Stockyards, centennial commission whip up dishes for Arizona's 100th birthdayJuly 19, 2011
by Karen Fernau – Apr. 4, 2011 05:50 PM
The Arizona Republic
A Phoenix restaurant honoring Arizona’s cattle-ranching roots is dishing up history packed with flavors from our state’s past 100 years.
The new centennial menu at the Stockyards, which opened in 1947 in what was then the largest cattle feedlot in the world, showcases the succession of cultures that set up kitchens in our state, from Native American piñon nuts to cowboy soda biscuits.
“What we eat says a lot about who we are and where we’ve been. It says a lot about the land on which we live and the people of the land,” said Gary Lasko, co-proprietor of the Stockyards.
The Centennial Taste of Arizona project began nearly six months ago with the Stockyards linking arms with the Arizona Centennial Commission to solicit family and restaurant recipes from the residents who love them.
The goal: create seasonal centennial menus that showcase foods from a hodgepodge of influences, such as the Pimas, ranchers, Catholic missionaries, Mexican settlers, Japanese railroad workers and range-riding cowboys. One catch: the dishes must suit modern-day tastes.
The Stockyards received hundreds of calls, faxes, e-mails and written notes with treasured recipes. After narrowing down the recipes, centennial-commission members tasted the dishes and picked the winners.
From now through the state’s centennial birthday on Feb. 14, 2012, the Stockyards is serving up the winning dishes in a three-course prix-fixe dinner, from a pear-and-pecan salad from Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge in Sedona to piñon-crusted chicken with cherry-chipotle sauce from Rancho de la Osa in Tucson and a mixed-berry crumb pie from Rock Springs Cafe.
Together the dishes pay homage to the cooks, foods and eateries that have molded Arizona’s culinary landscape. The starter salad and entree chicken both appear in “Tastes Treasures, a Storytelling Cookbook of Historic Arizona,” published by the Arizona Historical Society.
But where’s the beef?
Chicken was selected over beef to appeal to a broader audience, Lasko said, adding that a beef dish will be added for the fall menu. For Stockyards chef Michael Shea, the centennial menu proves the adage that “everything old becomes new.”
“Early settlers cooked with chiles and corn because that’s what they could grow,” Shea said. “We eat them today because that’s what we like.”
Either way, Arizona history tastes pretty darn good.