Chef John Mooney and I climbed six floors of steps to the roof of his Manhattan restaurant, Bell, Book, and Candle, where for 10 months of the year he grows vegetables and herbs on his rooftop hydroponic vertical farm. He plucked a small Sunburst tomato from the vine, added a fresh-picked basil leaf to it, and handed them to me to taste. The burst of flavor I experienced is what guests enjoy at a growing number of urban and suburban hotels that have onsite “microfarms” only steps from their kitchens.
Chefs at these “agrihotels” plan their menus according to what is growing in the garden, where some or most of the hotel’s produce is harvested moments before it appears on the plate. And for those who dream of digging into the soil, some properties invite guests to harvest part of the day’s meal.
8 Farm-to-Table Hotel Restaurants
Palmer House Hilton — Chicago, Illinois
Executive Chef Stephen Henry designs seasonal American cuisine that’s about as local as it gets at Lockwood, housed in one of Chicago’s most historic hotels, the Palmer House Hilton. Twenty-five floors above the hotel’s stunning gilded lobby, a rooftop garden and apiary provide honey, fresh herbs, and vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, greens, carrots, beets, heirloom beans, chiles, tomatillos, okra, cucumbers, herbs and over 15 varieties of edible flowers. The famous hotel may be 147 years old, but about 30 percent of the restaurant’s ingredients are harvested that same day.
Crosby Street Hotel — New York City, New York
On the once disused 12th floor rooftop of New York City’s chic Crosby Street Hotel, four Araucana chickens produce pale blue eggs in a Tudor-style coop with a view. These chicks have great digs right next to the hotel’s verdant private fruit and vegetable garden. Managed by head chef Anthony Paris, the garden supplies the hotel restaurant with fresh, seasonal produce including melons, blueberries, tomatoes, herbs, and of course, eggs.
Congress Hall Hotel — Cape May, New Jersey
Having once adopted the moniker, “Lima Bean Capital of the World,” Cape May, New Jersey is home to America’s oldest seaside resort, Congress Hall. With produce sourced from the hotel’s own farm, the resort is appropriately located in the Garden State.
The seaside resort celebrated its bicentennial in 2016, after having been leveled twice by fire damage. Back in the hotel’s early days, before refrigeration and modern transportation, it served only locally-farmed food, not to be trendy, but because in those days it was too costly to import. The hotel owns and operates the nearby 62-acre Beach Plum Farm and two of its sister farms, which supply the resort year round with fresh produce, Berkshire pork, chicken, eggs, herbs, honey, and flowers.
Grand Lakes Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott — Orlando, Florida
Two luxury hotels, the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Lakes and JW Marriott Orlando Grand Lakes, not only share the sprawling 500-acre Grande Lakes Orlando estate but also source their produce from Whisper Creek Farm, the property’s own 7,000-square-foot fruit and vegetable garden. The farm grows cucumbers, acorn squash, collard greens, avocado, mango, sweet potatoes, herbs, pumpkins, and features eighteen seven-foot citrus trees, including tangerine, kaffir lime, and kumquat. Whisper Creek’s resident bees manage the pollination for the farm from its apiary, while its PRIMO Organic Garden, a smaller raised-bed garden, produces herbs and produce for the PRIMO Restaurant at JW Marriott Orlando.
The Ritz-Carlton — Naples, Florida
In a repurposed shipping container called “The Grow House,” the Ritz-Carlton, Naples farms its own greens onsite using an automated hydroponic vertical growing system. The hotel’s 44-foot indoor farm harvests a large portion of the greens served in its restaurants, including romaine lettuce, cilantro, arugula, spinach, cabbage and assorted micro-greens.
Terranea Resort — Palos Verdes, California
Sip one of the herb-infused cocktails at the resort’s Lobby Bar and you will get a taste of what’s growing in the Terranea Resort’s own gardens. Fresh herbs and vegetables grow in the mar’sel garden just steps from the kitchen. Consider booking a room when you can partake in one of the resort’s bi-monthly Chef’s Table Dinners, intimate “farm-to Terranea” meals featuring fruits and vegetables grown at their nearby Catalina View Gardens.
Woodstock Inn and Resort — Woodstock, Vermont
At the resort’s own Kelly Way Gardens, about a mile down the road, chefs work with the Master Gardener to select the freshly-grown ingredients that become part of the fare served up at the Woodstock Inn. For a special culinary experience, guests can enjoy one of the resort’s Kitchen Garden Dinners, dining amidst their dinner’s ingredients. Grown by the Master Gardner and selected by the Executive Chef, this is a veritable Vermont farm-to-table meal, al fresco, accompanied by a healthy serving of stargazing.
The Ritz-Carlton — Charlotte, North Carolina
One floor below The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte’s succulent-painted green roof, organic micro-greens and vegetables grow year-round in The Urban Cultivator, a self-contained interior greenhouse on the hotel’s 18th floor. Up on the vegetated roof, an apiary is home to 100,000 seasonal bees who pollinate the chef’s rooftop vegetable and herb garden and also provide chemical-free raw honey for the hotel’s signature Honey Pecan Gelato. Guests can stop by the farmers market in the lobby to avail themselves of the freshly picked greens from both the rooftop and indoor gardens.
The Ritz’s green efforts extend outside into the community as well. In the front driveway, a free-standing Community Garden provides complimentary herbs, fruits, and vegetables for the public to enjoy, and locals come to pick herbs and veggies on the way home to their own kitchens.
Feature image courtesy of Eddie Kopp, Unsplash