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Sedona - Eating and Drinking in Cowboy Country

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By The Gremotraveler

Remember 'Broken Arrow'? The classic western starring James Stewart from 1950? The story is about Tom Jeffords (played by James Stewart) who was responsible for mail delivery in Arizona back in 1862. When local Apache raiding parties shoot some of his mail couriers, he decides to ride alone to the camp of Cochise to negotiate their safe passage. Jefford's act of bravery so impresses the chief of the Apache tribe that he becomes a friend and blood brother to Jeffords, a symbolic bond which leads to the end of the decade-long Apache war. What you may not know is that this movie was filmed in Sedona amongst the beauty of the famous Red Rocks and that the spirirt of friendship and peace is alive and well in this quaint little town two hours north of Phoenix.

Breathtaking is probably the only word to describe Sedona. Nestled along the northern edges of the Sonoran desert, this little town offers spectacular views, interesting dining options, and luxurious experiences for the culinary adventurer. Driving into Sedona, your eyes start to widen as you wind your way into the valley and the famous red rocks begin to appear. These sandstone formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red by the rising or setting sun, hence the name. No surprise, life in this lovely town revolves around outdoor adventures from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Tucked below the main road leading into Uptown Sedona is probably the area's most idyllic retreat for both the weary traveler and the culinary adventurer, L'Auberge de Sedona. Even though it sits below the bustle of the touristy main drag, this little hideaway provides a serene and beautiful setting from which to explore the region. If staying the week or even just one evening, you really must try one of the private creek side cabins. Each cabin includes a working fireplace, private deck with view of Oak Creek, and luxuriously appointed bedding and bath. This is the kind of place where you leave your blackberry and laptop at home, bring a good book, and enjoy a glass of wine while you listen to the water roll over the rocks in the creek. If you want to pamper yourself further, try a spa treatment or enjoy a glass of wine with the other guests at the main lodge. Of course, if you just arrived to Sedona, this will have to wait.

The first thing you will need is a little boost of caffeine and some good walking shoes. Gremolata suggests heading up to Ravenheart Coffee for a quick double-shot of organic free-trade goodness. With two locations, one along the Western Highway and another in Uptown, Ravenheart provides a wide range of espresso-based coffees with a mantra of being sustainable and responsible. Their beans are shade-grown and their house blend is a great way to start the morning, especially sitting on the patio overlooking the canyon and the gorgeous red rocks. If you happen upon the location in Uptown, you might as well slap on some sunscreen and board one of the town's most famous tourist attractions.

For almost 50 years, Pink Jeep Tours has been providing the most talked about off-road family adventures in Sedona and for good reason. These bright, fun, and fabulous pink jeeps are the easiest way to explore the many great rock formations in and around Sedona. Guests can take a tour of the region's famous landmark rock formations including Coffeepot Rock, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Chimney Rock, Courthouse Butte, the Mittens, the Cow Pies, and the Rabbit Ears. They even have a rock resembling Snoopy lying on his back and an adjacent and unimpressed Lucy. With a need to focus on good food and drink, taking one of these tours is a convenient and memorable way to see the sites efficiently. Once you are done your desert adventure, it is time for a culinary one.

Back at the resort, there is nothing more tranquil than a lovely lunch at their restaurant, L'Auberge. Sitting creek side at l'Auberge de Sedona waiting for your first course is a true experience. The sound of the water rolling over desert rocks, birds chirping, and old Edith Piaf playing in the background is a sharp contrast from rolling along the desert in a noisy pink jeep. Located at the base of the Oak Creek canyon, guests can expect a refined dining experience exposed to the Wild West environment of Sedona. Whether inside or on the stone terrace, the L'Auberge experience is filled with peace and tranquility.

