Food Nerd Approved - Discussion

Details and discussion about the FNA program
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Skillet Doux
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In the interest of keeping all discussion in one place, we've locked the informational threads and directed everybody here. Please note that this thread is not for discussion of individual nominees. Your support (or otherwise) for a nominee should be posted in that nominee's FNA thread. Rather, this is where you can ask questions, make suggestions, or otherwise discuss the FNA program itself.
Dominic Armato
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uhockey
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...I feel like I've seen something like this before, GNR. ;-)
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Skillet Doux
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uhockey wrote:...I feel like I've seen something like this before, GNR. ;-)
Completely and unabashedly. A fabulous model (with our own tweaks, of course) that I hope will do the same for Phoenix that it's done for Chicago :-)
Dominic Armato
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uhockey
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I don't disagree - though I'd hope to see a bit more 'mid-range' and higher spots on the list, as well. The LTH list excludes places like Alinea based on its worldwide stature when, in fact, it is a place that is nearly synonymous with the Chicago food scene.
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Skillet Doux
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uhockey wrote:I don't disagree - though I'd hope to see a bit more 'mid-range' and higher spots on the list, as well.
The beauty is that that's up to the community. If the support and posting record are there, so will the midrange and fine dining spots. It's part of the reason we intentionally avoided qualifying the character of Food Nerd Approved... the community will find its own voice.
Dominic Armato
themis
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Well, there looks to be an subequal split between mid-range and ethnic in the early running, at least.

I do kind of get why the best of the best may wind up underrepresented, here. Binkley's doesn't exactly need more press and never has an empty table. Should everyone who comes to Phoenix try to have a meal there? Sure. But the word is out, for them. I can see people leaning more toward nominating the family-owned places that are half-empty on a weekday night.
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BarbaraToombs
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Remembering back to your original "pitch" for this board, Dom, at the Ignite Phoenix Food event last year, what got me so excited was that the emphasis seemed to be to support and promote local, mom-and-pop, independent eateries that aren't always given the attention/recognition they deserve. That could range to anything from the high end (like Binkleys) to the lower end (like Chou's). But, like themis says, those on the upper end of the scale get so MUCH attention, that's why I felt it better to nominate a place like Chou's. I DEARLY love Binkley's, Posh, Beckett's Table, FnB, etc., but as I only get ONE nomination.....! :smile:
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Skillet Doux
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BarbaraToombs wrote:But, like themis says, those on the upper end of the scale get so MUCH attention, that's why I felt it better to nominate a place like Chou's.
Personally, I couldn't agree more. And that's an individual choice that every person posting a nomination will make. But I do believe that a community has to find its own voice, even if we're all evangelists for that which we find most important/exciting/compelling... especially on a board that is anchored in discussion :-)
Dominic Armato
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uhockey
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themis wrote:Well, there looks to be an subequal split between mid-range and ethnic in the early running, at least.

I do kind of get why the best of the best may wind up underrepresented, here. Binkley's doesn't exactly need more press and never has an empty table. Should everyone who comes to Phoenix try to have a meal there? Sure. But the word is out, for them. I can see people leaning more toward nominating the family-owned places that are half-empty on a weekday night.
Went back to Binkley's on 12/30 and you are right, not an empty table, but my goodness was it excellent once again - truly a gem, and having been to pretty much all the 'mg' restaurants in the US it is better than anything in New York or Los Angeles in that category - only topped by perhaps Duffy at Avenues (now Grace,) Schwa, and Alinea in Chicago.

I nominated LGO as I end up there on a semi-weekly basis, but considered Binkley's very strongly before making that call.....it was also very hard for me to pass on Bianco (which shouldn't even need a nomination considering what it means to the local scene.)
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BarbaraToombs
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Just thought I would throw this in here, although it came about as a result of another thread:
Skillet Doux wrote:If Chou's were to close, to me that would be an acute loss that would really upset me. If LGO were to close, there are at least a dozen other places I'm just as happy (often happier) to go to for pizza and sandwiches. For me, that probably best explains the distinction.
Agreed, and I think this is perhaps what I was thinking of in terms of FNAs--is the place being nominated special to the Valley in any? Would it severely impact the food scene if it weren't there? I felt an acute loss when Zaidi's Grill closed, having just discovered it as finally a place I liked that served great Pakistani food like I ate in Kenya & England. I would have nominated that place in a heartbeat.

