The Brush Bar in Old Town my new favorite Scottsdale spot

O…M…G. I found my new favorite thing to do in Scottsdale when I’m not eating or drinking yummy food and cocktails – painting at The Brush Bar!

This Old Town Scottsdale painting studio is one of those trendy wine-and-paint places, where an instructor leads attendees through painting an acrylic work of art, as painters may sip vino or their beverage of choice. I went last weekend with my friend Arian who so graciously took me as her guest, and we painted these panda masterpieces.

The Brush Bar painting class in Old Town Scottsdale

The class was about two-and-a-half hours long, and each painter got a canvas and plenty of paint and brushes to work with. A microphoned instructor broke down the painting stroke by stroke, and we were in a family class filled with little kids who were able to deftly recreate the panda because of the excellent instruction.

Painting at The Brush Bar in Old Town Scottsdale

When I walked in and saw what we’d be painting, I had doubts I’d be able to turn out something similar, even though I’ve always loved painting as a hobby. Because the instructor divided the painting into easy-to-replicate shapes, it wasn’t difficult to follow along, and I was thrilled with how my painting turned out.

The instructor played music throughout the class, and it was a lot of fun to paint and chat with my friend in-between the instructions. Even though we were in the family class (only $25 a class, compared to some classes that are $40 each), none of the kids were annoying, since everyone had their own little work station. It was seriously the most fun I’ve had in awhile, and I’d highly recommend a class. Plus, each one includes a complimentary glass of wine — fun!

The Brush Bar offers happy hour classes at a discounted rate, as well as open studio time where you’re free to grab a blank canvas and paint whatever you want. I think it’d be a super-fun date idea, and you can learn more about The Brush Bar here.

‘A Bloody Mary Christmas’ sells out Space 55

The 4-year-old A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 got new life breathed into it, as new actresses took on the roles of the three lifelong friends living in Sun City during the holidays.

A Bloody Mary ChristmasWhile I’ve always loved watching the founding members on stage as Blanche, Bertha and Mabel (Shawna Franks, Jacque Arend and Stacey Reed, who also serve as writers), it was neat to see a new cast interpret the ladies. This year’s trio starred Toni Jourdan, Elizabeth Athetis and Leslie Barton, who played the memorable friends who have no problem swearing up a storm or singing about their affection for alcohol.

A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55Tonight is the last night for the 2013 season of the play written by Denny Guge and directed by Kevin Flanagan, and the show is already sold out. I love seeing so many senior citizens in the audience for a community theater show in downtown Phoenix — next, they should go see some improv at The Torch Theatre.

Following A Bloody Mary Christmas, which hits the stage at 7 p.m., is 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe at 9:30 p.m. This is one of the coolest theater productions ever, where anyone who goes on stage gets seven minutes to do whatever they please — no auditions are required. You never know what you’re going to see, and I highly recommend it. Get tickets here.

‘Night of the Chicken 3′ at Space 55 a fun time for both kids and adults

Night of the Chicken 3 is a great way for kids and adults alike to get in the Halloween spirit. The play at Space 55, modeled after old school radio dramas that have homemade sound effects galore, features an ensemble cast revolving around the character of Andi, a high schooler who is prone to turning into a “werechicken” during times of high stress.

Night of the Chicken 3I’d never seen a play in the “radio drama” style, and it was really fun to watch as each castmate came up to the mic, script in hand, while a sound effects duo used everything from brightly colored fans to signify the werechicken transformation, to homemade grass to ruffle whenever a character was walking through a field. The sound effects were probably my favorite part of the show, with a table of diverse objects that created the perfect sonic backdrop to the spooky, yet totally kid-appropriate, action happening on stage.

Night of the Chicken 3It’s no wonder the first incarnation of the play came back in 2009 — the story is timeless, fun and perfect for getting excited about Halloween. Catch it tonight, Friday, October 18 and tomorrow, Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Space 55 in Phoenix. For more details, go here.

Wine Warehouse of Scottsdale a must-visit for wine lovers

If you’re a wine fan in the mood to try something new but don’t know where to start, head to Wine Warehouse of Scottsdale in north Scottsdale.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleThe store/bar opened this month and features dozens of wines and craft beers for any price range and taste.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleWhat’s coolest about the spot: lounging at the bar is an awesome place where you can sample wine before you throw down to purchase, and the vibe is friendly and relaxing, unlike what you might find if you just go to Trader Joe’s.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleI went there this week with some friends to try some of their selections, a variety of red and white wine, including a carbonated red called Bellina that tasted so awesome, just like cherry Coke, I took a bottle home with me. At $8.99, it was a steal and a must-try!

