Culinary pop-ups allow restaurants to get creative. They get to test out different dishes, techniques and audiences, and willing diners get to be a part of the whole process. Acclaimed spots — from an NYC cocktail bar to a San Francisco fine-dining restaurant — are bringing these vibrant events to hotels from Hawaii to Los Cabos to entice locals and traveling foodies craving a taste of something different.
Whether you want to treat yourself to an epic epicurean experience or prefer to gift one to someone special for the holidays, these upcoming pop-ups are a treat.
Employees Only at Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Hidden behind a psychic’s New York City storefront lies a cocktail institution. Employees Only isn’t merely a local icon — the 2004 bar was a pioneer in the now-ubiquitous global craft cocktail movement. To understand its heft, Employees Only is the only bar to land a spot in every World’s 50 Best Bars list since the coveted recognition began.
Soon the white-chef-jacket-clad bartenders will leave their West Village speakeasy and bring their shakers and bar spoons to Grand Wailea in Maui, just after Hawaii recently reopened to mainland travelers. Their early 2021 Hawaiian stint is part of the hotel’s Culinary & Cocktail Collaborations, a pop-up series that provides guests with classes and exceptional dining experiences with renowned mixologists and chefs.
“We are thrilled to welcome guests back to Grand Wailea with our interactive pop-up series,” says JP Oliver, the hotel’s managing director. “Employees Only’s highly acclaimed cocktails and industry knowledge are the perfect inaugural partner to commence this incredible guest experience.”
The visiting bartenders will curate a menu of about 10 cocktails at Grand Wailea’s open-air Botero Lounge. You can expect to sip Employees Only staples like the Amelia (vodka, fresh lemon, elderflower liqueur and blackberry puree) and Besos Calientes (blanco tequila, fresh lime, EO grapefruit cordial, habanero shrub and garnished with pink peppercorns and charred rosemary), and the drinks will have locally sourced ingredients.
Take the opportunity to join the tipple trailblazers’ interactive mixology masterclass. It will cover the four major spirits (whiskey, brandy, rum and gin) along with the history of the American cocktail. Reservations are not required.
If you can’t make it to the three-day pop-up, you can still sample Employees Only’s talents. The bartenders will leave a cocktail inspired by Hawaii’s tropical flair and island setting on the Botero Lounge menu as a parting gift.
The Restaurant at Meadowood at Ojai Valley Inn
September’s Glass Fire engulfed 67,484 acres in Napa and Sonoma, including The Restaurant at Meadowood. It burned down the esteemed Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley. But the foodie favorite beloved for its imaginative dishes and artistry is rising from the ashes with a winter pop-up at Ojai Valley Inn.
“While planned well before the Glass Fire that devastated The Restaurant at Meadowood, our time in Ojai will serve as an opportunity for the TRAM team to continue to cook and work together,” says Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow. “We look forward to crafting menus that encompass the divergent terroir of the valleys of Napa and Ojai, and to sharing our work with a new audience.”
The Restaurant at Meadowood Winter Residency will take place January 6 to February 28, 2021, at The Farmhouse, a 30,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor culinary facility that debuted in 2019.
Kostow and his team will offer a taste of The Restaurant at Meadowood’s bucket-list-worthy parade of plates at Ojai with six courses spotlighting California ingredients that thrive in winter. The produce was sourced from The Restaurant’s own 3.5-acre farm as well as artisans and growers in Napa and Ojai. The meal will be accompanied by wines from Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and the Central Coast. The intimate but socially distant dinners will occur Wednesdays to Sundays.
“This culinary residency is very special for our team as the design inspiration for The Farmhouse began with a trip to Meadowood, where we met with chef Kostow and architects Howard Backen and Silvia Nobili to develop the Farmhouse concept,” says Chris Kandziora, general manager of Ojai Valley Inn. “It is an honor to welcome The Restaurant at Meadowood and provide a place for their team to continue their culinary brilliance as they plan to rebuild.”
Atelier Crenn at Montage Los Cabos
To celebrate renowned San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn’s 10th anniversary, co-owner and master chef Dominique Crenn will come to Montage Los Cabos for Casa Crenn, a one-of-a-kind intimate pop-up.
The epicurean event kicks off June 15 and unfolds across six days with a series of dinners, cocktail parties and other delicious activities. Crenn will be joined by Atelier Crenn chef pâtissier Juan Contreras (who was born in Mexico) and Montage Los Cabos’ executive chef Xavier Salomon, along with only 16 guests in one of the hotel’s luxurious Casa villas.
The highlight will be the 10-course menu of Five-Star Atelier Crenn’s signature French dishes using local Baja ingredients along with wine pairings. During the cozy dinner, there will be plenty of opportunities to mingle with Crenn and the other chefs. You will leave with a signed copy of the menu and an autographed apron.
Casa Crenn is the latest offering from Los Cabos hotel to help build its reputation as a culinary destination. Montage launched a similar series in 2019 — one event drew a slate of Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and the other featured Southeast Asian American chefs — but this is the first that focuses on a single toque.