Family feasting. It’s a big part of what makes the holidays memorable. You can create a lavish affair at home (see feasting tips, below, from Ashley James, Executive Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills), or you can opt for a special celebration out.
This past Thanksgiving, my husband and I decided on a staycation with our toddler. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to travel. Truth be told, we had heard so many incredible things about the legendary Thanksgiving brunch at Four Seasons, that we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it in person.
Although our 18-month-old son Little M has already experienced his fair share of travel and hotels, anyone who has traveled with kids knows that while it’s fun and rewarding, it can also be overwhelming and unpredictable. Add to that, the fact that we were attempting to take him to an upscale and decidedly elaborate holiday meal and we started to get a little nervous about our decision.
Thank goodness for the wonderful staff at Four Seasons L.A. From the moment we arrived, our son was treated like a special little guest in his own right and made to feel so welcome. Little M waved at the doorman, who greeted us warmly, and ran straight past the smiling concierge and staff. He had spotted the beautiful garden area directly off of the lobby.
Our room was a comfortable and sumptuous home-away-from-home.
It felt as though the kind and efficient staff had anticipated our every need—from a diaper pail in the bathroom to a soft toy for Little M, and even a special plexiglass shield on the balcony to make it childproof, so we could all enjoy the breathtaking views of Los Angeles.
The holiday brunch at Culina, Modern Italian was everything we had expected and more! Chef Ashley and his team truly outdid themselves.
There were elements of the traditional—turkey and all the fixings—as well as some not so traditional items: a mozzarella bar, dim sum, potstickers, sushi, oysters and fresh crab claws.
Our fears were unfounded: Little M felt right at home, thanks to the warm service and elaborate children’s buffet. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the seasonal display and the adorable teddy bears.
Of course, we saved room for dessert. The hard part was choosing just one!
And this delicious, personalized treat was waiting for us when we arrived in our room. Perfect for a late-night snack.
Whenever we travel, one of our biggest challenges is making sure we find healthy, kid-friendly meal options for Little M. This is usually an issue when ordering from room service menus, since most meals are geared towards adults. Not so at Four Seasons L.A. There is an entire section for kids called Kidding Around; Rohan loved his oatmeal and fresh berries.
And how gorgeous is this room service menu? It looks like a fashion magazine!
We spent the morning at the lovely hotel pool. Yes, we were outside enjoying the pool in November. You’ve got to love Los Angeles! Then, while my husband stayed in the room when Little M napped, I stopped by the concierge to learn about the special shopping deals the hotel has arranged with nearby boutiques on Robertson Boulevard. And we couldn’t resist an afternoon visit to The Grove, an open-air shopping mall complete with great restaurants, a trolley, fountains and “snow” for the holidays.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Chef Ashley after our stay and he was kind enough to share some of his tips for creating a memorable and special family feast at home:
*It is essential, he says, to plan ahead or get a family member involved in the planning for the festive meal. Brainstorming with another person is a great way to come up with more ideas.
*Shop like Chef Ashley: visit your local farmers’ market and specialty stores to check which ingredients are available and see what the seasonal items are.
*If you can fit it into your budget, he recommends doing practice runs on any new dishes you want to try, as it gives you plenty of time to tweak the recipes and add any seasonal touches, such as cranberries, chestnuts, dates, cinnamon or pumpkin, before the actual holiday.
*He also suggests that you make sure to prepare the ideal foods for your audience, keeping in mind food allergies and preferences, so that you can wow and impress them.
*Theme your table or room decorations around some of the ingredients you used for your dishes: elegantly displayed glass bowls of fresh clementines, cranberries (pictured above from the Chef Ashley’s kitchen) and walnuts.
*And finally, plan interesting beverages to accompany your dishes: a welcome cocktail for adults and gourmet hot chocolate for children with cinnamon whipped cream.
If you follow Chef Ashley’s tips, and add personal touches such as the warmth and gracious attention we experienced during our stay, I am sure your guests will be impressed and amazed by your cooking and hosting talents this holiday season. The only problem is they may feel the way we did at the end of our stay at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles: they may never want to leave!
Read more about Los Angeles in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our “Concierge Recommendations” for Los Angeles in Four Seasons Magazine.
Puja Chugani is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in publications such as Town & Country, Fodor’s Travel Guides and Modern Luxury. Her new blog, Crayons and Croissants, focuses on the best in family-friendly travel, lifestyle and products. After spending time in St. Maarten, Washington D.C., Spain, New York, London and India, Puja now lives in Southern California with her husband and young son.
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