Food & beverage trends in boutique hotels
“Boutique hotels.” The phrase alone sounds luxurious and exciting. However, the definition of a boutique hotel is blurry and open to interpretation. Everyone agrees that they are trendy, and smaller than the traditional hotel, with a larger-than-life personality. The types of locations vary dramatically – from urban cities to out-of-the-way properties that become destinations for the boutique hotel alone. These hotels are often decorated with whimsical or quirky artwork, as well as regional touches – the complete opposite of a cookie-cutter hotel.
One common thread among boutique hotels is that they are pushing the envelope with their food and beverage programs. Menus for dogs? Yup, that’s quirky. Yam funnel cake with yam ice cream? Memorable and innovative! Hotel gardens that provide fruits, vegetables and herbs for the in-house restaurant? Can’t get more regional food than produce grown 50 feet from the back door, for a true field-to-fork experience.
Boutique Gardens: Delivering the freshest local foods
Boutique hotels around the country are dedicated to providing their guests with foods grown right on the hotel property, providing hyper-seasonal menus with the freshest ingredients. And these ingredients come with a story that the guest will savor.
Triple Creek Ranch, set in the heart of the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, features an orchard and garden that produce a wide variety of fruits, including apples, plums, cherries and pears, as well as raspberries and strawberries. These fruits appear on the menu in many forms, with the apples made into fresh apple cider in the fall, and fruits turned into jams and touted on the breakfast menu. The garden also produces vegetables, from beets to kale, as well as squash and spinach, which are featured as side dishes to many of the tasty entrées. In addition to enjoying the fruits of the garden on their plates, guests can also tour the garden and enjoy delicious samples!
Bardessono (Yountville, California) features Lucy Restaurant & Bar, a restaurant that is “ruled by the seasons”. Their garden is where their cuisine begins, as their chefs go into the garden each day to find inspiration. The ingredients from the garden are used in everything from salads to garden-inspired cocktails. In addition to garden tours, Bardessono offers garden parties, which feature a multi-course meal at a communal table in the middle of the garden.
Travel for the tastings alone
Boutique hotels are differentiating their offerings with high-end tasting menus, from regional alcohol to hot chocolate. These tasting menus provide education to their customers, and provide a premium product for a once-in-a-lifetime activity. These first-rate programs can entice guests to visit the area for the hotel alone.
Blackberry Farm is a celebrated hotel on a 9,200 acre estate in the Great Smokey Mountains. Located at the hub for whiskey production, they offer their guests five different whiskey tastings, ranging from $150 for the “Basic American Whiskey Tasting,” to $1,000 for the “Bucket List Experience,” designed for those who seek the world’s rarest spirits. The “Bucket List Experience” includes some of the rarest examples of Bourbon, Scotch and Brandy, and is led by one of their sommeliers, with a history and production lesson.
Not all boutique hotel alcohol tastings cost a thousand dollars! The Carneros Inn (Napa, California) offers three one-ounce tastings of Johnnie Walker, called “Johnnie’s Walk,” for a mere $35. Chaz on the Plaza, in Kansas City, Missouri, offers a Trio of Ports, with three one-ounce pours. Whiskey aficionados will find more than 150 varieties at the 404 Nashville, including super-rare spirits from Ireland to Utah. For those new to whiskey, they offer a “World Tour of Whiskey,” with ¾ ounce pours of 16 Glen Garioch “1797”, Wiser’s 18-year, and Nikka “Pure Malt”.
Alcohol may be a standard liquid for a beverage tasting, but the Blantyre chose a sweeter path. Blantyre (Lenox, Massachusetts) offers a gourmet hot chocolate tasting menu. They offer seven types of non-alcoholic hot chocolate, all paired with house-made marshmallows, whipped cream and banana bread. These hot chocolate beverages range from dark chocolate, chocolate made in Uganda with fresh earthy hints of berries and tree fruit, to Callebaut White Chocolate mixed with coffee. They also offer a hot chocolate made with Valrhona Caramelia, which features a compelling taste of salted butter caramel.
Boutique hotels are upping their hipster quota with booze addled desserts, vegetable ice creams, and a full menu for dogs. These boutique hotels are pulling out all the stops with creative touches, designed to make their hotels stand out amongst the competition.
Creative culinary minds can seamlessly create desserts with an alcoholic or veggie twist to attract the on-trend hipster crowd.
- The White Barn Inn & Spa (Kennebunk, Maine) offers a Red Wine-Poached Bartlett Pear, topped with Crispy Warm Goat Cheese and Cabernet Sauvignon Sorbet
- Longman & Eagle (Chicago, Illinois) features a Purple Yam Funnel Cake with Sweet Potato Custard and Yam Ice Cream
- Hotel 1000 (Seattle, Washington) menus the Drunken Monkey, made with Calvados Ice Cream, Salty Bourbon Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Stout Fudge Sauce, Drunken Bananas, Bandied Candies and Caramel Corn
C/O of the Maidstone is a Swedish boutique hotel in the Hamptons, dedicated to slow foods and utilizing herbs from their herb garden. And apparently also committed to dogs. They offer a full dog menu, for different types of dogs, called the “Woof Menu.” This “Woof Menu” offers both meat and vegetarian doggie options, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, and the prices range from $6 a doggie serving for the smaller dogs to $12 a serving for the largest dogs.
Boutique hotels can be an excellent place to work, for a creative and fulfilling career. From the flip side, hotel chains can incorporate some of the unique food and beverage features found at boutique hotels to elevate their brands and inspire their guests.