John O' Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, May 16, 2013
The horse meat scandal caused consternation for those of us who discovered that, all this time, our lasagne was equine, not bovine, but it has also provoked wider examination of what we eat. Luxury retreats are expected to serve quality produce, but a growing number are now going further to ensure their guests can be confident of provenance. One trend is for customers to be served “hyper-local” food, another for them to procure the ingredients for their meals themselves.
Manhattan is an unlikely source for fresh, natural produce, but guests at the mid-range Nyma hotel can book a foraging tour led by “Wildman” Steve Brill. The naturalist guides visitors through New York’s green spaces in search of edible bark, berries and leaves. More upscale New York addresses are getting in on the trend too. Renowned local restaurant Daniel, for example, occasionally serves dishes made with wild pine needles. In Florence, guests at Villa La Massa can join the hotel’s trifolau and his truffle-hunting dog in search of the elusive tartufo bianco (white truffle). At The Sarojin, Thailand, residents who book the “catch, cook and dine” package can fish for snapper using a traditional line, before being taught about local cuisine by the resort’s executive chef.
Does that all sound like too much effort? It may be sufficiently reassuring to know that your chosen destination has its own farm. In Turkey, the Dionysos Estate hotel sources its wine, olive oil, fruit and vegetables from an organic farm just up the mountain. Chickens and turkeys are kept at the Mazagan Beach Resort in Morocco, which also has a small farm space with vegetable beds. In central Toronto, meanwhile, the Fairmont Royal York has developed a rooftop garden with six beehives housing 350,000 honeybees. Closer to home, London’s St Ermin’s Hotel in St. James’s Park keeps its own bees and their honey is used at breakfast and in the hotel bar’s cocktails.
The resident wildlife at El Encanto in California is more approachable. The property’s cow Ellie provides the milk used to make the hotel’s cheese. Somewhat more bizarrely, Biohotel Stanglwirt in Austria is famed for its Cow Barn restaurant. Here diners can tuck in to fresh-as-can-be Austrian specialities in a mostly traditional restaurant, while being observed through a metal grill by cows in the adjacent cowshed. The hotel’s website shows a laughing couple joyfully feeding a well-behaved calf, but in other places it’s inadvisable to build a bond with nearby livestock.
The cute Javan rusa deer found on the Domaine de Bel Ombre estate in Mauritius often end up directly on the dining table. Come culling season, they’re slaughtered and served in the estate’s two five-star resorts, Heritage Le Telfair and Heritage Awali. Anyone with an appetite for butchery, however, can join a cooking class, called “A pig in a day”, at Alila Ubud in Bali. Participants learn how to divide a pig into five cuts, before making chorizo, bacon, sausages and ham from the carcass.