To get into the holiday spirit, Alex and I dined in the Ritz-Carlton’s adobe-styled gingerbread house! Having dinner inside the life-sized gingerbread house was a magical experience two days before Christmas.
After driving through the cacti lit with twinkling lights, we arrived at the resort and were graciously welcomed by several congenial staff. We spotted the beautifully-crafted gingerbread house instantaneously from the entrance. The warm lighting inside the gingerbread house drew us past the festive and well-decorated lobby.
The house is fully constructed of gingerbread and curated by Executive Pastry Chef Daniel Mangione. This year, the gingerbread house was modeled as an adobe-styled home to complement the surrounding area of Tucson. The ingredient list was as equally impressive as the house:
- 400 pounds of honey
- 856 pounds of sugar
- 350 pounds of flour
- 100 pounds of ginger powder
- 50 pounds of cinnamon
- 10 pounds of nutmeg
- 250 eggs
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain does a phenomenal job with localizing the culinary experience through the use of vendors in Tucson and the Sonoran Region. As a fellow Tucsonan, it warms my heart to see the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain providing an authentic southwest experience to those who stay.
When it comes to dining, Chef Robert Ziehr works diligently to incorporate a farm-to-table cuisine. He refines traditional cooking with locally-sourced and high-quality ingredients. Chef Robert works closely to execute the menu at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain’s restaurant, Ignite, with Executive Chef David Serus and Executive Sous Chef
Chef David and Chef Emily have built a program which enables chefs, like Robert, to have freedom and support to source locally. Even the dishware, HF Coors, is acquired locally for a majority of the plates at Ignite.
The rabbit terrine was well-flavored and made in house using local meats and pistachios. Chef Robert uses a local butcher, Ben Forbes, from Forbes Meat Company located in the Rincon Market. The board is garnished with house-made pickles, with the cucumbers from Larry’s Veggies in Marana. Other items include: Green Valley Pecans, True Love Honey, Robb’s Farm pistachios and house-made white Sonora wheat crostini from BKW Farms. Fun-fact: white Sonora wheat is one of the oldest surviving wheat varieties in North America.
Everything on the board was delicious, and we agreed we could eat only this and be happy. Our outstanding server, Keleigh, and the food and beverage senior supervisor, Chris, recommended an excellent wine to pair with the board. Epoch Estate Ingenuity 2013 was a full-bodied, red blend wine that paired well with our entire meal. 54% of the blend is syrah and lingers tannins of black raspberry and pepper.
White Sonora wheat berries, grown organically and GMO free, are from BKW Farms in Marana. White Sonora wheat is a heritage grain, as previously mentioned, and is documented to have grown in North America as early as the 1700s. Chef Robert purchases the wheat berries whole and cooks them for three hours until tender. The wheat berries provide an interesting texture, similar to farro. The warm salad is accompanied with other local ingredients including: Robb’s Farm pistachios in Wilcox, Green Valley Pecans, Local Bee Pollen from True Love Honey and prickly pear and citrus from the citrus grove on the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain property.
I have had warm salads previously but this is certainly my favorite! As a side note, Alex and I both could not get over how tasty the pecans are from Green Valley Pecans.
The corn the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain sources is from Oaxaca, Mexico. It is GMO free and an heirloom family corn that has been kept within the families of that region until recently. Chef Robert and his team cook Nixtamal, a treated corn of Aztec origins, in house and grind the corn to make their own masa. I was impressed to learn each tortilla is hand-pressed to order and noticed a quality difference immediately.
Pork Taco: The corn was Chalqueño blanco and didn’t break as easily as other corn tortillas I have eaten. The meat itself was a BBQ flavor with savory-goodness. The taco was topped with a slaw made with Nopales leaves, which is called Nopalito slaw in house.
Shrimp Tostada: The corn used for the shrimp tostada was Bolita amarilla. Alex and I both noticed that despite being fried, the tostada shell was light and airy. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and not gummy.
We enjoyed the sauce and also the garnish of pickled cholla buds from St. Xavier Farm.
The chorizo from Ben Forbes was used to create a chorizo verde that was stuffed inside the mussels with pico de gallo. I was impressed with the quality and how meaty the mussels were! The mussels were served with the freshly-milled and baked white Sonora wheat bread.
White Sonora Cavatelli
This handmade cavatelli was incredible! The pasta is made from the white Sonora wheat and requires a longer process to prepare. Chef Robert must soak the flour in water to soften the bran for 72 hours before kneading the dough. The pecan pesto uses Green Valley Organic Pecans and was divine. This was one of the best pesto dishes I have ever had and I would consider myself a huge pesto fan. The honey-goat ricotta is sourced from a local goat creamery, Fior di Capra. Alex said this was his favorite dish!
Chef Robert continues his specialization of the corn by incorporating Oaxacan corn for the tamale. He notes it is one of his signature dishes and I can see why! Living in Tucson, I have certainly had my fair share of tamales, but this one had a different consistency. It’s fascinating how the corn from Oaxaca provides the masa with such a new flavor and texture. The tamale is then placed on a bed of Ben Forbes’ chorizo verde, and garnished with aji amarillo pepper sauce. The aji amarillo is a bright, orange pepper with a mild to medium taste and complemented the green chile tamale rather well.
Just when Alex and I felt we couldn’t take another bite, we were served two desserts from Core, another restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. The desserts are designed by Executive Pastry Chef Daniel Mangione and our stomachs magically made more room.
Sticky Toffee Pudding: We could definitely see why the Sticky Toffee Pudding is Core’s signature dessert! Sticky toffee pudding is a decadent cake made with dates, then bathed in a warm, rich toffee sauce. The pudding is topped with a brown-sugar lace cookie that provides a bowl-like structure to prevent the homemade vanilla-bean ice cream from melting. We, and by we I mean I, devoured every bite. We were amazed with the richness and creaminess of the ice cream. We later found out all ice creams and sorbets are made in house.
Core Candy Bar: The Core Candy Bar was the perfect complement to the rich and decadent Sticky Toffee Pudding. It featured bittersweet layers of chocolate cake with a roasted-hazelnut crunch filling, topped with spiced hazelnuts, lace cookies and dark chocolate. The cake was served with peanut-butter ice cream on a bed of crushed chocolate cookies.
Alex and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit, from the food to the welcoming staff. Dining in the gingerbread house is a one-of-a-kind experience I recommend to be shared as a romantic dinner or intimate family outing. The nearby live music in the lobby further added to the ambiance. Thank you to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain for sponsoring this post and for flourishing the Tucson economy by working with local vendors.