Posh New York City spa left me relaxed with dewy, soft skin

Article and photos by Laura Scheiber

Consumed by the hustle and bustle of New York City, I needed a break, something to make me feel relaxed and pampered. I scheduled two signature spa treatments at the Valmont Spa for Plaza Athenee.

Entryway to the Spa

The entryway to the Spa

When I arrived at the spa, on the second floor of the elegant Hotel Plaza Athenee on the upper east side of Manhattan, I stepped out of the elevator, walked down a carpeted corridor and entered the intimate reception area of the spa. My esthetician, Miranda Sturce, met me with a smile at the front desk and escorted me to Suite Number One. The 320-square foot private space was divided into three main areas: a treatment room with a massage table, sitting area and private bathroom. Miranda confirmed the treatments I was scheduled for, a 30-minute Valmont signature Peaks of Slimness Body Treatment and a 60-minute signature L’Elixir des Glaciers Facial Treatment. Valmont is a high-end Swiss skin care products company best known for its anti-aging products and treatments.


My esthetician, Miranda Sturce

Though not mandatory, Miranda welcomed me to take a shower with a special Valmont shower cream called Fresh Dew Cleanser, which complimented the body products she was to use during the treatments. I followed Miranda’s suggestion and enjoyed steaming hot water under the soothing rainwater showerhead while lathering up with the light and refreshing Valmont shower gel.
After I wrapped myself up in a robe, Miranda began the treatment in the sitting area by giving me a footbath. She filled a turquoise water basin that had lemon and lime slices on the bottom with hot water. She massaged my feet and legs with a lemongrass exfoliate. I relaxed as she scrubbed away the stress of city living.

The foot bath

The water basin for the foot bath

I then hopped on the massage table in the treatment area, which was lined with an electric blanket to keep me warm. I was glad to feel so comfortable around Miranda when getting an intimate anti-cellulite full body treatment. Her sweet disposition made her approachable and unintimidating. Miranda started with the body slimming and firming, Peaks of Slimness treatment. For the first part, she applied Valmont’s D. Solution Booster, a gel created to address cellulite build-up. She relied on deep twisting motions in her massage technique to break down fatty cells.

The massage table in the treatment room

The massage table in my treatment room

While massaging my stomach, Miranda mentioned that the treatment was not safe for pregnant women because of the high concentration of caffeine in the gel. Miranda repeated the process along my arms, legs, buttocks, and back. For the second half of the treatment, Miranda used Valmont’s C. Curve Shaper, an anti-aging firming solution. Using long strokes, mixed with kneading motions she worked her way up and down my limbs, stomach and back. The Valmont slimness and firmness products were icing on the cake, as I would have been happy with this massage alone. Throughout the treatment, Miranda asked if the amount of pressure she applied was to my liking and whether I was comfortable in terms of temperature because she knew the Valmont products would leave my skin cool and tingly. I took her up on her offer for another blanket.

The products used during my treatment

The products she used during my treatment

While the slimming and firming treatment felt nice, I slipped into an even deeper state of relaxation when she began the facial. She began with a cleanser, followed by a toner, exfoliate and rebalancing mask designed to leave my skin glowing and radiant, according to Miranda. She utilized a massage technique called the butterfly motion designed by Valmont to stimulate blood circulation and enhance the effect of the products. Next, she added a moisturizing mask followed by a collagen mask. The extra concentrated formula left me with a tingly sensation as if all of my facial nerves were being softly tickled.

The sitting area of my suite

The sitting area of my treatment room

While the collagen mask was doing its magic, Miranda gave me a soothing neck, hand and foot massage. For the grand finale, she applied Valmont’s exclusive L’Exlixir des Glacier anti-aging serum (Sérum Précieux), anti-aging eye cream (Vos Yeux) and face cream (Votre Visage). During each step of the facial, Miranda explained what she was doing and the treatment’s purpose, though, I must confess I dozed off about half way through because it was so relaxing. When all was said and done, my skin felt dewy soft. The effect lasted for several days.

