Living in the Lap of Luxury
By Nancy Powell
Taking the waters never felt as satisfying as it does on the decks of Café Sole
There is nothing like a good dose of pampering to jump start my resolve for health and wellness, and no better way to reach the innards of my culinary soul than by an organic feast prepared by a top “spa” chef. The insular and decadent world I allude to is Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, an 11-acre mecca of earthly spoils, modern luxury and exclusivity nestled in the foothills. It is also the home of celebrity chef, auteur and TV personality, Bill Wavrin, whose Café Sole topped the charts in Spa Magazine Reader’s Choice Award for “Favorite Spa for Cuisine” and who managed to grab a 10-page spread from Gourmet Magazine on the strength of a cookie recipe the editor desperately desired. And good stuff indeed, for whatever doesn’t come directly from Glen Ivy’s organic garden and farm certainly comes from near rather than far.
The classically French-trained Wavrin, who has cheffed at three of the west coast’s top spas for a combined 25 years (Rancho La Puerta and Golden Door being the others), likens Glen Ivy as the place chicks dig (90% of the patrons are women) and the place where the masculine movers and shakers like to hang on the weekends. Despite the inherent coziness of this most exclusive oasis, it’s totally cool to come in for lunch at this cafeteria-style restaurant with bathrobes and slippers, shorts and tanks or whatnot just to order up a platter or two of good eats, with exclusive antioxidant benefits, of course. The longtime favorite might be the Chicken Nachos, long a source of chagrin and ribbing for Wavrin, who inherited the dish from his predecessor. Instead, he’d rather steer guests to his made-to-order salads like the Ahi Hawaiian Poke Salad ($18), an ahi tartare tower over a bed of greens, dressed simply with a light lemon vinaigrette, “Dragon Juice” and wasabi to give the plate a pleasingly pungent kick. For such a low-calorie treat, it’s generously portioned for two.
The better alternative to the nachos would be the Smoked Salmon Street Tacos ($13). I’m not usually a fan of smoked salmon, but Wavrin wins me over with the sweet and smoky meat that he smokes in a home-grown “hog” cooker. When combined with fresh-ground guacamole, onions and cilantro, it’s a marriage made in healthy Mexican food heaven.
Wavrin’s crowning achievement happens to be the Grilled Salmon ($18), seasoned in Wavrin’s own blend of Moroccan spices, pan-seared to a golden crisp and finished in the oven for a flaky, wonderfully moist and delicate bite. It’s accompanied by a rice noodle salad of wilted greens al dente, which Wavrin cooks simply on the grill with canola and water, and dressed lightly in a sensuous lemon-tahini spread, which gives the dish an aromatic brightness. It is quintessential Cal-coastal cuisine and easily the best offering of the day.
In keeping with the Cal-coastal theme, sushi also appears on the menu, but lest one be wary of sushi this far inland from the glittering abundance just an hour’s drive away, the rolls that Japanese-trained sushi Chef Wan creates won’t disappoint. The deeply-colored pieces of flesh are every bit as sea-worthy as any authentic sushi house. Big Three Sashimi ($19) –salmon, yellow tail and tuna—need no heavy dousing in soy to enjoy its purity and the traditional Rainbow Roll ($16) is done with artful finesse.
You wouldn’t think that cafeteria-style eats would generate so much interest, but Wavrin’s thoughtful menu packs as much power to the taste buds as it does to slimming waistlines. Forget the poolside pampering. I’d be just as happy food-bathing on the Café Sole patio.
Café Sole at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, 25000 Glen Ivy Rd., Corona, (951) 453-6489; www.glenivy.com/springs/cuisine/cafe-sole. AE, MC, V.