My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge returns April 13th

Do your friends and family tell you that you make delicious salsa or margaritas? If so then you may want to enter My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge or the Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix-Off. All entrants have until March 20th to to sign up for the April 13th event at Sloan Field in Mesa.

Not only could you win money with the best recipe but you’ll help to raise money for the Arizona Hemophilia Association. This is the 35th annual fundraiser for the organization.

My Nana’s Best Tasting Salsa Challenge

Anybody can win a piece of the $3,500 in prizes awarded to winner, first runner-up, second runner-up and third runner-up by the judges. You also have the chance to win Arizona Diamondbacks tickets. Individuals, non-profits and restaurants/business will compete for the winning salsa in three categories…Hot, Mild and Anything Goes.

Professional and celebrity judges will pick the winners in a double-blind tastings based on color, taste, after taste and more.

My Nana's Best Tasting Salsa Challenge

Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix-Off

At 12:30 bartenders from across the area will shake things up to win the $500 grand prize for best margarita. Audience members can bid on the winning margaritas with proceeds going to the hemophilia association. They will also be able to bid on vacation packages, sports memorabilia and more.

To enter the contest go to https://salsachallenge.com/contestants/

During the 8 hour event their will be live music, a kid’s zone, a 5K run and more festivities.

The festival starts at 10 a.m. at Sloan Park 2330 E. Rio Salaldo Pkwy in Mesa. For more information and to purchase tickets head to their website

 

Sierra Bonita Grill goes back to its roots with new menus

Change is inevitable in restaurants, some changes follow food trends, decor, some are changes in a brand and customer service. Some changes come often with seasonal availability of ingredients. Some changes are years in the making  and that’s the case at Sierra Bonita Grill.

This is the restaurants first major menu change since 2011 and is about getting back to its roots and paying tribute to Sierra Bonita Ranch. The ranch down in Wilcox is Arizona’s oldest continuous family run ranch and where the restaurant got its name.

The popular central Phoenix restaurants menu is influenced by Southwestern and Mexican cuisine but owner Nate Hopper wanted more of a western influence.

Vegetable Noodles and Shrimp. All photos by Debbie Wolvos

“When I first learned about Sierra Bonita Ranch, I knew that I wanted Sierra Bonita Grill to honor our state’s ranching heritage. The updated menu now puts more emphasize on ‘out on the range’ cowboy-style cooking, while still integrating ingredients prominent in Mexican and Native American cuisine. We’re representing the old west, with a modern approach,” said Hopper.

“From the Ranch” at Sierra Bonita Grill

Longtime favorites Buttermilk Chicken, Grilled Fish & Carne Asada Tacos, Smoked Red or Green Chile Pork Roast and the SBG Signature Burger are staying along with others.

Guests will notice separate lunch and dinner menus with lighter options at lunch and heartier dishes at dinner. Included are more salads like the Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with grilled shrimp ($16) and The Bacon Wedge Salad ($16).

Other lighter menu additions include Vegetable and Noodle Shrimp ($28) and Avocado Toast ($10).

Sierra Bonita
Bacon Wedge salad.

The biggest change on the dinner menu is the “From The Ranch” section featuring steaks, chops and chicken. A few include a 14 oz. NY Strip ($38), an 18 oz. split bone-in Ribeye ($42), a 10 oz. bone-in Pork Chop (24) and half roasted chicken ($27). Entrees come served with a choice of side dish and homemade sauce.

Side dishes include a baked potato, seasonal vegetables, green chile mac ‘n’ cheese or green chile scalloped potatoes. Choose a sauce from a selection of horseradish cream, roasted tomatillo, roasted guajillo chile au jus, and chimichurri.

Sierra Bonita Grill is at 6933 N. 7th Street, Phoenix, Ariz., 85014. 602-264-0700 To see their new menus check out their website.

