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THE 19TH HOLE By Carey Sweet

The Tonto Bar & Grill brings diners on its cozy patio right up to the edge of Rancho Mañana Golf Course, where they can enjoy such culinary delights as the red chile-braised short rib arepas with grilled cactus (above) and the orange salmon on a bed of fresh veggie hash (below).




ith his Tonto Bar & Grill now in its 22nd year, chef/owner

Eric Flatt isn’t updating his menu much anymore. His customers wouldn’t stand for it, he says, because so many have their favorite dishes. And besides, after two decades at Rancho Mañana Golf Club in Cave Creek, he knows how to celebrate Arizona flavors in a way that’s steeped in tradition, but feels forever fresh. Consider the fire-

roasted Sonoran red chile stew ($5 cup/$7 bowl). It’s the best chili you’ve ever had, but it’s stocked with uncommon ingredients that our ancestors ate, like home- made bison chipotle sausage and heirloom rattlesnake beans, finished with lime- cilantro crema, Oaxaca cheese and tortilla frizzles.

Or ponder the Three Sisters

trio, hardly your everyday dips of corn-tomato, chayote squash-tomatillo, and tepary bean-red chile salsas, served with chunky guacamole plus handmade corn and flour tortilla chips and Indian fry bread ($12.50). Tepary beans come from Tucson’s Native Seeds/SEARCH program, and Flatt also sources traditional Native American foods from Tubac’s Tohono O’odham Trading Post. More of those earthy beans

star in a cassoulet studded with buffalo chipotle sausage and duck confit, served with a slab of mesquite wood-fired venison tenderloin, bacon, fire-roasted peppers, cipollini onions, local butternut squash and sautéed greens ($42). The flavors are bold -- plenty rich with just a bit of spice and sweet to cut the fat.

16 | AZ GOLF Insider | SPRING 2016 My server pointed

out the chia seeds in the Harvest salad ($14), too. The superfood has been a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets for centuries, and the tiny seeds add a nice, tapioca-like crunch to the toss of Bibb lettuce, spinach, strawberries, melon, honeyed Marcona almonds and Fossil Creek berry goat cheese moistened in balsamic-fig vinaigrette. With tried-and-true

skill, however, Flatt and his executive chef, Ryan Peters, keep all dishes approachable. Red chile-braised buffalo short rib arepas ($12) are accented with bits of grilled cactus and local chicos (dried kernels of

sweet corn). But a timid diner would know only how delicious these savory bites are, starting with a soft corn cake slathered with black-bean puree, mounded in juicy shredded meat, pico de gallo, corn and a dusting of queso fresco all atop a puddle of spicy ancho sauce. Like the recipes, the

space feels timeless, but lively. Tucked in a sprawling, territorial style stucco hacienda on the Rancho Mañana golf and hotel estate property, the site dates back to a Tonto Apache tribe settlement, then a ranching and mining town. By the mid-1940s, the estate ran as a dude ranch that included the


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