A brand new Cave Creek restaurant hopes to amass an even bigger collection of agave-based spirits than another on the earth. Ofrenda, a colossus of a 300-seater with two tales of outside tables, has a 20-foot-tall “library” of tequila and mezcal accessed by ladders. Behind a bar close to the doorway stands distinguished bottles: Mezcal Carreno, a model with some Arizona roots, and El Tesoro, a celebrated highland tequila line.
I stood at this bar on a latest evening ready for takeout, ogling bottles, trying round.
The waitstaff was wiping tables, sprucing handblown glassware, attending a number of diners. A crooning feminine Spanish voice, her notes dripping with emotion, emerged from the nice, staid music being performed. I famous the cavernousness of the eating room, its open kitchen, its tables constructed from Indian Rosewood, its show of cowhide customary into marigolds. Home windows had been open. Late solar was thick. The rattling of a cocktail shaker erupted.
With a jolt, I spotted how a lot I missed eating places. I additionally realized how a lot enjoyable, after the pandemic, this one may be.
The house owners of Ofrenda are Carlos Marquez and Michael Stone, the group behind Taco Guild. They’ve remade the restaurant at 7100 East Cave Creek Highway, Suite 151, in Cave Creek’s Stagecoach Villagfrom from its earlier house, Indigo Crow, additionally theirs. Past agave spirits galore, Ofrenda focuses on meals channeling Mexico, Latin America broadly, and Spain. The kitchen has thrilling wrinkles, like heirloom blue corn tortillas, a smoker, and even the creativity and guts to grind mesquite pods for gnocchi.
Marquez believes this north Valley city fits Ofrenda’s ethos.
“Cave Creek could be very pricey to me,” he says. “I like the way it’s not city — it’s very unfold out. You’re out in the true Sonoran Desert. It form of represents what we’re going for. We wish folks to expertise not solely the ambiance however to exit into the desert and have a look at nature.”
Marquez is government chef, Daniel Masferrer sous chef. If a number of menu gadgets deliver the previous Cartwright’s to thoughts (mesquite gnocchi, salmon over Pima corn), it may be as a result of Masferrer cooked there.
The Ofrenda menu feels easy, but accommodates flashes of intrigue and originality.
I hit the starters fairly laborious. A beet carpaccio was spectacular, constructed on ultra-thin slices like broad purple sails. These get attentive therapy: a tender steaming with vinegar, a skinny slicing, and a last smoking. It makes for an opulent strategy to eat the candy, earthy vegetable.
Mesquite-grilled hen, minus the salsa verde to be poured on.
A starter board of garlicky guacamole, hummus, grilled greens, and some different bites was strong total, no curveballs, about what you’d anticipate. Puffy, completely crunchy bands of chicharrones had been on level and had me lacking takeout cocktails. All was gravy however for fried items of hominy, laborious and chewy.
Strong plates of meals had been the norm, together with a wealthy tepary bean puree, flavorful hen grilled over mesquite, and the coarse, thick blue-corn tortillas coming with many orders, like duck carnitas tacos. That stated, the salsa verde on that hen may have had extra zap, the mole on prawns extra depth.
My favourite dish was a trout tamale, impressed by Masferrer’s Salvadorian grandmother. As I drove house to eat, the aroma of steamy banana leaves perfumed my automotive. Easy trout fillets teeter close to the tamales, certain. The true treasure, although, lies inside. Unfold these banana leaves, and extra fish lurks within the masa. Its smoky taste has unfold all via the nice and cozy masa, pervading the compact corn in one of the best ways attainable. Leftovers scream for a fried egg or two.
My early sense of Ofrenda is that it has a ton of potential. The kitchen exhibits some good flashes, but it surely may additionally edit itself tougher. The restaurant design is top-notch, creating the form of spot that, with the best tunes and drink and climate, can put you at peace. The agave program will likely be grand to dive into, whether or not or not the house owners can amass a really peerless choice. (“We’re going for the world document,” Marquez reiterates. “Proper now, the world document is held in Oaxaca.”)
“Ofrenda” is Spanish. “What ‘ofrenda’ means is ‘providing,’” Marquez says. “It additionally interprets into ‘altar’ … Ofrenda is a spot the place you possibly can rejoice together with your family members and keep in mind those that have handed.” It’s additionally, he provides, an area the place you possibly can rejoice neighborhood.
By the doorway, an ofrenda stands. Candles cowl the eerily wax-streaked desk. Each it and every part else at Ofrenda feels prepared, now and for after the pandemic, ready for the neighborhood to come back in.
Preserve Phoenix New Occasions Free… Since we began Phoenix New Occasions, it has been outlined because the free, impartial voice of Phoenix, and we want to preserve it that means. Providing our readers free entry to incisive protection of native information, meals and tradition. Producing tales on every part from political scandals to the most well liked new bands, with gutsy reporting, trendy writing, and staffers who’ve received every part from the Society of Skilled Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. However with native journalism’s existence beneath siege and promoting income setbacks having a bigger affect, it is crucial now greater than ever for us to rally help behind funding our native journalism. You possibly can assist by taking part in our “I Assist” membership program, permitting us to maintain overlaying Phoenix with no paywalls.