The 413-room Vista International hotel in Washington spent $4,000 a month making chocolate specialties for its guests each night since it opened three years ago.
Eileen Carlson, the hotel's executive pastry chef, is known for her special chocolate designs, such as a milk chocolate grand piano with chocolate and marzipan keys for musician Billy Taylor. Shirley Temple Black was presented with a dark chocolate Good Ship Lollipop filled with handmade lollipops of white, semisweet, dark and milk chocolate. Lee Iacocca received a replica of the Statue of Liberty in white chocolate. And game show host Pat Sajak discovered a giant chocolate "Wheel of Fortune" when he checked into his room at the hotel.
But you don't have to be a celebrity to be feted with chocolate at the Vista.
Carlson makes several types of chocolate candies each night for all the hotel's guests, including espresso/pistachio truffles, white nuts and fruit dipped in chocolate, chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies, chocolate caramel and strawberries and mandarin orange pieces drenched in--you guessed it. The goodies are put on plates each night in every guest room.
Across town, the Watergate Hotel has become a favorite of the chocolate cognoscenti. "We've been so successful giving out chocolates to our guests," says managing director Paul Astbury, "that we now sell our chocolate truffles through our own pastry shop." A pound of the handmade goodies costs $24, including shipping.
On the Other Hand . . .
Not every hotel loves chocolate. "The idea of chocolate is not something we've ever really entertained," says David Thorn, general manager of the Campton Place hotel in San Francisco. "We don't do that kind of confectionery here. We're more into an American cuisine, and most of our time and effort is taken up with our restaurant food."
"We're not a chocolate hotel," says Gerard Inzerillo, general manager of the new Las Colinas Inn and Conference Center near Dallas. "We're a cookie hotel. We thought we'd try something a little different, since everyone else seemed chocolated out."
Inzerillo likes to boast that the hotel offers 50 varieties of cookies, from cookies in the shape of the state of Texas to butter nut crunch to ginger applesauce. "If you really insist, we even have chocolate."
At the Inn on the Park in Houston, you almost have to insist if you don't want chocolate. The chef offers a chocolate festival every two months.
For chocolate die-hards, the hotel also promotes a special "chocolate weekend." When guests arrive on a Friday they receive a chocolate room key. They can dine on chocolate dishes until Sunday. Last year, one of the dishes offered on the menu--and eagerly eaten--was lobster with a white chocolate sauce.
One guest liked chocolate so much that he insisted on an entire chocolate dinner. And he got it--chocolate sushi and fettuccine.
And if that wasn't enough, guests for the special weekend were even shown a movie--"Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."