Kitchen Doors: Food for Thought

Food for Thought

Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale [Local First Spotlight]

From grapes grown in Willcox and the Verde Valley to fresh ingredients in its restaurants, Merkin Vineyards is committed to local flavors and suppliers.

“As a local producer ourselves, we give the support to others that we would like to receive,” said Jim Cunningham, general manager of Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale, which opened last March. “Knowing the farmers, producers and where the ingredients come from gives us peace of mind as far as the quality of what we’re purchasing and serving. All of this adds up to a tastier bite, which is the end goal.”

Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars are owned by Maynard James Keenan, the Grammy-winning vocalist of the metal band Tool, and his wife. Caduceus has a tasting room in Jerome, and Merkin has a tasting room and restaurant in Cottonwood.

Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale’s menu includes cheese and charcuterie plates, house-made gelato and sorbetto, and several vegetable dishes featuring fresh produce from Arizona farmers as well as the vineyard’s garden and orchard.

“Our mushroom dish features Sun Valley Harvest mushrooms from Glendale. They are carefully roasted with minimal prep to allow the rich, earthy and umami flavors to shine,” Cunningham said. “Our beet and goat cheese dish showcases a chutney of locally grown beets, some of which we produce ourselves, and creamy Crow’s Dairy goat cheese that has been torched and bruleed to perfection.”

Merkin has received rave reviews for its fresh menu offerings. “Healthy eating is becoming the norm,” said Cunningham. “When you present healthy items in an easy and delicious format, your customers are going to take notice.”

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Caring Chefs: Charleen Badman

Chef Charleen Badman of FnB restaurant in Scottsdale is passionate about sharing her love of Arizona ingredients. For a decade, she has been volunteering at Echo Canyon School in Scottsdale. “I want to help educate students on the value of our state and the Arizona products I use in my restaurant,” she said.

In 2017, Badman helped found the Blue Watermelon Project, an initiative of Slow Food Phoenix. Farmers, chefs and the community work together to advocate for nutritious food in schools and educate students about healthy eating.

“I enjoy teaching students to appreciate what we have here in Arizona, what we can grow and how it gets to our plates,” Badman said.

Badman and other local chefs work with schools across the Valley to provide lessons that include hands-on experiences like planting gardens and preparing and tasting what they have grown, including tepary beans, Swiss chard and cauliflower.

“The lessons are endless,” said Badman, who won the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in 2019. “We talk about plants, Arizona history, sustainability and climate. It’s great to see the students in the garden, helping to prepare the foods we have grown and enjoying a meal we’ve created together.”

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New in Town: OEB Breakfast Co.

In November, OEB Breakfast Co., which has several locations in Canada, opened its first U.S. location in North Scottsdale.

“After visiting Scottsdale, I fell in love with the city. It’s a booming and vibrant place with a great culinary scene, which made it the perfect location in the U.S. to open our first OEB,” said Mauro Martina, OEB’s owner and founder.

The restaurant is bright, quirky and colorful with a fun selection of cocktails and a wide range of breakfast and brunch options, from the traditional to the unexpected.

Diners can enjoy lighter items like chia seed pudding and avocado toast, as well as fluffy crepes, traditional and unique Benedicts, sandwiches and sweet dishes like banana cream pie French toast and Belgian waffles. As a nod to its Canadian roots, OEB offers a variety of breakfast poutines including Soul in a Bowl with poached eggs, duck fat fried potatoes, cheese curds and brown butter hollandaise, and the Hog and Scallops bowl.

“We care about where the food comes from and what happens to it before it hits the table,” Martina said. “OEB is all about elevating the breakfast experience.”

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Photo by OEB

Healthy Meals Delivered to Your Door

Meal delivery services make it easier to live a healthy lifestyle. “Like a lot of things we can do for ourselves, it is hard to find the time and be organized,” said Andrea Kretzmann who opened Zola Market in November 2019. “Meal delivery services take the work out of healthy eating.”

Zola Market provides ready-to-eat salads in reusable mason jars which can be tailored to each customer’s needs and preferences. Zola Market’s mason jar meals can be ordered online and picked up at a few locations around the Valley. Delivery is also available.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into the selection of ingredients,” said Kretzmann. “They are mostly organic, gluten-free, nut-free, non-GMO and free from added sugar and preservatives.”

Kretzmann also wants to reduce environmental impact. “I want to ensure that Zola Market offerings are provided in the most sustainable packaging possible,” she said. “I am truly delighted every time we get jars back that we can reuse. We offer a refund to encourage people to return them.”

Another locally based healthy meal delivery option is the Vegan Taste, started by Chef Jason Wyrick of Casa Terra, a vegan fine dining restaurant in Glendale. “Some people think vegan meals lack flavor and don’t provide enough protein. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “Flavor comes from the preparation, from the spices and sauces. We make flavorful meals like tacos carnitas, Thai red curry and chili. We use plant sources for protein.”

Wyrick has personally experienced the benefits of eating healthier. “I used to be overweight and diabetic until I switched to a plant-based diet,” he said. “I regained my health over just a few months. I’ve seen this time and again with people who change their eating habits for the better.”

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About Shoshana Leon

Shoshana Leon is a culinary writer for Frontdoors Media and creator of Foodie Fo Sho.

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