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Something is Abuzz at Sofitel
By Jessica van Dop De Jesus
Washington, DC and Brussels have a lot in common: both are capital cities and government centers. The list can go on about their embassies, lobbyist firms and economic influences. In both cities, the luxurious Sofitel brand accommodates politicians and dignitaries. The Sofitel Lafayette Square is just steps from the White House in Washington, DC and the Sofitel Brussels Europe is in the heart of all the European Institutions. Beyond their popular addresses and famous guest lists, there is something abuzz on both properties: their sustainable culinary practices.
In the heart of DC, you can end a day of meetings or intense sightseeing with jazz and cocktails on the terrace at Sofitel Lafayette Square. You will probably spot a guest toasting with a So Bee Mine, a cocktail made with Tanqueray 10 gin, fresh lime juice and honey. While guests indulge at the bar, nature is hard at work on the rooftop of the hotel. The hotel has a collection of honeycombs that produce over 400 pounds of honey a year. The bees are free to roam around the gardens of DC and have been known to go as far as the Tidal Basin. Legend has it that the bees like to buzz around the White House flowers. The honey is not only used for cocktails, but also in the dishes served at their restaurant, ICI Urban Bistro.
At ICI Urban Bistro the hotel executive chef, Frank Loquet focuses on sustainability when designing his menus. He changes the menu frequently in order to use as many seasonal fruits and vegetables as possible. Treat yourself to a decadent macaroon filled with locally sourced raspberries.
Across the Atlantic, you can see the same trends in Brussels. The Sofitel Brussels Europe is located at Place Jourdan, within steps of the European Union Headquarters. Depending on the room, guests can take in the views of the European Parliament or Place Jourdan. Place Jourdan comes alive on Sundays for a farmers’ market offering fruits, bread, vegetables and other artisanal products from Belgium and neighboring countries. There, you can find Sofitel Brussels’ executive chef Marc Paquet shopping for the hotel’s restaurant. Just as in Washington, DC, the hotel’s rooftop is buzzing with honeybees. During breakfast service, guests can take honey straight from honeycombs that were plucked from the hive earlier.
All of these sustainable culinary initiatives are in line with Sofitel’s parent company Accor’s Planet 21 program. The program was designed to be in line with Agenda 21, (Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development for individual governments and multinational governmental organizations). The properties adhere to 21 commitments, including eco-design, the promotion of healthy eating and the support of responsible purchasing practices at the local level.
Sustainability and luxury travel are terms that many still struggle to place together. It is great to see large luxury hotel groups such as Sofitel applying sustainable practices, not only in their operations, but in the food they offer to their guests. From producing their own honey to shopping at the local farmers’ market, these properties are doing their part toward support sustainable travel.