Wine Tasting with James Callahan of Rune Wines

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James Callahan & Oren Molovinsky

I always enjoy wine tastings paired with good food. Tonight’s event was at Farmboy in Chandler. It was a reception-style evening that hosted James Callahan of Rune wines and was paired with Hors D’oeuvres from Chef Dennis Bagnasco. I just recently visited Farmboy for the first time for lunch a couple of weeks ago. Rune Wines (Rune means a mark or letter of mysterious or magical significance) was founded by Arizona native James Callahan in 2013 and is located in Sonoita – the heart of southern Arizona wine country. Tonight we got to sample four of his Arizona wines that were paired with samples of locally sourced cheeses, meats, and vegetables. Farmboy is all about using and highlighting local Arizona ingredients and was the perfect place to host this event. Both Oren Molovinsky of Farmboy (who owns Molovin Farm in South Chandler, AZ) and James Callahan of Rune wines were on hand to talk about their lasted endeavors.

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Rune Wines

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Smoked Chicken, Goat Cheese & Grilled Tenderloin

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Smoked Chicken

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Flourless Chocolate Cake & Rune Wild Syrah

Our first wine was the Rune 2015 Viogner paired with goat cheese and a rice cracker. Our second pairing was the Rune 2016 Rosé paired with a smoked chicken breast with arugula and topped with a aioli. Their third pairing was the Rune 2015 Grenache paired with a Mesquite grilled tenderloin with mushrooms. And the final pairing was the Rune 2015 Wild Syrah paired with a flourless chocolate cake topped with a raspberry. I really love the artwork on the wines and the story on the back of the bottles. The food was delicious and paired nicely with the wine samples. My favorite was the Wild Syrah – Rune’s flagship wine. Tonight was an enjoyable evening of meeting new people and supporting local businesses.

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Taco al Carbon

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I love tacos. I especially love Taco Tuesdays! It has become such a big concept and everyone who serves up tacos puts out great deals for this day. Backyard Taco is a popular spot here in the Valley that serves up tacos al carbon. “al carbon” means to cook over charcoal and are very popular in Mexico. I was introduced to this place when I ate here with my foodie group a few years back. Backyard Taco was started by Ruben and Maricela from Mazatlan. Their business was birth from cooking tacos in their backyard for friends and neighbors. So hospitality and making customers feel at home is a big part of their business. They use fresh simple ingredients along with their amazing selection of meats to create the authentic taste of Tacos al Carbon. I love it when you walk into the lobby and get a glimpse (and smell) of the meat grilling on their mesquite grill. I came by for lunch and sampled a few of my favorite tacos – Carne Asada, Pollo and Al Pastor. Of course I grabbed a horchata to wash it all down. They also do quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, gorditas and a crazy potato. My favorite thing about Backyard Taco is the condiment bar which has a variety of salsas, onions, limes and jalapeños for toppings. Lunch was delicious and affordable as always and made for another fun Taco Tuesday.

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Carne Asada, Pollo & Al Pastor Tacos

Backyard Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Farmboy

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Real Food, Real Farms, Real People

This was a nice little find for lunch. Farmboy, Market, Meats, Sandwiches is a fast-casual restaurant and mini marketplace located in a popular spot that was once operated by Paradise Bakery. They specialize in sandwiches that use wood-smoked meats that are nice and tender because of the slow cooking process. In fact, the moment you walk into the restaurant you get a nice BBQ smell that immediately draws you in. All the meats, produce and bread are locally sourced here in Arizona. The restaurant itself isn’t incredibly large but has both indoor and outdoor patio seating. The ambience is casual and the walls are decorated with beautiful photos of various landscapes in Arizona that pay homage to our great state.

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The sandwiches at Farmboy are made from scratch and use only the quality portions of the smoked meats. One thing that is unique is that they are named after different locations in Arizona. Some of the names include the Verde Valley, Lake Powell, Alma School, Coconino and San Tan. If you are a native like myself, you will get a kick out of it. I ordered the Pinetop Beef and Chicken sandwich and thought it was amazing. In addition to the delicious smoked meats, the sandwich is topped with a spicy mayo and honey BBQ sauce that really make a nice blend of flavor. You have a variety of sides to choose from to go with your sandwich. Farmboy also has a small marketplace that you can purchase locally grown fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk (Danzeisen) and meats. They serve breakfast as well in the mornings. If you live in Chandler and are wanting to eat and buy local, this is the place to go. Farmboy is a nice addition to the area.

