What’s the most effective way to impress the tenets of eating and being well upon spa guests? The creative masterminds behind the three-day Wellness Retreats at Grand Geneva Resort’s (grandgeneva.com) WELL Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, believe the answer lies in taking a hands-on approach. Which is why retreat-goers enjoy many of their meals in a private villa, where a professional kitchen functions as an intimate classroom.
With a flair for presentation that’s as vibrant as the colorful produce he prepares, the resort’s executive sous-chef, Earl Morse, presents live cooking shows, serving up nutritional insights along with fresh, locavorian dishes. Morse says the idea is to “engage with the food” and talk about it “in its most honest state”—the time at which it’s at its optimal level of nutritional quality.
For this sunny take on gazpacho, which packs subtly sweet flavors and instant refreshment, this means strategic selection of ingredients. The mangoes, for instance, should be diced two to three weeks after being picked, when their sugars have evolved and their flesh has softened. Heirloom tomatoes should also be somewhat soft to the touch, with a rich, orangey-yellow color. “Put your nose to where the vine was attached,” Morse instructs guests, “and you should get a robustly fragrant whiff, as if you were standing in the tomato patch.”
Speaking of which, in warmer weather, retreat guests join Morse in the garden outside the villa to pick their own organic fruits, veggies and herbs. “We aim to spread our passion for good, honest food, and create a memorable experience that will lead to lasting health improvements,” says Morse. Even better than the take-home recipes with which guests leave? Foodie origin stories like these.
2 mangoes, diced
8 heirloom yellow tomatoes, diced
2 yellow peppers, diced
½ red onion, diced
2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup tomato juice
Tabasco sauce to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all produce in a large bowl, then add vinegar, juice and seasonings. Marinate for 24 hours. Using a hand-mixer, blend on high to achieve a uniform, slightly chunky consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings, and keep chilled until served. Thin out with cold water as needed. Serving suggestion: top with mini toasts, chopped cucumber and a dash of Tabasco sauce.