Gertrude’s Restaurant: Paradise for the eyes and the palate
The Desert Botanical Garden is one of the most advantageous sites in Arizona, an incredible representation of all the beauty the desert has to offer. Gertrude’s restaurant is named after one of the Garden’s largest benefactors, Mrs. Gertrude Divine Webster, who founded the Desert Botanical Garden in 1939. Matt Taylor, Executive Chef and Albert Torrisi, Executive Sous Chef have created menu items for the restaurant to match the beauty and tasteful appeal of the Garden itself. Using only farm fresh organic ingredients, the restaurant brings natural goodness from the pasture to the palate.
Gertrude’s inside decor is modern sheik with clean lines and an expansive and inviting bar. Above the bar patrons will notice architectural landscape reliefs that fit the garden setting like a hand in a glove.
The patio, as throughout the rest of the Garden, incorporates subtle unobtrusive up-lighting, setting the stage for a peaceful sojourn. From the patio you can see some dynamic pieces of Chihuly glass art, a reminder of the eye-catching exhibit that has been on display in the past. The courtyard is hugged by the warmth of the desert landscape, positioned in the center is a calming circular stone water feature evoking a sense of tranquility. We learned from our server James, that Gertrude’s patio is home to Rupert the roadrunner, who frequently stops by to see who is dining in the Garden. Rupert proudly preened and posed for photos during our visit, a bit of a ham I must say.
The table settings were simple and the silverware complimented the clean sophisticated design of the decor. Chef Matt made us feel welcome when he stopped by the table to say hello and check in periodically to assure our dining experience was meeting our expectations.
We began our gastronomic voyage by sampling a couple of the Signature cocktails.
Given the creative strides in mixology over the past few years, we found the signature cocktails to be a bit lacking and could have exhibited more originality and pizazz. The following two were the only ones of any interest to us.
- Cactus Cosmo – infused prickly pear vodka, blood orange liqueur, prickly pear syrup and fresh lime.
- Sangria by the Season – A digestif of either white or red wine, seasonal fresh fruits and spirits.
The tides quickly turned with the next leg of our culinary tour as we ventured on to an appetizer and salad.
- Seasonal Farmers Soup – A colorful roasted red pepper and habanero purée with a cooling swizzle of sour cream. The heat of the habanero warmed the cold soup remarkably, creating a facade of physical heat. The chef has replaced standard brown butter, kissing the soup with toast oil for a healthier option.
- Warm Cauliflower – Acorn squash, fried kale, caper raisin dressing and toast oil. With this tantalizing dish, the chef boils down the capers and raisins giving it a nicely balanced salty sweetness. Acorn squash is the unsung hero of the gourd family, but sings brilliantly in this salad. The cauliflower is served L’dente, the kale light and crispy. A versatile choice that can be ordered as a pre-entrée salad or veggie side for sharing.
- Cod Special – Pan-roasted Atlantic cod poached in a ham hock broth, dusted with Asian spices then accented with hoister mushrooms kale and finished off with a little red bell pepper and scallion. Melt in your mouth amazing!
- Prairie Harvest Bison Tenderloin – Brought in from Niman Ranches, this tender flavorful and lean buffalo medallion is served with parsnip purée on the a colorful medley of roasted carrots all touched with a veal huckleberry Au Jus. Being raised with wild game and having memories of washing it down with milk to kill the flavor I was reluctant to try this dish. To my delightful surprise the dish was not gamey at all, but very mild and flavorful! Being that the Executive Chef was born in Calgary Alberta, my hometown, I am not surprised at the quality of the preparation of this tenderloin, Albertans are known for their culinary perfection in steak preparation.
Interesting note about Niman Ranches: livestock is always treated humanely, never given antibiotics or hormones, always given natural feed and raised on sustainable U.S. farms and ranches. Niman Ranches are known for producing the best meats in the United States.
Wine – We chose two different red wines to accent both the fish and the meat.
- Meiomi Pinot Noir… Hello old friend! One of my favorite pinots! This wine is velvety and its light finish paired perfectly with the cod.
- Sledgehammer Zinfandel We opted for a zin as to not over power the bison like a Cabernet might. It complimented the dish nicely.
Most restaurants tend to over serve, but the entrée portions were just right, leaving room for dessert. And, after tasting the deserts, we were so grateful our stomachs had space left!
- Ricotta Donuts with Sauces – Ricotta donut holes (Beignet) dusted with cinnamon and sugar, served with three completely different sauces for dipping; salted caramel, berry jam and smoked hot fudge. These little morsels could be otherwise named… crack balls. One is just not even close to enough!
- Strawberries and Cream- strawberry cake, burrata cream, strawberry tapioca, aged balsamic and candied mint leaves. For those who prefer the not over-the-top sweet… this dessert is a savory delight.
Accompanied with our dessert order was one of our all-time favorite after dinner drinks, Baileys Irish Cream and coffee, which so perfectly complimented the two desserts…bringing an end to a wonderful meal.
We were lucky enough to sample the winter menu; the spring menu will be debuting within the next couple of week. We hope to have the opportunity to see what the chefs have to showcase next!
Bottom Line: The succulent food, stunning surroundings and ambient atmosphere create a very memorable and organic dining experience.
If you’ve ever been to Gertrude’s at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, please leave a comment below and share your experience. Click the following link if you’d like to see more photos from Gertrude’s Restaurant.