Author Archives: Malu Banuelos

Malu Banuelos

About Malu Banuelos

Malu is a journalism senior at Walter Cronkite’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is currently an editorial intern for AZ Big Media. Originally from Los Angeles, Malu left the financial service industry to pursue her lifelong goal to become a writer. Her extracurricular activities include extreme sports, photography and studying philosophy.

NAIOP Arizona's Developing Leaders - AZRE Magazine September/October 2011

NAIOP Arizona’s Developing Leaders Pairs Veterans With Young Professionals

NAIOP Arizona’s Developing Leaders mentoring program designed to pair veteran and young CRE professionals to bolster the industry

For a group that has yet to commemorate its first class, NAIOP Arizona’s Developing Leaders mentoring program has some fairly heady goals.

That’s evident by its mission statement:

* To Improve the communities in which we develop, build, and broker commercial real estate;

* To Impact the careers of young real estate professionals through educational development, and exposure to pertinent topics;

* To Instill the knowledge, values, and expertise of today’s industry leaders in developing leaders;

* To Influence the professional growth of developing leaders by fostering valuable long-term relationships with industry peers.

NAIOP Arizona’s Developing Leaders mentoring program is relatively new to the Arizona chapter, although it’s been around for awhile nationally — where it has been successful.

“It was a natural evolution,” Clay Wells, a co-liaison on the NAIOP Arizona board of directors and director of business development at McShane Construction Company, says about implementing a mentoring program. “The first year we were involved with getting our feet wet. The second year we tried to make it grow by working on charitable events.”
Now in its third year, it’s time to get the ball rolling.

“The program will bring the best elements of the entire membership together,” says NAIOP Arizona president and CEO Tim Lawless. “It will create synergy with older more experienced people and younger up-and-coming members.”

The goal is for those in the commercial real estate industry to help provide protégés with insight on how to become successful, says Nate Goldfarb, an associate at CBRE and co-chair of the mentoring program.

The program will be comprised of 10 highly experienced industry professionals as mentors, each paired with two protégés who are existing developing leaders under the age of 35.

Other chapters have had mentoring programs for several years, with those in San Diego and Colorado boasting some of the strongest programs, according to Wells.  “We looked at other chapters and tried to steal the best details,” he says.

Lawless will be involved in the final mentor screening process and says he will be looking for the best and brightest people who are experts in their niche and would bring the most to the table.

Protégés will be selected based on application information and not on personality, says Wells, who is part of the selection committee that is made up of five to six board members.
Initially an email survey was sent out to all developing leader candidates to probe interest and to determine which industries members would like mentors from, Goldfarb says.

“There was a strong response from potential protégés and response from prospective mentors was phenomenal, particularly senior members,” Goldfarb says.

“We’re looking for an Icon,” says Lawless, adding that NAIOP Arizona’s membership has an excellent crop of mentor candidates such as Keith Earnest from RED Development and NAIOP chairman Mike Haenel of Cassidy Turley BRE Commercial.

When protégé and mentor are paired they will meet at least once a month for 10 months.
“There will be a lot of active listening to the mentor who has already walked the path,” Goldfarb says.

The inaugural class function will be held this fall and will be a black tie event, according to Goldfarb.

“We want to make events special for protégés so that they are impressed by the mentor, the program and the events.”

[stextbox id="grey"]For more information about the NAIOP Arizona’s Developing Leaders mentoring program, visit[/stextbox]

AZRE Magazine September/October 2011


Verona Chophouse

Verona Chophouse: Tuscan-Inspired Menu, Vegetarian Offerings Make For Fine Dining Experience

One might ask why a vegetarian would dine at a restaurant that bills itself as a “chophouse,” but with such a large variety of delectable meatless dishes, the better question to ask is why more vegetarians don’t frequent it?

Located inside Gila River Casinos’ Lone Butte Casino in Chandler, Verona Chophouse revamped its menu and added more than 20 new Tuscan-inspired dishes that are sure to awaken your taste buds.Verona Chophouse, Lone Butte Casino

When our group of three was ushered in, we were greeted not only by the host, but also by the pasta room where pasta is handmade daily. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.

