Chef Neil Stuart of Artesian Restaurant at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa

A lot of people may know that it’s possible to have a relaxing soak, a good massage and a restful stay at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. What they may not know is that their Artesian Restaurant has kicked it up a notch over the last couple of years.

The fireplace at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Bar and Lounge photo Ojo Caliente

The fireplace in the Bar & Lounge at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs photo/courtesy Ojo Caliente

Ojo Caliente Mineral Hot Springs, just a bit over an hour north of Santa Fe on US285, has recently completed a major overhaul, including upgraded accommodations, refurbished dining room and the addition of the Wine Bar & Lounge, with a very thoughtful wine list and casual menu.

The man who created the resort’s new menus and wine list is Chef Neil Stuart.  After retiring from a busy cooking career, he spent time in Montana and Colorado before landing in Taos. In 2008, ready to take on a new challenge, he responded to Ojo Caliente’s ad for a chef in the local paper. After an ambitious career ranging from sous chef at New York City’s acclaimed Quilted Giraffe to the New York Hilton at The World Trade Center to Executive Chef for Pacifica in the San Diego area, Ojo turned out to be perfect for him.

For dinner during a recent stay, members of our group enjoyed a Berkshire pork belly that was perfect (crispy on the outside and succulent inside with a subtle Asian sauce), seared cinnamon duck breast with a sweet potato cake, chile seared sea scallops with roasted corn tamale and flash fried young spinach, and seared peppered tuna with ginger butter. The service was attentive but not overbearing. Put this together with an enjoyable wine (I sipped Montecillo Albarino) and this is a wonderful way to end a relaxing day at the spa.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring's Artesian dining room, photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

The dining room at Ojo Caliente's Artesian Restaurant, photo courtesy Ojo Caliente

Stuart’s interest in cooking developed early “out of self defense” because his mom was a terrible cook. While in college at Goddard in Vermont, he began experimenting with different foods and cooking styles and thought, “Gee! This is fun”.  On the advice of employers at a now defunct bakery in Ithaca, NY, he enrolled in Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, graduating in 1981.

Talking to Stuart you get the feeling that this is relaxing for him after a hectic career. He loves working with fresh ingredients, letting the flavors speak for themselves. His favorite methods of cooking involve searing, whether on a grill or in a hot pan on the stove.

As much as possible he uses local ingredients and is always on the lookout for new sources. He is able to grow and use some herbs on the property and there is discussion about perhaps creating an organic garden there in the near future.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Wine Bar & Lounge photocourtesy Ojo Caliente

Ojo Caliente's Wine Bar and Lounge, photo/Steve Collins

The wine bar has a casual menu. Make sure to try the Green Chile “Fries”, potato crusted poblano strips with a subtle Asian-inspired dipping sauce. When I asked Stuart about the philosophy behind his wine list he responded, “Every wine on the list has to be drinkable with selections that are enjoyable for the price”. Dining room manager Lisa Carpenter also has a strong wine background and the two collaborate on the list. Stuart says they are always tweaking the list whenever they find “good buys”.

Ojo Caliente's Mineral Hot Springs Chocolate Cigar

Chocolate Cigar, courtesy Ojo Caliente

Make sure to leave room for dessert. Try the decadent Chocolate Cigar,a witty pastry wrapped ganache served in an ashtray with cream for the smoke or the delicious, creamy  Coconut Mango Tres Leches.

Chef Stuart was kind enough to share his recipe for Seared Pepper Tuna with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger Sauce

Ojo Caliente's Mineral Hot Sptings' Seared Pepper Tuna with Ginger Sauce

Seared Pepper Tuna with Ginger Sauce, courtesy Ojo Caliente

Peppered Hawaiian Tuna with Shiitake Mushrooms & Ginger Butter                 

Serves 4

4 Tuna steaks (6 ounces each - 1 inch thick)
3 TBSP Fresh Ground Black Pepper
2 TBSP Kosher salt
2TBSPS Peanut oil

Season the tuna steaks generously with pepper and salt.  Place a sauté pan than can accommodate the tuna over high heat.  Add the peanut oil.  When the oil begins to smoke, sear the ahi for one minute on each side.  Remove from pan and serve with butter sauce.

