Eric Flatt of Tonto Bar & Grill and Cartwright's Talks Hunting in Arizona
Courtsey of Eric Flatt. Restaurant owner and avid hunter Eric Flatt with a mule deer he shot here in Arizona.
Eric Flatt, co owner of Tonto Bar & Grill and Cartwright's restaurants in Cave Creek, not only sources from ranchers, he's also an avid and accomplished hunter himself. Flatt grew up on a small ranch in Colorado and started fishing and hunting as a child. "It's knowing where your meal came from and what it took to make it," says Flatt about the joys of hunting for your own meat.
Being a hunter has influenced Flatt's choice of items on each of his menus including
Cartwright's famous "Trio of Tenderloins," which is 3 oz. of 3 types of meat: Elk, Beef & Buffalo. "I love it when guests have this for the first time," says Flatt. "They always pick elk or buffalo first and always beef last." We chatted with Flatt who shared insight on his menu, hunting in Arizona, and how he uses his meat. (Vegetarians, you've been warned!)
So what can you hunt or fish for in Arizona? "Just about everything," says Flatt. "Elk, deer, javelina, turkey, quail, dove, ducks, geese, and lots of trout." Flatt eats his own game at home but is proud to rely on local ranches and farms for meat including Two Wash Ranch in New River. In fact the menus at Flatt's places always have a unique twist on local meat. "We just added a new entree of mesquite wood-grilled 14 oz. all-natural bison buffalo rib eye with horseradish demi, wild rice risotto, portobello mushrooms and slow roasted garlic herb campari tomatoes."
Courtsey of Eric Flatt. Eric and his son Jake after a duck hunt.
Think that most hunters are always meat centric? Not true for Flatt. Both of his restaurants use local items such as ocotillo flowers, cholla buds, jojoba beans, saguaro fruit, prickly pear fruit, palm dates and Mormon tea."Remember as a chef, I enjoy hunting or foraging for vegetables as much as anything," says Flatt. He makes a "Three Sister Salsa" for his restaurants, which is served with a trio of chips: corn, flour and fry bread. The salsas are corn and tomato, chayote squash and tomatillo, and Tepary bean with red chilies. This dish was inspired by Native Americans who grow these three plants together. Flatt says, "The corn grows straight stalks where the beans could use this to climb. The squash was planted around them to shade the ground and preserve the moisture."
Flatt is dedicated to his craft and his love of Arizona shows his menus. "Hunting really helps to complete all of my needs. Most of the places I go are off the grid and I really like it that way. It takes a special kind of person who can climb up a tree and sit in a stand for 12 hours without coming down. You learn all of the sounds that nature has to offer and what they all mean," he says. Of course licensing is important for fishing "I put in for tags so whatever I can get drawn for, I will make the time to go," he says. In just a year, Flatt might spend 40 days or more, hunting.