bearial Ground  at Frontal Lobe Gallery in Phoenix

I love seeing local artists who use innovative methods to promote a positive agenda. Logsdon is an amazingly creative visionary who founded DIE Bearmy, where she “rehabs” forgotten bears from places such as thrift stores and garage sales and turns them into unique new stuffed animals for loving homes. Learn all about her cause here.

Nicki Escudero Tara Logsdon Bearial Ground

Check out BEARial Ground through this Friday, Feburary 20. The third Friday reception goes from 6-10 p.m.

Insider’s Point of View at Different Pointe of View a delicious wine-paired dinner

Last night, I had one of the most delicious meals of my life at Different Pointe of View in Phoenix. I’ve never been to this gorgeous AAA Four Diamond restaurant overlooking Phoenix, part of the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, and we were immediately treated to beautiful skies and glittering city lights.

Different Pointe of View in PhoenixDifferent Pointe of View in PhoenixI went there for the Insider’s Point of View dinner, where Chef Anthony DeMuro prepares a four-course dinner tableside for only 12 guests. Attendees are treated to a wine reception with appetizers out at that breathtaking patio before heading in to the chef’s table, with each course paired with a complementary wine. The dinner is held every month besides summer months, and this season goes through May 1. Every featured winemaker is different depending on the dinner, and last night, we were treated to the delicious J. Hofstätter wine from Italy, a winery dating back four generations.

Different Pointe of View in PhoenixWe started out with Pinot Grigio out of the patio with an artichoke appetizer (Different Pointe of View was kind enough to offer vegetarian alternatives for me outside the regular menu — they’ll work with any dietary needs.) The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, with lots of room for guests to spread out and take in the view.

As an introvert who gets nervous at group dinners, the chef’s dinner was so much fun and low-stress. Diners are spread out around the makeshift kitchen, and Chef Anthony lets diners know exactly how he’s cooking dishes — it’s like a live cooking show in such a romantic setting overlooking the city.

Chef Anthony DeMuro Different Pointe of ViewI love cooking but definitely can use all the tips I can get, and I learned a ton from Chef Anthony, especially in regards to risotto, a difficult dish to perfect, even for the pros. He advised to aim to get the rice crackling when it hits the oil-filled pan, and to treat it like pasta — get it to the consistency you desire in the broth you’re simmering it in, then drain it.

As someone who regularly botches any type of rice, I appreciated his tips. I also had purple cauliflower for the first time, in the absolutely amazing course featuring a spinach polenta cake, abalone and yellowfeet mushrooms, and a smoked tomato sauce. It was paired with a great Pinot Noir that was devoid of a heavy oak-y flavor, because J. Hofstätter wine is housed in stainless steel, not wooden barrels.

Spinach polenta Different Pointe of ViewOur first course was light and refreshing but still really flavorful. My seafood-eating companion had lobster tail with a frisée salad with lemon zest, herbs, roasted garlic oil and garlic chips, while I had mine sans lobster.

Frisse with lobster tail at Different Pointe of ViewFrisse at Different Pointe of ViewI loved the crunchy texture, and it paired wonderfully with the J. Hofstätter Pinot Bianco, a crisp white wine. My companion doesn’t normally prefer white over red wine, but he loved the Pinot Bianco.

Pinot BiancoLike Chef Anthony did a wonderful job at explaining the cooking process, winemaker Martin Foradori talked about the winemaking process and reminded diners how important acidity is when pairing wines with food. His vineyard has altitudes up to 6,000 feet, and it was really neat to hear about making wine in Italy while we sipped his vino.

Anthony DeMuro and Martin Foradori at Different Pointe of ViewWhile we noshed on the veggie polenta dish, our companions enjoyed wild boar.

Wild boar Different Pointe of ViewMy favorite dish of the night was the herb risotto with golden beets, artichoke hearts and a broccoli rabe sauce — meat-eaters got short ribs braised in veal stock. It was paired with J. Hofstätter’s Lagrein red wine, which is generally related to a Syrah, compared to the elegant Pinot Noir. Foradori described this wine as fresh and fruity, and it was a great addition to the tasty dish.

Herb rissoto with truffle shavings, golden beets, artichoke hearts and broccoli rabe sauce at Different Pointe of ViewOf course, dessert was a treat, a chocolate cherry balsamic cake with chocolate ganache and a chocolate balsamic sauce. The texture was moist and creamy, and I tried to get every last drop of sauce to cover the cake. I loved the cherry flavor, which related well to the red wines, too.

Different Pointe of View dessertThe dining experience was more than a two-hour feast, and it was so much fun, in addition to making my stomach so happy. The wine dinner is a great value at $99 a person, because you get unique one-on-one time with the chef and so many tasty glasses of wine in addition to the farm-fresh dishes that are incredibly healthy.

Anthony DeMuroThe next dinner is Friday, March 6, with wine’s from Italy’s Tedeschi Wines. Reservations can be made by calling (602) 866-6350, and you can learn all about the gem of a restaurant here.

Brewer’s Bowl in Old Town Scottsdale features all-local beer line-up

Last night, I headed to Bad Water Brewing in Old Town Scottsdale to check out the Brewer’s Bowl, an event featuring 15 Arizona breweries where attendees could taste samples galore in mini-mugs, plus food trucks, corn hole and live music.

Brewers Bowl in Old Town Scottsdale

Tickets were wicked inexpensive, only $25 for 20 tasting tickets (I was full after 10 mini-mugs), and the atmosphere was lively and friendly. The crowd was chatty and loved discussing the beers, and there was such a great variety, everyone could find a new favorite.

I especially liked the light Oak Creek Hefeweizen from Oak Creek Brewing in Sedona (my companion enjoyed the Nimbus Rillito Red Ale from Nimbus Brewing Company), and I really enjoyed the chocolaty Piehole Porter from Historic Brewing Company in Flagstaff. If you ever go up north and love beer, try the Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail — it features Historic Brewing Company and is a lot of fun. I did the tour a few years ago, and you can read about my experience here.

The Brewer’s Bowl was deemed the “first annual” event, and hopefully it will indeed continue in the future. Find out more about organizer Bad Water Brewing here in my blog review, and visit their website here.

Burst of Butterflies art studio in Chandler has all things crafty

I love personalizing functional items by hand-painting them at pottery studios. Burst of Butterflies recently opened in downtown Chandler, and the space is a charming spot featuring affordable pieces you can make your own however you’d like.

Burst of Butterflies in downtown Chandler

I made salt and pepper shakers ($16 for the set), while my companion made a one-of-a-kind mug. You’ll pay a nominal painting fee, but in January, it’s waived.

Burst of Butterflies in downtown Chandler

The atmosphere was relaxed, the staff was friendly and helpful, and we had a great time painting.

Burst of Butterflies also has canvas painting, ceramics, soapmaking, glass fusing, drawing, jewelry, scrapbooking, quilting, needlepoint, crochet, sewing, metalwork and candlemaking offerings. No matter what type of arts and crafts interest you have, there’s something for everyone.

Burst of Butterflies in downtown Chandler

Burst of Butterflies in downtown Chandler

Burst of Butterflies in downtown Chandler

Burst of Butterflies in downtown Chandler

Learn more about the studio here.