Magazine article Sunset

Dinner and a Show

Magazine article Sunset

Dinner and a Show

Article excerpt

IT STARTS WITH A ROCKY RIDE.

A mix of friends and strangers is being driven through the desert in white vans, careening over rocks and dry creekbeds, past saguaros and expanses of wildflowers. Once the highway is entirely out of view, the main stage comes into focus-a long table draped in linen and set for a three-course dinner.

This dining oasis is the creation of Matthew Cooley and his fiancée, Olivia Laux, the couple behind Cloth & Flame. After running a balloon-flight company around Phoenix for three years, the two took the adventure to the ground. "It was our way of sharing the things we love most-wild spaces, alfresco dinners, and community," says Cooley. "We get a lot of satisfaction from encouraging people to take the path less traveled."

Ahhh...the path less traveled. In Phoenix, the sixth-largest city in the U.S., you'd think all the food niches would be filled, but beyond the prix fixe menus and gourmet pizzerias, Laux and Cooley saw an opening. Following in the steps of other pop-up dining companies-like Outstanding in the Field, which hosts meals on fields and farms-the couple decided to capitalize on the dramatic scenery and burgeoning culinary scene around them. "Phoenix food culture seems to become more uniquely Phoenix every year," says Cooley, pointing to the recent revival of indigenous foods and locally grown ingredients in the area. …

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