Unfortunately, we were a little late in the Three Sisters culinary series game.
We did get an invite to the first one held at Hotel Congress on May 3rd in their copper room, which featured James Beard award winning pizza master Chris Bianco, along with chefs from Maynard's and Cup Cafe, but due to some medical issues we had to skip out. Sucks.
The second in the series, that took place at the Westward Look Resort, sold out so fast that when we rsvp'd we quickly got a polite "Sorry". Hey, it makes sense. Paying customers come first. Freeloaders like me with a funky blog can wait. Although it was on me that I made my press reservation late. I thought it was happening on July 29th. It was slated for JUNE 29th. C'mon Mark. Get yo crap sorted.
This time we made darn sure to attend the final episode in the tasty trilogy: Brunch at The Lodge at Ventana Canyon.
Oh yeah. The Homeskillet got down with the brunch crowd.
|Nice day for it|
So what exactly is "three sisters"? No it does not refer to triplets or a trio of nuns. I mean, it could, but in this instance it involves an agricultural practice of planting together corn, beans and squash. Basically three main components that are an integral in our Sonoran landscape.
Hosted by SAACA (Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance), along with Native Seeds/SEARCH, this was a three day event to feature the soul ingredients in so many of our heritage foods. Not a bad was to spend a summer night.
Or late morning for the brunch I attended.
Amazing food and getting a bit of education on our southern Arizona horticulture?
Let's do this!
|Getting educated with Native Seeds|
Here's the thing: as the food writer for the Tucson Weekly, I do get invites to fancy events and plated dinners now and then. It's a lot of fun, if not a smidge of pressure to get gussied up and being prepared to kiss hands and shake babies, but going to high end resorts, for me anyway, is slightly uncomfortable.
Ventana Canyon is basically a golf and tennis getaway for good folks that have made themselves some good money. Then here I come, some 48 year old aging skate punk and Metalhead in tattered Vans and a vintage Acapulco shirt mingling with those that could buy and sell me as an afterthought.
Sure I grew up on the California coast, calling Carmel my hometown, and spent a lot of time in Palm Springs where the dads lived until their death in 2014, so you'd think it'd be easy for me to ease into a well manicured resort where the biggest health threat is getting run over by a renegade golf cart.
Meh. I'm fine with it but...just not my scene man.
Still. It's always nice to get included with the well-to-do's during fun get-togethers such as this one.
|These guys kept it lively|
The Three Sisters brunch was held in the lodge at Ventana, essentially the rumpus room for guests who just went over par the the 18th green and looking to swig back a few to forget the bet they placed earlier staking that they would birdie on each hole.
It was pretty packed. Two dudes calling themselves the Troy Grey Duo (and I assume one of them was indeed Troy Grey) played peppy guitar music as people swirled around from one food station to another.
The chefs at Ventana were set up in the far left corner, flipping omelets equipped with, you got it, beans, corn and squash. One lady kept asking the head chef to make her omelet nice and hard. "I don't like runny eggs!", she informed. So the chef cooked hers a bit longer. When he was about to plate, the lady in the big hat proclaimed, "Oh no! I need to have my eggs brown!"
The chef and I locked eyes for a second. His expression was a quick and near invisible "Are you fxxking kidding me?" while I scrunched my face as if to say "You fxxking kidding me?" In the end the lady got her way overdone omelet and she was more than happy about it.
Hey. Different strokes man.
|Horchata coffee shots...yum|
The SweetScapes Dessert kids from Casino del Sol were there with a literal wall of scratch made donuts. I plucked one off, a maple pecan I believe, and enjoyed it with a shot of horchata inspired espresso. So good. Those donuts were very light without a hint of that usual greasy fry you get with most store bought variety.
To their right was some reps from Nook that offered up a corn quiche with a black bean salsa. Very nice. I did take a picture of it but it came out kinda fuzzy because I got knocked by an older fella who was probably on his third mimosa. Whatever.
Hey, brunch aint brunch without some booze in that o.j. right? And, hey, congrats on getting to old man status. You earned that late morning buzz bro.
Now grab yourself a donut and do a silly dance for you purple golf shirt wearing freak.
I love it.
|These made me go nuts|
And, yes, there was a mimosa station and a bloody mary one as well. If you made your way down the hall, heading toward the retail store and gym, there was a full bar, but...c'mon. I like to drink as much as the next degenerate, but one thing I don't get into is day drinking. Maybe in my 20s I did it but all it ever did for me was make me take a nap in the late afternoon only to wake up as the sun is going down with that sun booze frontal head pound.
