Head north into the desert foothills of Carefree, and it's hard to miss the iconic, 12-million-year-old granite boulder formations for which The Boulders Resort and Spa were named. The 160-unit and 61-villa resort originally opened in January 1985, but completed a multi-million dollar renovation last year. We were invited to check out the new look, specifically the upgrades to the resort's award-winning Palo Verde Restaurant.
The resort is now under the direction of executive chef Brian Archibald, formerly of Tempe's The Graduate hotel and recent winner of Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay. Archibald created and updated the Palo Verde menu to focus on Southwestern cuisine, sourcing many ingredients locally, including produce from Steadfast Farm and eggs and hens from Two Wash Ranch.
We tried several small samplings from the updated menu, including chargrilled octopus with house-made chorizo verde, za’atar-rubbed lamb ribs, smoked Cornish hens with salsa verde, pullet egg yolk ravioli with house-made Mangalitsa pancetta, barbecue carrots with quark, roasted beet "ravioli," and even chocolate sphere dessert. The octopus might have been the most unique item we sampled, with a perfect texture and a slightly spicy sauce and the house-made chorizo verde adding a nice flavor boost. And should you make it to the restaurant, we suggest saving room for the chocolate sphere dessert; not only is the presentation decadent — including real gold leaf — but also because the raspberry sauce complements the bitter chocolate perfectly.
The restaurant also serves tequila distilled exclusively for the resort's bar, Spotted Donkey Cantina. Barrel aged just shy of an añjeo, the Herradura Double Barrel Reposado offers the oakiest flavor you can find in a reposado tequila. And while some may prefer to enjoy it neat, we tried it in a cocktail featuring citrus and berries.
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Palo Verde’s stylish new décor includes a modern wine exhibition in the beautiful glass framed room. The unique octagon shape of the dining room is not only beautiful, but also reminiscent of a teepee, with a stained glass opening at the top in place of a smoke hole. Geometric wood floors give modern flair to the space. Even the details of the serving ware and dishware are suited to the design; with speckled glazes of turquoise and copper colors, each piece resembles handmade earthenware.
In addition to the main dining area, the outdoor patio invites guests to dine al fresco. The deck overlooks the resort's duck pond and rolling greens, where it's not rare to spot wildlife including Gambel’s quail and baby rabbits, and even javelina, deer, and hawks.
The Palo Verde restaurant is open for breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (patio only), and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. daily.
For more information, check the Palo Verde Restaurant website.