Eat for the Moment

Fresh energy and flavor at Anasazi Restaurant

The Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi reminds me of my grandma Nancy. She always had her face on and took special care when choosing her outfits. She never left the house without a carefully curated array of jewels; they usually included a squash blossom necklace that, I was sure, weighed more than her 85 pounds. She was full of energy, always pushing for an adventure. She was small, classy and always unexpected.

I carry these memories when I walk into the lobby of the restaurant. It, too, is small, classy, refined and curated down to the fine details. It's a place that always has its face on. The Anasazi Restaurant is more than decoration for the inn—it's the jewel.

The first time I visited, I was struck by the colors of the food. Every dish popped and every color brought unexpectedly concentrated flavor. There is freshness and energy to this food; you can taste the intention behind it.

"I call it food of the moment," says the Anasazi's executive chef Peter O'Brien.

O'Brien comes to the restaurant with over 20 years experience, from a CIA-trained start to leading restaurants around Texas, Colorado and New Mexico; most recently as the director of food and beverage at The Club at Las Campanas. O'Brien says he finds inspiration in the menus of Michelin-rated restaurants and brings his ideas to his kitchen team.

"I put the parts together for a dish," he explains, "and then Julio [Cabrera, executive chef de cuisine] and the gang take it and elevate it."

In his first year helming the restaurant, O'Brien has used his decades of experience and infectious positivity to bring new energy to the Anasazi Restaurant.

"We have an amazing, talented staff here—so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel, we're just changing the energy," O'Brien tells SFR. "Bringing new, fun energy to how we communicate behind the scenes means a better experience for our guests. It's all about service. We want to rock it for locals, too."

Rocking it for locals and hotel guests means bringing not just color, but the element of surprise, to the table. On the menu is one of Santa Fe's most unexpected dishes: the shellfish tower, a $100 multi-tiered feast of lobster, crab, oysters, mussels, scallops and shrimp. If you like to turn heads, order it while sitting on the patio.

"It's not something you'll see anywhere in Santa Fe, which is why we're doing it," O'Brien says with a laugh. "Seafood is an opportunity; no one really goes for it here, so we really went for it."

Other dishes from O'Brien's "menu of the moment" (this one truly of the moment, and not on the menu) include a crudo plate of scallops, yellowfin tuna, grapefruit, orange, daikon, avocado, carrots, three kinds of olives, arugula and mint.

The restaurant's mantra is "American food influenced by local flavors," so you'll also find creative takes including standards such as green chile; the bagna càuda appetizer ($9) includes it in a savory dip also of Santa Fe Olive Oil Co. extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic, roasted garlic and chopped olives served with house-made bread. The shellfish pozole ($30), made with pink hominy, chorizo and fennel, swims in a rich poblano and herb tomato broth, while the Mescalero Apache prime Angus strip loin ($48) gets a local upgrade with a crunchy lobster relleno and red chili sauce.

O'Brien is working with inn management to expand its wine list including offering a "Coravin wine experience," allowing oenophiles the opportunity to try high-profile wines by the glass. Agave aficionados can partake in personalized agave spirits tastings which include choices of sotol, mezcal and bacanora ($35-$250 per person). Further, within the next six weeks he also hopes to have an Anasazi food truck on the road.

"My dream is to park it in front of the inn and serve beignets on weekends, in addition to offering our food at opera tailgates and festivals," O'Brien says.

O'Brien's influence is also soon to be felt in the rooms themselves: Minibar offerings are being upgraded to feature local beer, Gruet sparkling wine and spirits (in splits, no less) from the likes of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, homemade yummies and even nuts from orchards in Alamogordo.

"The energy in this town is changing, and everyone is feeling it," O'Brien says. "We want to share that by creating connections, not just with our guests but with locals and local producers. Creating connections creates opportunity for us all."

As he gets up to greet new arrivals wandering in from the lobby, I again think of my grandma. I wish she were still here so we could connect over a special meal, and a moment, in this place that reminds me so much of her.

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