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Gourmet dining in the Arizona desert

Posted by Melanie Nayer  January 9, 2012 08:22 AM

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Arizona is known for many things: county fairs, the Red Rocks in Sedona, University of Arizona Wildcats and of course, the Arizona Cardinals. It's home to some of the best beer gardens in the U.S. and where you'll find Tex-Mex cook-offs that rally a community of chefs to one-up each other every year. But gourmet food? In the desert?

IMG_2994.JPGThe open kitchen at Mii amo cafe allows diners to watch chefs prepare their meals fresh upon order.

Forbes Travel Guide recently awarded five stars to Kai Restaurant in Chandler and four stars to Talavera in Scottsdale, and the barbecue baby-back ribs at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain are the resort's best kept secret, so the concept of fine dining in the desert isn't that far-fetched. However, as an east coast girl with access to fresh seafood on a daily basis, I was skeptical when I saw oysters and sushi on the menu at Mii amo cafe. Where did they come from? How long ago did they get here? Since I'm here for a week, I decided to poked around and learn a little more about how gourmet dining stakes its claim in the desert.

When Chef Corey Shoemaker puts together the menu at Mii amo, he focuses on regional flavors (think: agave nectar and cactus plants) with healthy cooking techniques meant to please the palate without compromising your waistline. To do this on a daily basis with rotating menus at breakfast, lunch and dinner is no easy fete.

The cafe (which is actually more formal than just a simple "cafe") serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and each menu item includes a calorie, fat and protein content assessment. The menus change daily to ensure everyone tastes something new, and includes everything from goat cheese omelets to sea scallop ceviche and grass-fed lamb chops. The fish is flown in daily from Hawaii or California, and the vegetables and herbs are picked fresh from Mii amo's organic garden. New to the menu: Miso roasted duck breast covered with toasted sesame and a side of blueberry studded sticky rice; lobster udon with fresh udon noodles, lobster, edamame, jalapeno, and straw mushrooms cooked in a basil-ginger broth. My favorite: buffalo tenderloin, which is leaner than most red meats and comes served in a citrus emulsion with roasted red tomatoes.

To round out the menus, Mii amo is one of the only destination spas in the U.S. to serve wine, beer and spirits. The prickly-pear margarita is a fan favorite, rum can be mixed with any smoothie for a nice afternoon treat, and every wine on the list is either biodynamic, organic or sustainable. Cheers to fine dining in the desert!

peasoup.jpgEnglish pea soup with Black Mesa Farms goat cheese feta, miso, rice crisp.

chicken.JPGRoasted chicken with garlic potatoes and spinach.

tenderloin.JPGBuffalo tenderloin, served with blue-cheese potatoes and roasted tomatoes.

sorbets.jpgA trio of sorbets is just one of the many dessert items on the menu.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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