As we were escorted to our table there was a tantalizing aroma coming from the restaurant’s new sizzling pasta station in the outdoor patio area where a chef makes the Italian sizzling skillets. A water fountain and trees make for a serene ambiance in the patio. There’s no need to worry about the heat, the misters will abolish those concerns.

Instead of browsing through the menu endlessly, our waitress went through it entirely and highlighted house favorites which eased the ordering process.

For our appetizers we selected the Verona Trio, which included Bruschetta, spinach artichoke dip, crab stuffed mushrooms and fried calamari. I sampled only the meatless items, but they did not disappoint.

I just about finished the Bruschetta by myself. The Italian baguette was toasted to perfection, topped with Roma tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil; the fresh basil set off a taste explosion in my mouth.

The spinach artichoke dip was hands down the best I have ever tasted. I am not a fan of greasy food and many times it’s not negotiable when you throw cheese into the mix, but the dip had the benefit of great taste, without the greasy side effect. It was the perfect blend of spinach and artichoke with neither flavor overpowering the other. Instead, they created an ideal fusion of flavors. I almost wanted to ditch the garlic bread and eat it right out of the bowl with a spoon, but I restrained myself. We were at a classy place after all.

Verona Chophouse, Lone Butte CasinoExecutive chef Brian Lawlor was gracious enough to make me an order of crab-stuffed mushrooms sans the meat. It was easily a table favorite even among the meat alternatives. The bread-crumb coating, which contained roasted peppers, zucchini, onions and parmesan cheese among other ingredients, was gently crisped on the outside, while nice and moist on the inside. The succulent flavor of the mushroom was a perfect complement to the bread concoction.

One of our dining partners who sampled the fried calamari said it is one of those appetizers that are either hit or miss depending on the restaurant. He added, however, that Verona did not disappoint. “It was lightly breaded, seasoned, and had just the right consistency,” he said.

Given the choice of soup or salad I opted for the Tuscan tomato soup, which was my dinner favorite. Freshly ground pepper gave it just the right kick. My mouth watered as I took the first spoonful. I could have walked out of the restaurant after that, completely and over-the-top satisfied, but curiosity got the best of me so I stayed for the main course.

My entrée choice was the wild mushroom fettuccine. It was a mushroom lover’s dream brought to life. Portobello, shiitake and domestic mushrooms were sauteed with fresh spinach and roasted garlic cream sauce and combined with fresh handmade fettuccine. The fettuccine was light and tasty. If anyone ever says boxed pasta is just as good as homemade, they’ve clearly never tried fresh, handmade pasta. I paired by meal with a glass of Lungarotti Pinot Grigio, its bold taste complemented the entrée perfectly without overpowering it while leaving a pleasant aftertaste.

A fellow dinner partner ordered the Linguini Pescatore. It was a combination of jumbo shrimp and mussels tossed in a white wine garlic sauce. He said it was not overwhelming, adding that the Roma tomatoes and parsley added a nice taste.

Amazingly enough, we actually had room for dessert, and were treated to the array of Verona’s desserts. We sampled the cannoli, spumoni, tiramisu, crème brûlée and chophouse chocolate cake.

The cannoli, a crisp shell filled with Mascarpone creme, chocolate chips and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, was a fine selection. Spumoni is a great choice if you forget to save room for dessert because of its light texture. Layers of cherry, chocolate and pistachio ice cream were topped with brandied cherries, whipped cream, pecans and hot fudge drizzle.

The Chophouse chocolate cake had a bolder taste. It was filled with butter cream and covered in dark chocolate ganache. If you love sweets, this is the dessert for you.

My favorite dessert was the crème brûlée, which was not overwhelmingly sweet, just as I like it. To conclude our visit to the Verona Chophouse, we were served a “special” coffee, which is custom blended for the restaurant. The Italian blend was developed to match the menu and went great with the desserts. It was rich and smooth on its own. There was no need to add cream or sugar, a testament to how flavorful it was.

Our experience at Verona was wonderful. The staff was friendly, attentive and accommodating. Chef Lawlor personally delivered our dishes and explained how each was prepared and what ingredients he used.

We already have made plans to return for the Sunday brunch, which features a buffet and live jazz music.

