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Amuse-Bouches

Written by Craig Outhier, Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: April 2017
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Pav on Juice: Wine College
A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic.

It wasn’t long ago, that if you had an interest in winemaking and wanted to get a degree, you had to cross state lines to attend classes at U.C. Davis or Napa Community College. No longer. In 2012, Yavapai College launched an Associate of Arts Degree in Viticulture and Enology at The Southwest Wine Center (SWC) on its Verde Valley campus. Tuition is about $6,000.

The SWC has a vineyard on site and a full-scale winery, and is a powerful statement by the college of its commitment to the Arizona wine industry. I had the opportunity to try some of the school’s wines. Here are a couple that caught my attention.

• 2015 SWC “Buhl Memorial Vineyard” Chardonnay ($20)
The grapes for this wine were donated by local winemaker Maynard James Keenan. It’s a lighter expression of Chardonnay, with little of the round, malolactic lushness some people like in the style. In the nose, you can pick up aromas of green apple and lemon. This wine was fermented in concrete and stainless steel tanks – as opposed to oak barrels – so it’s zippy!

• 2015 SWC “Rolling View Vineyard” Petite Sirah ($25)
Petite Sirah is normally known for its generosity of brambly flavors of dark berries and their inky concentration. This one is more ethereal: The students used neutral oak, making it slightly tannic, but on the softer side. This wine is also herbaceous and peppery. I would suggest decanting it so it can relax and open up.

SWC Tasting Room
601 Black Hills Dr., Clarkdale, 928-634-6566, southwestwinecenter.org

 

First Bite: New Diamondbacks Grub

Embracing the national trend of upscale ballpark fare, Chase Field has become one of the Valley’s most dynamic food labs. No joke. Executive Chef Stephen Tilder says he develops “25 to 30 new items” each season across the park’s many food carts and culinary kiosks, and we’re not talking peanuts and Cracker Jack. It’s legit gastropub fare – as good or better than any Valley sports bar.
Tilder gave us lucky little monkeys a sneak peek of his 2017 menu at a private tasting session at the park.

Funnel Cake Chicken Sandwich: Tilder serves this charming abomination with local black pepper cheddar from Arizona Farms and a side of housemade Granny Smith apple-strawberry relish. “It’s a Monte Cristo on steroids,” the chef proclaims. Surprisingly stable in-hand, it’s a sweet-savory brunch-style pleaser ideal for day games. Find it: Taste of Chase
 

 

Sonoran Vegan Burger: Hit with soy chorizo and a swipe of chipotle vegenaise, this Sloppy Joe-esque vegan burger is a better bet to connect with meat-averse fans than last year’s fake-fish bánh mì offering. Spicy and succulent, it doesn’t taste remotely healthy. And that’s a compliment. Find it: Red Hot at Section 139
 

 

Pretzel baguette: “I wanted to bacon-wrap something,” Tilder says. That “something” turned out to be a rye-kissed foot-long pretzel baguette stuffed with black forest ham and Swiss. He briefly griddles the tubular, bacon-wrapped sandwich, then finishes it in the oven. Competitively priced at $16, it’s a protein bonanza that easily feeds two people. Our favorite! Find it: Taste of Chase
 

 

Chicken Enchilada Dog: Phoenix-based Schreiner’s Fine Sausage supplies the chile-cumin chicken frank for this 18-inch conversation piece, which Tilder mischievously dresses with enchilada sauce, black olives, pico and tortilla strips. Try to eat it alone and post the video on YouTube. We’ll laugh. Find it: Big Dawgs
 

 

Milkshakes: Tilder starts with one of three flavored milks from Phoenix-based Danzeisen Dairy – chocolate, orange and root beer – adds ice cream, blends and that’s it. Old-school, whole-milk taste with a satisfying blast of sweetness. Find it: Sizzle & Cheese, a classic burger stand concept
 

 

Unnamed Churro Dog Upgrade: A Bizarro World version of the park’s beloved churro dog, with a chocolate churro, white icing-topped Long John and Oreo crumbs. Tilder is taking name suggestions. Maybe “Churro Dog: Type 2”? Find it: stadium-wide
Peruse the menu at diamondbacks.mlb.com
 

 

 

 

Dish/Off: Dueling guinea Hens

Chefs love the juicy, clean, duck-like flesh of guinea hens. Two local dishes using the diminutive fowl caught our eye.

Blackened Guinea Hen at Nobuo at the Teeter House vs. Roasted Guinea with Green Mole at Wright’s at the Biltmore Chef Nobuo Fukuda roasts a whole hen with a subtle glaze that tastes of five spice and citrus. Though not on the menu, Nobuo offers it as a cameo in his omakase tasting experience.

Chef de Cuisine Brian Peterson serves the hen roulade-style – bundled around chorizo, and served over strips of blue corn bread, with a creamy shock of nutty green mole.

The Verdict: Honestly, we thought this would be a shoo-in for Nobuo’s hen, one of the cleanest expressions of the crispy-tender ideal we’ve ever tasted. But Peterson’s hen is insanely toothsome, and classically Southwestern. Give us either Guinea.

Info: nobuofukuda.com; arizonabiltmore.com

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