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Monday, May 16, 2022

A Secret Playground for an Epicurean Adventure

Imagine being tucked away in an exclusive eight-room manor located on a secluded 100,000 + acre historic ranch in the middle of the Prescott National Forest. This hidden gem sits within the high desert of Arizona and is full of captivating history and natural beauty. 

At the heart of the property, there are nine acres of farmland, chosen for planting vegetables, local herbs and flowers. Orchards provide a variety of fresh fruit, and a newly designed four-acre vineyard is in progress. In addition, Wagyu cattle, Iberian pigs, Icelandic sheep, Rouen ducks and French black copper Maran chickens roam the land.

This unique property is the ultimate lap in luxury intertwined with the rugged American West.

Welcome to Terra Farm + Manor, a destination experience that caters to the distinctive gourmet traveler and is the culinary playground of award-winning chef James Porter. 

Porter has found his dream-come-true at Terra Farm + Manor. He has built his career on innovative cuisine, winning accolades and awards during his tenure in fine dining establishments including his two restaurants. He received his formal training from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 1992 and worked at an impressive list of kitchens across the country, including the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, the Coral Gables Biltmore Resort, the prestigious Greenbrier Resort — to name a few. He also owned his own multi-award-winning restaurants in Scottsdale — Tapino Kitchen & Wine Bar and Petite Maison. 

After selling his restaurants, Porter wanted to create what he calls a “Culinary Disney World.” “All things selfishly revolve around what I want to do,” Porter said. “Farm, grow food, have animals, grow grapes, be sustainable, be regenerative, cook when I want to cook, have people come [to Terra Farm + Manor], don’t give them any options what to eat, just know what their preferences are — really kind of dictate and orchestrate what I think is the perfect way to spend a weekend cooking and learning and submerging yourself in kind of all things culinary epicurean.”

Every cooking class at Terra Farm + Manor is custom designed for each visitor and is determined by the season and guests’ culinary adventure level. As each season yields noteworthy ingredients, Porter has created “not to be missed,” once-a-year classes and menus to spotlight Mother Nature’s hard work. This year’s courses include True Duet: Food and Wine, Spring at TERRA, Flour Power, Pasta & Bread, Wellness Retreat for Food and Wine Lovers and Flavors of France, to name a few.

As each guest learns the hows and whys food and wine work so harmoniously together it becomes a simple and magical experience. According to Porter, four days of instruction will “open the minds and the palate to an understanding of traditional true pairings, as well as many unexpected — and delicious — different combinations.” Classes include cooking, intense wine tasting, and pairings and serve as an educational food and wine foundation to build on for a lifetime. 

In addition to the educational training in specialized cooking courses with Porter, guests may have the opportunity to work with other renowned chefs, farmers and winemakers. “My whole idea is to foster new and upcoming chefs and then also bring in old friends of mine that we can sit around and drink burgundy and some scotch at the end of the night, tell stories with our clients and have them peer into our lives of what we do,” Porter said. “People enjoy that — they enjoy storytelling and sitting by the fire and learning, you know?”

In the kitchen, the learning begins. Each station is set up for eight participants and is fully equipped with all the culinary tools needed for class featuring Sub Zero Wolf gas ranges and ovens to provide the ultimate cooking experience, yielding the most informative lessons with professional and playful instruction. To Porter, cooking is an insatiable passion, art and skill. He is committed to make sure that every guest has an unforgettable state-of-the-art-cooking experience before they leave Terra. 

Porter has succeeded in creating a gastronomic experience for his guests exploring farm-fresh cuisine. He is committed to using only the best ingredients such as fresh produce, line caught and sustainable seafood, prime meats and farmstead cheeses. He believes that multinational traditions can be applied to all styles of cuisine and proves it with his playful and crowd-pleasing dishes.

From the farm, there is a colorful array of vegetables, all types of lettuces, fennel, beets, tomatoes, chili peppers, nine different varieties of peppers in all – and a flower business with zinnias, marigolds and tulips from their greenhouse. “It’s hyper farm-to-table, or whatever moniker you want to use,” he explains. “Those vegetables were just growing out there 24 hours ago, or 10 hours ago or three hours ago, and now you’re eating them. Those eggs were laid this morning — that’s what we want to highlight and showcase.”

“Right now, we grow feed for our animals, and what we can’t grow, we support our local farmers, within 50 miles of what we do. We don’t want to be everything to everybody. I just want to pick the fun stuff. And the stuff that is harder to do we source it from somebody else. And that’s what good communities do — it’s about everybody kind of contributing,” Porter said.

As stewards of the land, you will find Porter driving the tractor in the off-season working weekends and planning the following year’s crops. “It’s the cheapest therapy – either I have to pay for therapy, or I can just drive a tractor,” he says jokingly.  

In addition to the farm and culinary experience, Porter is exploring his own hand at viticulture. While the vineyards on the property are just getting started and will take some time to mature, pairing wine to a meal is essential to the dining adventure. As a wine enthusiast, Porter says he is very particular with his wines and favors Burgundy. “Viognier and Carmenere — two very old-world French styles — that are also new world styles, give me a lot of ability to play around with some cool lines. We also source a lot of great Arizona wines such as Pillsbury, Cove Mesa, Chateau Tumbleweed, guys that are doing some cool innovative stuff from Arizona. But we also like to source wine from France, Spain and California and other countries.”

Guests who come to Terra Farm + Manor are from all over the world. However, Porter says that the majority of the visitors come from California, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. This best-kept- secret hideaway doesn’t even have an address, so curious visitors can’t just show up and look around. 

There are lots of recreational activities on the property that range from the simplest of walking the grounds visiting with the animals, to playing bocce ball, ping pong, badminton, or just relaxing and enjoying the sounds of nature. Terra Farm + Manor operates off-grid utilizing solar power and back-up propane and generators when needed.

Porter is in his happy place. When it comes to doing all the things he loves, sharing food with others is the essential part of the equation. “It’s just such a great medium to mesmerize, transform people through a fun journey. It could be an emotional journey; it could be a celebratory journey; it could be, you know, just an exploration journey, but it’s a pathway to explore, and show people something new and different. And enlighten them to something that they may not have known. So, [food] is the simplest way to make people happy.”

And how does Porter come up with his classes and menu for his gastro-tourists? “A bunch of whiskey is the answer! I just start by getting into a perfect zone of creativity. What sounds cool? What do people want? I want to teach you something that you can buy at the grocery store. If I can show you how to make pasta, you can easily go buy flour in the grocery store; it’s not that hard. So that’s what we do.”

As the evening ends, guests sit around a fire, sharing their own life’s experiences, before retiring to the luxurious manor at Terra, which consists of eight rooms including one master suite, a guest lodge, game room, library, wine cellar, two dining rooms, multiple patios and verandas.

It is at the Manor, where Porter says he serves chocolate chip cookies 24-hours a day along with copious amounts of champagne and other beverages. “I don’t boast that we’re a Five Diamond luxury experience,” Porter explains. “It’s raw, rustic elegance. This is what this property looked like 100 years ago. It’s untouched. That’s what makes it unique. That’s what makes it historically cool. That’s what makes it Arizona.”

For more information visit: www.terrafarmandmanor.com

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