IRVINA LEW

Travel Writer & Author

Northern New England Journey

Woodstock, Vermont

With its bucolic centerpiece, The Green; the wooden Middle Covered Bridge that spans the Ottauquechee River; and streets lined with 19th-century buildings, Woodstock, Vermont, epitomizes the quintessential Green Mountains village. It celebrates winter with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sleigh riding, and sledding (an indoors with swimming and spas).

1. DO

Ski and snowboard (or hike when there’s no snow) at the pristine family-friendly Suicide Six Ski Area. 247 Stage Road, South Pomfret. (802) 457-6661; woodstockinn.com/ski-area. At Billings Farm and Museum 1 , the circa 1890 barns and farmhouse are open weekends (November through February) and daily (December 26 to January 1) with lms, sleigh rides, and hot spiced cider. 69 Old River Road. (802) 457-2355; billingsfarm.org. Indulge with a Vermont-inspired seasonal treatment at the 10,000-square-foot, LEED-certi ed spa at the AAA Four Diamond Woodstock Inn and Resort.
14 The Green. (888) 338-2745; woodstockinn.com

2. SHOP
The F.H. Gillingham and Sons general store dates from 1886 and stocks local artisanal cheese, maple syrup, jams, mustard, honey, roasted coffee, and Vermont wine. 16 Elm Street. (802) 457-2100; gillinghams.com. Browse the local cooperative, Collective-The Art of Craft, where members sell hand-forged hardware; hand-tied, woven, and knitted wear; and handmade jewelry, pottery, wood, and glass items. 47 Central Street. (802) 457-1298; collective theartofcraft.com. Elevation Clothing offers sportswear by Ibex, Patagonia, Dubarry, Barbour, Toms, and Darn Tough Socks. Check the bargain outlet on the lower level. 15 Central Street. (802) 332-6380; elevationclothingvt.com.

3. EAT

Lincoln Inn and Restaurant at the Covered Bridge Europe-trained chef Jevgenija Saromova’s cuisine is artfully presented and locally sourced.
2709 W. Woodstock Road. (802) 457-7052; lincolninn.com.
Jesse McNally’s lunch and dinner menu at Bentleys Restaurant ranges from burgers, pulled pork, and steak to duck-con t atbread and seasonal wild- caught cod. 3 Elm Street. (802) 457-3232; bentleysrestaurant.com.
Breakfast or lunch at Mon Vert Cafe 3 , where blueberry muf ns reign among the house-made baked goods. Cabot cheese and local organic produce enhance the French-inspired dishes. 28 Central Street. (802) 457-7143; monvertcafe.com.

 

Article appeared in
AAA / Northern New England Journal

Remède Spa, The St. Regis Aspen Resort

The “Aspen Idea,” launched in the mid-20th century by Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke, founders of the Aspen Institute, is dedicated to the mind, body, and spirit credo that spa-goers consider intrinsic to the spa experience. Today, it still flourishes as a core community value. While Aspen may be best known as a swank ski resort, the environmentally caring destination offers an extraordinary Colorado Rocky Mountain experience with a plethora of fitness activities.

In winter, you can ski from atop an 11,775 summit on the black diamond ski run or go snowshoeing. On warmer days, you can hike, bike, go water rafting, do sun-salutations atop the peak, or participate in Full Moon Yoga. The former mining town (1879 to 1893) at the foot of “Ajax,” which is what the locals call Aspen Mountain, is now a sophisticated, mini-metropolis with luxury hotels, fine restaurants, chic shops, international art galleries, and a vibrant cultural ambiance. It’s also home to a superlative subterranean spa.

The Remède Spa

Inside the red-brick walls, steeply pointed peaks and castle-like porte-cochere entry to The St. Regis Aspen Resort, there’s a classic, timeless feel and posh public spaces studded with bronze statues and paintings. Down the extravagant staircase to a lower level, Remède Spa, with its circular reception area, offers a hi-tech fitness center, pebbled flooring leading to steam caves, cold plunges, hot tubs, and a river-like, stone-walled Confluence waterfall. The newly refreshed oxygen lounge, adjacent to the main spa lounge offers individual chaises and chairs—each with an oxygen tank. I spent about 15 minutes breathing the oxygen through a cannula in my nose and truly believe it enhanced my breathing at the near 8,000-foot altitude!

