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Adventurous Ingredients

Take Your Taste Buds on a Delicious Detour With These Daring Dishes

Humans are creatures of habit, so when we find something we like, we tend to stick with it. This is especially true when it comes to food. But while meat, potatoes, pasta, and salads can certainly be satisfying, from time to time, our taste buds deserve an epicurean adventure.

For those open to trying something new in the name of flavor, there are copious dishes at varying levels of daring across the Valley.

Those who want to start small should consider the Hunkin Samoa Burger ($20) at Hula’s Modern Tiki (HulasModernTiki.com). A burger sounds safe enough, right? Well, this one has all the usual suspects, including a big beef patty, cheese, a sunny-side-up egg, and fixings including tomato and lettuce, all on a bun. However, the burger is also topped with linguica sausage, a spicy Portuguese pork sausage with oodles of garlic and paprika; fried spam, a canned pork especially beloved in Hawaii; and Hula sauce, a twist on remoulade infused with ginger for an added tropical kick.

Hash Kitchen (HashKitchen.com) also offers a daring dish, without being too intimidating, in its Billionaire’s Bacon ($8 per slab). As with the burger, it starts off innocently enough with premium applewood smoked thick slab bacon rubbed with honey and brown sugar. Then, the dish takes an unexpected turn when the bacon is coated with a glaze of yuzu, which is a citrus fruit from Asia with sour and floral notes, and then cooked. Once plated, it is topped with edible 24K gold flakes, adding a decadence likely not experienced daily.

Ready to dive deeper into unusual ingredients?

Then why not try the Marinated Boquerones ($14) at Don Woods Say When (RiseUptownHotel.com), which are meant to transport guests to Southern Spain in a single bite? Boquerones are actually white anchovies, which are exceptionally popular in tapas dishes in that region. At Don Woods, they are cooked simply with butter, lemon, chives, and select herbs, and served atop toasted country bread with heavenly tomato marmalade.

The Pig Face Dumplings ($13.50) at Clever Koi (TheCleverKoi.com) is also a must. Hand-rolled daily, these dumplings bring together the pork cheek, which is the slip of meat in the hollow of a pig’s cheek underneath its eyes, and ultra-briny kimchi, an Asian staple that intimidates some but is just a take on fermented vegetables. Finally, the dish is topped with from-scratch Sriracha sauce, which many in Arizona can take, but visitors (especially from the Midwest) still shy away from on the regular.

Or what about the Risotto de Mare ($42) at Tomaso’s (Tomasos.com)? Its eye-catching dark risotto base is made from the black ink a cuttlefish releases when scared. Perfectly safe to eat, this ink adds an umami quality to the creamy risotto, and pairs perfectly with the briny fish itself. The dish also comes piled high with jumbo prawns, mussels, and clams, making it feel like an indulgent twist on seafood paella.

When scared, squid also release a similar ink, which guests of LON’s at the Hermosa Inn (Lons.com) may now sample in the seasonal Diver Scallops ($49) currently on the menu. As with Tomaso’s, the ink is used to add additional layers of flavor to the risotto, but here it is paired with delicately sweet scallops, grilled artichokes, sugar snap peas, and Chimayo chili hollandaise.

Now, for the ultra-adventurous dishes …

Do not sleep on the Roasted Bone Marrow ($28) at Bourbon & Bones (BourbonAndBones.com), which is the soft, spongy tissue with copious blood vessels found in the center of the bones of most animals, including humans. Eating bone marrow can build the immune system, and its flavor is both decadently buttery and meaty.

Finally, there is the Roasted Corn Gordita ($12) at The Mission (TheMissionAZ.com). Sounds tame, right? Well, its signature ingredient is huitlacoche crema. Huitlacoche, also often called corn smut, is a full-on fungus that infects some species of corn. Though it sounds odd, huitlacoche actually tastes like a mushroom-corn hybrid with a hint of truffle. In Mexico, the ingredient is so beloved, it is common to find baskets of it at farmers' markets, just like one would find strawberries or basil.

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