Our Innovations

The Secret Life of Orange County Bees

by Chris Morris

Community is buzzing in Irvine, California — how the hotel’s commitment to local farmers has sparked a sweet relationship.

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Irvine, California, like so much of Orange County, is a business-centric town. It’s the headquarters for companies whose ventures range from video games to consumer electronics to hamburgers. Shopping is plentiful, and it’s not uncommon to find a film crew framing a shot for the next big summer film.

But long before the games, malls and camera crews, Irvine was a farm town. And at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum, that’s a history worth celebrating.

Heirloom Lounge at Marriott Irvine Spectrum

Located on part of what was once known as Irvine Ranch (which at the time was one of the largest private ranches in the United States), the hotel is fastidious about local sourcing and highlighting the heritage of the Irvine area, even as it’s surrounded by modern progress. And, fittingly, nowhere is that more apparent than in its restaurants.

“No one around us is using the true history of the area,” says Keith Meadows, Director of Food and Beverage at Marriott Irvine Spectrum. “We feel the story of Irvine Ranch and how Southern California, especially the economy, developed was important for us to connect to.”

One way the hotel engages with the local economy and its surrounding community has been through local farms. “We wanted to connect to the local farmers to showcase what’s around,” says Meadows.

For Meadows and his team at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum, that means most of the  vegetables and produce used in the Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen are grown within 200 miles of the hotel.

“We celebrate local provisions and the story of the Irvine Ranch,” says Meadows. “Some of the original seeds of produce you see to this day were planted in this area several years ago. What you see now are hybrids of [those early crops].”

A key local ingredient throughout the hotel? Honey.

The bee is a part of the hotel’s identity, and one of the biggest draws for guests and locals is expected to be the Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar (opening in February 2018), where honey-infused drinks will be the specialty of the house.

Guests at Heirloom slather their bread with a honey-infused butter, and those who order pancakes in the morning can choose from a number of syrups, including chipotle honey and ginger honey.

The Marriott Irvine Spectrum is also the only place in Orange County that offers Bee’s Box wine — a pair of offerings (chardonnay and pinot noir) from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. As one could perhaps guess by its namesake, the vintner’s initiative donates 10 percent of the proceeds from each bottle to local beekeepers throughout the country. And even something as simple as selecting those wines ties back to the hotel’s commitment to the community.

The money raised from Bee’s Box helps supports Backyard Bees, an Irvine organization that assists with beehive relocation and education in Orange County. The hotel had originally planned to directly adopt or sponsor a hive but found that by offering Bee’s Box wines, it could assist local growers in a more efficient manner.

As a thank you, Backyard Bees donates a pound or two of honey to the hotel each year — about half the annual production of a single hive — and recently came in to educate the food and beverage staff on the ins and outs of honey production.

“It plays out beautifully for the concept of the hotel,” says Chris Adams, managing partner of Ellis Adams Group, which is helping mold the bar program at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum.

And while a pound or two of gifted honey is certainly appreciated, it isn’t enough to meet the hotel’s needs. The hotel works with Bill’s Bees, another local honey provider, to ensure the restaurant and bar have enough to meet demand for their honey-infused concoctions. That relationship is another continuation of the hotel’s mission to buy the freshest ingredients from the surrounding community.

Although honey is a key ingredient in many dishes, Meadows notes, there’s no reason for people to worry about an overly sweet menu.

“Not everything on our menu is honey-centric,” he explains. “We really want to be vegetable and produce forward — and you can see that on our menu.” Whether the hotel offers a hint of honey on the menu or more honey-forward cocktails, the Marriott Irvine Spectrum couldn’t have picked a better mascot than the bee, connecting its guests with the bounty of insects known for building impressive communities of their own.


Marriott Irvine Spectrum

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Marriott Irvine Spectrum