Sips & Bites: News you can use from the Phoenix restaurant community

Quick sips & bites of news about what’s going on around the Phoenix restaurant community, breweries and wineries.

Keeler Hospitality Group founder passes away

The Arizona restaurant community lost a good one this week when Paul Keeler sadly past away. He spent his career in the hospitality industry around the country running hotels & restaurants. He & his family owned Liberty Station Tavern in DC Ranch & Terravita, both in north Scottsdale and Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse in Carefree. They also owned to restaurants around the country. My condolences go out his family.

Serrano’s “Pink Out” in memory of Stephanie Serrano is tomorrow

All four locations will remember co-owner Stephanie who passed away from breast cancer 2 years ago this month. A portion of proceeds from sales during the month of October special will be donated to local non-profit Check for a Lump. The October specials are Stephanie’s Stacked Enchiladas, Pink Out Margarita Sampler and Pumpkin Spice Churro Donut.

A few seats still available for Monday’s dinners.

Jewel’s Cafe in Phoenix is hosting San Francisco chefs Frank Gama & Victor Aguilera for cannabis infused dinners. There are two seating’s at 5 & 8 p.m. with details and how to reserve your seats in this post from a couple of weeks ago.

Gilbert Oktoberfest is next Saturday, October 23rd.

Local craft brewers, live music, food and games will be happening at Gilbert Regional Park next Saturday from 2 – 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 and on-sale now with children under 12 free.

Carlson Creek Vineyard releases new wines

Four hearty & bolder red wines are now available for the cooler temperatures. 2018 Rule of Three $33- 45% Malbec, 33% Grenache & 22% Syrah 2018 Malbec $47, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon $45 and 2020 Odyssey $50- a blend of Cabernet & Malbec. All wine make for great holiday gift giving and go well paired with the flavors of holiday meals. Wines can be purchased online or at their Scottsdale, Cottonwood or Willcox tasting rooms.

Don’t forget to check out my podcast Pulling Corks & Forks: The Podcast with Sandy Wasserman to hear from those in our community. Please subscribe, like & comment.

San Francisco chefs coming to Phoenix for cannabis infused dinner

Sous chef Frank Gama was living & working in Phoenix when he was planning a culinary experience like no other. He was then offered a job in San Francisco but didn’t forget about the dinner he wanted to do honoring the Hispanic & Latino community and heritage. He and Sous Chef Victor Aguilera will be coming to Phoenix to collaborate on this 8-course cannabis infused dinners on Sunday October 17th and Monday the 18th at Phoenix’s Jewels’ Cafe.

Both Gama and Aguilera have worked at Michelin star restaurants in San Francisco with Gama working at Atelier Crenn, Sorrel and Cafe Monarch in Scottsdale. Aguilera who’s from Venezuela, opened Arepas en Bici and has been featured in Eater SF, SF Chronicle, Good Morning America and recently won the Chopped 420 Challenge.

The dinners will feature courses spanning the culinary spectrum from molecular gastronomy to traditional French cuisine using locally sourced ingredients and Arizona grown cannabis. The dinner will start with a happy hour with snacks and each course will include drink pairings by bartender Curtis Hayes of The Monarch in Kansas City.

The all inclusive dinner is $200 per person and has two seating’s per night at 5 & 8 p.m.  More information & to purchase your seats visit https://www.bychefaguilera.com/events. Jewel’s Cafe is at 4041 E. Thomas Rd. Phoenix 85018.

 

Good Things Coming edibles from Chef Aaron Chamberlin

Chef Aaron Chamberlin is no stranger to taking quality ingredients and turning them into delicious tasting foods. Having owned several well received restaurants over the years he’s now turning his attention to doing the same in the cannabis industry as CEO of Good Things Coming. The new brand makes edible cannabis foods with locally sourced and fresh ingredients.

“If you’re going to eat a brownie or have a piece of candy, that splurge should taste amazing, it shouldn’t just be a delivery vehicle for cannabis,” said Chef Aaron Chamberlin, CEO of Good Things Coming. “Whether you’re a foodie or not, there’s no reason an edible can’t be an epicurean experience.”

Chamberlin uses unique ingredients to the cannabis industry including Yuzu, Citrus, Lavender Lemon and Mango Chile. His recipes try to include as many organic and all-natural ingredients combining nutrition and taste. He went into the cannabis industry because of its upward growth potential and to challenge his creativity as a chef. The THC used is a lab tested distillate of the plant from Arizona’s Copperstate Farms 40-acre indoor grow house.

Current products from include Lavender Lemon Drops and Fruit Jellies in Mango Chile, Yuzu Citrus, Pomegranate and Very Cherry. His French Chocolate Brownie Bites are made with French Valrhona chocolate and a touch of sea salt. Products are good for medical and recreational cannabis users and offer both a high and low dose THC options. Good Things Coming products can be found at dispensaries throughout Arizona.

For more information about the product line and to see which dispensaries carry their foods visit the website.

Zoom out of 2020 and into 2021 for a return to normal

Who thought that on December 31st 2019 the word “Zoom” would become a household name and conjure up flashback’s to the PBS children’s show from my youth. 2020 has been a crazy year we all want to put behind us, the year started like any other with plans for travel, eat my way food festivals and anticipating new restaurant openings. Two months in things changed and 2020 wasn’t going to be typical year. It got serious for me when around St. Patrick’s when the NBA put the season on hold. Before you knew it lock downs were in place, toilet paper was at the top of every bodies doomsday “must have” list and distilleries were making hand sanitizer.

