Kitchen experiences take part in significant memories; talks over wine in the kitchen with girlfriends and cooking hearty breakfasts with family before hitting the slopes.
The truth is that travelers thoroughly consider where to dine and what to cook! It can save a few bucks for the guest on a budget and having a private kitchen is often the reason, one way or another, for choosing a vacation home over a hotel.
My biggest recommendation is to ensure your home provides opportunities for these memorable moments to happen by offering a great kitchen. By ‘gourmet’, the intent isn’t high expense (unless you are offering a true luxury home). Just…thoughtful, my favorite tip. The feelings associated with those experiences will never be forgotten, nor will your home.
This post focuses on mountain town kitchens, but is really applicable to any. Guests themselves created this list of kitchen “must-have’s” but I thought it equally important to gain the perspective of chef, author and mountain vacation home owner, Jennie Iverson:
As the author of Ski Town Soups, I wanted to showcase the perfectly balanced recipe for life: a ski town, a comfortable restaurant and a yummy bowl of soup. With a little heart and attention to detail, I believe you can capture that ambiance in your Vacation Rental’s kitchen.
In my active life as a wife and mother of 2, soon to be 3, rambunctious boys, my mission is to enjoy days on the mountain (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, etc.), then return and relax in a cozy home environment – quite possibly relishing a bowl full of soup in front of the crackling fire.
Upon finishing the coffee-table caliber cookbook, Ski Town Soups, it reaffirmed that although soup is typically meant to simmer, life is meant to boil. This is the experience that your travelers are trying to savor.
I suggest making it easy for your traveling guests by personalizing your kitchen for ease and comfort.
In a mountain community, there is nothing more inviting than a large kitchen with a spacious island for gathering around – sampling artichoke dip appetizers, hot toddy drinks, and a pot of Bavarian Goulash just removed from the stovetop.
I have a very good friend with the most inviting, expansive, and congregating kitchen – she has hosted sushi-making parties, a Ladies Pastry Party and a festive holiday gathering with separate drink stations throughout her kitchen. In her culinary haven, there is a breakfast nook and a large stovetop on the island that allows her to mingle while stirring her homemade caramel sauce or beer cheese soup.
However, not all properties have the luxury of being “large” and “spacious”. Our kitchen in our European Mountain Chalet in Vail is a little more modest and traditionally laid-out: the kitchen is separate from the more formal dining room. But, I can still make “magic” in this accessible and well-appointed kitchen.
When your guests enter the less familiar kitchen, it’s wonderful to have options on display to give them ideas of what they can create. I would suggest having the soup pot on display with the ladle close-at-hand with Ski Town Soups standing adjacent.
Soups are easy to make in advance for large group sizes and are incredibly forgiving. You could also have a Kitchen Aid standing mixer on the counter with a muffin pan or quick bread pan beside. Or, in your designated bar area, you might set out the wine opener, martini shaker, and chilling bucket.
Accessibly grouping appliances and accompaniments together will make your kitchen and their experience in it stress-free. Also, giving guests ideas when they arrive adds a home touch and uniqueness to your property.
I believe, if a person is vacationing in a mountain community, one of the last things they are inclined to do is slave-away in the kitchen, all day. And, even if they are excited about this prospect, you can surely make it more approachable and enjoyable with ease: have sample recipes available and provide sample grocery lists.
Another especially personal idea would be to make a guest book for culinary comments, such as “Page 178 – This was the best soup I’ve ever made; it is hearty and perfect with herbed bread!”
Finally, in the food world, I continually talk with restaurant owners and chefs about being ahead of the curve and creating “the experience”. As a Vacation Rental Owner, that is what you are trying to maximize!
Often times, my friends and I entertain in each others homes; the flow and informality is more conducive to conversation, especially in peak season when the restaurants are at full capacity. I’m guessing that not every night do your traveling guests want to splurge on restaurant meals, but not every night do they want take-out pizza. So, make it easy for them to optimize the culinary options that your kitchen offers, thus making more memorable meals and experiences.
Great kitchen Must Have’s
Large Appliances: Mountain travelers I spoke with regarding this project have never insinuated the need to buy a La Cornue’s Grand Palais range, or even Viking for that matter. But they do desire a cooktop in a functional location (and preferably gas)! Guests want to whip up something delicious and take part in family conversations. I recommended paying attention to the layout of the large appliances and kitchen prior to purchase or remodeling; it can turn a good rental experience into a great one.
