Blue Watermelon Project connects chefs & farmers with students

Many school aged children don’t have the access to quality foods and rely on lunch served at school for free. Unfortunately after expenses there is only $1 left for the meal for each student which usually buys processed foods. Enter the Blue Watermelon Project, a program from Slow Food Phoenix inspired by chef and restaurant owner at FnB, Charleen Badman.

Blue Watermelon Project connects chefs, restaurants, farmers and food advocates with individual schools in an effort to help students re-think their relationship with fresh and whole foods making them a more adventurous eater. Along with parents and the community they offer taste education and interactive programming to help K-12 aged students become better eaters.

Blue Watermelon’s annual fundraiser, Feeding the Future helps bring awareness about school meal programs and Blue Watermelon’s mission. The 2022 event is Saturday January 22nd at The Farm at South Mountain from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Feeding the Future connects students and their Chef Mentors from Phoenix and Tucson to help create healthy school meals with several meal being judged to win prizes and scholarships. The meals meet the National School Lunch Programs nutrition, cost and other requirements.

Tickets for the event are $25-$75 and can be purchased at Eventbrite.

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.

Fall Harvest Dinner at Agritopia with The TLC eXperience

Reserve your seats for a multi-course farm to table dinner under the stars in the orchard on Friday November 5th. Limited seats are available for Chef Tom and his culinary team’s menu with Agritopia grown produce and other locally sourced ingredients. Seats are $150 per person for the 6 p.m. start.

Frog’s Leap wine dinner at Tommy V’s Urban Kitchen

Thursday October 28th the downtown Scottsdale restaurant hosts a 5 course dinner paired with the Napa Valley’s acclaimed wines. Ravioli, risotto, short rib and more for $100++ per person. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. and the menu and pairings can be found here.

Dominick’s Steakhouse to donate sales of dinners on October 25th

This Monday night the Scottsdale restaurant will donate 100% of the proceeds from the sale of 200 dinners to the Make-A-Wish Arizona. Make-A-Wish was founded in Phoenix and grants wishes to seriously ill children. For more information and to make a reservation visit their website.

Free pizza or salad for National First Responders Day

Fired Pie is giving all active duty police officers and firefighters a free meal all day on Thursday October 28th. Show your badge at any location so the locally owned chain can say “Thank you”.

Buzzed Bull Creamery hiring fair in Scottsdale.

Arizona’s first Buzzed Bull is looking to hire enthusiastic team members for their new Scottsdale location on Wednesday October 27th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Must be 19 years old, have reliable transportation, be willing to use a hand help POS system and more. Be prepared to interview on site at 7135. E Camelback Rd.

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.

Maynard J Keenan expands kitchen & hires chef at Scottsdale tasting bar

With the success and popularity of his Merkin Vineyards Osteria and Merkin Pizza Wagon in Cottonwood, owner & winemaker Maynard J Keenan gave the go head to expand his Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale tasting room. Keenan also hired Executive Chef Steve Zimmerman to take the helm of the new Morello Forni Cupola Dome wood-fired oven, imported from Italy and revamp the menu.

“Our dishes feature ingredients grown in our Northern Arizona greenhouses, gardens, and orchards, and we supplement with produce sourced from local Arizona growers,” said Maynard J Keenan. “Merkin Vineyards farm-to-table, vine-to-glass concept is the cornerstone of our success, and it’s a concept we intend to continue developing.”

The award-winning Zimmerman comes to Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale after a career in hotel restaurant management in his home state of Missouri and most recently at Tres Kitchen & Bar ion Tempe. “He’s the perfect culinary artist for our vision,” states Keenan.

The menu at Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale

The new menu includes ingredients from Merkins farm, citrus grove and orchard in the Verde Valley with additional ingredients sourced from local vendors and artisan producers. The new menu changes on a regular basis and includes many seasonal ingredients for its pizzas, pasta, salads and more. The Classic Margarita Pizza, the Calabrian with chorizo, schinken, bacon, calabrian chiles, fig jam and fontina cheese and the Crucifixen, features Merkin farm cruciferous veggies, roasted garlic, Parmesan spread, fresh mozzarella and fontina cheeses are part of the core menu.

Lasagna Cupcakes, gnocchi and Cacio e Pepe shows off Zimmerman’s creativity and attention to detail. Appetizers, charcuterie and few desserts round out the menu which can be paired with any of Merkin Vineyards Four 8 Wineworks and Caduceus wines along with their mead, cider and Puscifer sparkling wine. To see what I’ve tasted on several visits to Merkin Vineyards Old Town check out my Instagram feed.

Merkin Vineyards is located at 7133 E. Stetson Dr. Scottsdale 85251. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information and to see the menu check out  merkinoldtownscottsdale.com.

Hot Dog Days starts Friday September 3rd at Joe’s Farm Grill

Labor Day weekend we un-offically say “good bye” to summer and “hello” to a month long of gourmet hot dogs and sausages at Gilbert’s Joe’s Farm Grill. From September 3rd til October 3rd celebrate the return of Hot Dog Days with six delicious specially created all-beef, natural cased premium hot dogs & sausages from Phoenix’s Schreiner’s Fine Sausages.

