Seeking your Inner Hippie? – Private Healdsburg Ranch Stay

Have you just for a minute pondered escaping the burbs or the city to make a date with Mother Nature? I am not envisioning a sleeping bag or dining on packaged pouches…but perhaps getting in touch with your inner hippie?  I know that’s not my style, but follow along and enjoy a lovely Ranch escape!

Healdsburg Ranch

We are always on the hunt for unique Villa visits, or in this case, a unique Ranch visit. The Ranch is described as an Eco Luxury Farm Stay, I feel the description limits the true flavor of the Ranch. The narrative includes sustainable retreats offering a plant-based lifestyle.

My initial thought was a woo-woo retreat with healthy food, and holistic experiences. Personally, I like a plant-based diet; however, I struggle when dining out and modifying my years of meat-based recipes; after my visit, I completely embraced my weekend experience at the Ranch.

Located a few miles from downtown Healdsburg on a gorgeous pastoral estate set in Sonoma county’s stunning Dry Creek Valley. Guests can wander the 120 pristine acres of Pacific Redwood Forest. The main four-bedroom home sleeps eight guests, an expansive self-sustainable farm. The ranch estate has four expansive ensuite bedrooms equipped with king-sized beds. Several sizable common rooms for a family or a group of friends to comfortably spread out to relax, assemble puzzles or watch the horizon for enormous vultures, hawks, and owls to soar across the tree studded hills. The outdoor space of the main Ranch Home has areas for dining, lazing, and floating in the solar heated black bottom pool.

For those wishing for a Glamping night, the luxury canvas tent is equipped with a wood-burning stove and luxurious king-size bed.  Two deep clawfoot tubs are perched outside, imagine soaking under an open jet-black starry sky.

There is also a newly built two-bedroom Barn residence overlooking the amazing garden of vegetables and flowers. Amazing in the sense that the team has deeply invested in bio dynamic farming which produces show stopping fruit and vegetables. The just picked lettuce for my salad was the size of a small car wheel – not only stunning, but delicious. Everything is grown on property; the garden tour alone is worth a stay!  A sprawling biodynamic farm resides at the heart of the estate, creating a closed-loop food system in which all the cuisine for the plant-based culinary program. The chemical- and pesticide-free farm supplies all your meals.

Several activity options for a stay include joining in the Ranch’s farming workshops who partner with seasoned agriculturalists to learn the principles of self-sufficient ecology, from compost building to permaculture. In the garden, tea-making seminars explore the basics of growing, pruning, hanging, and drying medicinal herbs. The ranch also teaches children the fundamentals of gardening and agriculture, along with crafts classes inspired by the natural surroundings.

Both residences are well furnished and very comfortable – it would be easy to stay a week and wander the Ranch. Hiking and biking through the wooded property. There is a bocce court, a horseshoe pit, and a nearby lake for kayaking or SUP. On property stables for horseback riding for kids or adults, a small animal farm just below the main house kept me entertained…

I relished feeding the two Nigerian dwarf goats, John and Sally and two miniature horses, Horcelain and Ginger, who also wander the field near the chicken coop with 22 hens producing fresh eggs. The stable has bins of treats for these extraordinarily friendly animals – I hate to say pets, but they were beyond fun and sociable – kids can easily hang with the animals.  There are also two of the famed Scottish Highlander Cows roaming an adjacent fenced pasture – not as friendly as the Hairy Coos I saw in the Scottish Highlands, but interesting, nonetheless.

After a few days of cleansing the body through conscious eating, quieting the mind with forest walks, soaking in the warm pool, one can’t help but feel an inner calm, more serene, and certainly a bit healthier. Be as secluded as you wish or we can add discreet staffing.

Ranch Photo Credit Rachel Weill

A couple of friends went with me for our Forest Bathing walk, try getting three chatty women to be quiet on a woodland walk, we followed the instructions from our Forest Guide and experienced nature on another level. The term Forest Bathing emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) One experiences nature on a path which improves your overall well-being. Mindful walking can be as simple or elaborate as you desire. Our walk concluded at the lake where one can swim or canoe.

The Ranch invites guests to discover their inner curiosity, Relax, Reset, and Reconnect with what’s around them and restore the mind, body, and spirit. Through an array of spiritual and outdoor excursions, guests become more attuned to how adventure and wellness intersect. There is an abundant offering of walks, baths, to open this world to typically stressed travelers. Yoga alongside 100-year-old Redwood trees, hands-on, plant-based cooking class with chef which guides guests through a seed-to-table meal, an extraordinary mindfulness Wim Hof Experience, a calming Sound Journey as well as flower picking and arranging, nature hikes, tea making and more.

Bike on its untouched land, hike or just sit and contemplate the stillness with the quiet sounds of nature, the wind rustling the trees, and birdsong. Dazzling dragonflies strut and dance across the terrace in the setting sun as they eat half their body weight in drifting bugs.

Outings in the ranch’s Tesla Model X can also be arranged in the surrounding area, including kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming in Lake Andreas, wine tasting and driving up the coast.

Meals: Plant based can be delivered to your refrigerator to be warmed up, an abundant supply of garden-fresh vegetables to compose boundless delicious salads, two pantries of dried legumes and grains are stocked for guests. Chef can be brought in as well if you don’t feel up to preparing meals. At our first peek into the refrigerator, we had a moment of panic, none of us were at all versed in plant-based cooking – we joked that we should call in food delivery from town! We effortlessly heated the yummy, mashed potatoes topped with fresh scallions, a casserole of eggplant and some type of spaghetti bean and composed a very delicious salad.

