There’s no better time than now to be in Arizona. The highs are in the 70s, the skies are blue, and the football season’s most anticipated game will take place Sunday.
While being at the Super Bowl is the ultimate dream for any Seahawks fan, we can’t all go and leave Puget Sound unattended. Who will eat all the cheese the Packers left behind?
And then there’s that little $4,000 price tag for an average seat in the University of Phoenix Stadium — $17,000 if you want a nice center field position. That’s several lifetimes of beer and nachos.
That’s why we’ve developed this Arizona-themed Super Bowl party menu for you. If you can’t be there, you might as well pretend you are.
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And we think Arizonan food fits a team that’s been known to show low in the first half and then — surprise — rise like a phoenix for a carefree win.
Arizona’s mix of native, Mexican and cowboy cultures has created a rich and celebrated food repertoire.
Tanque Verde Ranch, a classic Arizona dude ranch, sits where the saguaro cactus meet the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson.
Executive chef Sergio Rocha puts on a cowboy cookout every Saturday night at the ranch as well as preparing food for the resort’s restaurant. He incorporates Arizona’s food heritage in his cuisine.
“The Mexican food is really different here. It’s not Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex,” he said. Arizona cowboy food is similarly in its own realm. “If you were a cowboy and eating off a chuck wagon there weren’t fresh herbs so you’d use a lot of dry spices.”
Rocha makes an Arizona version of the current gourmet hot dog craze: the Sonoran Hot Dog. He grills the dog with a strip of bacon wrapped around it and for a bun uses the bread used in tortas, Mexican sandwiches. But regular hot dog buns work just as well, he said.
“A Sonoran Dog becomes a trash can after that. It’s up to you to build it,” Rocha joked. Those ingredients include black beans, cilantro sour cream, pico de gallo and Sriracha flavored mayonnaise. Perfect for a Super Bowl hot dog bar.
Rocha makes several versions of Cowboy Chili, including one with a Mexican influence. “We treat it almost like a mole and add 80 percent dark chocolate.”
James Beard Award-wining chef Janos Wilder is a fixture on the Arizona restaurant scene. The owner of Tucson’s DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails, makes what he calls The Arizona Nacho — his version of the perennial party favorite. One bite and you’ll be in the sunny Southwest, he promises.
“(It) Combines the authentic flavors of Sonora and differs greatly from the commercialized nachos with their pre-fab cheese spreads,” Wilder said.
For his “The Great Chiles Rellenos Book” Wilder developed a Crab Chiles Rellenos Casserole. Think of it as the Pacific Northwest meeting the Southwest. Bonus: it’s easier to make than traditional chiles rellenos.
“A chiles rellenos casserole is a completely different kind of relleno because the chiles are not stuffed but layered. Instead of dipping the rellenos into the batter, we cook the egg custard as part of the casserole, setting the ingredients in place. The layers of corn tortilla provide an earthy, chewy yet crunchy texture and are an evocative flavor of my region.”
QUENCHING A DESERT THIRST
Despite its arid climate Arizona has a small but thriving wine industry. Sonoita Vineyards, east of Tombstone and a tumbleweed’s roll north of Mexico, produces Sparkles Brut, a sparkling wine.
Champagne, aka sparkling wine, makes a great toast — or triumphant victory dousing. But at Sonoita, as with many other Arizona wineries, they up the ante by serving their sparkling wine with an edible and sweet hibiscus flower at the bottom of the glass.
With the flowers preserved in syrup, the drink becomes an Arizona version of a champagne cocktail. Call it a desert mimosa.
Sonoita’s winemaker, Lori Reynolds, is the granddaughter of Gordon Dutt, considered the founder of the Arizona wine industry. Like several other Seahawks fans at the winery, Reynolds will be watching the game on Sunday. “We always have the Seahawks games on (TV.)”
Jars of hibiscus flowers in syrup can be purchased at a number of stores including Tacoma Boys, BevMo, Metropolitan Markets and Bayview Thriftway in Olympia.
CHOOSE A CHELADA
Beer mixed with tomato juice? Sold in a can? Surprise isn’t just the name of a city in Arizona.
The tomato-beer concoction is called a michelada or sometimes just chelada. It’s an acquired taste for some. Think of it as a shotgun marriage between Joe Sixpack and Bloody Mary.
Mexican beer maker Modelo produces them and so does good ol’ American Budweiser — even one made with Clamato. Yes, clam flavored tomato juice mixed with beer.
Arizona’s Mexican restaurants make their own house versions. Many are garnished with a lime and served in a glass with a rim dipped in a mix of salt and chili powder.
Though cheladas can be found in stores making your own allows you to vary the ratio of beer to tomato. Start with an equal mix of tomato juice and lager. Squeeze in fresh lime juice to taste. Optional seasonings include Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (such as Tabasco) and Maggi seasoning.
MAKE MINE A MARGARITA
Margaritas have morphed into so many variations you practically have to use air quotes when you say the word. Most traditionalist would agree that any drink calling itself a margarita needs tequila, orange-flavored liqueur and lime juice. But beyond that the variations are endless.
Arizona bars serve a prickly pear cactus version that comes in eye-shocking magenta. But, alas, you won’t find the needed prickly pear syrup in the Pacific Northwest. Others serve the cocktail infused with jalapenos and as dry as the desert.
Janos Wilder makes a version at his restaurant using reposado (rested) tequila, Citronge orange liqueur and fresh citrus juices. It’s a world apart from margaritas made with cloying mixes and syrups.