Hotels around the U.S. are moving away from traditional Thanksgiving feasts and shifting toward alternatives such as healthy meals, “Friendsgiving” packages and to-go options.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Not every person wants a traditional Thanksgiving meal made at home, which is why hotels around the United States have come up with their own spin for the holiday.
At the Stanford Inn in Mendocino, California, staff serve up a plant-based feast on Thanksgiving, which curbs the over-stuffed feeling, allowing active guests to still be active afterwards, Jeff Stanford, founder of the eco-resort, said.
“We’ve got people that walk around at night … and they hang out in the lobby, and it is very festive because they (aren’t) wiped out from the food.”
The vegan menu at the Stanford Inn, which consists of almond-encrusted tofu, pan stuffing with a chestnut base, mashed potatoes and more, is fairly easy to prep the day before the feast because many of the items can be put in the freezer, he said.
“The good part about that is we can encrust the tofu and freeze it, and that actually gives it a better consistency,” Stanford said, “So it is easy to do that dish, particularity when you are doing three times the amount of dinners you usually do.”
The plant-based dinner at the resort has been gaining popularity over the years because more people want a healthier Thanksgiving option, he said. The hotel had 105 people on the books for the meal as of about a week ago, but Stanford said he’s not sure how the turnout will be this year because of travel fears around the California wildfires. He added that the fires do not affect his hotel, as “they are 200 miles away.”
“On a good night,” he said, his team will prepare on average 30 to 40 dinners. He said the hotel is smaller, with only 41 guestrooms in a rural area, but on Thanksgiving he anticipates they will “do up to about four times” the average.
Everything served for the Thanksgiving meal at the resort is organic, Stanford said. One challenge for the feast this year is getting locally-grown chanterelles for the mushroom polenta, which “should be coming out by then,” he said, but there hasn’t been any rain for them to grow. If they don’t come up, the hotel will “get them wherever they are growing,” he said.
Select hotels under the Tribute Portfolio: The Wick in Hudson, New York; La Posada Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Noelle in Nashville will be offering “Friendsgiving” packages this year, which consists of an overnight stay, a communal-style dinner, board games and cocktails.
Jennifer Connell, VP of brand marketing and management for Tribute Portfolio hotels, said via email that this is the first year the package will be offered at the hotels selected.
“While all Tribute Portfolio hotels celebrate the spirit of comradery in creative communities around the country, these particular locations embody the spirit of Friendsgiving in a special way,” she said. “Hudson, Santa Fe and Nashville are particular melting pots with locals from different places, so we wanted to give them a way to celebrate the holidays with friends at our hotels.”
The goal of the “Friendsgiving” package is to “bring a sense of community to our hotels, whether among locals or friends and family traveling together,” she said.
Aside from this package, Connell said hotels across the portfolio will offer different Thanksgiving experiences to guests.
“With 28 hotels opened and growing, Tribute Portfolio is a collection of independent hotels—so offerings at each property will vary,” she said. “A few Tribute Portfolio hotels have done—and are planning on doing—traditional Thanksgiving meals this year, namely our newest hotel, The Alida, in Savannah, Georgia.”
Salt & Char, the steakhouse restaurant at The Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York, is whipping up oven-ready Thanksgiving to-go meals, which are available for pickup on Thanksgiving or the day before.
David Burke, culinary director at The Adelphi Hotel and Salt & Char, said this is the second year the hotel has offered this option. Last year, the restaurant served nearly three dozen to-go dinners to local residents, he said via email.
On top of the to-go meals, the hotel also hosts a more high-end three-course meal at The Blue Hen restaurant on property.
“For our Salt & Char Thanksgiving dinner, we allow customers to pick up their meal the day before or before noon on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “This helps us spread the required preparation in order to meet the two rushes of demand. Obviously, we are extremely busy on Thanksgiving Day, but having pickup that day in the morning assists in managing both the dinner and to-go orders.”
Brainstorming for items on the Thanksgiving to-go menu take place a few months before the holiday, Burke said.
“It’s a fairly traditional gourmet Thanksgiving dinner consisting of a turkey and popular sides and desserts that everyone at the table will love,” he said. “We worked out a lot of the kinks last year, and this year, the menu was settled on without too much pre-planning. Many of our guests who have placed orders are repeat customers who were extremely pleased with how their meals turned out last year.”
Burke said the to-go options allow the hotel to introduce its food to new and returning guests.
“A lot of people want to be around their table in their own home with family and friends, but just want to leave the cooking up to the experts, and in the case of our restaurant, why wouldn’t you want to impress your guests with our food? Joking aside, customers who serve our Thanksgiving to-go menu are essentially introducing us to a broad spectrum of guests who hadn’t known about us before.”