Just sayin.
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phxmacbear
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oh Zaidi's....can we have one posthumous FNA award for Zaidi's? If only to encourage Mr and Mrs Zaidi to come back in some way?
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Skillet Doux
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phxmacbear wrote:oh Zaidi's....can we have one posthumous FNA award for Zaidi's? If only to encourage Mr and Mrs Zaidi to come back in some way?
Don't think the thought hasn't occurred to me :-(

Given the amount of love this board had for Zaidi's, maybe we should consider some kind of honorary mention or something. But in the meantime, you've got one nomination, phxmacbear... I say use it to help get more of us and hopefully others to another place that's awesome. Sadly, I don't think Zaidi's is coming back. But maybe we can help prevent that from happening to another great place.
Dominic Armato
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I think the FNA nominations thus far are an interesting mix. I do love supporting small, independent places but I don't think it should be wrong to nominate a very popular, well known place. For instance, Davanti Enoteca is a "chain" (kind of) but it shouldn't be wrong to support a local chef, Peter DeRuvo (whose food I've never ate so I'm unbiased), or a restauranteur who through hard work has expanded one excellent restaurant into 2 or 3 excellent restaurants. MyLifeOnVacation were talking about our "special places", aka the restaurants that we just absolutely love and that feel like home. Both places are very popular and have tons of accolades but it shouldn't make them less FNA. Does that make sense??

OTOH, I love that finding this board unexpectedly after my move back from Chicago has exposed me to so many awesome, unknown spots and I hope that through this board these places start to get more attention. I just don't want to fall into the trap of only supporting these tiny hole in the walls because for every Chou's Kitchen there's more well known places, let's use The Tuck Shop, which is popular, more upscale, but still backed by a couple who probably worked their asses off to get where they are and now have opened a second restaurant - Vovomeena. Plus, let's say all the attention we're giving to Chou's Kitchen means it blows up in popularity next year and everyone knows about it - will that make it less Food Nerd Approved? So I guess I'm torn, I want FNA to give attention to the restaurants that aren't getting attention and should be but I also want it to recognize those who have succeeded because despite how popular a place is there is always someone in a city who has never heard of the place.

Anyways, kind of rambling, but wanted to jot down some thoughts. I'm still debating my nomination heavily and have no idea which direction I'll move in...
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Skillet Doux
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PHXeater wrote:I'm still debating my nomination heavily and have no idea which direction I'll move in...
You and a lot of people :-)

Again, this is a large part of the reason that we left the definition very open-ended. What we love and admire can be a lot of things, and there's no reason that what we're all jazzed about now has to be the same kind of thing that we're all going to be jazzed about five or ten years from now (not to get ahead of myself :-)). And if we think it's really important to focus on homegrown places, then our nominations will reflect that.

It's hard to say right now, because I think a lot of people are still mulling it over and kind of watching to see what gets nominated, but I'm EXTREMELY curious to see what this nomination list is going to look like come next Sunday.
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PHXeater wrote:The Tuck Shop, which is popular, more upscale, but still backed by a couple who probably worked their asses off to get where they are and now have opened a second restaurant - Vovomeena.
Do not forget Astor House is also them.
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uhockey
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PHXeater wrote:I think the FNA nominations thus far are an interesting mix. I do love supporting small, independent places but I don't think it should be wrong to nominate a very popular, well known place. For instance, Davanti Enoteca is a "chain" (kind of) but it shouldn't be wrong to support a local chef, Peter DeRuvo (whose food I've never ate so I'm unbiased), or a restauranteur who through hard work has expanded one excellent restaurant into 2 or 3 excellent restaurants. MyLifeOnVacation were talking about our "special places", aka the restaurants that we just absolutely love and that feel like home. Both places are very popular and have tons of accolades but it shouldn't make them less FNA. Does that make sense??

