These days, it’s standard fare for chefs to use local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible. Some take pride in creating on-the-fly menus using whatever is available at the farmer’s market that morning. Others wax poetic about greenery plucked from their own home gardens or foraged from their restaurant’s surroundings. Now, some high-end hotels are upping the ante and giving you some true insight to the roots of their food — by offering educational foraging experiences with the hotel’s executive chefs and lead bartenders. We’ve picked five that have caught our attention of late.
In fall 2014, this 1,600-acre resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya unveiled a 20,000-square-foot alfresco culinary and dining area. La Ceiba Garden & Kitchen features more than 45 types of organic vegetation, ranging from passion fruit and guava to chiles, Zapote wood (a rare wood ideal for smoking fish), Mayan herbs, spices and tropical native trees. Guests at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel are invited to seek out their own food, participate in tastings and cooking demos, and enjoy meals together at the 18-seat communal table. With the debut of the garden also comes the launch of Rosewood Mayakoba’s Sense of Taste program, cooking classes that will give you some understanding into the deep culinary traditions of the Riviera Maya. In addition, you can visit nearby farms and artisans (such as a family-owned tortilla factory and a local bee farm).
This beautifully refurbished Renaissance villa is located in the Tuscan hills of Fiesole, just outside of Florence. Go truffle tracking across the grounds of Il Salviatino’s 12.5 acres, led by expert truffle hunter Giulio Benuzzi and his shaggy dog Eda. After learning about the different varieties of truffles and how Benuzzi trains his dogs to find them, the group will embark on a two-hour search. Afterward, he teaches techniques for cleaning, maintenance and cooking before the class enjoys a tasting menu with offerings as unique as truffle ice cream.
The Carneros Inn
At Four-Star Carneros Inn, a resort in the heart of Napa Valley, forage for your own herbs, fruits and flowers in the on-site garden, overseen by executive chef Steven Tevere, then bring them back to the bar for a lesson from the head bartender on how to create a signature seasonal cocktail using the extremely fresh ingredients. One of the most unexpected discoveries is a quail egg, which is scooped up and used in a whiskey cocktail named The Carnivore. This curated drink adventure is just one of the culinary experiences offered by the Inn, whose three restaurants rely heavily on the bounty around the campus.
The Listel Hotel
Vancouver‘s eco-friendly and artsy property provides a Forage in the City package, which includes a Foraging & Preserving Essentials welcome gift (a basket filled with items like preserves and a foraging guide/cookbook), a two-hour rainforest walk and edible food identification tour with executive chef Chris Whittaker. The promotion also comes with a private preserving workshop where you will learn to make mustard and jam, not to mention daily breakfast and a 10-course seasonal tasting menu at the perfectly named Forage, giving you a chance to sample the kitchen’s nose-to-tail, waste-free options.
At this Five-Star private Adirondack estate on the edge of New York’s Upper Saranac Lake, you are in for quite the glamping experience, as indicated by the finely crafted, native timber log mansions found on the property. You are also given the opportunity to look around for food in the lush land with executive chef Loic Leperlier. In the spring and summer, you might gather ingredients like fiddlehead ferns and morels across the 75-acre property, before joining Leperlier in the kitchen to prepare dinner.