Long gone are the days when spa cuisine meant a paltry heap of bean sprouts served with a side of fresh cut grass. Just as the spa experience has become more accessible, so too has healthy, nourishing cuisine high in flavor. And what better place to indulge your taste buds than in the sanctity of a spa, where the food is as inventive and nourishing as the lavish body and soul treatments.
While retaining an emphasis on whole grains, lean proteins and fresh produce, the Valley’s top resort spas offer distinctive and delicious dishes that breathe new meaning into the old adage “food for thought.” To sample the good life sans the bean sprouts and wheat grass, feed your mind, body and appetite at one of these five relaxing destinations.
Agave, The Arizona Spa
At the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Spa menus: Start at $16
Leave your burden baskets outside the doors of Agave, The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland. The Apache Burden Baskets that hang ceremoniously outside the spa treatment rooms are just one example of how early Arizona traditions are incorporated into the Agave experience. Another comes through in the flavors of their new Arizona Spa Cuisine menus, each of which integrates native ingredients such as quinoa, spicy peppers, indigenous herbs and locally grown produce. Executive Chef Anton Brunbauer has channeled his passion for food history into light, healthy dishes with three distinct flavor palettes – Pacific Rim, Mediterranean and Native American – each offering nutritionally harmonious meals like Sauted Shrimp with Ginger, Garlic and Curry; Quinoa in an Orange Blossom Vinaigrette; and Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Butternut Squash. And while a refreshing agave-laced margarita is available just outside the spa at the poolside bar, a better choice might be the spa’s signature limeade made with sweet organic agave nectar.
Golden Door Spa Cafe
At the Boulders Resort
Menu prices: $7 to $17
Without question, the two most influential pioneers of spa cuisine are the kitchens of Canyon Ranch and The Golden Door Spa, the latter of which is just a boulder’s throw from the hubbub of Phoenix. While the Asian-desert fusion of the spa’s interior blankets guests with tranquility, the Golden Door Spa Cafe offers delicately flavored dishes that exude an inner balance of taste and nutrition. Stand-out choices include the Seared Halibut with Spinach and Tequila-Tomato Vinaigrette and the Carrot-Dill Potato Pancake with Smoked Salmon. All menu items and freshly made smoothies complement the towering boulders that set the serene scene just outside the cafe. Keep an eye out for new menu creations from recently named Executive Chef James Barrett.
Revive Spa Bistro
At the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
Entrees: $7 to $15
Revive Spa at the JW Marriott beckons its guests to slow down and enjoy all 28,000 peaceful square feet of this two-level retreat. Centering the spa and looking out across the sparkling Palm-lined pool is the Spa Bistro, where the menu echoes the spa’s yin-yang philosophy. Created by Spa Chef Smail Yaakoubi, the menu offers a balance of mind, heart and body selections that span from wildly healthy to decadent. Carb-cutters can start their day with a Farm Fresh Egg Omelet with shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, fresh herbs and wild basil tomatoes, while the calorie conscious can opt for the popular Tasmanian Ocean Trout – a low-fat lunch entree with Madeira soy glaze served on tofu-scallion rice and steamed baby bok choy. And for the no-rules minded, the Kobe Beef Burger comes cooked to order with Maytag Blue Cheese and Truffle Fries. End your blissful day with a very berry smoothie or the spa’s signature rum cocktail, the Blue Lizard.
Sprouts at the Spa at Camelback
At Marriott’s Camelback Inn
Breakfast entrees: $7 to $15
Lunch entrees: $11 to $23
Smoothies and cocktails: $7 to $8
Already a favorite among locals and tourists alike, the Spa at Camelback Inn reopened in November 2003 with a new face and a revived purpose. But perhaps its crowning glory was the top-to-bottom makeover of Sprouts Restaurant, where a sophisticated western dcor and pretty-as-a-postcard views act as a backdrop to the healthy, flavorful fare. Crafted by Spa Chef Kyle Lipetzky, the separate breakfast and lunch menus sprout mouthwatering specialties like the Garden Fresh Frittata, Belgian Waffles, Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad and Whole Wheat Pizza topped with fresh mozzarella. An anytime favorite is the 3 Dips Lavosh Painter’s Palette – whole grain flatbreads served with citrus hummus, sun-dried tomato tapenade and soy nut pesto. Pull up a chair at the Sprouts bar and order a healthy, non-fat Passion Fruit smoothie or sip your cares away with a Spa Colada complete with spiced rum and a float of Myer’s Dark.
At the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
Bento Box meals: $23.50
Alternate selections: $16 to $25
Willow Stream is guided by a simple philosophy: balance in all things. From the harmonious architecture to the attentive staff, the 44,000-square-foot spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess encourages guests to seek balance through nature, food, water and rest. In keeping with that philosophy, Executive Chef Reed Groban created Bento Box lunches that embrace the spa’s Lifestyle Cuisine. Guests craft their own nutritionally balanced meals by selecting items from each of the five food categories: protein, legumes, grains, dairy and sweets. And don’t expect to yawn your way through each choice because they may be healthy, but each is nothing short of delicious. Along with seasonal menu items, protein choices include Mango Glazed Chicken Breast or Basil Oil Seared Shrimp scallops, while side dishes range from Lemon Ginger Pearl Pasta, Marinated Grafton Cheddar Cheese to Cranberry Orange Bread. Spa-goers can enjoy their balanced boxed lunches in a private nook of their choice, from the garden courtyard to the Zen-like relaxation atrium.
Article originally appeared in Arizona Woman, October 2005.