Charcuterie, cheese and wine spread at the Food and Wine Experience

Try our favorite picks at the Wine and Food Experience

Read on to learn the food, drinks and demos to get excited about

The USA Today Wine & Food Experience is making its highly-anticipated return to Phoenix this November. Presented by Talking Stick Resort and located on North Phoenix’s High Street, the open-air culinary showcase is set to highlight a number of the Valley’s top restaurants, spirits brands, celebrity chefs, exhibitors and special guests over the course of its single-day run. 

There is a lot of ground to cover and samples to savor, so we’ve put together a helpful roundup of everything you must eat, drink and do at the event. Here’s your guide to the Wine & Food Experience here in Phoenix.

Sushi, saganaki and upscale cuisine: The can’t-miss restaurants that should be on your radar

Uchi Scottsdale

Fans of Chef Tyson Cole’s acclaimed Austin, Texas Japanese restaurant have something to look forward to this year — Uchi is opening a new outpost in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale. Until the ribbon is cut, satisfy those cravings for unparalleled sushi and sashimi at the USA Today Wine & Food Experience where Uchi will be sampling a selection of their best bites alongside a lineup of top Arizona restaurants exclusively to VIP ticket holders. There’s a lot of good reasons to go VIP. And, this is definitely one of those reasons. 

Cala at Senna House

Send your taste buds on a trip abroad at this year’s Wine & Food Experience, no passport required. From Spain and Italy to Greece and Morocco, Cala is Scottsdale’s premier destination for Mediterranean-inspired, coastal cuisine. Cala’s culinary team is headed by Celebrity Chef Beau MacMillan and Executive Chef Peter McQuaid who have put together incredible feats to eat like the flaming saganaki, an appetizer that’s literally set ablaze at your table, and the lemon ricotta pancakes, a divine brunch dish that’s served with a vanilla chantilly cream. We don’t know if Cala will take a sweet or savory approach at this year’s festival, but whatever this duo brings to the VIP section will certainly be delicious.

Three Thirty Three

The Arizona dining scene is hungry for a new, upscale restaurant. And, eager epicureans are getting exactly that. Set to debut in spring 2024, Three Thirty Three is bringing high-end Asian cuisine to the waterfront district at Tempe Town Lake. While the full menu is still under wraps, sneak peeks include dishes like peking duck with caviar, aged wagyu tomahawk and an assembly of impressive craft cocktails to wash it all down. Three Thirty Three will be serving up a taste of what they’ll be offering when the restaurant debuts next year to VIP fest-goers; think of it as an amuse-bouche leading up to the full restaurant experience.  

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Brews, bubbles and tequila: Take a sip from these three beverage brands 

Huss Brewing Co. 

Husband and wife owned Huss Brewing Co. is best known for their unmistakable cans of Papago Orange Blossom and the German Kolsch Scottsdale Blonde. And for good reason, too. The locally-brewed beers are not just tasty, Scottsdale Blonde is a U.S. Open Beer Championship winner and Orange Blossom is the brewery’s best-selling beer. Whether you’re into IPAs or Amber Ales, you can sip through the entire family of Huss’ craft beers at this year’s Wine & Food Experience. And, you might even discover a new favorite. 

Big Marble Organics 

If there’s one thing you should know about Big Marble, it’s that the Arizona-based beverage brand brings big flavor. From organic ginger beer to proper lemon, Big Marble is set to show off their lineup of bubbly soft drinks and fizzy mixers at this year’s Phoenix Wine & Food Experience, keeping you quenched as you eat your way around the culinary event. 

Rancho La Gloria Premium Tequilas

It’s believed that the very first margarita was mixed at Rosarito Beach, Mexico’s Rancho La Gloria Hotel in 1938. Since that first rim was salted, Rancho La Gloria has taken the name of the iconic hotel and has grown to become the nation’s top-selling ready-to-drink margarita brand. The agave masters from Rancho La Gloria will showcase their award-winning single-estate tequilas, pre-mixed margs, seltzers and wines at this year’s event, much to the delight of tequila drinkers. 

Group of friends socializing with glasses of wine

Must-do demos: Get in on the action with these vendors

Mixology Demonstrations by TalkTales Entertainment

Keeping in the spirit of, well, spirits, the industry experts from TalkTales Entertainment will be hosting mixology demonstrations at this year’s event. Open to VIP ticket holders, the immersive classes will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the world of mixology, minus the boring classroom setting or homework. 

Floral Arranging from Flowers by Laura Dowling 

Florist Laura Dowling’s resume is undeniably impressive. The author and former White House Chief Floral Designer is not only providing her beautiful decorative blooms for the event, she’ll be sharing some of her best floral design secrets, too. Join Laura and your fellow anthophiles for an informative floral arrangement demonstration where you can learn how to make your very own arrangement. Those newly-found skills might just come in clutch during the holiday season. 

