Ravella at Las Lake Vegas

You know that old adage: which comes first, the chicken or the egg? For my recent journalists’ junket to Ravella at Lake Las Vegas, it was more like: the cuisine or the spa? Both were divinely delicious with a strong propensity towards nurturing health and wellness of mind, body and spirit by infusing the senses with an organic aromatherapeutic remedy.

In the interest of being the equal opportunity purveyor of opinions, I’ll lay out the facts. You decide.

My involvement as an entertainer and as a journalist for the meetings & events, entertainment and hospitality industries garners lots of opportunities to sample tasty treats from chefs of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and reputation. I certainly wasn’t expecting foodie nirvana at a tucked-away resort on the outskirts of Vegas.

Actually, to be truthful, I wasn’t expecting to wind up at a literal oasis in the desert, minus any maurauding nomads or sandstorm-swept flies in my face.

I knew Ravella was a reincarnated Ritz Carlton and now a Dolce Hotel and Resort property, roughly a 20-minute drive from The Strip and about 45-minutes fromMcCarrenAirport. I knew there was a Mediterranean village of 20 specialty boutiques, restaurants and casino abutting one wing of the horseshoe-shaped 349-room Tuscan-inspired hotel. I even knew from researching my Prevue Magazine assignment that Ravella boasted the largest manmade lake in the country.

What I didn’t anticipate were nude dark chocolate mountains spanning the perimeter and the 340-acre lake glittering like Twilight’s Edward in the brilliant sunlight. I gawked through the posh lobby’s sparkling glass walls at the scalloped edges of the three-mile long lake flanked by that charming cobble-stoned village on one side and Jack Nicklaus’ Signature Course, The Golf Club at Southshore, on the other. Enchanting.

The driver of the complimentary shuttle bus acted as if he was revealing a deep secret when he noted Celine Dion lived within the 15-acred planned community’s borders, but it wasn’t until the next evening at the every-Saturday night-summertime jazz concert that I learned an even bigger surprise. My favorite Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli had recorded a television concert from the same waterfront stage. Question: why do concerts always sound better when you’re sitting on a grassy knoll (at the footsteps of the Ravella) under a starlit sky, sipping wine and enjoying the murmuring appreciation of other fans?

I digress. Back to food, one of my two favorite topics.

My first evening at Ravella (actually withinHenderson,NV) jump-started when we boarded the only motorized vessel (50 for a seated catered dinner) permitted in this eco-friendly environment. During the next two hours of cruising on La Contessa yacht, we sipped adult beverages and noshed on several amuse bouche prepared by Executive Chef Andrew Chadwick. The delicate bite of salmon drizzled with ponzu sauce was enough to have me salivating in anticipation of dinner.

Chef had only been with the property a week but was already converting the menu into one more boldly innovative with sustainable products, creative plate design, and flexible customized menus. Director of Catering & Convention Services Ellen Saepoff positively squealed with pleasure at their fortune in landing him. His recent credits include being Executive Chef of Meadowood Napa Valley Resort, the Ritz Carlton St. Thomas, and he was the Owner/Executive Chef of Andrew Chadwick’s at Rutledge Hill.

The four-course meal was served  on white-clothed tables set within the Florentine Gardens, a sculpted setting of willowy Italian cypress, carved bushes and topiary arches aglow with twinkling white lights. Chef and his hand-picked sous chefs began with heirloom tomato slices dripped with olive oil and fleur, followed by grilled yellow tail tuna and sauteed blue prawns dabbed with ponzu and fresh wasabi. Good thing I shared Chef’s passion for fresh seafood that he flies in regularly because the next course was seared scallops, porcini mushrooms and petite radish. Dessert was a light confection of Pate Breton, chocolate creme, paoched pears, pink peppercorns and a dusting of thyme. The nearby blazing firepit begged for us to enjoy the encircling plush lounge chairs, but after my long day of travel, a fluffy bed begged louder.

Saturday’s breakfast was in Medici Café’ and Terrace, which opens onto theFlorentineGardens. Many of Ravella’s staff remained when the Ritz folded and their level of service is as attentive as one would expect. Ravella also has the requisite ballroom and outdoor function space for corporate, social or wedding events, but one particularly attractive feature for individuals is their partnership with many of the village restaurants. Guests can just credit the bill to their room number. This convenience reflects Dolce’s philosophy of Nourishment, Connectivity and Community.

