By foraging you can find dinner in your own backyard. (Photo: Getty Images)
Move over wild boars. There’s a new set of hunters on the prowl: hotel guests.
With the obsession for local products reaching epic proportions, just about everyone is seeking new ways to up their food-sourcing game.
Culinary activities that were once confined to cooking classes in hotel kitchens are now heading outdoors. Today, hotels lead guests out to traverse craggy ocean rocks in search of seaweed, scale mountains to pick the wildest berries, and tromp through rainforests looking for edible moss.
Often assisting with the adventures are local foragers, who function as culinary stylists, of sorts, to some of the world’s best hotel chefs.
Why the sudden obsession with foraging?
“It’s about economics, health and the environment,” explains Alan Muskat, founder of the foraging excursion company No Taste Like Home, which works with hotels in Asheville, N.C. “Wild food is free, pure, and easy on the planet.”
Want to forage on your next vacation? Here’s where to go:
Sourwood Inn—Asheville, N.C
Go wild-food foraging at Sourwood Inn. (Photo: Sourwood Inn)
Taking advantage of Asheville’s edible diversity (thanks to microclimates) and local foraging company No Taste Like Home, Sourwood Inn is one of several local hotels that offer foraging excursions. Additional hotels include Aloft, The Wright Inn, Old Edwards Inn, and Asheville Sanctuary.
The first company in the United States to offer “find dining” outings, No Taste Like Home is all about upscale survival. “Wild food is not difficult to find, and most of it grows right in the city,” explains Muskat. About 120 edible species grow in the Asheville area, and Muskat knows and eats them all.
Sourwood Inn’s package includes two-night accommodations for two plus a 3-hour wild-food foraging outing led by Muskat ($590 for two people). Guests also take home a copy of “Wild Mushrooms: A Taste of Enchantment.”
Forage for berries at the Sorrento Hotel. (Photo: Sorrento Hotel)
In the Pacific Northwest, many hotel chefs are wondering what took the rest of the country so long to catch up. Foraging? They’ve been doing it for decades.
A prime example: Sorrento Hotel Seattle, where executive chef Dan Gilmore offers an Urban Foraging package for up to four people. Included is a serious day of roaming the woodlands of Seattle’s Volunteer Park, collecting thimbleberries, chokecherries, sugar maple blossoms, Japanese knotweed, fennel blossoms, and miner’s lettuce.
The ingredients are “topped off” at the University District Farmers Market, ending in a sourced dinner at the hotel’s Hunt Club restaurant. “The found-food movement is just starting up,” explains Chef Gilmore. “For a chef, you have to be educated about your environment, and you have to be daring.”
Otahuna Lodge—New Zealand
Learn how to properly prepare hand-picked porcinis at Otahuna Lodge (Photo: Otahuna Lodge)
The best foraging opportunities are sometimes discovered totally by accident. At New Zealand’s luxurious Otahuna Lodge, Chef Jimmy McIntyre went to pick up what he thought was a brown paper bag. Turns out it wasn’t a bag at all, rather it was several mushrooms clumped together.
“He took them to the mycology department at nearby Lincoln University to ensure the varietal and that they were safe to consume,” explains co-owner Hall Cannon. “And it turns out they were porcinis.” Today Jimmy and the garden team take guests out to forage this patch of porcinis under the property’s 115-year-old oak trees during the months of February, March, and April. The mushrooms can also be used during a three-hour cooking class showcasing the spoils found in the potager garden of this Victorian mansion estate.
Manoir Hovey—North Hatley, Quebec
Enjoy fresh and foraged food at Manoir Hovey. (Photo: Manoir Hovey)
On the northwestern bank of Lake Massawippi, family-owned Manoir Hovey lures luxury-seekers with its Quebec-only cheese cart with more than 300 options and enough local foraging opportunities to sate an army of squirrels.
Two local foragers, Gaspésie Sauvage and Jardin de la Mer, provide a full tasting menu of foraged goods, including sea plants growing on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, beach rose hips used fresh for purée, and even sweet grass infused into milk to soak foie gras.
A signature foraged dish you’ll never forget is the sweet grass foie gras torchon with candied pumpkin, plum sauce, elderberry bread, and gin macerated coronation grape. Can’t get that at the supermarket.
Mount Nelson—Cape Town, South Africa
Foraging with this view guarantees to be a memorable experience. (Photo: Mount Nelson)
On the other side of the world, Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town, South Africa is no stranger to foraging.
Set in a garden estate near the location where Cape Town’s founder, Jan van Riebeeck, grew fruit and vegetables for Dutch sailors, the colonial-style hotel offers a three-hour urban foraging experience.
Led by local hunter-gatherer Charlie Standing, the outing takes guests across the city, showcasing gob-smacking views and a very wild menu with ingredients from three different locations. Foragers can pick edible plants, nuts, and mushrooms in the mountain forest; black mussels, giant sea snails and seaweed on the Atlantic coast; and herbs, including fennel, nettle and Cape sorrel, on the slopes of Devil’s Peak.
Fat Hen—Cornwall, England,
Ocean foraging with Fat Hen (Photo: Fat Hen/Facebook)
Just a few miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, guests of the Fat Hen are doing more than staring deep into the endless sea.
Hooking up with local forager Caroline Davey, guests can venture into Gourmet Wild Food Weekends, including three foraging trips and three meals, prepared and eaten in the granite goat barn.
Dishes include the likes of rock samphire fritti, nettle ravioli, pigeon, squirrel, or venison, followed by a dessert of seaweed panna cotta or Japanese seaweed.
Il Salviatino—Tuscany, Italy
Go truffle-hunting at II Salviatino (Photo: Il Salviatino)
While some foraging in other corners of the world wraps up in the fall, things are just heating up in Tuscany. By autumn, crowds have thinned, the leaves are starting to glow in bright reds and yellows, and best of all, it’s truffle season.
In the Tuscan hills just outside of Florence, Il Salviatino, housed in a 15th century villa with original frescoes and an Italian garden, offers guests a Florentine Food for Thoughts package, which includes a truffle-hunting experience with local Giulio and his savvy truffle-sniffing dog.
WATCH: Author Ava Chin Describes the Benefits of Urban Foraging