I guess the idea is to just drink more. Jeeze. But then...where does it end? Will it end?
Here's a conundrum: Do you want it to end?
I didn't have a mimosa because I'm not big on champagne, but I did have a small cup of a bloody mary made with Tito's vodka. Spicy, briny and yummy. I seriously had to stop myself from ordering a big boy mug of the stuff. It wasn't even noon and I had a 30 minute drive back home. I guess I'm sort of a responsible adult. Yuck.
It was cool to see someone from Button Brew House there, serving up a taster of their chiltepin infused red ale. It took a second, but the heat from the pepper eventually kicked it.
|It aint brunch without a proper mimosa|
The hooch and food was making me drowsy, so I meandered over to the Yellow Brick Coffee table for a pick me up.
Yellow Brick is easily one of my top 3 for local coffee roasters. The blend served that day was so well balanced with some slight acidity. It was the slow infusion method and after my cup I knew I was ready for more damage. Boink. Yep...I'm awake.
Thanks Yellow Brick Coffee!
|Or a cup of good strong coffee|
Okay. You remember what I said earlier, about being awkward at higher end festivals and such? Well one of the best parts about my job is meeting and making friends with some awesome people.
One such person is chef Wendy Gauthier, who just won the latest Iron Chef Tucson. Hooray! I was there to watch her win and being witness to the first lady to take the honor of Iron Chef Tucson was, well, an honor. Plus I wrote about her for the Weekly a year or two ago so we've remained close ever since.
Wendy and her crew were dishing out black bean breakfast quesadillas and corn grits. It's bites like that which make you realize how she won Iron Chef. So tasty.
A baker that I have made good friends with after our initial hanging out for a future Weekly article is Chelle Jennings, who runs the Mad Batter Bakery. She's a bit like Wendy where she does more catering and special orders rather than owning an actual brick and mortar. Although Wendy does run a cafe in the Daily Star building but is known for her catered events and meal preps.
Chelle, dealing with a recent loss of her cat, was a but late. No one really seemed to mind though because her maize cinnamon rolls with a brown butternut squash agave filling were divine.
Chelle, much like me, is home all day working so we got into the habit of texting one another when we needed a break or were bored. And I was really sad to hear about the passing of her cat. When the time comes for Lil Poundcake to move on, you better believe that I will be silent for a while. Probably hiding in some beach hut near my hometown, equipped with nothing but tater tots and whiskey till the sting subsides.
But its a beautiful day so...let's not dwell on the inevitable.
|Chef Wendy serving up smiles and black bean quesadillas|
Another culinary badass I was fortunate to write about and become pals with is chef Maria Mazon of Boca Tacos y Tequila. This lady, who is quickly becoming quite the local celebrity, offered up chilaquiles with a black bean guajillo sauce and corn crema. Absolutely amazing if not a bit decadent. She was cooking along with her wife and the two seemed to be having a blast. I would be too if I was serving up mega delicious food with my wife as well. But my lady is even more of a recluse than I am when it comes to events such as this. Plus she's always working keeping a busy midtown restaurant running properly.
And that, as they say, is girl power!
|The always entertaining and brilliant chef Maria|
Once again, thank you SAACA for the invitation. Once my golf resort anxiety cooled down I ended up having a lot of fun. Especially with some friends in the midst. And cheers to Native Seeds for providing the tools to further the cause of why living in Tucson is so rad.
But most of all, lets give it up to the three sisters, corn, beans and squash. Where would we be without them. Slightly more hungry and less satisfied I would presume. Its because of them, and everyone else involved, that got us that UNESCO nod in the first place. Which makes my job as a food writer that more interesting. And easier.
When I returned home, I laid down on the bed for a spell. I was pretty full and swimming from so much awesome. Then Lil Poundcake jumped up next to me and nuzzled in. I gave her a good head rub and was so thankful to have her with me and, above all, have such fortune as to be included with all of this deliciousness our desert hamlet has to offer.
I may be switching gears on this blog a bit, expanding its horizons beyond just food, but just know that if I can't get something in the Weekly, you better believe it'll make the digital pages of the Homeskillet.
And, as always, thanks for reading my stuff.
|He got them straight up skillet skillz|
Camera, Typing and Stone Cold Brunching
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A Perfect Saturday in August, 2019