JAN 2016

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40 DAYSPA | JANUARY 2016 THE VEGAN CHALLENGE Ravens, the Inn's onsite restaurant, serves only whole, seasonal, unrefi ned foods—no white sugar or fl our. Until 2013, the Stanfords agreed to serve eggs and dairy products for breakfast upon request, but ultimately found this to be "too much of a personal confl ict and dissonance for us," says Joan. Today the eatery is 100% vegan, with no animal products on the menu. (Any "cheese" served is made from cashews, hemp seed or other plant-based items.) Ingredients are locally harvested and sourced largely from the business's own on-site organic Big River Nurseries, and presented with local organic wines or cocktails infused with just-picked fruits. The new menu is healthier for humans, animals and the planet, Joan notes—plus it dovetails nicely with other wellness center offerings, such as vegan cook- ing and nutrition classes. (In early 2016, the Stanfords will publish a vegan cookbook featuring their most popular dishes.) But from a business perspective, going vegan was a controversial, daring move. The owners admit that the strict vegan menu "provokes some people" and has negatively affected the business's bottom line. "The majority of our guests are not vegan or vegetar- ian," concedes Garza-Hillman, who directs the Ravens kitchen and is a long-time vegan. "If we had meat and cheese on our menu, our restaurant would be three times as busy as it is." "People hear the word 'vegan', and they think hairy armpits and sprouts," adds Joan. "But those who give it a try are usually happily surprised." Indeed, the dishes at Ravens are often described by guests as creative, substantial, delicious and beau- tiful to behold. "People are suspicious and they expect to be disap- pointed, so we answer to a higher standard," explains Jeff. "We create dishes with layered fl avors, intense color and satisfying texture." And that includes des- serts such as a pecan torte, mint chocolate ganache tart and even crème brûlée. "What we consider wellness is so broad," Jeff says. "It's about vitality. I live joyfully; I eat joyfully; and I want to make it easier for others to live a joyful life, where so much more is possible." Maryann Hammers is a writer specializing in health, spa and travel topics. She lives in Southern California. SPA HOPPING

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