BlogDesigning Menus Around the Flavors of Fall
close up of a seafood bowl

Designing Menus Around the Flavors of Fall

Truffles with Parmesean… Grilled Churrasco… Seafood Pozole Verde… with fall comes vibrant dishes from our top chefs. Discover the creative minds behind the Princess’ culinary geniuses, and get inspired for your next fall night out.

Bourbon Steak – A Conversation with Executive Chef Sara Garrant

Q: Chef Sara, you’re from a small commercial fishing town in south-central Alaska, attended pastry school in Ottawa, and now work for Michael Mina. How does your background show up in your cooking? What inspires your culinary creations?

A: For starters, I love fresh seafood, and make it a point to ensure we have nice product. We work with a purveyor from the East Coast that gets the freshest scallops I’ve seen in my life, and they are still reactive when they arrive at Bourbon. During halibut season, she will literally call and say they just landed a 30 lb. fish, and ask if we want it – and yes, we always do. 

As far as inspiration for dishes, it comes from many different things. Sometimes it’s a random food craving that I want to see incorporated into a dish, or it’s throwbacks and reinventions of dishes we’ve done in the past, but with a new twist. As the cooks in our kitchen develop, we do plenty of collaboration as well. They will have some ideas, and from there we work it through it as a team until it becomes a menu-worthy dish. I love this as a development tool, since it keeps them engaged with the restaurant as well. 

Q: What’s new at Bourbon Steak this fall?

A: I’m very excited about the fall offerings this year. You’ll see a play on some more traditional autumnal dishes like Braised Short Rib Ravioli and Roasted Squash Soup, which I think are some of the ultimate fall foods. It’s also prime truffle season, so how could we not include truffles on the menu! Our Spaghetti alla Chitarra features a parmesan truffle emulsion, black pepper caviar, watercress, and shaved winter truffle. Since fall is synonymous with truffles and they instantly elevate every dish, we invite you to add them to any item on the menu. All you need do is ask!

Q: Which ingredients define the fall dining season to you, and how do they make an appearance on Bourbon Steak’s menu?

A: So many come to mind! Winter squashes, polenta, braised meats, quince, apples, truffles, duck, persimmons, scallops, and cranberries just to name a few. We do try to incorporate lots of the fall and winter seasonal items into the dinner menus, but try to highlight only one or two on a dish - like duck and citrus; squash and sage; scallops and cauliflower. We also look at the overall composition of the dish, and want it to be balanced. For instance, we want to avoid having a heavy parmesan polenta served with braised short ribs and garnished with a full-bodied sauce so it doesn’t overwhelm the palate. To create balance, we’ll keep it lighter and even add acidity to help cut thru the richness and warmth of those items. 

Q: What is your perfect food and beverage pairing on the new fall menu?

A: The dish I am most excited about is the Seared Scallop – served with cauliflower, crab and a lemon emulsion. It goes incredibly well with a nice glass of Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett. The juicy, succulent texture and richness of the scallops are only enhanced by the racing acidity of a dry Riesling, and Selbach is one of the best producers out of Germany.  I really look forward to that first scallop bite and sip all year long. My mouth is watering thinking about it now!

Q: Your “can’t miss” fall dessert?

A: I spent some time in upstate New York when I was a teen, and to this day I have a love for Macintosh apples. I’m hoping to incorporate them into the dessert menu in some way as soon as the temperature drops. Stay tuned!

Toro Latin Restaurant & Rum Bar – A Conversation with Executive Chef Gage Smit

Q: Chef Gage, can you tell us about your background and how it has shaped your culinary work?

A: I was born and raised on a 10 acre Banana farm in Maui, HI, which instilled an enormous respect for the land, food and how to prepare it. We grew a lot of our own produce and I spent a lot of my formative years in the kitchen at home, which naturally led me to working in restaurants. Early on, I was encouraged by my chef to pursue culinary school, and that’s where all the real fun began. After school, I was part of the opening culinary team for the Andaz in Hawaii, then came to the Fairmont brand at Fairmont Orchid as the Chef De Cuisine. It was such a great opportunity and huge honor to work in some of the top restaurants in Hawaii. Speaking from a culinary perspective, Hawaii is such an interesting and diverse place. Asian flavors are abundant - bright acidity and fresh seafood – so it was a natural fit when I got situated at Toro at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

Q: What’s new at Toro this fall?

A: This season is all about gathering and dining together, so we invite you to enjoy some of our delicious shareable items. Here at Toro, we think dining together makes the experience better, so we have dishes that allow you to do just that. Take our chefs choice sushi board with 32 pieces of the freshest seasonal sushi chosen daily by our premier sushi chef for example. The fish is flown in daily from Santa Monica, so it’s the freshest catch you can get in Arizona. We also offer a Churrasco Jardin, a platter showcasing all different meats – steak & sausage sourced directly from Argentina, plus chicken and prawns – completed with mouthwatering sauces and grilled seasonal vegetables.

Come November 1st, we will be switching over completely to a new fall menu and expanding the center piece dishes with creations like our 42oz Tomahawk Bone-In Ribeye - grilled to perfection, served with roasted potatoes and chimichurri, and charred tableside with a torch. I'm also thrilled to bring Lobster Fried Rice to the table. This Asian staple enjoys a succulent 50oz lobster tail place atop a bed of fried rice that features even more lobster and chorizo added to the mixture for a flavorful surprise.

