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    Posted May 18, 2010 by
    Winslow, Arizona

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    The Turquoise Room – A Gem on Rte. 66


    Seeing the U.S.A. on old Rte. 66?  We did and found a must stop for all Rte. 66 travelers.  The Turquoise Room in the historic La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz.  is where we savored a remarkable and personable dining experience.

    Owners/Chef John Sharpe (photo) and wife Patricia Fontaine-Sharpe have created a unique dining atmosphere to relax and enjoy signature arts and crafts created by Patricia and other artists; while delighting you with perfectly prepared and presented dishes blending Southwest cuisine with Chef’s vast European and American experience and inspiration.  You can enjoy locally raised fruits and produce, including heirloom vegetables, juniper berries and prickly pear cactus; game meats such as Elk, Quail and Wild Boar; locally raised brown and white Churro lambs raised by Navajo ranchers.  Chef’s creations are prepared with an emphasis on locally produced seasonal fruits and vegetables.  You will see and taste a respect for time-honored foods of the area Native American culture of the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo peoples.

    Making this stop on Rte. 66 was a fantastic way to begin our day, as we drove from Meteor Crater with plans to see the Petrified Forest before heading to the Navaho Nation’s Canyon de Chelly.  Our driving route took us through Winslow, AZ and we planned our morning stop for breakfast.  We selected the Turquoise Room for its location.  We were not aware of its reputation or unique venue.  Normally, we look up restaurants online and read reviews and preview menus.  This was a case of ‘let’s just stop and try it.”  What we did not expect was the Turquoise Room to be such a rare and beautiful gem.  So much so, that we adjusted our trip plans from the Navaho Nation to enjoy dinner in the Turquoise Room.

    At that Sunday breakfast, served by Samantha (photo with Chef John and me) dressed in the fashion of the “Harvey House – Harvey Girls” , she tantalized us with all of the specials and then provided us the menu.  It was extensive, creative, unique, and filled with so many delicious choices that we lingered over coffee while deciding our selections.  I choice the “Corn Maiden Breakfast” (photo), cited as one of the most popular breakfast dishes.  It was a dish of creamy corn polenta topped with perfectly sautéed spinach and softly poached eggs surrounded by caramelized tomatoes and a “Roasted Corn Confetti Salsa”.  My husband chose one of the morning specials “Santa Fe Eggs” a baked egg dish “similar to what may have been served in the Harvey House tradition of the 1930’s”.  “These dishes were popular in the East during the early part of the twentieth century and then spread to the West through railroad stops.”  The “Santa Fe Eggs” nestled in a deep dish came laden with a base layer of slowly simmered black beans topped with 2 poached eggs and strips of colorful sautéed zucchini, red and green peppers and Poblano chile with roasted Roma tomatoes and roasted corn to round out the vegetables.  The dish was then completed with a topping of Jalapeno Jack cheese which had been deftly broiled to a golden glow.  To add to the authenticity of this Southwest delight, very warm white corn tortillas completed the presentation.  Samantha continued to bring more delicious hot coffee for a perfect, leisure filled morning breakfast overlooking the veranda and grounds of the La Posada Hotel.

    My only concern was the calorie count of the rich, creamy polenta which I enjoyed each and every bite of in the “Corn Maiden Breakfast”.  I asked Samantha how much butter and cream was used in the recipe and she laughed and said, “I think just half a cup.”  Now, that just didn’t sound right it was far too creamy and rich tasting.  Samantha brought a copy of Chef John’s “La Posada Turquoise Room Cookbook” and showed me the recipe on page 100.  She was correct there was only ½ cup of heavy cream in a recipe which makes 4 cups of Polenta!  My guilt was assuaged!

    In leaving the restaurant’s cookbook at our table, I began to devour the Chef’s many recipes and try to imprint his creations in my brain.  Samantha returned to visit with us a bit and answer questions regarding some of the recipes.  She said that the cookbook was available for sale and that the Chef was available to sign it.  That was all I needed to hear – sign me up for a new cookbook!  It was 11:40 a.m. and I was very concerned that given lunch service was starting Chef John would be too busy to sign the cookbook.  Chef joined us, sat down, and we engaged in conversation for nearly 20 minutes!  The Sharpe’s have many plans for future expansion in and outside of the La Posada Hotel.  Their plans include adding an old-fashioned soda fountain and the creation of a resort styled RV Park, with long and wide space to accommodate RV’s of all sizes.  The RV Park building site is on the east side of the hotel.  The hotel is within walking distance of historic downtown Winslow.  The expected goal is to complete both of these projects before summer of 2011. 

    On our return trip from Navajo Nation, we did stop for dinner at the Turquoise Room (reservations recommended) and were equally delighted by the dining menu and wine selection.  Once again, we were tantalized by the specials eloquently described by our server Kevin.  My husband chose the “Signature Soup” a divided bowl of Sweet Corn Soup and Black Bean Soup with Red Chile Cream drizzled over the top as his starter.  His entrée course was the ‘Seared Elk Medallions” served with a Black Currant Brandy Sauce and Wild Mushroom Corn Flan.  I chose a salad of mixed mesclun with roasted Chioggia Beets, Pinyon nuts and very light, tart and sweet, Prickly Pear Vinaigrette.  The salad was followed by the evening special, “Native Cassoulet of the American Southwest”, a preparation of Elk Sausage, Churro Lamb Chop and Confit of Duck.  The dish is presented in a deconstructed style on a long rectangular dish.  The grilled Elk Sausage was accompanied by a smoky Chipotle Cream Sauce, the time consuming preparation of the Confit of Duck was meltingly tender and serve with slowly simmered Brown Tepary Beans and a Roasted Corn Salsa and the Churro Lamb Chop was simply served with a fresh tomato Pico de Gallo, to enhance each tender bite and morsel.  We chose a Northstar Merlot from Walla-Walla, Washington to accompany our meal.  A nod to an excellent wine and our home State.

    We highly recommend the Turquoise Room for Chef John’s creations, Patricia’s art, their embracing hospitality, service, ambience and historical location inside the La Posada Hotel on Rte. 66.

    IAMCNUSA note:  we visited the Turquoise Room on Sunday April 25th and Monday April 26th.




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