 

Mixologist Kyla Dahl brings new cocktails to Taco Guild

Central Phoenix’s Taco Guild restaurant takes the new year pretty seriously as they’ve introduced new cocktails and food. The new cocktails were crafted by new mixologist Kyla Dahl who comes to Taco Guild after spending the last few years crafting cocktails at Scottsdale’s Liberty Station Smokehouse. It was there she learned to make creative cocktails and make a name for herself in the Phoenix cocktail community.

Chamoyada. All photos courtesy of Claire Natalie at Evolve Marketing

New cocktails

Dahl has shaken things up with 7 new cocktails that pair well with Taco Guild’s Mexican food. All the new cocktails are priced at $12 each. Most of the new drinks use tequila or mezcal with a few of the drinks listed below.

      Chamoyada – Chamuccos blanco tequila, hibiscus, orange, mangonada, Tajin.

      Don Juan – Mexican rum, pepitas, lime, lemon, Curacao, dark rum.

·         Ponche – apple-infused gin, mango, orange piloncillo.

Seasonal Mezcal Mule – Mezcal mixed with seasonal flavor, lime and ginger beer

Taco Guild’s new dishes

The new chef driven dishes are spread throughout the menu from appetizers, tacos and dessert. There are 10 new dishes available for lunch and dinner and include…..

Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta – citrus chile shrimp, guacamole, tomato corn salsa on top of house-made bruschetta. $12

Fundido – Oaxaca and Monterey Jack cheese blend with Serrano pepper, caramelized onion, tequila and mushrooms. Guests can now choose to add-on a variety of proteins

The Conquistador – chef’s choice charcuterie and cheese board served with nuts, jam, mustard and house-made bruschetta. $15

Cartel Coffee Beef Taco – Locally roasted Cartel coffee is used to season the beef before slow roasting it then it is topped with fresh jicama, cilantro and avocado. $4.95

Clandestino Shrimp Taco – Citrus-chile marinated shrimp are grilled then topped with avocado, chimichurri and cabbage slaw. $4.95

Chocolate Torte – A rich and dense chocolate torte with cashews, almonds, walnuts, cacao, coconut and sea salt.

Taco Guild is at 546 E. Osborn Rd. Phoenix 85012.

 

Casa Terra will be Arizona’s first vegan fine dining restaurant

Arizona restaurants don’t lack for diversity with many ethnic and specialty foods and restaurants available. With fine dining restaurants dwindling Casa Terra will bring vegan fine dining to the forefront when it opens in January 2019. Well known vegan chef and author Jason Wyrick opens Arizona’s first vegan fine dining restaurant in downtown Glendale.

Shishito peppers

Wyrick’s menu will be plant-based regionally focused Mexican and Mediterranean fare with a fusion twist. His food preparation will include classic and modern cooking techniques offering flavorful meals appealing to all.

Purple Sweet Potato. All photos courtesy of Ampersand PR

According to Wyrick, “I’ve done a lot in my career as a chef, and the one thing that truly inspires me is exploring vegan cuisine and sharing it with people. For the past decade, I’ve had countless requests to open a restaurant. I’ve realized for a while that despite being one of the largest cities in the country with a burgeoning food scene, Phoenix doesn’t have a plant forward fine dining restaurant, and we need one. Casa Terra had to be the next step in my culinary journey.”

The menu at Casa Terra

Wyrick will serve only dinner with his seasonal menu of small plates, wood fired pizzas and sharable entrees. Because of the wide variety of choices Casa Terra offers Wyrick encourages exploring a variety of dishes. The exhibition kitchen will offer guests a glimpse of the food preparation. A few of the dishes include….

Appetizers

·      Charred Padrón Peppers: Calabrian chile caramel, candied ginger, sesame seeds, and Aleppo chiles.
·      Jicama Crudo: escabeche, avocado puree, orange segments, garlic chips, lemon zest, sea salt, and basil-chile oil.
·      Tapas Tacos: handmade tortillas, pibil mushrooms, shredded smoked seitan, and almond and chile de arbol salsa.

