A weekend at a destination hotel lets you pretend you have a perfectly appointed country estate with a staff. You can forage in the garden, play a set or two of tennis, get a massage—and never shop for a hot water heater or clean a gutter. One of the very best reasons to indulge in the fantasy of having a staffed country house? You rarely need to set foot in the kitchen.
Innkeepers across the United States have mined the ranks of James Beard Foundation–winners and Michelin star–holders to hire some of the best, most innovative, and well-regarded chefs in the country to head their kitchens. As a result, some of our favorite destination resorts are paired with some of our favorite chefs. Here are five places to explore that tasty combination.
Book Now: From $1,895/night, blackberryfarm.com
When chef Cassidee Dabney arrived at Blackberry Farm in 2010, the Tennessee property leveled up her culinary inspiration. The “farm” in the name is not simply poetic: A sizable portion of the rolling 4,200 acres is set aside for a farmstead that includes livestock, orchards, and gardens that supply the inn with most of its produce, from spring ramps to a late-summer crop of tomatoes to winter-hardy squashes, root vegetables, and crucifers.
Dabney, who had worked in the kitchens of other luxury resorts, quickly rose to executive chef as she mastered and expanded upon the resort’s signature Foothills Cuisine. This seasonal, hyperlocal style of cooking pairs Southern traditions—such as preserving meat with smoke and vegetables with pickling—with classical French techniques, resulting in dishes like quail bound in country ham before roasting and served with a side of bitter chicory and hollandaise.
In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there are daily activities that center around taste. The garden, a short stroll uphill from the Blackberry Farm’s Barn restaurant, is overseen by a staff headed by master gardener John Coykendall, not only a gifted storyteller but also a collector and sower of heirloom seeds. Guests can partake in classes, tours, and demonstrations at the garden’s Field School, led by Coykendall and his fellow gardeners.
The award-winning wine department, headed by VP of Food and Beverage Andy Chabot, offers daily wine and whiskey tastings and instruction on pairings with seasonal foods. These diversions—as well as the extraordinary beauty of the foothills and the extensive music and arts programming—bring guests closer to understanding the appeal of Blackberry Farm. But the appreciation will never be keener than when seated at the Barn for one of chef Dabney’s legendary evening meals.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Book Now: From $300/night, expedia.com
Albuquerque, once considered the bland but necessary gateway to Santa Fe, has been gaining a reputation for food (and we don’t mean Los Pollos Hermanos). Much of that buzz emanates from Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, a small boutique property in the middle of a working organic farm and lavender fields just outside town.
Jonathan Perno, executive chef at Campo, the inn’s restaurant, is a standout in the crowded field of Southwestern cuisine, perennially nominated for James Beard Foundation Awards. His menus reflect the season and the produce from the fields outside, as well as the treasures delivered from other farms and purveyors he’s cultivated relationships with in the Rio Grande River Valley. Regional items on the menu include blue corn from New Mexico pueblos, organic mountain lamb raised on native grasses, and an array of cheeses from Tucumcari.
Campo, which operates in a converted dairy barn, feels simultaneously vintage and ultramodern: an open kitchen, high ceilings, large windows, beautiful at dinner service and at brunch. Los Poblanos itself is a historic ranch house with additions made in the 1930s by a wealthy family with the remarkable good sense to hire architect John Gaw Meem for the house and Rose Greely to design the gardens.
Meem was responsible for popularizing the territorial revival style in the Southwest, employing architectural practices used in the region for centuries, with elements cribbed from the pueblos of Native Americans, the missions of Spanish padres, the more angular buildings of Anglo settlers, and a touch of classical Greek revival.
The style (which now can be seen in bastardized ubiquity at every strip mall in New Mexico) is at its zenith at Los Poblanos, with wood-beam ceilings, slightly raked roofs instead of traditional flat pueblo roofs, and a central courtyard between porticos or portales. The property was a place of progress even from the 1930s, hiring WPA artists to create murals; opening a cultural center for conferences, concerts, and lectures; and undertaking radical experiments in farming.
Guest accommodations are filled with handmade furniture, artwork, and serious charm. Meem rooms, in the main building, are decorated in the style of John Gaw Meem, with corner fireplaces and hand plastered walls. Farm rooms, with a design based on the dairy outbuildings, have wood floors, four-poster beds, fireplaces, and big windows.
The newest additions, Field rooms, are situated out by the lavender fields and are also designed in the style of the dairy buildings. Guests can indulge in spa treatments (lavender in everything, of course), take bike rides and hikes, tour the fields and greenhouses, play bocce or swim, or take a fitness class in the on-site wellness yurt. Alternately, they can sit on their room’s portale and wait for the next meal.
Mayflower Inn & Spa
Book Now: From $1,274/night, expedia.com
If the only part of Connecticut you have seen is adjacent to I-95, it’s time to go deeper. Take the off-ramp and find a New England of stone walls, spectacular old barns, and winding lanes, a vibe that reaches its crescendo in Litchfield County. The local landscape is the Yankee ideal—you almost expect to see a sharply dressed young Katharine Hepburn walking briskly with a leatherbound book under her arm. (Because the area’s only 2.5 hours from Manhattan, you may actually see some celebrities here, and maybe some ghosts, but no guarantees of celebrity Yankee ghosts.)
Against that backdrop, the Mayflower Inn & Spa grandly rests, a boarding school that was bought and converted to an inn in 1920 by a former student. In 2018, luxury hotel group Auberge Resorts took the reins and brought in interior designer Celerie Kemble to reinforce the “new” in Mayflower’s New England vibe. Four-poster beds, gleaming wood floors, and chintz remain, but you’ll note an energy and wit to the handmade furniture, artwork, and color combinations. Auberge also imported the Well, a bespoke New York spa that combines Eastern and Western sensibilities.
