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RECIPE of the MONTH - October 2007

May We All Have Desert Bistro in Our Futures
By Annabelle Numaguchi

Karl and Michelle Kelley
Karl and Michelle Kelley

Since it opened in 2001, the Desert Bistro has become the place where my family celebrates events. When I think back to all the special moments I have spent in this fabulous restaurant, I can recount the consequential moments of the last six years of my life in the meals I’ve consumed there.

I come from a family who loves to eat, drink and, despite already being in Utah, be merry. Meals were always important when I was growing up, which is a tradition I am passing on to my children. Spending a few hours at the table, conversing between courses, waxing on about the flavors of the food and basking in the magic created through company and cuisine is a sacred rite.

Whenever The Grandparents, from my husband’s side or mine, are visiting us we make a family pilgrimage to the Desert Bistro. This has become such an accepted custom with both sets that we no longer discuss where we’re going, just when. Since our parents fly in from faraway, Washington, D.C. and Tokyo, we want to celebrate their visits. I mention where they live to also indicate that these people we are related to live in meccas of great restaurants, so when the Desert Bistro is counted among their favorites, this says something.

The Desert Bistro offers all the elements that make a night out special. This place is the realization of a dream shared by Michelle and Karl Kelley, a couple who spent years working in elegant restaurants, before opening their own. They are genuinely warm, fascinating people, and they infuse their establishment with these qualities. Karl is an accomplished chef, whose creativity and passion can be seen in the menu and food he creates. Michelle runs the restaurant and makes the desserts and fresh bread, which is so delicious that tempts me into filling up before my meal arrives.

Annabelle and Gen Numaguchi

They have a loyal, experienced wait staff, which translates into flawless service. Without exception, we have always been cared for with a combination of warmth and crispness that puts everyone at the table at ease, knowing the evening and meal will unfold at the correct pace without hitches.

The menu is truly tantalizing, and making a choice between my favorite dishes is only eased by knowing that everyone at my table will share. My choice and contribution usually rotates between the Gorgonzola-encrusted beef tenderloin, the duck breast with wild mushrooms and any of the beautifully prepared game meats Karl specializes in.

I can almost predict what other members in my family will order, too, which expands the variety of sampling at our table. For example, I can count on my mother to order the Pistachio-encrusted lamb or one of the fish specials. My sister-in-law loves to take advantage of Karl’s penchant for cooking with chiles, protecting her food from the rest of us. My family usually adds a “make-it-mild” request at the end of our orders, simply enjoying the smokiness the peppers imbue to Karl’s exquisite sauces.

This strategy of sharing also leaves room for Michelle’s fabulous deserts. When I call for a reservation, I make sure she keeps aside my favorite, the vanilla pot de creme. Karl shares my passion for them and if there’s only one left, I want to be sure to claim it.

It seems appropriate that the Desert Bistro is located at the historic Grand Old Ranch House. Another family a hundred years ago must have celebrated their milestones on the same premises, albeit different circumstances, where we now mark ours.

Annabelle and her Family at Desert Bistro

My father has a particular soft spot for the Bistro’s location because the patio offers such a Wish-You-Were-Here view of the sun setting over the Portal, setting the rocks and the sky aglow. I think my father’s idea of perfection is lolling over a good meal al fresco with people he enjoys on a pleasant summer evening since whenever I picture him on the Bistro’s patio, he’s wearing a satisfied smile that the Buddha would envy.

If you have something special coming up worth celebrating, consider taking advantage of this first class restaurant. If you don’t have any milestones approaching, dining at the Desert Bistro is a celebration in itself. A cool Fall evening, a healthy appetite and a tantalizing menu is truly the stuff that dreams, and eventually memories, are made out of. May we all have a little Desert Bistro in our futures.

The Desert Bistro is located at the Historic Ranch House at the Moab Springs Ranch on 1266 N. Highway 191, and can be reached at 259-0756, reservations accepted. They open nightly at 5:30p.m. Entree prices range from $16 to $32.

Recipe of the Month

The Desert Bistro

Pistachio Crusted Mahi Mahi
served over a watermelon fennel
and cucumber salad and
bundle of chilled asparagus

6 to 8 oz. Mahi Mahi
1/4 cup pistachios, ground
1/4 seedless watermelon, chopped or diced
½ bulb of fennel, julienned
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 Tbsp. Adobo sauce (cans of chipotle peppers from Mexican )
2 Tbsp. Lime juice
1 Tbsp. Cilantro, diced

Skinless side pressed into pistachios. Heat canola oil in a saute pan and brown nut-side of fish. Put in greased pie tin, nut-side up. Bake at 450 degrees until fish is to desirable doneness.

Cube or dice watermelon. Cut the cucumber in half, seed it and julienne both the cucumber and the fennel. Mix together in bowl and let set for fifteen minutes at room temperature (which allows watermelon to bleed into the bottom of bowl). Take juice out of bowl and put in a second bowl. Add lime juice, adobo sauce and whip it all together with canola oil to dressing consistency. Mix dressing with watermelon salad and cilantro and toss together. Form a bulb of salad onto a big dinner bowl, lay fish on top of the salad. Garnish with lime wheel. Add asparagus bundle.

For the asparagus bundle:

6 spears of asparagus

Blanch them until shiny, green and tender. Take a soaked corn husk and tie asparagus into bundle. In separate bowl, toss bundle in with the vinaigrette. Shake to extract excess liquid and place on plate.

For vinaigrette:

2 Tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp adobo sauce
2 Tbsp. Chopped cilantro
1/4 cup Canola oil

salt and pepper to taste and mix together.

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