The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2018

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Page 36 of 96

36  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2018 Associate Editor Mara Marski is The Tasting Panel's resident bartender. PHOTO: DUSTIN DOWNING W hen I was invited to a recent tasting debuting new menus at the Hilton Garden Inn in Burbank, a voice in the back of my mind said, "Pshhh, a hotel F&B program—why would I give up my night for that?" But then I thought about NoMad . . . and the Freehand . . . and The Savoy. Suddenly, this subconscious prejudice seemed not just irrational, but downright silly. Some of the world's most celebrated bars and restaurants can currently be found in hotels, so what was the reasoning behind my kneejerk dismissal? While a meal or stay at the aforementioned establishments is very much a luxury for most, many of us have a wealth of undesirable memories gleaned from staying in hotels. I'm personally scarred by flashbacks to family excur- sions where uninspired room service was our last dire food option—or busi- ness trips where a lack of time or transportation made me feel like a hostage in my own hotel room. I suppose I'm fairly representative of a modern-millennial professional, and I realized my own harsh impressions of hotel food and beverage are, ironi- cally enough, likely part of the catalyst behind the Hilton Garden Inn refresh. So, I RSVPed. The event itself was jovial: part cocktail party, part stylish small-plates smorgasbord, and part cooking demonstration from the brand's celebrity- chef partner, Dan Churchill. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, trepidation overtook me on my walk to the bar. "This was a mistake," I thought, regretting the drink I hadn't yet ordered. But then . . . it wasn't. The team behind the bar was warm and attentive, the menu was full of fresh ingredients and brands I enjoy, and the cocktails were well-mixed and balanced. (I even watched the bartender muddle a medley of fresh berries into a Mojito made with fresh juice, pebble ice, and plenty of verdant mint.) The food was similarly surprising, with dishes ranging from American comfort classics like burgers and fries to internationally inspired plates like Korean bao street tacos. "We're in the midst of a culinary renaissance, and today's travelers are eager for bold offerings that go beyond the expected," John Greenleaf, the Global Head of Hilton Garden Inn, told us during the event. I can't help but agree: With the proliferation of Yelp, the Food Network, and social media in recent years, thoughtful F&B isn't just a necessity—it's a cultural zeitgeist. Many of us have stood by and watched as our industry undergoes a revolu- tion, but it's refreshing and reassuring to see just how far the push for well-considered menus, ingredients, and service has spread. The newest additions to the bar menu at Hilton Garden Inns nationwide were chosen by a poll that received more than 250,000 votes. Among the finalists is the Cherry Blossom with Hornitos Reposado Tequila, lime juice, grapefruit, and grenadine. PHOTO COURTESY OF HILTON GARDEN INN Inn Genius AN EVENING AT THE BURBANK HILTON GARDEN INN EMBODIES THE RISE OF CAREFULLY CONSIDERED FOOD AND BEVERAGE IN HOTELS

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