By Mark Chesnut
Gourmet cuisine has always been a big draw at luxury hotels that cater to business travelers and upscale vacationers. But in recent years, hotels have gotten even more imaginative in how they connect travelers with great food.
Fairmont Hotels has introduced an array of new activities for business groups looking to incorporate cuisine creatively into meetings and events. At the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, for example, team-building culinary competitions include chili cook-offs, “bloody mary battles” and salsa-making competitions. At the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, participants use ingredients from local farms, with a set time limit to create a winning meal for the entire group to enjoy. And at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Hot Springs, California, business groups can enjoy an authentically Californian experience as they stomp their own grapes.
When it comes to hotel recommendations for off-site dining, gone are the days when concierges only referred guests to pricey, formal dining venues. Thompson Hotels has introduced a NYC Food Truck Concierge, which helps guests locate their favorite street foods among the more than 3,000 food trucks that now roam the streets in the Big Apple. Concierges at properties including the Smyth Tribeca, Thompson Lower East Side and Gild Hall now advise on the exact locations and cooking times of trucks around the city. Among the hotels’ favorites: Calexico, which serves fresh Cal-Mex food, Kimchi Taco, a Korean barbecue taco specialist and the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, a seasonal truck devoted to fresh-made ice cream and other desserts.
Southbound travelers can envelope themselves in unique regional flavors at places like the Mansion on Forsyth Park, an Autograph Collection hotel in Savannah, Georgia, where guests can tap into mouthwatering low-country cooking traditions while attending the 700 Kitchen Cooking School, which offers individual and group classes on a variety of topics throughout the year. With inspiration like this, travelers might even learn a few new tricks to take home to their own kitchens.
Mark Chesnut is an editor, writer and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. He suddenly feels really hungry.