Food doesn't just nourish attendees; when served alongside culinary activities and experiences, it also educates, entertains and engages them. The proof is in the five activities for meeting groups that follow.
Gullah Cooking Experience at the French Quarter Inn (Charleston, S.C.)
Food and travel have at least one thing in common: At their best, each offers a direct line of sight into another people's history and culture. That's certainly true in Charleston, S.C., where the French Quarter Inn offers a culinary experience that celebrates the Gullah-Geechee, descendants of West Africans who were brought to South Carolina as slaves in the 1700s and influenced South Carolina cuisine for generations thereafter. Today, Gullah-Geechee cooking is endangered. Designed to help preserve it, the inn's Immersive Culinary Experience package places travelers under the wing of Gullah culinary expert chef Benjamin Dennis, who guides them through local farms to select fresh ingredients that subsequently become the centerpiece of a private cooking class.
Garlic Farming at Inns of Aurora (Aurora, N.Y.)
Garlic has numerous purported benefits. Studies have shown, for example, that it can improve cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, fight infectious disease and help prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia. At the New York's Finger Lakes' Inns of Aurora however, garlic has another benefit entirely: It brings meeting attendees together. That's because the property offers a garlic-farming experience in partnership with local grower Dennis Donahue, who hosts groups on his farm above Cayuga Lake to learn about the herb's history and benefit, how to plant it and when to harvest it.
Gateway to Craft Beer at Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa (Gateway, Colo.)
Years after its inception, the craft-beer craze is still alive and well at hotels and resorts across the country, a number of which are "brewing" successful meetings with beer-themed experiences. One of them is Colorado's Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa, which hosts a Gateway to Craft Beer event every Memorial Day weekend. Highlights of the four-day festival include gourmet s'mores with craft beer pairings, stargazing with the resort's on-site "curator of curiosity," a day of hiking and beer sampling with local brewers, a beer-education class taught by the same local experts and a four-course dinner with craft-beer pairings at Entrada Restaurant, one of the resort's fine-dining options.
Five Senses Dinner at Pebble Beach Resorts (Pebble Beach, Calif.)
California's Pebble Beach Resorts might be known for its legendary golf courses, but its food also is exceptional. Meeting groups can sample it in a fun and unique way during the resorts' Five Senses Dinner. Part team-building exercise, part culinary experience, the dinner employs blindfolds, noise-canceling headphones and other devices to help participants focus on one or two specific senses during each course of a multi-course dinner. "Every aspect of the evening is carefully calculated, and no two groups will have the same experience, as dishes and the senses they target change with every event," according to a spokesperson. "The outcome, however, is consistent: Participants find themselves enjoying food differently and share their experiences with their fellow diners, enhancing camaraderie."
Island Forage at Harbor View Hotel (Edgartown, Mass.)
Martha's Vineyard is quintessential New England. And so is the historic Harbor View Hotel, a waterfront property on the island's northeast coast that is currently undergoing a renovation. Thanks to a partnership with Farm.Field.Sea. -- which curates custom group experiences on the Vineyard -- groups can partake in a variety of unique activities, including an island forage tour. After an in-depth foraging lesson, participants take a scenic walk or kayak with expert naturalist guides who help them identify seasonal wild edibles along the shore, woods, fields and meadows. The experience concludes with a wild cocktail workshop and a lunch of foraged goodies.