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Pinetop Beef and Chicken Sandwich

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Farmboy Market, Meats, Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zucchini Pancakes

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Directions

2 medium zucchini, shredded (about 5 cups)

2 tsp sea salt

¼ cup coconut flour

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp black pepper

¼ tsp cayenne pepper, optional

Coconut oil or ghee for cooking

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Instructions

Shred the zucchini using a box grater or a food processor fitted with a shredding blade. Put the shredded zucchini in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and toss well. Walk away for 10 minutes.

Now it’s time to squeeze all the moisture out of the zucchini because nobody likes soggy fritters. Note: If you’re really salt sensitive, you may want to rinse the zucchiniwith water, then squeeze it out. Scoop up a generous handful of the zucchini and squeeze the living daylights out of them into a sink or bowl. You want them dry. Place in a different bowl.

Add the coconut flour, egg and pepper. Stir to combine.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Melt a large spoonful of ghee or coconut oil in the pan. Pack a ¼ cup measuring cup with the zucchini mixture, pressing it down inside the cup. Turn the cup out onto the pan and flatten the zucchini until you get a patty. You can also use a disher or just eyeball it. I fit about 4 or 5 in a large skillet at one time.

Cook each side for 3 to 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Repeat until you‘ve used up all the zucchini mixture. Be sure to add more ghee or coconut oil to the pan each time you start a new batch.

Cool on a cooling rack so they don’t get soggy.

Killer Burger

There is a reason why this place is called Killer Burger – because the burgers are absolutely killer. Their motto is Healing the Hangry. This is their first location outside of the Pacific northwest where they are killing the burger competition. You just have to say Portland, OR and you know that they are going to push the limits in creativity. Every burger is a 1/3 pound 100% beef and includes bacon. The burger that everyone raves about is their peanut butter burger. Bacon, peanut butter, pickle and their delicious smokey house sauce. These guys were making this burger before other restaurants started incorporating it into their menu. You would think the peanut butter would be thick and sticky. But it is actually very smooth and sweet and blends well with the bacon and pickles. It’s a great burger! If you like meat, go for the meathead – a double burger with bacon, cheddar and grilled onions. But my personal favorite is the Jose Mendoza. This is Killer Burger’s first burger. They pile it with bacon, roasted hatch chilies, Monterey jack, grilled onions and house sauce. Do I need to say more? They have quite a few other crazy burger creations that I am looking forward to trying. Each burger comes with fires and they have quite a variety of beers on tap. This isn’t the place to start your vegetarian diet. But if you are in the mood for a mouthwatering burger, check them out.

Killer Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Common Grounds

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While visiting Rim Country, I yelped best coffee in Payson and this little gem popped up. I pass through many times a year and didn’t recognize the name Common Grounds. I figured I give a local place a shot instead of going to the nearby Starbucks in town. It is a fairly new coffeehouse that neighbors nearby Expedition church (who actually started it). Common Grounds seeks to establish meaningful community in the Payson area. The coffeehouse is cozy and very welcoming. The bar is made of a beautiful dark wood and the décor consists of historical photos and a wall with a large painting of the Arizona flag. Outside is a nice shaded patio area with plenty of seating. On the menu, they have a nice selection of coffee, espresso drinks and tea. They also have pastries on hand and free wi-fi. We stopped in for a bit and really enjoyed our time here. The staff was friendly and our drinks were made just right. One of things I like about this place is that they donate their profits to local charities and organizations within the Payson area. They are all about giving back to the local neighborhood and I’m always a huge fan of businesses that invest in their surrounding community. I love that their cups say “neighborhood coffee house” on them. My only gripe was that we came on a Sunday afternoon and parking was very limited because of church going on. But overall this is a really nice addition to the Payson area.

Common Grounds Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Baked Bear Media Night

The ice cream sandwich explosion has taken over Arizona! I actually visited a Baked Bear in Pacific Beach years ago after a long night of partying on the beach (they actually got their start in San Diego). It was my first ice cream cookie experience and I remember telling myself we need one of these in AZ. Now we got them everywhere. This particular location is located in the heart of San Tan Village and should do massive business. It’s Arizona’s third Baked Bear location. The menu is pretty simple – pick your cookies (you can have two different types for your top and bottom), pick your ice cream flavor and a topping or two. They press it all together and you have your ice cream sandwich. They have a nice variety of freshly baked cookies to choose from including brownies. If you really want to be a champ, pick three cookies and make it a triple decker. You can also have your treat in a bowl with a spoon if you don’t want it sandwich style. The staff was great and very helpful in explaining the process. I loved their enthusiasm and energy. I’m excited for this new location and look forward to another visit – especially during our fun hot summers!

The Baked Bear Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato