Resorts embrace local crafts and ingredients
For many of California’s upscale hotels and restaurants, green is the new black.
Prompted by trendy, taste-making guests, California’s chicest resorts, spas and eateries are integrating local ingredients into their décor, amenities and menus. And high quality may be why local products are now associated with status at many upscale retreats.
Celebrity chefs such as Neal Fraser of Grace strive to “reduce our carbon footprint.” At his Beverly Boulevard restaurant, the chef serves up a new “Close to Home” menu, which gets 90% of organic ingredients within a 400-mile radius.
“More local people are producing high-quality products that are available close to Grace restaurant,” Fraser says. “La Española Meats in Harbor City, Fra’ Mani meats and Giusto’s flour in the Bay Area, Sacramento River Valley grains, caviar from Sacramento’s Delta, Brandt Beef in the Salton Sea area.”
Fraser, a Los Angeles native and cyclist who fuels his car with leftover vegetable oil, acknowledges that some ingredients -- truffles and tropical fruits, among other things -- are hard to find locally. But much of his menu’s culinary and ecological benefits outweigh occasional outsourcing, he says. “We are supporting local people [who] live and work in our state,” Fraser says. “And, hopefully, less fossil fuels are being used because of the proximity.”
In San Diego and Orange counties, restaurants at ocean-adjacent retreats are also going local. The Hotel del Coronado’s new Eno restaurant is offering a chocolate flight dessert that pairs wines with San Diego-area Jack Fisher Confections and Isabella Valencia’s Dallmann Confections of El Cajon with locally grown passion fruit and honey. Eno’s year-old Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel location offers a local cheese program.
Laguna Beach’s Surf & Sand Resort’s executive chef, Lewis Butler, uses local seafood such as Catalina sea bass, Carlsbad black mussels, Santa Barbara spot prawns and spiny lobster caught just offshore from his Splashes restaurant.
But the “locavore” movement is not confined to food. San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo Inn infuses spa experiences with local ingredients. A “Made Fresh Daily” body treatment was conceived, in part by El Bizcocho’s former chef, Gavin Kaysen (now at New York’s Café Boulud), to pair spa treatments to reflect seasonal produce, such as spring’s avocado and rosemary and summer’s watermelon and cucumber from nearby Connelly Gardens. Local ingredients are combined, sipped, rubbed, scrubbed and even laid out as decorative elements in the new outdoor spa garden’s casitas rooms.
On the Central Coast, the Dolphin Bay Resort’s La Bonne Vie spa offers locally derived treatments. Pismo Beach is ripe with resources in surrounding areas, such as Atascadero’s Green Acres Lavender Farm and Nipomo’s Luffa Farm.
“Using local resources is beneficial because the ingredients are fresher,” says spa director Zipporah Andrews. “We know the growers and their ethics in agriculture and business. Plus, travelers are excited to see local products because it is not the same old thing.”
In Big Sur, the Post Ranch Inn’s managing partner, Mike Freed, has worked local crafts and workmanship into the décor and furnishings of the posh coastal digs. Re-milled timber from redwood wine vats lines 10 new suites, alongside San Francisco-designed Jim Misner lights constructed from old plumbing and tripod parts.
All Post Ranch rooms have Coyuchi organic cotton linens and towels from Point Reyes Station in Marin County and Bonny Doon hand-milled lavender soap from Santa Cruz. The Post Ranch Inn’s kitchen is stocked by private herb gardens and farms such as Earth Bound in San Juan Bautista and Serendipity Farm in Monterey. Chanterelles are harvested from the nearby woods and surrounding vineyards provide wine. The spa’s signature Jade therapy treatment uses stones found in Pacific Valley’s Jade Cove.
Freed’s next project: an eco-friendly resort called Cavallo Point opening in June on national parkland under the Golden Gate Bridge. With a new environmental Golden Gate institute, the eco-sensitive resort preserves and updates the historical integrity of Ft. Baker’s former officer quarters, while adding such luxe amenities as HDTVs and eco-elements including farmed-bamboo cabinetry and structural insulation from recycled local denim. The Healing Arts Center & Spa’s products will be infused with local botanicals and herbs, and at restaurant Murray Circle, helmed by two-star Michelin chef Joseph Humphrey, local bounty guides the cuisine. “It’s not just about using local resources but about searching out the local resources that you consider to be better than anything else out there,” Freed says. “These artisans tend to create this stuff as much for passion as for making a buck.”
In Mendocino, Stevenswood Spa Resort’s Indigo Eco-Spa goes beyond herbs and produce, incorporating into its treatments extracts from old-growth redwoods, Humboldt County sea salts, stones from the nearby Big River and olive oil-infused services. Stevenswood’s restaurant sticks to a strict 100-mile radius for its menu.
Even in Napa and Sonoma, where local wine culture is old news, the area’s chic spots are inventing fresh ways to support the area’s economy.
Works by local artists are on display in the Lodge at Sonoma’s lobby. Its newly refurbished Raindance Spa uses local wines and rich grape seed (along with local lavender, mustard seed and olive oils) in body treatments.
The first Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival is another example of experts embracing California’s rich local resources. The event in late March attracted some of the world’s best chefs, and some California-based masters -- such as Los Gatos’ Michelin two-star chef David Kinch of Manresa and Carmel Valley’s Cal Stamenov of Marinus -- grew their own produce for the event.
“It’s apropos to have a food and wine event of this scale in California,” says co-founder David Bernahl. “This state is widely considered the bread basket of the United States.” California’s 2005 Agricultural Report supports his claim, reflecting record exports, surpassing $9 billion.
Tapping local resources virtuously benefits the planet, but the practice is hardly a sacrifice, when many artisans are producing high-end products in California. For upscale hoteliers, the land of plenty is in their own backyard.
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