It’s a best kept secret that Florida’s culinary scene is about as hot as its beaches. The Sunshine State has again kept pace with the National Restaurant Association’s top culinary trends, many taking root in local hotels and resorts. Here are a few of our top picks for groups.
Hyperlocal & Hands-On
The Spanish architectural influences of Miami’s Biltmore hotel are an experience in itself. Barrel-vaulted ceilings boast hand-painted frescos, with vivid travertine floors, marble columns and lavish gardens reminiscent of a Spanish castle or Venetian palazzo. And this is just the lobby. The hotel’s ambience has made it a popular spot for corporate groups, who actually meet in the lobby for an elaborate afternoon tea experience. Muscatel Grape, South Africa Rooibos & Honey bush, Linden & Safflowers and other varieties of tea are complemented by finger sandwiches, scones drenched in clotted cream and preserves, and the angelic melodies of a live harpist.
The hotel’s culinary theme extends to an on-site Culinary Academy, where after a day of culinary boot camp, groups of various skill levels can work together to complete a haute hors d’oeuvres menu during a customized teambuilding experience. The event is actually a bit of a hybrid, offering a fun atmosphere of cooking, cocktails and devouring—think avocado shrimp ceviche and bacon wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese. Private classes for up to 10 can also be arranged, with instruction ranging from sushi rolling to top South Florida flavors.
You Know It’s All About the Breaks, Bout the Breaks…
As a fresh twist for a meeting break, the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa and Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa have also created several Florida–inspired themes. Among them, the Florida Citrus Break includes lemon pound cake, grapefruit mint salad, orange panna cotta, mini key lime tarts and lemon cheesecake bites, topped off with Florida orange and grapefruit spritzers. The Island Time Break is a mix of sweet and salty, with custard flan, cinnamon churros, tropical fruit skewers, guacamole with crispy tortilla chips and seafood salad puffs. Either way, it’s hard not to be inspired by sweet indulgences in the Sunshine State.
2 for 1s
Groups meeting at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa can step into the modern-day world of ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus during a culinary ‘theatre’ experience dedicated to open discussion on a range of topics—from cultural trends to the art of mixology and cooking techniques. Classes on whiskey making, tea blending, food pairing, sustainable winemaking and a study in Spanish Terrier have all taken place here in the past for groups of up to 40. All classes are recorded and shown in the theatre space on two 70-inch TVs.
The Epicurean’s culinary trail leads all the way to Evangeline, the hotel’s spa, where fresh fruit scrubs, botanical massages and other treatments are paired with champagne and sweet treats. To illustrate, this past December, the pièce de resistance was ‘small plate samplers’ that included indulgences like Peppermint Mojito Mistle Toes Foot & Leg Massage, Candy Cane Champagne and Gingerbread MANcure Pedis with chocolate, champagne and a farm fresh stocking stuffer.
Cook Your Catch
All that is needed to go scalloping is a mask, snorkel and fins, and that pretty much sums up why this seasonal activity is so popular for groups staying at Plantation on Crystal River, a luxury resort hotel on Florida’s Nature Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel’s scalloping program plunges groups into life on Crystal River; floating through the shallow grass flats of the Gulf, the 30-40 bright blue eyes of the scallop and its fan-shaped shell are easy to spot, but hard to catch.
For groups that are quick enough, the hotel offers a “cook your catch” program where a chef prepares the scallops as part of a bigger meal. Of course, the excitement for many is just the thrill of the catch—releasing the little buggers back into the wild is often the preferred action.