On our visit, we were treated to a lovely pairing course prepared by Chef Keith Hedges. The meal began with Maryland Petite Crab Cakes with Celery Root Slaw, and house made Tartar Sauce. This was served with a lovely glass of J Cava sparkling wine. Next, Golden Beets, Yukon Gold Potatoes and Goat Cheese Salad along with Baby Arugula and a Hazelnut Vinaigrette. Paired with the 2006 Farrrari-Cerano Chardonnay from Alexander Valley, this dish offered a beautiful and crisp explosion of local flavors and was simply perfect. The cold Yukon Gold Potatoes are crisp, refreshing and lovely combined with the goat cheese.

Sancerre Domaine Vacheron 2007 was next and served alongside Scallops Provencal with Nicoise Olives, Tomatoes, Garlic, and White Wine Beurre Blanc. Salty and hearty, this was a treat. Scallops may not be local, but they are always delicious, especially with the crunch of the garlic crostini it was served with. And for dessert, a lovely double espresso with a caramel and banana pound cake. A wonderful dessert to soak up the lovely wine served with lunch and a shot of caffeine to get us back on track to explore this beautiful little town.

Belly-filled, a short stroll and some shopping is in order. Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh), is Sedona's Arts & Crafts Village. Located along the banks of beautiful Oak Creek, it is fashioned after a traditional Mexican village. The name Tlaquepaque means "best of everything," and it certainly holds up to this reputation. Here, you will find a wealth of craftspeople, artisans, and gift shops as well as some great gourmet shops. Cucina Sedona offers great kitchen items with a distinctive southwest style including dinnerware, linens, coffees, teas, and wine accessories. Check out the collection of salsas and other gourmet items, great for those unlucky friends sitting back home braving traffic and work. Around the corner, the Secret Garden Café offers great “to-go” sandwiches, salads, coffee, and ice cream. They specialize in organic and pesticide-free ingredients for all of their delicious creations. Grab an ice cream and continue your tour of the countless art galleries and shops. Beautiful jewelry is certainly something the region is famous for, especially Turquoise stone pieces inspired by the native people of Arizona.

After some shopping, head back to L'Auberge de Sedona for a little clean up and some relaxation. Each cabin is a short stroll from the main restaurant and there is no better way to relax than a trip to the bar for a glass of wine. Get your glass (or bottle) and return to your cabin. Sit on your porch overlooking Oak Creek and enjoy a great vintage. As the sun sets, move indoors to a crackling fire and warm up before you head out to dinner.

After a day of rough rides through the desert, a fabulous and decadent lunch, and some shopping, a home-cooked meal is in order. In Sedona, there is no better place than Cucina Rustica. Chef-owners Lisa Dahl and Andrea Di Luca opened Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano in Sedona over 13 years ago. It proved to be such a hit that they opened Cucina Rustica to showcase their passion for both Italian and Mediterranean fare. Located just south of Sedona, guests can enjoy the terrace in warmer months or dine in the warm and rustic decor of the interior dining rooms - they have four rooms in total each with its own feel. And the food? Familiar and flavorful. Try the Maiale ai Ferri, all natural pork tenderloin , marinated and grilled, served with a caramelized red onion comfit and served with roasted rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables. It looks like the kind of dinner you would get at your favorite Nona's house - and perhaps even tastier. They also offer an excellent wine selection - no surprise since they also operate a retail wine store next door, A'Roma.

Eating here makes you feel like you are part of a large family of Sedona locals. Live music adds to the warmth of the surroundings and the servers will even join in as they serenade the room with some great old Clapton and Dylan ballads. Speaking of the servers...they are friendly and welcoming, just like the perfect family...if that existed...oh well, at least there is this place.

And so, after a lovely meal with your adopted Italian Sedona family, it is time to head back to the cabins for a great night's sleep. The drive back is dark, we mean really dark. Sedona has gone to great lengths to control light pollution so that residents and visitors can have uninterrupted views of the stars as they twinkle above. When you arrive back at the cabin, take a few moments to sit on the porch and pick out your favorite constellation. Just like James Stewart would have done on a camp out in the Wild West. It is the perfect end to a 24 hour culinary adventure through Sedona.



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