About Canada


Spas have evolved into a destination in itself and it is useful to know not just where many of the best spas are but which ones also offer fine dining or unique culinary experiences.

Caviar, champagne scrambled duck egg, juniper smoked trout, hay baked spring lamb, marinated prawns and finishing it off with terroir noir. Not what you expect on a spa menu but this is exactly what you may order from the tasting menu at Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa in Cambridge, Ontario.
Years ago spa cuisine didn’t extend beyond a juice bar and maybe a few tea blends. Spa cuisine thankfully has evolved from a few lonely green peas and carrots on a plate. Spa cuisine should reflect more natural processes of storage and cooking without the use of chemicals or using microwave ovens! Herb and vegetable gardens on-site are now the norm.
One of the leaders in developing healthy but flavourful spa cuisine is Chiva Som International Health Resort based in Thailand. The philosophy is based on introducing a variety of flavours from the freshest produce and the bounty of spices and herbs that grow in Thailand. They emphasize the moderation of ingredients not flavours.
Over the years I have tried spa cuisine offered by many resorts including leading spa resorts like Miraval and Canyon Ranch in Tucson to one of the best medical spas in the world, Kurotel Longevity Medical Centre and Spa. I’ve sampled the range from full on decadent meals with calorie infused desserts to week-long detox diets.
I shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised when you start with quality and fresh ingredients and just add a few simple herbs or spices, that nutritious food can taste good. I’ll never become a vegan but I do enjoy detoxing my body from all the meats and fats I eat.
Choice. That’s where spas have evolved. Just as the spa treatment menu offers a variety of treatments and for different reasons from pampering to therapeutic spa cuisine should be the same. Some spa goers may not require or desire a detox menu and instead indulge in a steak and potato meal finished off with a decadent chocolate- filled dessert. Why not? Give people choice.
We are fortunate in Canada to have spas that do offer innovative spa cuisine – some focus on healthy more detox focused menu items while others provide still healthy but a wider variety of choices and dining environments for its spa guests.
Here are just a few examples.
After building up an appetite in their mineral pool or an invigorating hike in British Columbia’s forests, dine at Tigh-Na-Mara’s Seaside Spa Resort (www.tigh-na-mara.com) in Parksville on Vancouver Island with their “Endless Tapas” menu. Take your taste buds on a flavour adventure with an array of items that the chef has prepared.
Dining with a view is the added bonus at the Fairmont Banff Springs (http://www.fairmont.com/banff-springs/) and its Willow Stream Spa. Following your treatments and the famous hot springs surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains continue with an eclectic mix of taste sensations from the variety of restaurants located on the resort’s property from Samurai Sushi Bar, the 1888 Chop House, to the Waldhaus Restaurant.
Ste. Anne’s Spa (http://www.steannes.com), which has garnered numerous spa awards, believes in ‘come as you are’ relaxed dining comfort. In this case in it means your spa robe for meals. I love that. Makes it easy to pack! The other thing I appreciate here is you can bring your own wine (or beer/other alcohol) and they will uncork it and serve it to you at your meal. This is a great cost saver but I like the fact I can bring my favourite bottle and if I don’t want to finish it all in one sitting I can bring it to the next meal. The chefs here prepare healthy but flavourful dishes with proper portion size – so you feel you have had a meal but still maintain a nutritional balance.
Preparing and experiencing a meal is very important in French culture. Two spas in Quebec have latched onto this and provide two wonderful dining experiences. Nordik Spa-Nature (http://www.lenordik.com) in Chelsea, just 15 minute drive from downtown Ottawa, provides guests with a nature inspired environment surrounded by the Gatineau Hills. At their day spa, diners in robes can sample well-portioned dishes bursting with fresh ingredients at their Resto restaurant or relax in the Panorama Lounge and enjoy one of their inspiring cocktails or glasses of fine wine – no guilt trips here! Wellness comes in many forms.
Spa Eastman (http://www.spa-eastman.com) in the Eastern Townships, has been one of Canada’s spa innovators and that continues with its spa cuisine. Local and regional dishes are featured on its nutrition focused menu using mainly organic ingredients. Soy and rice milk replace dairy cream here. Good taste comes with a generous helping of nutrition at Spa Eastman.
As the saying goes, “You’ve come a long way baby,” spa cuisine has come a long way from lonely peas on a plate to gourmet and awarding-winning cuisine. Some of the top chefs now work at leading spas. Go to the spa not just to relax and rejuvenate but enjoy a gourmet meal in a tranquil environment.
Bon appétit!

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