Zoom to a virtual happy hour then a Teams meeting as businesses learned to pivot their business model on a moment’s notice. April and May were like a hazy version of Groundhog’s Day and I was foodie version of Bill Murray’s character. Eating in parking lots and collecting plastic utensils became the norm, taking out from neighborhood favorites wondering how dine-in restaurants are adapting. Some restaurants took a hiatus to figure it out, others stocked up on to-go containers and others closed all together. Food festivals and small, medium and large gatherings were cancelled on a daily basis as many still are into early 2021.zoom

In mid-May when Governor Ducey lifted restrictions while adding new restrictions for restaurants we wondered if we would dine-in and was it safe even wearing masks and washing our hands. I thought I would still do take-out and eat in parking lots or take food home. On Day 2 of dine-in I found myself sitting at the bar alone at The Stockyard’s Restaurant for a burger. To this day I haven’t been afraid to dine-in early and before restaurants get crowded by 2020 standards. By the time summer rolled around more people were venturing out & about and us foodies started to gather. Not at festivals but cautiously as new restaurants began to open after several delays.

I’m still not sure what my final meal will be for 2020 or my first meal of 2021. Still pondering my future meals I’m looking for what 2021 will bring. Less Zoom meetings for sure, in the food world I’m curious how Arizona’s new legalization of recreational cannabis will open new opportunities for cannabis infused meals, foods and restaurants. What new restaurants will be anticipated and which favorites will close their doors. What will the long term effect will 2020 have on local businesses and society? Many un-answered questions going forward into 2021 but I do know one thing……in order to survive we MUST eat and drink. Cheers and to a better 2021!!!

Cannabis dispensary, The Mint is holding a cannabis infused recipe contest

Arizona largest cannabis dispensary, The Mint is holding a contest to find the best cannabis infused recipe. Through June 30th, Arizona card holders 21 years of age and older are encouraged to submit their creations. The winning recipe will be featured in The Mint’s kitchen to join other menu items for to-go orders. Cannabis infused foods with less sugar help people battling everything from cancer & epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Entrants need to their share recipe, idea or creation along with the proposed name, key ingredients and description. 10 finalists will be judged by a panel of chefs by July 1st and a grand prize winner will be announced on July 10th which is when the industry celebrates cannabis concentrates and extracts. The winner will also have their recipe in a cannabis infused cookbook to be released in August. The winner will receive $2,500 in cash and a $2,500 donation to a food bank in their name. Sales of the cookbook will also be donated to food banks who have been struggling to feed people the last few months.cannabisRecipe submissions are being accepted until 11:59 p.m. June 30th 2020 and can be sent to Recipes@TheMintDispensary.com. The Mint has a dispensary in Mesa and Guadalupe with a third planned to open this year in north Phoenix.

 

Chef Derek Upton goes from drumming to cooking with cannabis

When I caught up with chef Derek Upton for lunch recently I was surprised our paths hadn’t crossed before with our mutual interest in food, cannabis and the local restaurant community. Spending over an hour speaking with him about everything from food, cannabis & CBD, music and cell phones I realized we will be hearing more from him in the future.

Growing up in Fresno, Derek took to drumming at an early age at church. He didn’t think it would take him around the world playing for national acts, into the recording studio or playing his last gig at the American Music Awards. When life on the road began to take its toll he went to pursue a second act as a chef. Growing up in an Italian Portuguese family helping to cook meals at home he knew what he wanted to be back in the kitchen.

He wound up in Phoenix after touring with Scoti Slate and returned after attending The Institute of Technology in Clovis in 2012 and 2013 where he studied culinary arts and the business side of the restaurant industry. Derek made a name for himself in Phoenix working at Evo, Cafe Monarch, Original Gravity, The Windsor, Beckett’s Table and most recently The Breadfruit. He’s been the private chef to celebrities David Spade, Henry Rollins, Michael Rapaport and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

chef Derek Upton
Lamb dish from “Cooked with Cannbis”

Derek Upton cooks with cannabis

Educating himself on the benefits of cannabis and CBD became personal. It’s changed his life and ignited his passion for it as he once weighed over 500 lbs. He’s dropped over 150 lbs. since his journey started and wants to lose 150 more. As cannabis becomes legalized around the country Derek found that cooking with cannabis is what he wanted to do.  Cannabis is more than the psychoactive THC that many associate with the plant and he’s looking to redefine the stereotype. Educating others of its health benefits in cooking and telling his story is how he’s going about it.

Using Instagram and other social media platforms, Derek parlayed his use of cannabis in cooking and being hired for private cannabis dinner parties to opportunities on TV. His recent appearance on Netflix’s “Cooked with Cannabis” was the start of another chapter in his life. Unlike most chefs who aspire of owning their own restaurant Derek wants to continue to cooking for others in a private setting and producing cooking shows and videos. Although cooking with cannabis is his specialty he does cook without it as well. Our lunch fell between conference calls where he’s discussing media and ambassador opportunities for the next phase of his career.

He does a lot behind the scenes connecting cannabis related businesses to one another to help move the cause forward. He’s currently filming his own TV show “Stay Hungry” and is on Instagram and Facebook at Chef Derek Upton.

 

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