I spent about 15 minutes breathing the oxygen through a cannula in my nose and truly believe it enhanced my breathing at the near 8,000-foot altitude!

One of the treatment specialties is the Rocky Mountain Ritual, a full-body treatment that starts with an exfoliation and an aromatherapy bath. A warm hydrating cream is applied and is absorbed into the skin during a foot and scalp treatment. The treatment continues with a 30-minute massage using a warm moisturizer.

The massage that I experienced was a first for me because it incorporated a That’s Natural Premium CBD Hemp Oil product. CBD—an abbreviation for the cannabis compound Cannabidiol—is legal in all 50 states and doesn’t contain any THC—the abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that’s responsible for getting one “high.” Considered a supplement, the product is grown by hemp farmers in Colorado, and is said to restore the natural balance within the human body. Some folks claim it reduces anxiety, stress, inflammation, and muscle spasms, but I didn’t notice a significant difference between how I felt after this massage and my usual massage after-glow.

A Taste of St. Regis Cuisine

The St. Regis Aspen Resort offers a full food menu via room service, with ample opportunities to order healthfully and according to your individual dietary needs and wants. Many items are sourced fresh and locally. There are a variety of juices, including a Green Goddess with celery, cucumber, green apple, and pear; an Antioxidant Juice with blueberry, honey, strawberry, mint, and orange juice; or a Tropi-Kale juice with pineapple, kale, and banana. Among the array of egg white dishes, there’s the Egg White Frittata with Roasted Tomato & Arugula (with or without smoked bacon). For lighter fare, there are fruit-based platters, berries, or Fruit-Infused Yogurt. I always favor a smoked salmon plate, because there’s lots of protein and the carbohydrates can be limited. Here, it’s Smoked Salmon Pastrami served with toasted Pretzel Chips, Dill Cream Cheese & Caper Berries.

There are fresh soups, salads, sandwiches, and pizza choices, including two that appeal to vegetarians: Wild Mushroom Pizza with Mushrooms, Pine-Nuts & Truffle Oil and a Margherita Pizza with House-made Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella & Basil. Healthful entrée choices include Local Striped Bass with Olives & Tomato Vierge Sauce or Organic Chicken Rotisserie served with Spring Vegetables and mashed potatoes. (Indulge, or ask for a substitution!)

Access to the spa is available to non-hotel guests who have a treatment, or for a $75 fee.

Read More at Insiders Guide to Spas

Farm-to-Spa Cuisine at California’s Famed Golden Door

The spa has always been at the forefront of local, organic cooking

The Golden Door, considered the world’s best destination spa, is named for its entry door, emblazoned with a gold-colored, bronze and copper, gem-encrusted Tree of Life, which opens to a raised boardwalk through a verdant canopy that leads to the minimalistic, art-filled, Honjin-inn-style retreat

During my sixth visit this past August, I was as impressed as always with the farm-fresh, creatively cooked, perfectly-presented spa cuisine. And I felt lucky to once again meander amid the Japanese-inspired landscape — with its antique bell, waterfall features, and koi pond — and receive daily massages, beauty services, and an individualized fitness routine (my favorites take place in a warmed exercise pool). Yet it’s the beautiful, clean, pure food that I have most appreciated since my first magical seven-night stay, in 1996 (and which I try to replicate at home).

Eating healthfully has always been a priority to Deborah Szekely, who founded
The Golden Door in 1958 as a more luxurious and intimate (for 40 guests, one to a room) option to Rancho La Puerta, which she created in Tecate, Mexico, in 1940. This daughter of vice-president of the New York Vegetarian Society grew up listening to health lectures on the radio before she established her well-deserved reputation as the “Godmother of Wellness.” Perhaps those early “speeches” influenced the decades of weekly after-dinner talks, where she has inspired countless guests at both spas to choose natural, organic, and mostly vegetarian food in appropriate quantities for a person’s size. I have always taken notes when she speaks and found this memorable quote from “The Door,” December 2011: “Our body is our best friend, but we have to treat it like a treasure.”  At 95, Szekely’s active life continues, but she is no longer involved with The Door.

