As locals, it drives us nuts when resorts offer spa and food deals that we can't take advantage of, particularly in the summer when -- let's face it -- no one else is begging to come to town. But someone got smart over at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess with what they're calling the Passion Project -- in short, offering resort guests and locals experiences beyond expected resort activities. And you don't have to be a hotel guest to partake.
Six culinary tastings top a list that will change seasonally. Lucky us, we had a chance to sample three of the tasting experiences: Demystifying Tequila at La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval with "Tequila Goddess" Danielle Griffin; Snake River Farms American Kobe Beef Tasting at Michael Mina's BOURBON STEAK, and Bourbon Flights at BOURBON STEAK.
Danielle Griffin calls herself the Tequila Goddess -- and we suppose we'll let her get away with it, considering that her impressive knowledge and training (not to mention statuesque beauty) make her a choice hostess for a tasting of reposado, anejo, extra anejo, and blanco tequila. She developed her expertise with visits to Mexico to study tequila production and actually earned a diploma from Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council.
Danielle is proficient in the culture and history of tequila, amd she's got a deep knowledge of individual brands. We learned to deeply inhale after taking a sip to help us note each tequila's distinctive qualities.
The tequila experience is available in La Hacienda's tasting room, Tuesday-Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to close for $30 per person. Reservations are recommended. Tequila flights can also be experienced at the bar or during dinner, prices vary.
We sampled a tequila flight paired with a trio of La Hacienda's Ceviche: Camorone- (shrimp) with orange chile Habanero, Mahi Mahi- with citrus tomato and chile Serrano, and Ahi Tuna- with red onion, mango and a mole verde vinaigrette. Each preparation complemented the main ingredient so well it was hard to declare a favorite.
We also sampled the Empanadas de Camaron, crispy shrimp turnovers with a pineapple-bell pepper relish and chile chipotle vinaigrette; Sopes de Langosta (lobster), with black beans, chile de arbol sauce, avocado and cilantro; and a Pork Belly Taco-served on a corn tortilla topped with grilled pineapple salsa verde. Knowing there was more to sample at BOURBON STEAK, we restrained from taking more than a bite from each, except for the crisp and succulent pork belly taco, which disappeared from the plate.
Although the ceviche and antojitos are not part of the Passion Project tasting experience, we recommend ordering a few appetizers for two people to split, a perfect way to sample Richard Sandoval's modern Mexican cuisine with your tequila moment.
Over at BOURBON STEAK, Michael Mina's Snake River Farms American Kobe Beef Tasting spotlighted three cuts, New York, coulotte or cap cut, and flatiron, of American Wagyu beef from Idaho's Snake River Farms. Each cut an ample 4 oz serving. Chef Daniel Patino's seasonal sides, broccolini with garlic and chili citronette, creamed corn with jalapeño escabeche, and soy-glazed shiitakes in mirin and ginger accompanied the beef tasting.
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If you've never tried Wagyu beef, this sampling is a perfect way to compare cuts and cooking methods. The coulotte, a cut popular in France and Brazil, was our favorite in taste and texture. The American Kobe Beef tasting can be ordered off the menu Monday-Saturday from 5:30-10 p.m. for $85.
"Three B's"-a bourbon tasting and a nice complement to the Wagyu beef, topped off the night. Blanton's, Booker's and Basil Hayden provide a range of American whisky: the complex notes of Blanton, the uncut, unfiltered Booker's and the milder Basil Hayden.
Additional flight choices are the "Single Barrel" flight: Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10 year, Evan Williams Single Barrel and Four Roses Single Barrel; and a "Rye Way" flight: R1, Sazerac and Russel's Rye. Flights range from $16 - $19 and are available Monday - Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to close. Reservations are preferred.