When a foodie friend recently told me about Cartwrights in Cave Creek, I was shocked that such a place existed that I had never been to- let alone heard of. Flash forward 3 weeks later and I found myself tucked into a cozy booth at this cowboy cuisine meets Japanese food desert oasis in the heart of Cave Creek’s main drag. I had NO idea what we were in store for and let me just say….this was hands down one of the BEST meals I’ve ever had in AZ. I mean, there are 8 courses each beautifully prepared with the precision of a skilled sushi master but with seasonal Arizona ingredients and flavors. Let me take you on a little trip to Flavortown USA… I mean the hidden gem that is Cartwrights Cave Creek.
See this oyster right here? This single bite to start our meal was perfectly seasoned and obviously the presentation served over ice was gorgeous. Not going to lie- in my head I wanted to order a dozen but I knew what the next two hours had in store so I just sat back and enjoyed this little start of what turned out to be an incredible dining experience.
You may not be able to tell from the picture but this is no ordinary steak- it’s a perfect cut of venison sitting on top of the crispiest fingerling potatoes and sauteed greens. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about venison but it was similar to a tender steak with bold flavors, none of which I would describe as “gamey.” When it Rome, or Cave Creek- I say go for it, we live in the wild west for a reason…to get wild right?! Speaking of getting wild, did you know “foraging” is a thing here?
From May through October Arizona provides an abundance of natural foods. For thousands of years, Native American’s have harvested this land and Cartwrights Chef Brett Vibber heads up the foraging team during the summer months harvesting ingredients he includes in his seasonal menus.
These were highly recomeded to me by my food loving colleague so I knew we has to order them. Wild salmon, yellowtail, haidacore, ahi, prawn ceviche, oyster, and seasonal garnishes are what the Shashimi Spoons are made of! Five lovely spoons each with a different flavor profile make a yummy conversation starter (and pic for the good old Instagram feed!) Just order them, believe me.
Another off the menu secret item that was part of the Chef’s tasting the night we visited was the beef tartare. In the hands of a chef, steak tartare can be a truly beautiful thing. The process seems fairly straightforward right? Grab a high quality cut of beef, cut it carefully into small pieces, season heavily, dress with a sauce or vinaigrette with balances flavors of salty and sour, then plate with the appropriate accoutrements . Well, Cartwright’s does it right, resulting in a cold and salty perfectly tender texture that even the rarest cooked meat can never achieve.
This next dish is definetly for the gourmet diner. Yes, it is foie gras and no, I don’t typically order it but when it’s part of the culinary vision from the mastermind at Cartwrights, you suck it up and at least give it a try! My honest review? The texture gets me every time but the flavor was great. Pan seared to perfection, if you’re a big foie gras lover, this is probably one of the best you’ll ever have.
What a sweet ending it was at Cartwrights! The lovely dessert plate featured a few different items highlighting the earthy flavors of Arizona. The chocolate mousse filled pyramid was my favorite but the little dollops of homemade dark chocolate ganache were a close runner up. Oh ya, did I mention the freshly whipped cream clouds? Yes, clouds.
The integrity and fortitude that built the Cartwright’s legacy is carried on through the history, sustainable food sources, and welcoming atmosphere at Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine. It was definitely a meal to remember and I highly encourage anyone looking to expand their palate to take the 25 minute drive north of the 101 to Cartwrights.
One more tip: File this under PLACES TO GO ON A DATE NIGHT!