We had two different events planned in two different states in the weeks before Christmas: a weekend-long birthday party in the Outer Banks and a family get-together in Nashville, TN. We decided it would be fun to connect the events via a long roadtrip, stopping at the Biltmore Estate in NC before continuing on to TN. Biltmore is HUGE. The house is the largest privately owned house in the US, and the grounds cover 8000 acres. It takes 30 minutes to get from the Inn on the property to the house.
We stayed for two nights at the Inn, which is a really nice hotel and spa. They were all decked out for Christmas, and had a gingerbread house replica of the Inn. There are multiple restaurants on the Estate - we ate at the Inn Dining Room the first night, and like it so much we decided to eat there the second night too!
The Dining Room is seasonal, farm-sourced fine dining. I really liked their small plates and respectful treatment of produce. The amuse bouche was a different cream based vegetable veluote both nights and they were both outstanding. I could have eaten a bowl of that for dinner and been happy.
My favorite dish was the fried brussels sprouts with a farm egg, frisee, and bacon. This is seriously the BEST brussels sprouts dish I have ever had. It was eye-rolling good. I ordered it both nights and asked for the recipe, which they gave me! I'll post it at the bottom.
Another standout was the roasted corn and lobster soup with piquillo peppers. This has been added to my list of favorite lobster dishes, and is in the top 3 lobster bisques for sure.
The pork belly with apple tart and goat cheese ravioli appetizers were also very good and I would highly recommend them. The gnocchi with brie, figs, and bacon was not enjoyable, though. The brie overpowered everything else and the bacon was way too salty. It sounded great on paper, but didn't work.
The artisan meat and cheese platter was very satisfying, with lots of variety and good portions. I didn't order any entrees, and Jasper ordered specials both nights. He really enjoyed the seafood special the first night, but did not like the steak special the second night.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad here and I would recommend trying it out if you are ever in the area.
A path leads from the Inn down to Antler Village - a shopping area with a winery, restaurants, shops, and activities. We didn't get to do a tasting at the winery, which is a bummer, but we did eat lunch at The Bistro. This place is kind of confusing, the decor and service are cafe-like but the menu is kind of upscale. Odd. We tried the duck and truffle pate with Riesling gelee and liked it. We are not big pate fans in general, but this was smooth and had good flavor. The crackers were not great, though. We also had some Iberico ham, which was great, and house-made burrata, which was not. Our sandwiches were pretty good, too. I got a lobster roll and Jasper got a shortrib sandwich with horseradish. Afterwards, we walked over to the creamery and split an ice-cream. It was good, but not great.
Next, we continued on our way to meet up with my family at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN. This place is also huge, but all indoors. It consists of three glass-roofed atriums filled with plants, waterfalls, streams, koi ponds, and even a river with a boat ride. There are all kinds of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. The rooms here are definitely not as nice as the rooms at Biltmore, but it is less isolated.
Our first night we ate at the Jack Daniel's BBQ restaurant, which was pretty mediocre (though the honey butter rolls are addictive). Then we went to the Radio City Spectacular at the Ole Opry, featuring the Rockettes. It was pretty old-fashioned, but definitely entertaining. I had never seen the Rockettes before, so that was pretty fun.
On our second day, we grabbed lunch at Wasabi's sushi bar which was pretty decent. Then we went to the Lorrie Morgan Christmas dinner show. The food was good (especially the dessert), but the servers were always trying to grab the plates away while you were still eating them. They were rushed and pushy, it was pretty upsetting. The show was okay - I wasn't familiar with the singer so it wasn't all that exciting, but she had a nice voice and the stage was cool. Some of the production choices were wacky, though, like the lip-syncing children and the choice to sing Ave Maria in a wedding gown (complete with veil) kneeling at an alter.
The next day we visited the Ice! Interactive Exhibit, which is a big walk-though indoor ice sculpture thing. The theme was the old animated Frosty the Snowman movie and it was pretty impressive. The best part was definitely the ice slide that you can go down. We ate lunch at the casual pizzeria and really enjoyed it. It is a cafeteria-style walkthrough, but both the pizza and the lasgana were good.
That night, we left the hotel for dinner at F Scotts Restaurant and Jazz Bar. I really liked this place - great bar and bartender with knowledge of all the old fashioned drinks, live jazz music, and good food. We ordered pretty much everything on the menu between all of us, loved all of it, and had a great time. I can't even remember specific dishes, but this was the best dinner we had in Nashville.
On our last day, my family did a mini Christmas celebration for Jasper and I complete with a mini tree. We have a hard time traveling for two holidays back to back, so we alternate Thanksgivings in OR and TX and spend Christmas by ourselves. It was really amazing to get to Christmas with family again, and I am so grateful. That night we had a special "Christmas" dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse, the nicest restaurant in the hotel. This is a classic steakhouse with really good steaks and sides, and an outstanding cheese cart wielded by a Maitre Fromager (cheese expert). I've been to both this location and the Baltimore location before and am always pleased.
I have to mention hotel and restaurant staff here because as we were thinking about dessert, a tornado warning was issued. Before the sirens even started going off, servers were going to each table and asking patrons to get up and file into the kitchen, and down the stairs to the basement. Once we were in the basement, water and snacks were passed out to all the guests. Once the all-clear was given, we returned to our tables and the servers jumped right back in. Everyone was very calm and professional - well done.
As promised, here is the recipe for the amazing brussels sprouts! Obviously this is in restaurant terms, so I am going to try to translate it for home cooking at a later date. I'll let you know if I succeed!
Fried Brussels Sprouts
6th pan Brussels sprouts (halved)
Blanched until the core is tender, then fried until golden brown.
Immersion circulator set to 64*C. Circulate the eggs for 40 min. at 64*C until the whites are set. Shock in ice water and reserve.
Bacon & Banyuls Vinaigrette
1 c House Bacon (rendered)
2 Cloves Garlic
2oz. Banyuls Vinegar
2Tb Dijon Mustard
1 Tb Rendered Bacon Fat
Oil to emulsify
Add all ingredients into a blender and puree emulsify with oil until thick. Strain through a fine chinois, season and reserve.