If you think Sonoran Restaurant Week is only about Mexican food, you may do a double take when you see dishes inspired by Moroccan, Jamaican, French, and Indonesian traditions on display during the annual event.
Fret not, enchilada enthusiasts. Classic Sonoran cuisine will take center stage at several of the eateries participating in the September 10-19 fete. But many others will be serving up dishes drawn from other cultures, and that squares nicely with the spirit of the week.
“It’s always been our intention to highlight the many different cuisine types that are available here in the Sonoran region, and this event is one big way to do it,” said Laura Reese, co-founder of Sonoran Restaurant Week.
Which leads me to atjar tjampoer.
Nicole and Marcus van Winden’s menu at The Dutch Eatery and Refuge has always had a European flair, but its connection with Indonesia is something they wanted to highlight during this special week.
“Historically, the Netherlands has enjoyed close ties with Indonesia, and you’ll find lots of Indonesian influences in Dutch cuisine,” said Nicole van Winden, co-owner of The Dutch, 943 E. University Boulevard. “You’ll see this in our Bang Bang Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich.”
These boys are composed of curry-forward, Indonesian-spiced fried shrimp, spicy mayonnaise, tomatoes, and an Indonesian-inspired pickled cabbage called atjar tjampoer. It’s served on a local torta roll with fries.
The Dutch’s Restaurant Week menu will also transport your palates to Paris with their Duck a L'orange Tacos, with slow-braised orange duck, Brussels slaw, picked red onions, candied orange peel, cotija cheese, and local corn tortillas.
“Marcus’ background is in French fine dining, and he prepares the duck for these tacos using the same formal techniques he’s used with traditional Duck a L’orange,” she said.
The Dutch is offering a two-course meal for Sonoran Restaurant Week, including these and other options, plus a select beverage, for $25 per person.
One look at Renee Kreager’s menu at Renee’s and you might assume that she vacationed in Jamaica and Morocco in preparation for Sonoran Restaurant Week.
Her Jerk-braised Short Ribs play a starring role, with salt and vinegar potatoes and a red cabbage and pineapple slaw. The beef is rubbed with Jamaican jerk spices, lemon, and habaneros, seared on a high heat, and slowly braised with onions, coconut milk, and Mexican Coke.
“This dish is an example of the foods we’re getting delivered to our door from our own region,” said Kreager, owner of Renee’s, 7065 E. Tanque Verde Road. “Our beef is from a ranch near Patagonia and our potatoes come from a farm north of Prescott,” she said.
Vegetarian and vegan options are always aplenty at Renee’s, and those who’ve adopted those lifestyles should find favor with Kreager’s Moroccan Garbanzo Cakes.
These bean cakes are seasoned with a 13-spice blend, led by turmeric, ginger, and cardamom, and plated with a cranberry chutney and fresh arugula.
“We had fun building these diverse kinds of dishes that highlight local ingredients prepared in a different way,” said Kreager.
Renee’s has built a three-course meal for Sonoran Restaurant Week, including these and several other selections, for $35 per person.
All of the 50 restaurants participating in Sonoran Restaurant Week are offering custom-coursed, prix fixe menus at either $25 or $35 per person. A full roster of the restaurants and their menus is available at www.SonoranRestaurantWeek.com.
I guess I can cancel my trips to Morocco, Jamaica, France, and Indonesia. When it comes to dining out, there’s no place like home.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.