Phoenix foodies have seen many trends over the last few years, whether it’s gourmet pizzas, gourmet tacos, farm-to-table cuisine, and more. Most people are happy to enjoy a sumptuous meal prepared by a talented chef.

But then there are others who want to know more about what they are eating. Where did it come from? How was it prepared? And what was that fabulous wine that was served with it?

One of the hottest trends in the Valley right now are “educational” dinners, meaning, you get a little learning with your nosh. Whether it’s a geographical history of each course served, or a representative direct from the winery talking about the pairings, it’s not all about just the palate anymore.

Walrus & the Pearl

Chef Stephen Jones of Walrus & the Pearl hosts a new monthly Wise Walrus Dinner series, featuring delectable oyster and seafood dishes along with a bit of insight and history of the much-maligned oyster (submitted photo).

Chef Stephen Jones of Walrus & the Pearl hosts a new monthly Wise Walrus Dinner series, featuring delectable oyster and seafood dishes along with a bit of insight and history of the much-maligned oyster (submitted photo).

You can eat, drink, socialize and learn at Walrus & the Pearl’s new monthly Wise Walrus Dinners. The intimate set-up at the oyster bar, located inside the 1930s DeSoto building, 915 N. Central Ave. (at Roosevelt Street), is only available to 11 guests per seating, meaning each and every guest can get up-close-and-personal with Chef Stephen Jones as he prepares his delectable oyster and seafood dishes. Ask him questions, hear his cooking wisdom, and see his techniques, right at the bar.

The dinner themes include: The Oyster and its Habitat, Nov. 11; Eastern Oysters at a Glance, Dec. 10; The Gulf (the Oysters Between), Jan. 13; and West Coast Sexiness (Ain’t no oyster like a west coast oyster) on Feb. 10.

There are two seatings each night at 6 and 8 p.m., with 11 seats available at each seating. An amuse, plus four courses with drink pairings is $45 (per person, including tax and tip). The menu will include oysters (of course) and other extraordinary seafood preparations, some incorporating elements from the oyster’s actual habitat, like the seawater and seaweed it grew in. Not to be overlooked, the drink pairings will mix bubbles, sake and other delights that pair well with seafood.

For reservations, visit

Different Pointe of View

Renowned for offering spectacular views of the city skyline with cuisine to match, Different Pointe of View welcomes the return of its Insider’s View Dinner series featuring top winemakers from across the country for one Phoenix’s most up-close and intimate food and wine experiences.

Offering exclusive dinners limited to just 12 guests, each Insider’s View Dinner begins with an outdoor sunset wine reception hosted by the owner of the featured vineyard. The evening continues in the main dining room overlooking dramatic city and mountain views where Executive Chef Anthony DeMuro prepares a four- to five-course dinner entirely tableside.

The 2015-16 Insider’s View Dinner Series runs through May. Reservations are required and available for $99 per person, inclusive of dinner and wine pairings. Upcoming featured wineries include: Tondi Bolkan, wine maker for Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Nov. 13; January 15; Dave Guffy, wine maker for The Hess Collection, Jan .15; Derek Summers, family co-owner of Summers Estate Wines, Feb. 5; Chuck Carlson, owner Carlson Wines, March 4; Steve Nelson, wine maker for Chalk Hill, April 1; and Dan Parrott, CEO/co-owner of JAX Vineyards, May 13.

To make reservations for an upcoming Insider’s View Dinner, call 602-866-6350.

Musoan Tea House

If you are looking for cultural significance in your libation experience, the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix offers authentic tea ceremonies for the public at its Musoan Tea House.

The Japanese tea ceremony is called Chanoyu, Chado or simply Ocha in Japanese. In the 1500s, Sen-No-Rikyu incorporated the ideas of simplicity into the tea ceremonies and embraced the notion that each meeting should be unique and special.

The traditional ceremony became more than just drinking tea; it is a spiritual experience that embodies harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. The tea ceremony, presented at the garden by Tanko Kai, offers guests a unique opportunity to get an introduction to WabiSabi (a concept that highlights the imperfection of art), which is an important element of this cultural practice.

Reservations are being taken for tea ceremonies set for Nov. 21, Dec. 19, and Jan. 16 at the Japanese Friendship Garden, 1125 N. 3rd Ave. There are nine guests allowed for each ceremony, and space fills up fast. Cost is $30 per person, $25 for seniors age 62 and older. Private tea ceremonies for your group also can be reserved. Call 602-274-8700 or 602-256-3204 or send an e-mail to



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