Holiday Happenings at Sorrento Hotel & Hunt Club
OK, so the economy has seen better days, and the hotel industry knows it. We also have some real Seattle jewels – true icons, in fact – that some of the young and hip crowds may have in the past not known about, or even shunned. But no more.
Take Michael & Barbara Malone’s Sorrento Hotel, for instance. (Note: MTM Luxury Lodging was acquired by Benchmark Hospitality International this past summer, which included properties such as Hotel 1000, Willows Lodge (review forthcoming), and the Sorrento Hotel. This operations management company now brands these hotels within a total of 13 independent properties under the their Personal Luxury CollectionSM.) The longest-standing boutique hotel in Seattle, the 7-storey Sorrento Hotel was designed in the Italian renaissance style by architect Harlan Thomas, who was also the first dean of the University of Washington’s School of Architecture. Named after this architect’s muse in Sorrento, Italy – the Vittorria Hotel – it is laden with Italian architecture, signature lemon drops, and limoncello. It has 76 guestrooms and suites, including Deluxe Rooms, Junior Suites, Sorrento Suites, Corner Suites, Luxury Suites, and a Penthouse Suite, available for $1,800 a night and complete with 1,850 square-feet of space, a baby grand piano, and a private rooftop terrace. (The original hotel had many more rooms, 154 in fact, but many of the tiny rooms of old were combined to create more spacious rooms with funky configurations.) It offers several event spaces – including the Top of the Town, which was a popular steak house from the 1930s to the 1950s – as well as valet parking and complimentary town car service to downtown Seattle during business hours. A business center, 24-hour Fitness Center, and even on-site spa offerings, such as Shiatsu massages, are also provided. (And yes, the wireless Internet is complimentary.)
But this 102-year-old luxe locale on First Hill – it originally opened in 1909 for the Alaska Yukon Exposition – is so much more than comfy beds with 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and tiny-yet-deluxed bathrooms decked out with lemony-scented Citress and Vitality products from Judith Jackson Spa (as well as their Tenderly hand & body lotion), all decked out in Venetian marble. Its afternoon tea – which I reviewed almost two years ago and is available on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. – is a special treat during the autumn and winter holidays. The Sorrento Hotel is also a chic learner’s delight – be it foodie, enophile, artist, or scholar – with its two-year-old (and counting) culture-rific Night School programs.
And its tender vittles and tasty libations – a blend of Old World Italian meeting New World Pacific Northwest – in the Hunt Club (which opened in 1981) and Fireside Room rock in general. Recently, your Hedonista attended a couple of media tastings and a stay at the hotel. First of all, let me say that Executive Chef Ivan Szilak (whom I most recently saw at last weekend’s Seattle Lamb Jam) and Sous Chef Twain Hinderman are da bomb. We’re talking brilliant creativity without pretentiousness – just like the brand they are promoting over there. And their menus change with the seasons – the garden’s season, that is – which I always love.
In the last couple of months, I’ve enjoyed fab starters such as: their Crispy Pork Rillettes ($9), complete with soft-boiled egg, cornichons, pickled shallots, and whole grain mustard; their Fresh Steamed Clams ($14) – currently my fav item on their menu – with smoked tomato broth, chorizo, white wine, and herbs; and their Chilled Prawn Salad ($10) consisting of chopped up prawns, baby tomatoes, red onion, peaches, cucumber, and watercress with an avocado vinaigrette. In terms of a main, their Double R Ranch Signature NY Steak ($28), served up with grilled asparagus, caramelized onions, smoky blue cheese polenta, and port wine jus definitely hits the spot on a cold autumn or winter night. The polenta is made “low and slow” and takes 2 and 1/2 hours to simmer Chef Ivan shared his recipe with me, below:
“Low ‘n’ Slow” Smoky Blue Cheese Polenta, by Executive Chef Ivan Szilak, Sorrento Hotel/Hunt Club:
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups water
1 pint (2 cups) polenta
Blue Cheese (type and amount to individual taste)
Salt to taste
1. In a pot, bring water and milk to a boil.
2. Whisk in polenta.
3. Reduce heat and simmer on stove top under plastic wrap in a pot for 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps.
4. Add Blue Cheese and salt, stirring to incorporate.
4. Serve and enjoy!
Holiday (& Ongoing) Happenings: To find out what’s when and where, simply check out the online Sorrento Social Calendar. Some of the offerings are outlined below.
Haunted Suite, October 28th to 31st, 2011: In celebration of Hallowe’en, the Sorrento Hotel has re-vamped their Madison Room into one hair-raising haunted hike, which it’s very own love-lost ghost! This room is open to the public for free from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., with a suggested donation of $5 to benefit the Puget Sound Blood Center.
Music in the Fireside Room: Open – and free – to the public and featuring everything from standard jazz and Brazilian jazz to Seattle indie music, these performances take place Fridays and Saturdays from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.
1/2 Price Wine Nights: Tuesdays from 5:00 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Happy Hour: Every day from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. until close.
Night School: Established back in 2009 to celebrate the Sorrento Hotel’s 100th birthday, this hotel is rekindling its roots as the historic hot spot for salon-style discussions on leading current topics. The result has been a series of programs led by intellectuals, artists, writers, musicians, mixologists, chefs, and Pacific Northwest cultural institutions and organizations. Think of this as old-school adult ed à la panache.