By: Genie Davis

Seated in The Turquoise Room, the beautiful restaurant located inside the classic La Posada Hotel, I’m surrounded by hand-painted stained glass and decades old memories. In the 1930’s, this Winslow, Arizona spot was a part of the chain of Harvey House Hotels. The dining room fed train travelers as they passed through the region.

Today, the dining room is a destination in and of itself. Whether a guest at the restored and vibrant hotel, or a local diner with a passion for inventive, fresh, organic cuisine, a Saturday night reservation in the Turquoise Room should be planned in advance. The elegantly simple room sports touches of turquoise on its beams, comfortable booths, and windows that look out on a wide green lawn and passing trains. But it’s the food that draws acclaim.

This world class restaurant is helmed by the innovative John Sharpe, and features elegant, fresh, organic meals with Southwest style. Sourcing his ingredients from the Flagstaff Farmers Market and Clinton Farms in Peoria, Arizona, Sharpe offers cutting edge recipes that reflect a respect for the region and a bountiful use of local ingredients.

Nominated for the 2011 James Beard Award and rated one of the top U.S. restaurants on the Conde Naste XXXTurquoiseGold list, the restaurant creates every element of its contemporary cuisine from scratch. As a starter, I had the Maytag Blue Cheese Salad, featuring crisp baby Romaine, honey-roasted, spicy Arizona pecans, and rich blue cheese dressing – garnished with Maytag blue. The cheese is phenomenal. My partner had the restaurant’s Signature Soup, a sweet corn topped with spicy chile cream. Both were letter perfect.

As for the entrees, carnivores will delight in the Wild-Wild Platter, which serves up quail in orange dipping sauce and, deer with black current and green chile. From my standpoint, it was the Killer Vegetable Platter that truly shone, a stunning vegetarian treat that counts wild mushroom corn custard, a crisp egg roll filled with roasted chiles and jicama, and a three-cheese-stuffed chili among its offerings.

From shrimp with spinach pasta to a freshly baked hazelnut brownie with coffee ice cream, the menu offers taste sensations that wow without overwhelming.

Linger over coffee or an after-dinner drink and watch the trains roll by. Those travelers don’t know what they’re missing.