When you think of a resort experience, your mental picture probably includes a picturesque landscape, play-all-day amenities, luxurious guest rooms, and sought-after meeting space.
Resorts also offer exquisitely unique culinary creations. Whether behind the bar or in the kitchen, resorts across the South have perfected the art of creative and delicious food and beverage.
Playing to their strengths
Many resort restaurants develop signature menu items by playing to their strengths. For example, Fripp Island Resort on Harbor Island, S.C., is in a large shrimping community. Naturally, shrimp plays a strong role on their menu, from entrees like their Low Country boil to their shrimp and grits. Another local product is crab, and it plays a large role as well: The resort’s crab soup is one of its most popular offerings.
Hollywood Beach Marriott in Hollywood, Fla., is a beautiful beachside destination, and it plays up coastal cuisine as well. One of its more unique—and popular—offerings is firecracker shrimp. “We use large shrimp and combine it with chili aioli, scallions, and herbs, and it’s incredible,” said Hollywood Beach Marriott regional director of sales and marketing Steven Klein. “It’s not too spicy, but it has a nice little kick. It’s really good.”
And at the beach, who doesn’t love a good burger? While it may not be the most unique menu offering, the chefs at Hollywood Beach Marriott have put together their special recipe for serving up everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure with the ‘beachside burger.’
“It all starts with good quality beef, and it can even be topped off with a sunny side egg,” Klein added. “It’s definitely one of our most ordered items on the menu.”
One-of-a-kind culinary experiences
While many resorts are offering creative menu items, North Georgia’s Chateau Elan is looking to offer the ultimate culinary experience. Starting this month, the resort will be hosting Dining Under the Stars, an ultra-exclusive dinner. Available only on weekends, Dining Under the Stars includes a private table set up in its onsite vineyards. The dinner includes a prix fixe menu from its onsite upscale chophouse Marc Restaurant, and each course has its own wine pairing.
“If you’re looking for the crème de la crème experience, this is it,” said marketing director Drew Mailloux. “It’s literally an amazing dinner set up just for you in the most beautiful surrounding imaginable.”
Creating with the times
Resort chefs have been forced to think of new ways to provide showstopping food while also keeping with must-have health and safety standards. To keep some of their most popular culinary options available, one route The King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort has taken is to change the way groups can include food stations. In the past, food stations for items like salad, seafood, grits, pasta, and even carving meats were often self-serve at the St. Simons Island, Ga. resort. Now, each one has its own server.
“Groups have always loved these stations, so they have always been very popular for us,” said director of sales and marketing Bud St. Pierre. “We changed the way they are served, which has allowed us to keep them, and it has worked out really well.”
As with many resorts, a major focus for the Hollywood Beach Marriott is room service. In order to maintain that offering during the pandemic, room service became more of a to-go option to minimize potential contamination in guest rooms, said Klein.
“Guests order their food like normal, but instead of it being delivered, the guest picks up their food in the restaurant,” he said. “It was really important for us to keep that service going, and while we had to limit the menu for a while in order to expedite food, we just went back to our full menu.”
The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa also had to review its procedures during the pandemic to decide on the safest approach possible, practically rewriting its entire menu last March.
“We utilized this challenge as an opportunity to be more creative,” said hotel food and beverage director Michael Herzog. “It made sense to us to make individual portions to eliminate multiple guests from using the same utensils.”
With their new approach came unique twists on old favorites. Instead of salad bars, they began serving salad jars. Popular breads and spreads were changed to individual jar servings as well. Other popular offerings include the bronzed shrimp and grits, served individually in martini glasses, as well as the ever-requested black truffle risotto, also served individually in a glass.
The unique culinary creations of these resorts go well beyond food: Cocktails have gotten some new spins as well. The Grand Hotel takes great pride in their custom twists on old classics that play to the resort’s unique history and surroundings. For example, its 1847 cocktail uses honey from the bees roaming the resort’s property and mint from the estate garden. With the smoked old-fashioned cocktail, the bartenders craft a new take on an old classic by adding Applewood smoke to the traditional flavors of the old fashioned.
Situated on St. Simons Island, Ga., The King & Prince Resort plays up its Southern roots in its cocktails as well. The resort’s take on an old fashioned is the pecan old fashioned, which incorporates pecan simple syrup.
“Georgia is the largest pecan producing state in the country, so it’s a delicious nod to that,” St. Pierre said.
Not wanting to leave the Georgia peach off of its cocktail menu, the resort also features the Isla de Ballenas, a peach gin fizz. “We also have another unique creation, the Coquina,” St. Pierre added. “It’s a southern Georgia-style daiquiri served with the juice of loquats, which are a subtropical fruit native to Georgia.”
Keeping its French inspiration in mind, this summer Chateau Elan will be showcasing new cocktails in the Versailles Restaurant & Bar that are all themed around French places and products. “Niche French products will be included in these new cocktails, and we’re really excited about it,” said Mailloux. “We’re putting the finishing touches on them now.”
The Hollywood Beach Marriott is known for beach cocktails like the Independence—a frozen red, white, and blue three-layer cocktail—but is now getting in on the craft beer scene. The beachside resort has two craft beers brewed just for them: the Broadwalk Tangerine Wheat and the Intracoastal IPA.
“We carry other craft beers from various breweries, especially those in Florida, but these two brewed for us are two of our biggest sellers,” said Klein. “We’re excited to partner with a craft brewery to offer our guests something they can’t get anywhere else.”