The hottest ticket in town last month was the Valley Hotel & Resort Association’s 20th annual media reception. The yearly event brings together the who’s who in media and politics for a fun night of small plates from the finest resort chefs and small talk for those who use it to network.
We were lucky enough to go and experience what the event had to offer. Set in the Gold Room just off the Biltmore Hotel’s main lobby, the event was packed to the gills with fabulous food and, we think, definitely the weather girl from the local news. At least it sure looked like it.
We started off with Proof Canteen’s playful take on lemon meringue pie because when you’re an adult you can have dessert first. Their pastry chef, Lance Whipple, explains that Proof Canteen has dedicated themselves to 52 pies a year with seasonals such as pumpkin pie being served mid-summer because, “F— it,” says Whipple, “We wanted pumpkin pie.” This lemon meringue featured a cranberry sauce on the side and peanut brittle, making this two desserts in one. We went back for seconds. And then a third to put into our purses for later. Just kidding.
Sort of. Ish.
Their savory dish featured a broccoli cream and a short rib, something several of the hotels and resorts literally brought to the table. If you want to be on trend this fall while hosting dinner parties for your friends, may we suggest a short rib. One can’t complain while eating these tender, umami bombs. At VH&RA, we had them every which way you could eat a short rib. Most notably, District American Kitchen had molé rubbed short ribs and A Different Pointe of View had slow braised short ribs with a citrus gremolata, a mix of finely chopped garlic, parsley, and lemon zest, perfect for nearly any savory dish much less short ribs.
The Arizona Grand brought out an espresso encrusted lamb placed upon a smattering of cardamom cream; a delicate combination of cilantro and a oil steeped cardamom added to a sour cream. This was paired with a s’mores tart with Baileys caviar.
What’s that? Baileys caviar?
We didn’t have to beg pastry Chef George Rugel to show us how to make caviar out of one of our favorite liqueurs, but we couldn’t recreate it even if we tried. Rugel begins by pressing sodium alginate (that’s a type of seaweed used in food a lot- even your toothpaste go take a look) into molds with Baileys before dropping it into sodium chloride and finally tossing with gold luster. The little beads are pretty and fun to eat. We see big potential for those babies on the market. Boba tea with Baileys? You heard it here first.
If meat and sweets aren’t your thing, there’s something for everyone. In addition to pan seared Arizona Prime Beef Tenderloin, The Westin at Kierland brought out a flavorful Salmon Nikkei, or rather a Japanese salmon dish prepared with hints of Peruvian flair featuring truffle ponzu, rocoto chili pearls, avocado purée, and a hint of rum. A must-have dish at Deseo.
Not to be outdone, Toro offered us a Thai Chile ‘angry’ tuna and the promise of an endless supply of rum if we sat at the sushi bar on a future visit.
To finish things off we visited The Omni’s booth and grabbed a bread pudding from Kitchen West. The bread pudding was traditional lovely and, we think, lightly fried which would please anyone, but the kicker here was the cereal milk ice cream placed on top. A mix of Frosted Flakes, Apple Jack’s, and Captain Crunch, you could say this ice cream was grrrreaaaaaat and the cold ice cream meets warm bread pudding is a mouth feel we will fall in love with again and again. Never underestimate the power of an old classic.
Overall, it looks like Arizona’s resorts are bringing back short ribs and turning desserts on their heads. When in need for a pre-holiday break or post-holiday break or just because your in-laws-are-in-town-and-you-need-a-break-break, head to your nearest resort restaurant, grab a spoon, and dig in.