OTOH, I love that finding this board unexpectedly after my move back from Chicago has exposed me to so many awesome, unknown spots and I hope that through this board these places start to get more attention. I just don't want to fall into the trap of only supporting these tiny hole in the walls because for every Chou's Kitchen there's more well known places, let's use The Tuck Shop, which is popular, more upscale, but still backed by a couple who probably worked their asses off to get where they are and now have opened a second restaurant - Vovomeena. Plus, let's say all the attention we're giving to Chou's Kitchen means it blows up in popularity next year and everyone knows about it - will that make it less Food Nerd Approved? So I guess I'm torn, I want FNA to give attention to the restaurants that aren't getting attention and should be but I also want it to recognize those who have succeeded because despite how popular a place is there is always someone in a city who has never heard of the place.

Anyways, kind of rambling, but wanted to jot down some thoughts. I'm still debating my nomination heavily and have no idea which direction I'll move in...
If DeRuvo had more say in the menu I'd be all for Davanti. If their two most 'famous' items weren't cribbed directly from Chicago I'd be all for Davanti. If there was something that felt "PHOENIX!" about it, whether the produce or the meats, I'd be all for Davanti. I love the restaurant, but unlike Tuck Shop/Vovomena/Astor House this is not a local boy making good and opening a few more spots, it is a restauranteur with a HUGE arsenal of spots (Scott Harris) using an excellent local chef to execute his vision - plus a few additions here and there. I tend to agree with Dom - it has potential, but not 'yet.'
themis
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Well, that said, what about La Grande Orange screams "PHOENIX" to you, then-? The fact that it's a neighborhood market does not distinguish it; Liberty Market, Hillside Spot, etc carry actual local grocery items and forego the kitsch and arguably have much better food. Specialty items? Sadly lacking. The fact that they prioritize local product is wonderful, but as slowfoodphoenix.org and localfirstaz.com will tell you there are hundreds of places doing that, now. Better patisseries and coffee roasters all over the Valley. I can think of a pizza place that I prefer to La Grande Orange in five of the seven cities making up the Valley. In fact, there are six pizza places that I like better between my house and La Grande Orange. The last time I wound up there, it was because it was First Friday downtown and parking was even worse there than in Arcadia, if you can believe that.

There is nothing that La Grande Orange has that I cannot get better elsewhere, so if they were to close, I would be momentarily distressed - mostly for nostalgia's sake. But if Peter De Ruvo ever leaves the Valley, I'm going to be wrecked. I don't care who he works for, the food he makes, the passion and talent he brings to the kitchen, his care in technique and sourcing - those things are invaluable here. He elevates the game. La Grande Orange just kinda 'is.' I feel if LGO is a valid nom, than Davanti ought to be, too.
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uhockey
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themis wrote:Well, that said, what about La Grande Orange screams "PHOENIX" to you, then-? The fact that it's a neighborhood market does not distinguish it; Liberty Market, Hillside Spot, etc carry actual local grocery items and forego the kitsch and arguably have much better food. Specialty items? Sadly lacking. The fact that they prioritize local product is wonderful, but as slowfoodphoenix.org and localfirstaz.com will tell you there are hundreds of places doing that, now. Better patisseries and coffee roasters all over the Valley. I can think of a pizza place that I prefer to La Grande Orange in five of the seven cities making up the Valley. In fact, there are six pizza places that I like better between my house and La Grande Orange. The last time I wound up there, it was because it was First Friday downtown and parking was even worse there than in Arcadia, if you can believe that.

