Taste of the Nation Arizona

There are a several facets of my life that stay relatively separate: my family, my work, my friendships, my business, etc. Each piece is very important to me and each helps me to grow, but I often (selfishly) keep them separate, so I always have an escape. Because of this, there are a lot of very important people in my life that never fully understand me. I share stories and they try to relate, but that’s usually where it ends.

There’s a common philosophy that food and wine bring people together. I’ll be the first to attest that a bottle of my favorite wine cracked open in my empty house is little to get excited about; it usually just tastes like… wine. But take that same bottle to a dinner party, or a picnic by the creek, or share it on a romantic night and it turns into something spectacular! Some of you are nodding your heads right now and recalling wonderful memories, but others will think I’m totally exaggerating and blow off the concept. It’s not that you haven’t had a great meal or tasted a great wine, it’s just that you haven’t consciously opened up your senses to work in harmony.

Last Sunday evening several of my worlds collided and I had the opportunity to share this concept with a dear friend (we’ll dub her AB). The event was Taste of the Nation at Sanctuary Resort, a gathering of 11 chefs to prepare menus from cities around the country, all in an effort to curb childhood hunger. The evening started with a cocktail contest, where AB and I sampled various concoctions to sufficiently warm things up. Terrific cheeses were also provided by MouCo and shrimp skewers from the Herb Box. Having the opportunity to introduce AB to several of my foodie friends in an active environment, where no one was forced to make awkward small talk, was great.

It was time to be seated for dinner. Now, I must confess we were skeptical about our table assignment, as Kansas City was the locale, we were told the main features were BBQ & bourbon (neither of which excite me), and Cafe ZuZu was in charge of the cooking (I hadn’t ever tasted any of their cuisine). Shame on me for doubting the powers that be (you know who you are), as each course was incredibly delectable. The first course was a barbeque-glazed lobster over corn grits with a buttery sauce to accentuate the decadence of the dish. And it was presented in a damn cool dish too (I want a set of those!). A crisp Pinot Gris helped to cut the richness of flavors and it all went down way too easily.

The second course included a spare rib with a bourbon barbeque sauce (my apologies for the half-eaten picture, I just couldn’t wait). The meat practically fell off the bone and the sauce was sweet with a little spice, but carefully avoided overpowering the rib. On the opposite side, pork belly… I’ve never met a pork belly I didn’t like. Even the slaw in the center was tasty (and I’ve always hated slaw). Not being a bourbon girl, I had a hard time with the fig cocktail, but I was getting pretty toasty by now anyway.

I think it was at this point that AB completely shocked me. She’s always a finicky eater, needing to know every little thing that’s on her plate while having multiple dipping sauces available at all times. I watched as she cleared her plate and said she was, without a doubt, going to be visiting Cafe ZuZu in the near future.

By course 3 we were completely spoiled. Potato fingerlings with petite green beans, microgreens, lardons, and a quail egg. That’s right, what’s a salad without bacon, eggs, and potatoes? This was a great pairing with the light Pinot Noir. I mentioned such and AB said “see, that I don’t know. The wine is good and the food is great, but I have no idea if they go together?” This is when the night was taken to a new level and more of my worlds collided. “It’s not as complicated as some make it out to be,” I said, “take a drink of water and then a sip of wine.” She complied followed by a nod. “Now take a bite of the bacon and a sip of the wine.” Her eyes grew wide and she said “wow, it just like amplified the flavor of the bacon!” My job here is done.

When you didn’t think it could get any more meat-alicious, course 4 was presented. Short ribs and “brownies” (aka burnt ends). What you probably can’t tell from the picture is that there are razz cherries and garlic cloves that have been soaked in some mystery wine sauce atop the burnt ends (let that sink in for a minute). I cannot begin to describe the amazing flavors, but if you hear that chef Sean Currid has disappeared, it’s likely because someone has kidnapped him to recreate this amazing recipe.

How can you bring a meal like that to a close? Well, you can’t. But you can try with an almond apple tart, salted caramel ice cream, and a dessert wine that might as well be bottled for syrup.

Was it a beautiful venue? Indeed. Decadent food? Without a doubt. Tasty drinks? Yes. Intriguing people-watching? Sure. All for a good cause? Absolutely. Would I have enjoyed it half as much without my dear friend? Not a chance. We lowered the top on the convertible, soaking up the cool night air and moonlight as we bonded about boys on the drive home… it was a good night… scratch that, it was a great night.

Thanks so much to everyone that helped organize the event! And to Sean Currid and his team from Cafe ZuZu and Hotel Valley Ho, you rocked the evening.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Susie Timm on October 2, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Now THAT was a review. Thank you for telling the story. And for getting out of the evening exactly what I set out to achieve when I conceptualized the idea.

    And of course, thanks Sean for doing BBQ the way it should be done.

    So glad you enjoyed.

    Reply

    • Thank YOU for the amazing event you pulled off!! And don’t get me started on the love/hate relationship I had with the vanilla wafers you sent home.

      Reply

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