Learn more about the USA Today Wine & Food Experience today

Tickets for this year’s USA Today Wine & Food Experience in Phoenix are going fast. Be sure to purchase your General Admission ($60) or VIP Admission ($95) in advance for special early bird pricing. To note, VIP Admission includes early entry, exclusive admission to the VIP lounge, and a souvenir tasting cup. Browse all admission options here

Ready to plan your own experience? See a full list of the participating restaurants, spirits brands, and more right here.

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Cup of hot cocoa surrounded by Dia de los Muertos decorations

Where to find 5 traditional Dia de los Muertos dishes in Phoenix

Have your own feast for the dead in celebration of the holiday

There are three types of death in Mexico: The first is when your heart stops beating. The second is when your body is consigned to the earth. The third, and perhaps most tragic, is the last time someone says your name. 

In Mexican culture, those loved and lost are never forgotten. For more than 3,000 years, beginning with ancient Zapotec, Mayan and Aztec cultures, the country has celebrated Dia de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead. It is believed that during this annual holiday, which takes place Nov. 1-2, the souls of the deceased returned to their families, ensuring that their memories and spirits live on.

“Dia de los Muertos is a time when we remember our ancestors,” says Carmen Guerrero, executive director of Cultural Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes the culture and artists of Latino and indigenous communities in Arizona. For the past 12 years, Cultural Coalition has produced Mikiztli (pronounced meeh-keesh-tleeh), a multi day celebration of the dead that takes place in Steele Indian School Park in Central Phoenix.

The name of the festival, Mikiztli, comes from the Nahuatl, or ancient Aztec, word “mihcailhuitl,” which translates to “the feast of the spirit.” And feasting plays an important role in the holiday.

“During Dia de los Muertos, families go to the cemetery. They clean the graves, they bring flowers, they picnic on top of the graves. It’s like a festival. Mariachis play music. Everybody burns incense and copal, an aromatic resin used by the Mayans and Aztecs. And there’s lots of food,” Guerrera explains.

At home, families build ofrendas, or altars, for their ancestors. Decorated with calacas (skeletons), papel picado (colorful paper flags with intricate perforated designs) and real or paper marigolds, the altars welcome the deceased with their favorite items, including drinks, cigarettes, chocolate and foods.

Snack table adorned with fall and Dia de los Muertos decor

“It all depends on what your ancestor liked to eat,” Guerrera says. “I remember telling my kids that my mother’s favorite food was pineapple. That’s the kind of thing most children don’t know about their grandparents. But in Mexican culture, we are very much aware of that.”

While each family’s meals and altars differ depending on their loved ones’ tastes, a number of dishes are associated with the holiday. We’ve selected five of the most iconic foods for you to serve to your guests — living and dead — during your next Dia de los Muertos gathering.  

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Pan de muerto

Literally translated into “bread of the dead,” this traditional sweet bread is a must-have for any Dia de los Muertos party or altar. Slightly crispy with a doughy center, it traditionally is flavored with anise seeds and orange zest and sprinkled with sugar, although regional variations include sesame seeds, cinnamon and even colored sugar. The round loaf symbolizes the circle of life and is decorated on top with knobby strips of dough that represent a skull, crossbones and tears.

Most Mexican panaderias (bakeries) throughout the Valley offer their own versions of the bread beginning in mid-October. 

Where to find it:

Los Altos Ranch Market
7 locations throughout Phoenix, Mesa and Chandler
cardenasmarkets.com

Antigua Bakery
3605 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
8240 W. Lower Buckeye Rd. #105, Phoenix

Pandería Cristal
6402 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale
623-931-1057

Dish stacked with an assortment of tamales

Tamales

A mainstay of Mexican cuisine, tamales, or tamals, are enjoyed throughout the year, but they’re also a popular Dia de los Muertos food placed on altars and consumed during the long nights of celebration.

Each region of Mexico has a different variation of the simple corn-based dough filled with ingredients and wrapped in corn husks. Whether it’s the green chile pork or chicken served in Mexico City, the bold mole negro filling that’s popular in Oaxaca or the beloved rajas con queso (poblano peppers and cheese) that’s common in the north-central state of Zacatecas, tamales are thought to serve as a host for visiting spirits. As an offering, sweet tamales are for children, while spicy ones are for adult souls.

