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Sipping with the Sommelier – Mike Donaldson

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This month, the Scottsdale Wine Examiner is running a very special series of “Sipping with the Sommelier” profiles – all focused on the fabulous Arizona Restaurant Week, which will take place May 17-26 throughout greater-Scottsdale and beyond.

Click here for a full list of participating restaurants, and please welcome Mike Donaldson, sommelier from Little Cleo’s as today’s special guest.

Mike – tell us a little about you and your start in the business:

I’m originally from Boston, MA, and started my career there. At first serving and bartending was just a job, but it quickly grew into a passion. I picked up and moved to Las Vegas in 2008, and was fortunate to work with incredible chefs and master sommeliers, and really start to hone my skills. I moved out to Phoenix this past fall, and continue to grow as a professional in the industry,

How does the menu at your restaurant pair its wines – what is your preference and process?

I think it really comes down to balance and flavors elevating each other. You can take a special dish and take it to a whole new level with the right wine. It goes both ways, the food can also bring out elements in a wine that you may have not noticed otherwise. I like to encourage people to try wines they aren’t familiar with. It creates a sense of adventure and makes for a memorable dining experience.

What is your personal favorite food/wine pairing at the restaurant?

We have a baby octopus dish that we pair with the 2012 Sigalas Assyrtiko from Santorini, Greece. Its one of those parings that most people probably haven’t tried before, but really is magical.

Tell us about any favorite wine events here in town:

I've always loved when people of a similar mindset get together to enjoy wine. Just this last week, Synergy Wines hosted an event at Crudo, and it was really great to meet some of the people who influence the culture of this city. I think its important to cultivate a community of restaurant professionals, and to stay excited about what we all have to offer throughout the season and beyond.

Tell us about any wine events you have at your venue – either regularly, seasonally or special events:

We are doing monthly six-course wine dinners at Little Cleo’s throughout the summer months. The pairings are always different, and range from Sake to unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc. We have a lot of fun with it, and it’s great way to experience the scope of what we offer.

Tell us about your favorite winery experience – in Arizona or not:

My favorite wine experience comes from driving along the French countryside when I was younger. We tasted wine at numerous small vineyards, and really were able to feel connected to some of the smaller producers that most likely will never find their way over stateside.

What will you be serving for Arizona Restaurant Week and how can folks make reservations?

FIRST COURSE

(Choose One)
New England Style Clam Chowder

Crispy Frog Legs l fish sauce, roasted cashews, thai chili sap
Grilled Octopus l crispy masa, watercress, charred serrano
Black Kale l apple, clementines, bacon, amish cheddar, almonds

SECOND COURSE

(Choose One)
Traditional Fish & Chips l celery seed coleslaw
Grilled Ahi Tuna l mushroom ginger dumplings, spicy caramelized soy*
“Bouillabaisse” l scallops, mussels, shrimp, tomato, fennel, saffron*

THIRD COURSE

(Choose One)
Buttermilk Pie l seasonal fruit
Brioche Donuts l salted chocolate, vanilla custard, strawberry preserves
Seasonal Sorbet
Seasonal Gelato

Make reservations on Open Table here or call (602) 680-4044.

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