This month, the Scottsdale Wine Examiner is running a very special series of “Sipping with the Sommelier” profiles – all focused on the fabulous Arizona Restaurant Week, which are taking May 17-26 throughout greater-Scottsdale and beyond.
Click here for a full list of participating restaurants, and please welcome Ken Ennesser, bar manager from Sierra Bonita Grill as today’s special guest.
Tell us a little about you and your start in the business:
I never planned on working in the restaurant industry. While in college at the UofA, I worked one day at a restaurant. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I dropped a tray full of drinks and was so embarrassed I swore I would never work in another restaurant. After graduation and a move to the Phoenix area, I desperately needed money while interviewing for my supposed career job. I went against my better judgment and took a food expeditor position at a restaurant on Mill Avenue. Little did I know that my timing would turn out to be impeccable, and that decision would change my career path forever. It just so happened that much of the staff left for the summer, leaving quite a few open positions. I jumped at the opportunity to advance and went from food runner to bartender in a matter of days. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was a passion of mine that somehow transformed my personality. I went from being a quiet and reclusive guy, to a very outgoing, extroverted, talkative person. Over time, I worked at a couple of different bars and restaurants before landing at my permanent home, Sierra Bonita Grill, eight years ago. Along the way, I have learned a ton, specifically in the world of wine, as well as modern mixology. What’s crazy about the industry and particularly wine in general is that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
How does the menu at Sierra Bonita pair its wines – what is your preference and process?
Since Sierra Bonita Grill pays homage to Arizona’s ranching and agricultural history, we like to carry as many local wines as possible. In addition, we try to offer a wide variety of options to appeal to diverse tastes, while also carrying selections that may be new and exciting to our guests. We have an underground wine cellar, which allows us to keep on hand more than 100 wines by the bottle, many of which are small production from boutique wineries. When helping our guests pair wine with their food, we really listen to them to determine the style of wine they are drawn to. We then select a wine that will fit their tastes, while also having a flavor profile that matches well with their dish.
What is your personal favorite food/wine pairing at Sierra Bonita?
My personal favorite pairing would be Durigutti Reserva Malbac with our pork osso bucco, which is served with green chile sauce. The slight spiciness of the dish brings out the depth of the malbec and really accentuates the wine.
Tell us about any wine events you have at Sierra Bonita – either regularly, seasonally or special events:
At Sierra Bonita Grill, we are one of only two restaurants in the state that has a subterranean wine cellar. This room is the ideal space to host intimate gatherings, parties and wine dinners. We regularly offer wine pairing dinners, as well as customized private events upon request.
Tell us about your favorite winery experience – in Arizona or not:
About 10 years ago, very early in my food and beverage career, I visited Schramsberg in Napa. Even though that was quite some time ago, that visit made a major impact. We toured the caves where the temperature and humidity were always consistently perfect. We saw the racks of champagne bottles that were either riddled or were waiting to be turned by the one person that was qualified to riddle each bottle by hand. It was amazing to see the amount of bottles that were stored in these caves just waiting for their public release. What stuck with me the most was that every single bottle had been turned by one person…truly a labor of love.
What will you be serving for Arizona Restaurant Week and how can folks make reservations?
Choose one of each item below for only $30 per person. Reservations can be made by calling 602-264-0700 or www.sierrabonitagrill.com.
-Guacamole: Made fresh daily in our molcajete. Served with tortilla chips and our three signature salsas.
-Ceviche: Fresh shrimp marinated in citrus juices, with red onion, tomato, jicama, cucumber and a spicy cocktail sauce, served with an avocado creme and tortilla chips.
-Hopper's Poppers: Halved jalapeños, stuffed with a blend of four cheeses, served on a sizzling skillet.
-Carne Asada: Grilled marinated steak, charro beans, roasted tomato rice, guacamole, salsa fresca, flour tortilla -Buttermilk Chicken: Oaxacan chile mashed sweet potatoes, asparagus, cracked black pepper gravy.
-Smoked Red or Green Chile Pork Roast: Charro beans, tomato rice, salsa fresca, flour tortilla.
-Pan-Seared Red Trout: Green beans, roasted peppers, baby spinach, tomatoes, brown butter.
-Peach Cobbler: Pecan streusel and Bertos vanilla bean ice cream.
-Buttermilk Pie: Served with warm caramel sauce.
-Croissant Bread Pudding: Served with a Jack Daniel's whiskey lime and caramel sauce.