I love to cook, under certain circumstances. Circumstances that I find hard to duplicate in my California bungalow kitchen. These include but are not limited to: ingredients prepped by a professional chef. Said professional chef on the scene offering instructions and light banter. Six or so friends to cook with, someone else to do the dishes, fast and loose high-end wine-tastings while sautéing the prawns, landscaped gardens outside the window, and a spa within walking distance in case the whole procedure becomes too sweaty and hard.
So I don’t cook that much. But I’m lucky enough to work at Stash, and have the inside track on resorts and hotels set up to provide exactly this and other great food experiences, like a pop-up gelato stand on a hot Chicago summer day, or a traditional salmon potlatch a few feet from Puget Sound. Here are a few favorites.
Stonehurst Place, Atlanta GA. I triple-dare you to scroll through Stonehurst Place’s Facebook page and not immediately eat something. It’s an endless and shameless parade of the kind of food that we’ve almost forgotten in places like Northern California, what with all the kale we’re subjected to: salted caramel banana French toast, scones emerging from the oven, and fluffy chocolate ricotta pancakes, all made every morning by Innkeeper Lori. Foodie Bonus: Honey for the scones comes from the inn’s own bees.
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley PA. Cooking demos, wine tastings, wild edibles walks: this is a gourmet destination resort deep in the forest—and it happens to be one of the top spas in the world, according to our friends over at Condé Nast Traveler. This is it! The Lodge at Woodloch is my fantasy world of cooking, sipping wine, and firm-but-fair massage treatments by the Olympic athletes of massage therapists to work out the kinks after all that knife work. So happy. Foodie Bonus: Tree Restaurant’s chefs share recipes.
Hotel Max, Seattle WA. Miller’s Guild is packed with Seattle locals onto a great thing: a custom-made wood fired grill, upon which is grilled unbelievably good prime rib and locally caught seafood. It’s near the Stash Seattle office, so please know you may find Stash team members losing their dignity over mountainous bowls of prawns. Foodie Bonus: Spirits for the critical pre-grill cocktail are house-finished in oak casks suspended above the bar.
Hidden Pond, Kennebukport ME. Earth’s Chef Ken Oringer is a James Beard Award winner, the food is mostly organic and lots of it comes from their garden. The chandelier over the bar is an upside down apple tree with little lights suspended in the branches – breathtakingly beautiful. Foodie bonus: You can have a private dinner in the incredibly cute Potting Shed and feel like Peter Rabbit on a date (don’t think about that too much).
Hotel Ändra, Seattle WA. Legendary Seattle Chef Tom Douglas is taking time out from coconut cream pie eating contests to open a cooking school at the hotel: The Hot Stove Society. Foodie Bonus: On the schedule—DADS AND DUCKS (capitalization theirs, they’re excited). Dads will learn to cook duck confit and look good in a jumpsuit.
The Strand Hotel, New York, NY. Our best advice for a wonderful New York night: grab a corner booth and order Coriander Crusted Lamb Rack, then proceed past the vintage Condé Nast prints to the elevator and emerge on the rooftop for after dinner drinks with the Empire State Building watching over you. Foodie Bonus: The Strand Bistro Chef Jason Tilman underwent the culinary equivalent of Navy Seal training, working with Iron Chef Morimoto and David Burke before racking up Best New Restaurant Awards for venues he opened solo.
Napa River Inn, Napa CA. One minute in Napa when you’re not within arm’s reach of good food is just … un-Napa-ish. At Napa River Inn the day starts with a basket of goodies from Sweetie Pies Bakery delivered to your door. Once fortified, start wine tasting about 20 feet from the front door at the Napa General Store. Foodie Bonus: Plan your day of eating: stop by excellent restaurants Angèle and Celadon (in the same historic building) early in the day to find out what the evening specials are.
Hotel Veritas, Cambridge, MA. Harvard Square has so much to offer—real bookshops, chocolatiers, and lots and lots of passers-by who go to Harvard. One might want a drink, and some good food, for strength. The Simple Truth Lounge at Hotel Veritas fortifies with cheeses and charcuterie from local farms and liquors from boutique distilleries. Foodie Bonus: Celebrate repeal and order an old fashioned made with bourbon from Berkshire Mountain Distillers, the Berkshire’s first legal distillery since prohibition.
Hotel 43, Boise ID. Chandlers is everything we want in a steakhouse: deep leather booths, Kumomoto oysters flown in daily, great steak, and a hint of machismo in the air—ask Rex Chandler about the time he waited on John Wayne. It’s an optimal spot for entertaining clients or a “my goodness, that was a long day” after-work treat for yourself. Foodie Bonus: The wine list includes hard-to-find Idaho wines, and the ten-minute martini is so good it inspires lyric prose: “The gin and vermouth are there but no longer there”.
Tower 23, San Diego CA. Beach dining at its best, JRDN serves tasty west coast fare against a living backdrop of rollerbladers on Pacific Beach boardwalk, ocean waves, sunset, and surfers coming in from their evening paddles. Dig into a Pacific stone crab claw with aioli, pair with the house margarita and ocean air. Foodie Bonus: All the seafood is from sustainable sources.
The Essex Resort & Spa, Essex VT. We know people who would eat Junction’s mushroom ravioli in black truffle sauce for lunch and dinner, if they weren’t watching their waistlines. But the restaurant is only half the story: the Cook Academy offers classes in pasta making for families (translation: tiny hands in flour and eggs, and no clean up for you!), Vermont wine and chocolate tours, and Saturday night bonfires with s’mores. Foodie Bonus: Say hi to the chickens on the back lawn: they supplied your eggs for breakfast.