By Kristine Cannon
Caked with cotija cheese, drizzled with aioli and sprinkled with herbs, the elote appetizer is a work of art, exploding with color and flavor.
That charred corn appetizer was just the start of what would be a feast for both the eyes and taste buds at Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa’s on-site restaurant, Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen.
You see, Weft & Warp prioritizes art over everything else, from the near-perfect presentation on the plate to the custom-made artwork throughout the restaurant – from the back of the house to the front.
“There’s no one Andaz alike,” says Jayson Thompson, executive sous chef at Weft & Warp. “What Andaz does is take their surroundings, so Scottsdale being very art driven, that’s what our theme is.”
For its artwork throughout the resort and its guest rooms, Andaz Scottsdale kept it so local, they sourced from an artist compound located less than 1 mile away: Cattle Track Arts & Preservation.
Cattle Track provides most of the art, from artist Chance Philips’ “Faces I’ve Seen” art in the private dining area to Cattle Track potter Mary Van Dusen’s handcrafted ceramic plates, platters, bowls and mugs.
“We also have two bar stools here with two artists’ plaques,” Thompson says. “When you have something that’s handmade, none of them are the same thing.”
And that includes the food.
Thompson knows people eat with their eyes first, so presentation is very important to him and his team in the kitchen. “We’ll try to do a lot of colors, bright – make the food look like art as well, so it stands out more,” he says.
Weft & Warp introduced a revamped menu in October, changing about 75 percent of it. For the new menu, Thompson’s concept was twofold: use as many local ingredients as possible and showcase Arizona – and all its bright, beautiful colors – on every plate.
“The average guest wanted more variety, more things they were familiar with,” Thompson says. “We opened up our menu a bit, but still kept things and stayed true to what we started with.”
Quail and rabbit were among the offerings removed from the menu. However, lamb belly stayed, as did a lot of local ingredients, including Arizona Hatch chili powder, which is used in the green chile roasted chicken dish, among other dishes.
“Spices are our big thing,” Thompson says, adding that he uses a blend of different local spices, such as Aleppo pepper and Sonoran olive oil. It’s the finishing and spices that are the real stars of the dish.
“We use more spices than the actual ingredients themselves,” Thompson says. “It’s more unique than just using a pepper or something from here. With the spice, we can make our own blends and mix it from there.”
Thompson’s latest creation? A blend of spices called desert spice, which is used on a couple breakfast items and Weft & Warp’s potato chips.
“It’s a blend of about eight or nine different local spices,” Thompson says, listing off Aleppo, pimenton, Sonoran sea salt and dark chili powder among the included spices.
When choosing ingredients from local vendors, which includes McClendon’s Select based out of Peoria and Peddler’s Son Produce based out of Phoenix, Thompson is careful to order familiar ingredients. “We use mole sauce and salsa verde, adobo and different things like that that people have heard of or are familiar with, but we use them in a different way with marinading or as a finishing,” Thompson says. “I would say we are simple, fresh, clean.”
Compared to other resort restaurants, Weft & Warp is on the smaller end – but Thompson wouldn’t have it any other way. “When you come in, we have a great atmosphere here: nice, beautiful views, Camelback Mountain,” Thompson says.
In the restaurant, one of the most intimate spaces is the glass-enclosed exhibition kitchen, where guests can watch the chef whip up each visually appealing dish.
Thompson also has limited storage space for his meats and produce, but he uses it to his advantage. “We only have one walk-in that I use for meats and produce, so we get delivery seven days a week,” Thompson says. “I keep small orders coming in every day, so we keep the product as fresh as possible.”
Andaz Scottsdale’s fresh approach to showcasing local art and local ingredients has clearly paid off: It was voted as one of the top resorts in the world in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards, ranking No. 7 in the Top Resort in the U.S. Southwest category.
“It is a huge honor for us to continue to be named among the top resorts in the Southwest, and it means so much that it is our guests who voted us onto this coveted list,” says Mike Waddill, general manager of Andaz Scottsdale.
Andaz Scottsdale was also recognized in last year’s Readers’ Choice Awards, which ranks the best hotels, resorts, cities, islands, airlines, airports and cruise lines in the world. It’s also considered the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry.
“We aim to connect our visitors with interesting cultural experiences that leave them enriched and inspired, and we are grateful to have such an incredible team that delivers these memorable and enriching experiences to our guests daily,” Waddill says.
Memorable is right: We’re still dreaming about Thompson’s simultaneously crispy and juicy chorizo bone-in pork chop complemented by an irresistible pork jus.