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Monday, October 8, 2012

Dining at Canyon Ranch | Lenox, MA

Five Spice Marinated Tofu
The idea of a spa vacation or getaway often conjures up images of relaxation, massages, and delicious, but healthy dining. Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts certainly met and in most cases, exceeded my expectations.  What you can expect to find is well balanced, healthy dishes that are beautifully presented and meant to nourish both your body and mind.  Every menu has a nutrient analysis that shows calories, carb grams, protein grams, fat grams, fiber grams, sodium mg, and if it contains a trace of alcohol (A), if it is gluten-free (GF no wheat, rye, or barley), or vegan (contains no animal product).  This information allows you to make the best dietary choices while still treating yourself to delicious food.  Each meal offers a balanced selection: "By following our Balanced Selection for each meal, you will be nourished with a wide, balanced variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean proteins.  You will enjoy 1600-1800 calories per day and take in less than 2300 milligrams of protein."  This helps take out the guessing as to what you should have and you can simply sit back, relax, and enjoy a well balanced selection each day.

Dining Room lunch menu
I was completely ecstatic that I could not only find vegetarian food, but vegan meals. This is such a rarity for me and something that I struggle with constantly, especially when I am not at home. It's nearly impossible when traveling to find meals that are completely meat or dairy free. However, at Canyon Ranch it couldn't have been any easier.  With the descriptions in the menu, I was able to simply order right off the menu or make substitutions in order to have a vegan meal.  Case in point would be the Chili Cheese Baked Potato, where I could order the baked potato topped with vegetarian chili and I had them hold the cheese.  The servers in the dining room are extremely knowledgeable and helpful and certainly went out of their way to accommodate me and the other guests.  Crystal and Wendy, in particular, found ways to not only answer my questions, but assist me with any requests that I had.

Salad bar salad and a "Bloody Mary"
For service in the dining room, they do request that you make your dinner reservations in advance, which you can do with Program Advising or in person at the hostess stand. Usually the area just before you arrive at the hostess stand will have beverages available, which I encourage you to try.  At dinner they have mocktails including Bloody Mary or Margarita drinks.  Since no alcohol is served at this Canyon Ranch property, you can pseudo-indulge in an alcohol-free libation.  With your meal your server will ask if you would like a beverage.  On your table there is always a fresh pitcher of water, but you can also order iced tea, hot tea, or sparkling water.  I usually had the water that was on the table because I didn't know there were other choices, but that was perfectly fine for me.  It was only toward the end of my stay that I learned how I should order, which I definitely wish I had learned earlier.  You can order half portions of anything on the menu if you want to sample different items, which is especially helpful when dining with others as you can share.

Gazpacho
I absolutely loved the salad bar offerings, which always included a protein I could consume such as tofu or tempeh.  I didn't see many others indulging in this, but that was fine by me as I couldn't get enough. There is always hummus, which is delicious, and a variety of salad toppings and usually a specially made salad for that meal. One of my favorites was the Island Salad, which consisted of white balsamic vinegar, mangos, bok choy, pineapple, red peppers, clementine, sea salt, and black pepper.  Total calories for one quarter cup?  20!  I tried to start every meal with soup and salad before diving into my main course.  Some of the soups I tried included a roasted corn chowder, miso, gazpacho, and a no salt fava bean soup.  They weren't joking about no salt as there was really no salt in this soup.  You can ask for salt as they don't have any on the tables. Unfortunately, the beans were grossly undercooked and so I couldn't eat it anyway, but the other soups, especially the gazpacho, were tasty.

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops with sweet potato cake and fennel slaw
For you meat and seafood eaters, don't worry as I have you covered.  I was able to photograph a dinner entree here consisting of lamb chops.  The meat and seafood entrees definitely looked like fine dining fare and everyone I spoke with agreed that the food was not just good, but great.  My experience was a little different.

