I have lived in Arizona my whole life. Earlier this year, I graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, part of a long line of Sun Devils in my family. Over the summer, I covered local politics and news in the West Valley, where I grew up, as a fellow. Now, I’m here to stay as your new food and dining reporter, and I couldn’t be happier. I love living here and sharing stories about my hometown.
My favorite thing about Arizona is its diversity. Geographically, you can visit the desert, the mountains and the forest in just a few hours. Each city seems to have its own unique culture, and the people are diverse, too. And that’s reflected in the restaurants.
I’ve always loved going out to eat. As a kid, eating out together at restaurants was a big way my family bonded. We were regulars at all of our favorites and had a weekly tradition of going out to eat after school on Fridays.
That tradition became a bit of a challenge when multiple members of my family were diagnosed with Celiac disease and we had to go gluten-free. It started with my mom when I was 10 years old, then I was diagnosed when I was 15. I’ve followed a strict gluten-free diet ever since. Because of that, I have a unique relationship with food and dining.
Food writing can be a lifesaver
Back then, in 2010, the word “gluten” was a lot less commonly heard. Finding food that my mom could eat was difficult. She upgraded her phone to an iPhone so that she could look up products and restaurants online to see if they were safe.
There wasn’t much information out there, but gluten-free food bloggers became her savior.
That’s why accessible information about food and dining options is so important to me. I know how scary it feels to not know where you can find your next meal when you’re not at home and how important it is to have a reliable source of information. I’ve seen firsthand the power of journalism to help people in their everyday lives.
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Getting to know the Valley through food
When I lived in the dorm at ASU, I couldn’t eat at the campus dining hall, which didn’t offer gluten-free options. Instead, I had to figure out where to find affordable gluten-free meals on my own.
Instead of this being a hardship, I found that I really enjoyed looking up reviews and trying new restaurants with my friends. It was a whole new way to get to know Phoenix and Tempe.
More than just finding a great place to eat gluten-free options, I needed to dig a little deeper to make sure the kitchen was following proper protocol to avoid cross-contamination.
Since then, I’ve become pretty knowledgeable about the Valley food scene from the perspective of a person with dietary restrictions. Many of my gluten-free favorites also serve vegan, vegetarian or other allergy-friendly foods.
As your food and dining reporter, I plan to dig deep into dining coverage of all kinds, from celebrating restaurants that welcome those with dietary restrictions, to reporting on the issues facing restaurant owners in the Valley.
My favorite gluten-free foods are … carbs
You might be wondering what my favorite foods are. Pasta is probably number one, then maybe burgers and then sushi.
For pasta, I frequent Picazzo’s, a local chain of Italian restaurants that makes great pesto ravioli and chicken parmesan. When I need a comfort dish, their mac and cheese has never let me down.
I’m also a sushi lover, so I’ve probably eaten my way through the entire gluten-free menu at Harumi Sushi and Sake in central Phoenix, and more recently, at their second location that opened in Peoria this year.
And, if you ever find yourself in Flagstaff, a stop at Diablo Burger is a must.
I can’t get enough of anything sweet, like cakes, cookies, brownies and milkshakes. My current favorite gluten-free bakery is Spooky’s Swirls in Chandler, which combines two of my favorite things: desserts and Halloween.
As a breakfast enthusiast, I recommend the waffles at Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe.
If you need any recommendations on where to find other good eats in metro Phoenix on a gluten-free diet, keep reading. I’m your person and I’m on the case.
Landing a job where I can help others connect over a meal the way my family always has or help point people in the right direction so they can fall in love with the metro area where I grew up is a huge honor.
For people like my mom, who want to maintain family traditions even when health issues make it hard, I hope that my coverage can help you do that.
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