My Pacific Rim bento wasn't bad — for a pre-arranged, chilled lunch box. It contained a chewy, nutty mix of black forbidden rice and red Bhutanese rice, which I loved. Chicken breast braised in soy ginger broth, served with crunchy strips of fennel and some Roma tomato, had a pleasant tanginess, while plump grilled shrimp, teamed with sweet peas and sunflower sprouts, were drizzled with miso dressing. If those had been prepared to order, they would've been delicious, but served cold, they were just passable. Figs and oranges tossed in ginger and sweet sake provided a fruity finish.

When I imagine the quintessential spa cafe, the cafe at The Golden Door Spa, at The Boulders, is pretty much it — there's a kind of Southwest New Agey vibe, laid-back service, gorgeous desert scenery just beyond the patio (the resort's namesake boulders are right there), and a healthful menu of salads, soups, and entrees in which the calories, fat, proteins, and carbs are listed right alongside the prices. Interestingly, though, they don't give those details for their smoothies or juice cocktails.

Until I looked at the options here, I had no idea that the spa had its own cookbook, The Golden Door Spa Cooks Light & Easy. So instead of splurging on the pan-seared Hawaiian sea bass with sun-dried tomato quinoa, I decided to try a couple of signature dishes plucked from the cookbook.

Seeing the light: Sprouts dishes up healthful spa cuisine at Camelback Inn.
Jackie Mercandetti
Seeing the light: Sprouts dishes up healthful spa cuisine at Camelback Inn.

Location Info


Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Scottsdale

5402 E. Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: Paradise Valley

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa

5350 E. Marriott
Phoenix, AZ 85054

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: North Phoenix

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

6902 E. Greenway Parkway
Scottsdale, AZ 85254

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: North Scottsdale

The Boulders Resort & Waldorf Astoria Spa

35631 N. Tom Darlington Drive
Carefree, AZ 85377

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: Carefree

at Camelback Inn, 5402 East Lincoln Drive
Revive Spa Bistro
at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
5350 East Marriott Drive
Agave, the Arizona Spa
at The Westin Kierland
6902 East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale
Golden Door Spa Café
at The Boulders
34631 North Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree

Golden Door gazpacho was a substantial rendition of this classic summery soup, although the portion was petite. Sweet, cool yellow tomato gazpacho was laden with diced red and yellow pepper, cucumber, corn, and red onion, with fresh cilantro and toasted almond slivers on top. It tasted as sunny as an Arizona afternoon.

Another signature dish, soba noodle salad, was just as refreshing, a heap of thin buckwheat noodles in a lip-smacking lime-miso dressing, jumbled with crunchy Napa cabbage, tender mixed greens, sprouts, Julienned carrots, scallions, and black sesame seeds. A "salad enhancement" of plump grilled shrimp complemented the Asian flavors.

It was light, flavorful, energizing food. And it beat the heck out of eating apples all day.

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