There’s something wonderful about a great hotel cookbook. The modern hotel was originally born of combining public dining rooms with lodging facilities, and the chefs, restaurants, and sometimes recipes born from these luxury hotels have become legends in their own right. Sachertorte was made famous at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, the Bloody Mary/Red Snapper at the St. Regis in New York City, and few if any can forget the legendary dining rooms at the Ritz in Paris and the Carlton in London launched into the stratosphere by famed restaurateur Auguste Escoffier.
Hotel cookbooks have been around for years, and offer an interesting glimpse into global gastronomic diversity and culinary history. The 1982 Sheraton World Cookbook is a fine example that harkens back to a more formal hotel and heavier style of cooking, featuring decadent appetizers such as avocado-and-cashew tempura appetizers, representative dishes from Sheraton (and some then-Sheraton) dining rooms around the world, and the famed Palace Court Salad from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Independent in 1982, Sheraton is now part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and many of the formerly Sheraton branded properties such as the Palace Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian are now flagged under The Luxury Collection, Starwood’s collection of independently branded properties around the world. True to tradition, The Luxury Collection has unveiled a new cookbook featuring recipes from properties around the world, available in limited numbers from luxury publisher Assouline.
Epicurean Journeys is a collection of recipes from chefs such as Jose Andres, Geoffrey Zakarian, Stephanie Le Quellec, Daniele Turco, Manjit Gill, and many others. The book is sold both on its own and now in a limited edition Holiday 2014 set with a collection of five custom-created spice blends created by Lior Lev Sercarz, owner of La Boîte in New York City. The spice blends come in travel-inspired themes that reflect the worldwide destinations of The Luxury Collection properties.
“Like The Luxury Collection, spice blending is all about storytelling; so I was thrilled to create a collection of custom spices that bring treasured travel memories to life for global travelers, without having to leave the kitchen,” says Lior Lev Secarz. “Each of the blends is inspired by the explorers that played a pivotal role in the history of the spice trade – transporting new flavors to curious palates and paving the way for travelers to dream of faraway places.”
The spice blends are appropriately named after explorers in celebration of the books overall theme of worldwide travel and discovery. ‘Marco’, a blend of sumac, wild thyme, and sesame, is named for Marco Polo, and celebrates the explorer’s voyage through the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean. ‘Magellan’ is a blend of cumin, turmeric, and chili flakes, after one of the first and most prolific Western explorers in the Asia-Pacific region who ostensibly introduced Western Civilization to the spice and flavor of the East. ‘Colombo” is a blend of fragrant wild herbs including oregano, thyme, and red chilis reminiscent of Latin America and named after Christopher Columbus. ‘Vasco’ pays tribute to da Gama’s voyage that “opened the wealth of India, bringing together allspice, ginger, and cinnamon, marrying sweet and savory in intricate and mysterious ways”. Finally, ‘Veneti” is a tribute to Venice, blending European grey salt with the citrus of Italy and hot Basque Espelette peppers.
The book’s 159 pages open with an essay on the experience of food as a sort of travel highlighter at The Luxury Collection properties, written by Joshua David Stein, restaurant critic for The New York Observer. Stein has also written about fashion, food, travel, and style for a diverse range of publications, including Vice, where his oeuvre takes the form of food-based erotica with works such as An Erotic Encounter with an Egg Sandwich. In the introduction to Epicurean Journeys, Stein waxes characteristically poetic about dining and travel, and the three page read is nothing less than intoxicating. Several global travelers also feature in interludes between recipes throughout the book. Model Elettra Wiedemann shares her thoughts on the joy of cooking simply, food critic Ruth Reichl reminisces about New York City’s immigrant-woven culinary heritage, and chefs from several The Luxury Collection properties reminisce about their most memorable meals and first cookbooks.
The recipes are certainly exotic. From a Peshawari Samosa with Chai Ice Cream from Grosvenor House in Dubai to a Thai Banana Blossom Salad from Vana Belle in Koh Samui, there’s definitely an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. However, it’s understood that the book was written for home cooks, so would-be culinarians who might have difficulty procuring the guinea pig tenderloins for a recipe from Peru’s Tambo Del Inka can substitute more easily-gotten-in-Portland-or-Peoria rabbit tenderloins instead.
The book retails for $45. Retail sales of the Epicurean Journeys limited edition set (which includes the spices) for $150 begin in November from The Luxury Collection shop or directly from Assouline boutiques. With stunning photographs of hotels and dishes from around the world, the book is a great gift for buffs of both travel and cooking.
Presented here is a recipe excerpt from the book (with a somewhat comforting continuity from the 1982 Sheraton World Cookbook) courtesy of The Luxury Collection:
San Francisco, California, USA
Garden Court Crab Salad
The Palace Crab Salad has been on our menu for decades. While the recipe has evolved over the years, it continues to be the favorite item on the Garden Court menu. It truly represents the Palace and everything we are committed to offering our guests: locally sourced, sustainable products that are indigenous to San Francisco—literally found right in our own backyard. The updated presentation and farm-fresh ingredients bring innovation to the historic recipe while still honoring tradition. That balance is signature to the Palace Hotel culinary experience.
For the Dessing:
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
¼ cup tarragon, chopped
2 cups salad oil
For the Salad:
2 oz seasonal lettuces
½ oz crème fraîche
5 ½ oz Dungeness crabmeat, picked over for shells
1 cucumber ribbon
2 ½ cherry tomatoes
A few thin slices red bell pepper
5 Blue Lake beans, blanched
Make the dressing: Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Turn on the processor and slowly add the oil.
Make the salad: Toss the lettuce with a small amount of the dressing until well coated.
Mix the crème fraiche with the crabmeat. Wrap the mixture tightly with the cucumber ribbon.
Pile the lettuce on the plate and garnish with the avocado, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, and Blue Lake beans.
Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California) or Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet (Côte de Beaune, France).