Danielle Goldtooth is on a mission to reconnect people to their food, and to the people who cultivate it.
That mission has taken her and her family from living in Phoenix to working a Dudleyville ranch and then back to her home of Shiprock, New Mexico, to farm a plot of land. This journey started during the pandemic and was inspired by “some food security scares,” when items disappeared from grocery store shelves.
“As somebody who grew up on a reservation, we had a huge input in our food system,” says Goldtooth, who learned to forage as a child and whose grandparents still farm on the Navajo Nation.
In the hustle, bustle and convenience of a large city like Phoenix, she got distanced from those traditions. While in the Valley, Goldtooth worked as a waitress and mixologist. During her time making cocktails at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, she met her husband, Alan Moore, who is a chef. Together, they grew their knowledge of foraging in the Sonoran Desert and then in New Mexico.
“We really started wanting to reconnect ourselves with our roots again," she says. "As a family, we decided to go on a mission to see what it takes… to feed family first and then feed a community.”
Garden Bar on Nov. 1. The dinner will feature foraged, local and Indigenous ingredients and purveyors. Called the Ha'ahòni Fall Dinner, the event celebrates the harvest and the start of Native American Heritage Month.
The phrase “ha'ahòni” means perseverance, says Goldtooth, who is Diné.
“The act of agriculture in itself is perseverance for humankind,” she says. “You can’t have food or clothing or libations without the hard work and the calloused hands of our agriculturalists.”
This marks the second year the couple has partnered on a pop-up dinner with the bar owned by local cocktail expert Kim Haasarud.
“We look to partner with people where we can help give them a platform on their own terms,” Haasarud says. “It’s important to reach out into your local community and make those relationships. I think that’s how real awareness happens.”
Food sovereignty in focusGoldtooth and Moore host seasonal dinner pop-ups through Dii IINÀ Food Start to Finish, their dining experience business that highlights local and Indigenous purveyors and ingredients, and educates people on issues such as food sovereignty.
“Food sovereignty to me is the idea that community working together is able to provide food for itself and also that we’re using sustainable practices,” Goldtooth says over the phone while standing in her field in Shiprock. She adds that it also means finding Indigenous purveyors to “cultivate goodwill between everybody in order to pay homage to the fact that this is Native land.”
Goldtooth and Moore’s events also put farmers and ranchers in the spotlight.
“They’re really what generates a good economy in our area, especially when we’re looking at the food industry,” she says.
The dinner will be made from items she and Moore foraged from the Four Corners area, including sumac berries, acorns and apples, as well as produce from their farm, goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy and quail and quail eggs from Casa Grande Quail among other purveyors.
“If we haven’t haven’t stepped on a field and shaken the farmer’s or the rancher’s hand, it probably won’t end up on one of our plates,” Moore says.
For Haasarud, it’s a natural partnership because Garden Bar's mission to serve cocktails “from garden to glass” aligns with the work of Goldtooth and Moore.
“I think this (dinner) is a great example of how they’ve gone and foraged the food and how to work with local farmers and ranchers. I think it’s a good demonstration of that, what it can look like and taste like,” she says.
What’s on the menu?Borrowing a term she saw on a restaurant’s menu in Portland, Oregon, Goldtooth calls their approach “aggressively seasonal.”
Because of that, they have a plan for the four-course meal and cocktail pairings but must be flexible and able to adjust based on the best available ingredients, which they’ll get in the days leading up to the event. It’s an about-face to most kitchens Moore has worked in, where consistency is the name of the game, he says.
“When we are strictly sticking with what we are able to forage and what our farmers are able to produce, it becomes a whole lot more loose,” the chef says.
The tentative meal plan will begin with a crudites board and dipping sauces. The second course will be an amuse-bouche featuring a sumac-salt-cured quail egg yolk with an egg white, lime and tequila foam. The third course will include mesquite-smoked quail with a sumac, chiltepin and agave glaze, herbed hasselback potatoes and roasted vegetables. The final course is a goat cheese cheesecake with a mesquite and acorn flour crust. It will be topped with housemade caramel and apple butter.
“We found a lost orchard while we were out foraging for the sumac and the acorns,” Moore says, explaining the source of the apples.
Aspen Bingham are still finalizing the cocktail list. There will be a welcome drink and a selection of cocktails offered during the dinner. Goldtooth hopes to incorporate liqueurs and syrups she’s made from local and foraged ingredients such as sumac syrup.
The meal will be served family style, with a seating of 30 to 40 people. Thanks to Garden Bar’s locale – a 1914 California bungalow – the event will be akin to attending a dinner party, according to Haasarud.
“It will feel like you are coming to our house for dinner,” she says.
The intimate experience will also offer a window into other cultures which can spark conversations, Goldtooth says.
“Having a place to be able to put this together and have this imagination to go forward, it’s huge for me,” she says, adding that while Native American cuisine hasn’t been a focus of the broader national culinary conversation, she’s starting to see that change. Rhode Island chef Sherry Pocknett became the first Indigenous woman to win a James Beard Award this year, Goldtooth notes.
“To be able to cultivate that type of environment for people to make it a little more accessible has been phenomenal,” she says.
Ha'ahòni Fall DinnerNov. 1
822 N. Sixth Ave.
Tickets are $125, plus gratuity, and are available through Eventbrite.