Dining at Blue Heron: A Restorative Retreat

Lynn Cline - February 22, 2017

Savor Rocky Durham's creative fare in a lush oasis of gardens and spring-fed ponds

Out among the spring-fed waters, lush gardens and enchanting pathways, you'll find the Blue Heron, nesting in the high desert among 70 acres of tranquility in La Cienega Valley, where centuries of Pueblo people and Spanish settlers relied on the natural springs as a source of life. This romantic restaurant at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort offers a retreat to nature where you'll not only relax in a serene setting, you'll feast on seasonal, locally sourced fare created by the new chef at the helm, Rocky Durham.

Reserve a table window-side, with a view of the gardens and spring-fed ponds. Then dig into delicious dishes that incorporate fruits, vegetables and herbs grown at Sunrise Springs, crafted by a chef whose passion for food knows no bounds. If you're visiting for brunch, try the Blueberry Danish Bread Pudding with maple syrup or Duck Confit Hash with blackened scallions and guajillo aioli. The signature Sunrise Benedict features a blue corn crepe with avocado, house-made sausage, a poached egg and cottage fries.

With such dishes as Smoked Trout Rilletes, buckwheat crackers and house-made pickles and Corn Maiden Tamale with white beans and mild red chile sauce—the lunch menu is delicious and innovative. The Deviled Egg Salad Sandwich with apple slaw and brined fries is equally creative, and satisfying.

Dinner includes savory winter starters such as Roasted Pumpkin and Coconut Bisque with pepitas and smoked guajillo chile and Baked Polenta and Wild Mushroom with cambozola fondue. Enticing entrees include Gold Canyon Coffee-Rubbed Ribeye with green chile whipped potatoes, baby root vegetables and mole butter. Or, try the Vegetable Napoleon with arugula pesto, goat cheese and walnuts.

For dessert, indulge in Mexican Chocolate Decadence with vanilla crème anglaise and a bizcochito or Coffee and Donuts served with cappuccino flan and mini churros.

If you haven't yet been, now's the time to go! Blue Heron is participating in Restaurant Week, which is happening now through this Sunday, February 26—a great time to visit and take advantage of the prix-fix deal. The dinner menu includes Butternut Squash Bisque with toasted pepitas and smoked guajillo chile oil; Pan-roasted Chicken Breast with saffron papperdelle and blue cheese veloute; and Fresh Fruit Melange with coconut whip and salted caramel almonds.

Once you've tasted Blue Heron's food, it won't surprise you to learn that Durham is well-known among foodies near and far, having cooked his way around the world. A Santa Fe native, he began his career in high school washing dishes at Le Frogery, where the Cowgirl now stands. He went on to do prep work and make desserts at the original El Nido in Tesuque then became a line cook at the Zia Diner. He also did a few stings at Santacafé, working with acclaimed chef Ming Tsai.

Durham’s cooking has taken him to England, where he helped open eight Santa Fe-themed restaurants and had a hit TV show “Plates from the States,” a 50-part series exploring America’s diverse cuisines. He also worked with “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on the Travel Channel.

Most recently, Durham co-founded the Santa Fe Culinary Academy, which trained chefs and culinary entrepreneurs, before landing at Blue Heron, where he's created a menu that's worth the drive.

“Besides letting the gardens and greenhouse help guide my hand, I've been embracing my inner entremetier and putting lots of energy into my veggies, grains and starches,” he says of the menus he's created for Blue Heron. “One cannot help but be inspired by the gorgeous surroundings here. That said, I have a new dessert called the Elvis. Unrelated to anything. But with thousands of years of history and culture to draw from, that is indeed a deep well of inspiration!”

PHOTO CREDIT - Rocky Durham/Sunrise Springs