Bacara was the perfect getaway for my athletically inclined boyfriend, Michael, and lazy, omnivorous meand not just because it's a place where jocks can golf, run, ride, cycle, swim, hike and play tennis while the rest of us lounge poolside, thinking about the next meal, as waiters keep the Pellegrino flowing. And not just because this sprawling oceanside retreat in Santa Barbara, California, has a 42,000-square-foot spa and gym as well as a restaurant, Miró, where the talented chef Rémi Lauvand, formerly of New York City's Montrachet, recently arrived to do the cooking. At Bacara, the notions of good food and fitness truly intersect.
Consider, for example, our Saturday-morning trek through Bacara's thousand-acre ranch, with its views of the Pacific below. Nearly half the property is cultivated, providing Lauvand with fruits, vegetables and herbs. It has been operating as an avocado and citrus orchard since the turn of the last century; S. M. Spalding, the first mayor of Beverly Hills, once owned it and experimented with different crops. "In a way, we're taking the ranch back to how it was used long ago," says ranch manager John Hunt. As Michael and I hiked past a blood-orange tree here, a row of Cinderella pumpkins there, it became clear that the ranch has evolved into an enormous kitchen gardenand Hunt's personal laboratory. The vegetable-herb farm began as four fledgling acres when the resort opened two years ago; now it's a robust, colorful 10. Lauvand is anticipating the harvest of purple artichokes this month"They're the kind you see in Burgundy," he says, "and they're really hard to find here." Hunt just brought back papaya seeds from a trip to Hawaii; if they stand up to the climate, there will be more papaya on the menu. Wasabi root (for which they've been paying $100 a pound up to now) is another experiment that has both rancher and chef excited.
"Pick anything you like," said our guide, Karen Prechtel, the resort's fitness manager. "As you can see, we have an overabundance." There were trees laden with lemons and trees laden with even more avocadosthe ranch produces two million pounds a year, and those that don't go to Bacara's restaurants are sold commercially. I plucked a fig then tasted fraises des bois, teardrop-shaped strawberries as sweet as jam. We sniffed the fennel, then the mint; we checked out the 20 or so different varieties of heirloom tomato. After two hours of hiking and tasting, I felt the burn in my legs"It's a real workout, isn't it, Michael?" I nudgedbut serious hikers can walk the trails all the way up to Condor Peak, 2,500 feet above sea level, which offers views as far as Malibu. And the truly fanatical can run.