Whiskey Made Me Do It

Photo collage from the Whiskey Made Me Do It event from the Late Lunch & Learn series at Sanctuary Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

PARADISE VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Following their Master of Taste series, the Sanctuary Resort upped the ante with their interactive Late Lunch & Learn series. The Saturday evening events feature resort restaurant Element's Chef de Cuisine Samantha Sanz and Jade Bar's Bar Chef Christiaan Röllich. 

The resort, located along the north base of Camelback Mountain, aimed to give Arizonans and tourists a summer filled with stylish and delicious food platings curated by Chef Sanz, paired with refreshing cocktails crafted by Chef Röllich. The Late Lunch & Learn series comprised of four events: 

  • July 10: Meet Me in Mexico—an evening of Mexican cuisine paired with tequila cocktails
  • July 31: Fire in the French Quarter—celebrating New Orleans’ rich culinary traditions through innovative food and craft cocktails
  • August 14: Whiskey Made Me Do It—a whiskey dinner with paired cocktails and tastings of rare and exclusive whiskeys
  • August 28: Fiesta de Sangria—traditional Spanish cuisine served with Spanish wines and Röllich’s signature sangria

Late Lunch & Learn Series

I couldn't resist an event called "Whiskey Made Me Do It," so I dropped in to see what Chef Sanz and Chef Röllich created for the occasion. Perusing the menu, I was excited to see a different rendition of the Wagyu Beef Cheek from the Master of Taste event, this time with Chef Sanz incorporating a whiskey-infused braising and then smoking the meat. The menu teased a colorful array, with high-caliber whiskies to accompany each dish.

Before delving into the delectable foods themselves, it's worth noting the exceptional experience the entire team at Sanctuary delivers at these events. The staff works like clockwork in their respective positions, from greeting guests as they arrive, attentive servers assuring your glass is never empty, to the kitchen crews whipping up plate after plate in synchronous perfection. The Sanctuary Resort staff certainly excels in hospitality and service because it's easy to get lost in the relaxed setting with something tasty to either sip or consume in front of you at these events. Not to mention the Resort's leadership team, who walk around and greet guests and make sure everyone's enjoying the ambiance.

Samantha Sanz demo

Chef Samantha Sanz demonstration during the Whiskey Made Me Do It event at the Sanctuary Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Following introductions, Chefs Sanz and Röllich dive right into their demonstrations for guests, showcasing the prep and execution for their respective dishes and cocktails. Chef Sanz kicked things off by walking everyone through the process of her braising method for the Smoked Beef Cheek and concocting the barbecue sauce. Chef Sanz is as excellent a presenter as she is a cook! Her step-by-step instructions are easy to follow and very thorough while presented in a relaxed and encouraging way. Chef Sanz makes the process look easy but presents it in such a straightforward way that anyone could jump in and catch on real quick. Chef Sanz used great analogies for explaining methods like how cook times affect the beef cheek or the chemical breakdown of ingredients in the barbecue sauce, which I really enjoyed learning about and can't wait to employ myself! Regardless of one's cooking skills, Chef Sanz will have you whipping up your own kitchen creations in no time!

Christiaan Röllich demo

Christiaan Röllich's demonstration during the Whiskey Made Me Do It event at the Sanctuary Resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

After Chef Sanz's presentation (which left the wonderful scent of smoked and flavorful meat in the air), Chef Röllich stepped up to the plate. His bat of choice? Whiskey! Chef Röllich always knows how to keep things light and fun, particularly through his humor and use of stories to coincide with what he's explaining. Chef Röllich walked everyone through crafting one of the three signature cocktails for the evening, the Spice Station, the first cocktail served with the first course. Through trial and error, Chef Röllich utilizes very specific ingredients in everything he crafts, with an emphasis on using the freshest items possible. The Spice Station is fueled by Elijah Craig bourbon whiskey, with Chef Röllich combining Harrisa (a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste) with ginger and spices to create one sweet/heat drink with great color and depth. Chef Röllich will have you channeling your inner mixologist in no time!

After the demos, it was time for the first course -- a refreshing Watermelon and Burrata Salad. It came topped with snap peas, ginger salsa verde, and Meyer lemon vinaigrette, with the watermelon flanked by hefty slicings of pineapple. The blending and flavor profiles of the watermelon, ginger, and lemon in the vinaigrette made wolfing this starter down easy. It was very light but still managed to establish itself as a sizeable starter and covered the bitter, sweet, and citrus flavors, tied with a bow-on-top helping of soft and creamy burrata milk cheese.

Watermelon and Burrata Salad

First course of the Whiskey Made Me Do It event at the Sanctuary Resort: Watermelon and Burrata Salad 

The second course featured that tantalizing Smoked Wagyu Beef Cheek, and oh was it a knockout! The braising really helped soften that meat, and a considerable amount of seasoning really brought out immense flavors in the finished product. The meat just fell apart to the sheer touch of the fork; couldn't have asked for a better smoked finish. The barbecue sauce was tangy and had some savory kick, complementing the sweet corn puree that accompanied the Brussels sprout slaw. This was a plate I could eat over and over again!

Smoked Wagyu Beef Cheek

Second course served at the Whiskey Made Me Do It event at the Sanctuary Resort: Smoked Wagyu Beef Cheek

For one of the first times in a long time, I was excited about this dessert course. Chef Sanz whipped up a Banana Foster Sundae, topped with vanilla bean gelato and doughnut holes. The bananas were fresh, and the ingredients' textures resulted in a soft, creamy, and sweet treat. The mint garnish on top rounded out the presentation, with the third course paired with a fruity and sweet whiskey drink, the Dunmore Park. This drink featured an Auchentoshan Bartender's single malt with coconut and pineapple blend. Chef Sanz and Chef Röllich are such pros at their crafts and really know how to pair phenomenal food with standout cocktails.

Third Course at Whiskey Made Me Do It

The third course at the Whiskey Made Me Do It event at Sanctuary Resort: Banana Foster Sundae (left) and Dunmore Park (right).

If you're interested in attending the series finale Fiesta de Sangria, reservations are required by calling 855-245-2051, and guests are encouraged to reserve early as space is limited. Each event is priced at $165 per person. The event begins with a 6 p.m. reception, followed by dinner at 7 p.m. For more information on the upcoming event, click here.


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