texAZtastes and travels – March 12, 2018

There were too many highlights this past week to focus on just one post, so I had the idea to write a weekly wrap up.  After 5 years of writing this blog, I am game for changing things up, so give me your feedback as to whether you like it (or not).  I will try to be brief and not get too bogged down in the details, but it was a fun week!

Topgolf Chef Showdown

I was invited to a media event for the finale of Topgolf Chef Showdown, a competition between each Topgolf venue (there are 41 of them), where eight chefs compete to have their original dish featured on the upcoming spring menu.  The hosts included Scott Conant, celebrity chef, author and restaurateur, and Seve Delgado, National Director of Culinary Operations at Topgolf.

Scott and Seve emphasized that this is not one of those “cut-throat” cooking shows.  The recipes come from chefs in the field who have never been on camera before and focus on what is trending in the market.  Topgolf is letting guests know that they are a culinary family that is proud of their talent and of what they can accomplish.

Scott Conant, who many of you in the valley may know at the chef behind the restaurant Mora Italian on 7th Street.

As part of the selection process, chefs submit an essay and resume that Seve and her panel comb through in order to gather a diverse group of chefs from all walks of life.  The winner of Season 2 was Catherine (Cat) Colaizzi from Topgolf in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  She has been with the company for 2 ½ years, starting as a bartender, then to expeditor, pastry manager and sous chef.  Her dish, which she explained was a take on a Mediterranean-inspired meatball, included a mix of chicken, lamb, mint, oregano, and crushed red peppers, on a bed of arugula, shredded carrots, and pickled onions, tossed with honey balsamic vinaigrette and served with a side of tzatziki sauce.  The Spring Meatball Platter will be on Topgolf menus nation wide and will run for three months.

Cat Colaizzi’s winning Mediterranean meatballs.

Bloodies and golf were a fun way to start the day.

Scott Conant trying his hand at golf.

Cat Colaizzi, winner of Topgolf Chef Showdown Season 2. Photo courtesy of Topgolf.

Taco Chelo

Valley native Aaron Chamberlin is known for his popular eateries St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market.  Hot on the heels of his opening of Tempe Public Market, Aaron teamed with artist Gennaro Garcia and Chef Suny Santana to open Taco Chelo, a casual, yet hip taqueria in the bustling Roosevelt Row (RoRo) area of downtown Phoenix.  The name comes from the nickname of Suny’s mother, Consuela, who makes the tortillas on a large comal off the kitchen.  Offering a menu of 5 different tacos, two salads, chicharrón, quesadillas, frijoles à la charra, and some seriously delicious margaritas, Taco Chelo is sure to be a hit.  In fact, it has given me the idea to organize a dine-around of Roosevelt Row restaurants, to include spots like The Dressing Room and Cibo to showcase this emerging hot dining scene.  What a great idea…I’ve gotta get working on that!

Co-owner and artist Gennaro Garcia adds his artistic touch to the margarita cups at Taco Chelo.

Barbacoa and fish tacos at Taco Chelo…seriously tasty.

Portrait of Frida by Gennaro Garcia.


Wednesdays at Crudo on 3603 E. Indian School mean Family-style Polenta Board Night, where for $20 a person, you can order a family-style salad with local veggies, a creamy polenta board using Hayden Mills local polenta and a bottle of wine.  Last week, Crudo hosted winemaker Melinda Kearney of Lorenza Wine Co. out of St. Helena, CA, and offered a Seafood Polenta board, Arugula Salad with AZ Citrus, and a bottle of Lorenza Rosé for $30 a person.  It was great fun noshing on a delicious seafood polenta while chatting with Melinda and hearing her story. An entrepreneur who has worked in Napa for over 30 years, Melinda and her daughter, Michele, Ouellet, took inspiration from a favorite French rosé vineyard in Provence, Domaine Tempier, to create their crisp and refreshing wine that they have been producing for ten years now.  Read more about Melinda in this WSJ article here.  Bravo, Crudo…I look forward to more of these collaborations in the future.

Lorenza rosé wine was the feature at last week’s Polenta Board Night at Crudo.

Arizona citrus and arugula salad.

Seafood Polenta Board.

Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain, Tucson

Friday found me cheering the kids on at a swim meet in Tucson, where we found a quiet refuge in the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain once their races were over.  Nestled in the Tortolita Mountains 25 miles north of Tucson, the Ritz Carlton was built in 2009 and set to undergo a remodel this coming summer.  I found the biggest asset (as we are not golfers) to be the 50 miles of hiking and biking trails in the surrounding nature preserve, where I spent most of my time exploring the beauty of the AZ desert.  Hope you have a wonderful week! xoM


9500 Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, AZ  85256

Taco Chelo

501 E Roosevelt St., Phoenix, AZ  85004


3603 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ  85018

Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

15000 N Secret Springs Drive, Marana, AZ  85658

All photos by Marci Symington for texAZtaste.com with the exception of the photo of Catherine Colaizzi, provided by Topgolf.

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  • John Finley

    Marci, thank you for taking the time to share your adventures. We’re separated by 2,500 miles, but your writing and your (amazing) photographs make me feel like I’m right there. XOXO, John

    • TexazTaste

      Thank you, John. I wish y’all were closer! xoxo

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