Delicious Winter Wonderland at Four Seasons Westlake Village

Let It Snow is back at the Four Seasons Westlake Village! And the Mercato Italiano in the Lobby Lounge is better than ever!

let it snow entry

Let It Snow

I visited with my family last year and loved the magical feeling of having snow fall in the evening in Southern California. I’m happy to say the Four Seasons has revived the tradition, with a few updates.

Instead of meandering out and mingling with bar guests, Let It Snow visitors go through an admission check-in and get wristbands that allow them access to the super cute s’mores kits and hot chocolate. The space has expanded this year for more room to enjoy the snow that falls twice an hour (and gives kids more room to run around). Watch out for the fire pits – which are great for roasting your marshmallows, but can be a bit smoky with the wrong direction of the wind.

the lookout let it snow

The outdoor space is freed up because Santa has been relocated into a holiday showroom, fantastically styled and cozily warm. Frosty the Snowman wanders about greeting visitors outside.

noname (4)photo by Kimball Hall courtesy of Four Seasons

The event is free for hotel guests and $5 for visitors, which includes:

– Admission includes unlimited hot cocoa, apple cider and s’mores (pizza by-the-slice along with other bites and drinks are available from the menu at The Lookout)

– Photo opp with Santa and elves in his regal sleigh

– The magical snowfall occurs between 5 and 9 pm, at the top and bottom of every hour

– On select dates, including this Friday, there will be special guests from L.I.F.E Animal Rescue holding dog adoptions at the event site

(event details on their Facebook page)

mercato and desserts

 Mercato Italiano

After hanging out in the snow, we headed indoors to the Lobby Lounge which is transformed into Mercato Italiano on Saturday nights. The Mercato is a recreated Italian market, complete with umbrellas around the lavish buffet.

While servers bring an array of freshly made pizzas (veggie pizza with chickpeas, broccoli, and a white sauce was amazing) to your table, you are free to head to the different food areas as much as you want. There is an antipasti bar, a display of bruscettas (updated from the bruscetta bar from last year), 4-5 green salads, a hot pasta bar, a salami stand complete with a leg of ham, and a hot food counter.

pizza mercatoPizzas are tossed by Pizza Steve, but Chef Manny made a special repeat appearance to make some with my kids again. They are his #1 and #2 fans!

Standouts this year included:

Antipasti bar – Heirloom carrots tossed with herbs and oil, it tastes like a Christmas tree! My husband loved the enormous green olives.

Bruscetta – goat cheese, ricotta, and pear with carmelized onions

Pasta – the risotto with butternut squash, sage and a new-to-me vegetable called savoy, cavatelli with shrimp in a cream sauce

Hot food – my husband loved the lamb osso bucco, and my favorite was the lasagna with a meat sauce and fontina cheese whose noodles tasted homemade

Topping off the meal is the dessert bar, of course! This year’s gelato offerings included carrot, which I suggest you try before you order a whole scoop. It’s worth the experience, but might not be for everyone. My favorite is still the salted caramel, but another dessert took the family favorite spot this year – a mouthwatering pumpkin custard served in a little espresso cup.  (Definitely take the cannoli, but the shell-to-filling ratio is too high to move this confection up to #1. I mean what’s a cannoli if not an excuse to eat ricotta?)

Mercato Italiano is $48 for adults and $24 for kids (make sure your kids like food, or else that is one pricey bowl of buttered pasta you’re buying) and certain beverages are extra. I enjoyed my meal with a nice Chianti at the suggestion of our superb server, Dylan.

My family enjoyed Let It Snow and Mercato Italiano on the house to facilitate this feature.

Spa File: Four Seasons Westlake Village, Local Hangout

Here’s something I never realized that I needed when I grew up: a home spa.

photo by Candice Kahn

photo by Candice Kahn

It’s like the “home bar” of my twenties and thirties, except in this case it’s for an adult woman who has two young children and various responsibilities and aching muscles, perhaps because of the time spent at her home bar in her twenties and thirties. Wherever I have lived, I’ve had a preferred spot to hang out with friends. Back in Northridge, for a time, it was the College Inn, which I do not recommend these days because of its newly storied past (cough it was the location of a recent homicide cough), and previous to that when I lived in Santa Monica it was a bar called Big John’s. No homicides there, that I know of, but it’s not called Big John’s anymore. It’s across the street from the Jack in the Box at Lincoln and Grant Street, if you’re curious, and it is now called Trip, and the exterior is covered with a rainbow of paint colors dripping down the walls.

But that’s not why we’re here, ladies. (And spa-curious gents, this is for you, too.)

No, I’m here today to tell you about the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village. Otherwise known as “Heaven in Your Backyard.” Since moving to Agoura Hills I’ve driven by the back of the Four Seasons countless times along Lindero Canyon, and I’ve visited the restaurant twice. But I had no idea that behind that tall brick wall was a completely different world.

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village's secret garden

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village’s secret garden

I recently had the great pleasure of spending the day at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, followed by drinks at the Lookout, then a Pacific Market dinner in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge Restaurant, an overnight stay, and a Farmer’s Market breakfast.