Shiitake Mushroom and Ginger Butter

Yields 1 Cup

¼  lb. Sweet butter
2  Cloves minced garlic
½  tsp Minced ginger
1 ½  cups  Thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
3 TBSP Thinly sliced scallions
¼  cup Teriyaki sauce
2 TBSP Heavy cream

In a small sauce pan over moderate heat, melt half the butter.  And the garlic and ginger and cook over low heat for 1 minute.  Add the mushroom and scallions and continue to stir while cooking for another 3 minutes.  Then, increasing to high heat, add the teriyaki sauce, cream, and the remaining butter.  Stir until the butter is completely melted.  Remove from heat and serve.

Whether you’re visiting for the day or staying for several days, dine at the Artesian Restaurant or the Wine Bar & Lounge.

Read more about Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa:
Photo of the Week: Llama Trekking from Ojo Caliente to Posi Ouinge and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa: Then and now

Author’s note: We were guest at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs & Resort. While we appreciate their generous hospitality, it has not influenced this post in any way.

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6 Responses to “Chef Neil Stuart of Artesian Restaurant at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa”

  1. Lisa Stroh
    January 29, 2019 at 10:15 pm #

    Chef Neil Stuart was my mentor back in 1991 @ The Pacifica Grill
    in San Diego.
    I admire,& respect his creativity!~

    Lisa Stroh
    Ambrosia Personal Chef Service

    • Steve Collins
      January 30, 2019 at 9:39 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your recollection, Lisa. Having fun and shaing creative projects is what makes it all worth it. Hopefully you’ll get out this way and visit.

    • Cathy and Mark Harper
      June 12, 2019 at 12:23 am #

      I grew up in San Diego and recently visited Ojo Calienate.

      Chef Neil Stuart provided my husband and I with wonderful food, during my stay at the spa over the recent Memorial Day weekend. He even us the best seat in the house and his recipe (Printed out to take home) for Green Chile Fries! All of his food was incredibly good to eat and I can attempt his recipes at home to keep the good vibe going! Thank you Chef Stuart! And I did take your waitresses advice to buy your cookbook “Pacifica Blue Plates” on Amazon.com. Not until I read Chef Stewart’s cookbook did I know that he was cooking in San Diego, where I grew up and lived for many decades before having to move to Colorado. A real shame that I didn’t know this when I was speaking to him at the restaurant at Ojo Claiente! His cookbooks is wonderful and I highly recommend that you try and locate it and buy it (The cookbook is now out of production (Can you imagine?)).

      Thanks again for a wonderful vacation culinary experience!

      - Cathy and Mark Harper

      • Steve Collins
        June 12, 2019 at 10:16 am #

        Thanks for your comment. As this is out blog and not Ojo’s, you may want to contact them directly and let them know how much you appreciated them and the restaurant. Glad you enjoyed it, we did too.

      • Sandra Clark
        February 7, 2019 at 11:34 am #

        Help!!!! Neil, if you are reading this I am wondering if Pacifica Blue Plates is the only cookbook that you had published in the early ’90s or is there another book? I cant locate my “treasured” Stuart autographed cookbook! I am trying to find it so that I may create your yummy Lemon Tart and the pineapple salsa. I will quickly order Pacifica Blue Plates unless there is another title that I should consider. Can you help me out? You are, hands down, always will be my favorite chef. I met you through American Cancer Society, frequented the Pacifica restaurants and cried when you closed that awesome, fast food style place in Pacific Beach…craved the chicken wings ( wasnt it called Hell’s Kitchen?) Thanks. I need the tart recipe ASAP!

        • Billie Frank
          February 7, 2019 at 11:51 am #

          Hi Sandra-
          As I don’t know if Chef Neil reads the comments here, the best way to get in touch with him is to contact Ojo Caliente directly. Good luck. I hope you find your autographed cookbook!

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