From day spas to hotel and resort spas, every spa facility worth its low-sodium salt is bumping up its wellness options, and nowhere more so than in Los Angeles, where carb is a four-letter word.
The landmark Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is one such property, making huge strides in both the culinary and fitness arenas, having recently welcomed executive chef Cyrille Pannier, a champion of farm-to-table cooking, and introduced in-room personalized workout programs thanks to Blue Clay Fitness.
Last week, we joined a group of spa and lifestyle writers and editors for a Wellness Weekend, to sample the property’s services for ourselves.
Here are some of the highlights from the agenda:
On Day 1, we witnessed an open-air cooking demonstration by sisters Heather Goldberg and Jenny Engel, aka Spork Foods, who run a gourmet vegan food business from their base in West Hollywood. Living proof of the energy provided by a nutritious, plant-based diet, the dynamic duo showed that vegan dishes needn’t be boring nor time consuming to make.
Following the demo, we sat down to lunch at Cabana, the outdoor restaurant on the fourth-floor pool deck. The menu showcases several Spork Foods items, such as battered avocado tacos and red bean veggie burger sliders—with gluten-free buns, naturally! Also up for grabs: campfire chicken skewers, salmon with quinoa, and an antioxidant salad brimming with pomegranate, goji berries, kale and other vibrantly hued ingredients. Dessert consisted of dairy-free “ice-cream” courtesy of Catherine Weiss of Stella’s Best, who also happens to be a massage therapist at the hotel’s spa!
And talking of the spa, thankfully we didn’t have to waddle far to get there for the next item on the schedule: a Honey Dream Treatment (60 min./$190). The serene, dimly lit setting alone was enough to lower my stress levels. While I enjoyed a full body massage using PINO’s honey ginger oil, my back was adorned with a beeswax and propolis thermal pack that soothed and exfoliated.
Continuing the “drifting off” theme, we were invited to a group biomeditation therapy session with Jeannette von Johnsbach, who also hosts individual sessions (from 60 min./$180) at the hotel. The hands-on healing service is billed as a way of “using bioenergetic meditation to remove energetic blockages and correct information at the energetic level, enabling the body to recognize imbalances and regenerate at the core.” Apparently, this release of energy encourages self-healing and helps reduce stress and anxiety, causing “dreamlike relaxation and rejuvenation.” Was it effective? Judging by the light snores emanating from all corners of the room, I’d say so. And that night I slept like a baby for the first time in forever.
Early on Day 2, breakfast beckoned. New wellness choices on the menu such as housemade granola parfait, multigrain Irish oats, “mindful” muesli and Jenny’s multigrain pancakes (named for the hotel’s sous chef, Jennifer Izaguirre), washed down with a Green Goddess smoothie from the create-your-own menu, reinvigorated us for the day.
Next, we hopped aboard a minivan bound for sister property the Four Seasons Westlake Village, located in the San Fernando Valley. The destination is basking in the glory of just being voted Best Hotel in Los Angeles and Southern California in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards and was keen to show off its glorious 41,000 square-foot spa, including private spa suite complete with oversized whirlpool bath and plunge pool.
Next, it was time for class in the communal kitchen, where Paulette Lambert, director of nutrition at California Health & Longevity Institute (also on site), discussed the merits of a plant-based diet and proffered examples of easy adjustments to reduce calories and fat content in recipes.
We donned our aprons and quickly got to work chopping, blending and preparing our own lunches. The pressure was on! Among the hits were cauliflower soup with truffle oil, spinach-stuffed mushrooms and a sublimely moist gingerbread cake with caramelized pears (way healthier than it sounds!).
Then it was off to Philen Pharms, located just three miles from the hotel. Spread over seven acres and boasting a microclimate unique to the area, its orchards are planted with more than 600 trees and vines that yield hundreds of varieties of heirloom apples, persimmons and other fruits. We eagerly soaked up a lesson in pomology from proprietor Tim Philen while comparing the taste of tart and sweet apples.
Finally, back in Los Angeles, we caught up with Dr. Douglas Prisco, a pulmonary/critical care doctor and sleep medicine expert. His tips for practicing good sleep hygiene included: going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; making sure your bedroom’s temperature isn’t extreme (68 degrees is optimal) and, if you’re a fan of melatonin, taking it four to five hours in advance of bedtime (who knew?).
Before we got too drowsy from all that sleep talk, we headed home, hopeful of putting all the tips and advice garnered from the wonderful wellness weekend to good use.