The deal:

A few months ago, my friend & yoga teacher Michael mentioned he’d been asked to lead a retreat in West Virginia – it would be held at a lodge in the woods, had a few cabins, a fire pit, a creek, a pond, and an outdoor pavilion to do yoga & meditation.  Would I be interested in doing the food, he wondered?

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Let me tell you how fast I said yes: immediately.  For all that I love DC – the vibrant people, nightlife options, and the fact that every material object I could ever need is a 2 block radius from my house – I miss the forest!  Growing up, camping in the summer was one of the most important and formative experiences of my childhood.  “Campfire” is one of my Top 5 Favorite Scents, and there is nothing more gratifying than jumping in a creek to rinse off the nature that has clung to your body’s sweat (the dirtier you are, the cleaner you get, I say).  So that part was an easy sell.

To sweeten the deal even more, you have to understand a little bit about Michael.  Primarily that he’s one of those life-loving, people-accepting, goofy-with-a-tinge-of-snark joking, thought-provoking, deep-conversation-having, elevating people who also happens to be one of my favorite teachers at Kali (where I work in exchange for yoga).  His classes will make you break a serious sweat and also leave you pondering your humanity and purpose.  And the guy makes an awesome Old Fashioned.

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Michael is also a good partner for deepening side bends.

The challenge:

The trickiest part of cooking for 20 people for 4 full meals + snacks, 2 hours away from where the food would be procured, while timing the serving with the rest of the weekend’s schedule…wasn’t any of that.  It is how to create meals that everyone can enjoy, regardless of eating pattern.  I don’t believe that any eating pattern (vegan, vegetarian, paleo) is “best,” but that people should find the one that gives them the best energy and health.  And of course, I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy the food and eat plenty of fresh produce…

The solution:

Bars.  Every meal was built around a bar/buffet concept, with a base that everyone could have and a myriad of topping options.  I provided some baseline suggestions for portions and nutrient distribution, and people chose what they wanted!  The food was purchased on Thursday, chopped when we arrived Friday, and a snap for me to put the final touches on as needed.

One huge help: a huge load of cucumbers, squash, blueberries, tomatoes, and arugula from From The Farmer, DC’s best (& most flexible) CSA.*  They deliver to the greater DC area, and you can always opt out of a week’s delivery if you’ll be out of town or have a surplus of veggies with the click of a button – and without being charged!  They deliver overnight, so the freshness is waiting on your doorstep when you head out for work.  They provided us with amazing, succulent produce and $20 off participants’ first order!  Check ’em out and sign up.

Breakfast 1: Oatmeal bar
Lunch: Quinoa bowl bar
Dinner: Pasta salad bar with vegan pesto & broiled chicken or tofu on the side
Breakfast 2: Fruit salad bar + nuts or hard boiled eggs

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And resulted in some pretty beautiful meals:

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There was also a trail mix bar constantly available, and endless hot water for tea…plus a fridge stocked just for people to grab cheese, eggs, veggies, fruit, or yogurt from anytime.

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Many, many thanks to KIND for providing complimentary bars to the yogis to fuel up between sessions!*  Their dark chocolate cherry cashew bars are SO delicious, and have a good balance of nutrients (and they’re not “low fat!”  Alleluia!).  They gave us 3 kinds to try, and a 20% off coupon for retreat participants!

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You can even eat them while doing acro 😛

The retreat:

The retreat itself was just the ticket after a hot week in DC.  Held at the Lodge at Sleepy Creek, we had porch swings, decks, and cozy nooks for lounging galore – it’s a great spot for hosting 10-20 people and available for rental at very reasonable rates!  The kitchen and dining area were perfect & adequately stocked for our needs, and the setting is perfectly peaceful.

The workshop content & yoga were, of course, amazing – we did some group work, some journaling, breathing, meditation, active yoga, woods-walking, and learned a lot about the theory of “koshas” and how they may relate to neuroscience.  There was also a campfire, complete with roasted marshmallows (the only truly nutrient-deficient food of the trip) and some even some impromptu drumming with beautiful instruments the lodge has!

By the end, let’s just say that everyone had laughed a lot and more than one person teared up a time or two – it’s not every day that most people really sit and reflect, but it sure is something we need more of!

My heartfelt thanks to the participants for their amazing compliments on the food; I’m looking forward to seeing them in the future!

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*I never write about products or services I wouldn’t use or buy myself!  Contact me if you’d like to have your product featured on my blog.