In the Pima language, ko’sin simply means kitchen. At the Ko’Sin restaurant inside the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa just outside Phoenix, Arizona, where veh pug means beginning, hai chu hugi means main course, and wamichtha means fry bread, there is nothing ordinary about this kitchen. At a recent media event for the unveiling of the restaurant’s new menu, I had the wonderful opportunity to join the culinary team and the rest of the Wild Horse Pass staff for a lovely night of sample dishes, marshmallows and singing by the fire, and a hauntingly stunning sunset over the Sierra Estrella Mountain Range.
The menu, a fusion between Native American and Arizonan comfort food, was spectacular.From braised pork belly with sweet potato puree, a sugary apple glaze, and pickled slaw to mesquite-grilled filet mignon with brussel sprouts to sea bass with red quinoa, toasted almonds, and green beans, all of the dishes feature locally-grown and locally-sourced vegetables, meat, and grain–a testament to the kinds of foods that are possible to grow here in this delicate, arid desert land. Everything (and for a notoriously picky eater like me, this is a feat, let me tell you) was perfect, prepared beautifully and seasoned with fresh, bountiful herbs, sauces, and spices.
Apart from the magnificent Sonoran desert landscape and the decadent restaurant menu, though, the other most spectacular part about this resort is its commitment to local culture and preservation. Not only was the entire resort designed to be a place of honor and respect for the Gila River Indian heritage and culture, the architecture, design, art, and stories of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh tribes are celebrated in every detail imaginable, indoors and out. From the small artifacts and pieces of art preserved in glass cases all along the walls to the intricate carvings of ancient Gila petroglyphs in the wooden furniture in the rooms, the Wild Horse Pass feels nothing like a replica–and amazingly like an honorable space of peace and respite for the peoples of this important river region in southern Arizona.
Keep in mind that this is not so easy to do, either. I’ve stayed in plenty of properties around the world that promote a design influenced by a historic or local community and that completely miss the mark in terms of maintaining the critical relationships with the people they seek to celebrate. Here, though, nearly 100% of the employees are members of these tribes, and their working conditions are fair and equitable. Not only that, but according to Anthony Marazita, the Ko’Sin restaurant’s new executive chef, new employee training requires that everyone learn about the history, languages, and peoples of the Gila River region.
During our short stay here, we dined, we drank mesquite margaritas, we made s’mores by the fire, and we slept with our balcony door open so we could hear the sounds of the coyotes and feel the fresh, cool breeze of the desert by night. I love this place–like so much else in this mystical and often unpredictable desert I call home, this place, too, asked me in its gentle way to pause and reflect on the beauty of our natural world.
Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa
5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd.
Chandler, Arizona 85225
A special thanks to the Sheraton and the team at Ko’Sin for inviting me to try your new menu and spend the night at your beautiful property.