The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2014

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1 18 / the tasting panel / march 2014 HOT PROPERTY W hen the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort reopened in March 2013 after a two-year, $85 million expansion, the staff had an overarching goal for guests. "We want to provide an authentic experience and create these 'wow moments' where guests engage with the ocean," explains Director of Resort Marketing Alayna Oram. To that end, the 1350-acre, 404-room Florida resort highlights its natural environment, and uses al fresco seating and windows to keep the ocean the focal point. Even the rooms' "back porch"–style, west-facing balconies have been preserved—a nod to the time, says Managing Director Donald Stamets, when residents would pull their chairs out back to watch the setting sun. "We hope guests experience a sense of relaxed, eclectic comfort here." The food and beverage options decidedly add to the resort's appeal. Executive Chef Daven Wardynski oversees and collaborates with chefs at the nine restaurants—each with its own kitchen and menu. "We embrace the island and its ecological impact, using indigenous and organic ingredients to keep a connection to our food." He harvested a local alligator for a recent event; he can also be found on his bike foraging for chanterelles around the resort, and carving driftwood for deviled egg platters. Wardynski also works closely with Director of Food and Beverage Chris Walling, whom he calls very motivated. For his part, Walling strives to keep the beverage program simple and replicable by using just a few ingredients that are of the highest quality. The culinary focus of signature restaurant Verandah is seafood, includ- ing Low Country oyster chowder, Floridian fish muddle and grouper with blue crab crust. Verandah has the resort's most extensive wine list, with fish-friendly whites and reds (including an "Interesting" section for each). Nurturing Nature HE REVAMPED OMNI AMELIA ISLAND PLANTATION RESORT KEEPS ITS FOOD AND BEVERAGE FOCUS ROOTED IN INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS AND AUTHENTIC TECHNIQUE by Kelly A. Magyarics Director of Food and Beverage Chris Walling. PHOTO COURTESY OF OMNI HOTELS Seaglass, the resort's lounge, overlooks the Atlantic.

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