Thin crust wood fired pizza

·      Margherita: marinara, mozzarella, local olive oil, local basil and cracked pepper.
·      Salted Agave and Local Apple: fleur de sel, Aleppo chile, salted ricotta, pomegranate seeds, and herbs.
·      Carnitas with Mojo Pepita Sauce: almond queso fresco ricotta, tequila shallots, and chile threads.

Hearty entrees

·      Smoked Mushroom Cazuela: trumpet and oyster mushrooms in a cazuela, arroz, split peas, apples, garlic chips, cippolini pico and mole amarillo.
·      Saffron Chorizo Risotto: Nicoise olives, stewed peppers, asparagus, gold leaf, yerba buena.
·      Housemade Gnocchi: sweet potato, Merguez sausage, and preserved lemon pesto.

Desserts

·      Coconut Flan with Mezcal-Apricot Preserves: citrus zest, mole negro and candied pine nuts.
·      House Churros: piloncillo cajeta, spicy pecans, and bourbon-vanilla ice cream.
·      Mexican Chocolate Torte: espresso ganache, gold leaf, spiked cream and raspberry coulis.

Jicama Crudo

Fun and creative cocktails will be offered as will a thoughtfully prepared wine list for pairing with your meal.

Casa Terra will be open Sun. – Thurs. from 4-9 p.m. and Fri. & Sat. from 4-11 p.m. and will be at 6835 N. 58th Dr. Glendale 85301. (623)680-7468. For more visit their website.

Macayo’s Recipe Boxes make great stocking stuffers

Earlier in the year Macayo’s Mexican Restaurants made available a limited amount of recipe boxes and they sold out quickly. I’m glad to report the custom-made wood boxes filled with family recipes are available and will again sell out quickly. If you haven’t bought presents for your favorite foodie or home chef these would make a perfect gift.

Friday December 14th at 9:00 a.m. they will go on sale on-line and at their Mesa, Phoenix and Glendale locations. Each Recipe Box includes 72 family recipes including Spinach Con Queso, Green Chile Pork Stew and Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad.

Each Recipe Box is $35 plus tax with a limit to 2 per person. Macayo’s will donate $5 of each sale to Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-Cap).

The three locations where the boxes will be available are…..

Mesa- 1920 S. Dobson Rd. 85202 (480)820-0237

Glendale- 6012 W. Bell Rd. 85308 (602)298-8080

Phoenix- 3815 N. Central Ave. 85012 (602)264-6141

 

Agave del Scottsdale takes over former Butters space

A new upscale Mexican restaurant, Agave del Scottsdale will open in early 2019 at Mercado del Lago Plaza in Scottsdale. The authentic Mexican restaurant takes over the space vacated by Butters Restaurant at Via de Ventura and Hayden Rd.

Because the owners families have roots in Yucatan, Mazalan, Puebla and Veracruz regions of Mexico and the menu will reflect their unique cuisines. The executive chef is moving to Scottsdale from Mexico City to over see the kitchen and culinary team.

Tequila & chaser. All photos courtesy of Agave del Scottsdale and Evolve Public Relations and Marketing

Fresh seafood, made from scratch moles, tacos along with made to order guacamole are a few of the dishes. Bartenders will make hand crafted cocktails and a variety of mezcal and tequila will be noticeable at the bar.

“We are excited to bring Agave del Scottsdale to the community and share what we are passionate about – genuine Mexican food, diverse tequila, refined hospitality and entertainment,” said Hector Soto, general manager of Agave del Scottsdale.

The 4,000 square foot space will be renovated with vibrant colors, white marble and wooden tables. An exhibition kitchen, open air dining room, outdoor patio and indoor & outdoor bar will offer guests privacy or the ability to dine and socialize.

The restaurant will hire 50-80 employees in the weeks ahead and information can be found on their website.

Once opened Agave del Scottsdale will be served lunch and dinner Mon. – Fri from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. On weekends they will open at 7 a.m. and stay open til 10 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively. During the week the restaurant will offer an exciting happy hour.

