Food (& Drink) for Thought
By BILL HUFFMAN
A golfing buddy of mine recently returned from Bandon Dunes with terrific tales from the Great Northwest.
Incredibly, he wasn’t talking about seaside golf. This was all about Bandon’s fabulous food and outstanding drink, something most golfers hold in high esteem.
“We’ve got nothing food- and drink-wise like that in Arizona,’’ he said of the fresh seafood, vegetables and deserts, as well as locally brewed beers and prize-winning pinots.
Au contraire mon fraire! Arizona’s culinary golf scene isn’t exactly a desert wasteland! In fact, being known as the “galloping gourmet of golf,’’ I can prove it.
Let’s start with the basic food types, because for the majority of us who chase the little white ball, it’s mostly about burgers, brats and dogs, and not necessarily in that order.
Brats and hot dogs don’t get a lot of respect these days, and for obvious reasons (like what they’re made from). But I’m telling you flat out, make the turn at the Arizona Biltmore or McCormick Ranch and that tantalizing waft of succulent sausages grilling in the air will lure you in every time. Plus, they’ve got great buns and condiments to back it up!
When it comes to big, bold burgers, I challenge you to find an equal to Grayhawk’s half-pound, Grade A-prime Barn Burger served up at Phil’s Grill, perhaps the best 19th hole in the Southwest. OK, so Lefty is a vegetarian these days. Hey, he can still eat that haystack of thinly sliced French Fries that accompany this all-American feast.
I’m also quite fond of the “monster breakfast burrito’’ at Longbow, especially the version with chorizo and cheese that puts you in a birdie state of mind. Or how about this for early-morning fare: the full Scottish breakfast at the Brittlebrush Bar & Grill, where chef Graeme “McDowell’’ Blair also has the authentic Tartan plaid flair.
There are other eclectic offerings that soar and score with Arizona golfers like Eagle Mountain’s shrimp taco trio complete with home-made avocado salsa; We-Ko-Pa’s magnificent mahi-mahi sliders accompanied by a zesty pico de gallo; the Kobe beef sliders of Troon North fame that go hand-in-hand with a Black Butte porter; and ASU Karsten’s rock-solid Red Hook Ale-battered fish and chips with chili cream sauce that are the toast of the Trophy Room.
Speaking of sensational spirits that fit seamlessly with food, it’s hard to beat a margarita or glass of fine wine when you’re dining al fresco on The Ledge at Gold Canyon Golf Resort. Besides, where else will you encounter a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar complete with dozens of hot sauces that will truly jump-start any round?
Another of my Valley favorites is Bernard’s at Ocotillo, where service always comes with a smile thanks to the maitre d’ of all matre d’s – Carlo Ventura. A native of Bari, Italy, Carlo takes on double duty every Friday night when he dons his chef’s hat to make pasta and Tiramusu just like “mama used to do.’’
One other gem for golf-foodies that I always share with pure delight is Tubac Golf Resort, the little border-town retreat that was one of the film sites for the movie “Tin Cup.’’ Its Spanish-themed restaurant Stables has roots back to 1789 when the Conquistadors left their recipe for the incredible-edible Spanish Torta that is stuffed with “honey-scented local Fossil Creek goat cheese, piquillo peppers, roasted garlic, Spanish red onions, sunchokes, and chayote squash, as well as a side of chipolte chips. Yum!
Believe it or not, the torta is not my favorite dish nor was it Kevin Costner’s when he dined there a la Roy McAvoy. That would be the flat-iron steak that comes with Spanish sherry-grilled shrimp and avocado-mango relish. Seriously, it’s to die for.
But what’s really cool about Tubac is LaCantina, which happens to be Arizona’s most unique watering hole. Yes, it’s the only place I know of where you can enjoy a shot of Patron and a taco de camarone with all the comforts of the wild-wild West, as the bar stools are genuine leather saddles complete with stir-ups.
Top that, Bandon Dunes!
This column was written by Bill Huffman and appeared in the November 2010 edition of Avid Golfer-AZ. The publication kindly allowed us to include it on our website.