August Ice Cream Social to benefit ACEL Leaders!

There is nothing more refreshing than delicious, homemade ice cream on a hot night. Come to Practical Art this Friday and refresh yourself with a treat from one of our favorite local spots, Sweet Republic. These ice cream aficionados are sponsoring this month’s Charity Night in support of ACEL (Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders)!

ACEL’s mission is “to be the proving ground for Greater Phoenix Asian American Professionals, forging leaders of tomorrow through professional development, cultural awareness, community service and mentorship.” This is not a simple networking group. ACEL focuses on building and improving communities by mentoring and connecting leaders (young and old) with community organizations and needs. We spoke to member Kim Hamby, who provided the following testimonial:
“The first time I heard about ACEL was from a friend and business associate. He knew I wanted to get more involved in my local community and suggested checking it out.  It sounds corny, but although I had done some volunteering in the past and am a Phoenix Native, ACEL was what made me feel like I was a part of a bigger community.

ACEL’s Mentorship program, Leadership Conference and other events are unique and have positively impacted hundreds of people.  Jason Wong, founder and Board chair has been a great mentor for me and continues to pave the way for future growth. Through ACEL I have learned about opportunities to get involved through Valley Leadership, FBI Citizens Academy and other amazing non-profits. 

I would encourage anyone of any background to get involved with ACEL. If you care about personal and professional development and want to grow within our community by accessing amazing mentors and local leaders, this organization is for you.”


Come by Practical Art this Friday from 7:00-9:00 to learn more about ACEL and eat some sweet treats from Sweet Republic. We can’t wait to see you there!


Friendly Friday Blog: The BEST of the BEST of AZ, by YOU!

We love Phoenix.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that some friends of mine are moving out of town and that I was attempting to entice them to stay put with all of the reasons there are to love it here. I put out the call for more input on Practical Art’s Facebook page, and you responded with resounding and genuine enthusiasm about why you love Arizona!

Many, many of you locavores expressed an interest in seeing this list in its entirety on our blog or on our website so that you could regularly reference all of the fab recommendations. And, without further ado, the BEST of the BEST of AZ, by YOU, the residents!  (We’ll eventually post this blog on our web site with some picks of our own, but for now, this is all you Phoenix! Feel free to leave further suggestions in the comment section! The page on the website will be more ‘list’ format…. this is more ‘Kara’s Long-Winded Story Format’.)

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We’ll start with what was obviously one of the more engaging topics, and let me just start by saying, man, Phoenix, you like to stuff your face. (Don’t worry, I’m right there with you.) Troy Harris suggests that, “Phoenix has a sneaky good food scene,”  and goes on to list some of his favorites, including, “The three amazing pizza places–Cibo, Pizzeria Bianco, and Parlor, Los Dos Molinos, Tuck Shop/Vovomeena/Astor House, Coronado Cafe, Gallo Blanco, and anywhere that serves MJ bread.”

Folks were definitely behind Troy regarding the pizza offerings of our Metro area. Pizzeria Bianco cropped up in the thread quite a few times, and other recommendations included Pino’s Pizza in Phoenix, Pizza Re in Scottsdale, Piazza Al Forn0 in Glendale, and Oliveo Pizza in Tempe.

–Regional Flavor?
Another recurring theme. The very flavors that make our regional cuisine extraordinary– all the peppers, herbs, and traditional recipes from the Southwest, Mexico, and Latin America. Towards convincing my amigos to stay, Erica Blaire Pederson says, “The insane amount of glorious Mexican food should be enough! La Condesa, Barrio Queen, Barrio Cafe, Original Burrito Co, Someburros, Gallo Blanco, all sorts of styles and types, yum! And with Mexican food comes margaritas, naturally!” Also mentioned were: La Parilla Suiza in Phoenix, Frank & Lupe’s in Scottsdale, and Restaurant Mexico and Mucho Gusto in Tempe. (Make sure you’ve noted Los Dos, mentioned above, in this list as well!)

–Food Trucks?
And how remiss would we be if we didn’t mention another regional phenomenon: Food Trucks! Short Leash Hot Dogs was mentioned specifically, but Kristin McKinnon Swanson and others are thrilled with the wide swath of offerings on wheels and the round-ups that occur for Food Truck Friday at the Downtown Farmer’s Market, the Truck Stop event on Fridays and Saturdays in the heart of RoRo, and Scottsdale’s Food Truck Caravan on Saturday nights.

