Rancho La Puerta: The Cuisine

Healthy yum!! That’s the best way to sum up food at the Ranch. This is where ‘spa cuisine’ began.

In my first article on the Ranch, I talked about founder Edmond Szekely’s philosophies being based on the Essenes, the world’s first great agriculturalists and natural healers. Edmund said human health begins with healthy soil (no fertilizers or pesticides) and good food. The Ranch has served spa cuisine since it’s start in 1940.

The cuisine mantra is low-fat, high flavor with a Mexican-Mediterranean approach. A modified vegetarian menu with fish, dairy and eggs is served for the three-meals-a-day plus two snacks. Depending on your breakfast consumption you’re only eating 1,200 – 1,600 calories per day. Sounds low but I was full after every meal! The fabulous cooking team can support any dietary needs. Even with all the activity, I never felt hungry or had any cravings.

All meals are served in the Spanish-Colonial designed Dining Hall. Come any time during the 90-minute meal window. At breakfast and lunch, find your own seat. At dinner, you’re seated at group tables.

  • Breakfast: While I loved the fresh fruit and bircher muesli at breakfast each day with my hard boiled egg white and salsa, this was the least creative meal of the day. Each morning there was one varietal item. My favorite was the egg and tortilla combination. I really enjoyed the ‘stronger’ coffee.
  • Lunch: Lunches were perfect. Always a soup, salad and side, like frittata, veggie burger, stuffed pita, etc… The soups and salads were delicious! The very last lunch we even had dessert (the Ranch was abuzz ;)), their chocolate-chip cranberry cookie. Recipe is in their cookbook I bought.
  • Dinner: My favorite meal, each four courses of deliciousness… soup, salad, main (fish option and vegetarian option) and dessert. You can also ask for mixed entree so you get a side of the vegetarian option. Another tip the maitre’d gave our table the first night was ordering a big serving of stir-fried veggies for the table. One night I did the Silent Dinner. There were eight of us around the table basically eating in meditation. No talking. Just savoring each bite of food. It was really cool and makes you truly enjoy every morsel!

The Ranch has a fabulous cooking school and culinary center, La Cocina Que Canta, “The Kitchen that Sings,” that must be a part of your Ranch experience! It sits among their six-acre organic farm where most of the fruits and vegetables for your meals come from. They offer cooking classes AND a breakfast hike to the farm. Both are worth it.

  • Organic Breakfast Hike: You set off in the dark at 6:15am for the 45-minute hike (it’s an easy hike, mostly flat). Chef Denise and her team greeted us with what was my favorite breakfast of the trip…mouthwatering spread of fresh fruits, scrambled eggs with spinach, tortillas and salsa, crispy kale, muffins, oatmeal and their amazing granola with yogurt.
    After breakfast, Salvador, their gardener since opening the gardens in 1986, gave us a tour. His enthusiasm and love of his job is infectious! He even took us into the root cellar to see last year’s overflow of garlic crop…they got 17,000 from their nine varieties. We walked back to the Ranch in the sunshine with our 10,000 steps complete by 9am!
  • Cooking Class: Our week had a visiting chef, Christopher Prosperi, from Metro Bis in Hartford, Connecticut. He lead our nice intimate class of six to prepare Thursday evening’s seven item dinner. Salvador again walked us through the garden for a tour AND we pick stuff out of the ground for our dinner and to snack on as we walked!
    They have twenty different varieties of tomatoes. We picked Tender Green (better for you than spinach) and Savannah Green (tastes like mustard) for our salad. We enjoyed fresh fennel as we walked. Saw asparagus growing…literally grows standing up right out of the ground…and they’ll get 800 pounds of it per week from their beds April – June! Last stop was picking gorgeous mushrooms that sprouted and grew in the four days prior because of the few days of rain.
    Then we cooked a delicious meal…I was on point for dessert, a lovely mixed local fresh fruit salad marinated in agave and lemon juice topped with a poppy seed yogurt. New addition for that night as we were off the Ranch… a local wine. More on that in tomorrow’s post.

The great thing about the food here is it’s fresh and not too complicated…you CAN do this at home! I’m incorporating many of the principles…lots of vegetables, grains, beans, fish; Mexican spice and influence; small afternoon smoothie snack made with coconut milk and frozen bananas!

Next…a little on the local wine.