Remember when “organic,” “natural” and “sustainable” belonged in conversations about weird stuff like oh, I don’t know, yoga? Paul Newman shook up the establishment (literally) by bottling up organic salad dressings. Then Harvard Medical School sneaked a class called “healing touch” into its curriculum, and mainstream folk started squinting at labels to see if their shampoo comes with or without carcinogens. And now, this news: The Twinkie, once the most glutenous, corn syrup-and animal fat drenched lunch box item on the planet, might be no more. What could possibly be next? I’m asking myself this very question when up pops an email from the Stillwater Spa at Hyatt Regency Coconut Point.
The Answer Is Bees.
More specifically, propolis, a sticky goop that honeybees of the Brazilian rainforest make to seal up their nests. Also to embalm any decaying creatures that had the misfortune to wander into the hive and perished trying to escape. This apparently led someone to theorize that if you slather this omega oilrich, pesticide and chemical-free bee product all over the human body and then encase it in a cocoon, it forces the body to release nasty toxins and plumps up dry skin.
I could use a little skin plumping. I’m not sure about the encasing part, but Spa Director Jennifer Licciardi assures me that the cocoon is warm and cushy—and, most importantly, temporary—followed by a nurturing massage. Renewable rainforest, renewed Karen? I’m in! How did it turn out? See “The Propolis Cocoon” (right).
Bees seem to be the sustainable garden product du jour since Florida relaxed its regulations on backyard hives. With thousands of newly minted beekeepers statewide (including 125 or so in Southwest Florida), I’d suggest you not delay in signing up for the University of Florida’s Bee College. Enrollment just opened for the 2013 session, slated for this March in St Augustine. In one exciting weekend, you can learn how one goes about creating a personal, sustainable honey factory, gets into the psyche of these mysterious creatures, taste incredibly diverse honey flavors, and maybe try on one of those way-cool beekeeper suits. No advance bee-savvy is required. entnemdept.ufl.edu/ honeybee/extension/bee_college.shtml or (352) 273-3932.
If the Ritz-Carlton Is Doing It …
There’s plenty more sustainability happening around the Gulfshore than just bees. For starters, the hair salon at The Ritz-Carlton Naples has become certified organic. Seriously? If The Ritz-Carlton Spa—one of the most prestigious in the world—is going sustainable, we’re definitely talking mainstream. According to Spa Director Michelle Kelthy, the new product line, called All Nutrient, is made from pure botanicals. The shampoos and conditioners are pH-balanced and biodegradable. They’re also free of all those bad guys: gluten, sulfate, ammonia and paraben.
Is she saying that I can keep my youthful hair color (or a close proximity thereof) without destroying any remaining hair follicles or suffering guilt over animal testing? Yes, she is. Sign me up. ritzcarlton.com or (239) 514-6100.
Good Animal Testing
Not that all animal testing is bad, mind you. Naples-based Top Dog Kitchen’s chemical-free, organic doggie treats are currently being successfully tested on local dogs and cats. We’re talking serious gourmet stuff here, like Peanut Butter Pookie Bars, Yummy Yammies (dehydrated sweet potatoes) and— how cool is this?— Ice Cream Pup Cups: yogurt flavored with your pooch’s choice of vanilla, peanut butter, bananas, blueberries or strawberries. They’re available at three Collier farmers markets and online at topdogkitchen.com or (239) 331-8143.
Superb People Testing
As for delicious, healthful and sustainable people treats, everyone’s been anxiously awaiting the debut of Jeff Mitchell’s new restaurant, The Local. The popular Naples culinary guy opens his place this month at Pine Ridge and Airport roads, featuring locally grown and farm-raised food. Jeff and chef/partner Richard Demarse, both Culinary Institute of America graduates, are supporting local fishermen and farmers with local beef, pork and seafood daily specials.
“We’ll have full-service dinners, and counter service for lunch and takeouts. Very quick, very tasty, very healthy food,” Jeff says. No doubt. Details at thelocalnaples.com or (239) 325-8159.
THE PROPOLIS COCOON THE PROPOLIS COCOON
I love to start any spa treatment with a few minutes in the sauna, followed by a cool shower. The music is soft and the silvery foil sheet is warm as I settle, fresh and clean, onto the massage table while Elizabeth, my therapist, mixes her magic potion of propolis and olive oil. She starts with a relaxing scalp massage, and then uses long strokes to paint the goop on my face, neck, back and shoulders. I’m already half dozing as she slathers one limb at a time, but I can’t resist a quick lick on my wrist to see how this amazing nectar of the bees tastes. Note to self: If you had read the material properly, you’d know that propolis is not nectar. Its closest human translation is “joint compound.”
Now that I’m totally slathered, Elizabeth wraps me in the foil cocoon, leaving only my head and feet exposed for further massage. Heavenly! Half an hour or so passes. I’m perfectly content to remain in my cocoon, but there’s more. After the unwrapping, I get bathed in warm coconut milk, which is gently massaged in to seal whatever healing properties are to come.
“Don’t shower tonight,” Elizabeth advises. “With the protective propolis coating, water would just bead up and roll off. Let it do its magic overnight. Drink lots of water and shower in the morning.”
Whether or not my skin will look plump and dewy tomorrow, I’m feeling virtuous in helping to sustain the Brazilian rainforest, and very, very nurtured today. coconutpoint.hyatt.com or (239) 444-1234.