By Alison Bailin Batz
There is thinking outside of the box, and then there is thinking outside of the confines of anything anyone has done before to create something wholly new.
Thanks to chef James Porter and his limitless imagination, Arizona boasts one of the truly distinctive culinary and outdoor adventures in the world: Terra Farm + Manor.
Hidden within Prescott National Forest just a few hours from the Valley, Terra is a palace of epicurean curiosity. The 100-acre property only hosts about a dozen guests each week, tailor made for the most intimate of experiences as well as positioned perfectly given COVID-19 and social distancing measures. A working farm, manor, vineyard and ranch, the property boasts greenhouses, pastured land, rustic barns, orchards, animals, wildflowers, forest trails, black walnut trees, towering cottonwood trees, a fishing pond and a 3,000-square-foot lodge.
“When I was still running Petite Maison in Scottsdale, I got a vision to create an all-encompassing program for visitors, which was the combination of experiences I’d myself had around the world,” Porter says.
Reservations must be made in advance to stay at Terra, and each visit is all inclusive. Within the lodge are eight guest suites, including one 700-square-foot master suite with a large soaking tub, walk-in shower and romantic private patio. There are no TV sets at Terra, but Wi-Fi is included with all guest stays. Attached to the lodge is a 1,500-square-foot cooking studio as well as an 8,000-square-foot patio with sparkling twinkle lights, a pizza oven, cast iron cooking pit and French stove.
“Each week offers a different theme and itinerary, but all are packed with professional instruction as well as ample time to explore the great outdoors in several unique ways,” Porter says. “By way of example, take out October pasta program.”
According to Porter, during this three-day experience, guests will learn the art and science behind sfoglia, which is a fresh, handmade sheet pasta with a sublime, paper-thin texture.
“During instruction, you see, guests will learn the techniques and tricks to this handmade pasta of Emilia-Romagna. The classes will progress into creating authentic fillings and sauces to complement the pasta, including pappardelle, triangoli, gnocchi di ricotta and more,” Porter says. “But that is only a piece of the fun.”
Beyond the instruction is the stay itself, where the aim is to awaken all of the senses by the journey’s end.
Once checked in, expect homemade, farm-fresh breakfast daily and three to four hours of hands-on instruction followed by lunch and then a host of optional recreational activities both on-site and off. Just a sampling of activities available on-site: bocce ball, hiking, sporting clays, fly fishing, archery, guided nature walks, hatchet throwing, yoga, horseback riding, meditation and a host of indoor and outdoor games such as cornhole, pingpong, poker and darts.
Off-site activities—some of which are an added cost and can be booked upon arrival—include nearby golf lessons with a golf pro, helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon, massage services, and kayak tours of the nearby Verde River. Wine and custom libations are also always on the menu, often provided by nationally lauded expert sommeliers and mixologists.
“Each night is capped by a farm-to-table six- to 10-course dinner—held on the patio al fresco, weather permitting—and there are always relaxing after-dinner activities available,” Porter says. “Think cigars, wine, stargazing and such.”
Lovers of the land are in for an extra treat as well, as Terra just announced its partnership with Erich Schultz, owner of Steadfast Farm. Through the partnership, Schultz is using his holistic approach to farm design, crop selection and long-term productivity to showcase produce in very special ways. He is an expert in what is called small-scale farming, which is a hyper-efficient, precise and extremely kind-to-the-earth method of farming. In fact, small-scale farming is the most-sustainable local food-growing method. It is also touted for improving soil quality and the overall health of communities.
“To say you will taste the difference would be an understatement,” Porter says.