Joanne Conway, a former guest, purchased it in 2012, and while maintaining its original vision and ambiance, she has also renovated the facilities, refurbished the décor, greatly expanded the acreage and created The Golden Door Foundation, which benefits charities, primarily to help abused children. Now, with 600 acres, there are avocado groves, 60 acres of citrus groves officially certified as organic, and a newly transplanted olive orchard with 250 trees. These will soon produce Italian varietals to be harvested and pressed into gourmet olive oils.

The daily program has changed little over the 20 years of my experiences. Year-round, seven-night women’s, men’s, and coed stays continue. There are more men’s weeks now and the occasional option for shorter (even three-night) stays. Newly launched theme weeks, activities, and treatments have been added, but the culinary routine remains constant.

Most breakfast trays are delivered to rooms at 7:30 a.m., after many guests have returned from a hike (with 25 miles of trails, there are a multitude of choices). Of course, the orange juice is freshly squeezed, the salmon is smoked in-house, and the berries for the yogurt are grown on site. (In 2003 or 2006, I was served a quinoa-stuffed baked apple, and it was the very first time I had tasted the crunchy, gluten-free grain.)

By 10:50 a.m. — after hikes, yoga or tai chi, cardio or private training sessions — the staff sets out the crudité platter and mugs filled with hot tomato-potassium broth. The easy-to-replicate, V8-style beverage (mostly low-sodium tomato juice and vegetable trimmings) has long been my microwave-warmed, mid-day drink of choice.

the bento boxThe bento box

Lunch is served poolside at umbrella-topped tables. Lump crab and avocado stack, grilled chicken Caesar salad, or a turkey sandwich sounds ordinary but tastes extraordinary. For example, turkey arrives on a rosemary-studded focaccia, spread with a spinach and microgreen pesto and topped with grilled red onion and avocado. My favorite is the sushi-style bento box (presented in a beautiful compartmentalized box for sale at the gift shop), which contains togarashi seared hamachi (tuna); Golden Door shrimp; a California roll; udon noodles, turmeric and ginger pickled vegetables, soy-marinated shiitake mushroom, and a pickled cucumber salad.

At 3:50 p.m., a tray of berries and fruit appears in the lounge.

Promptly at 6 p.m., the antique Japanese bell rings to announce dinner. Most guests dine together in the redecorated dining room and arrive for hors d’oeuvres wearing long yukatas —white Golden Door logo-decorated kimonos — sometimes over the provided sweats and T-shirts.

Dinner entrées include a variety of fish, poultry, and vegetarian options. I enjoy fennel-dusted poussin (a tiny chicken), sea bass en papillote (steamed in paper), Mexican dishes such as chicken or bean fajitas, and a variety of Asian-inspired items: miso soup, miso-glazed black cod, teriyaki tofu, Vietnamese spring rolls or a ginger garden soba bowl with wild mushrooms. Herbs and house-made preserved lemons, pickled vegetables, or candied pecans enhance dishes. Satisfying desserts delight, such as cookies or yogurt with berries at lunch, and crème brulée, spiced nectarine cake, orange blossom ice cream and persimmon pudding cake, at dinner.

I always opt to tour the garden. This summer, farm manager Wil Ryan led four of us through the five culinary, floral, and herb gardens (among the 20 herbs are tension-dispelling lavender and mood-boosting lemon verbena); he pointed out vegetables and rare heirloom fruits (there are 50 tomato varieties) starting in the 3,000-square-foot computerized greenhouse. Then, he introduced the fenced-in flock of chickens, which provide farm-fresh eggs, before others joined us for a garden lunch, set under a tent.

Executive chef and culinary director Greg Frey Jr. conducts the weekly cooking classes and heads the staff, who prepare pre-hike coffee and mini-muffins, three meals, and two snacks daily — including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options — and service a multitude of individual requests, from dietary preferences, restrictions, and “druthers” to extras. While salt, sugar, fat — even carbs and calories — are carefully considered, this “cuisine minceur” hardly seems anything like “diet” food.

One evening, Frey greeted the kimono-clad guests in the bamboo garden, where we were seated at three long tables strewn with floral arrangements and lighted by round, electric chandeliers hanging from a huge tree. Each bamboo tree had been planted in honor of a guest’s 10th visit; these days, with a plethora of bamboo, name plaques that honor guests hang and tinkle with the breeze, like a wind chime.

Details are what continue to keep The Golden Door so special!

Guide to Aspen

Read the full Guide to Aspen in Elite Traveler

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