And it was all of two minutes from my front door. Three if I got stuck at the light at Lindero and T.O. Every time I do a staycation-like getaway of this nature, I wonder why I ever travel at all. I mean, Southern California is a destination to most people. And we live here! And there are places like this place right here! That’s all I’m saying.

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village

But I will also say that the spa and everything else I experienced during that 24 hours were luxurious, indulgent, and presented with the world-class customer service for which the Four Seasons brand is famous.

At the spa itself my four girlfriends and I spent the day in the Luxury Suite, which is a mini-spa of its own. There is a lounge, an enormous multi-jet shower, a space for massage tables, a giant jacuzzi tub, a wet bar, and an outdoor seating area with its own private hot tub. Two attendants saw to our needs all day, bringing us snacks and lunch, refilling the ice buckets for our Champagne, and even moving the umbrellas to shade the sun-shy ladies in our group. There was a secret back door from the hot tub area out to the grounds so we could go the back way to the main hotel pool. Attendants work there, too, to score you a sweet lounge chair, get you a fresh towel and some ice water, and see to your every need.

FSWestlake Spa Luxury Suite

Sigh. Lindero Country Club, are you listening?

Massages can be done in the luxury suite itself, or guests are lovingly walked to special rooms for treatments like the California Dream Signature Body Treatment or the nearby Yamaguchi salon for services like the green tea pedicure. But the luxury suite is your tranquil home base, where you are free to hang out with your loving group of people or wander through the spa features like indoor stream, the steam room, the larger hot tub with adjoining outdoor sitting area, and the beautiful poolside lounge.

girlfriends' spa getaway

Candice, Andrea, Romy, and Beth

After a long hard day of relaxing, my group lounged about at the Lookout, the hotel’s outdoor bar, sampling their cocktails made with fresh local ingredients. In fact one signature cocktail called True Dat is nicknamed the 100-mile cocktail because all of its ingredients are sourced from within 100 miles of the hotel. It’s made with rosemary simple syrup, Meyer lemon infused vodka, and something called “strawberry froth.” Served straight up and chilled, it’s fun to make froth mustaches with it.

The Lookout cocktails

After relocating the overnight luggage and spa-wear of five women to our 6th floor rooms, which reminded me of guest rooms at a country estate – all pillowy mattresses, Queen Anne furniture, and stately drapery – we reconvened at the Lobby Lounge for the Pacific Market buffet dinner. The last time I visited here, the space had been transformed into an Italian market. On this night, though, it was a seaside fish and seafood extravaganza. My friends lingered and moaned over the freshly made ceviche and the enormous shrimp that arrived, cocktail style, in the middle of our table. I became fixated, curiously, on the succotash, a random side dish made with corn, crispy kale, and pancetta over grits. It was so good I had thirds. There were salads galore, a candy bar, and a delectable table of little desserts – small enough to tempt you to taste each one.

IMG_8189

But the restaurant had more in store for us. This season at the hotel the desserts are fun and summery. There is a design-your-own ice cream cookie! We’re told that the best combo is the bacon cookie with salted caramel ice cream, but we tasted good old chocolate chip and vanilla. The warm cookie and the delicious housemade ice cream are served with your choice of dipping sauce, too, which makes for a great after dinner treat if you have saved room, which was very hard for us on this night. The hotel also has a fancy s’more concoction of brownie topped with flamed marshmallow with a chocolate sauce drizzle. And there is apricot crumble for the fruit crumble fans.

Gourmet S'mores. Photo by Candice Kahn.

Gourmet S’mores. Photo by Candice Kahn.

One of the best things about our day at Four Seasons Westlake was that it didn’t have to end. We snuggled up in the plush king beds on the 6th floor, where we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, savoring the last moments of togetherness before our friend Andrea Fellman of Savvy Sassy Moms moves to Costa Rica for a family adventure.

Andrea at The Lookout

Andrea at The Lookout

In the morning, she and I strolled the beautiful grounds while we drank our complimentary coffee, watched the early birds doing yoga by the waterfall, and met the rest of our party for breakfast at the again-transformed Lobby Lounge restaurant. This time it was a Farmers Market, stocked with fresh produce, meats, and eggs from farms all around our area. The freshly-squeezed orange juice and made-to-order omelette were my favorites, as well as the house-made strawberry jam.

four seasons westlake village farmers market morning

At the end of it all, after our tearful goodbyes and hugs, the journey home for me lasted all of five minutes because I got stuck at the light at Costco. Of course.

And so instead of a home bar, I now have a home spa. If you want to get together, meet me at the Four Seasons. It’s a lot more luxurious than a casual pitcher of beer at a local watering hole, and with it comes a much higher price tag (see the use of the word “indulgent” above), but there’s no hangover, necessarily, and you can leave feeling better than you did before.

Agoura Hills Mom in her preferred habitat.

Agoura Hills Mom in her preferred habitat.

Disclosure: The Four Seasons Westlake provided us with rooms and the luxury spa suite and food during our stay. Opinions are my own. 

See also Staycation All I Ever Wanted