Kitchen Doors: Restaurant Road Trip, Valley Views and Bon Appétit
Restaurant Road Trip
A taste of Mexico from a Top Chef at Tucson’s Boca Tacos y Tequila
Chef Maria Mazon did an incredible job representing Arizona’s thriving culinary scene when she appeared on “Top Chef” earlier this year. She stood out for her personality and passion for Mexican cuisine.
Mazon had many restaurant jobs before opening Boca Tacos y Tequila in the heart of Fourth Avenue in Tucson in 2010. “I became a chef by accident, and it was a beautiful accident,” she said. “I was always intrigued by the beauty of cooking and how food brings people together.”
The menu at Boca reflects Mazon’s upbringing in Sonora, Mexico. “The fun part of being a chef is having diners travel through your food,” she said. “My menu showcases what I ate growing up in Mexico. I try to stay true to the cuisine and give it my twist.”
The menu includes unique fresh salsas and a variety of meat, vegetarian and seafood tacos served on homemade tortillas, including steak and beer-battered shrimp, grilled cauliflower and citrus-marinated salmon. Diners can also enjoy ancho butter lime octopus, elote, quesadillas and weekly specials. Mazon grows key limes, cilantro, mint, kale and herbs on the restaurant’s patio, which she incorporates into her dishes.
“Mexican food can be elegant, beautiful and colorful,” Mazon said. “I want to elevate the simplicity of a taco. As a Mexican chef, I have to do it justice.”
In addition to authentic and delicious food, Boca offers a fun and relaxing atmosphere. “I appreciate that people are spending their money at my restaurant and I want to give them the best food and the best experience,” she said.
Mazon has been featured on several television shows, while Boca has been highlighted in publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. In 2020, Mazon was named a semifinalist for Best Chef Southwest by the James Beard Foundation, one of the culinary industry’s most prestigious accolades.
Mazon’s recent experience competing on “Top Chef” had a profound impact on her. “It was an overwhelming and humbling experience that changed my life,” she said. “I learned not to doubt myself. I met beautiful people who are now great friends because we understand each other.”
Mazon is working on her first cookbook and doing culinary events around the country. Wherever she travels, Arizona will always be special to her. “The way the Tucson culinary scene is evolving is amazing, and I’m so proud to be part of it,” she said. “Arizona is where I am a mother, a wife and a chef. Arizona will always have my heart.”
Learn more at bocatacos.com.
Scenery, snacks and sips at Valley rooftop bars
Two of the best things about living in the Valley are the views and the weather. Several rooftop bars allow guests to experience both while enjoying refreshing cocktails and tasty bites.
Flint by Baltaire opened in Phoenix’s Biltmore area in 2019, offering wood-fired American fare with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors in a sophisticated setting. Above the restaurant is a lounge with inventive cocktails and stunning mountain views.
“Upstairs at Flint is an inviting outdoor lounge with a modern speakeasy vibe,” said general manager Tim Hass. “Our downstairs restaurant is more of a mid-century modern designed, upscale dining experience with glass-walled views of our wine room and bustling kitchen. Upstairs is more of a fun, laid-back atmosphere. Guests see it as a relaxing environment where they can unwind from the day.”
In addition to an array of cocktails, guests at Upstairs at Flint can enjoy the restaurant’s full menu, including popular items such as spicy short rib hummus, Spanish octopus with smoky romesco sauce and lamb chops with Lebanese tomato salad and hummus.
Another option for mountain views is Outrider Rooftop Lounge, located on the seventh floor of Canopy by Hilton Scottsdale Old Town, which opened in October 2020.
“Outrider has become a must-visit spot in Scottsdale,” said general manager Devin Mahoney. “There’s truly no better place to watch the sunset than Outrider since it’s backdropped by the iconic Camelback Mountain.”
Outrider’s menu consists of light fare and handcrafted cocktails. The most popular items are poke ceviche and spiced meatballs, while favorite cocktails include seasonal slushies and the gooseberry elixir made with tequila, cilantro and elderflower.
“The atmosphere at Outrider is chic and casual. We pride ourselves in being approachable to everyone,” Mahoney said. “There are firepits and plenty of social spaces to relax and unwind.”
For downtown views, visit Lustre on the third floor of the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix. “Lustre is a social hub designed to elevate any occasion, whether it be a pre- or post-game cocktail or nosh,” said Tim Jesson, the hotel’s director of food and beverage. “This is the place to sip and savor the best of the city with breathtaking views of the surrounding downtown cityscape.” Along with a craft beer and cocktail list and extensive wine choices, the menu offers shareable options such as parmesan pretzels and waffle bites as well as salads, flatbreads and tacos. Popular drinks include the berry mule and margaritas.
You don’t need a passport for authentic French food
From croissants to crème brulee, many venues offer a taste of France in the desert. The Buschtetz family owns Cuisine and Wine Bistro, a fine-dining French restaurant in Chandler. The family also owns B Gastrobar, Copper and Logs and Frenchie Pizza in Gilbert.
Máiréad Buschtetz and her husband Fabrice opened their first restaurant in France in 1988. They lived in France for 25 years before moving their family to Arizona in 2013.
“My husband is an excellent chef with an exquisite palate and there are so many flavors he can bring to the table with his extensive culinary background and the wonderful flavors of the Southwest,” said Buschtetz.
The restaurant’s most popular items include beef and lobster Wellingtons and desserts such as crème brulee.
“You travel from the moment you push open the door,” said Buschtetz. “It gives everyone an opportunity to experience another culture without leaving the Valley.”
Cuisine and Wine Bistro is known for its French wines and was awarded a 2021 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its extensive wine selection. Son Killian serves as the restaurant’s sommelier. “He guides our customers through the complexity of flavors found in wines and how to pair them with his father’s food,” Buschtetz said.
Speaking of parents, restaurateur Laurent Halasz was inspired by meals hosted by his mother and went on to open Francine in 2020, bringing the Mediterranean flavors of the South of France to Scottsdale Fashion Square.
Francine’s menu focuses on fresh seasonal ingredients utilizing local suppliers, including Crow’s Dairy, Steadfast Farm, Abby Lee Farms, Two Wash Ranch, Chula Seafood and Mediterra Bakehouse.
“We are very proud to support local Arizona farms,” said Brian Archibald, executive chef at Francine. “We pride ourselves in using only the highest quality of ingredients and it is an honor to be able to use Arizona produce, cheese and meat to create beautifully crafted Mediterranean dishes.”
For French baked goods, JL Patisserie offers exquisite desserts and pastries at its Scottsdale and Phoenix locations. Owner and pastry chef Jenna Leurquin was born in Barcelona and grew up in Belgium. She studied in Paris and moved to Phoenix in 2016.
“I started selling my products at farmers markets and it grew from there,” she said. “I couldn’t find the croissants and pastries I was craving in the Valley and I figured I could bake them myself. When I started offering them to the Arizona market, I realized there was a high demand.”
JL Patisserie’s bestselling products include croissants, chocolate pistachio cake, macarons and baguettes.
“Customers appreciate the quality of our products,” said Leurquin. “We utilize natural fermentation, which makes our products healthier and more easily digestible. We also pride ourselves in having an incredible team, always going out of their way to make our customers happy.”