The intriguing thing about Hacienda del Cerezo is you’ve never heard of it.

No wonder. In a travel market of gigantic conglomerates, the tiny ten-suite Hacienda del Cerezo is a hospitality anachronism. Designed to be the ultimate romantic getaway, it is determined to stay that way.

Just the right spot: an amazing 336-acre tract nestled between the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountain ranges, just 20 minutes from downtown Santa Fe. You look out on more than a quarter million unspoiled, undeveloped acres of the most beautiful scenery in the Southwest. No freeways. No billboards. And, almost no other people. In addition to absence of anything annoying (reason in itself to visit), Hacienda del Cerezo boasts a plenitude of comforts. The enormous Jacuzzi tub in your bathroom, views of the rolling hills, the serene swimming pool that reflects the sunset like a Monet water study.

The ranch has an excellent stable and the owners, who bred Arabians, have the best of everything. A tennis court with unparalleled views, and arrangements for golf can be made at a variety of the challenging courses. Arrangements can be made for virtually anything. A hotair balloon ride over the desert? A guided tour of the Indian pueblos by an expert on Native American culture? His-and-hers in-room massage treatments? Done. For the Cerezo staff, meeting the needs of their guests—from opera tickets to fly-fishing junkets—is a challenge they relish.

And the food. Hacienda del Cerezo not only equals the best of Santa Fe, it consistently exceeds it. From feathery light fruit pastries at breakfast to the luxurious black-and-white crème brûlée at dinner’s end, the breadth and quality of the everchanging menu is nothing short of astounding. The food was so excellent, in fact, that it begs an explanation.

It begins with the executive chef, who might more appropriately be called the “artist in residence.” He is Paul Pratley, another New York refugee whose pedigree includes the Culinary Institute of America and Bistro 22, the renowned four-star eatery in New York. Unassuming in manner, Pratley dazzles in all three areas of food presentation: taste, appearance, and imagination. He makes up a brand new menu every day.

Guests are asked about food likes and dislikes before arrival, and Pratley incorporates these whims into his menus. All three meals— breakfast, lunch, and a five-course dinner with choice of entrée as well as a selection of excellent wines—are included. The owners, who delight in sampling each day’s newest creation and offering feedback along with the guests, have given him extraordinary freedom. “The freedom is challenging, but it’s also a kick,” says Pratley. “It’s a chef ’s dream to experiment. I have the added advantage of cooking for a small group. I can do things at the last minute, taking food immediately from the pan to the plate, serving pastries right out of the oven. You can’t beat that freshness.”

The last, and likely most magical, aspect to Hacienda del Cerezo is that it manages to escape the social awkwardness that so many small establishments have. Maybe it’s the magnificence of the landscape casting its legendary spell. Whatever the reason, you feel a sense of childlike spirit restored.

This unknown oasis is off the beaten path and hard to find, but trust me: That’s a good thing. —Reid Slaughter