Dinner has returned to an impressively elevated standard at the Gage Hotel restaurant, thanks to new chef Todd Ruiz. Bringing his ample big city experience to the Big Bend region, Ruiz wowed us on a recent weekend with a perfectly cooked New York strip (from Central Texas ranch 44 Farms) accompanied by potatoes in blue cheese “fondue.” A perfect foil for the richness overload, a bright and beautiful salad of spring greens garnished with pomegranate seeds and pistachios starred slices of Rio Grande Valley grapefruit and orange. The best pre-dinner primer was a plate of flash-fried oysters perched on crispy wonton nachos, graced with watermelon radish slices and garlic aioli. Those flavors found a delightful pairing in the sassy Sally Rand cocktail, an elixir combining sotol with St. Germaine, Chambord, lime juicem and sparkling wine. We enjoyed dinner so much, in fact, we returned two nights later for another round. Leather banquettes make for cozy dining inside, but tables on the stone patio next to a blazing fire bring an extra serving of romance fresh from the high desert night.