I just returned from my annual journey to Garland's Lodge, in Sedona, AZ. If you don't know the history of the place, you can check it out at www.garldandslodge.com, but - in short - it's an old rustic lodge on Oak Creek with gorgeous guest cabins throughout the property. It's definitely an Arizona tradition; my parents had been going there for decades and my wife and I took over the annual tradition about three years ago. Basically, you stay in the cabins and they serve you an INCREDIBLE breakfast each morning at the lodge, an afternoon tea with snacks, and a great dinner each night. The kitchen is run by chef Amanda Stine (check out her cook book; great recipes and history of the lodge). No phones, no television, no cell reception (tough for me!)....and it invites you to relax fully.
Unfortunately, nights at Garlands are sold out years in advance but - if you're patient and a little bit flexible, you can often get in on a cancellation. People fight over their nights at Garlands in their divorces....seriously. Like a reservaton at The French Laundry, it's that coveted.
We usually stay Friday and Saturday nights, and had fabulous Swiss Eggs and freshly caught trout for breakfast and wild salmon and rack of pork for dinner. You don't get a choice of your dinner entrees, so let them know if you have any dietary requirements and they will be honored. We don't even tell them my wife's requirements; they always remember from prior years. They also remember that it's our anniversary weekend, and they put our anniversary on the menu, and even get the year right. In about 40 years I'll need them to remind me how many years we're ve been married! Nice personal touches. They do have a very limited number of dinner reservations each night for people not staying at the lodge.
The best part of the experience is that you get seated with other "Lodgers" at dinner. It's part of the tradition; they usually give us our own table on the first night and we sit with someone new on the second night. Irononically, this was the first year that we had our own table both nights. (Did we look creepy? Smell bad?!?!) It was nice to be together, but being seated with someone else (at least one night) adds to the charm of the place and we always come back with some great stories. We always meet interesting people, trade stories, and go back to our cabin at night with great stories. People often go the same weekend each year, so you start to know people who are there the same weekend as you year after year.
My wife and I are usually the youngest people there (we're in our early 30s) but feel that the Garlands tradition is one for all ages. We always feel a little bit out-of-place at first due to our age, but that goes away. We live in N. Scottsdale, and it's so refreshing to escape the conspicuous consumption that surrounds us for a place that harkens back to simpler times. It puts other Sedona fine dining to shame. If you were considering L'Auberge, try Garland's first. You won't be disappointed and you will have found one of our state's true gems.
I know that the Garlands folks are Chow Hounds too, and I wanted to say thanks for another incredible weekend full or relaxation and food. Garlands certainly doesn't need the press; they have waiting lists each year, but I thought that it was worth mentioning on the SW Board since I've never seen it here before and it is a uniquely Arizonan foodie tradition. We'll see you next year and thanks, as always, for the memories.