Ensure your large appliances work properly, are clean and esthetically pleasing. Unless you are offering a rustic experience (an old cabin, yurt or canvas tents), a dishwasher is also mandatory. A built-in ice maker will really please guests as well.
Cookware: Upon settling into any vacation home, I always prep a meal for my family. It’s a routine I enjoy. When a mountain town client asked me to assess one of his difficulty vacation homes, I gladly obliged and followed my typical nesting behaviors. I unpacked my overnight bag, slipped into pajama’s and attempted to cook over a glass of wine.
Every pan was warped or had Teflon flaking off. Nothing is worse than cooking on a sticky, wobbly pan.
Sturdy cast iron pans, pottery dishes, sturdy hot cocoa mugs and perfect wine glasses are on the must-buy list for any mountain home. Guests love a fabulous copper mug for a fabulous Moscow Mule, too!
No one wants a painful cooking process. Meals on vacation are often a poignant part of the memories created. Make assessing your cookware apart of your regular property audit and provide good quality products.
Coffee Maker: You don’t have to buy the most expensive model, nor the cheapest. My guests have always appreciated those with a few bells and whistles- hot water on demand for tea and soup, height to fill traveler mugs and charcoal filters to keep minerals out (if you have really hard water). Buy a backup, too. Nothing is worse than a morning coffee snafu!
Kettle: Electric or old school. I provide an old school, steel kettle at my Park City cottage as it adds nicely to the decor. Guest often use it to add moisture in the air as Park City is very dry (I also provide multiple humidifiers!). Most often, I’ve been told deluxe coffee pot offering hot water on demand is a nice (and quick) touch for tea time. But that an old school kettle adds to the charm and experience.
Beverage Selection: Guests really appreciate a kitchen stocked with a selection of gourmet coffee, hot cocoa and tea. I buy small serving size packages, so the home offers a great mixture of flavors that remain fresh. It’s a nice touch to get my guests started!
4-Slice Toaster: Make sure a bagel can fit!
Slow Cooker: A great extra for cold-weather climates. Jennie has already said it much better than me, but nothing beats coming “home” to a warm bowl of stew after a day in the snow!
Stand Mixer: Guests prepare anything from breakfast waffles to an entire Christmas feast while on vacation. Stand mixers make everything easier (read: multitasking)!
Blender or Magic Bullet: I stock my properties with a blender and “Magic Bullet”. I started with a nice blender for smoothies and the like. But after receiving a couple requests (nearly at the same time for two different vacation rentals) for a Magic Bullet, I provided all my properties with one, too! They are great to help with any task in the kitchen and are small in size. Your guests will appreciate having both.
Herbs and Spices: Herbs and spices are expensive, which can be frustrating for a guest when they only need a dash or two during a weekend trip. I stalk a variety of fresh spices (check these in your property audit be sure they haven’t gone stale) and even have fresh potted herbs available at some vacation homes.
Offer to Grocery Shop: Guests would rather not spend their vacation time at the grocery store. It snows a lot in the mountains and trudging through drifts (after your long day skiing) isn’t very appealing. You’d rather be next to a cracking fire, right!? I always offer to pick up groceries for them or work with local grocery delivery services.
Cookbooks: Offering unique cookbooks at your vacation rental is an easy way to differentiate your kitchen. Find those that offer local recipe’s or have a cultural flair specific to your region. My favorite at my Park City rentals is Jennie’s soup cookbook “Ski Town Soup”! Not only is every single recipe amazing, some are local! It’s been a big hit. Whether or not you own a mountain vacation home, I suggest checking out this book!
A great kitchen should provide enough amenities for family to make a full holiday meal or fabulous cocktails, should they so desire. The layout should flow to encourage interaction, but doesn’t necessarily have to be large in size.
Travelers love dishes, cook wear and amenities that add to the experience of the local environment. They don’t have to be expensive; just unique and charming! Local craft fairs and markets are usually a good place to find pieces for your vacation rental (and it supports your community). A little extra attention to the kitchen details can go a long way as cooking, eating, and savoring delicious beverages is the most common way to entertain inside the vacation rental home.
Written by Kris Getzie, Volo Founder and Principal Consultant and Jennie Iverson, Author of Ski Town Soups and Chef.