Arizona’s Farm-to-Table Fare

By: Edie Jarolim

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July 31, 2012

Enjoy the fresh flavors of Arizona at restaurants featuring locally grown ingredients and festivals highlighting regional fare.

About the author

Edie Jarolim

Edie Jarolim

Edie Jarolim is the author of three travel guides, including "Arizona for Dummies," and one dog guide, "Am I Boring My Dog?" Her book, "Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All," is a memoir about her career as a guidebook editor for Frommer’s, Rough Guides, and Fodor’s and as a Tucson-based freelance travel writer. Her articles about Arizona have appeared in numerous national publications, including "National Geographic Traveler," "Sunset," and "The Wall Street Journal."

Savvy diners know that the closer to your plate your meal’s ingredients are grown or raised, the tastier your food will be.

But even sophisticates may be surprised by Arizona’s variety of locally sourced fare, offered at venues ranging from down-home festivals to five-star restaurants.

The Turquoise Room, La Posada Hotel, Winslow

John Sharpe, the classically trained chef-owner of The Turquoise Room, takes advantage of the food culture of nearby American Indian communities for his creative New American menu.

You’ll find churro lamb, a heritage breed raised on the Navajo reservation, in such dishes as red chile posole topped with housemade lamb sausage, while tepary beans from the Hopi reservation might turn up in hummus served with piki bread from Second Mesa. Fresh produce comes from several Arizona farms.

Satchmo’s BBQ, Flagstaff

Many recipes at this friendly Flagstaff restaurant are Cajun and Creole in origin, but the flavors are definitely local.

The beef and chicken used in the barbecue is smoked with pecan wood from Camp Verde, while a local company sourcing Arizona ingredients provides the goods for the veggie burgers. Buns are made daily by Flagstaff’s Village Baker, and spices, sauces and rubs are all housemade. Several beers tap into the local microbrew scene.

The ChocolaTree Eatery, Sedona

Featuring 100 percent vegetarian and organic fare – much of it raw and vegan – this colorful café draws many ingredients from its lovely garden: herbs and spices for its patés, salads and wraps; fruits for its juices, smoothies and cobblers.

An on-site chocolatier features more than 60 varieties of what ChocalaTree touts as the planet’s most potent superfood. Who would argue against the health benefits of chocolate ganache pie?

The Café at MIM, Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix

Making healthy eating appealing to children as well as adults, the daily changing menu at this airy museum dining room highlights nutritious versions of kid-friendly fare, like sandwiches, soups and even cookies.

Toppings for the hand-tossed pizza might include heirloom cherry tomatoes and blue oyster mushrooms one day, grilled corn and goat cheese on another. Organic local ingredients are used whenever possible, and vegan and gluten-free options are always available.

Kai, Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, Chandler

American Indian owned and operated, Kai is Arizona’s only restaurant to earn five diamonds from AAA and five stars from Forbes. James Beard award-winner Janos Wilder, known for creating indigenous menus, is the consulting chef.

Looking to American Indian recipes and using locally farmed ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community, Kai produces such unique creations as tenderloin of tribal buffalo with smoked corn purée, cholla buds, saguaro blossom syrup and scarlet runner bean chili.

Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, Tucson

Harkening back to the days before agriculture was mass-produced, Pasco serves comfort food sourced from small local farms and food co-ops, including their grass-fed beef burgers, andouille sausage corn dogs, and shrimp and chips.

Also comforting: cocktails made only from fresh ingredients, including herbs grown in large pots on the restaurant’s homey front porch. Nothing artificial goes into your glass; the juices are hand-squeezed and the bitters and syrups are made on the premises.

Restaurant at Coronado Vineyards, Willcox

Willcox is home to several U-pick farms, and this restaurant and tasting room take advantage of the abundant fresh produce – pistachios, bell peppers, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, corn, apples, peaches and pumpkins, among others – for its salads, side dishes and desserts.

But of course the main crop that interests patrons is the grapes. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling are among the varietals in Coronado Vineyards’ award-winning wines.

Celebrating Local Flavors

In addition to year-round dining opportunities, Arizona serves up several seasonal events highlighting local fare.

In Safford, tomatoes and chiles are the stars at September’s Salsafest, with a jalapeño-eating contest and awards for the best salsa.

The world’s winter vegetable capital, Yuma celebrates Lettuce Days in March, with activities including vegetable carving and Field to Feast Agriculture Tours (January through March), which end with a meal featuring the produce picked by tour participants.

A twist on the usual Pilgrim-centered event, Thanksgiving Day’s Harvest Feast at the Heard Museum in Phoenix draws on traditions and ingredients from four tribal regions.

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