Resurrecting the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa may seem a little crazy to some, after two fires in 1997 and 2011 destroyed much of the fabled resort. But that is somehow in keeping with the history of the place.
Its story begins in 1892, when the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum drilled a well in order to have enough water to operate, according to a history on the Edwards Aquifer website.
And it continues today as a project of the Hot Wells Conservancy, which was formed in 2013 “to preserve the vestiges of the historic hotel and provide educational, cultural, and environmental programming,” the site says.
But enough of history. What’s happening on the grounds of the spa these days?
You can take a yoga class regularly in the old ruins, if you’d like. Or you can join with hundreds of other food lovers on June 3 for Hot Wells Harvest Feast, a event in which you can tour the grounds while eating food grown on the property and sipping your choice of cocktails, wine and beer.
This is a fundraiser to benefit the conservancy that was created by Robbie Nowlin, executive chef of the Hotel Valencia, and artist Justin Parr, who lives on the grounds.
The concept is simple: The participating chefs, including the mixologists, have to include ingredients grown on the property in their dishes. That could mean one or more of several dozen heirloom tomatoes, peaches from the heavily laden trees, any of the many hot pepper varieties, hoja santa leaves, lovage, fennel pollen, garlic blossoms — you name it. Some of the booths will be set up inside the ruins, while the remainder will line the exterior, all under strands of Italian lights.
This year, Nowlin has more than 30 chefs lined up, and he had to turn away many more. He knows it has caused some hurt feelings, but he hopes they understand that there’s just not room to accommodate everyone at this point.
“I’m a chef,” he says, “not an event planner. But I’m an event planner.”
In the end, it’s the cause that’s important, and if you’d like to see this once-grandiose site restored or if you just want to have some fine food in a wholly unique setting, you can visit the Hot Wells Conservancy website for details. For a list of the participating chefs, click here.
A few tips if you’re making the trip to Hot Wells, 5503 S. Presa St., Wednesday or any time in the foreseeable future:
–Dress casually and for warm weather.
–Leave your high heels at home.
–Wear plenty of bug spray.
–Have a designated driver.