The dining scene in the Valley has experienced a major loss. By now, many of you have read the October 15 announcement that Cowboy Ciao would no longer open its doors to the public. On their Facebook page, it was posted:
Unfortunately, an end of an era has come upon us. Tonight is the last night Cowboy Ciao will be open. Thank you to all for the wonderful memories and support over the years. We will miss you all. Raise a glass of whatever vino you are enjoying. Cheers to a wonderful run!! Please visit our sister restaurant New Wave Market and Super Chunk Sweets & Treats for the Stetson Chopped Salad, now on their menu. Cowboy Ciao will be dearly missed, but their legacy will live on!
Hubby and I were newlyweds when Cowboy Ciao opened in February of 1997. It was our go-to for date nights and for taking friends from out of town. We were drawn to their creative southwest cuisine, something that started to take hold in the Valley with other popular eateries like Roaring Fork. Owner Peter Kasperski then opened an adjacent bar, the Kazimierz World Wine Bar, setting a pace for what would become a burgeoning bar and restaurant scene in Old Town Scottsdale.
Cowboy Ciao was the first place I saw wine flights on a menu. The restaurant was celebrated for the 3,000+ bottle wine list that won several Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. This wine list, more of a tome, was a veritable bible for oenophiles, many captions having paragraph-long descriptions of the wine. It took the patience of Job to sift through it to choose a wine. I will never forget an evening when Hubby spent a good half hour perusing the list, finally finding the perfect bottle to order for dinner, only to be told they did not have the bottle in stock. This went on for two more tries. At this point, Hubby had to point out that it was all well and good to have this spectacularly long wine list that won many awards, but one must also have the wines in stock that are on the list. As my mother would have (lovingly) said, at least not all of her son-in-laws are wisecracks like him (she actually used another word but I will leave that one up to your imagination).
Creatures of habit, we always ordered the same thing: the exotic mushroom fry, the double cut pork chop stuffed with Gorgonzola, and the Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème. And of course, we started with the aforementioned Stetson Chopped Salad. Those of you reading this from outside of AZ may be asking, what is the Stetson Chopped Salad? Then Executive Chef Bernie Kantak created the salad and named it for the street on which Cowboy Ciao was located in Old Town Scottsdale, Stetson Rd. And while you can still find it at Chef Kantak’s restaurants, Citizen Public House and The Gladly as The Original Chopped, as well as at New Wave Market and Super Chunk Sweets & Treats, (even at Phoenix Sky Harbor conveniently located next to the flight to San Antonio), I thought you may want to try it at home. A waitress at the restaurant once gave me the recipe for the dressing, and along with a friend who makes the salad at home, we pieced this together to share with you. And open that bottle of vino in the name of wonderful memories…cheers! xoM
¼ cup basil pesto
½ shallot, roughly chopped
½ cup aioli ***
½ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt to taste
Salad Fixin’s: (am from TX so have to say that)
1/3 cup cooked Israeli couscous (pearl couscous which is larger than Moroccan)
2 ounces chopped arugula
1/3 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup diced smoked salmon (I like mine with avocado)
1 tablespoon crumbled Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pepitas
2 tablespoons dried black currants
2 tablespoons super sweet dried corn
For the dressing: Combine pesto, shallot and aioli in food processor and blend. Keep motor running and add buttermilk, pepper and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.
For the salad: arrange ingredients in rows on large platter. Toss salad at the table using half of the dressing. You can refrigerate remaining dressing for up to three days. Makes 2 servings.
***Aioli is a garlic mayonnaise. You can find it at the store, or make your own by blending together 1-2 cloves of minced garlic with 1/3 cup olive oil and ¼ cup mayonnaise.
Approximate values per serving:
40 g fat
19 mg cholesterol
11 g protein
19 g carbohydrates
2 g fiber
440 mg sodium
All photos by Marci Symington for texAZtaste.com.