El Encanto Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara
Meticulously Restored Resort
I was excited to see the renovated El Encanto resort. It has been almost seven years since El Encanto's doors closed for a major makeover. The Orient Express kept the integrity of the much loved property and enhanced the resort with a $134 million dollar makeover.
Upon check-in we walked out onto the outdoor terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. We took a seat and enjoyed Executive Chef Patrice Martineau's afternoon High Tea.
Martineau was born near Champagne, France. Raised with four sisters and two brothers on a farm, he would help collect fresh eggs, chickens, rabbit and vegetables for his mother to prepare the daily meals. “My mother was a good chef,” he said. “We grew up eating family-style dishes.”
With a sweet tooth, Martineau thought he would like to become a pastry chef. Eventually he became an Executive Chef at the Peninsula in Tokyo. While there, he heard about the Orient Express and their excellent reputation in the hospitality industry. “They allow their chefs to be creative,” Martineau stated.
While living in New York, he always wanted to come out to CA, yet never had the opportunity. Fortunately, when the El Encanto team was looking for an Executive Chef, Martineau was the perfect candidate.
Our server gave us the option of three different types of tea service: tea sandwiches, traditional tea and a Bellini tea. With a multitude of white, green and black tea choices from Art of Tea in Los Angeles, we each chose a different flavor. It was served in Lissi Kaplan's handpainted china specifically designed for El Encanto. Each design celebrates the unique beauty and personality of the flowers around the resort.
With the traditional tea, a three tiered serving plate was delivered with egg salad and butter lettuce, smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches served on small brioche rounds.
Sweet treats included tiramusu, raspberry custard tarts, lemon bars, chocolate cookies, raisin and traditional scones. Double clotted cream and two jams from France finish the service.
After tea service, we were handed our keys to Cottage 502. Walking along the brick paths to our suite, we passed the inviting infinity pool. Unlocking our cottage door, I appreciated the monogramed "W" on my King-size bed. This was one of the many elegant touches that the Orient Express staff and management provide to guests. Other special amenities include a deep soaking bathtub in each suite, trademark luggage closet, personal stationary, signature bath products, plush towels, and a cloud-like mattress for restful sleeping.
After a refreshing swim in the heated pool, I sat in one of the lounge chairs and read a book. Later, I toured the property and learned from Laura McIver, the General Manager of El Encanto, "We kept the iconic arbor, wishing well, meandering pathways and iconic floating island dessert."
Patios are created for guests to sit outside and sip a nice glass of wine. The hummingbird cottage has four hummingbird feeders around the self contained suite. It's also known as the honeymoon suite, because of its private back patio with an outdoor shower.
El Encanto is the body and soul of Santa Barbara. Since the area is located on a butterfly migration path, butterfly themes can be found throughout the property. Artwork in the main lobby near the restaurant and along the stairway leading down to the spa. Many are creatively painted by Charles Arnoldi.
After a wonderful night's sleep I walked to the main building and sat down to breakfast at a window table. Chef Martineau came out and told me, “Breakfast is as important as dinner. The first meal of the day should be easy and classic."
His signature tomato confit is added to many dishes. Patrice blanches a tomato, takes out the seeds and puts them in an oven for four hours on a low temperature. The moisture evaporates, and the tomato is sliced into looking like a flower petal and full of flavor.
Since he worked in Japan for a few years, he entwines California cuisine with French traditions and a twist of Japanese influence in his presentation. His dishes are more simple with less on the plate.
He gave me directions to see his onsite Aeroponic towner garden has six hydro-towers filled with flourishing Japanese herbs and salad greens that he incorporates into 6 of his dishes.
Before I boarded a Surfliner train back to Los Angeles, I was treated to a Vitamin Sea Signature Facial by Kelsey Webb. As a trained esthetician and massage therapist, this 27-year-old has magical fingers.
The Spa is a new addition to El Encanto. Located downstairs and below the Dining Room, I was given locker number 6 and a super plush robe and plastic sandals. Kelsey greeted me in the relaxing reception lounge and escorted me to her spa room.
I crawled into a warmed blanket cacoon, as Kelsey nutured my face with Ocean oils, Vitamin C Serum, creams and red algae exfoliation products. She rubbed my neck, shoulders and scalp.
Sadly I had to leave this beautiful five star resort, however I walked away as a new, more serene person.
To learn about the specials at El Encanto, go to: http://www.elencanto.com/web/ele/el_encanto.jsp - El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Toll Free: 800-393-5315.
Heated Infinity Pool
El Encanto Article
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Afternoon High Tea Service
El Encanto has lovely cottages and suites
Inside Chef Patrice Martineau's Dining Room
Traveling by Train to El Encanto
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