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleMonday’s through Friday’s, the Warehouse hosts a happy hour, with $9 wine flights, $2 off wines by the glass, and $3 of create-your-own six-packs of beer.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleThe coolest deal, though, is you’re always able to create your own 12-pack of wine bottles for only $60 from what’s available at that price point. Like our hosts pointed out, the case would make a great set of holiday presents, with quality selections at only $5 a pop — what a steal!

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleThe bar is also offering up periodic wine tastings, including one Saturday, September 28, from 5-7 p.m., which will include free cheese plates and wine samples. I had some of the Warehouse’s cheese and fruit when I went, and it was delicious.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleBesides my favorite wine, the Bellafina from Italy, we also tried the Lo Nuevo, a refreshing Spanish white wine; the Viognier, a clean and acidic wine from Northern California; the Drops of Jupiter, a red wine from San Francisco that is actually made by Train guitarist Jimmy Stafford; the robust Mercer Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington; and the smooth Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon from Wente Vineyards.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleI thought they were all great choices to sample, and I liked all of them. I’m usually not a white wine drinker, but I enjoyed the ones I tasted, especially Lo Nuevo from my dad’s home country.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleWine Warehouse has plans to open a patio with TVs, and I think it’d be a fun yet practical place to visit if you want to have a glass of wine and save money by drinking a bottle at home. It’s not as formal as some wine bars, which can be great for happy hour, and the store’s atmosphere, with fun ceiling hangings such as a cupcake, give it a welcoming feel. Check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WineWarehouseofScottsdale.

Phoenix Improv Festival 12 hits Herberger Theater Center in Downtown Phoenix

Phoenix Improv Festival 12 is in full swing, as the 3-day comedy fest kicked off last night at Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. The festival features troupes from around the country, as well as a bevy of local improvisers, and I love it because everything is completely made up and based off audience suggestions.

MuChuChu2Local troupe Apollo 12 kicked things off on a high note, with memorable scenes that included cast members writing wishful letters to God. Apollo 12 is one of the Valley’s longest-running improv troupes, and member Bill Binder is part of the reason longform improv theater The Torch Theater exists in central Phoenix — get to know more about him and the Valley improv scene here, and check out Apollo 12 here.

Next up was Pawn Takes Queen, a three-person troupe with some lady power (which is always nice to see) from Cedar City, Utah. This troupe was the highlight of the night for me. They took the suggestion of “burgers” and weaved a 25-minute scene of three friends whose latest burger business venture is a failure.

Pawn Takes Queen1Their set stood out to me because they created rich characters with really strong relationships. It had the most honesty within the scenes I saw all night, and I loved watching the characters involved. Learn more about the troupe here.

Comrade was up next, from Burbank, Calif. This was my first time seeing these guys, and they were fun to watch. I thought the lady in their group really stood out because she added really funny dialogue and touches to the scenes, and I always love to see strong females on stage.

Comrade improvThe group had one main storyline that went off on several tangents throughout their show, and I thought the format was interesting because of all the callbacks. The group did a good job of bringing back earlier elements into later scenes, which is impressive. Learn more about them here.

Local troupe MuChuChu, whose members both have Arizona roots, was up next. This two-person group created strong characters in a Harold format. Two storylines were introduced, and then characters and themes were brought back throughout the show before everything was tied together. It’s hard enough for a four-person troupe to do a Harold, but this twosome did a stellar job.

MuChuChu improvClosing out the show was HawkinStroth, from Hollywood, Calif. I saw them last year, too, when they used the word “retard” heavily throughout their set, and last night’s show of theirs was a little disappointing because I felt there was a lot of arguing between their characters and not enough accepting of factors that were introduced. One of the main tenets of improv is to agree to whatever is going on in the scene and work with it, not deny it — it was odd to see a veteran duo have so many moments of denial last night.

HawkinStroth improvRegardless, I’m guessing they’ll be back for future PIF’s, so find out more about them here.