The other recent import? April Bloomfield, the renowned British chef who rose to fame through the kitchens of London’s River Café and New York’s the Spotted Pig, John Dory Oyster Bar, and the Breslin. Chef Bloomfield arrived at the Mayflower Inn during the pandemic to take part in a new residency for notable chefs. She quickly forged relationships with local farmers and purveyors (the prosperous northwest Connecticut region traffics in all manner of good taste) and began to shape menus that served the appetites of the ascetic-minded spagoers as well as the guests there to indulge in the inn’s two restaurants, the casual Tap Room and the fine dining venue, the Garden Room.
Fans of Bloomfield’s time at the Breslin and the Spotted Pig will be pleased to see the deviled eggs have made the trip to the Tap Room menu, alongside country pâté served with a seasonal chutney. Depending on the time of year, the more veg-focused Garden Room may offer a pickled celery encased in a tempura crust for starters with a main course of a duck breast in smoked broth, alongside a wine-poached pear.
Chef Bloomfield also oversaw an expansion of the property’s kitchen garden, which inspired another collaboration—this one with luxury champagne house Veuve Clicquot. Throughout 2022, Bloomfield’s Garden Gastronomy series will showcase at-peak ingredients from the kitchen garden by pairing them with Veuve’s most recent vintage, La Grande Dame 2012.
Inn at Little Washington
Book Now: From $561/night, theinnatlittlewashington.com
The Inn at Little Washington is a destination resort with a fervent following that counts the days until their next stay. Guests often eagerly compare how many times they’ve visited, and how many birthdays and anniversaries they’ve celebrated at this extraordinary property. The main building of the inn, once a gas station, has been transformed into a fantasy realm of refinement and quirky humor.
Patrick O’Connell, proprietor and chef, has earned three Michelin stars and five honors from the James Beard Foundation, and he was among the first American hosts to be wooed and won by Relais & Châteaux. And yet, for all the expert technique and inventive menus, dinner at the Inn involves some theatrical magic, too. Maybe your waiter will appear in the crisp vestments of an altar boy, trailed by a benevolent papal chef. Maybe, in adherence to pandemic protocols, the next table will be occupied by mannequins. Maybe the cheese course will arrive at your table on the back of a plastic cow.
That magic extends to the 23 beautifully appointed guest rooms, too. The Inn purchased several buildings in town, so in addition to 11 rooms in the main building, there are other accommodations in the surrounding cottages and houses. Expect custom furniture and antiques, freestanding tubs, fresh flowers, terraces, fainting couches, tassels, fringe, and valances—the decor is definitely maximalist, unified by layer upon layer of almost-clashing patterns. And yet, it’s all balanced and tasteful, if a bit eccentric.
The Inn’s 24-acre property encompasses several gardens and a farm. Guests spend time wandering the grounds, visiting the antique stores and art galleries along the village’s main street, riding bikes, and slowing down to small-town speed. Stays include a welcome cocktail, daily breakfast, and midafternoon tea, as well as a guaranteed reservation at dinner. You may want to book a return visit as you’re checking out.
Book Now: From $75/night, tablethotels.com
If you trace the origin story of Portland cool, there was a disruption in the force when the historic Clyde Hotel became the Ace Hotel in 2007. From there, steady bands of hipness rippled outward, spreading Portland trends across the continent. Thousands of Portland parodies notwithstanding, the great taste and sense of fun of the people who created the buzz cannot be denied. Which is where the Suttle Lodge comes in. Backed by the Mighty Union, a loose confederation of several successful Portland hospitality professionals, the Lodge is the idealized lakehouse.
It’s vintage: a careful refresh of the last of the lodges that have stood here since the 1920s. It’s rustic: sitting pretty on the shore of pristine Suttle Lake in central Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest. It’s comfortable: views of the lake and the woods from guest rooms and porches, fireplaces for cool nights, conversational clumps of furniture in the main lodge. With its custom Pendleton blankets and timbered craftsman architecture, it’s a more minimal, fir-scented version of a Wes Anderson Pacific Northwest lake house.
Sound good? It gets better. The delicious food, with a menu designed by Portland chef and author Joshua McFadden, is served throughout the property, from the Boat House to the Skip Bar. Nothing is overly fancy (dinner entrees top out at $24 for a flatiron steak), but everything is delicious, from the pancakes at breakfast, flatbread pizza with local mushrooms and herbed ricotta at lunch, right up through aforementioned steak, perfectly seared, at dinner.
The drink menu, overseen by Sean Hoard, another star of the Portland scene, changes with the seasons but always offers Willamette Valley wines, PNW-brewed beers, and cocktails with decidedly outdoorsy flavors, like this winter’s Table Sled, in which a blend of bourbon, amaro, and lime Demerara sugar is further charged by the essence of Douglas fir buds.
The year-round hotel has a busy “happenings” calendar of events and regularly scheduled live music. Guests can stay in a variety of rooms at a variety of price points: spacious lodge rooms, stand-alone cabins (some with full kitchens, grills on the front porch, fireplaces, and sleeping lofts), and a clutch of Scout camp–style individual rustic cabins with shared bathrooms and redwood picnic tables under the pines, just begging for a game of cribbage. Warm days are spent hiking, kayaking, and swimming in the lake, and in winter, snowshoeing, skiing at nearby Hoodoo, and reading by the fire with a craft cocktail.