“Locally sourced” is more than just a buzz phrase at several of Arizona’s top resorts, where ingredients from on-site gardens are showcased in chefs’ creations. Guest programs at some of these down-to-earth lodgings educate as well as delight.
Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort, Tucson
The largest organic resort garden in the state – and likely the first – the Westward Look’s lush mini farm recently doubled in size to nearly 3,000 square feet. Created by Landscape Manager Raymundo Ocampo in 1998 because, he said, tomatoes were getting very expensive, the garden now grows a dozen heirloom and classic varieties of the red fruit, along with tomatillos, golden scallop squash, cipollini onions, edible flowers…really, anything the chef of Gold, the resort’s fine dining room, requests (recently, a crop of bok choy for a dinner for 150). On his garden tours, Ocampo encourages guests to sample sweet seedless grapes from the arbor, among the garden’s latest additions.
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, Phoenix
Call it a symbiotic relationship: In 2010, the Pointe Hilton’s executive chef, Kenneth Arneson, started donating compostable waste from his kitchen to Scottsdale’s Singh Farms. In return, he received seeds and plantings to grow an organic garden outside Rico’s American Grill. Initially planted with corn, beans and squash in keeping with American Indian tradition, the garden now provides the resort’s restaurants with cucumbers, basil, chiles, mint, cilantro, kale and more.
From October through April, kids ages 3–14 can get down and dirty in the garden with Chef Arneson and then cook pizza with the ingredients they’ve picked.
Hermosa Inn, Paradise Valley
From the line cooks to the executive chef, the kitchen staff of Lon’s can be spotted in the early morning watering Hermosa Inn’s organic garden and gathering whatever is at its peak – perhaps mesclun greens, arugula, spinach or fennel – to incorporate into such dishes as the Farmer’s Market Salad. This involvement creates “a stronger, more passionate connection to our food,” says the director of food & beverage, David Jette.
The resort’s cocktails get the farm-to-glass treatment: Chipotles and jalapeños from the garden might end up in such Last Drop Bar creations as Mezcal Mango Madness, while the property’s Seville oranges are used to produce housemade orange liqueur.
The Wigwam, Litchfield Park
Many chefs go to local farms to find fresh produce for their restaurants, but at The Wigwam, the local farms come to them. Every Sunday from mid-October to April, The Wigwam Farmers Market, featuring some 40 vendors, is held on the resort’s front lawn. Selections from this bounty currently supplement the resort’s small organic herb and vegetable garden, which grows thyme, oregano, mint, lavender, Italian parsley, cilantro and a few types of sage. An expansion to the garden in October 2013, however, will add more seasonal vegetables – beets, carrots, celery, fennel, radishes, onions, lettuces – and perhaps a few pumpkins, just in time for Halloween.
Enchantment Resort/Mii amo Destination Spa, Sedona
Landscape waste and hard-working worms are among the topics covered at the twice weekly Organic Gardening & Composting classes offered to guests at Mii amo and Enchantment. Of course, many of them are far more interested in the fruits, vegetables and herbs grown with these techniques at Mii amo and sent to the kitchens of the spa café and Enchantment’s many dining outlets.
Heirloom tomatoes and Thai basil are highlighted in the Buffalo mozzarella appetizer in Che Ah Chi, for example, pickled serrano chiles are used for the Kobe sliders on the View 180 menu and fresh mint and oregano are key to the chimichurri sauce on Tii Gavo’s New York steak.