[stextbox id="grey"]

If You Go

Verona Chophouse

Lone Butte Casino
1077 E. Kyrene Road, Chandler
(520) 796-8952


Skydiving, Desert Skydiving Center, Buckeye

Throw Momma from The Plane

Tired of buying the usual perfume bottle, purse, spa gift certificate or other stereotypical woman’s gift, I decided to make my mother’s 60th birthday more interesting by taking her tandem sky diving at Desert Skydiving Center in Buckeye.

When I told people I was taking her skydiving they thought it was the coolest thing ever—and the craziest.  My dad was particularly concerned about it because of her prior medical history (she used to suffer from high blood pressure), but as she got older she adopted a healthier lifestyle and lost weigh so oddly enough, 60 was the most appropriate age for her to start living on the edge, or off of it.Skydiving, Desert Skydiving Center, Buckeye

So I decided to take my first leap with my mom by my side.  Whenever I had ridden a roller coaster in the past, I cried for my mommy so jumping out of an airplane at 11,000 feet would warrant something more, i.e. her physically there holding my hand.

Unfortunately things didn’t work out quite that way.  The plane wasn’t big enough for my mom and I to jump at the same time so I had to “let” her go first.  She was, of course, more than thrilled with not the slightest hint of fear.

Our reservation was at 11:30 a.m., not 10:30 a.m. as we thought.  By the time our paperwork stating that we might die and if so our family won’t sue – all that boring stuff – was filled out and we were in full gear, it was past noon and well into the 100 degrees already.

My mom and I don’t do hot weather.  When I say, “don’t do,” I mean we become highly irritable mainly because of the small pools of sweat we each create on our upper lips, which is NOT attractive.

That might be why we were too preoccupied complaining about the heat to think about the fact that we were about to throw ourselves from a plane two miles in the air entrusting our lives to strangers for nothing more than a quick thrill.

When we were told the temperature was much cooler in the air, my mom and I nearly had a wrestling match to see who would go first.  But alas, being that I’m such a good daughter I stepped down and watched my all too happy mother fly off into the air with four men, who by the way didn’t speak a lick of Spanish—my mom’s primary language.

I hadn’t considered the language barrier until the moment before I waived her off when one of the jumpers asked me how to say “no” in Spanish.  That was scary.

Twenty minutes later the cameraman fell from the sky as I saw my mom in the distance, only it wasn’t her.  It was the man who asked for the “no” translation.Skydiving, Desert Skydiving Center, Buckeye

I just about had a heart attack wondering where my mother was until I was told she was coming and Mr. “No” had just hitched a ride on the plane.

Finally I saw my mother approaching and I heard the instructor yelling “put your feet up” to my mother who unfortunately was not able to and scraped the dirt with her knees and stomach.  But she’s a trooper; she dusted herself off and smiled for the camera.  Later she said the circulation in her legs was weak because of the leg straps.

Five water bottles and an equal amount of trips to the restroom later it was my turn and still, the nerves hadn’t kicked in.  It had only gotten hotter so the heat was the only thing I feared at that moment.

I calmly got into the plane and enjoyed the ride and then something weird happened.  It wasn’t hot anymore.  I then realized what I was about to do.  As the door swung open and the air flew in and out of the plane I had definitely forgotten about the heat and the fear kicked in full force.

I first stuck my foot out, which was rather difficult because of the wind’s force, I then held on to the plane only for a few seconds for fear that I would not let go.

As we dove into the air there was no crying for mommy.  The only thing I could utter was “Oh my God.” But there was no fear at that moment.  It was surprisingly calm and peaceful.  I just enjoyed the free fall, which felt like a lot longer than the five to seven minutes promised.Skydiving, Desert Skydiving Center, Buckeye

My legs and arms began to feel numb so I told the instructor because I surely didn’t want to take a belly dive like my mom did.  When he loosened it I feared he would do it too much and I would fall off so I held my shoulder straps for dear life, literally.

As we approached the ground, I lifted my feet up and pretty much had a textbook landing, thanks to mom.  If anyone ever said you’ve never taught me anything, they certainly can’t say that now.

The initial jump was the best moment of it all.  Going from a quiet ride up to the sudden burst of noise from the propeller and the wind, not to mention the fear, gave me such an intense adrenaline rush.  I’m glad I was a “little” scared.  And it was nice to have mom there as well.