I was once at a media event where we introduced ourselves around the table by telling the group what our favorite Arizona summer pastime was. For me? Staycations. A New England native, I never take for granted the beautiful resorts we have in our Sonoran Desert backyard with their panoramic vistas, signature amenities, and culinary delights designed to be enjoyed under swaying palm trees and colorful sunsets. You'll find all this and more at the luxurious JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. In addition to six on-site restaurants and lounges and the 28,000 square foot Revive Spa, the lush resort grounds include 36 holes of championship golf and eight tennis courts. If your idea of relaxation is lounging by the pool, then the JW Marriott Desert Ridge is for you, with three and a half acres of pools, including the Mesa Pool, Wildfire Pool, Sidewinder Pool, Lazy River Outdoor Pool and the Revive Spa adult pool. There are also two whirlpools, a Lazy River, Serpentine Waterslide and a Kids Splash Pad.
While I have visited in the past to enjoy the relaxing setting with cocktails or dinner, this would be the first time staying overnight for the true resort experience.
We checked into our bright and spacious corner suite with a sitting room and expansive marble bath.
We were also greeted with an array of welcoming nibbles and a bottle of the property's exclusive twenty6 wine.
It was the perfect respite before meeting with Kimberly Geng of the JW Marriott and Chef de Cuisine Chris Neff of Meritage Steakhouse to tour the onsite Chef's Garden. Chef pointed out a large mesquite tree which serves as a natural canopy for al fresco dinners. Serendipitously, Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies was visiting and explained how she was surveying the tree for the next harvest of mesquite pods for stonegrill's signature mesquite pancakes. Fruit, citrus, herbs, and vegetables grown in this organic garden make their way into many of the restaurant dishes, and herbs such as lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme, and hyssop can be found in Revive Spa products and treatments.
We were also joined by Horticulture Supervisor Candace, whose expertise and knowledge, combined with Chef Christopher Neff's culinary talent, spoil guests with fresh-from-the-garden delights.
"This is a much more involved chef's position," Chef Neff noted as he spoke about pickling green strawberries, harvesting honey and making honey vinegar, and his current favorite garden vegetable, colorful purple and orange carrots. He shared a useful tip - "I love carrot greens and making pesto with them."
I spent a wonderful afternoon sampling and learning about the delicious organic treats grow on the property, such as tomatoes, kumquats, onions, edible nasturtium flowers, grapes, asparagus, eggplant, peppers, and artichokes.
After working up an appetite, it was time for lunch at stonegrill. Previously known as Blue Sage, the recent renovations are beautiful: Sleek, airy, and modern inside and a picturesque oasis outside.
We settled in on the patio overlooking Sage Court Lawn surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds and bubbling water features as we started with Arizona cheddar fondue with crumbled chorizo and tortilla chips, washed down with cucumber-serrano margaritas.
In this pretty setting, stonegrill serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features Southwest-inspired cuisine. Though we were enticed by items such as the Southwest Chopped Salad with anasazi beans, roasted corn, and poblano-lime dressing or the Bison Burger with chipotle mayo, avocado, and local goat cheese, we settled on two recommendations from our friendly server Franklin. And he steered us right, because they were winners. After polishing off our cheese fondue, we dove into flavorful pulled chicken enchiladas enrobed in a bright and spicy green chile sauce, and tacos stuffed with tender ropa vieja beef short ribs with salsa verde and red chile rock shrimp garnished with cilantro-lime crema. The perfect ending? Cinnamon sugar-dusted churros with spiced chocolate sauce, orange cajeta, and a double scoop of coffee ice cream.
Strolling back to our room, we made a note to return to spend some time in the striking twenty6 lounge. It boasts 26 wines by the glass, a patio overlooking meandering waterways, and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
I also had a chance to visit the gorgeous Revive Spa. Although I didn't have time on this staycation, I'll be returning to spend an afternoon which will be sure to include a blissful Sami Zen body treatment, lunch at the Spa Bistro, and cabana time at the adults-only Revive Spa Pool.
For pre-dinner cocktails that evening, we visited the JW Griffin Club. For a daily $65 per person membership, guests are granted exclusive access to the Griffin Club which includes a concierge, business services, hosted bar, and amenities such as breakfast, lunch, afternoon hors d'oeuvres, chef demonstrations, and dessert buffet. The patio also offers a scenic view of the property where we enjoyed a glass of wine.
Dinner at Meritage Steakhouse at the Wildfire Golf Club with Chef Chris Neff was so spectacular that it deserves its own feature. Click here in the Dining Out section for details of an incredible meal at the hands of this gifted chef. I just wish I hadn't waited so long to discover this hidden gem! One highlight was chef's sophisticated take on lobster mac 'n cheese with poached cold-water lobster tail, sweet corn ravioli, and rich shellfish velouté decorated with red chile oil and fresh chives.
The next morning I joined vivacious Carol Baetzel of CBPR for breakfast at stonegrill for those mesquite pancakes I had heard so much about. And they didn't disappoint. These signature gluten-free pancakes were light and fluffy, sweet and nutty.
We also enjoyed fresh watermelon and prickly pear juice, mimosas, and huevos rancheros on this lovely spring day.
It was a superlative ending to my first, but not last, staycation at the grand JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. Whether you're a local or out-of-town visitor, this fabulous resort should be at the top of your list.
The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort is located at 5350 East Marriott Drive in Phoenix, Arizona. Reservations can be made online or by calling 480-293-5000. For special summer rates and packages, visit this link.
I was hosted by the JW Marriott Desert Ridge and my experience was complimentary.