Well, not if the spa where you're eating is Rancho La Puerta at Tecate in Baja California. During a tour of the grounds, I sneaked into the dining room and looked at the day's menus, posted on blackboards on the wall. The food sounded great, and just looking at the handsome dining room (at the top) made me hungry.
A spicy shrimp quesadilla with avocado and tomatillo salsa sounded good to me. I would also have liked the lima bean and roasted cauliflower salad with asparagus. Well, take a look at the menu yourself (above).
Dinner sounded sensational. It started with golden mango gazpacho, then moved on to a carrot pineapple salad with toasted coconut and sesame ginger vinaigrette.
The main dish was white seabass with eggplant caviar, seasonal vegetables and romesco sauce (vegetarians and vegans would have been given another main dish). Dessert was a spiced red wine-poached pear with citrus cream and an amaranth cookie.
Not bad, after a heavy day of yoga, exercise classes, swimming, volleyball, tennis, hiking, walks, dance, meditation and spa treatments.
Then I collared the executive chef, Gonzalo Mendoza (above), who has been at Rancho La Puerta for 20 years. He'd just brought in a bunch of lemon verbena, one of many herbs that make the grounds fragrant as you walk around. This would go into tea and salsa, he said.
For really skinny eaters there is a special "pure and simple" corner, he said. Food there is gluten free and contains no oil, nuts, sugar or shellfish.
For the rest, the proteins are fish, shrimp or soy products, combined with legumes, grains, vegetables and fruits. All of the food is low fat, low salt and low in sugar.
That doesn't mean guests can't have gooey desserts such as tiramisu, cheese cake and carrot cake, but these are modified to reduce the fat and sugar. Wine and beer are available too.
The food has been so popular that Rancho La Puerta has put the recipes into several cookbooks. One of these is "Favorites from the Ranch Kitchen" with recipes from Chef Gonzalo and others on the culinary team.
Here's one that's perfect for now, when fresh corn is abundant. Rancho La Puerta provided the photo.
ROASTED CORN SOUP
WITH ANCHO CHILE SAUCE
From "Favorites from the Ranch Kitchen"
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium white onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
6 ears roasted corn on the cob or 3 cups frozen corn
1 small potato, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth
2 bunches cilantro, chopped
To make the soup, heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onions, garlic and oriander seeds until the onions are translucent and golden brown.
Add the corn kernels, potato and the broth. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the cilantro. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20 to 25 minutes.
Puree the soup in batches in a food processor, then strain it through a fine strainer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat if necessary. Add 2 teaspoons Ancho Chile Sauce to each serving.
Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.
ANCHO CHILE SAUCE
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 dried ancho chile, seeds and stem removed
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons agave syrup
2 cups water
Heat the olive oil in a small pot and saute the onion and garlic until translucent and golden brown. Add the ancho chile and stir for another minute.
Add the tomato, oregano, cayenne and agave syrup and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.
Allow the sauce to cool, then puree it in a food processor until smooth. Add salt to taste. Add 2 teaspoons sauce to each serving of soup, then refrigerate the rest up to 1 week for use in other dishes.