Loews goes for the local angle

The Fountain of Youth cocktail at the Strong Water Tavern at Universal Orlando, Sapphire Falls Resort.
The Fountain of Youth cocktail at the Strong Water Tavern at Universal Orlando, Sapphire Falls Resort.

As the farm-to-table movement continues to be one of the culinary world's most enduring trends, hotels both big and small are embracing it. Boutique hotels, most notably those located on farmland or in cities with deeply rooted culinary traditions, were first to incorporate events showcasing local farmers, food artisans, brewers and distillers.

First, restaurants rewrote their menus to highlight specific producers or farms where chefs and beverage managers source inventory or ingredients. Another permutation came in the form of pairing dinners that combine the efforts of chefs and producers in a behind-the-scenes look at the farm-to-table movement. Some hotels might even have incorporated food-focused experiences into their packages, like visits to the local farmers market or tours of a vineyard or brewery.

Now, larger hotel brands are getting into the act, too. In 2017, Loews Hotels made it a priority to give guests a taste of local flavor by incorporating products and ingredients from the area into their on-site restaurant menus. The initiative was called Flavor by Loews, and the first Florida properties to take part in the program were located in Miami. Now, the Loews-branded hotels at Universal Orlando Resort have introduced the program.

The idea behind Flavor by Loews, according to the initiative's website, is "being able to sample from some of the best local restaurants, breweries and artisans in town, all without having to step outside your hotel." At the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, all restaurants on site include Florida craft beers on tap. Azucar Ice Cream, a fan-favorite "scoop shop" on Little Havana's Calle Ocho, pops up regularly at the property's coffeeshop.

"The concept worked so well at the Miami properties, that we wanted to do the same in Orlando to show off our exploding local food scene at the Universal Orlando resorts," said Jennifer Hodges, director of public relations for the Loews hotels at Universal Orlando Resort. The Loews-Universal Orlando partnership portfolio includes Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and the upcoming Universal's Aventura Hotel opening in August. "We've found that when guests come to a destination, they want food to be a part of their travel experience, and want to eat like a local. We're making that happen through this program."

A recent press event showcasing the partnerships of Loews hotel restaurants with local food artisans was held in conjunction with one of the area's largest and most well-established food and wine events, the quarterly Harbor Nights at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.

At Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, guests can sample fifty flavors of gelato from Tampa's Duomo Gelato at the gelateria on Harbor Piazza.

At the Loews Portofino Bay, guests can sample Central Florida bakery Olde Hearth Bread Co.'s handmade breads at Sal's Market & Deli, 50 flavors of gelato from Tampa's Duomo Gelato at the gelateria on Harbor Piazza and fruit-infused hard ciders from West Palm Beach's Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks at most of the hotel's restaurants and bars.

At the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Jake's American Bar serves four beers from Winter Garden's Crooked Can Brewing. Orlando apiary Webb's Honey is featured in many sauces and dressings at Jake's as well as at Islands Dining Room. Kissimmee River Mushrooms are featured in select dishes at Islands Dining Room and Bula Bar & Grille.

Guests can taste the Caribbean by way of Florida at Loews' newest portfolio addition at Universal Orlando, the Sapphire Falls Resort. Sebastian's Pure Produce, a family-owned hydroponic farm, is partnered with Amatista Cookhouse, Strong Water Tavern and Drhum Club Kantine. St. Augustine Distillery provides rum for the Fountain of Youth cocktail at Strong Water Tavern. And Avon Park's heritage pork from Palmetto Creek Farm is featured in menu items throughout the hotel's restaurants.

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