To be completely honest, I would have handled this differently. First off, most of these picks are small hotels or Inns that have a featured restaurant or dining room. If I was asked to pick the best hotels for food lovers I'd start with places that have multiple excellent destination dining experiences, something like theMGM Grand in Las Vegas where you can eat a standout meal at a different place each night for a week, with arguably the nation's top fine dining restaurant, Joel Robuchon, plus the master chef's wonderful L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Michael Mina's Nobhill and Seablue, Emeril Lagasse's namesake eatery, Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak, and perhaps the nation's best sake list at Shibuya. Heck, I'd put the MGM Grand on the list just for the stunning Michelin 3-star/Forbes 5-Star starred Joel Robuchon.
Bon Appétit also puts a big emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, which are great in theory but do not necessarily make a restaurant better. If I lived in Parma, Italy I'd happily eat local ingredients all day long, but living in the U.S., I'd still much rather eat real Parmigiano-Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma (or jamon iberico from Spain or Port from Portugal) than somebody's (almost always) inferior imitation made here. On a more domestic level, I'd rather eat Vidalia or Walla Walla onions than less tasty sweet versions made closer to where I happen to be traveling, and there are many other examples of local not necessarily being better.
The duck orecchiette I had for lunch at Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado, which made the list
But knowing that local is a big factor in the selection helps readers understand and use this list accordingly, and in any case, there is no doubt that some of these places have fabulous food and are well worth visiting for that reason. They also happen to be fantastic hotels. In this sense, Bon Appétit got it right - no one would be disappointed with the food, service or accommodations at stellar but tinyDunton Hot Springs in Colorado, which I just visited and was blown away by. South Carolina's Inn at Palmetto Bluff combines true Southern hospitality with exquisite lodging, service and a refined take on updated southern classics. They also have a killer Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course sprawling through the low Country and dripping with Spanish Moss.
All of the ones on the list that I have personally visited excel, with the sole exception of the underwhelming 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville: it's a fine hotel restaurant and good choice for dinner if you happen to be in Louisville - the KentuckyDerby is in less than three weeks - but I certainly
Blackberry Farm in Tennessee is a perenial food and hotel lover's favorite. Photo: Blackberry Farm
would not travel there for the food. I'd have swapped it for the Inn at Little Washington or Vermont's Forbes 5-Star Twin Farms (read my Forbes.com "Hotels I Love" review), which is much more in the Dunton Hot Springs mold, and has a huge local emphasis with its own gardens and neighbors doing custom organic growing. But I'll let 21c slide because so many others on the list are so good - I'd gladly make the trip to Tennessee to eat at Blackberry Farm, long and widely considered one of the nation's great gastronomic lodging escapes.