 

 

La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval emerges with a new look and menu

Plenty of Mexican food can be found around Phoenix but not many fine dining Mexican food options. One of the best is La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess which offers a new look and menu. One of the things that has not changed is the history and heritage of the restaurant.

According to General Manager Jack Miller, “The leadership at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is committed to making sure the heritage and history of this local dining landmark is honored while bringing the design and menu forward. We are determined to make sure La Hacienda continues to be the top ranked Mexican restaurant in Arizona for another generation.”

The new Short Rib Barbacoa. All photos courtesy of The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Authentic dishes at La Hacienda

Influencing the menu comes when chef Richard Sandoval and chef Forest Hamrick visit their families and new restaurants in Mexico. Popular dishes including Lobster Tacos, Filet a la Parilla and table side guacamole returned when La Hacienda re-opened in late September. New dishes include Short Rib Barbacoa and Pescado Zarandeado, a barbecued Sea Bass with charred aioli, heirloom tomato and avocado.

Make sure you try the trio of Sweet Corn Tamales, the sweet spicy mole is “lick the plate” worthy.

Another new attraction are the 21 new specialty cocktails that have been introduced. All use less than four ingredients to highlight a specific flavor. “Smoked Cocktails” highlight the new cocktail menu that use Mezcal to give it the smoky flavor. La Hacienda features over 150 tequilas and a growing selection of Mezcal all picked by Tequila Goddess Katie Schnurr.

Black Currant Margarita

A new look and expansion

The exciting new menu is compliments the new look of La Hacienda created by Judith Testani. Testani is a local designer with her own firm, Testani Design. Testani says “The goal for the re-design of La Hacienda was to align the interior of the restaurant with the sophisticated palette of the chef and menu.”

The Bar at La Hacienda

An expanded lounge and bar allows guests to gather and offer communal dining at high top tables. Tequila bottles are on the new display shelf across from the agave wall crafted by a local artist.

Large light fixtures drop from the ceiling are new as is furniture and accessories from Mexico. Guests will notice light-colored stucco walls, detailed blacked steel and renovated restrooms.

Guest can dine at La Hacienda daily at 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Sun. – Thurs. and 10 p.m. on Fri. & Sat. To view the menu and more information view their website.

 

Much anticipated Ghost Ranch to open August 27th

One of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings of 2018 is happening as August ends when Aaron Chamblerin’s Ghost Ranch opens on the 27th. It’s been a busy year for Chamberlin having opened Taco Chelo in downtown Phoenix and Ghost Ranch’s neighbor Tempe Public Market. He also sold his central Phoenix restaurant St. Francis to focus on opening Ghost Ranch.

All photos courtesy of Ghost Ranch

Eat at Ghost Ranch

The modern Southwestern restaurant located is on the same corner as TPM at the northeast corner of Rural & Warner. The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner on weekdays and brunch and dinner on weekends.

The menu will focus on cuisine from northern Mexico, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico combining the culinary talents of Chamberlin and chefs Rene Andrade  & Roberto Centeno. Both chefs come to Chamberlin Hospitality from other Phoenix area restaurants and will offer dishes from their upbringing in Nogales.

Ghost Ranch
Chile Relleno

“One of my favorite things in the world is the smell of roasting chiles, and it was that smell that made me want to open up a restaurant that embodied the bold flavors of the Southwest,” said Chamberlin. “Rene and Roberto have such a deep understanding of the history, culture and flavors of the region — they are the perfect talents to help make my dream a reality.”

The menu includes red and green chile smothered enchiladas, cowboy steaks, seasonal vegetables from local farmers and grilled trout from the wood smoking grill. Seasonal soups and salads will be on the menu as well.

A beer and wine list has been carefully created as are signature cocktails made with regional ingredients and spirits.

Follow my Instagram @SandyWass as I will be headed to preview Ghost Ranch next week and will be posting from there.

Ghost Ranch is in the Landis Crossing shopping center at 1006 E. Warner Rd Tempe 85254. http://GhostRanchAZ.com.

