When having amazing meals is at the top of your vacation agenda, consider this handful of hotel restaurants throughout the Americas. More than hotels with nice rooms and impressive menus, these resorts offer immersive culinary experiences, the kinds of places where you’ll bump into the chef coming back from the garden with the day’s bounty – or where you could help harvest that bounty yourself.
This list was excerpted from Travel Anywhere (and avoid being a tourist), the new book from Jeralyn Gerba and Pavia Rosati, the founders of the travel website Fathom. In addition to the chapter The World’s Best Escapes for Foodies, the inspiring and useful book covers such timely travel themes as wellness, voluntourism, and getting off-grid. But now, to the food.
THE WILLOWS INN
Lummi Island, Washington State, U.S.A.
For a culinary experience worth going to the ends of the earth for (or at least the ends of the contiguous U.S.), head to this remote, 10-square-mile island off the coast of Washington, where James Beard Award–winning chef and Noma alum Blaine Wetzel has created a forage-focused fine dining experience. Wetzel, a Washington native, uses only hyper-local ingredients harvested or sourced on the island, resulting in a menu firmly rooted in its terroir. The dishes may sound simple, but they’re exquisite in their invariable freshness, meticulous preparation, and striking presentation. Book a cozy room in the main inn or rent one of the spacious guesthouses, several of which are beachfront.
House specialty: The 22-course tasting menu changes seasonally, with highlights including toasted kale leaves, herbed tostada, and spot prawns in rhubarb ceviche.
Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, U.S.A.
This six-building, 27-room hotel is situated on 60 acres, including a 25-acre organic farm, in Serenbe, a relatively new, progressive, sustainable community on the outskirts of Atlanta that locavores love for its charming, very affordable country-retreat feel. The focus is on regional cuisine – using locally grown, organic ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden as well as from Serenbe Farms – which can be sampled in everything from afternoon tea and evening sweets to the full country breakfast, all of which are included in the stay. Chef Brian Moll lives down the road and is known to forage while walking to work at the community’s acclaimed restaurant, The Farmhouse.
House specialty: It’s the South, so you shouldn’t go home without trying the Farmhouse fried chicken, Carolina Gold rice risotto, and bourbon pecan pie.
Walland, Tennessee, U.S.A.
Beautiful rooms. Great spa. Breathtaking Smoky Mountain scenery. Fantastic farm-to-fancy table cuisine. Regular celebrity chef appearances. And tastings galore (both wine and whiskey). It’s the only farm in the U.S. where you’re likely to find Italian truffle dogs sniffing under the oak trees and Alice Waters hanging around out back. The retreat is known for its epicurean workshops, daily cooking demonstrations, and wine events, as well as the Farmstead Field School, where guests can take classes like gardening with a master during their stay. Their latest project is Blackberry Mountain, is a hotel where the stay is as magical and special as the farm’s cuisine.
House specialty: Almost everything – from the cheese, meat, and beer to the mushrooms, blackberries, and ramps – is made or plucked on site. Exceptions include the bacon, which is sourced from the South’s best artisanal purveyor, Allan Benton, just down the road.
Millahue Valley, Chile
A wine connoisseur’s dream, Alex and Carrie Vik’s secluded luxury hotel revolves around the 11,000-acre vineyard where some of the country’s finest wines are being produced. Revel in one of 22 light-filled rooms or in the cantilevered, panoramic pool or in the spa, where treatments incorporate ingredients taken from the terroir. Enlist one of the wonderful huasos (horsemen) for a bespoke tour of the vineyards, attend a barbecue among the vines, and pair house wines with gastronomic treats at the contemporary, art-inflected Milla Milla restaurant. A cast of local characters provides the best-of-the-best raw ingredients – figs, tomatoes, sea salt sourced from the local 400-year-old salt farm Los Cisnes – and tell the full story of the destination.
House specialty: Slow-cooked lamb shanks, Chilean eel, and wild boar served a la plancha in an unfussy family-style setting.
In this remote, rural Uruguayan village, world-renowned Argentine chef Francis Mallmann – a man as famous for creating an empire around natural, open-air grilling as he is for his eccentric culinary persona – decided to open a hotel and restaurant. Like any Mallmann venture, it brings the heat. Menu items like “bread on the coals” and “burnt fruits” are a testament to his particular style of cooking, in which fire – the earth oven, grill, and fire stoves in the kitchen all burn wood – is used to bring out the strongest and most natural flavors in every ingredient. The hotel, in what used to be Garzón’s general store, resembles a quaint, provincial country home. And, yes, every room has its own fireplace, too.
House specialty: The ribeye with chimichurri and domino potatoes, tomato, and scallion on the
coals. This is cowboy country, after all.