Where to find them:

The Tamale Store
15842 N Cave Creek Rd, Phoenix
thetamalestore.com

La Purisima Bakery 2
2318 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix
purisimabakery.com

Mole negro

Made from charred chiles — usually chilhuacle negro, guajillo, pasilla or ancho — and chocolate, this deeply flavored black sauce originated in Oaxaca, home of one of the largest and most traditional Dia de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico. Because it is time-consuming to make, mole negro often is reserved for special celebrations, such as weddings and funerals, when it is served over chicken or turkey or in tamales. During the holiday, families share the dish with their living visitors as well as the dead, who are enticed back into the world of the living by the tasty treat.

Where to find it:

Mole
Guelaguetza Productos Oaxaqueños
10171 N. 19th Ave., #4, Phoenix
602-516-6660

Socorro’s
facebook.com/SocorrosMole

Pozole

This savory stew is a Mexican culinary institution. Hominy, a nixtamalized corn, and meat, usually pork or chicken, are seasoned with spices and chiles to create red (rojo), green (verde) and white (blanco) varieties — the colors of the Mexican flag. The popular dish is consumed throughout the year, but in some areas, such as Mexico City, it is a staple of Dia de los Muertos meals. An extra spicy red pozole, flavored with an abundance of red chiles for added heat, is commonly served during the holiday; it is accompanied by tortillas and cold beer.

Where to find it:

Pozoleria Mexican Food
2801 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix
pozoleriamexican.com

Anaya’s Fresh Mexican Restaurant
3 locations in Tempe, Glendale and Casa Grande
Anayasrestaurant.online

Hot chocolate

Mexican cultures have been drinking chocolate for thousands of years. Early Aztecs believed that cocoa helped the dead transition to the other world but also had the power to bring them back to life. Today, the rich drink is the main beverage for both the living and the dead during Dia de los Muertos, and it is the perfect complement to pan de muerto. Typically, Mexican hot chocolate consists of a mixture of chocolate (usually Abuelita or Ibarra brand), milk, brown sugar and chili powder. Some recipes call for cinnamon, while a version with masa harina, a corn dough typically used to make tamales, is known as champurrado.

Where to find it:

Tres Leches Cafe
1714 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix
treslechesaz.com

Los Altos Ranch Market
7 locations throughout Phoenix, Mesa and Chandler
cardenasmarkets.com

Food City
Locations throughout the Valley
myfoodcity.com

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Woman at pumpkin patch in Phoenix, AZ

These 13 events prove Phoenix does fall better than anywhere else

Though we don’t get a traditional autumn season, we make up for it with incredible ways to celebrate the end of summer

Autumn in other parts of the country is a specific shift from summer. As the leaves change color and jackets come out, people mark the season by moving mostly inside, with some exceptions for visiting cider mills and bundling up for hay rides.

Not here in the Valley, however. As temperatures finally simmer down to double digits again, we enjoy a burst of outdoor activities from fairs and festivals to seasonal celebrations.

Although numerous events both large and small happen every weekend, we’ve compiled a “lucky 13” list that’s a greatest hits of things to do in all corners of the metro area based on their fun factor. Get out and enjoy Fall the Phoenix way! 

Schnepf Farms Pumpkin & Chili Party
(Oct. 29)

One of the Valley’s most beloved annual events, the Schnepf Farms Pumpkin & Chili Party, now in its 26th year, includes dozens of carnival rides, bonfires, live entertainment, giant board games, a 4-acre corn maze, 10-acre “celebrity” corn maze, Stuntmaster’s Dog Show, a rock wall, mini golf and much more. (4810 S. Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek; admission $25.95; free parking)

Midway full of people at the Arizona State Fair

Arizona State Fair
(Though Oct. 29)

Everyone will find something to love at the state fair, from livestock to live music. Just a few events on our to-do list include Native Spirit cultural entertainment, cover bands, a hockey circus show, art and photography exhibits, monster trucks, a petting zoo and a concert by the Violent Femmes. That’s not even counting the rides and fried food. (1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix; $15 for ages 8 and up; from $20 with concert admission)

Creepy clowns, gory ghouls and decaying zombies at the Scarizona Scaregrounds

Scarizona Scaregrounds
(Through Oct. 31)

Creepy clowns, gory ghouls and decaying zombies come out of the blood-spattered woodwork at Scarizona Scaregrounds, which draws screams from the most stouthearted. It includes two horrifying haunted attractions for ages 12 and up and a mile-long drive-through light show for all ages. (Thompson Event Center; 1901 N. Alma School Road, Mesa; tickets from $24.95)

The FNKtion: Freak Show
(Oct. 20 – Oct. 21)

