Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Life in the Food Lane with Michael Mina

My foodie-est friend and food/dog writer Edie Jarolim invited me to go with her to CRAVE Arizona, a weekend event filled with food, wine, and other festivities. We went to Scottsdale on Friday for a special lunch hosted by Michael Mina and Palmina Wines at Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Princess Resort in Scottsdale.

As you might imagine, the service and food were par excellence. I loved the space – it was contemporary but like most contemporary spaces with hard surfaces – noisy. Nevertheless, the room was strewn with natural light and metallica and polished wood appointments. By day, beautiful, but at night, I’m sure it positively twinkled.

Here’s what we ate and drank:

We were served a trio of frites and accompanying sauces instead of bread.  What a great idea!

1st course – baby lettuces with roasted bosc pear, blue cheese, pomegranate seeds, and bacon vinaigrette.  This was a subtle first course yet all the flavors mingled together well. The wine, 2006 Arneis, was exceptionally buttery and a perfect accompaniment to the salad ingredients.

In between courses Chrystal Clifton of Palmina Wines gave us the lowdown on how she met her husband, her travels to Italy to taste wine, and the microclimates of Santa Barbara that contribute to growing many different kinds of grapes. I wondered if there was a connection between PalMINA Wines and Michael MINA but there is not.

2nd course – tapioca crusted Thai snapper with forbidden rice, fried Japanese eggplant, and spicy lychee vinaigrette. Who would ever put all these exotic flavors together and make them taste so memorable? I wanted to come home and find this dish on my dining room table. The wine, 2007 Tocai Friulano was my favorite wine of the day. Not being a wine snob, all I can say is wow and how it paired so well with this course. I was trying to pace myself wine-wise because we had to drive back to Tucson but I could not stop drinking this wine.

3rd course – butter poached beef trio, horseradish mashed potatoes, soy-glazed shitakes, jalapeno creamed corn. It’s so seldom that I eat steak anymore. The beef trio were a few small but so perfectly cooked (medium rare) small slices of filet mignon, sirloin, and Kobe beef. All of us at the table raved about the filet. Of course, all were good and there were no doggie bags. Fifty-cent-piece-sized custard cups of side dishes complemented the steak. Spicy, creamy mashed potatoes and soy-glazed shitake mushrooms melted in my mouth. Three different red wines accompanied this course – 2008 Dolcetto, 2007 Barbera, and 2005 “Undici”. Everyone at the table favored the Undici but I liked the lighter Dolcetto which could be served chilled.

I could’ve stopped here but dessert presented itself and we all consumed the warm chocolate pudding cake with milk chocolate ganache and malted milkshake in a whiskey jigger topped with chocolate shavings. The shake cut the  cake’s richness a bit. I don’t think anyone at our table could stop grinning. My psyche and palate felt ultra indulged.

Someone important overheard that it was Edie’s birthday and Michael Mina came out to present her with an autographed cookbook. Now that’s classy.

The Mina Restaurant Group owns restaurants in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada. Michael Mina is an award winning chef specializing in operating high end restaurants with innovating menus.

I’ll drink to that.

  1. I couldn’t have had a better companion on this excursion to Scottsdale and Michael Mina-land than my uber-foodie friend Karyn. She’s described our meal perfectly. It’s not even breakfast time here in Tucson but I’m salivating all over again. I too could have the salad and Thai snapper ever day. I wonder if there’s a Michael Mina diet plan, where they package the meals like Jennie Craig… Naaah, it wouldn’t be the same. The setting, the wine pairings, and the camaraderie don’t translate to anything you could get in the mail.

    And it was definitely a thrill to have Michael Mina hand me an inscribed copy of his cookbook for my birthday. I know I won’t be able to replicate his creations but I can ogle the pictures and dream…

  2. Karyn:

    The Friuli wines from Italy are fabulous; sounds like they were paired very well with the meal.

    I had never heard of Arneis before, but Pastiche featured it in its tastings of small Italian wineries.

    Very nice.

    Sounds like a luscious day.


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