Archive for the ‘F & B’ Category
Chef Michael Mina with Smart Meetings Editor Christine Loomis at an event at Hakkasana San
Francisco earlier this year
From our office in Sausalito, we’re only minutes from San Francisco and less than an hour from wine country. Smart Meetings editors regularly enjoy darting across the Golden Gate Bridge or heading up to Napa to attend press conferences, trendy food pairings, and restaurant and hotel debuts. Although we’re hardly surprised by the number of 2013 James Beard Foundation Award winners from the San Francisco Bay Area, we are quite proud of our neighbors’ notorieties.
Among the food luminaries who were inducted into the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” on May 6 was Michael Mina, San Francisco chef and restaurateur. Smart Meetings Editor Christine Loomis was just hanging out with Mina earlier this year (see photo) at an event at Hakkasana San Francisco. And Mina’s recipe for black truffle popcorn appears in the April issue of our magazine. Mina’s San Francisco restaurant, Michael Mina, was awarded two Michelin stars in 2006 and was named Esquire Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year in 2011.
St. Regis Atlanta’s Herradura Private Selection
Tequila, courtesy of Facebook
There was a clever little sign outside a shop near my home yesterday that read: “We have 45 tequilas. Which one will you regret on Seis de Mayo?” Not bad for a neighborhood liquor store, but there’s no reason to limit your tequila intake to May 5. As we’ve noted in the pages of Smart Meetings magazine, the spirit has been undergoing a re-evaluation in recent years that goes well beyond typical Cinco de Mayo shenanigans. In short, there’s a lot more tequila nowadays than spring breakers doing shots or restaurants serving neon-green margaritas.
Hotels are a big part of the upgrade that tequila’s reputation has been enjoying. The St. Regis Atlanta is a good example. The AAA Five Diamond property released a signature tequila in time for Cinco de Mayo. Director of Food and Beverage Robert Brandenberg collaborated with Casa Herradura—a 143-year-old distillery in Amatitan, Mexico—to craft the double-barrel reposado blend, which was made using the traditional technique of roasting blue agave in clay ovens. Once it was distilled, it was aged 11 months, bottled and certified with hand-numbered labels. The resulting St. Regis Atlanta Herradura Private Selection Tequila, with its floral and citrus notes, is being served at the hotel’s Bar & Wine Room Patio. It is available in a selection of seasonal cocktails—including a special margarita that involves jalapeno and fresh pineapple—as well as part of tequila-tasting flights. Guests can also book a special $599-per-night stay at the 151-room hotel that includes a bottle to take home.
Park City, Utah, is well-known for its magnificent scenery and upscale options, including fine dining. Perhaps the most unique dining experience in Park City is offered by The Viking Yurt, located above Park City Mountain Resort.
Joy Vik, president and owner, started the restaurant 14 years ago to provide customers with an experience that is totally original. “This is for people who have done it all, for people who have been to the fanciest restaurants in the world. There’s nothing like The Viking Yurt,” she says.
“I modeled the restaurant after the way I entertain at home,” Vik adds. “I had lived in Norway for four years since I married a Norwegian, so it was my idea to call it The Viking Yurt to give it a fun theme.”
Planners are well aware that an ever-increasing number of meeting attendees want to improve their diet and overall health and have needed to take this into account when arranging meals for trips. But attendees sometimes are not sure which foods and beverages to request from planners because companies’ descriptions of some products are inaccurate and misleading. Innova Market Insights, which provides in-depth analysis on trends, recently announced five F&B marketing trends that could directly affect the descriptions of products available to us:
1. People who are well-informed about value and health are increasingly influencing the market, and they are being supported by mounting pressure from lobby groups, NGOs and celebrities who are calling for greater transparency, credibility and accountability from the F&B industry. Also, campaigns driven by social media are making companies more susceptible to negative publicity.
Who doesn’t love a little bacon in their life?
This culinary staple is making a comeback, with such unusual items as bacon T-shirts, bacon bandages and even bacon lip balm trending in the marketplace.
