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Miraval Resort and Spa shares its formula for 'Mindful Eating'

Ever since opening its doors in 1995, Miraval Resort and Spa has won accolades from tony travel sites and publications. Condé Nast Traveler listed it on its Gold List 2012, and it was voted the No. 4 Best Destination Spa in the Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards in 2011. Everything about Miraval—the setting, the services, the food—gets high praise.

The philosophy here is called mindfulness, or, as explained in detail, "Life is more meaningful and enjoyable when your physical, emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual components are in balance."

So a stay at Miraval is a complete, individualized package designed to help you reach your own state of mindfulness. You can take a rigorous hike in the surrounding desert or a class in stress management. You can relax with a hot stone massage or choose from a variety of meditation techniques. You can enjoy golf, play tennis or go horseback-riding.

And you get to savor the amazing dishes created in the Miraval kitchen—dishes that carry mindfulness to your plate, or, as it's called, "mindful eating." Junelle Lupiani, staff nutritionist and a registered dietitian, defines mindful eating as "paying attention to the foods you eat; paying attention to where your body is when you're eating; saying, 'Hey, I'm eating but am I actually hungry now?'

"Being products of our society, we eat for a million reasons beyond the need for nourishment," Lupiani adds." Those reasons include loneliness, guilt and force of habit.

Guests can sup in the Cactus Flower Restaurant, Miraval's main dining room, and enjoy its lovely patio. They can watch the kitchen staff at work in the Coyote Moon, located just off the Cactus Flower. They can make a quick stop at the Palm Court for a snack or a smoothie, or lounge at the poolside Oasis. And in the evening, they can enjoy cocktails and crudités in the Brave Bill Lounge.

Now, for those of us who cannot afford the time or money for a stay at Miraval, there is a cookbook, Mindful Eating.

"Probably the No. 1 most-requested thing that comes up from guests and former guests at Miraval is, 'When are you going to put out a cookbook?'" says executive chef Chad Luethje.

The book is a collaboration of the culinary team: Luethje; executive sous chef Justin Cline Macy; pastry chef Kim Macy; Michael Tompkins, Miraval's chief executive officer; and Lupiani.

Lovely full-page color photos accompany many of the more than 200 recipes, tempting readers with great-looking food. A breakdown of each recipe by calorie content, fats, carbs, dietary fiber and protein is included. Some recipes are so simple that even a novice cook can pull them off; others may take a more-experienced hand.

Beyond recipes, the book is filled with cooking hints; lists of essential tools and basic pantry items; knife tips; a source guide; and—most important—27 basic recipes that constitute the backbone of many of the other recipes used at Miraval.

The Miraval oil blend is an example. This is an ingredient in dozens of recipes throughout the book, including the Sonoran risotto with quinoa, the toasted pita chips, and the house Alfredo sauce. The oven-roasted balsamic chicken uses the oil blend and other basics, including the chicken stock and the balsamic reduction.

At Miraval, crafting recipes is done a little differently. Rather than the old system, whereby meals were created for "healthy" results, the staff looks at a recipe's strengths, rather than lowering calories or fat just for the sake of lowering them. That way, the food retains plenty of flavor while remaining healthful.

"It becomes a collaborative thing most of the time, where one person has kind of the rough idea, and I'll bring something to my sous chef or my pastry chef, or they'll bring something to me, and we'll just start bouncing it back and forth," Luethje says. "Then we start playing around with it in the kitchen and experimenting with the flavor." The recipe then goes to Lupiani for nutritional analysis.

Amazingly, life at Miraval includes fantastic desserts and cocktails. A recipe for pecan-pie empanadas is a light take on the all-American holiday treat. The mindful martini is built with 3 ounces of premium vodka, triple sec, pomegranate and açai juices, and blueberries for garnish.

For the home cook who would love to try these recipes but may be hesitant, the staff offers one key suggestion: "Just cook!" Do so, and this cookbook will get things off to a "mindful" start.

More by Rita Connelly

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