The Perfect Spa Picnic Pt. 1

By Becca Hensley / October 2, 2017
Spa Picnic

Eating outdoors is one of summer’s great pleasures. Here are suggestions from top culinary spas on how to do it right.

Everybody loves a picnic. And, when the weather gets warm, al fresco meals or nibbles, consumed in unconventional spaces, simply set the heart aflutter. In what the French call arte de vivre (the art of living), these spas continue the celebration of your mind, body and spirit with wellness repasts that define their locale.

Meadowood, Napa Valley

At Meadowood, a Relais & Chateaux resort in Napa Valley, the spa embraces a “vine, earth and field,” focus, meant to suggest the surroundings. Vinotherapy and herbal-infused treatments evoke the mindset, as does Chef Victoria Acosta’s delicious, seasonal fare.

After a few hours in the beautiful airy spa, head to the grassy expanses of the croquet lawn, where vineyards grow just steps away. Restore yourself with a packed meal, which might include items like dolma (for vine), asparagus (for earth), and cress and kale salad (with crab) for field.
meadowood.com

Market Peas with Ora King Salmon

Chef Victoria Acosta, Meadowood

At the base of the dish are dabs of mashed English peas that have simply been blanched and mashed with olive oil and sea salt. There are also dots of flax seed puree. Nestled on top there is a portion of grilled salmon as well as broken pieces of olive oil poached salmon. The Ora King salmon is from New Zealand and is referred to as the “wagyu of the sea” because of the luxurious mouthfeel and because it is packed with omega fats. It is the only farm raised fish to ever be on the green Monterey Bay watch list. Also garnished with a flax seed tuile for crunch (this tuile has a base of tomatoes, herbs and spices), pea tendrils and flowers from the garden.

Pea Mash

makes approximately 1 pint
2 cups peas
1⁄4 cup olive oil
kosher salt to taste

  1. Blanch the peas in salted boiling water until just tender.
  2. Shock in an ice bath and drain.
  3. Puree in a robot-coupe food processor, slowly adding in the olive oil.
  4. Season with salt as needed.

Flax Seed Tuile

makes approximately 1⁄2 sheet tray
2 cups flax seeds, briefly soaked in cold water then drained
1 red bell pepper, seeded and large chop
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
4 sprigs cilantro, torn
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1⁄4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt to taste

  1. Puree everything except the flax seeds in a blender until smooth.
  2. Transfer puree to a mixing bowl, check seasoning and add the soaked and drained flax seeds. Stir to combine.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly onto a greased, lined sheet tray or dehydrator tray to desired thickness.
  4. Dehydrate for 4 hours at 105˚F or in a 150˚F oven for approximately 1 hour.
  5. Cut or break into desired sizes and repeat the drying process until they are extra crispy.

Flax Seed Puree

makes approximately 1⁄2 pint
1 cup flax seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
water to cover
kosher salt to taste

  1. Sauté the flax seeds in olive oil briefly and cover with water. 
  2. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Puree well in the blender.
  4. Pass through a chinois and season with salt.

Anantara Angkor Resort, Siem Reap

It is said that the long strokes and stretches practiced in a Khmer-style Cambodian massage historically precede the techniques of the better-known Thai modality. You’ll be ready to experience it in the intimate Anantara’s elegant spa after an early, pre-dawn sunrise visit to Angkor Wat, followed by breakfast on a blanket amid the ruins of an unnamed temple—one of hundreds that pepper the landscape and manifest Cambodia’s ancient past. There, in an unspoiled storybook setting, staff await with champagne, strawberries, pastries and egg sandwiches to salute the new day.

The dish on the following page, truly conjures the rural flavors of Cambodia, containing the essential components of indigenous cuisine: water, rice and freshwater fish, with a tasty Khmer dressing. The freshwater fish is sourced from the mighty Tonle Sap River, which ranks only second to the Amazon river in its biodiversity. angkor.anantara.com

Green Mango Salad with Fish

Nhoam Svay Kchey Sach Trei

1 cup shredded green mango
1 tablespoon up bean sprouts (soaked)
1 teaspoon julienned carrots
3 teaspoon chopped shallots
1 sprig mint
1 teaspoon chopped spring onion Pinch of fresh basil
2 fish fillets
2 tablespoon roasted peanuts

Khmer Dressing

1 teaspoon red chili
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon shallot
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon coriander
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

  1. Prepare the Khmer dressing by mixing together the ingredients with a whisk and set to one side.
  2. Cook bar fish in a pan with a little oil, salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. In a large bowl add the shredded green mango, bean sprouts, shallots, spring onion, carrots, basil, mint leaves and the Khmer dressing.
  4. Mix the salad well until the sauce has completely covered all the ingredients.
  5. Garnish with the cooked bar fish and crushed roasted peanuts.