Each Hot Dog Days special come with a side of French fries or another side from the menu. Each hot dog is $12 or a combination of 2 for $18 and a special Peach Melba Shake to wash it down is only $5.50.

Hot Dogs Days gourmet dogs

The six hot dogs are….

Cheddar Coney Dog — A grilled hot dog smothered with mild homemade Michigan Coney sauce and yellow mustard then topped by a quarter-pound mountain of finely shredded Tillamook cheddar cheese; served with diced onions on the side.

Danger Dog — A jalapeno-stuffed, bacon-wrapped fried hot dog with atomic horseradish, honey mustard, homemade sweet-hot pepper relish and a heap of finely shredded ghost pepper jack cheese; served with extra relish on the side.

Carolina Blue Dog — A grilled dog topped with a generous portion of Joe’s signature BBQ pulled pork, tangy blue cheese crumbles, and hand-cut sweet coleslaw then drizzled with Joe’s Real BBQ sauce and homemade coleslaw dressing; served with extra Joe’s Real BBQ sauce on the side.

Sonoran Dog — A long-time Joe’s Farm Grill favorite, this (slightly) new and improved recipe features a jalapeno-stuffed, bacon-wrapped fried hot dog with homemade Farm beans, queso de cotija, pico de gallo and finished yellow mustard and a sour cream-mayo drizzle; served with whole fried peppers on the side.

Big Fat Greek Dog — Schreiner’s smoked Greek-seasoned pork sausage topped with cucumber tzatziki sauce, drizzled with yellow mustard, and then piled high with Joe’s Greek fries (featuring garlic sauce, feta, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and fresh herbs); served with extra sauce on the side.

Italian Sausage Dog — A fresh sweet Italian link baked into Joe’s fresh-made focaccia dough with pepperoni, marinara, and creamy brick and pecorino-Romano cheeses, then topped with sautéed onions and peppers; served with side of mild Giardiniera (*This hot dog requires a slow hand but is worth the wait! Please allow for slightly longer service time.).

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.

Vietnamese style coffee available at Pair Cup Works

Good news for coffee lovers, Pair Coffee & Tea inside Cider Corps is offering Vietnamese style coffee through April. The dark and concentrated coffee is typically served hot, Pair’s version can be served iced and vegan. The drink is based on a Vietnamese coffee but uses Pair’s own espresso, condensed coconut milk and oat milk instead of the traditional blend of robusta and chickory. $5.50 gets you a cup that can be made with dairy or vegan milks.

Sphinx Date Co. partners with Rhiba Farms for produce

Old Town Scottsdale’s Sphinx Date Co. is your pick-up spot for fresh non-GMO and pesticide free produce from the San Tan Valley farm. Customers can order a box of produce by the close of business every Monday for pick-up Wednesday – Saturday, no weekly commitment or subscription necessary. Each box feeds about 4 people and is $36 each. To order head to the farm’s website and more info can be found at Sphinx’s website.

DT Mesa Farmer’s Market moves to a new location.

The popular Saturday morning market has moved to the Mesa Arts Center at 1 E. Main St. It goes from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and a list of vendors can be found here.

Jax Vineyards featured at Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse

The Carefree restaurant will be hosting a five -course wine dinner on Wednesday March 24th. Chef Anthony Apolinar will pair his specially created dishes with wine from Napa & Sonoma Valley. Jax Vineyards CEO and President Dan Parrott will be on hand to speak about the wines, winery and more. Seating is limited and is $95++ per person and reservations can be made by calling 602-374-4784.

Good news as Crumbl Cookies opens newest location in Mesa today

Gourmet cookies are now available starting today at 1911 E. Brown in the Mesa Groves neighborhood. Today only get each customer get 1 free cookie at the new location.

 

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.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria launches new Spring menu

The new menu at the 7 Arizona locations celebrates the Garden of Flavors thru June 7th. Seasonal ingredients include artichokes, asparagus, sweet peaches and more. Dishes like the Panzanella Salad, Bacon & Asparagus Pizza go well with new cocktails such as the Kentucky Peach Mule & Peach Bellini. A new cauliflower crust pizza has been added as has desserts Banana Cream Cheese Cake and Caramel Coconut Cheesecake.

Found:RE Hotel celebrates Women in Wine

The downtown Phoenix hotel and signature restaurant Match Market & Bar feature wines made by women all month long in honor of International Women’s Day Monday March 8th. 18 wines from around the world are featured with a portion of sales donated to Hope Women’s Center. Many of the wines feature also donate to women’s causes around the world.

Local First Arizona film series highlights local food economy & community

March 9th is the first of a monthly series of its Good Food Film Series featuring 12 independent short films. Each film discusses the challenges the farm and food community faces over the next year. The first film titled “The State of Arizona Farmland” about the owners of Blue Sky Farms. April 13th will be “Are Edible Landscapes and Trees the answer to Arizona’s Rising Climate Crisis?” and May 11th brings “The Business of Farm to Food Banks“.

A Su Salud virtual kitchen offers healthy Mexican food.