Spa reception desk

The Spa reception desk

At the end of the treatment, she invited me to relax in a lounge chair in the sitting area and to help myself to the goodies on the table. While an assortment of hot teas was available, I opted for a cold glass of water in a wine glass and worked my way through the mini plate of desserts. I nibbled on dried raisins, dried sweetened papaya and pineapple, as well as tasty bite size chocolate truffles, coconut macaroons, dark chocolates with lemon zest and muffins.

My morning at the Spa Valmont for Hotel Plaza Athenee (37 East 64th Street at Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10065, United States, + 1 212 606 4675, fax + 1 212 772 0958, http://www.plaza-athenee.com/spa-en.html, spa@plaza-athenee.com) was pleasant and soothing respite in the midst of hectic New York City. I appreciated having a private room and not feeling rushed. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The body treatment was relaxing with the bonus of firm feeling skin. I was especially happy with the facial.

New raw foods book recipes worth repeating

By Elena del Valle
Photos: Watermarked photos by Gary Cox, book cover and author photos by Trevor Lush

The SimplyRaw Kitchen

The SimplyRaw Kitchen

We’re always on the lookout for healthy, flavorful and nutritious recipes to expand our meal options. The SimplyRaw Kitchen (Arsenal Pulp Press, $21.95), an all-vegan, gluten-free 206-page softcover cookbook and lifestyle guide due to be released October 2013, by Natasha Kyssa of Ontario, Canada promised new ideas.

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

In the first quarter of the book she explains the reasons she prefers a raw vegan lifestyle, outlines the kitchen tools she uses and defines ingredients she favors in her recipes. The remainder of the book is divided into Beverages; Breakfasts; Soups, Salads and Salad Dressings; Pates, Dips, Spreads and Cheezes; Mains; and Desserts & Sweet Treats.

Ingredients for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

Ingredients for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

We sampled two recipes, one from the Mains and another from the Desserts & Sweat Treats chapters, with very satisfactory results and plan to try more. The first recipe we tried was for Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce. While we had most of the ingredients the rice wrappers and tamari were challenging to find in our suburban town. In the end, a thoughtful neighbor shared her rice wrappers and we used soy sauce in lieu of tamari. I used shredded carrots to complete the red cabbage necessary for the recipe. We made the dish the same day we bought the produce. We chilled the six rolls and the bowl of sauce for about 45 minutes in the refrigerator to cool them down from our subtropical temperatures. The combined flavors of the rolls with the sauce were excellent.

Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce

A Vietnamese Salad Roll with Dragon Dipping Sauce

There was some leftover sauce which we sampled the next day in a simple salad of greens, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and red cabbage. While it was acceptable the sauce had changed; the garlic flavor was more pronounced as was the ginger, making the sauce too pungent as a dressing. In future we’ll plan to eat the sauce the day we make it.

Ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

Ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting

The next day, we were in the mood for something sweet at the end of the afternoon. We had most of the ingredients for the Righteous Brownies with Caramel Frosting except the coconut flour which we procured easily. The brownie part, mixed in a food processor, still had some chunks when we molded it into the pan. The frosting, mixed in the blender, was smooth and liquid, easy to pour over the brownie. A few minutes in the refrigerator did little to keep the frosting from running. It was rich, creamy, crunchy (from the brownie chunks and the cacao nibs), chocolaty and mildly sweet. While not a replacement for oven baked chocolate and nut brownies the Righteous Brownies were surprisingly filling and satisfying.

Natasha Kyssa, author, The SimplyRaw Kitchen

Natasha Kyssa, author, The SimplyRaw Kitchen

We are planning another meal of rolls as soon as we find some tamari. The brownies have been well received and we plan to continue sampling recipes.

Kyssa, who wrote the book with her mother Ilse, runs SimplyRaw, a healthy lifestyles consulting company, and SimplyRaw Express, a vegan restaurant in Ottawa, Canada. The recipes in the book, she says in the Introduction, are contemporary interpretations of traditional Eastern European comfort foods. She strives to guide others to achieve a healthy and wellness oriented lifestyle through workshops, her café, and detox program. A past speaker at TedX she also hosts professional seminars and workshops. Her first book, The SimplyRaw Living Foods Detox Manual, was published in 2009.