Of course, you can get your freak on here—but that’s just the start. This indoor/outdoor micro-festival at Endgame Bar will feature three full production stages with more than 20 DJs, fire and flow performers, burlesque, immersive art installations, live painting, three bars and a costume contest. It’s for 21 and over and runs until 4 a.m. including the wild after-parties. (1233 S. Alma School Road, Mesa, tickets start at $45)

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2nd Annual Chase Field Hispanic Family Fiesta
(Oct. 21)

Experience an evening of Hispanic culture at the ballpark with art, entertainment and food, including authentic Mexican dishes. And wear your dancing shoes: Live music starts at 7 p.m. and headliners this year are Grupo Supremo 602, Freddy Vega Jr. and Enigma Norteño, the latter of which is one of the most popular bands in the Latin music scene with fans worldwide. (401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix; $20)

9th Annual AZ Margarita, Mojito, Craft Beer, & Food Truck Festival
(Oct. 21)

Food and drink festivals are ubiquitous when the weather’s nice here, and this ninth-annual family- and pet-friendly event is one of the best thanks to its idyllic location at Lake Pleasant, its lineup of local favorite food trucks, a stellar selection of vendors and live music. Did we mention unlimited margaritas and mojitos? (8708 W. Harbor Blvd, Peoria; tickets are $5 for under 18; $10 for no tastings; $45 for unlimited drinks)

12th Annual MIKIZTLI Día de los Muertos Festival
(Oct. 29)

Día de los Muertos festivals are prevalent in Arizona, but this one organized by the Cultural Coalition is our pick for its connection to the community. Come to Steele Indian School Park for mariachi music, ballet folklòrico performances, skeleton puppets, arts and crafts activities, food, face painting, art vendors, a community ofrenda (altar) and more. (300 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix; free admission)

Table of food and flowers at MIKIZTLI Día de los Muertos Festival

Arizona Fall Festival
(Nov. 4)

There’s no better way to support local businesses than this annual showcase put on by Local First Arizona. Over 200 vendors will be on hand at Margaret T. Hance Park touting everything from comics to pet food to yoga studios and more. Bring the whole family (even dogs) and stay a while to enjoy live music, games, a silent auction, a “kid zone,” and Arizona-made food and adult beverages. (67 W. Culver St., Phoenix; free admission)

Grand Avenue Festival
(Nov. 4)

Eclectic, creative and vibrant, Historic Grand Avenue takes its always-entertaining First Fridays art scene to a new level with this annual event. Stroll the galleries and boutiques, check out the artisan market, join interactive art experiences, enjoy live music and root for your favorite artist at the “gas tank paint-off.” Don’t miss the after-party at The Egyptian, a mecca of mid century modern motel hipdom with an outdoor bar/entertainment venue. (1301 Grand Ave. No. 2c, Phoenix; free admission)

Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts
(Nov. 10-12)

Arts shows in the Valley are as common as sunflowers at a Van Gogh exhibit, but the twice-yearly Fountain Hills festival is one to pin because of its stunning setting near the city’s famous fountain (the highest in the world at 560 feet) and the quality of the work in all price ranges—it’s almost impossible to leave without at least a print or a pair of earrings. It’s also one of the biggest shows, with more than 500 artists and over 200,000 attendees. (16837 E. Palisades Blvd., Fountain Hills; free admission)

Goodguys 26th Speedway Motors Southwest Nationals
(Nov. 17-19)

When the mercury falls, Mercurys roll out of hibernation. Car shows pop up in parking lots Valley-wide when the heat subsides, but this is the best one to kick off our season because of the quantity and caliber of vehicles competing for awards. About 100,000 people convene at WestWorld of Scottsdale over three days rubbernecking at roughly 3,000 of the finest hot rods, muscle cars, trucks, customs and classics, and it’s a blast to watch them rev and take a spin. (16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale; tickets from $15; $10 for ages 7-12)

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AZ Barrels, Bottles & Brews
(Nov. 18)

Held at Salt River Fields, This is the only sampling event that exclusively features Arizona brands of craft beer, wine, hard seltzer, mead and spirits. Top names like Arizona Wilderness, Dark Sky, Huss, O.H.S.O., Phoenix Beer Co., Simple Machine and many more get the crowd hopped up on local libations, and it’s all to benefit the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. (7555 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale; tickets from $60; $19 for designated drivers)

5th Annual Family Fun Harvest Festival
(Nov. 18)

The Arizona Boardwalk offers an amazing array of family-friendly attractions anytime, but this festival ups the ante with mini pumpkin decorating, bounce houses, slides, face painting, vendors and a DJ. Note: If you register in advance and bring your free ticket, you can enter to win packs of tickets to Butterfly Wonderland, OdySea Aquarium or the UFO Experience; $50 in restaurant gift cards; and other prices. Score! (9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale; free admission)

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