Provecale Dijon-crusted rack of lamb

Dijon-crusted rack of lamb – photo/Rita Connelly

Oh, what a night…great food and wine and lively conversation among foodie friends at AZUL located at Westin’s La Paloma Resort in the fabulous Foothills.

I’m not sure why the premier restaurant at La Paloma is called AZUL so I will invent my own legend. AZUL means blue. We’re in the middle of the desert and nowhere near the ocean. Perhaps AZUL is associated with something special in the desert? Or perhaps AZUL conjures images of the Mediterranean lifestyle in the desert? Or from where I was sitting at AZUL, the expansive views revealed vast blue skies and lavishly etched mountains almost within reach.

While the food is sophisticated; it’s also family-friendly. The menu doesn’t need a glossary to explain what the fare is. Think grilled double pork chops glazed in sour cherry bourbon molasses ($20); jumbo scallops pan-seared, topped with crispy fried onions & citrus butter reduction ($23); and half-roasted free range chicken marinated with lemon & herbs, au jus ($19) to name a few. Quality ingredients shine through.

I love calamari and AZUL doesn’t disappoint. For starters, there’s crispy calamari served with wilted arugula and cherry pepper aioli. Savory & crispy mouthfuls kept the conversation to a minimum. AZUL makes its own mozzarella cheese served with the hot house tomato appetizer and organic Willcox tomatoes. When possible, local ingredients are purveyed.

In all honesty, I could’ve made a meal from the sides ($7). Baked cauliflower gratin was pure comfort foood and I didn’t even think I needed comforting. Chipotle mac & cheese had just the right amount of bubbly crust combining creamy cheesiness with a spicy kick. And then there was the whipped potato puree with mascarpone cheese. I won’t even go there as I start to whet my appetite all over again. More spartan appetites may revel in the fresh grilled asparagus and the assorted field mushrooms sauteed in garlic herbs. Sigh.

Romantic AZUL

Romantic AZUL

The wine by the glass list demonstrates thoughtfulness. Reds come from California, the Willamette Valley, Italy and Argentina and whites from New Zealand and California.

As for dessert, it was a dazzling array of sweetness. And the very talented Executive Chef Serge Delage extended his kindness by gifting us minature bottles of Kahlua and French cookies.

Did you know that the Westin La Paloma is having a $30 million renovation? The modern day word is rejuvenation. Let’s do the math — each room’s rejuvenation costs $33,000. Room highlights include luxurious but functional features, energy efficiency, crown molding, 50-inch flat screen TV, fresh colors, deeper bath tubs, personalized lighting over the bed, desk with clubby chairs, among other green amenities.

While Janos and J-Bar are no longer on the premises, around the first of the year a new concept called Relishes, an upscale sports bar, is rumored to be taking that spot.  There’s much to look forward to at the Westin La Paloma Resort. Rejuvenation is good for the Tucson soul.

 


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