Thursday, February 26, 2015

Arizona Wine & Dine Festival

By: The Food Hunter

The 4th Annual Wine & Dine event, hosted by the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, is scheduled to take place on Thursday April 2, from 5:00-8:00pm. Nineteen of the Valley's top resort and hotel restaurants will gather at the hip Scottsdale Quarter for a high-energy, upscale celebration of food and wine.

Boutique wines, provided by Young's Market Company, and craft beers will be paired with each culinary delight to ensure a palate-pleasing experience in a fun, festive atmosphere. Entertainment for the evening will be provided by the Shining Star Band. There will also be silent auction offering amazing deals on vacation getaways and gift certificates from Scottsdale Quarter shops. 

The event is designed to raise awareness of the quality of life benefits that Arizona’s tourism industry provides its residents and a portion of the proceeds benefit the educational efforts of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. Tickets can be purchase online at:

I am giving one lucky winner a chance to win a pair of tickets to this fun filled food event. 

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chianti Beef Stew

By: The Food Hunter

There's something about adding wine to slow cooking meals that is both comforting and sophisticated. Maybe it's the earthy aroma that over takes the house, I don't know, but whatever it is I find I am drawn to cooking with wine.

The next time you are thinking stew I highly encourage you to try this Chianti Beef Stew; unless of course you are a vegetarian. The beef is cooked for hours in an Italian red wine making it extremely tender and the sauce much more flavorful. Although most stews include potatoes, I much prefer substituting them for a crusty piece of bread for swabbing up the juice.

Chianti Beef Stew
(adapted from Food Network)
2 1/2 to 3 pound beef brisket
1 (750 ml) bottle Chianti wine
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-ounce) piece pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 stalk celery, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) green olives, chopped
6 ounces green beans, trimmed
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sage leaves
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1 loaf crusty Italian bread


Place the meat in a plastic zip lock bag. Pour the wine over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the meat over and marinate for another 1 1/2 hours. Remove the meat from the wine and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve the wine.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Season the meat on all sides with salt and pepper. Using tongs, place the meat in the pan and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes each side. Remove the meat and add the remaining oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, olives, green beans, rosemary, and sage. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour the reserved wine, tomatoes, and beef broth into the pan, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the meat to the pan and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Remove the meat, sage and the rosemary sprigs from the stew. Place the meat on a cutting board and cut into quarters. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Add the shredded meat to the stew and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with Italian bread for dipping.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Silere Alpine Merino Lamb...Review & Recipes

By: The Food Hunter

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of wonderful food related products; things I otherwise would not have tried. Most recently I was given a chance to review two different cuts of Silere Alpine Merino Lamb. The kind folks at Marx Foods, who I’ve worked with several times in the past, sent me some Merino loin filets & French racks to try.

Prior to this I had actually never heard of Silere Alpine Merino Lamb, so I did what I do best and researched it. Here’s what I found out:

Merino, a New Zealand breed of lamb are slow growers which makes them naturally leaner. The Silere Alpine Merino are not only free range but also open range, with a diet that consists of alpine herbs and natives tussock grasses. Because of all this the Silere Alpine Merino are highly desirable for their meat.

This past Saturday night hubby and I set out to do some Silere Alpine Merino sampling. We decided to work with the racks first, as I thought these petite chops would make an excellent appetizer. Though they did arrive trimmed and ready to be cooked, we further cleaned and tied them following the instructions in this video.

We seasoned the lamb lightly with salt and pepper and grilled it sauce/rub free, over medium high heat until it reached an internal temperature of 125F. After letting it rest we dug in. The texture of the meat was silky, almost buttery and the taste was very fresh and mild. They were eat of the bone tender and though I served it with an herbed pesto it did not need any sauce.

We used the same cooking method to cook the loin filet but removed it when the internal temperature reached 110F. This cut of meat was also perfectly delicious sauce/spice free. It did however pair nicely with the herb and olive tapenade and some Meyer Lemon & Sweet Pea Orzo Risotto I served.

Compared to conventional lamb the Silere Alpine Merino is very mild tasting, lean and delicious. In my opinion it does not have the bold gaminess you often find with other lamb. And it is definitely a meat that even the most discerning lamb eater would enjoy. I would say it is the "Cadillac"of lamb.

Grilled French Rack with Herb Pesto Dipping Sauce
 French lamb rack, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed & drained
salt to taste
pinch crushed red pepper

Grill rack over medium high heat until internal temperature reaches 125F. Allow to rest before serving. Mix all of the fresh herbs, garlic, capers & olive oil in a food processor until you have a thick paste. Season with salt and crushed red pepper.

