Spas and resorts define balance between healthy and indulgent cuisine.
In a world where the terms gourmet, five-star, and luxury dining are often expected to equate to decadent and indulgent, spas and resorts around the country are working diligently to dispel the myth that healthy fare cannot be creative, tempting, or delicious. While guests travel from near and far and pay top dollar for the ultimate luxury experience coupled with a taste of a healthier lifestyle, spa cuisine has been forced to adapt and elevate its game. This is especially true thanks to guests who not only want, but also expect, cuisine that aligns with the mentality that a spa serves both wellness and indulgence.
At Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, California, executive chef Adam Votaw says guests often come seeking a healthier lifestyle filled with activities like golf, tennis, hiking, and, of course, the spa. “Along with all that, they’re looking for this type of cuisine,” he says of the resort’s Mediterranean-inspired fare. “It fits in well, it’s got some tones of being comfort cuisine, and it’s straightforward.”
While many high-end resorts and respites agree that healthy but flavorful cuisine has become mandatory for any reputable spa, what constitutes healthy is a matter that varies from location to location. At Miramonte, where it’s all about fresh, local ingredients, the menu at The Grove Artisan Kitchen relies heavily on California-sourced sustainable ingredients.
Thanks to a bevy of local Southern California purveyors, Votaw says the region’s network of producers has expanded tremendously over the last two decades, creating a web of businesses working together that makes it easier to get consistently fresh and high-quality produce, meats, and fish year-round, resulting in better and healthier spa cuisine for Miramonte’s guests.
Taking it a step further, preparing these fresh, local ingredients in a “clean” manner—one that exchanges complicated reductions and dozen-ingredient dishes with healthy add-ins like olive oil, garlic, herbs, and citrus—is of the utmost importance, Votaw says. “It’s not over-the-top eclectic with a lot of foams and things like that,” he adds. “It’s good, honest food.”
Scott Crawford, executive chef at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina, agrees that using natural foods and techniques is paramount to producing healthy, great-tasting spa cuisine. Herons, The Umstead’s five-star, five-diamond restaurant, often uses vinegars, olive oils, and herbs for flavoring, avoiding saturated fats to allow the natural flavor of the product to take center stage.
“If you focus on just getting really good product—things that are grown organically always taste better—they don’t need this heavy sauce or anything like that,” Crawford says, adding that the hotel sources much of its produce from its own farm nearby.
Similarly, there’s a sizable organic farm a stone’s throw from the Bacara Resort & Spa in Goleta, California, which also receives a large portion of its produce from local farmers. “The resources that we have are, bar none, probably the finest,” says general manager Kathleen Cochran. “We can tell our customers that their food was just pulled out of a garden yesterday, and it tastes like it.”