Inspiration | Places | Series | The Table

the darling retreat

I love retreats- they’re a time to get away from your normal pace of life, recalibrate in a new environment, and take on a different world for just a bit. Darling Magazine has hosted a few creative retreats, and I’ve loved being able to help curate the experience by cooking for the women who attend. It’s amazing how much food has the power to effect the experience of a weekend away. When you’re eating well, nourishing your body with beautiful things, and giving it the nutrients it needs, everything else seems to be so much more in alignment. The last weekend retreat Darling hosted was in Ojai, California, and was centered around photography. It was absolutely restful, stunning, and so much more.

Here’s a little insight on that magical weekend, thanks to a retreat attendee, Lauren:

Flying Caballos Ranch, tucked unexpectedly off the road and just far enough away from town, could not have been a more ideal setting for the weekend’s magic. The farmhouse stood proud in 100-year-old glory, flaunting its history in creamy yellow paint, creaky wooden floorboards, and white trim. On the first night, as the group of us slowly began to trickle in for rest and a Darling dinner, the house effortlessly became a home.

Upon arrival, women were greeted with a glass of delicious wine. Each nutritious, vibrant meal was held outside at a long table alongside the farmhouse, and the first dinner shared under the flickering lights sputtered with getting-to-know-you conversation. Kara Elise set the table with crisp fish and a tangy cilantro sauce, a crunchy kale slaw salad, the most gorgeous golden watermelon and walnut mix, and a quinoa medley.

Guests shared their individual intentions for the retreat and it quickly became evident that each woman was wildly different from the next. Even in that, though, there was a deep, shared understanding of everyone’s eagerness to learn and to stretch themselves both creatively and relationally. We had all stepped out of our busy lives and into this weekend of learning, resting, and growing, from different walks and varying photography skill levels. It was as though that vivacious human desire to capture beauty and to share it sat down around a table and finally allowed itself to be seen.

During our last dinner, we went around the table, reviewing our weekend growth spurts and miraculous friendships, marveling at the power of togetherness to bring about beauty — in art, in heart. We had so much to carry home with us, so much to share, and so much to be grateful for; the weekend at the farmhouse with wise teachers, who create beauty and embody love, taught us that.

If you’re interested in attending the next Darling retreat in Palm Springs, check out my newsletter this week for a promo code!!

Oh, and here is the recipe for that delicious squash salad pictured below- it was one of the faves from the weekend. It serves about 10 so it’s great for a dinner party!

Seasonal Squash and feta salad

2 large eggplants
4-5 small eggplants
1/2 pound asparagus
1 butternut squash
1/2 pound in season peppers
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tsp each salt + pepper
1/2 feta

Chop all of your veggies to your size of choosing. I like to chop mine a little larger, it makes for a beautiful presentation. Preheat your oven to 450. On a large baking pan covered in parchment paper (or nonstick spray works) lay out all your veggies. Drizzle with both oils, then use your hands to coat well. Mix in your garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast your veggies at 450 for about 30 minutes, or until tender and a bit charred. Remove from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes. Arrange on a serving platter and top with feta!

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