In a world where futuristic spa treatments push the boundaries of length and complexity, many spas are doubling down on the restorative power of simple physical pleasures — gorgeous vistas, soothing sounds, rich flavors, intoxicating scents and a healing touch — allowing us the chance to return to our senses
Deep within the banyas of New York City, Russian-Americans still embrace the centuries-old tradition of lounging in 180-degree saunas and steam rooms for health. But beyond all the sweat, these baths — such as the Russian & Turkish Baths (pictured) in the East Village — are celebrated for in-house restaurants where you can dine on garlicky borscht with dumplings and sour cream, herring and pickled onions and black tea stirred with cherry jam while still in your bathrobe. Chat up the servers and they might bring a bottle of homemade kvass (a fermented beverage similar to beer) for the table. Just don’t expect wheatgrass smoothies. This ain’t that kind of spa.
Well, it’s about time: Pennsylvania’s Hotel Hershey has finally provided a satisfying answer to the question on the lips of every spa-goer who’s ever been wrapped in chocolate. This month the hotel’s spa, which already offers a chocolate fondue wrap, chocolate sugar scrub, chocolate bean polish and whipped cocoa bath, will add a cocoa facial featuring edible dark chocolate — becoming the first spa in North America to let guests actually eat a cocoa treatment. (75 min., $170)
The brainchild of chef Gilles Arzur and Spanish beauty brand Natura Bissé, the seven-course A Taste of Beauty treatment/dinner at L.A.’s Beverly Wilshire appeals to those with a serious appetite for luxury. Think that might be you? Check out the menu:
• After a “welcome inhalation” of essential oils comes a complementary drink featuring many of the same relaxing elements: lemon, sage, rosemary and lavender.
• The skin-rejuvenating action of an acid exfoliation is echoed in the natural acid of a rhubarb salad and the fizz of Pop Rocks.
• For the skin, a marine-based serum and a menthol mist; for the taste buds, scallops with mint jelly and an atomized mint cocktail.
• Just like magic, magnets whisk a shimmering black body scrub away from the skin, and later off a dish covering a croquette that you cut open to reveal — presto! — shimmering black risotto.
• A cool firming mask redolent with calming lavender oil is reflected in a perfectly chilled scoop of honey-lavender sorbet (pictured above).
• Aromatherapy comes to the fore as spicy odors (pepper, cardamom, incense) fire up the senses — including taste, which is rewarded with hay-smoked squab in a richly spiced sauce.
• Fittingly, the crowning touch is jewel-themed: a sparkling sugar dessert and a take-home gift from Natura Bissé’s Diamond collection. (90 min., $1,500)