Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rancho la Puerta - A Spa for Gourmands

My wife and I are just back from a week at the famous Rancho la Puerta, a 60-year old spa in Tecate, Mexico that was founded and for many years co-owned by Deborah Szekely, the founder of the even more famous Golden Door. Despite cold and often rainy weather, the week was fantastic!

In addition to splendid early morning mountain hikes, fitness classes and more spiritual classes (yoga, Feldenkreis, meditation, Tai-Chi), the Ranch offers remarkably good organic, mostly vegetarian (fish is offered three times a week) food. Most of the vegetables, even in winter, are grown in the Ranch’s magnificent six-acre organic garden and they taste remarkably like vegetables. The program is not as oriented as some to caloric intake but rather to eating only good, healthy food and not too much of it. The calorie contents of most breakfast and lunch items are marked, but you are on your own as to how much you eat.

While not the focus of this post, the level of fitness and wellness instruction was almost without exception superb.

The Ranch has recently opened a cooking school at a new facility next to the organic garden, where mostly vegetarian but somewhat less Spartan meals are prepared. I had three supposedly hands-on lessons, one with 20 students, one with only two and one with eight. The first was too crowded, and you were not able to get much of an overview of what the other students were producing. The second was heaven, just two students and the lovely chef, Ana Lorena Najar, with whom we ate the meal we and the sous-chefs had prepared. Eight was a great size, too, but the facility and staff can clearly handle several more; the chef thinks 12-14 is ideal. The food we prepared was uniformly delicious, and the recipe for nearly every item is contained in the beautiful new cookbook, "Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho la Puerta."

Click for some sample menus:
Day 2 at the Ranch


Assorted fruits, hot cereals, cold cereals, yogurt, multi- or interesting-grain toast and bread, hard-cooked eggs, etc., with cooked eggs available on request.


Mexican potato soup

roasted tomato fresh nopal salad on crispy pita, fresh greens and jalapeño dressing
Tostada with cabbage slaw, spicy guacamole and “spa cream.”


Corn chowder with fresh cilantro

Jicama and tomato salad with toasted pepitas and chipotle dressing

Lasagna Azteca with spinach and ancho chile salsa
Mexican vegetable stew with spicy lentils and regional cheese

Ranch cinnamon roll with caramelized pecans and yogurt glaze

Lesson 2 at the Cooking School

“Picnic” Menu

Quinoa salad

Tuscan farro salad (we used barley)

Potato salad with chervil and shallots

Grilled vegetable salad

Panini with goat cheese, tomato and tapenade on flaxseed bread

Chocolate chip cookies

Bobby Jay

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have been to Rancho La Puerta twice. We are delighted to see that you had as great an experience as we did. It is a wonderful place to burn some calories and also to gain knowledge of good cooking and organics.

Andy G