Dessert or Desert?

A night of native nourishment.

May 9, 2015

GleaningsGreenIssue 12: May/June 2015

You can’t find more local fare than the edible native flowers, herbs, and shrubs of Baja Arizona, showcased splendidly at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s Desert Delectables Night.

An evening of music, merriment, education, and sumptuous sampling will unfold when the Desert Museum holds its second food-tasting event, challenging chefs to prepare their creations featuring native Sonoran desert ingredients.

This year’s lineup will include some 15 local restaurants serving up their best sweet and savory creations, said Marie Long, associate director of conservation education and science at the Desert Museum.

Gluten-free gets colorful: Gourmet Girls’ chef Mary Steiger (left) and co-owner Susan Fulton show off their signature desert dessert.

“We’re really showcasing native food,” Long said. “The chefs are tasked with using a native food ingredient and incorporating that into their dessert or savory.” Guests will also have an opportunity to learn more about how native plants are used for food and beverages at docent stations.

The Sonoran Desert flora can offer surprisingly multinational flavors: Ghini’s French Caffe, one featured restaurant, will show how to use desert ingredients to prepare French cuisine.

“Ghini’s has been a big proponent of supporting local, farm-to-table fare since our inception in 1992,” said owner and chef Coralie Satta. “It’s important to use local products and produce. The items are fresher, and you keep the money in your own community, supporting your local farmers and growers.”

Another Tucson restaurant will highlight the naturally gluten-free qualities of the desert’s wild side. Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery/Bistro is preparing a signature dessert for the occasion: “A meringue shell stuffed with a lemon prickly pear curd, topped with lavender cream,” said Susan Fulton, a co-owner and general manager of Gourmet Girls. “It’s featuring prickly pear and desert lavender.”

Krysta Jabczenski Gourmet Girls

Gourmet Girls, southern Arizona’s only certified gluten-free kitchen, uses native Sonoran plants in a variety of their regular dishes, including a lavender shortbread Christmas cookie, lavender ice cream, and a prickly pear reduction sauce served with several dishes.

“The Desert Museum is an absolutely wonderful Tucson landmark,” Fulton said. “It’s a really unique museum, and it’s wonderful to be able to support it in this way.”

During the evening, the Desert Museum’s Sonoran Supermarket presentation will inform guests about the use of native plants for food, fibers, and medicines. Local musical artists including the Beth Daunis Trio, Reno del Mar, and Gabriel Francisco will perform throughout the evening.

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