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In September, I was invited as a journalist to experience the Hilton Sedona at Bell Rock, a luxury property with an 18-hole championship golf course, spa, and fitness center. Since my last visit here was four years ago, I was looking forward to learning about the recent changes. It's always been a favorite property, surrounded by mesmerizing red rock views, including namesake Bell Rock, and centrally located close to shops, restaurants and picturesque hiking trails. However, now it's even more inviting. Formerly Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa, it has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed this week with the re-launch of its signature restaurant, Grille at ShadowRock.
On a warm and sunny autumn afternoon, we stepped into the beautifully-designed lobby. You'll notice works by local artists and an aesthetic of bringing the outside in with details such as a striking sculpture suspended over grass planters and a river of crystals representing Sedona's Oak Creek.
The adjacent Living Room is a 4,875 square-foot multi-use space with comfortable seating areas, a fireplace, and a wood raised relief topographical map of Sedona's canyons and rock formations complete with clip-on hiking information cards describing the area's popular trails. Here you'll also find a business center with work stations, an Adventure Concierge desk for scheduling activities, and a cozy corner where movies that have been filmed in Sedona are shown on a flat screen TV.
All 171 one-bedroom suites and 48 standard guest rooms have been fully renovated. Our spacious suite featured a separate bedroom with a king bed, bathroom, living room with fireplace, a dining area with mini-fridge, wet bar and microwave, and a private patio for two with this gorgeous view.
Before dinner that night, I had a chance to stroll around the scenic property, including Blue Water Cafe for poolside dining at the Family Pool (there is also an adult pool and a fitness pool).
Feeling energetic? You can work out in the Sedona Athletic Club and fitness complex with a gym, 25-meter lap pool, Outdoor Warrior Pit cross-fitness program, tennis courts, heated lap pool and cafe. If you're in the mood for relaxation, visit the Eforea Spa with Sedona-inspired treatments, where I spent my Saturday afternoon enjoying a massage, whirlpool, and steam room.
Meandering around the property, I was ready to settle in at my home away from home for the next three nights. That evening, we would be meeting the talented chefs and management team for an al fresco dinner to explore the new menu. Check back this week to follow along as I detail what would turn out to be a fun and fantastic weekend filled with delicious food, Arizona wine, spectacular scenery, and even a friendly poolside cocktail competition.
I was hosted by Hilton Sedona as a media guest and my stay was complimentary.
Last month, the beautiful Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North hosted a special “Unwind, Revive & Ignite" weekend. Guests could partake in a range of special health and wellness activities such as yoga, seminars, classes, wine tasting, and an exclusive #GirlBoss pairing dinner with Chef Samantha Sanz of Talavera and guest chef Rochelle Daniel of Scottsdale's Fat Ox.
I registered for both Saturday seminars, and took a seat in Talavera's lounge, Onyx, for the noon “Modern Mixology” class led by cocktail mavens Samantha and Kyle. We started with Sam's refreshing Southern Belle, made with peach-infused Hendrick's gin, housemade peach-strawberry-basil shrub, Lillet Blanc, Amaro Nonino, Carpano Antica vermouth, fresh basil, and grapefruit zest. We were given recipe cards, and I can't wait to make this delightful punch for my next house party.
Kyle then taught us how to make a refreshing Hibiscus Mule with hibiscus-infused bourbon, ginger beer, lemon juice, simple syrup, Cinque 5 aperitivo, and grapefruit bitters, while Sam finished with #TheSpritz, combining Aperol, Yellow Chartreuse, herb-peach syrup, lime juice, and sparkling rosé. Look for me to include this in a future Spritz cocktail feature for Experience Scottsdale.
Next, sisters Giovanna and Regina Garcia lead a “Balanced Health” seminar featuring their Live a Lot Chocolate. Giovanna, a chef and nutritionist from San Francisco, described the holistic approach to their chocolate - "it's refined-sugar, soy, and dairy-free, but really amazing stone-ground, creamy chocolate. It's nourishing, healthy chocolate with super-food ingredients." All three are made with unroasted organic 100% cacao sweetened with coconut sugar and ingredients meant to "enhance joy, boost energy, and relieve stress." After sampling Ignite (made with goji and schizandra berry extract, lucuma, cardamom, cinnamon), Unwind (infused wtith a blend of 30 medicinal mushrooms, mesquite powder, and lucuma), and Revive (matcha green tea, mucuna, and ginger), they were so good, I bought two of each!
She also demo'd a delicious chocolate pie that was vegan, gluten free, and raw with a creamy melted Unwind chocolate and coconut cream filling and a crust made with ground Medjool dates, coconut, and almonds.
Afterwards, I joined my husband for lunch at Proof before returning to Talavera for a complimentary wine tasting. We started with the 2013 Bridesmaid, a sauvignon blanc and semillon blend that would be poured with the first course at that night's dinner, before moving on to a Napa Valley 2014 Iconoclast cabernet sauvignon, an exclusive wine to Four Seasons that is poured at every one of their properties around the world.
After a cocktail at the Onyx Lounge, it was time for the main event, a dinner featuring the immense talent of two of my favorite chefs: Talavera Chef Samantha Sanz and guest chef Rochelle Daniel.
We took our seats and admired the view, which was a perfect setting for the spectacular dinner we were to enjoy.
A Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar was the inspiration for these talented women's collaborative amuse. "Sam and I were talking about the ice cream man and what we used to get, and we both grew up eating and loving this," Chef Rochelle told me. But this wasn't anything you might have had as a child. We savored a decadent Strawberry Shortcake "Foie-sicle" - a creamy foie gras cylinder rolled in a coating made from ground dehydrated chiffon cake and strawberries and served with strawberry gelée. It was the perfect palate teaser for what was to come.
Our first course by Chef Rochelle brought art on a plate. I'm still thinking about the octopus carpaccio with cherries, fennel, and black olive dust, paired with the 2013 Bridesmaid White I had enjoyed at the wine tasting earlier.
Course two was also by Chef Rochelle. We were poured a California Cenyth Rose of Cabernet Franc to accompany her silky carrot cavatelli with gouda and tender, thinly-sliced duck pastrami.
Sam sent out a stunning plate of seafood for course three. I loved her creative combination of flavors with lobster and king crab, a tangy hibiscus mole, avocado, cubes of mezcal-infused watermelon, nixtamal masa balls, and candied hibiscus. Merry Edwards Chardonnay Olivet Lane was a perfect partner.
Sam's main course was another winner, showcasing juicy dry-aged New York strip with a velvety corn and quark cream, squash blossoms, purple Peruvian potatoes, grilled peaches, and a bright tomatillo chermoula. This was expertly paired with an Elio Altare Barolo from Piedmont, Italy.
To end our decadent evening of wining and dining was this wonderful duet - pastry chef Calena Sutrowski's dulce de leche chocoflan with mango-pepper chutney and mango sorbet and a glass of Robert Mondavi Late Harvest Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc.
I received a media invitation and my experience was complimentary.