Merry and Bright Holiday Hotel Meals
Story by Jill Gleeson
When you and yours crave delicious holidays, options abound! While you might choose to prepare a festive meal and even pour some exceptional spirits at home, you might also treat yourself to a getaway to another city or dine out locally to avoid the muss and fuss of the kitchen. But where to go on a day when nearly every restaurant is shuttered? Across the country, several of the finest hotels offer special celebrations and holiday-themed feasts. Why leave sugarplums dancing in your head when you can savor the season in splendid foodie style?
The Peninsula Chicago
This opulent hotel celebrates the holiday in spectacular fashion, with events including gingerbread decorating classes led by the Peninsula’s pastry team, an ugly Christmas sweater party (December 13, at Z Bar), and even skating on a rooftop ice rink decorated to the hilt with pine trees and snowflake lights. Special room packages are available through December 31, all the better to enjoy pleasures like daily Holiday Afternoon Tea and the Children’s Holiday Tea with Mrs. Claus, available weekends.
The Peninsula Chicago is also offering a five-course prix fixe Christmas Eve dinner in The Lobby, with dishes like Royal Ossetra caviar, winter truffle celeriac salad, Hudson Valley foie gras torchon with ginger bread and kumquat, an entrée choice of either Japanese Kobe beef or herb oil confit John Dory, and The Lobby’s famous chocolate bar for dessert.
According to Martin Rahn, the property’s food and beverage executive assistant manager, brunch the next day is just magical: “Christmas Brunch at The Lobby is a wonderful tradition that many of our guests have made part of their annual holiday celebration. The extensive buffet includes a wide range of offerings from the traditional turkey and ham dishes to luxe truffle and caviar stations. The décor throughout the hotel is quite magnificent, including a 20-foot Christmas tree in the center of The Lobby, setting a magical atmosphere for all ages.”
Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel, Portland
Boasting a laid-back yet luxurious lodge vibe, Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel is tucked alongside Portland’s Willamette River. The holidays are a particularly special time to visit this waterside property. “Whether you’re cozied up on our front porch rocking chairs or dining at King Tide with its floor-to-ceiling windows, one of my favorite traditions is watching the Christmas Ship parades,” says Whitney Brown, general manager. “Several times a week in December, owners deck out their boats in holiday lights and cruise down the river. We also make our guest programming more festive during the winter season, including adding holiday items to our surprise-and-delight Bedtime Butler deliveries, afternoon hot cocoa stations, and extra blankets for our outdoor spaces and fireplace suites.”
The King Tide Fish & Shell restaurant inside Kimpton RiverPlace features a Christmas Eve prix fixe dinner option with seasonal flair. Optional wine pairings are available to complement dishes like spiced duck breast with caramelized fennel puree, turnip, compressed apple, and duck jus, as well as dark chocolate cremeux with cocoa shortbread and peppermint snow. Chef Lauro Romero is also serving a limited regular menu on Christmas Eve that will include plenty of the restaurant’s lauded seafood items.
The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond
One of the country’s grandest historic hotels, The Jefferson is legendary for its exquisite holiday decorations. Twenty five trees, thousands of twinkling lights, as many yards of garland, and dozens of poinsettias bedazzle the opulent property, which was built in 1895. Live musical performances are held in the Palm Court or Rotunda throughout December, and special holiday room packages are available. Lemaire, the Jefferson’s lauded fine dining restaurant, serves a celebratory Christmas Day dinner.
Chef Patrick Willis will present Lemaire’s regular à la carte menu, including favorites like oven roasted rockfish with farro verde, roasted sweet potato, brussel sprouts, and citrus butter as well as butternut squash soup with cornbread, walnut and raisin relish. Willis will also offer a yet-to-be-determined array of special holiday dishes.
“Christmas dinner at The Jefferson is a tradition for many,” says Willis. “We honor that by creating holiday-inspired specials featuring the local, seasonal ingredients that are always represented on our à la carte menu at an elevated level. Great wines, exceptional service, and a festive atmosphere are also part of the tradition.”
The sleek, hip Thompson Seattle opened three years ago just a couple blocks from the iconic Pike Place Market. Along with its ideal location and design by Seattle’s celebrated architecture firm Olson Kundig, the hotel has been generating plenty of talk with its restaurant Conversation, which opened in March of this year. The kitchen has been known to plate a whole pig’s head, but Christmas Day brunch at the hotel will be a less intense affair, with menu goodies like hanger steak, breakfast potatoes, two eggs any style, choice of toast, sautéed peppers and onions, steak demi, and poached halibut with seasonal vegetables and lemon beurre blanc.
The hotel’s “12 Days of Thompson” holiday lineup boasts refined seasonal fun. “Wine x Art” is a pop-up at Conversation on December 9 that offers a chance to browse fine art while sipping vino. “Champagne and Cookie Decorating” on December 15 at Conversation includes a flight of Moet Imperial Brut, Veuve Yellow Label, Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, and Veuve Rosé. “Martinis and Mistletoe” features premium martini specials on December 19 at The Nest, the hotel’s rooftop bar.
Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel
Housed in one of the city’s most beloved historic buildings, the Renaissance also boasts what is arguably Pittsburgh’s most stunning view: straight across the mighty Allegheny River, over the Three Sisters bridges, to the Pirates’ ballfield, PNC Park. In winter, when seasonal lights and snow drape the city, the Revival-style Renaissance building, which was completed in 1906, is even lovelier than usual with holiday decorations.
Special Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals prepared by Chef Nick Saxon at the hotel’s Braddock’s Pittsburgh Brasserie include “prime rib that has been filled with garlic, rubbed with herbs and seasonings, then slow roasted for hours upon hours,” he says. “The rack of lamb is carved so delicately and infused with an essence of mint oil. The fillets are carved from halibut that was pulled out of the cold waters from Alaska a few days prior. The Amish chickens are brined in pink salt and brown sugar for a day, tenderizing the meat so that every piece is just as juicy and flavorful as the last. The holiday menus at the Pittsburgh Renaissance are as special to me as they are to the guests we serve.”
Plan A Trip
The Peninsula Chicago
108 E Superior St.
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel
1510 SW Harbor Way
Portland, Oregon 97201
The Jefferson Hotel
101 West Franklin St.
Richmond, Virginia 23220
110 Stewart St
Seattle, Washington 98101
Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel
107 6th Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222
Jill Gleeson is a memorist and travel journalist living in the Appalachians of central Pennsylvania. Find her at gleesonreboots.com.