There is nothing that La Grande Orange has that I cannot get better elsewhere, so if they were to close, I would be momentarily distressed - mostly for nostalgia's sake. But if Peter De Ruvo ever leaves the Valley, I'm going to be wrecked. I don't care who he works for, the food he makes, the passion and talent he brings to the kitchen, his care in technique and sourcing - those things are invaluable here. He elevates the game. La Grande Orange just kinda 'is.' I feel if LGO is a valid nom, than Davanti ought to be, too.
LGO uses all local produce and meats, that is a start, and I don't care about Liberty Market (etc) because they are not nominated - if someone wanted to nominate them I'd be all for it. Secondly, as you said, their food is "arguably" better and if you can name seven better pizzas I'd be interested - I can name one, though I admit Federal was better than anticipated. Add in the quality of the pastry department, the wine selection, and a coffee bar that I'd say is better than all but Cartel...there isn't another spot in the valley offering that package. Additionally, if we're tossing around "distinguishing factors," take into account that the GM at Davanti is the exact same person as the GM at Mia Francesca...that doesn't exactly scream 'distinguishing' to me.

Your comments about DeRuvo are fine (though, if I recall correctly you haven't even been to Davanti, correct?) but I once again question how much he has to do with the sourcing in this situation. Is his focaccia di recco "better" than the one in Chicago? No. It uses the same ingredients. Additionally, I'd even question whether he 'elevates the game' since Esquire put the SD Davanti on their best of list and the Chicago location often has lines snaking out the door from noon to midnight (with obvious breaks during non-peak hours) while even on New Years Eve the Scottsdale location was ~1/3 full.

All in all I really don't like arguing against Davanti at all - as I've noted before, I've been three times and it is probably my favorite mid-priced restaurant in the Valley - and I think Peter is a really great guy, but if you look at all of the other restaurants nominated this one simply doesn't fit. To me, DeRuvo can be 'FNA,' but Davanti as an entity is just one of a handful of restauranteur 'concept restaurants' in the Valley.
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I never thought I would be on this side of the conversation but I am kinda seeing uhockey's point of view on this and the better he articulates his points the more it makes sense to me. If we are making an endeavor to identify things that are truly ours then we should focus on that. I am not saying we exclude anything, well anything short of a full blown chain like say a Hillstone Grill or some other Milquetoast national establishment, but I get that we should be focused on things that are ours.

Am I personally a fan of LGO, not particularly. Do I feel like it is an asset or at least helped paved the way for stuff that has come about since which we can argue till we are blue in the face are better or not, absolutely. Do I like coffee? Nope sure don't. Do I wish for places with terrible parking to have a special spot reserved for them in Dante's Inferno, I most certainly do. Is any of my last few sentences relevant to to what we are talking about here? Almost certainly possibly, but likely not. Because these decisions are not about me they are about us.

While I am not discouraging our discourse I would like to refocus our discussions back onto what our purpose is with the FNA: "Food Nerd Approved is a way of highlighting the gems of the Phoenix food scene and the people behind them, as well as addressing two of the primary missions of PHXfoodnerds.com: To help deserving restaurants gain wider recognition, and to strengthen the sense of community and exchange of knowledge among those who are passionate about Phoenix's culinary scene."

We are not a walled garden, nor are we making arbitrary lists with no clear understanding of how those lists were assembled or results achieved. We have no set cap that I know of, the only restriction is community feedback and prior board discussion. So let your feedback on each location be known and encourage your friends and especially you lurkers out there to provide their own nominations and feedback on those nominated. I love to argue and bicker and troll as much as anyone but I feel this is starting to be unproductive and is swinging our focus away from the point.

Long rambling miasma of thoughts short: I am agreeing with uhockey? I tried to be amusing to lighten the mood. I reminded you of what we are doing here. And lets get down to business for business is booming. Also lurkers let your voices be heard because now is the perfect time to speak up. /end recap /off soapbox
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uhockey
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I tend to agree, but I enjoy the discourse. Until I made comment about Davanti there was no commentary - just a bunch of 'foodnerds' saying "here here!" and leaving it up to Dominic and the secret society of 5 judges to decide. Even now, the only thread that generated ANY conversation beyond 'omg, those guys source <insert food item such as meat or cheese> so well' has been Davanti (and subsequently LGO which Dominic essentially started in response to my comments on Davanti.)

I created conversation - the point (I thought) of such a forum.