travel and outdoors
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January, 2009, Page 56
The headquarters for our trek was the venerable Westward Look Resort, and its 80 acres of densely planted grounds provided a handy way to walk off our meals. Low-rise, pale sandy-pink casitas curve organically around washes and arroyos, past tennis courts, stables, pools and hot tubs. The chef’s garden, bursting with peppers, cabbage, squash and a monster marinade’s worth of herbs makes an amateur cook/gardener wilt in shame.
Unlike most corporate establishments, the Look has some genuine history. The heart of the resort is a graceful adobe structure built for the William Watson family in the Catalina foothills, circa 1912. At the time, it was miles from civilization, and the Watsons added 15 cottages for paying guests to experience the pristine desert. Over the decades, the property morphed into a dude ranch and then Tucson’s first resort. A recent big-buck renovation has produced attractive, generously proportioned rooms with sweet dream-inducing beds and a low-key yet stunning main lobby.
Another of the Look’s claims to fame is the Gold Room, one of the first fancy-shmancy restaurants in the city. No longer a bastion of “Continental Cuisine” served by penguin-suited waiters, this is now a contemporary culinary contender. It’s tempting to settle into the dining room with its deep, rich colors, buttery lighting and comfy seating, but if the weather is at all clement, opt for the terrace which opens out on a sequined quilt of city lights mirrored by winking stars.
The menu is all about varying flavor sensations spread across a broad stylistic spectrum. Each category – soup, salads, apps, seafood and meat entrées – offers three options or a tasting plate that includes smaller portions of all three. (There also are a few entrées not included in “tastings” for those who aren’t into experimentation.)
We were in the experimenting mood, however, so we started with a faultless, ultra-flavorful tortilla soup ($7). Ordering the “wrapped” category of appetizers ($11) got us two winners – a pillowy ravioli with earthy mushroom filling and a tidy shrimp roll accompanied by crisp julienned slaw and a dipping sauce redolent of nam pla and chilies. There’s a reason Asian dumplings are steamed or pan-fried, and it’s called moisture, which was sadly lacking in a dry, baked pork bundle.
The Land and Sea entrée tastings ($33 and $32, respectively) starred a luscious medallion of lamb bathed in garlic mint aioli and salmon neatly paired with vibrant arugula pesto. Warm chocolate pudding cake with vanilla ice cream and strawberries ($10) didn’t break any new ground but was plenty satisfying.
Service was impressively professional; particularly noteworthy was the enthusiastic, unpretentious young sommelier.
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