Spicy Curried Cauliflower
Perhaps because there are so few people that visit Canyon Ranch who are vegan or vegetarian, but the food was somewhat less than stellar in that department. Unfortunately, I likened it to 1970's vegan/vegetarian meals as so much has changed since that time that makes eating non-meat and non-dairy meals fun and exciting and not a plate full of twigs and berries.  The preparation of tofu appeared to be one where the tofu is pulled from the package and seasoning or marinade added to it right before serving.  The best way to prepare tofu is to freeze, thaw, and press the tofu.  The tofu's consistency completely changes and it is able to absorb whatever it is marinaded in and therefore tastes totally different.  The vegetarian chili was more like runny tomato soup and it lacked some basic seasoning one would expect in chili such as chili powder or cumin.  The Southwest Veggie Burger was a good start although high on carbs from grains.  Considering the cost involved in a stay at Canyon Ranch, this would be one area where I would definitely want to see improvement in order to recommend that a vegan or vegetarian would get their money's worth during their stay.

Breakfast dining room menu
Breakfast was another area that I had issues as there were no available non-meat protein options. My choices included toast or bagels, cereal, granola, or oatmeal. Usually I try to have some form of protein, especially when I've worked out, otherwise I find that I'm hungry again in a short time.  I ended up having some oatmeal and toast with plain peanut butter that I asked the server for because they had peanut butter delight (equal parts peanut butter and ricotta) out on the breakfast bar. Some potential possibilities they might try could include a tofu scramble, veggie sausage, soy yogurt, or a tofu breakfast sandwich would be a great addition to their menu.  If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can ask for soy milk as they do have plain and vanilla available.  If you use soy creamer like I do, you might want to bring some along as they do not have any for coffee.

Green apple sorbet
If you have a sweet tooth and crave dessert, you'll find it with lunch and dinner and yes, they have some great options available. The sorbet machine wasn't working during my stay, but they did fix it on the last night and I got to enjoy the green apple sorbet, which was light and refreshing.  Fresh fruit is always an option and they usually have sorbet, ice cream, and two kinds of cookies (regular and gluten free). There is also usually one other special dessert like the Alsatian Plum Cake also on the menu. Sit and relax with dessert and a cup of tea if you can.  They had a great selection of teas available and I especially liked the Numi Decaf Black Vanilla organic tea and the Harney & Sons Organic Passion Plum tea. Regular and decaf coffee is also available.  If you still need a sweet fix, visit the store in the Spa Complex. I think I spotted the Newman's Own's version of an Oreo in there!

Southwest Veggie Burger
If you need a quick breakfast or lunch, you can pop in next door at CafĂ© Jardin. If you are venturing out on a hike, long bike ride, or a museum trip, you can always take a boxed lunch with you. Just ask at the hostess stand as they keep them in the small fridge there.  You know what else they keep in there? Homemade granola bars, which are great for conquering those in between meal hunger pangs.  You can always find fresh fruit like apples, oranges, and bananas in bowls around the resort so grab something for later if you think you might get hungry.  On the lower level of the Spa complex you complex you can find water, ice, tea, and Canyon Ranch's very own special sports drink made from fresh fruit juices and it is delicious!

Overall, I would give Canyon Ranch high marks for offering healthy, tasty food for guests visiting their resort.  Despite the lack of options for me specifically, I think they offer a wide variety of choices for the average person while introducing new foods and cooking techniques to help you live a healthier lifestyle.  The only area that I would recommend improvement in would be the vegan options.  All of the pictures from my stay at Canyon Ranch will soon go up on the Travel Shop Girl FaceBook page so watch for it soon.

Marian Krueger

5 comments:

  1. I am not vegetarian and that all looks yummy to me! :) I wish all restaurant menus had the nutritional information. I think we might all be in a lot better shape! Will you be posting more about Canyon Ranch?

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  2. Glad you liked the post. You never felt like anything was "bad" to eat since it was all good food so it made life very easy. Yes, I will be doing a few more posts to include information on the accommodations and another on services so stay tuned.

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  3. I'd love to read more on this place too...and was that tofu salad? Judging by your writing and the photos, it seems like a weight-loss program, no?

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  4. That was tofu I put on my salad. It's not a weight loss program, but a resort you can go to improve your health, relax, and get fit among other things.

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  5. Thank you for sharing. Everything looks delicious! I will have to check it. Next time you are in the area you should check out Justine’s Table. It is the best restaurant in Newton, MA.

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