Grilled Lamb Loin Filet with Fresh Herb & Olive Tapenade
 Lamb Loin Filet, seasoned with salt & pepper
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. red-wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. chopped pitted green olives
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint leaves

Grill lamb over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 110F. Allow to rest before cutting and serving. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, olives, garlic, cumin, mint and olive oil. Serve alongside lamb.

Orzo Risotto with Meyer Lemon & Spring Peas
(serves 2)
3 cups chicken stock or water
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup of frozen spring peas
1 clove garlic, minced
6 oz orzo
2 tsp. freshly grated Meyer lemon zest, plus 1 tbsp. juice
2 tsp. minced fresh mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Heat oil in pan. Add garlic cook, stirring, until soft, 3 minutes. Add orzo, zest, thyme, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Add water/stock ¼ cup at a time, cooking until each addition is absorbed before adding the next. Cook, stirring often, until orzo is tender, about 30 minutes. Add cream and peas and cook, stirring, until liquid is creamy, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, Parmesan, salt, and pepper; serve with additional Parmesan on the side.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Eating Whole Foods: Vegetable & Bean Soup

By: The Food Hunter

Soup is a favorite dish of mine, specially the one bowl will fill you kind. This Italian Bean Soup fits the bill. It's loaded with good for you vegetables, beans and farro making it a satisfying meal for either lunch or dinner. Though the soup doesn't take long to cook I would recommend making it ahead of time as it gets better the longer it sits.

 ****Enter Below to win a $25 Whole Foods Market Gift Card****

Vegetable & Bean Soup
(printable recipe)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery ribs, sliced
8-10 ounces, chopped baby spinach
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1 cup farro
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 quarts of water
15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pot. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes. Add the spinach, cover and cook about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Arizona Cocktail Week: "Women, The Old Masters of Whiskey"

By: Janice Vega

From February 14th to the 21st, Arizona is playing host to the 4th Annual Arizona Cocktail Week, a seven day celebration of the craft cocktail and fine spirits. Throughout the week, industry experts and mixologist will come through to offer their insights and showcase their skills in a series of educational seminars, parties, tastings and dinners throughout the state of Arizona.

Though the celebration is spread throughout the state, the bulk of the week’s parties and seminars are taking place in the retro and beautifully lush Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. A perfect setting, in my opinion, for sipping a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned pool side under the desert sky. On this past Sunny Sunday, I decided to attend one of the many seminars: “Women, the Old Masters of Whiskey”. As a woman and as a fan of whiskey, I’ll admit, I was intrigued by the name.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect––would I be walking into a boring lecture? I was pleasantly surprised. The seminar was led by acclaimed author of Whiskey Women, Fred Minnick. After a brief description of his book and a history lesson in the role that women have played in the whiskey industry, Minnick led a Q&A with modern-day whiskey women from every corner of the whiskey world (say that fast five times). The brands being represented were Canadian Club, Kilbeggan, Maker’s Mark and Laphroaig. What ensued was an open and honest discussion about what it is like to be a woman in what is commonly thought of as a “man’s world” and lively talk about the craft that is whiskey making and the business behind it.

I was very impressed with the four women on the panel. Their passion for whiskey was contagious and the knowledge they shared with us was fascinating. Who knew the distilling of whiskey could be so intricate and complex and that the term “whiskey” much like the term “beer” is a very broad term.

The Seminar also included a tasting of whiskeys that have been influenced or produced by women. There were four glassed placed in front of everyone filled with different whiskeys. One by one, the women led the audience through a tasting of their corresponding brand.

Now, I have sampled my fair share of whiskey but never have I really known much about what I was drinking. Not until today. I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away. These experts guided the audience through every note, flavor and aroma that we were experiencing as we nosed the glass and then let the sweet alcoholic beverage splash onto our tongue. Through their description of my experience, I was able to draw out specific flavors such as caramel and toffee and pick on certain scents like ocean air and smoke. It was incredible! I actually looked over to my neighbor in awe––these gals were good.

Following the Q&A, the audience stepped out into a tasting panel of sorts. Drinks were being slung and beer was being poured. Vendors were handing out samples of various cocktails and it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Gin and Tonic, these were uniquely crafted cocktails infused with cherry wood smoke or made with rare fresh fruits. I even tried my first Manhattan in the form of a snow cone!

For the curious drinker and even the savvy mixologist, Arizona Cocktail Week offers an abundance of information and a lot of fun. I encourage you to attend the rest of Arizona Cocktail Week’s scheduled events, parties and seminars––you may be surprised by what you will learn or experience.