Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Dining Room at the Inn on Biltmore Estate

 Beautiful Waterfalls
Breathtaking Mountains
Asheville, North Carolina is a small city well known for its natural beauty. It's majestic mountains, and cascading waterfalls are captivating, and a drive through the winding Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an adventure in itself.. But it isn't just the natural beauty that brings visitors back. Asheville is also a hub for fine art galleries, antique stores and colorful boutiques; as well as the friendliest people you can imagine. And there's one particular place in Asheville that is a fairy-tale come to life; a place where beauty and elegance meet comfort and history. This place is the Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore House

Views of Inn at the Estate
Captivating surroundings
Writing about this adventure wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention the incredible setting in which it took place. The Biltmore Estate is an 8,000 acre estate nestled in the mountains of Asheville, where George Vanderbilt built his extraordinary home, and lush, awe-inspiring gardens. Today, it also houses the Antler Village and Winery, featuring several restaurants, shops, historical exhibits, and an Outdoor Adventure Center; all still owned by the Vanderbilt family.

Inn on Biltmore Estate

The Dining Room
Beautiful Fireplace
In addition, there is a hotel on the property, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, which offers luxurious accommodations in an ambiance befitting of the Biltmore experience. It is here, in their upscale restaurant, The Dining Room, located at 1 Approach Rd., where I had my first taste of Asheville. The Dining Room is a testament to the opulence found at the Biltmore Estate.  From its refined furniture to its grandiose fireplace, every lavish corner exudes elegance in its splendor.  The moment I stepped inside, I was mesmerized by the eye-catching chandeliers and plush decor; while the breathtaking mountain views framed the setting for what promised to be an unforgettable evening.

Once we were seated, Hank, our server, immediately greeted us. I have to pause for a second to say the service at The Dining Room was impeccable and went beyond stellar to absolutely perfect from start to finish. Hank made sure this was an evening to remember; paying attention to every possible detail and going above and beyond to make us feel welcome. An interesting point to note is that The Dining Room strives to maintain Vanderbilt's vision of sustainable agriculture by providing fresh picked ingredients harvested  from their fields and picked from the property's gardens, as well as serving estate-raised beef and lamb.

She Crab Soup
Panzanella Salad
While we perused the menu, Hank brought us a complimentary shot of their special She Crab Soup. I've had this east coast delicacy before, even in Charleston where it is a signature dish, and none have compared. It was rich and creamy with a delicious blue crab taste. Moving to the small plates, we started with an appetizer they were offering for the evening. It was a Panzanella Salad with crabmeat, chopped heirloom tomatoes, scallion vinaigrette, frisse lettuce and topped with a boiled egg. Amazing! The crabmeat had a soft, delicate, and slightly sweet taste that stood out when combined with the salad and scallion vinaigrette. The boiled egg added yet another flavor profile to the dish that brought it all together.

Pork & Peach Sausage
The next appetizer we ordered was the Paella. It was made with Carolina Gold Rice, smoked chicken, lobster, shrimp, mussels, English peas, roasted peppers and saffron. The dish was unbelievable. Moist and boldly seasoned; each bite held a multitude of flavors that took you to culinary nirvana. While it was a starter, I didn't want it to end and could have easily had it as an entree. Going for one more, we ordered the Pork & Peach Sausage. Grilled peaches, vanilla whipped fennel and sweet and sour peach jus harmoniously combined with pork sausage to bring a medley of sweet and salty flavors to our taste buds. Definitely another hit and I couldn't wait to start the entrees.

Filet Mignon and Tempura Lobster
Carolina Bison
Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Tempura Lobster Tail began the parade of our next course. This was another chef's special of the evening. Two succulent filet medallions were served atop a bed of creamy risotto and drizzled with truffle veal jus. Next to it,  two pieces of sweet tempura fried lobster tails were elaborately prepared over summer vegetables and bathed in their own delicate sauce. The dish was a delight to the senses and I just wish I could have savored a few more bites. Following this entree, we ordered the Carolina Bison, a juicy and tender meat served with fingerling hashbrowns and collard greens, and crowned with a farm egg and delicious veal jus. A creative interpretation of regional cuisine, the flavor and tender texture of the meat was heightened by its accompaniments and their fresh, farm to table taste. The last entree we feasted on was the Pan Roasted Diver Scallops. Buttery and practically melting in my mouth, the scallops were served over a saffron lemon fondue and covered with fennel and smoked almonds. There was a great combination of enticing textures and flavors in each bite.

Pan Roasted Diver Scallops

Pretzel and Bourbon Bread Pudding
Ginger & Dark Rum Creme Brulee
We sat back for a few minutes, meditating over the amazing meal we were having, and taking in the splendid ambiance. We couldn't wait to try their desserts. Hank, in his infinite attention to detail, helped us make our selections based on what we liked. We started with the Pretzel & Bourbon Bread Pudding. It sounded amazing and it was. The seemingly simple flavors created a complex combination of sweet and salty with a kick. Served with Brown Ale Caramel, Chocolate Ice-Cream and Walnut Nougatine, each spoonful was a surprise for the palate. The next sweet treat we had was the Ginger & Dark Rum Creme Brulee, served with key lime granite, key lime curd and crumbled gingersnaps. We loved it. The final dessert we ordered was their assortment of House-Made Sorbets. The three seasonal flavors were refreshing and sweet and paired well with the accompanying fruit.

Assortment of House-Made Sorbets

Reservations are strongly recommended and you must either have estate admission,  be a registered guest at the Inn on Biltmore Estate or be a Twelve Month Pass Holder to dine at The Dining Room. However, the experience is something you definitely have to treat yourself to if you're visiting the Asheville, North Carolina area. I guarantee that the meal will be a memory that will last a lifetime. For more information, you can contact The Dining Room at 828-225-1699 or visit them online at http://www.biltmore.com/visit/dining/dining-room.asp.

Inn on Biltmore Estate Dining Room on Urbanspoon

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