Hotel dining is quietly experiencing a renaissance in Sedona. “The food aspect of resort restaurants has changed from a caterpillar to butterfly,” says Elizabeth McIntire, food and beverage director for Sedona Center in Uptown. “Resorts are fighting over chefs and they aren’t afraid to spend money in order to give guests a great dining experience. This has had a huge impact on talented young chefs,” who are following the lure to Red Rock Country.
Bill Allison, director of sales and marketing at L’Auberge de Sedona, has been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years and he traces the trend in upscale hotel dining to decisions by chains such as the Hyatt and Four Seasons. “Hyatt started the trend by developing a signature approach to restaurants and that really put them on the cutting edge,” he says. “Hotels began creating restaurants that could stand on their own. Previously, hotel restaurants felt they only needed to provide a modicum of niceness when it came to dining because they had a captive audience.”
Sedona Monthly caught up with chefs, sommeliers and restaurant managers at eight local resort restaurants and found hotel dining has evolved even further than we expected, with some restaurants serving the type of gourmet meals you would find in far bigger cities. Several restaurants boast award-winning wine lists with hundreds of labels from all over the world – including prices featuring a comma and three zeroes. Tasting menus have become a popular way for diners to experience a broad sampling of what’s in the chef’s bag of tricks rather than just one pick from the menu, and private dining rooms – or even dining in the kitchen or wine cellar – are en vogue. It’s no wonder even locals have no reservations about visiting a resort restaurant for a night out (but do call ahead). Bon Appétit!
El Portal Sedona
Winemaker Dinners are in with the inn Crowd
Guests who pay from $250 to $495 per night for a room at El Portal Sedona know what they value in the kitchen: “No-fuss meals that taste great and have a nice presentation but aren’t over the top – simply prepared and flavorful,” says Executive Chef Eden Messer, who serves up entrees such as maple leaf duck breast, coconut-crusted crabcake, and the prime Cedar Creek New York steak at the high-end inn’s intimate dining room, which seats about 45 and features a cozy fireplace, wood-beamed ceiling, artisan silverware, and earth-tone décor. “All our guests eat here at least one night but we have quite a few locals who dine with us regularly,” Eden says.
For example, she says she sees a number of familiar faces at the winemaker dinners El Portal hosts six times a year. Twenty to 25 guests pay about $100 per person to meet pros such as a winemaker from Oregon’s Adelsheim Vineyard, who was on hand at a recent event
to discuss pairing its acclaimed wines with a six-course meal. The nights leave an impression: “During the winemaker dinners, I’ll sell seven to 15 cases of wine,” Eden says. On other nights, El Portal has a sommelier who helps guests choose from more than 130 wines on a list that changes weekly – Eden chooses each bottle (ranging from $25 to $250) herself.
Courtyard dining is available seasonally. El Portal is a pet-friendly hotel and diners can eat with four-legged friends in the courtyard, weather permitting. The dining room’s open Friday and Saturday nights for dinner by reservation only (seatings every 30 minutes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.), and at other times for private dinners for corporations and individuals.
El Portal Sedona 95 Portal Ln. (928-203-4942; www.elportalsedona.com)