Saturday morning group options were either a lesson in fly fishing (with catch-and-release possibilities if any of the carp bumping against the marina were caught) or kayaking. Typical watercraft options were available for rent to area guests, as well as other eco-friendly activities offered by two green events companies that partner with the Ravella, but that kayak “spoke” to me.

Paddling out on the stilled water was akin to meditating. I rowed past estate homes, condos, two other hotels and time shares lining the rock-faced shoreline. All was calm until I passed the furthest buildings before heading back. Sudden wind gusts buffeted my craft. I felt the first titter of alarm at seeing no one else left on the lake but decided all those hours of weight lifting during jazzercise rendered me confidently strong enough to overcome my jitters. After two hours of strong rowing my deltoids were as pumped as my appetite.

I can detail the light but filling lunch that Chef prepared (and which I totally devoured), but it wouldn’t do justice to his consciously prepared perfect-after-a-hot – day-of-activity dishes. Yes, the mango and pomegranate-infused couscous salad was refreshing, but the Dungeness crab salad brimming over a wooden orchid box was an artistic vision.

 We dined alfresco that evening beside a stand-alone lakeside pavilion often used for weddings. I was awed by the first of seven small plate courses. Chef Chadwick calls it “Soil”, appropriate as the single vertical line crossing the plate resembles dirt… except that it’s a molecular construction of cocoa and undisclosed other ingredients. Delicately placed along the “soil” were edible micro vegetables and flowers. Each course smoothly preceded the next, preparing the palate and eyes for savory satisfaction.

 Behind us, the three-storyPonteVecchioBridgespreads 375’ across the water, offering panoramic sunset views for weddings performed in the stunning wedding chapel, La Capella di Amore. The Renaissance-styled chapel features hand-carved wooden pews imported fromItaly, iron chandeliers and sconces, and a beamed ceiling. When I saw Vegas’ only over-water chapel, ruby rose petals lined the aisle and filled the sconces.

 My second favorite subject—spa, occurred mid-afternoon. Treatments are often a relished perk of my job. The spas vary as much as the therapists, but until I stepped into the Ravella’s 30,000-sf two-story spa, I would have based my opinion on the treatment and not the environment.

Never have I felt such an immediate sense of calm. It was as if my pores had soaked in peaceful energy. Yes, the facility is beautiful with lush foliage visible outside many overlooking treatment rooms. Adjacent to the steaming Jacuzzi was a curving cooling tub. Even the boutique was a wonder, with such reasonably-priced unique items that I simply had to indulge in buying presents. The greenery, tubs and shopping were superb, but it didn’t explain my immediate sense of serenity.

 I understood its origin when I met Spa Director Nancy Dimaio. Her staff eagerly volunteers that they work there because of her gentle attitude and overriding concern for clients.  Organic oil blends are individually “formulated energetically for the chakras. Each treatment is individually customized to establish balance emotionally and spiritually,” she says. 

 Each of the journalists in my group was given a different treatment. A better one for me couldn’t have been chosen. Laurie Berry left a great job at another spa because she bought into Dimaio’s vision of nurturing and formulating organic oils energetically for the chakras.  The customized treatments establish balance emotionally and spiritually. I considered it karma to receive the 80-minute Journey to Balance Massage from her caring heart and adept hands. I’ve had aromatherapy. This was so much more. I literally floated from the room, feeling at one with the universe.

Ravella and their business partners strive to be eco-friendly. Food is sustainable. Event companies organize activities that do no harm to the environment. Even the town car service that returned me to McCarren uses only hybrid clean fuel vehicles. Earthlimo’s motto: saving the planet, one ride at a time.

Planners: Ravella and Dolce have three original programs designed to win your corporate or incentive business. I have the details. Just ask.

www.ravellavegas.comwww.earthlimos.com

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in theOrlandoarea who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI, for which she is on the Membership Advisory Council and the Industry Advisory Council. She writes about food & wine, spas, venues, meetings & events (figured that one out, did ya?) A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.

karenkuzsel@earthlink.net

www.ThePsychicLady.com

Edible “Soil” melts in your mouth
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