Langdon Hall, Ontario, Canada

Take your afternoon tea outdoors post-spa on the vast grounds of historic Langdon Hall. Enjoying a bespoke menu prepared by noted Executive Chef Jason Bangerter, who may have foraged the mushrooms found in your forest mushroom yorkshire pudding himself. You’ll taste buttermilk scones, light sweets, watermelon gazpacho and other menu items (aged cheddar, black forest ham and spice apple tarts)—all made with ingredients gleaned from local purveyors. As in your spa treatment, which features myriad herbs from the chef’s garden and estate honey, this tea-time has terroir. langdonhall.ca

Watermelon Gazpacho

Executive Chef Jason Bangerter, Langdon Hall

1 shallot sliced
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 celery stick peeled & sliced
12 leaves of mint, chopped
10 leaves of basil, chopped
12 leaves of coriander, chopped
1⁄8 cup rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 limes, juiced4 cups watermelon, seeded & diced
2 cups vine ripe or Heirloom tomatoes diced
1 cup red bell peppers dicedGreen Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a pan (low heat) sweat shallot, ginger and celery until tender and translucent.
  2. Remove from heat and add herbs and liquid ingredients to infuse flavours.
  3. Toss all remaining ingredients in a food processor with flavoured liquid. Blend smooth.
  4. Strain the soup using a fine sieve or cheesecloth and chill.
  5. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and, if you want to add a little zip, Tabasco.

Four Seasons Ko’Olina, Oahu

“Oahu” means gathering place. And the island, best known for Waikiki, served as sacred ground to ancient royals. Today, on the western side, Four Seasons Ko’Olina incorporates the rituals and “mana” of the elders throughout its resort.

In the spa, Hawaiian healing therapies, such as the Lilikoi lomi lomi massage, and products created from local plants (ginger, coconut, lemongrass) can be enjoyed in individual huts—aka hale. After your treatment, watch the sunset beneath an umbrella anchored beside the oceanfront adult pool. A “Back to Our Roots” box, with taro chips Kahumana Farm Greens, and Fish Houses’ Chef Ray German’s poke bowl seal the deal. fourseasons.com/oahu

Poke Bowl

Chef Ray German, Four Seasons Ko’Olina, Oahu

3 ounce Spicy Ahi, cubed
Cucumber, juliennedMango salsa w/ red onion and Hawaii sweet corn
Jalapenos
Avocado fan
Spicy brown rice
Unagi sauce Sprinkle of chopped cilantro

On top of rice, arrange top five ingredients. Sprinkle with Unagi sauce and cilantro. Enjoy!

Montpelier Plantation, Nevis

On a mountaintop, with views of the sea, this Relais & Chateaux resort occupies the grounds of an 18th-century sugar mill. Rich with artifacts, with picturesque cottages and colonial undertones, the retreat immerses guests into Nevis’ old-school, laid-back, West Indies vibe. Enjoy your massage in the spa’s outdoor treatment rooms, where the crowing of roosters and the scent of tropical flowers become part of the experience.

Around the pool (or at the resort’s private beach), enjoy a picnic highlighted by a thermos filled with head bartender Kaddy’s famous rum punch—or imbibe the resort’s premium fresh juices, from beetroot to aloe vera (made from plants that grow on the property). Snacks include beet tartar with quinoa, aloe vera dressing and avocado vegan cream and/or chilled wild salmon with roasted fennel, pickled cucumber and lemon aioli. montpeliernevis.com

Organic Aloe Vera Juice

Montpelier Plantation, Nevis

3.5 ounces fresh aloe jelly (wash and dry the aloe vera, remove the spikes and the outside skin; scoop out the jelly and wash with clear water)
1⁄4 cup water
1 1⁄2 tablespoon flower honey
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 mint leaves

Blend all ingredients except the mint in the blender for 30 seconds. Serve it on ice and garnish with fresh mint.

JW Marriott, Austin

Occupying prime real estate in downtown Austin, the urbane and ebullient JW Marriott might be Austin’s veritable living room. Escape the buzz in the relaxing Spa by JW (one of the company’s flagship spas for its own brand). There, root into Texas with a hydrating Agave Nectar Massage on the Rocks, an anti-aging treatment that uses sandlewood-enriched agave nectar oil and river stones.

Finish around the rooftop pool, which offers stellar city views. Your box lunch of poblano hummus, Korean chicken tacos and spicy Bloody Mary cocktail shrimp completes the experience. jwmarriottaustin.com/spa/

Korean Chicken Tacos

JW Marriott, Austin

Recipes

1/3 pound pulled chicken
2 ounces Korean BBQ sauceFlour tortillas (2 per taco)
3 ounces sweet and sour slaw Cilantro leaves
1 ounce scallion onions (thinly cut on bias)
2 ounces Arriba roasted pepper salsa Tortilla chips

  1. Toss chicken in Korean BBQ sauce and place in warmed flour tortillas
  2. Place sweet and sour slaw on top of dressed chicken.
  3. Garnish tacos with picked cilantro leaves and scallions.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa.
Becca Hensley

Becca Hensley

Award winning travel writer Becca Hensley can’t resist the unexplored alley, that glass of champagne in an unknown bar or taking the train far beyond her planned stop. Travel Editor for Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, her work appears in myriad magazines and newspapers including Washington Flyer, National Geographic Traveler, Toronto Star, Fodors, Dallas Morning News, Coastal Living, Smart Luxury Travel and more. Reared in Mexico, Europe and the US, she now resides in Austin.
Becca Hensley

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