Pita Jungle has jumped into the virtual kitchen game with A Su Salud at its Tempe location. Meaning “to your health” A Su Salud offers Mexican wood fired specialties available for pick-up or delivery from DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grub Hub and Postmates. Bowls, burritos, salads, tacos and fajitas are on the menu along with healthy kid options and Pita Jungle desserts.

All-you-can-eat tacos at Jalapeno Inferno

Every Taco Tuesday customers visiting the Pinnacle Peak, DC Ranch and Park West restaurants can get as many tacos as you can eat for $10.99. The special price is for dine-in only.

 

 

Visit Mesa launches Fresh Foodie Trail Geotour for socially distanced fun

Visit Mesa launched an exciting socially distant way for foodies and families to learn about the East Valley’s agrotourism community. The popular activity, Geocaching is part scavenger hunt part education and the new Fresh Foodie Trail Geotour will take you to 8 local farms, orchards and businesses. At each location geocachers will collect limited edition stickers and find all 10 geocaches for Fresh Foodie Trail Geotour recipes, a Visit Mesa branded wooden spoon and a digital souvenir from www.geocaching.com

Geo Tour stops include Jalapeno Bucks BBQ, Agritopia, Schnepf Farms, Queen Creek Olive Mill and other area farms.

Want to take a few days to enjoy your geotour, consider the Escape to Mesa vacation package before it ends. The promotion is open to Arizona residents who book a 2 night stay at a Mesa hotel. The package includes $150 in incentives and runs through the end of December. Visit http://www.escapetomesa.com/ for more information.

Farm fresh produce available from Castle Hot Springs

The historic Castle Hot Springs is closed until September 3rd 2020 but has plenty of farm fresh produce grown on site. What do they do with it, they box it up and sell it with all proceeds going to St. Vincent de Paul. Resident Agronomist Ian Beger grows over 150 seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs on their one acre farm.

Subscription boxes start at $25/week for the “Just Greens” (1lb. of lettuce greens and one 8oz clamshell of Micro-Greens) package. For $75/week the “Farmers Pick” includes Just Greens + farmers pick of the best root vegetables, culinary herbs, tomatoes, fruit, specialty vegetables and edible flowers. The “Executive” option is $250/ week and consists of includes greens, vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, fruit, edible flowers, coffee beans, preserves, seeds for your garden, recipes for produce, and a bunch of farm-fresh flowers.

Christopher Brugman and Ian Beger

Subscribers will be contacted the week of for payment and can pick up their boxes every Friday at 6926 E. Main Street, Scottsdale, Arizona 85251 or at the resort.

For more information or to order your box head to their website.

2020 Arizona Food & Farm Forum hopes to go off as scheduled

With current events planning a festival or other culinary events is hard not knowing how the coronavirus will affect future events. I’m hoping the 2020 Arizona Food & Farm Forum goes off as planned on April 28th & 29th 2020. The two day conference of farmers, local food advocates and food entrepreneurs will be held at the Corona Ranch & Rodeo Grounds in Laveen.

Organized by Local First Arizona the forum helps build and strengthen relationships aimed at collaborations between the Arizona food and farm industry. Arizona’s farming future will be discussed among the more than 200 food entrepreneurs and advocates.

“Phoenix is committed to achieving a healthy, sustainable, equitable, and thriving food system and has recently completed a 2025 Food Action Plan that includes various strategies and actions that address food insecurity, urban agriculture, land use, job creation, and the contribution of the entire food system to our local economy,” said city of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

She added, “We are excited to host the Arizona Food & Farm Forum in South Phoenix to showcase the rich agricultural history of the area, its assets, and value to the development of a resilient food system for future generations.”

Arizona Food & Farm Forum line-up

The 2020 Arizona Food & Farm Forum will have farm tours, workshops and networking opportunities for all to participate in. Keynote speakers include Nephi Craig, Founder of the Native American Culinary Association, Lilian Hill, Executive Director of the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute and Sara Dolan, Owner of Blue Sky Organic Farms.

“From strategizing local opportunities for farmland conservation to exploring food as medicine, the 2020 agenda is focused on ensuring Arizona can thrive as a delicious and nutritious place to live,” said Kate Radosevic, Local First Arizona Food & Farm Initiatives Manager.

This year’s theme is “Celebrating Heritage and Planning for the Future” with sub-themes….. Planning for the Future is centered around policy and systemic changes, including strategy sessions on Agriculture Workforce Development, Urban Farmland Conservation, and Funding Community Food Systems.

Indigenous Foodways will provide a space for tribal members and allies to explore Decolonization Through Food, learn from the American Indian Farmers’ Panel, and explore Food as Medicine.

Growing a Food Business will offer technical assistance in Building Your Brand; Protecting Yourself & Your Workers in a Hotter, Drier Climate; and Strategies for Diversifying Farm Revenue Streams.

Tickets for the 2020 Arizona Food & Farm Forum are $99 for 2 days & $59 for 1 day. Students, ranchers and young farmers are $40 for 2 days and $20 for 1 day. Local First Arizona members will save 10% when you use the promo code “LOCALFIRST”. For more information and to purchase tickets head to the website.