A focus on wellness pervades every element of the 57-room property, from the sunrise yoga classes and aguas frescas served poolside to the fresh fish, avocado, plentiful salads, grilled vegetables and whole grain options that dominate menus. It feels like the kind of place Gwyneth might vacation. (Indeed, she and Chris Martin reportedly honeymooned here in 2003.)
The recent addition of a chef’s garden – conveniently sandwiched between a pool with a swim-up bar and the small “Mercado” that sells odds and ends for daily life – injects a nice homegrown component into the mix. The little rows of sage, rosemary, chilis, cilantro, parsley and other plants sway happily next to a new open-air kitchen area that Esperanza intends to use for outdoor cooking classes.
Rows of sage, rosemary, chilis, cilantro, parsley and other plants sway happily next to a new open-air kitchen area that Esperanza intends to use for outdoor cooking classes.
Esperanza isn’t the only up-market property getting into the garden game. One&Only Reethi Rah in Maldives offers a cozy dining venue amidst organic produce. Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Jamaica has an ample hilltop plot that generates everything from mangos to potatoes. And The Palms in Miami has backyard beds filled with lemongrass, mustard greens, kale and edible flowers. Consumers around the globe are increasingly embracing fresh, healthy and local food – and hoteliers are realizing that it’s a commitment they’re unwilling to leave behind while on vacation.
One morning during my visit, Executive Chef Gonzalo Cerda, Esperanza’s Argentine culinary wizard, excitedly ushers us into a seaside room – the waves crashing on rocks just beyond – and prepares to get down to the serious business of juicing. Cerda stands in front of generous baskets of lettuce, spinach, herbs, chilies, peppers, cucumbers, lemons and bananas – much of it grown on the property’s garden. “It’s nice to have produce you can trust,” says Cerda, with a wink. “I know this is organic.” He starts by taking out a bottle of Fiji Water and informs us that this is going to be a “fancy” juice.
As his sous chef starts chopping celery, Cerda tells us that this juice should be consumed twice a day ”“ once in the morning and once in the evening. “It’s very rich in fiber and will wake you up when your mind is fuzzy.” Bananas, lettuce, celery, spinach, parsley, cilantro and lemon juice all go into the Vitamix. This is Cerda’s “Green Glowing Smoothie,” which he promises is good for skin, blood and digestion. It certainly tastes healthy, with a nice tang from the lemon juice, sweetness from the bananas, and spicy notes of fresh-cut parsley.
Esperanza’s Food of Place Culinary Series – a variety of hands-on cooking and cocktail-making classes, plus wine and tequila tastings – makes great use of Chef Cerda’s garden.
Esperanza’s Food of Place Culinary Series – a variety of hands-on cooking and cocktail-making classes, plus wine and tequila tastings – makes great use of Chef Cerda’s garden. The Margarita-making class includes fresh mint. The homegrown ingredients are the stars of Cerda’s simple and nourishing recipes – from the oregano that generously flavors the strawberry and tomatillo salad, to the spicy habaneros perfectly paired with lightly seared scallops.
“We really want to take care of our guests,” says Cerda. And, unsurprisingly, the top priority for a chef when it comes to caring for others is supplying them with quality cuisine. It can be hard to find fresh, organic produce in a desert, but that’s exactly what increasingly health conscious guests want – both the guarantee of provenance and the satisfying flavors of fresh-cut food. In the fridge of Esperanza’s little Mercado, $2 bundles of the garden’s fresh herbs sit next to chilled bottles of Veuve Cliquot. “When you get things from a garden, you have more respect for what you’re preparing,” says Cerda. “Our garden makes me feel proud.”
(All photos courtesy of Esperanza.)
(Editor’s note: This story was the product of a press trip, and the writer had her airfare, meals and lodging paid for by Esperanza. We only learned this fact after publication. Modern Farmer regrets any conflict of interest (or appearance of conflict) — our policy is that authors on assignment should not receive any compensation from the sources they cover.)