Urban Hotels Abuzz with Rooftop Apiaries and Gardens

by  Stephanie Pitts | Oct 12, 2010
InterContinental Boston
InterContinental Boston / Photo courtesy of the property

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The growing rooftop trend is branching out. Not only are these coveted sky-high squares providing hotels with happening outdoor space, some are also serving as a valuable plot for horticulture. Hotels in cities across the U.S. are growing green thumbs in an effort to provide farm-to-table produce without the farm. Whether using rooftop-grown vegetables in their restaurants or creating their own honey by housing rooftop apiaries, these hotels are on a major locavore (a person who attempts to eat only food that is locally grown or produced) kick – a trend we hope is here to stay. With the economic and environmental costs of carbon fuel skyrocketing, importing out-of-season produce is a bad idea on multiple levels. But, crafty hotel chefs moonlighting as micro-farmers? Genius.

Home-Brewed Beer at the Chicago Marriott Downtown
This magnificent-mile hotel (www.marriott.com/hotels) brews its own aptly-named Rooftop Honey Wheat Beer with honey from its own five beehives. The hotel apiary houses more than 200,000 bees and produces upwards of 400 pounds of honey a year. The honey is used in salad dressings and baked goods, as well as the hotel’s signature brew. The bees are also essential in pollinating the hotel’s rooftop herb and vegetable garden, where the Chicago Marriott grows its own beer hops and a wide variety of produce. This hotel’s commitment to the environment extends beyond the roof. The Marriott also maintains an exclusive acre of land at Heritage Prairie Farm in Elburn, Illinois, where they can choose which seasonal crops are grown. This effort is part of a broader mission of Chef Myk Banas’ Harvest Restaurant to use fresh, locally-farmed seasonal ingredients from sources that use sustainable practices.

Recycled Garden at the Gramercy Park Hotel
This New York City favorite is making the most of their open urban spaces by creating a rooftop garden, which debuted in April of this year. Sous chef Dan Dilworth and manager Kevin Denton used entirely recycled materials for the project, building the plant beds from used water bottles and salvaged pots and pans. They fashioned a rain-water irrigation system from refurbished oil drums and converted a retired duck roaster into a compost mixer. The products from this micro-farm supply daily offerings at the Rooftop Club & Garden and even find their way into the menus downstairs at Danny Meyer’s Maialino.

Exotic Farm-Fresh Fruits at Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort
This Miami resort (www.fairmont.com/turnberryisle) enjoys the luxury of space and keeps their quarter-acre garden on the grounds. Lucky for them, the growing season in Miami lasts year-round, and the sub-tropical environment means they can experiment with not only herbs and vegetables, but also exotic fruits like dragon fruit, strawberry guavas, star fruit, and mangoes. And the fruits of their labor are sweet. Chef Daniel Buss serves up his own line of homemade jams and marmalades for breakfast in the Cascata Grill. Try the kumquat preserves with homegrown allspice.

Herbs and Veggies at the Four Seasons Philadelphia
The Four Seasons’ (www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia) rooftop vegetable and herb garden started supplying Chef Ralph Costobile’s Fountain Restaurant in August 2009. The hotel’s nine beds provide 315 square feet of growing space for herbs like oregano, sage, and basil, and vegetables like beets, lettuce, bok choy, peppers, and peas, just to name a few. The soil used in the beds comes from hotel kitchen scraps turned into compost by a local farmer. In an added environmental effort, cooking oil is reused as fuel to run the truck that transports the compost.

Honey from the Hive at InterContinental Boston
This Boston waterfront hotel started their fifth-floor rooftop apiary earlier this year with help from bee specialist Zainal Khan, who trained sous chef Cyrille Couet in the art of urban beekeeping. The hotel’s effort stemmed from a concern about colony collapse disorder (CCD), which has devastated bee populations in the U.S. and Western Europe. While the InterContinental’s 40,000 busy bees are pollinating downtown Boston, patrons can watch their progress via a roof-deck camera, which sends a live feed to the hotel restaurant’s dining room. A fitting project since the restaurant’s name is Miel, which means “honey” in French.

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