Amuse-Bouches

Written by Craig Outhier, Pavle Milic Category: Amuse Bouches Issue: December 2017
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Tasty local news bites to whet your appetite.

Pav on Juice:
Rune Grenache
A monthly look at Arizona wine with Valley dining impresario Pavle Milic

photo courtesy Pavle Milic
photo courtesy Pavle Milic

Pinot Noir is probably the most recognized grape varietal, next to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m often tasked with recommending Pinots from Arizona, and it always pains me to explain that it doesn’t do well in our state. Eric Glomski from Page Springs Cellars and Michael Pierce from Bodega Pierce and Saeculum Cellars have produced minute quantities that were interesting and worth cogitation, but are outliers nonetheless.

Instead, I redirect the conversation to bottlings that offer similar qualities to Pinot Noir: lighter red wines that offer high-toned, fruity characters redolent of cranberry, cherries and – contingent upon whole-cluster inclusion and barrel treatment – some spiciness and textural structure.

The 2015 Rune Grenache from James Callahan is one of them. The young Sonoita-based winemaker had never worked with Grenache before scoring a truckload from Pillsbury Wine Co. & Vineyard in 2013, but felt he could do “something special” with the Rhône varietal, which is often used as a supplementary grape in red blends. “It is such a widely planted varietal in the state, but at the same time it is so often overlooked.”

With strawberry and black cherry aromas that levitate from the glass, along with a lovely piquancy that creeps in to balance the fruitiness, Callahan’s
Grenache is a great surrogate for Pinot-poor Arizonans.

Rune Wines
3969 Hwy. 82, Sonoita
520-338-8823, runewines.com

 

Beer Watch: GABF Winners
Four Arizona breweries took home medals at the Great American Beer Festival – colloquially known as the “Oscars of brewing” – in October. Refreshingly, none was a “critical darling,” which goes to show: Maybe critics should open their minds a bit.

Saddle Mountain Brewing Company, Goodyear
Gold for Taildragger’s Clan-Destine (Scottish ale)

Pedal Haus Brewery, Tempe
Silver for PH Light Lager (light lager)

Scottsdale Beer Co., Scottsdale
Bronze for Cannonball Pale Ale (Australian pale ale)

Goldwater Brewing Co., Scottsdale
Bronze for MachineGun Teddy (American brown ale)

 

First Bite: Match 2.0

It’s not uncommon for high-end resort restaurants to reboot with a new chef. It’s far less common when said chef is a Michelin-starred James Beard Award winner.

Such is the intriguing arrangement at MATCH Restaurant & Cocktails, the one-year-old flagship eatery at FOUND:RE Phoenix hotel in Downtown Phoenix. Enticed by an ownership stake and a tricked-out muscle car of a kitchen, Valley culinary legend Alex Stratta (Mary Elaine’s) joined MATCH over the summer, taming departed chef Akos Szabo’s ambitious but unwieldy global menu before unveiling a fully reconceived food program in October. We paid a visit.

Wood-Fired Vegetable Skewers; photo by Angelina Aragon
Wood-Fired Vegetable Skewers; photo by Angelina Aragon
Duck Spring Rolls; photo by Angelina Aragon
Duck Spring Rolls; photo by Angelina Aragon
Moroccan Spiced Chicken Bowl; photo by Angelina Aragon
Moroccan Spiced Chicken Bowl; photo by Angelina Aragon

Wood-Fired Vegetable Skewers
Banal name, beautiful execution. Stratta stays true to his nouveau Mediterranean roots with this fetching starter – two generous portions of grilled nightshade vegetables impaled cheek-to-jowl with pre-fried plugs of mozzarella. Served with a tangy pesto, it’s essentially a grilled Caprese salad on a stick.

Duck Spring Rolls
“Originally, I was planning on keeping the Asian approach of the original menu,” the chef says. “But then it just became more and more Mediterranean. You gotta go with your strengths, I guess.” His one concession: this crispy Asian-Med hybrid, served with a cinnamon-y raisin-pine nut glaze.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Bowl
Listed under “salads” on the menu, it eats more like an entrée, and it’s ridiculously tasty – a protein-packed riot of toasted bulgur wheat, pistachios, dried fruits and grilled, cumin-kissed chicken, tossed with a passion fruit vinaigrette. Soon to be a favorite of the workout-recovery set, we predict.

Potato Gnocchi
Sure, you’ve had gnocchi, but have you experienced the otherworldly suppleness of Stratta’s gnocchi? Baby-soft lobes of whipped potato in a shallow bath of fresh tomato sauce and Parmigiano butter will make your eyes cross. Our favorite of the lot.

Braised Short Rib
Stratta brings a version of this Mary Elaine’s classic wherever he goes – a silky square of braised beef, coated in a brooding, fathomless red wine shellac. Pair this one with a buxom red wine and enjoy the ensuing tango that plays out on your tongue.

Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned
The cocktail program at MATCH was always first-rate, and still is, starting with this whiskey classic, relaxed in oak for a few weeks. “Our next step is to expand our happy hour menu,” Stratta says. “This is such a wonderful spot and I want to give people as many reasons to visit as possible.”

MATCH
1100 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-875-8080, matchphx.com

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