Today is National Chocolate Éclair Day (really!), which seems like a good excuse to tell you about a delicious new program Le Méridien hotels is launching with everyone's favorite pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini. The former head judge from Top Chef Just Desserts will create eight seasonal éclair recipes for the chain, revealing them over the next 12 months as he stays at different Le Méridien hotels around the world. (First up: San Francisco, to be revealed on July 27. We're hoping it doesn't involve salt-water taffy.)
Why éclairs? It's part of the Starwood-owned brand's effort to pep up its image, adding a dose of modern youthfulness to its sophisticated European heritage. Éclairs are French and traditional, yes, but they're also fun, especially when they're goosed with locally inspired ingredients. To wit: Le Méridien Dallas by the Galleria will feature a Texas honey pecan éclair; Le Méridien Bangkok is stuffing theirs with mango, lime, and ginger; and the version at the Panama City property is infused with dulce de leche and coconut. We realize it's sacrilegious to talk about such newfangled combinations on National Chocolate Éclair Day, but hey, they sound pretty awesome.
Besides pastries, Le Méridien is making changes that it hopes will create buzz and attract creative-minded business travelers. For example, their new hotel in Tampa, which opened last week, is a restoration of a landmarked, century-old courthouse, but with Mid-Century Modern furnishings, a common area called the "hub" with areas for lounging or working, even a soundtrack by Nouvelle Vague, the trendy French band that makes bossa-nova covers of '80s hits.
So go ahead and settle into your Sunday celebration, take a bite of soft pastry oozing with sweet, unctuous, chocolate-y cream, think about Brazilian-French musical mashups in Central Florida, and remember that globalism has its many rewards.
Peter Frank is director of editorial products at Travel + Leisure.