The Phoenix Improv Festival continues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Herberger. Sunday, April 21, from 2 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m., there is an all-Arizona showcase, so you can see all the great improv troupes from all over the state who are currently performing. I’ve been a live improv fan for 7 years now, and if you still haven’t checked it out yourself, I suggest you head to the Herberger this weekend pronto. Check out more about my love for improv here, and leave a comment with your favorite improv experience.

Uber drives you around Phoenix in style

If you’ve ever had to wait in a cab line after a night full of dancing in Old Town Scottsdale in your highest of heels, you know how annoying the process can be. One time, I hopped in an unmarked car in the cab line just because I wanted to get the heck out of Old Town — and thankfully, it was indeed a cab, though my hasty decision made by my foot pain probably wasn’t the wisest.

If you’re someone who would rather be fully in control of your ride home, even when you’re not driving, you might want to try out Uber, a private car service that only requires a few taps on your smartphone to get you home safely in no time. The company gave me $100 to try them out, which came in really handily for a friend’s recent birthday.

Uber

Download the Uber app on your smartphone, and you’ll enter in your credit card information during sign-up so you don’t have to worry about getting out cash for each ride. Access the app, and you’ll immediately see where the closest driver is — sometimes, they’re less than 5 minutes away. After you choose your pickup location, you’ll be able to track the driver as they’re making their way toward you. Payment is taken from your account information, so you just need to get in and ride away to your destination.

Currently, Uber’s main areas of service include Old Town Scottsdale, Tempe and downtown Phoenix. Uber has something called “Surge Pricing,” which increases rates during peak times depending on driver availability. If there are more requests than there are drivers, users will be prompted to pay higher rates that they’ll also have the option to accept or deny. On the night I used Uber, I was picked up in Paradise Valley, and I experienced Surge Pricing at a 1.75 higher rate than normal, at around 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. For more info on it, go here.

Also, Uber’s pricing in general is slightly more expensive than a cab ride, with base fares starting at $7, at $3.25 per mile. Something neat about the Uber app is that it allows you to calculate an estimate of your ride, which is helpful. Get all of Uber’s pricing here. 

There were a few things I really liked about my Uber ride. First, the car was just a lot cooler than a cab. There were flashing colored lights that made me feel like I was in a swanky limo, and there were water bottles for all the passengers. The black town car was sleek and cool, a chic ride if you’re planning on a nice date and really want to impress your companion beyond the typical cab.

Also, since Uber tells you the name and phone number of the driver, make of the car and license plate number, you can rest assured you’re getting as safe a ride possible. The star rating by the driver’s name (out of 5 stars) also gives you an idea of what how highly ranked the driver is by previous passengers. It’s neat the drivers are held to high standards.

Uber just added SUV service for all you big car lovers. Use promo code PHXSUV for $5 off your first SUV ride before April 30. For more information on Uber, go here.

Bob Saget at Stand Up Live delights with raunchiness

Ah, you’ve got to love a comic you grow up viewing on a wholesome family show who now spews expletives every other word of his stand-up set. Bob Saget of Full House fame didn’t disappoint during his late show Saturday night at Stand Up Live in Phoenix, as he admitted he tells female fans who watched him growing up to now watch him while they’re going down — think about it.

Bob SagetThis was the second time I’ve seen the classic television star, and I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing the oh-so-charming, still sort of dad-like Saget. Most of his set was improvised and revolved around audience interactions, with Saget teasing several audience members in-between telling tales about John Stamos and his acting gigs since Full House wrapped. The set totally reminded me of the first time I saw him more than 6 years ago at the Tempe Improv, but it was still highly entertaining, especially coming off of his recent roast on Comedy Central.

If you’ve never seen Saget, make it a priority to get a ticket next time he comes to town. His comedy is dirty and raunchy and nothing like the wisdom of his alter ego Danny Tanner — which, in my opinion, is really great. And, like always, expect to pay for a pricey two-drink minimum at Stand Up Live. Our service this time was disappointing, with the second drink coming out mere minutes before the show ended. I’d order both drinks up-front next time to ensure you can drink throughout the show. For more information on Saget, go here, and for more information on Stand Up Live, go here.

Angels Trumpet Ale House in downtown Phoenix great for beer lovers

If you’re a beer lover, you’ll probably love Angels Trumpet Ale House, which has more than 30 beers on tap in downtown Phoenix. The spot also serves up lunch and dinner, with a menu full of sammies, pizzas and hamburgers to be enjoyed in the large communal dining room, at the beer bar or out on the patio.

