As part of Hilton Experiences 2022, I wrote in this article here at The Gate that “The renowned chef friends of Questlove will create their own spin on classic summer grilling with select ingredients sourced from farms which are owned by Black people in upstate New York — plus, the award-winning musician, producer, director, and culinary entrepreneur will perform an exclusive DJ set for those in attendance.”
Quest Loves Food: My Hilton Honors Experience
I was cordially invited by the Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program to attend this particular event in person as a guest on Thursday, September 8, 2022 in an indoor meeting room and accompanying outdoor terrace on the second floor of the Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea hotel property. Ten lucky people who had the winning bids of Hilton Honors points were able to attend this event with a guest, which included a stay of one night in the hotel. The winning bid was 103,000 Hilton Honors points.
Guests of the private event checked in at two tables just outside of the main entrance of the hotel property…
…and were given black bands to wear on their wrists so that they can be positively identified as official attendees of the private event.
A floral arrangement greeted guests in the indoor event space, which was cozy and inviting. It was also an opportunity for Hilton to bring about awareness to its ‘Hilton. For the Stay’ advertising campaign, which “places the hotel front and center, elevating the role and importance of the stay at a time when lodging advertising is a sea of sameness, featuring overused destinations, cliché walks on the beach and generic descriptions of travel”. The official announcement of the first global brand platform by Hilton on Monday, July 25, 2022 identifies what has been missing from marketing for lodging: the hotel stay.
What also greeted guests was plenty of music, which was mixed by.Ahmir Khalib Thompson, who is more popularly known as Questlove or ?uestlove. The music ranged from rhythm and blues to disco to hip hop to even a touch of rock — all of which spanned several decades. The music played continuously without a break.
In addition to the traditional drinks and beverages which could be ordered at the main bar, three signature cocktails by Channing Centeno were offered — including Strawberry Spritz, Charred Pineapple Margarita, and Grilled Corn Piña Colada. I was intrigued by the Grilled Corn Piña Colada; so I ordered one without alcohol — which was not an easy thing to do, as no fewer than three bartenders were required to figure out how to prepare one of these. Their efforts were worth it: I would have never thought of adding corn to a piña colada — but it worked quite well. It was refreshing and full of flavor. A Grilled Corn Piña Colada is on the counter of the bar in the center of the photograph.
Incidentally, the iconic drink called the Piña Colada was invented in 1954 by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero — who was the bartender at the Hilton Caribe in Puerto Rico — as he experimented with a new recipe that blended rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice in an icy beverage; and after three months of perfecting the recipe, Marrero felt that the drink finally captured the flavors of Puerto Rico and served it for 35 years before it eventually became the official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.
I suppose Marrero forgot to add the corn to this signature beverage.
Shown in the photograph above is a Charred Pineapple Margarita.
The other bar was located on the outdoor terrace of the hotel. The tall buildings around the terrace gave it a cozy atmosphere as well on that pleasantly warm late summer night.
Meanwhile, the grills were going full steam — or, should I say, they were on fire — at the other end of the outdoor terrace.
Calvin Eng provided the grilled Bad Boy oysters, jumbo head on prawns, and fresh fish.
Grilled kebobs with seasonal vegetables were prepared with either curry sauce or barbecue sauce by Shenarri Freman.
This smoked turnip and sliced beef dish was inspired by suya — which is a street food in Nigeria consisting of skewers of charred meat with vegetables — and was prepared by Omar Tate.
Back in the indoor meeting room, a long table featured assorted fresh vegetables from Brooklyn Packers and Black Yard Farm — which included collard greens, cucumbers, radishes, cherry tomatoes, squash, and potatoes as only six of numerous examples of produce — and several varieties of freshly baked breads. Balsamic butter, butter with sea salt, and hummus as only three of the spreads for the breads and produce which were available.
Two signs on the long table encouraged guests to grab a burlap tote and take some of the fresh produce on the table home with them.
On an ice sculpture were sweet frozen treats in the form of fruit pops in four different flavors which were created with fresh ingredients by Natasha Pickowicz. The flavors included:
- Cucumber, lemon verbena + mint — non-alcoholic
- Passion fruit + mezcal
- Cantaloupe, purple shiso, honey — non-alcoholic
- Roasted stone fruit, elderberry + sherry
Guests were eating, drinking, dancing to the music, and having fun. This event kicked off a new season of new once-in-a-lifetime events which members of the Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program can unlock through its Hilton Honors Experiences platform.
As parting gifts, guests left with black bags which contained a book, a wireless speaker, and an Apple AirTag.
This rudimentary video gives a glimpse as to the atmosphere of the event.
Final Boarding Call
I enjoyed this event, as I am the type of person who prefers to live to eat rather than eat to live — and this event fit the bill. I sampled virtually everything that was offered — and even though I did not particularly care for a few of the items which were offered, both the food and beverages were bursting with combinations of flavors that one does not typically experience every day. No one left this event hungry. I also met some new people in addition to the people whom I have known for years.
This event was significantly more intimate when compared to a certain different experience: once known as Hilton @Play instead of Hilton Honors Experiences, I was officially invited as a guest to see Elliot Root and Neon Trees in concert in the International Ballroom at the historic Washington Hilton hotel property on Saturday, December 5, 2015, which hundreds of people attended. It was not an event I would have sought out myself; but I unexpectedly had a good time that evening. This article contains additional photographs of that concert.
If you have a passion for music, food, sports, or other interests and you enjoy experiences which are out of the ordinary, consider bidding your Hilton Honors points for one of the Hilton Honors Experiences. For example, access to Lollapalooza — which is one of the largest music festivals in North America which occurs every year for four consecutive days in Grant Park in Chicago — was offered last year with VIP packages. No two experiences are exactly alike; so you are sure to find one that fits your preferences.
Hilton Honors is the frequent guest loyalty program of 18 different hotel brands of Hilton — but I have never stayed as a guest of a hotel which is part of the Motto brand that debuted in 2018. That changed this past week — and I will report on my experience in a future article here at The Gate. As a disclaimer, my entire experience was provided to me courtesy of Hilton Honors, for which I am grateful.
You can join as a member of the Hilton Honors frequent guest loyalty program free of charge by clicking on this link.
All photographs ©2022 by Brian Cohen.