Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Deliciously Healthy at The Plaza

Lunch at The Plaza Hotel
Honestly? It was the luncheon invitation of my dreams.

It asked me to join other New York City-based meetings industry magazine editors at The Plaza Hotel for a three-course meal introducing Fairmont Hotels & Resorts new Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menus.

It wasn't just that the luncheon was held at the hotel's gorgeous Palm Court, where Eloise dined under the crystal chandeliers. Or that the meal was prepared under the direction of Executive Chef Willis Loughhead, whose previous experience includes opening a restaurant named by Conde Nast Traveler as the "Best New Hotel Restaurant in the World" and a fine-dining restaurant at MOMA.

It was also that, as a gluten-free diner, I didn't have to do anything at all to make sure that I could safely eat lunch. Nor did I have to work at appearing not to mind as I was dished up something less delicious than was served to everyone else. Two weeks later and I'm still swooning over Loughhead's grilled watermelon and watercress salad, served with crab and a pistachio vinaigrette, the Tunisian lamb meatballs, and a perfect round of macadamia nut cheesecake, prepared by pastry chef Jasmina Bojic.

And that is the whole point of Lifestyle Cuisine Plus, Loughhead said. To erase any stigma or sense of deprivation that comes from, not just dining gluten free, but living with conditions including diabetes and heart disease, or simply from preferring to follow heart-healthy, vegan, raw, or macrobiotic diets.

The new menus, which will be rolled out in Fairmont properties across the globe, are in response to requests by guests who were looking for healthy options while traveling, said Fairmont spokesperson Sarah Evans. The menus will be available in hotel restaurants, as well as for banquets and other plated meeting functions, she  said.

Fairmont chefs were trained by nutritional advisors, and use local food products; chefs are sharing their creations with one another through a database of recipes.

It was fun Loughhead said, to come up with dietary-restricted dishes that anyone would want to order and eat, not just those with no other choices -- particularly at a place like the Plaza, which was once the "Kingdom of Butter." In the new menus, textures, taste, and flavors still reign. "The point was to make a menu that was approachable for everybody," he said, "and then sneak in the fact [that dishes] were  vegan, raw, macrobiotic, diabetic-friendly and celiac-friendly."


Emilie Barta said...

What an amazing advancement in the culinary field! I applaud Fairmont for not only being considerate of people with food allergies, but actually planning menu items specifically for them. Hopefully gone are the days of a grilled chicken breast and lettuce for gluten-free business travelers!

Jacqui Sullivan, CMP said...

So happy to hear that Fairmont has taken this important step. I have been disappointed with hotels moving towards pre-packaged food in the last few years! This is a great change back to the way things should be... I hope these new menu options are going to find their way to banquet menues as well. As a meeting professional I like to be able to offer good choices to attendees.

Cathy Walker said...

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