Angels Trumpet Ale HouseI love that the bar and eatery is right across the street from FilmBar, which makes it an ideal place to grab a bite and drink before a show. When I last went there, I got a Churchill Grilled Cheese Sammy ($8.50), which I got with fries. It wasn’t my favorite grilled cheese (I would leave off the pesto next time), but the portion was so huge I could barely finish half my meal. It was a great value.

Angels Trumpet Ale HouseMy companion got the Tractor pizza ($11), which was one of the most unique pizzas I’ve ever seen — it came with Brussel sprouts, bacon, caramelized onion, and even an egg on top.

Angels Trumpet Ale HouseAs for beers, there are giant chalkboards describing each one, and the servers are really knowledgeable and can help guide you toward a good choice. For more information on Angles Trumpet Ale House, go here.

Speed Phoenix Dating just like your average bar scene–only way more expensive

For anyone who’s ever wondered what it’s like to go to a speed dating event but didn’t have the guts to do it, you’re welcome: I’ve been to one, and I’m warning you that it’s probably not going to be worth your time or money.

the duce speed datingMaybe it’s just the company who put on the event I attended, Speed Phoenix Dating, but I left the event feeling ripped off — and my friend did, as well, which made us both feel like we should have just gone bar-hopping instead. While I’d like to blame my friend’s invitation as the only reason I went to the speed dating event at The Duce (there are ones all over the Valley — I was hoping there’d be more hipster-y guys there than I’d find at Spanish Fly), I actually was just super-curious to try it out to at least be able to share my experience with others, though I doubt I’d ever go to a speed dating event again.

Speed Phoenix Dating claims to be a matchmaking service with a British sensibility, though there were no British organizers at the event. Instead, the night seemed very disorganized. We wandered around the giant venue, past a work party and past a group of swing dancers (there were lots of events going on that night) to where the speed dating was taking place. Women are able to receive “makeovers,” which consists of a makeup application. I didn’t even get anything done because the artist said I didn’t need anything, so if you want a makeover, go to the event with a clean face.

The $50 ticket didn’t include any drinks, just maybe three bites of appetizers each, so we bought drinks before the speed dating began. All the ladies sat at the long tables in The Duce, within inches of each other, and the men rotated through, talking for only 5 minutes with each lady. With all the other commotion that was going on in the room, it was close to impossible to hear what the other person was saying — let alone really focus on them, considering you were elbow-to-elbow with your “competition,” and the other guys you just talked to were also in earshot of your next conversation. It was a really weird venue to have the event, and I didn’t like how loud it all was.

After you talked to each potential suitor (there were maybe 10 guys to the 15 girls at my event, so there was a lot of downtime for the women, too), you marked down notes to save for the end of the night, when you put down whoever you thought might be a match. If he put you down, too, you’d receive each other’s e-mail addresses the next day.

I guess I might recommend speed dating to people who are extremely desperate to find a date and are looking for any avenue possible, but I easily could have had the same loud, 5-minute conversations with the guys in a normal bar. I would say try online dating before you try speed dating. I feel like with the short amount of time you get to talk to someone at a Speed Phoenix Dating event, everything is based on physical chemistry, anyway, so you might just be better off online.

Bully Mammoth brings edgy sketch comedy to the Valley

I have a pretty twisted sense of humor (I’m a huge fan of dead baby jokes!), which is probably why I love Bully Mammoth so much. The local sketch comedy troupe can make the most horrible situations funny, which I think is a great indicator of intelligent comedians — having the ability to make people laugh about anything.

Bully Mammoth

The troupe performs often in the Valley, bringing SNL-style sketches to live audiences. I saw them perform at the Tempe Center for the Arts this past weekend along with the hysterical stand-up comedian opener Joleen Lunzer, and they kept the audience laughing with vignettes on everything from organ donations-gone-wrong to an intervention involving an elephant fetish. The scenes are very well-acted and well-written, and it’s evident the troupe members fully trust and support each other because of the chemistry in the scenes.

After the first sketch-filled half of the show, Bully Mammoth put on a faux fighting show in a WWE style. While I would have just preferred more sketches, it was still fun to watch the crazy characters the guys came up with. Hopefully they’re working on a slew of new sketches for their Thursday, August 2 show at Stand Up Scottsdale. Learn more about the troupe here.