Chef Michael O’Dowd & Julian Wright to open Las Palmas Cantina in Chandler

Chef Michael O’Dowd is making his way back to the valley’s restaurant scene running the kitchen of restaurateur Julian Wright’s(Pedal Haus Brewery and others) new restaurant Las Palmas Cantina in downtown Chandler. When the restaurant opens in May it will serve coastal cuisine with Yucatan inspiration that Wright found when traveling to Playa del Carmen and Tulum areas of Mexico.

Executive chef Michael O’Dowd

O’Dowd returns to the valley after most recently working in Sedona at L’Auberge de Sedona as executive chef. When in Phoenix O’Dowd scored the coveted AAA Five Diamond  and Forbes Five Star Award  while executive chef at Kai at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of downtown Chandler and to bringing one of my favorite regions of the world to this community,” said Wright. “ I love that Chandler is still very independent. Everyone is still very much your neighbor.”

Las Palmas Cantina menus

O’Dowd’s menu will highlight the “sand to table” concept with seafood from local fish monger Chula Seafood along with “high country” ingredients. Fish available will include Pompano, Triggerfish, Snapper and more for ceviche and other dishes.

Las Palmas Sandia cocktail

Sweet & spice are tastes you’ll find at Las Palmas Cantina with your shared plates and lighter dishes that will include a jerk chicken Shaken Greens and Cochinta Pibil.

“I haven’t really seen anyone in Arizona exploring this type of cuisine or region,” said O’Dowd. “Being able to learn about the culture and history of the Mayans and create a way to pay homage to the past while creating new ideas, dishes and flavors is what I thrive on.”

Just in time for summer, Las Palmas Cantina’s beverage program will offer refreshing tropical specialty cocktails and Mexican inspired craft beers brewed exclusively for Las Palmas. A selection of tequilas, mezcals and agua frescas will be offered and used as ingredients in the cocktail program.

Need a job

The 5,000 square foot restaurant is currently hiring and those interested can apply in person at the restaurant at 95 W. Boston in downtown Chandler on online at their website.

 

 

Mario Lopez welcomes Danny Trejo & Frankie Quinones to Cinco de Mario

Not many people have a festival named after them but actor/TV host Mario Lopez is a modern day personality that has his own Cinco de Mario festival and it comes to Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza on Saturday May 5th. Hopefully there is still room on your party schedule as this is a busy day with both the Kentucky Derby & Cinco de Mayo festivities around town.

Cincio de Mario
Actor & host Mario Lopez

It’s Cinco de Mario that will have bad ass actor turned taco & donut entrepreneur Danny Trejo on stage with Mario along with comedian Frankie Quinones and legendary hip hop group Sugarhill Gang.

Cinco de Mario events

Cinco de Mario
chili peppers

The day long festival starts at 11 a.m. and for the next 7 hours festival attendees can head to the Super Mucho Merchado for gourmet foods and traditional Mexican fare in a farmer’s market setting.

Attendees will be able to sample tacos and more from El Jefe, The Mission, Don Jose Mexican food and other local food producers. Make your way to the craft beer garden and rose wine garden to quench your thirst from all the spicy foods.

Fun will be had when “Saved By The Bell” alum and  festival host Mario judge’s a “Saved by The Bell”  look a like contest and local bands Mariachi Rodriguez and Ritmo Latino perform before we get down with the Sugarhill Gang’s old school performance.

A lounge to watch The Kentucky Derby will be available.

Comedian Frankie Quinones

Getting your tickets

General Admission tickets are $15 online and $20 at the door. Mansion VIP tickets are $100 online in advance and get a plate of food from The Mission, 5 drink tickets, private bar and a lounge area.

Experience it all and a meet & greet with Mario Lopez with VIP Mario Sky Deck for $200 online in advance that gets you food & drink all day from The Mission and high-end lounge furniture to relax in.

Entry to craft beer & rose garden is $20 for 8 tasting tickets.

Kids under 12 are free.  Purchase your tickets here.