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Restaurant Happenings - September 2003

Sorrel River Ranch Soars as New Spa Opens
by Annabelle Numaguchi

Just driving up to the elegant ranch building through spring green alfalfa fields, red lava rock landscaping, and massive umber buttes makes it easy to believe that this bend in the Colorado River is “the prettiest and most dramatic part of the Colorado Plateau,” as ascertained by Robbie Levin, owner, founder and operator of The Sorrel River Ranch. The view is simply spectacular.

The story of the ranch begins with Fred and Ida Stearns (for whom Ida Gulch is named) who originally homesteaded the place in 1903. After changing hands several times, the ranch was bought in 1994 by Robbie and his wife, Hope, after an extensive search along the Colorado River for what they considered the most beautiful scenery. They built their home with the idea in the back of their minds of hosting visitors to their Eden. Six years ago, they realized this dream and began a bed and breakfast which has incrementally expanded to a first-class resort and full service spa.

Robbie and his wife, Hope, have created a luxury resort that makes optimal use of its unparallel scenery. The landscape is so magnificent and awe-inspiring that this is probably what attracts most guests to the ranch in the first place. The buildings on the ranch are made of quality materials-big beams, slate tiles, cathedral ceilings. However, the best feature of almost every room is enormous picture windows overlooking breathtaking views of sorrel river, ochre buttes and verdant fields.

The lovely River Grill Restaurant provides the perfect backdrop to leisurely enjoy the vista. As customers ascend to the second floor of the main building, they are greeted by a self-playing grand piano and a choice between visiting the elegant bar area or progressing farther into the immense dining room. The cathedral ceiling creates an air of grandeur surpassed only by the view through the windows. Dinner is a particularly enjoyable meal in which to watch the setting sun set the surrounding buttes ablaze in dazzling color while in the foreground deer emerge in herds to graze on the ranch grounds.

Outside seating is available in a partially glassed-in porch encircling the dining room. The controlled climate is a welcome feature to counteract the extreme temperatures and winds that occasionally arise from this dramatic landscape and allow for a comfortable dining experience. Particularly now that the Spa Menu is offered at lunchtime.

The Sorrel River Ranch officially opened their new spa in April. The facilities include a traditional salon, a gym-all of whose equipment faces a gigantic picture window facing the river, fully decked out locker rooms with sauna and Jacuzzi, five indoor treatment rooms and an outdoor massage gazebo on the river. The River Grill Restaurant created the Spa Menu to complement this combination of health and luxury.

Robbie, a health-conscious vegan, helped come up with an assortment of savory vegetarian dishes that would nourish the palette as well as the body. The staples of the menu include Polenta Gardenera-marinated and grilled vegetables served on top of a custard-like cornmeal patty with marinara sauce, Fettuccine Pomodora-spinach pasta tossed with sun dried tomatoes, grilled vegetables, olive oil, garlic, basil, and shaved Parmesan, and Vegetarian Black Bean Chili-a vegan version made with soy protein, black beans and southwest seasonings, served over polenta. Fresh vegetable and fruit juices are also available by the carafe.

The Dinner Menu focuses more on indulgence and is better described as “ranch fine dining,” according to Robbie. The most distinctive (and delicious, in my opinion) dish is the Barbecued Buffalo Ribs, which constitutes of a huge helping of three free range buffalo ribs, rubbed in Memphis Dry seasonings then slow cooked and basted with homemade Sorghum Molasses Barbecue Sauce.

Other tantalizing options include the hand cut Aged Filet Mignon wrapped in smoked bacon and the New Zealand range fed Rack of Lamb in an herb crust, both dishes served over a Burgundy Demi-Glaze. The menu offers mouth-watering temptations for vegetarian and fish lovers as well. Every night, the restaurant offers at least three fish specials flown in daily. The River Grill strives to keep the menu interesting, especially for guests who stay on the ranch for several days at a time and wish to dine in each night.

The popularity of the ranch attests to its success. Not only is the ranch often fully booked, they have also enjoyed hosting high-profile clients familiar with first class accommodations. Robbie displays his discretion by not divulging the names of his celebrated guests (although I was able to confirm that one very, very, very successful businessman in the computer world-wink, wink, nudge, nudge-has stayed at the ranch). Robbie’s philosophy is to “treat everybody who visits us like they’re important,” so whether you‘re a famous celebrity or not, the Sorrel River Ranch is the place to check out (and maybe check in) to pamper yourself with splendid surroundings and a sumptuous supper.

The Sorrel River Ranch can be reached at (435) 259-4642 and is located 17 miles north of Moab on Highway 128. They are open 7 days a week and their hours are: Breakfast 7:30-9:30 a.m., Lunch 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (March-October), and Dinner starts at 6:00 p.m. Entrees on the Spa Menu range from $13-$23 and on the Dinner Menu from $18-$31.


Recipe of the Month

BBQ Shrimp Over Blue Cheese Slaw
prepared by Chef Richard Fields

6 large shrimp tails (peeled and deveined)
Memphis Dry Rub (1oz. each cumin, coriander, paprika, brown sugar, granulated garlic, salt and pepper)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup prepared barbeque sauce
2 cups shredded cole slaw
1/2 cup blue cheese salad dressing

Prepare the cole slaw by shredding cabbage and carrots, finely tossing with Maytag Bleu Cheese Dressing (or prepared Blue Cheese).

Dust the shrimp in the Dry Rub until coated. Coat the bottom of a sauté pan with olive oil and heat. Add the shrimp, cooking on each side until done. Keeping the shrimp in, deglaze the pan with the wine. After the wine comes to a simmer, add the barbeque sauce and stir until slightly thickened.

To assemble the dish, arrange the slaw in the center of the plate, place the shrimp on top and drizzle the sauce from the pan over the plate covering each shrimp.

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