Thursday, July 5, 2012

French Lick - the Food

We arrived at French Lick Springs Hotel early in the evening and we were hungry.
At this point neither of us wanted to go out to look for a restaurant, so we decided to dine at one of the many restaurants the hotel had to offer.

The Foodie Husband had heard about 1875: The Steakhouse and wanted to go down there.  I tried to warn him that reservations were usually required, but he was determined.

We were lucky, as it was a Thursday and got a table in the back.

We perused the menu and noticed that the items were quite pricy.  I hadn't been able to verify that fact, but I had suspected it might be so.

Springs Valley seems to be a place out of time, and most of the establishments have little to no Internet presence.  

Thus, you will have to make do with the hastily shot photos of the menus I managed to get.

1875: The Steakhouse in the French Lick Springs Hotel was named for the year of the first running of the Kentucky Derby.  This might seem to be a non sequitur, but the Monon Railroad, named for an Indian word meaning "swiftly running", ran right through town and by both hotels and down to Louisville and the site of the Kentucky Derby.  In the original days of the grand old hotels, the rich and affluent who frequented these sanitariums would often take the Monon train down to the Derby before returning to the sanitariums and the restorative mineral springs.  There they would rest and drink the waters in hopes of curing what ailed them.

Our server brought out a basket of rolls.  These rolls were laced with chiles and were a nice departure from the nondescript rolls that many restaurants offer.

After perusing the menu, we decided to split a Caesar salad, hold the anchovies, per my husband's request.

I have to say that this is an interesting presentation.
I'm just glad I didn't get the whole thing.  
At home, I'd be divvying up an entire Romaine heart between the four of us.
This half head would easily serve two of us.

It was very good, even if I do like my brand of Parmigiano Reggiano better.

By the time the entrees had arrived, I had lost the light and for some reason I didn't think to use my iPhone.
We both ordered the Petit Filet.  This was served with a fresh Demi-Glace.

I ordered my steak Medium Rare knowing that it would likely arrive rare.  I was correct, of course.  Most times it is the opposite, but I played a hunch.  I trust my instincts.

The husband ordered his medium, so his arrived medium rare.

The last time I had a steak this good was in Chicago.

Unfortunately, we mere mortals are not able to purchase prime steak at our grocery stores or most butcher shops.

I also ordered the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, made with creamy potatoes, roasted  garlic, real butter, and heavy cream.

We also shared this dish.

At the end of the meal, the lady is presented with a long stemmed red rose.
I admired this beauty during our stay and then left it for the maid.  

The cost, including tip, for this meal?
$141.00 with tip.
This was comparable to our meal in Chicago, when I last had a good steak.

The next morning we went down to the Grand Colonnade Family Restaurant for breakfast.

This restaurant is located in the former Convention Hall in the lower level of the hotel.
Meals are served from a buffet.

The first morning I chose scrambled eggs, cheesy hash brown casserole, french toast, bacon and sausages.  Drinks were included with the meal.
A bit of salt and pepper help tremendously.

The cost for two breakfasts?  About $25, not including tip.

I was on my own for lunch on Friday, so after driving around in circles in French Lick for a while, I gave up on trying to to find a place to eat that wasn't a chain restaurant and went back to the hotel.

I settled on eating at The Power Plant Bar & Grill.

At first I thought I might have the Black and Bleu Salad, but decided against that when I saw that the price for the salad was $17.95.

Instead I ordered the Kentucky Colonel's Burger, which was served with mushrooms, sauteed onions, Swiss cheese and a splash of bourbon.  I asked that the fries be made extra crispy.

While I waited for my meal to arrive, I watched the staff load "pre-made" salads and shrimp cocktails, presumably from a central kitchen, into the walk-in refrigerator.

After chatting with a friend who had stopped by to order a meal to go, my order finally arrived.  This is not fast food.  These are the places to go to unwind and relax.  Do not go and expect to be in and out a hurry.

The fries were crispy as ordered.
The burger and toppings were good, despite the fact that they use pre-made burgers.
And the infamous lemon on the side?  It actually came on a plate next to the glass of unsweet ice tea.  Just like I expect lemon on the side to arrive.

