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When I originally began setting up my trip to the ranch, I was assured through my research that Rancho La Puerta makes a special effort to cater to guests with food sensitivities and unique dietary needs. Still, as our trip approached, I found myself getting a little bit more nervous with each day as to how I would manage “the food situation” once we arrived.
The cuisine at the ranch is largely low-fat vegetarian and plant-based with the occasional offering of seafood at dinner 5-6 times per week. I’m used to eating a lot of vegetables and fruits, but also consistent sources of protein and fat throughout the day. These days, in addition to eating gluten-free and dairy-free, I haven’t been eating beans or grains either. How in the world would I survive the ranch?!
After just one day of meals, my worries were quickly put to rest.
Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, which worked well for me because I could pick and choose what I wanted for my meals. There were two buffet lines: a regular line that occasionally included some wheat and dairy ingredients, and the “Pure and Simple” line which was free of gluten, dairy, nuts, sweeteners, and oils. Then there was a a gluten-free “extras” section with additional items to add to meals, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, olive oil and vinegar, extra steamed veggies, nuts and seeds, and brown rice.
For breakfast each morning, I usually had scrambled egg whites topped with the ranch’s amazing fresh tomato salsa. Sometimes I would add extra veggies like steamed cauliflower and broccoli to my bowl, too. I usually topped everything off with a sprinkling of chia seeds. Fresh fruit was plentiful at the ranch, so I would enjoy a bowl of berries, banana slices, pineapple, papaya, or grapefruit with my breakfast, too.
Many mornings, the breakfast buffet also served gluten-free oatmeal, quinoa, sauteed beans and greens (to go in corn tortillas), and sometimes special treats like French toast, pancakes, and muffins.
And let’s not forget the green juice! Sipping a chilled glass of fresh green juice every morning was one of my favorite highlights of the trip. I love green juice but don’t always take the time to make it myself at home, so it was a real treat to enjoy it daily at Rancho La Puerta. The juice was vegetable-based and tasted like it was made from cucumber, celery, greens, and ginger on most days. So delicious!
Lunch, also buffet style, varied every day but always consisted of some sort of fresh salad with lots of optional toppings (nuts, seeds, marinated vegetables, tuna, boiled eggs, beets, and more). There would sometimes be a soup as well, usually with beans and vegetables, and corn tortillas on the side.
For lunch every day I enjoyed a loaded salad. (I didn’t usually go for the soup because of the beans, but it looked and smelled delicious!) I would often ask the staff for extra pieces of fruit, avocado slices, or small bowls of almond butter to take back to our casita and eat later as a snack if I felt like I needed something more.
Dinner was served plated at the table every night. I simply placed my special name card in front of my plate so that the server knew who I was and what my food allergies were, and the chef took it from there. I was certain that as I ate four-course dinners every night over seven days, there would surely be a day where they would “slip up” and give me cheese on my salad or croutons on my soup. But I was wrong! Not once was I served a meal that didn’t meet my needs.
If there was something on the menu that I didn’t care to eat, such as lentils or rice, I would simply ask for my dish to be plated without it and the kitchen staff was more than accommodating. Instead of serving my fish over lentils, for instance, they would arrange it over a bed of delicious sauteed greens and garnish it with edible flower petals. I felt so special!
On nights when a seafood option was served, there was always an alternative choice for vegans/vegetarians. Some nights, there were things on the menu that couldn’t be altered to be gluten-free, such as biscotti or tiramisu. Instead of those courses, the chef would prepare me something else entirely, like a plate of beautifully arranged fresh berries. Every plate was a work of art.
I also tasted my first ever kumquat at the ranch, freshly harvested from their 6-acre organic farm. Wow…YUM! Kumquats are my new favorite fruit.
For snacks, I packed a few of my own things with me, but the ranch did offer fresh fruit and vegetables (and more green juices!) at regular intervals throughout the day. In between exercise classes, I would often pop into the lounge for a quick bowl of blackberries or pear slices.
During the middle of our stay, my mom and I had the pleasure of visiting La Cocina Que Canta, the ranch’s nearby cooking school. Just wait until you read about that experience! It was unforgettable. More details coming soon…
Overall, my food experience at Rancho La Puerta far exceeded my expectations. I can’t remember the last time I was able to enjoy a week’s worth of food on vacation without having to worry once about whether it was “okay for me” or not. If you deal with food sensitivities, you know just how precious places like the ranch are to us.
Stay tuned for my final post about La Cocina Que Canta!
(Rancho La Puerta hosted my stay, but my opinions are my own.)