Ginormous Fresh Lettuce

The next day we enjoyed an enchanting lunch prepared by our chef in the middle of the amazingly productive vegetable/flower garden – the outdoor kitchen has two pizza ovens, and a massive bar for food prep. Join the chef, wander the garden, watch the flight of the hummingbirds, soak in the atmosphere – do whatever feels right. A late dinner back at our Ranch house consisted of a garden-fresh salad, we were sated from the divine garden lunch.

I don’t want to say, I visited with skepticism; the idea of an ice- bath wasn’t on my radar, but I feel this mini-introduction could lead to more expansive experiences. Our all too brief stay was extremely relaxing, we felt no need to escape to town, we lacked for no amenity or comfort. It was a delightful, restful escape, we all could have stayed longer. We padded about in swimsuits and caftans, barely altering outfits for our garden lunch – a slumber party of casual comfort and effortless escape.

Ranch Pond

The delightful hosts Ed & David are either invisible or as sociable as one desires – we loved them and learned so much from both easy-going enlightened Ranch owners. They have made a conscious transition from high powered on the go lifestyles to this calming oasis and want to share the transformative options – whether you choose to make a change doesn’t matter, what matters is taking moments from our structured busy lives to accept calm and absorb a mindful shift – temporary or permanent.

Kids are welcome and with a small fee, dogs may also visit.

Highly recommend this Ranch Escape and I hope to return. Flexible to guests request, this is not a sanctuary hoping to change your life, it is merely a suggestion and the owners will discuss each client lifestyle. The Ranch is a marvelous location for a corporate retreat, a gathering of friends and family – a peaceful private oasis, with or without the ice bath!

Isn’t he adorable? Truly worth a visit!

Live Well, Dine Well, Travel Well.

Epicurean Gem – Dining with David Tanis at Lulu Restaurant

My recent foray to Beverly Hills included a delightful, delicious lunch at Lulu at the Hammer Museum in Westwood. The museum exhibition was ho-hum, our leisurely déjeuner in the open-air courtyard was superb! A new exhibition based on Joan Didion opens October 11, scurry to LA for the perfect recipe of delectable dining and museum afternoon! I may have to make a return trip. Or ignore the museum altogether and just enjoy dining in a very special location.

Not far from downtown Beverly Hills, the newish Lulu’s is a collaboration between famed chef, New York Times writer and prolific cookbook author David Tanis and the Bay Area’s Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. David, who is well-known for his New York Times cooking column, worked at Chez Panisse, on and off for nearly 25 years. They are old chums, enjoying decades of friendship and a mutual love of cooking and sustainability. When approached by UCLA to open the restaurant, David was Alices’ only choice as a partner.

Lulu is committed to prioritizing sustainability through local, regenerative food and design. If you follow David on Instagram, his Farmers Market selections provide inspiration for the daily menu. Lulu’s mission focuses on procuring food directly from small, nearby farms practicing regenerative organic agriculture, which results in wholesome, delicious food grown using methods that combat the climate crisis. The Lulu website lists numerous small farms who supply chef and kitchen team with seasonal fruit and vegetables. And of course, there is a lovely wine and cocktail menu.

The restaurant is named after a wise Provencal cook, Lulu Peyraud, whose cooking and hospitality at Domaine Tempier in Bandol, France has always inspired David and Alice.

At lunch, Lulu offers a popular three-course $45 prix fixe menu as well as an à la carte selection of salads, soups, sandwiches, light lunch fare, coffee, tea, and desserts. For supper, Lulu offers an à la carte selection of small bites, appetizers, entrées, and desserts curated around the produce in season. Staying true to their ethos of “market cooking,” the menus change daily depending on what is the very best available from local farms.

The outdoor setting under a canopy of umbrellas and dangling paper lanterns is perfect. Massive raw salvaged wood planks are stacked with bowls of gorgeous fresh apples and persimmons, whatever is seasonal. Simple and clean, the message is abundantly clear in the design and decor. Dating the menu is symbolic of the narrative, it’s fresh from the market or farm.

The menu will change constantly. The a la carte menu may offer a combination of soups and salads and sandwiches; three-course prix fixe allows David to shape meals with a gastronomic narrative. Like all the recipes from David’s cookbooks, the dishes are designed to be straightforward and uncomplicated. One year, David personally signed his cookbooks as a gift to our clients.

Our meal choices were based on David’s recommendation and for me, trying an option from one of his cookbooks. I adored a starter of Jumbo Medjool Dates, his roasted rosemary almonds served with a jagged chunk of Parmesan cheese.. the perfect bite to peruse the menu. David transforms simple to glorious! My Chicken a la Milanese was scrumptious, as was a shared plate of farm ripened Caprese salad with black olive toast. We also shared a satisfying plate of Ricotta gnocchi with zucchini and squash blossoms. All yummy! Sticking with the seasonal menu for dessert, we scooped up every bite of the gooey Nectarine blackberry crumble.

Lulu serves lunch and supper Tuesday through Sunday – check website for hours and directions.

Highly Recommend Lulu and we can reserve the perfect Beverly Hills hotel, tell David you are dining – and perhaps you will enjoy a hello with Alice and a tour of the kitchen with David, as I did!

Thank you, dear David, for the special attention. Your follower and friend, Gwen

Hammer Museum upcoming Exhibit –  Joan Didion: What She Means