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Healthful Spa Cuisine With an Ethnic Twist

Talks and tastings at The Oaks aim to show that lighter doesn't necessarily mean less creative or enjoyable.


Sheila Cluff, owner of The Oaks at Ojai health spa, wants the public to understand that light food can be enjoyable. That, she said, is why her establishment is offering International Spa Cuisine Week, which began Wednesday and will run through Sunday.

"Cuisine that is light in fat can be as delicious, or more delicious, than the fat-laden menus we think of as gourmet," said Cluff, who also owns The Palms at Palm Springs. "There's a myth that spa cuisine is limited, that we can't do ethnic dishes, that we can't do creative dishes."

To dispel such beliefs, Cluff this week has enlisted the help of The Oaks' executive chef, David Del Negro, and several guest chefs and food experts. Through the end of the week the group will focus on healthful international cuisine through demonstrations, tastings and lectures.

"We are trying to present very healthy eating in a very delicious and imaginative way," Cluff said. "We are trying to educate people on how they can prepare these dishes at home and that everything they need to prepare them can be purchased in your [average] store."

Today, Eleanor Brown, a cookbook author and food consultant for The Oaks and The Palms, will demonstrate and prepare a "Cool Oriental Salad Buffet" from 12:15 to 2 p.m. On Friday, Dietrich Pahnke, general manager of The Oaks and a European-trained chef, will share tips on healthful "California Cuisine," also from 12:15 to 2 p.m.

On Saturday, Brown will return for a session on "Lightest Italian Cuisine" from 12:15 to 2 p.m., and at 5:15 p.m., dietitian Molly Siple will discuss "Foods for Menopause." At 7:15 p.m., Jyl Steinbach, a personal trainer and cookbook author, will discuss "Fat Free Living."

Spa Cuisine Week will wrap up Sunday, with Mira Advani preparing the cuisine of India.

Cost for a day visit to the spa is $85 or $20 for lunch and cooking classes. The Oaks is at 122 E. Ojai Ave. For more information call 646-5573.


Wines from the Robert Mondavi Winery of the Napa Valley will be the beverage of choice Monday at a wine dinner presented by Le Rendez-Vous Restaurant in Newbury Park.

Restaurant owner Francois Zanni Jr. will offer a five-course meal that will begin with prosciutto and melon followed by fettuccine Alfredo and then a primavera salad. The main course will be a Rolattini Piemontese--a filet mignon stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese and served with a red wine sauce. A tiramisu will be served for dessert.

The wine list will include a 1994 Sauvignon Blanc, a 1994 Chardonnay, a 1994 Pinot Noir, a 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1994 La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi Malvasia Bianca.

Cost is $62 per person. Call 498-1019. Le Rendez-Vous is at 1282 Newbury Road.


Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield, co-founders of the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant chain, will be at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Barbara on Friday at 6 p.m. for a signing of "The California Pizza Kitchen Cookbook." Barnes & Noble is at 829 State St.


Planning way ahead:

Tickets are now on sale for the sixth annual Santa Barbara wine and food tasting, "A Celebration of Harvest," planned for Oct. 12 in Solvang. About 35 wineries will bring their products for sampling, and Santa Barbara-area chefs will prepare the accompanying edibles.

The popular wine and food event is the focal point of a three-day wine festival that will include tastings, dinners and open houses at many of Santa Barbara County's wineries and vineyards.

Celebration of Harvest tickets, which tend to go very quickly, are $60 and must be purchased in advance. Call the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Assn. at (800) 218-0881.

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