Sandwiches at the Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center event Friday in San Francisco.
The concept behind food trucks originated before carriages went horseless, but in the last four or five years mobile catering has undergone a remarkable evolution. Several cultural factors—from the ability of social media to build followings and broadcast locations to the way that today’s young urban dwellers (call them hipsters if you must) embrace the ironic and stylish—have unleashed fleets of gourmet, rolling kitchens that offer far more than street tacos and hot dogs.
In San Francisco, the driving force behind this wheeled revolution has been Off the Grid, which has organized more than 150 independent vendors into one formidable federation. Off the Grid is mainly known for its weekly markets, which gather at least four mobile caterers in a single location. It currently coordinates 19 markets in communities throughout the Bay Area, but its flagship event is a Friday evening party in the parking lot of San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. The event takes a hiatus every winter, but it returned last week for a fourth season, featuring 32 vendors.
Five…California Wines! Four food courses, three Italian vinos, two delicious desserts, one opera singer and an announcement from a group that owns two DoubleTrees. Christmas came 10 months early (or two months late) for those who attended “Napa Meets Verona” at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., on Feb. 20.
You’d never know from the exterior of The Crumpet Shop that it sold some of the best confections in the world. This unassuming mom-and-pop shop, located at the top of a narrow stairwell in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, features just a few small tables and chairs. But its crumpets—griddle cakes crafted from yeast and flour—are anything but ordinary.
For my first crumpet experience, I decided to order three varieties: one with cream cheese, smoked salmon and egg; a second with English cheese; and a third with ricotta and raspberry preserve. Each was as good as the last and balanced sweet and savory flavors in delectably equal measure. After wiping up the last crumb from my plate, I vowed to return again.
The beauty of Seattle, one of my absolute favorite destinations in the world, is that these kinds of unexpected experiences are commonplace. Pike Place in particular is a stellar destination with enough character to defy tourist-trap expectations. Guitar-strumming buskers croon on street corners, fishermen yell and clap as they toss their daily catches, and shops sell a cornucopia of oddities, from cat illustrations and old Playboy covers to blown-glass pipes and the obligatory Seattle T-shirts.
It’s easy to fill a day or two at this marvelous market, but doing so might prove foolhardy, since Seattle has so much to offer. Just over the course of my two-day trip, I drank coffee at the top of the Space Needle; marveled at Chihuly Garden and Glass blown-glass installations; rocked out in a recording booth at the Experience Music Project Museum, where I learned about video games and the band Nirvana; and drank wine and hiked on beautiful Bainbridge Island—after watching a rainbow rise over the skyline during a leisurely ferry ride to the island. My stay at the historic Mayflower Park Hotel, which serves an exemplary martini, was equally revelatory.
I cannot imagine a better place than Seattle for a meeting, which perhaps explains why the city routinely draws record attendance. If you do plan an event here, might I suggest you try the crumpets?
For more on planning in downtown Seattle, click here.
Down in New Orleans, they’re celebrating Mardi Gras, but in the upper Midwest, today is Paczki Day. The two are closely related. In French, mardi gras means “fat Tuesday.” For Catholic communities, the day before Ash Wednesday has always been a day to indulge prior to the start of Lent, including eating some of the rich, fatty food that the devout are supposed to give up during the impending season of spiritual reflection. In the Detroit and Chicago areas in particular, this tradition manifests itself in jelly- and custard-filled pastries called paczki. King cake notwithstanding, I submit to you that nothing embodies the gras in Mardi Gras better than a box of a half-dozen calorie-laden paczki.
While working on our Atlanta story for the upcoming February issue, I came across an unusual amenity at the Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta—something so odd…so extraordinary…so ridiculously cool that I had to get the word out about it: an artisan ham bar.
Now you’re probably asking yourself, “What exactly is a ham bar?” Is it a place to go and watch the game, toss a few darts and catch up with friends over a few plates of tasty swine? Do you walk in after a tough day, take a seat and ask the bartender for a shot of prosciutto? Can you get kicked out of it?