In the past, the Tampa Bay region hasn’t been high on a foodie’s travel bucket list.
Sure, there are some tasty Cuban sandwiches in Tampa and fresh groper in restaurants along the Gulf of Mexico, but cutting-edge culinary trends haven’t surfaced here – until now.
The entire concept of the Epicurean Hotel, a $US35 million ($A38.01 million), 137-room hotel that opened recently, revolves around food.
There’s an 80-seat restaurant, patisserie, culinary theatre, wine store, rooftop bar and cooking classes in a theatre that resembles a Food Network set. While a holiday centred around food is nothing new in California’s Napa wine country, rustic Vermont or romantic Tuscany, it’s a fresh idea in Florida.
The personal pantries in guest rooms are stocked with gourmet goodies, including chocolate and sea-salt caramels, prosciutto, goat cheese and bottles of wine – including a handout that explains which wines go best with each snack.
The decor is also food-themed. Paintings of fruit grace the walls, cookbooks line bookshelves in the lobby and pillows on the hotel beds depict utensils. An 2.5-metre high knife and fork rest in a corner and in a hallway, two vertical, living herb gardens are a lush addition.
Even the hotel’s employees have dubbed themselves “Epicureans” and feel they have a culinary responsibility.
“They are lovers of food and wine and will curate the experience for our guests,” says Joe Collier, president of Mainsail Lodging and Development Group.
The Tampa-based Mainsail partnered with the owner of the city’s best-known restaurant – Bern’s Steak House – to develop the boutique Epicurean hotel. Bern’s is across the street from The Epicurean, and Collier says he expects guests to eat at the restaurant, drink at the hotel’s bar, sleep at the hotel, then enjoy other food-related activities the following day.
Bern’s, which was opened in Tampa in 1956 by Bern Laxer and is now owned by his son, David Laxer, boasts one of the largest wine lists of any restaurant in the world. TV chef Rachel Ray named it the best steak house in the United States, and Wine Spectator Magazine has given it a “Grand Award” every year since 1981.
The restaurant’s expertise in wine will be shared across the street in the hotel, where a wine and spirits store is nestled on the first floor. It’s next to the culinary theatre, which has a calendar of events ranging from “The Universe of Krug Champagne” to “Tea and Chocolate Pairing”.
“Education and culinary growth have always been a big part of my family,” says Laxer.
Classes aren’t only for hotel guests, and neither is the rooftop bar, with its views of downtown Tampa.
The Epicurean is part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, and has a ballroom and space for weddings or business meetings. Room prices range from $US200-$US300 a night.
The patisserie will be open by mid-January, the spa will do business by the beginning of February, and a lavish grand opening party with celebrity chef Norman Van Aiken is scheduled for January 17-19.
IF YOU GO
Epicurean Hotel: 1207 South Howard Ave, Tampa, Florida, epicureanhotel广西桑拿,