Meeting planners are moving past the traditional mixology class breakout session to create the next wave of culinary breakouts. From immersive pimento cheese making in Charleston, to whisky distillery tastings in Texas, below are 12 culinary breakout experiences that enable groups to immerse themselves in local culture.
Pimento Cheese Making: French Quarter Inn, a comfortably-upscale boutique hotel where old world charm meets authentic southern hospitality, offers groups the chance to enjoy something genuinely southern – Pimento Cheese. During the hotel’s Pimento Cheese Making Class, groups can learn how to make the South’s favorite spread step-by-step while enjoying a glass of red or white wine.
Urban Beekeeping: Last fall, New York Hilton Midtown welcomed 450,000 bees to their 16,000-square-foot green rooftop, which harvest approximately 300 pounds of honey annually. The honey will enhance the new banquet menu and groups can book one-on-one beekeeping experiences with fourth-generation beekeeper Andrew Coté.
Private Bourbon Tastings: Buffalo Trace, one of America's oldest continuously operating distilleries located in Lexington, KY, is not only well-known for its Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey but also for its distinct architecture and beautiful gardens. Capable of hosting up to 350 people for meetings and events, the distillery offers personalized tours and tastings for groups looking to add something special to their meeting experience.
Apple Pie Classes: Conveniently located on Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park, the newly renovated Hilton Chicago boasts more than 234,000 square feet of meetings space. For groups, the property features an interactive apple pie making class where guests are led through a 30-minute process of making a pie and learn details about the dish’s history. Guests can learn about the hotel’s iconic history, having housed every president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush and hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, by taking a private tour of the newly launched historic corridor.
The Art of Afternoon Tea: At the English-inspired Deer Path Inn, groups can learn the time-honored tradition of afternoon tea from the inn’s expert staff (the innkeeper spent two weeks in England to better understand innkeeping). During this interactive breakout, groups will learn how to host their own English afternoon tea while being treated to a delicious spread of petit fours, finger sandwiches and hand-selected teas from the Deer Path Inn’s Master of Tea.
Southern Wine & Cheese: In partnership with famed local cheese shop Goat.Sheep.Cow., groups staying at the HarbourView Inn can enjoy an interactive wine and cheese pairing class on the hotel’s private waterfront rooftop terrace as a breakout session during meetings. Complete with a sommelier and cheese monger, guests will learn about the evolution of cheesemaking in the South while tasting local varieties of goats, sheep and cows milk cheeses.
Whiskey Distillery Tour in Fort Worth, TX: Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., maker of the award-winning TX Whiskey and TX Straight Bourbon, recently opened “Whiskey Ranch,” a 112-acre whiskey wonderland that sits on a fully-functioning historic golf course and is considered to be the largest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi. The ranch offers ample outdoor space for larger gatherings complete with panoramic views of downtown Fort Worth, plus a private meeting room with a drop-down crystal chandelier and a glass-encased wall collection of TX Whiskey. Immersive experiences include distillery tours and whiskey tastings ideal for breakout groups.
Big Easy Culinary: Steps from the French Quarter, Hilton New Orleans Riverside recently introduced culinary classes in the new Lagniappe29 private meetings space on the 29th floor, for groups to interact with the chef and learn the art of beignet making while overlooking the Mississippi River. As the beignets cook, attendees are treated to wine and hors d'oeuvres while enjoying the breathtaking panoramic views. Additional classes for groups include Hurricane mixology classes at Public Belt bar and lounge and demonstrations making Drago’s Restaurant’s signature charbroiled oysters drenched in butter and cheese for a true Big Easy culinary experience.
Historic Madeira Tastings: When booking a meeting at DC luxury hotel The Jefferson, corporate professionals can indulge in a sip of history with tastings of coveted 297-year-old 1720 Madeira – the wine used by the hotel’s namesake to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Hosted in the Private Wine Cellar and an homage to the former president’s passion for wine, the cellar includes the country’s largest Madeira collection. Commonly used for pre-dinner drinks, post-meeting breakouts or executive sessions, meeting attendees can draw inspiration from the historic drink and the cellar’s ambiance as they move forward with high-level decisions.
Local Craft Beer Flights: Groups looking for an immersive, boozy breakout experience can do so at the historic Andrew Pinckney Inn in Charleston, South Carolina and get a taste of the Lowcountry’s local craft beer scene. Between sessions on the hotel’s private rooftop terrace, travelers can embark on tours of famed microbreweries like Holy City Brewing, Palmetto Brewing Company and Revelry Brewing, sip on craft beer flights and enjoy educational demos on how beer is made in the South.
Culinary Bash at Meraki: Tucked away in the heart of Downtown Miami, Meraki Greek Bistro recently unveiled an exclusive lounge ‘Saloni’ above the restaurant. Located near Miami’s financial district, co-owners Alex Karavias and executive chef Giannis Kotsos allow executives and employees to rent out the lounge and host meetings with a culinary twist. Guests can customize a pre-fixe menu with authentic Hellenic recipes and rounding out the meetings with Greek rich wines and unique beers. The lounge allows employees to have a relaxed environment to allow creative ideas to flow naturally, as it offers 1970's peacock wicker chairs and swing chairs suspended from the ceiling. It is the ultimate nighttime version of Greece at dark, offering privacy with flair.