By Amy Reiley
As a new millennium comes into its own, the North American travel industry acknowledges a truth celebrated in the Old World for many years: two of the most pleasurable travel experiences are those of destination cooking schools and of destination spas. Thanks to a handful of spa industry innovators, we can indulge both our culinary fantasies and cravings for absolute pampering in one rejuvenating escapade. We celebrate the forerunners of travel’s great new trend, the spa cooking school.
When you step off the plane in St. George, you expect to be dazzled by the red clay soil and rugged, mountainous geography. But what may come as a surprise is how much your taste buds will be dazzled by the cuisine at Red Mountain, the Southwest’s premier adventure spa.
Ever since Chef Jim Gallivan took the helm of Red Mountain’s kitchen, visitors, who formerly came in droves to focus on weight loss, just can’t get enough of the Red Mountain cuisine.
The first thing to do when you arrive is sign up for Chef Gallivan’s daily cooking demonstration and lunch. Included in the cost of your stay, the daily workshop is one of the finest spa cooking demonstrations you’ll find.
Although the class is short, less than an hour long, an intimate class size will allow you to pose all your calorie conscious cooking questions to the chef. Gallivan is so passionate about education that he has been known to offer private cooking intensives and week-long culinary camps around the schedules of enthusiastic guests.
Each workshop centers on a theme: one day it might be risotto, while the next may discuss seafood. A packet of the featured recipes is distributed before class so you can follow along during the cooking process. Additional recipes, including Chef Gallivan’s sensational apple bread pudding, are available in Red Mountain’s self-published cookbook. Although samples of each demonstrated dish are only small tastes, the total tasting will leave you feeling like you have eaten a multi-course, gourmet meal.
Just two hours northeast of Las Vegas, Red Mountain is popular with elite athletes looking for focused training. (Who couldn’t find a new center of focus within this setting, so spectacular that it practically defies description?) The resort employs the same training technology employed by the Olympic Training Center, but this innovation is not reserved for visitors on a serious training regime.
A day should be set aside for one of Red Mountain’s regularly scheduled trips to Zion National Park. You won’t regret having to miss Red Mountain’s lunch once you set eyes on the waterfalls, caves, and rare wildlife of this national treasure.
Although regularly scheduled yoga and fitness classes throughout the day may tempt you to keep a very active pace, be sure to set aside a few hours for floating in the pool, visiting the spa, and swinging in a hammock while reflecting on the shifting desert sands.
Contact (435) 673-4905 or visit www.redmountainspa.com
You hop off a plane at the Pittsburgh International Airport poised for action: skiing, rock climbing, the Hummer off-road driving school, white water rafting. Nemacolin Woodlands, a getaway in the Laurel Highlands, an easy hour-and-a-half drive from the airport, offers all your favorite adventure activities. But they also offer the key to keeping you in peak condition: lifestyle cooking classes by Chef Kenneth Migneault.
Tuesday lunch is a respite from your packed schedule of strenuous activity when you accept Chef Migneault’s invitation to enter his kitchen and learn a new style of cooking from a man who understands the needs of athletes. (An athlete himself, Chef Migneault switched from serving up fried seafood to promoting the foods he prefers to fuel his active lifestyle.)
The Tuesday cooking class and lunch focuses on either the feng shui of food or spa cuisine. For the cost of your average lunch, guests have the opportunity to help prepare some of the flavor and nutrient rich foods on the menu of Chef Migneault’s restaurant in the Nemacolin spa, Seasons, then sit down to enjoy their meal with the chef. Armed with a recipe packet of twenty of Chef Migneault’s signature dishes, you’ll have the tools to continue dining in the style of an elite athlete when you return home.
While experiencing the playground of the Allegheny Mountains, be sure to schedule some down time in Nemacolin’s spa. Expanded in 1999, this feng shui sanctuary is easily the finest spa destination in western Pennsylvania. The signature Water Path Ritual begins with a walk through two water paths (one hot, one cold) to stimulate circulation, followed by a Swiss shower rinse and a relaxing soak in a tub filled with mineral salts. It is the perfect transition from the slopes to the spa. Follow it with a hot stone massage for the perfect remedy for well-worked muscles.
Be sure to enjoy a meal in Chef Migneault’s Seasons restaurant, adjacent to the spa. Open for three meals a day, Seasons offers something for everyone, from the calorie conscious to kids. Specialties like roast game, entree-sized salads, individual pizzas, and incredibly rich, guilt-free custards and cakes are sure to satisfy everyone. (Migneault is also developing a series of kid’s cooking classes to help cultivate a healthy, new generation.) Dishes are categorized under hunter and gatherer themes, both of which clearly tailor to guests who have come to experience the active lifestyle of this playground of pleasures.
Contact (800) 422-2736 or visit www.nemacolin.com
The trouble with getting here will feel worth the effort (and it does take some exertion to blaze a trail to Cortes Island, an isolated pinprick on the Canadian map) once you settle in to your oceanfront room and take your first deep breath of some of North America’s freshest air.
The cleansing experience afforded by Hollyhock, the dominating residence of this sparsely settled island, will extend from your lungs to your entire body and mind, beginning with your diet.
The spa-cooking craze has definitely reached this far northern shore. Hollyhock, a leading Canadian learning retreat, unlocks the mysteries of flavorful yet healthful vegetarian cooking with a series of workshops offered throughout the year. Week-long culinary seminars are built around a singular theme. For example, the 2003 calendar included Vegetarian Asian Fusion, Seasonal Regional Northwestern Cuisine, and The Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health—From New York to Hollyhock.
Whatever theme you choose, prepare to immerse yourself in the theory and practice of vegetarian cooking geared toward improving your quality of life. Classes are designed to accommodate beginners, but experienced and even professional chefs often attend to hone the specific skills of producing balanced, colorful, and flavorful vegetarian cuisine.
The culinary program is overseen by Hollyhock’s Chef and Kitchen Manager, Debra Fontaine. A former gourmet chef with the Vancouver Waterfront hotel, Fontaine is also responsible for creating the indulgent, seasonal, and regional fare you’ll enjoy throughout your stay. (Hollyhock’s cuisine features local produce with the occasional addition of fresh, British Columbian seafood.) It was actually the extreme popularity of Fontaine’s innovative cooking—especially her desserts—that inspired her culinary education program.
Your classroom time will be balanced with time spent in the great Northern outdoors. Hiking, rowing, and guided stargazing are among the options at your disposal. Massage and other bodywork therapies are available by appointment. A stroll through the garden is sure to inspire thoughts of incorporating more fresh-grown produce into your regular diet. The biodynamic garden supplies much of the raw product for your classes.
In addition to the oceanfront rooms, Hollyhock offers budget, dormitory, and tent-style accommodations. But whatever accommodation you choose, the highlight of your stay is bound to be the weekly beachside oyster barbecue, when all of Hollyhock’s essential elements unite to create an unforgettable experience of companionship, nature, and Northwestern cuisine.
Contact (800) 933-6339 or visit www.hollyhock.bc.ca