Canyon Ranch in Lenox was more gorgeous than I remembered. Before I even get into its culinary aspects, I have to sing the praises of its setting. Very much a destination resort, it’s surrounded by the Berkshires’ wooded hills. Stunning. The centerpiece is a gilded-age mansion—Bellefontaine—one comes upon it at the end of a winding elm-lined drive. It was designed by Carrere & Hastings, whose portfolio included sister “cottages” in Newport. The town of Lenox was akin to Newport, Sarasota, and Palm Beach for 19th Century A-listers.
Bellefontaine’s architecture pays homage to long-ago French palaces, de rigueur back in the day. Now, it’s part of a horseshoe shaped compound which includes a 100, 00 sq. ft. gym & spa complex, posh guest rooms, dining venues, the mansion’s original library and cozy lounges where Ranchers can toast their freshly pedicured toes—or curl up with a Kindle.
They celebrate New England here in a delicious Edith Wharton-y way. Adirondack chairs are scattered about the grounds and gardens and seem to say, “sit awhile and enjoy this view.” Old-world pools have gently sprouting fountains. (You know that fountain in front of Las Vegas’s Bellagio Hotel? The opposite of that.) Autumn is the region’s signature season and when I visited in October, it was all mums, brilliantly colored foliage and the scent of wood-smoke wafting from Bellefontaine’s chimneys. Nice.
And now for the foodie parts. Canyon Ranch describes itself as an all-inclusive health enhancement resort and all meals are included. Instead of prices on the menu, they list the number of calories and grams of carbs, fat, cholesterol, protein, sodium and fiber for each dish. One might think that would take a lot of the, well, fun out of eating—it doesn‘t ‘cause the food is that good. And it’s beautifully presented in a lovely setting with gracious service.
Gym-casual attired guests are welcomed to an elegant dining room where one could easily imagine the Astors and Vanderbilts breaking bread—and perhaps they did. And it works. The Café, paired down, a tad rustic and very farm-to-fork—is a nice option for those who want to nosh more informally or quickly. Perfecto for making that Kettlebell class, Qi Gong Workshop or spa treatment. The Café is also the spot to grab a latte or a smoothie and a snack. They keep it stocked with fresh fruit, nuts and baked goods (Geeze, I hate low-fat muffins, but these were good.) Seasonally, the alfresco Café Jardin provides a delightful third dining option.
Canyon Ranch’s food philosophy—healthy and delicious—includes a caveat on portion sizes. My first morning’s breakfast was just-enough turkey hash with a poached egg, some berries, and toast. The toast was one slice of a wow multi-grain, Speaking of toast—their French Toast is almost decadent.
Another morning I had a cheese omelet (2 egg whites, 1 whole egg) that came with a well-seasoned chicken sausage link and half a cinnamon raisin bagel. Ask and you shall receive the other half—I did. There’s no judging by the wait staff. Trust me, I could tell—I’m a big judger myself. I’m working on that. Breakfast menu treats include a spread they call peanut butter surprise (they whip peanut butter with ricotta cheese, honey, and vanilla). My faves included a chilled peach soup and pumpkin gnocchi—plump and yummy.
A word on the alcohol policy— none served—but you can bring something to sip and enjoy in your room. Set-ups are provided, so if inclined pack some wine. Mocktails are served before dinner with crudités and I loved my virgin margarita. Would I have loved it more with tequila? Yeah. But it was Day 2 and I was already in the Zone.
For me, the Lunch & Learn program (Mon-Fri @ noon) was a highlight. Held in the complex’s demonstration kitchen, Ranch chefs, and staff prepare and serve a three-course lunch. We had pea soup, a quinoa salad with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries and zucchini and sesame beef tenderloin with veggies stir-fried to crunchy perfection. Kudos to “our” Chefs Billy and Mattie; they had lots of great tips on knife skills and such and Billy made me laugh out loud. There is a similar format on Monday and Tuesday evenings with themes like Cooking for Company and A Taste of the Berkshires featuring seasonal produce from neighboring farms. And there are recipes galore.
Hands-on cooking lessons? They got that —a different class every day. Soup Secrets, Chocolate Secrets, Bread Baking and how to choose and prepare fish are all on the menu with some unique offerings like how to organize your kitchen at home.
Eating included, I loved every second of my stay. The choice of activities is amazing, I tried an aerial yoga class, swam in that 75-ft glass-enclosed heated pool, power walked, meditated, attended two fascinating lectures and had the best massage evah!
Canyon Ranch’s original destination resort is in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and, in 2016, they will open their first international property on Turkey’s Aegean Coast, Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya —can’t wait.
Canyon Ranch works beautifully as a getaway for one and great fun to share the experience as a group.