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Desert Dessert

Chef Nephi Craig offers Western Apache delights at Sunrise Park Resort, owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, off Highway 273 in Greer, Arizona.

I wanted to visit the Sunrise Park Resort after I started learning about Native food and about White Mountain Apache chef, Nephi Craig. So, one summer day, I decided to just do it. I packed up in my little car, grabbed my boyfriend and we headed to Greer, Arizona. In just three and half hours, we went from our New Mexico desert in Albuquerque to a lush and green forest that hid an old and empty hotel.

ICMN MAGAZINE_1_April_May_2017_Page_014_eat indian-nephi craig desert_photo Andi Murphy

A Western Apache seed mix fritter on a honey-braised butternut squash is followed by a truffle, berries, piñon cream and popped amaranth. I had about three fritters because they’re so unique. It’s a rough mix of seeds with some sweet and bittery notes. My strategy was to fill my spoon with every ingredient and let fireworks happen. And it blew my mind a little bit. Everything was subtle in its own way, but they came together beautifully; not too sweet and with a lot of different textures. Sunrise Park Resort, owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, is off Highway 273 in Greer, Arizona.

Summertime at the hotel is not very lively because most folks visit to ski the Sunrise slopes in the winter. You also can’t just show up and expect Chef Craig to be cooking up a regular menu of traditional Apache foods. You have to call way ahead of time, or organize a special dinner or event with him. I planned my visit on the day the Arizona Mushroom Society had their annual dinner and meeting. Chef Craig prepared a 12-course dinner and invited me behind the curtain. And it was a treat.

At left, A Western Apache seed mix fritter on a honey-braised butternut squash is followed by a truffle, berries, piñon cream and popped amaranth. I had about three fritters because they’re so unique. It’s a rough mix of seeds with some sweet and battery notes. My strategy was to fill my spoon with every ingredient and let fireworks happen. And it blew my mind a little bit. Everything was subtle in its own way, but they came together beautifully; not too sweet and with a lot of different textures. 

Sunrise Park Resort, owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, is off Highway 273 in Greer, Arizona.