The cost of this meal for one?  $18.46 with tip.

Friday evening's meal was originally set to be a Scottish Rite "cookout" on the lower patio.
But as the temperatures were still in the lower 100s, the party was moved inside.

The dinner was set up as a buffet.
I chose to have a hamburger as hot dogs are always suspect with my chicken allergy.

Unfortunately, the hamburgers were cold by the time I got mine.
I also had coleslaw, which was pretty good.

For dessert, I had a slice of watermelon and some strawberries.
It's hard to mess that up.

Even though we had signed up for it, we decided against going on the hayride after dinner.
Staying inside after being outside all day in the record-breaking heat sounded like a good idea.

Saturday morning it was back to the Grand Colonnade Restaurant.
This time I had a pancake, a couple of undercooked slices of bacon, a bland sausage link and a helping of the cheesy hash brown casserole.

This time I decided to stop by the omelet station and had the chef make me an omelet with onion, tomato, ham, and cheese.

That afternoon I went on the Ladies' tour.  Lunch was at The Mansion

The Beechwood Mansion was built in 1915 and is the former home of Ed Ballard.  Mr. Ballard was the owner of the West Baden Springs Hotel from 1922 to 1932.

The ceiling of the room we were in was quite elaborate.

Pretty flower arrangement.

We were served afternoon tea.

An assortment of small bites.
From the top, continuing clock-wise: chicken salad sandwich, cucumber sandwich, mushroom pate in phylo shell, broccoli salad in roll, turkey and cheese in a bun, and egg souffle in a tart.

We did a bit of trading around at our table, so I ended up with two cucumber sandwiches and no chicken salad sandwich.

I will have to figure out how to make this.
It was a thinly sliced piece of smoked turkey wrapped around a hunk of colby-jack cheese?, and encased in a bit of pastry.

The second course arrived. 
A blueberry scone, a raisin scone, a slice of pound cake, a gingerbread-type mini muffin, a confection filled with a chocolate pudding, a thin crisp with chocolate and a bar that was gooey and a bit nutty.  
Don't you love these technical terms?  And can't you just tell that I am not a desserts person?
They were all good, though.

My sweet tooth was satisfied.  
For the next several months.


What's this?
Another dessert?
Oh, but it looks too good to pass up.
A bit citrusy, with a raspberry jam layer and a cream layer between the two cake layers.

Now I'm in official sugar overload.

And of course there was some very lovely tea involved.
I've come to appreciate tea in my adult years.

This was one of my favorite meals of the trip.

And now we've come to the obligatory hotel banquet dinner.

First up, the salad.
This is an inventive presentation.
The dressing was a slightly sweet take on a vinaigrette.

Very nice.

The main course arrived.
Grilled prime rib?, asparagus, carrots, and mashed potatoes.

Well, the carrots were good and the mashed potatoes were made from real potatoes.
That was the good.

The bad?
The steak was well done and no steak well done is ever done well in my opinion .
The asparagus was far too old to be good, but then again, that is my opinion.
I only like asparagus if it is the thickness of a pencil.
The potatoes were thick enough that one could slice them with a knife. I think I would have liked them better if they had been warmer or if we had had some gravy or some butter to go with them.

But then again, we are talking about a banquet for several hundred people here.
And it is notoriously difficult to time cooking, doneness, and temperatures for that many people.
So one must expect these things at banquets.
They tried and that is what counts.
The wait staff was courteous and efficient. 
The venue was enchanting.
The company was delightful.

Desserts were already in place at the table.
At my place was an apple tart.
I'd be willing to bet that this was a purchased tart.

It wasn't any less tasty, but it was a bit disappointing.
But again, I do understand the logistics.

My husband had a dark chocolate cake with a raspberry and a spurt of whipped topping.

All in all, this was about what we have come to expect from banquets.

On Sunday morning we ate at the continental buffet the council had set up with the hotel.
I got a blueberry muffin, some grapes, honeydew melon, and watermelon.

Light, refreshing and just enough to hold me over for the car ride home.

Now, this is what you call irony.

French Lick Resorts Natural Spring Water...

Source: Garland County, Arkansas.

Next post: French Lick - Stepping Back in Time

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