Happy Hour: Mingle + Graze

Leah LeMoineApril 30, 2021
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Monger’s Board | Photo by Leah LeMoine

 

THE SCENE 

 Charcuterie businesses are all the rage now – I feel like five new ones pop up every time I open Instagram – but my friend, Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon, was one of the first charcuterie queens to make a big splash here in the Valley.  

I met Mahfam nearly a decade ago (!!!), when she was working as a wine buyer at Whole Foods in Chandler. She emailed me out of the blue and invited me and a friend to the store for a tasting event she was hosting with some of Arizona’s best winemakers. As soon as I saw her, I knew we’d be friends. She had glam hair, big earrings and a bold red lip. A corporate uniform couldn’t tame her style – nor her infectious generosity and hospitality, which she expressed through generous nibbles of cheese and meat to accompany the local wine. I felt like I was at a cool party at her house instead of at a grocery store.  

A little while after that, she started her own artisanal olive and specialty food businessesoLOVE and {M.A.H.F.}, bringing her marinated olives and soulful soups to places like Changing Hands’ First Draft Book Bar and farmers markets throughout the Valley – all with her small son in tow and a daughter on the way. Eventually her company evolved into Mingle + Grazea charcuterie powerhouse that served the classic noshing array in portable boxes and on customizable “grazing tables” her team set up in customers’ homes and offices. She brought a Mingle Box to my annual Galentine’s Day brunch one year, and it was the hands-down hit of the party 

Two years ago, she and her husband, Cristobal Alarcon, opened a Mingle + Graze brick-and-mortar location in downtown Chandler. The cheese shop/café is nestled in a sliver of the historical storefronts on San Marcos Place facing Dr. A.J. Chandler Park. The light teal exterior gives it a vaguely French vibe, and the interior feels very Euro as well – an antique-looking dresser showcasing bottles of wine, artfully mismatched tables and chairs, eclectic pieces by local artists (including her mom and cousin), and a cold case full of stunning cheese.   

 


Mingle + Graze exterior | Photo by Leah LeMoine

 

To safely accommodate outdoor diners during the pandemic, Mingle + Graze recently got a pretty patio extension. It’s appropriately spaced and offers a great perch for people-watching.  

THE FOOD 

I met Mahfam and our mutual friend, Julia Peixoto (owner of Peixoto Coffee, just around the corner from Mingle + Graze), on M+G’s patio for my first public outing with friends since the pandemic began. Mahfam hosted us with a lavish spread of Monger’s Boards ($14.50 each), which feature cheeses, salamis, nuts, fruits, truffle chips, chocolate treats and locally made bread. 

She knows my palate, so she loaded my board with Belton Farm’s Red Fox Red Leicester Cheese (akin to an aged Cheddar) and Beemster Hatch Chile Gouda (perfectly smoky and not too spicy, even for my wimpy palate). They were delectable mixed and matched with sour cherry jam, house spiced nuts, dried apricots, salami and fresh strawberries and kiwis. The Peruvian puffed corn (aka corn nuts) in the nut mix was an especially nice touch – the salty, sweet and crunchy kernels played so well with the Hatch-infused Gouda that it was like eating a green chile tamale in cheese-plate form. Julia had Brie and raclette (her usual, I learned) and we noshed and gossiped for hours, delighting in each other’s company all the more after enduring the social famine of the pandemic.   

Food is not discounted during happy hour (drinks are – see below), but M+G’s prices are so reasonable it doesn’t matter. Try the house olives ($3, small; $5, large) that started it all, pimento dip ($7), hummus board ($10.50), salads ($10+) or a bowl of house-made soup ($6). Signature sandwiches include El Chileno (roast beef, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, aji aioli, $12.75), the Maffyletta (ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, olive salad, turmeric aioli, $11.75) and the Jeweled Chicken Salad Wrap (chicken salad, barberries, mixed greens, tomatoes, pistachios, pomegranate vinaigrette, $12). 

And what would a cheese-centric eatery be without grilled cheese? Mingle + Graze offers five iterations, from the M+G Signature (provolone, Havarti, pepper relish, onion and barberry jam, $8.50) to the P.,B., + J. (prosciutto, triple-crème Brie, fig jam, $11). Splitting a couple of grilled cheeses with friends sounds like an ideal happy hour.  

THE DRINKS 

Due to the nature of M+G’s licensing, canned and bottled libations are the order of the day. Local beer, cider and wine are augmented with canned cocktails. M+G provides glasses, ice and the appropriate garnishes for said cocktails. Select beers, cocktails and wines cost just $5 during happy hour (see THE DETAILS and OTHER DEALS below).  

 


Mingle + Graze beer and wine selection | Photo by Leah LeMoine

 

To celebrate our reunion, Mahfam broke out a bottle of Juicy, a natural rosé produced by Vinyes TortugaA Dutch couple owns and operates the winery, which is located in Spain between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea. The 2018 Juicy we sipped was made with 60 percent Garnacha and 40 percent Merlot. It was pleasantly fruity and tart, reminiscent of cranberry juice, strawberry soda or even slightly earthy Jolly Ranchers. It paired perfectly with our charcuterie. As usual, Mahfam knew what she was doing. 

THE DETAILS 

Happy hour runs Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Dine-in only. 

 


Juicy rosè | Photo by Leah LeMoine

 

OTHER DEALS 

M+G has a stellar roster of specials throughout the week. To wit: 

Taco Tuesday: $2 tacos 

Wine Wednesday: Monger’s Board + featured bottle of wine for $25 

Thirsty Thursday: All-day happy hour (11 a.m.-7 p.m.) 

Friday Night Date Night: Two for $20 mix-and-match featured items on the menu (limit one Monger’s Board per mix-and-match; you don’t have to be on a date to take advantage – solo diners can enjoy the deal as well) 

Sangria Saturday: $8/glass of sangria – white or red 

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