A Taste of Vermejo
by Nina Boys
“This is perfect!” exclaims the head gardener Jess, who beckons the chef and me to a bed of native herbs where we begin gathering sage for our cooking class. Like the lodge’s rotating seasonal menus, the classes draw inspiration from the plants grown in the on-site greenhouse, and each begins with a tour of the lush facility. When we add the sage to a white wine sauce that is tossed with our hand-rolled pasta just 30-minutes later, the vitality of the ingredients shines through with each bite and I recall Jess’ enthusiasm for organic agriculture. Every aspect of the Vermejo experience is designed to bring guests closer to nature – and dining here is no exception.
“Vermejo’s cuisine represents the past, present, and future of our land, with a foundation rooted in the environment and history,” explains Chef Cory Untch. “We draw inspiration from Spanish, Native American, Mexican and Central American culture, and of course, from ingredients at their peak.” This is evident when freshly-baked brioche topped with greenhouse salsa verde and perfectly ripe tomatoes prepared 4-ways appears in front of me in an elegant celebration of the regional bounty.
Later that evening, I am drawn to the front yard where smoke rises dramatically from a striking central Argentine grill that is juxtaposed against pristine landscapes capped by the iconic Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the distance. Guests are gathered to watch as the chefs expertly cook local elk steaks over glowing coals, and the long-standing tradition of outdoor cooking is further enhanced by the magenta prickly pear margaritas that arrive just moments later. I look around, imagining a world in which the surrounding vast valleys serve as al fresco dining rooms where entertainment comes in the form of roaming bison and soaring eagles. But my imagination doesn’t need to run far; once we take a seat and begin tucking into tajines full of fish and plump scallops, the chef informs me of their plans to launch wood-fired dinners around the ranch next season.
Dining here has taken on a life of its own, and I inquire about the role it plays within the long-term sustainability of the property. The chef reflects pensively before replying, “Vermejo to me represents what can happen when a group of individuals comes together and decides to use our skills to take care of the land. It is an example of people working in unison with nature to better understand our role in its conservation.” And that, we agree, is something we can all raise our glasses to.
Nina Boys is a passionate traveler whose journeys have taken her across five continents to some of the world’s most beautiful natural and cultural wonders. Her blogs and travel articles have appeared in Virtuoso.com, Huffington Post and Roads & Kingdoms.