Q: Which ingredients define the fall dining season to you, and how do they make an appearance on Toro’s menu?

A: Squash, fall spices, pumpkin seeds, chai, and cinnamon are the usual holiday favorites. You’ll see them in a variety of ways on our menu, but of course we’ll still be paying respects to our Asian/Latin fusion culture. One dessert that’s a great example is our Warm Chocolate Truffle Brownie. It seems like a straightforward classic, but we change it up and use seasonal staples like sweet potato, marshmallow and graham crackers in playful ways. It's a dish that has to be tasted to be believed!

Q: How do you continue to play with the Latin-Asian fusion aspect of the Toro cuisine?

A: Almost every cocktail and dish on the menu is a hybrid of both cultures, but our sushi is a great illustration. Take the Miso Chipotle Black Cod. A Miso glazed black cod is a staple at most sushi houses, but we turn it on its head and incorporate a chipotle seasoning with a mix of 7 chillies for spice. It melds all of our favorite Asian-Latin flavors together.

Q: What is your perfect food and beverage pairing on the new fall menu?

A: While shaping the current wine list, we were very excited to feature a variety of South American wines not typically seen on the dinner menu. We brought on this incredible Patagonia Pinot Noir, Wapisa. This isn’t the region you typically think of for Pinot Noir, and it’s no wonder considering Patagonia is one of the furthest south wine growing regions in the world. But this brings it such a bright acidity and vibrant juiciness that makes it the perfect food wine. Give me a glass of that, some good buddies and the Bone-In Pork Chop with a Churrasco Jardin to share; that’s a meal you can’t miss.

Q: Your “can’t miss” fall dessert?

A: The Warm Chocolate Truffle Brownie is to die for, but of course you can’t go without doing the La Bomba for an explosive tableside desert experience (if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a must!). Just make sure to bring lots of friends and lots of spoons so you can taste everything!

La Hacienda – A Conversation with Executive Chef Forest Hamrick

Q: Chef Forest, how has your background shaped your culinary creations?

A: My wife, Marcela, has been one of my greatest inspiration for the last 27 years. She is originally from Mexico, which has given me years of travel and experiences throughout the country and given me exposure to new ingredients – whether that’s at some of the most upscale Mexican restaurants in the world, or simply the mercados, or local markets. I love learning about the culture and its different cuisines from state to state, and pueblo to pueblo. Marcela and my travels have truly been an inspiration in my creativity.

Q: What’s new at La Hacienda this fall?

A: This fall we are collaborating with Richard Sandoval Hospitality in the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos, paying tribute to the memory of loved ones passed. Each of these dishes have cultural significance like the Empanadas de Muerto and the Boneless Short Rib. Empanadas date back to the 16th century in Mexico and were considered the "dish of the working man", as it's contents were considered to be a full meal easily carried to work. We will be using one of the most traditional Mexican chilies, the chili guajillo, to flavor the corn masa that is then filled with a chipotle season braised chicken and accompanied by rich guacamole and a creamy queso fresco.

Further paying tribute to the spirit of the holiday, Mole is one of the most traditional dishes served on Dia de los Muertos. This complex sauce is considered one of the richest in all of Mexico and families often share this dish with both living visitors and the souls of their ancestors when it is placed on the altars for Day of the Dead. To pay hommage to this ritual, our mole will be served with a fork-tender, braised boneless short rib that has been cooked in an array of chilies, alliums and aromatics and accompanied with a creamy sweet potato puree and baby carrots - definitely a dish that can't be missed!

Q: Which ingredients define the fall dining season to you, and how do they make an appearance on La Hacienda’s menu?

A: Fall here in The Valley is definitely where you begin to see apples, pears, pumpkin and squashes along with braised and comforting dishesFor our comforting dish, we’re adding a Seafood Pozole Verde with baby squid shrimp, clams, white corn, and cempazuchil oil. A new desert we’re excited to put out is “El Ritual”, which is a variation of a milhojas layer cake, and features flavors of pumpkin cooked with smoked sugar cane, layered with mandarin chocolate sauce and caramelized phyllo.

Q: Dia de los Muertos seems to be a major inspiration for the fall menu. What is the cultural significance and why choose to represent it with food?

A: Dia de Los Muertos is going to be celebrated for about a months' time here at the Restaurant. Traditionally it is recognized and celebrated November 1st and 2nd. On these two days, families welcome in the spirits of loved ones that have deceased by elevating an altar and placing offerings that their loved ones once enjoyed which includes food, drink, music, etc... Very much celebrated throughout Mexico and also here in the states. Since food brings us all together, and is a great tool for expression, we only thought it appropriate to celebrate this way.

Q: What is your perfect food and beverage pairing on the new fall menu?

A: The boneless short rib paired with a young mezcal would be my go to on this season!

Q: Your “can’t miss” fall dessert?

A: Besides the experiencing the Pastel de Queso - a Requeson custard and black sapote chocolate cake topped with cajeta caramel sauce and smoked pecan marzipan crumble, I can’t wait to get a bite of Chef Joel’s Pan de Muerto with Champurrado, which is essentially a thick Mexican hot chocolate. I'm a true lover of all things bread.

Dine with us at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, and try all these creative, festive meals yourself!