Luxurious getaway in our own backyard

With gasoline prices exceeding $3 a gallon, and considering that airline travel has largely become short on comfort and long on inconvenience, why not consider taking your next vacation here in beautiful Sedona?

Before you say; "I already live here." Let me ask you, when was the last time that you enjoyed our beautiful city the way visitors do? Would you like to get away from it all, be pampered with luxurious foods and beverages, swim in outdoor and indoor pools, have two spa treatments a day? Would your ideal vacation include exercise in a fabulous gym, mountain biking, tennis, golf, bocci ball and hiking? Would you like to learn about native culture; dance, music and crafts? And would you like to get to this fabulous destination without having to drive the hour and a half (on a good day) to Phoenix Airport only to wait in the security line in your stocking feet? May I suggest Mii Amo, the beautiful destination spa at Enchantment.

Mii Amo is Native American, in the Yuman dialect, for journey. And you will feel miles away from daily concerns in these exclusive surroundings.

"We find that many of our guests are going through a transition of some sort, they may be getting married or divorced, expecting their first child or preparing for the empty nest, as their last child goes off to college. People come here to de-stress, and to tune in with themselves. We offer a peaceful place to reconnect with what they truly value and the direction they want their life to take," said Deborah Waldvogel, director of Spa Operations and Resort Activities.

"We are a destination spa; guests buy a 3, 4 or 7 night package, which includes use of all of the facilities, daily spa treatments and three meals a day. With the exception of guests staying at Enchantment, no one not staying with us can eat at our café. Guests are free to wear their bathrobes to the café, and they enjoy this private dining," Waldvogel added. The gorgeous bathrobes, by the way, are part of the package and the guest's can take them home.

Other indulgent features include a gift, pillow side, each night at turn down and food that has been described as an art form. What comes to mind when you read the words: Spa Cuisine? Carrot sticks paired with a small heap of water packed tuna and a half of a hard boiled egg? Not at Mii Amo, unless of course that's what you want. With only 16 rooms, an average of 32 guests at any given time, Executive Chef Steven Bernstein can customize meals to your liking. In fact, when you make your reservation you'll be given a questionnaire asking for any health concerns, food allergies and for your objectives while staying at Mii Amo.

Some people come hoping to shed a few pounds, some to set healthy habits in place, while others enjoy the culinary delight of savoring each delicious bite as much as they do any other activity. Chef Bernstein insists on quality ingredients; he flies the fish he prepares in fresh from Hawaii every other day. The tomatoes are all green house grown and the beef is all natural, no drugs or hormones.

I fall into the "eating is my favorite sport" category and was delighted when I was invited to taste several of the items from the Mii Amo menu. I brought three friends, each with a different food issue; one diabetic and extremely allergic to parsley, cilantro and the like. Another allergic to all seeds and sprouts, the third just wanted to learn how to lose weight while still enjoying beautiful food.

When asked for my preferences I said, I'd like to try your "show-off" dishes! I was not disappointed. Chef Bernstein explained each dish as it was served, each plate was picture perfect. "We serve real food, we just cut back a bit on portion size and use creative ways to make food delicious without all of the fats and oils used in other restaurants." I had an absolutely delicious, rich tasting split pea soup topped with a bit of turkey bacon, beef tenderloin served over an extraordinary mushroom and barley risotto and the chocolate-chip cheese cake, which is made with non-fat cream cheese and low fat cottage cheese. The entire count for my decadence was 555 calories, and only 11 grams of fat. My friend who wants to lose some weight was served the miso soup for his first course.

"Everyone who is concerned with weight loss should have a nice big bowl of this every day, it's delicious, filling and good for you," said Bernstein.

The soup has only 38.5 calories and 1.2 grams of fat and has a rich broth, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and tofu. My friend with diabetes was especially fond of the delicious assorted housemade sorbets, made not only with no additional sugar but without artificial sweetners as well. And my friend with an allergy to seeds was delighted with the appetizer of flatbread toped with diced grilled vegetables. "So many times crackers are served and they always have sesame or poppy seeds, this was delicious." She said. Each item on the Mii Amo Café menu is followed with the number of calories and the grams of fat contained as well as the grams of protein and the carb count.

Mii Amo also has a nice wine list with many choices of wine by the glass, a smoothie menu complete with wheat grass juice and ginseng and delicious coffee. Our server Juan Pena was superb. Each of us felt pampered with the special foods chosen for us by Chef Bernstein. No doubt each guest feels the same. While you can't eat at Mii Amo café unless you are a guest of the resort, you can make a reservation to dine at either of the two restaurants at Enchantment; Yavapai, the signature restaurant or Tii Gavo, a more casual restaurant with an outdoor terrace and beautiful views of Boyton Canyon. Steven Bernstein is executive chef of both of these eateries as well.

If that's not enough consider this; there is no jet lag, no wait to get your luggage and no shuttle drive home from your fabulous Sedona vacation! Bon Voyage!

For more information on Mii Amo, call 888-749-2137 or visit www.miiamo.com.

Educator Cynthia Richmond is author of "Dream Power " and she resides in the Village of Oak Creek.>i>

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