Still not satiated? Well, it seems there were a lot of people on our Facebook wall making themselves hungry, so here’s a quick list of other greater-metro-area suggestions by your neighbors:

–Coffee? GIANT Coffee, Lux Coffee, Greater Than Coffee

–Italian? Il Posto, Timo, Crudo, Postino

–Euro-Style? Touch of European Cafe, Beaver Choice

–Vietnamese? Rice Paper, Pho Nhat

–Japanese? Moira

–Thai? Thai Basil, Siam Thai Cuisine

–Asian? Zang’s

–Middle Eastern: The Phoenicia

–Indian? Delhi Palace

–Irish? Casey Moore’s

–Greek? Golden Greek, Oliveo Grill

–Ethiopian? Gojo

–Jamaican? The Breadfruit

–Healthy/Veggie? True Food, Green, The Farmer’s Markets & CSAs, Fresh Mint, Juice Core

–Steakhouse? Feeney’s (their beef wellington comes highly recommended), Durant’s, and The Stockyards with the note, “Only the bar! Best place for an afternoon drunk affair, and chock full of Arizona history!” from Arica Eshelman.

–‘Merican? Kitchen 56, Blue Hound, The Yard, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, O.H.S.O. Eatery, La Grande Orange, Welcome Diner, Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe, Texaz Grill

–Dessert? Sweet Republic

Carole Bachert Glenn also noted that here in the ‘off-season’ a.k.a. Melt yer Face season, she loves that we all can get seated at the best restaurants– no wait list!


So, what mates better with dining than shopping? Eating = Exercise. Dining = Shopping. See the difference? Good. Well, when I originally tossed up the question about your favorite Phoenix Metro locales, Aanya Bananya didn’t miss a beat with “Practical Art!” And we certainly blushed when nine other people immediately concurred! Aw, shucks, you guys. Your other Cenpho favorites? The Grand Avenue Arts District, First Friday, the whole Central Corridor, Union at the Biltmore, GrowOp, Lawn Gnome Books, and EyeLounge Gallery. Also, there was a preemptive vote for Changing Hands Uptown!

Other entertainment to round out an evening? Nikki Armstrong says, “The Crescent Ballroom has exponentially improved opportunities to see a ton of great bands.” Sean D. Sweat and Julie Baier felt similarly, and Julie also threw FilmBar into the mix.


Maybe the funds are tight and you’re more in sight-seeing mode? People chimed in touting many of our esteemed cultural institutions; here’s a quick list:

Phoenix Art Museum
The Japanese Friendship Garden
The Musical Instrument Museum
Burton Barr Central Library
Civic Space Park
Phoenix Zoo
Desert Botanical Gardens
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West
Boyce Thompson Arboretum


Some towns that are worth a saunter-’round for some sights and sites:
Old Cottonwood
Old Town Glendale (antiques & indie restaurants!)
Sedona (for star-gazing!)
Tucson (for the Kartchner Caverns!)
…and we’re only an hour flight from the coast, to Vegas, to Puerto Penasco!


There was a huge number of contributors to our list who credited the natural lay of the land as the reason they stay ‘Zonies. Leslie Locklear says, “There’s lots of nearby hiking. You can easily hike a couple of times a week during all of our cooler months and never repeat a hike.”  There’s Dreamy Draw, North Mountain, South Mountain; great camping in the pines a mere two hours away; and the lakes! The lakes!  “Bartlett Lake has amazing scenery, nice cool water and if you like fishing, there is that too! Lake Pleasant is also nice but the scenery isn’t as nice,” according to Sue Patterson.

And then, of course, there’s The Weather.  It brings us the brief intensity of a good monsoon and allows us to grow gardens and bicycle all year round. There’s no shoveling snow ever. No mosquitos.  This is a short section, but given its importance, I’ve made the whole thing bold. 

Lastly, and this is something that always ‘gets me’…. it’s the people. So many folks felt it was the people. I feel that it’s the people. It IS the people. If you don’t feel like you have found some sort of non-blood-related family here, consider opening your arms just a little wider.

Probably the best thing, is that it’s a big city that still feels like a small town.” – Troy Harris

“More than anything, what I LOVE about Phoenix is that you can be anything, any body here, the sky is the limit. And too, I really do LOVE the weather here, even Summer, when everyone is else complaining that it’s too hot, I’m out getting warmed up because indoors are overly A/C’d. Oh, and the people. I kinda like the people here too.” – Cat Slye

“Introduce [folks] to the people behind the cool stuff Phoenix has to offer. It’s more about the community than it is about the trappings, and our community is becoming more connected and active, particularly with the efforts of groups like Local First that provide greater exposure to local small biz and cultural resources.” – Patrick Brennan

“It’s a real community. People who support each other.” – Laura Dragon

“It’s the people and experiences. I love north central and call it my home…it just keeps getting better!” – Trisha Staudt Bigler

“Emmett and I had been planning on moving to CA this year, but I finally realized that I love this city, and the strange romantic magic of the desert. We are happy here, and there are so many things to discover and take part in in this ever changing city.” – Kristin Bauer

You guys. Man, we love you guys. Let’s go do some of these things this weekend.