Northern Arizona’s Mountain Living Magazine, December 2019
Written by Gail G. Collins
A sophisticated couple sat at a patio table with their eyes fixed on the fiery glow of Sedona’s red rocks, bathed in golden light. No words passed between them. A stacked stone water feature nearby spilled over, drops sparkling. From the patio, a path wandered down to the edge of Oak Creek, luring guests to enjoy its solitude and natural beauty. A waiter quietly appeared and served the couple colorful dishes of branzino fillet and Iberico chorizo with roasted heirloom tomatoes on a swirl of charred avocado, roasted fennel fronds and citrus salad.
This combination of inventive, complex and complementary ingredients in a landmark locale draws diners to SaltRock Southwest Kitchen. As part of Amara Resort and Spa, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and boasts a distinguished craft cocktail bar. The intimate boutique hotel offers 100 spacious rooms and suites, mixing modern amenities with a relaxed, yet refined, lifestyle. Though guests are only steps from the bustling pleasures of upscale shopping and tourism, the lush gardens and creek feel a world away.
SaltRock opened in 2014, and with the arrival of Chef Lindsey Dale in February, its menu received a chic revamp. The celebrated eatery showcases fresh, light, seasonal dishes enhanced by Southwestern flair and a California sensibility.
“Native ingredients have been wonderful to explore and learn to use in interesting ways,” said Chef Dale. “Tepary beans, cholla and juniper are new to me.”
The Syracuse, New York, transplant came to Arizona five years ago. With a background in family baking and serious training from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Dale is pursuing her passions in Sedona.
Her plan is to put SaltRock on the foodie map, “a food destination in a relaxed atmosphere among the red rocks,” she said.
Dale admits, while hotel guests enjoy dining at SaltRock, the majority of diners come from outside the resort.
Start off a meal with a salad as pretty as it is perky. Baby beets are served three ways: roasted, pickled and with whisper-thin raw slices on a bed of house made ricotta with wild lettuce, pickled strawberries and pasilla tangerine gastrique. Main dishes include standouts such as seared salmon with smoked tomato puree on forbidden rice with snap peas plus stone fruit and mango salsa. The shrimp and grits presents uniquely. A charred corn polenta cake is stacked with shrimp and grilled scallion, aioli and pepper chutney with micro cilantro creating oozy and crisp bites. Carnitas tacos are popular as meaty mouthfuls of braised pork shoulder with cotija, pickled onions and radish with salsa verde.
As a hearty veggie option, try the king trumpet “scallops,” sliced, scored and seared to resemble scallops alongside roasted Brussels sprouts and beets on a white tepary bean puree, drizzled with chile balsamic reduction. Dale is drawn to sauces and vinaigrettes as they transfer brightness in flavor and appearance. She is also ardent about sourcing locally or regionally, relying on purveyors, such as Noble Bread Artisan Bakery, The Fish’s Garden, Crow’s Dairy and Blue Meets Green Micros.
An array of autumn dessert temptations included tres leches cake with cinnamon cream plus macerated strawberries and mango, a chocolate brownie with chile ganache and vanilla bean gelato, a pumpkin-spiced cookie with browned butter icing and spiced horchata or a verrine of caramel apple cheesecake with gingersnap crumbs.
Time for a tipple? Ask accomplished bartender Al Dulaku for advice. He suggested the heady Milk and Honey for old-school taste and process. The Ford’s gin cocktail with a hint of elderflower liqueur plus sage and honey infusion benefits from milk wash clarification, adding a viscosity like wine with a classy citrus curl. The aromatic sipper lingers on the tongue. The Sun Devil is a winner anytime. The margarita builds on oaky Blanco tequila with house passion and chipotle puree plus fresh lime juice. Tart, sweet notes build a bit of heat served in a glass, rimmed with smoked paprika and chipotle salt. All syrups and infusions are made in-house.
Mondays and Tuesdays are quiet at SaltRock, but crowds turn over 160 tables on weekends with live music on Saturdays.
A team effort delivers for SaltRock Southwest Kitchen.
“They make it possible,” said Chef Dale, who keeps her ingredients list simple and small for complimentary aspects and appealing presentation. “I keep it fresh, clean and tasty, making people happy through food in an amazing environment.” NAMLM
Amara Resort and Spa is located at 100 Amara Lane in Sedona. To learn more, visit www.amararesort.com or call (928) 282-4828.