By Gwen Ashley Walters
Middle of Nowhere
is Somewhere Worth Visiting
Resort: The Greenbrier
Recipes: Turkey Scaloppine with Black Bean Relish, Chilled Peach Soup, Coconut Almond Pound Cake
Pulling up under the massive stone pillars in front of the palatial white mansion and being greeted by polite "Yes, Ma'am" attendants, I felt like I'd stepped into Scarlett O'Hara's world. I just knew Rhett was at the top of the marble entry stairs, leaning against a column, swishing his brandy snifter in one hand, waiting to whisk me into the grand dining hall for a glorious Southern meal. Well, he wasn't waiting, but a lavish dinner was.
The Greenbrier resort sits on 6,500 wooded acres in the middle of nowhere, but it's a lovely nowhere and worth seeking out, especially if you are a food lover, like me. Tucked away in the Allegheny Mountains in the southeast corner of West Virginia, the resort has more than 200 years of history as a place to rest and rejuvenate.
From meager beginnings as a place to take in healing mineral waters to many roles later, including a Confederate military headquarters during the Civil War, and an army hospital during World War II, The Greenbrier is now known as one of the leading resorts in America. It is also a center for culinary arts, with world-class dining, a professional culinary apprenticeship program and a gourmet cooking school for guests, headed by the renowned Anne Willan, founder of Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris.
The interior decor of the resort is eye candy, redesigned by the late Dorothy Draper after World War II. Julia Child's assistant labeled it "Laura Ashley Meets Land of the Giants," referring to the many oversized floral wallpaper prints and fabrics that adorn the lobbies and guest rooms. Such bold use of colors—black and white tiled marble floors overlaid with a bright grass-green carpet topped with cherry red and fuschia pink floral print chairs—are signature trademarks of the traditional Southern resort.
The resort attracts all types of visitors, including golfers who praise its three championship courses and spa-seekers who indulge in the natural mineral and sulfur water treatments. It also attracts my favorite kind of people—foodies! They come for both the demonstration classes at La Varenne with Anne Willan and her many guest chefs, as well as for the participation classes that run through the summer season, providing guests a chance to don toques and whites and get their hands into the food. The school also offers children cooking classes.
If you are less interested in preparing your own food than in eating a fine meal, the Greenbrier won't disappoint you. The dining options run the gamut from formal fine dining in the spacious Main Dining Room to a more intimate dinner setting in the Tavern Room to the casual fare at Sam Snead's in the Golf Club. Draper's Café, located on the lower level, is just as chic as its food is tasty. It serves breakfast and lunch a la carte, and it's a refreshing spot to quench your thirst after visiting the 30 some-odd specialty shops also on the lower level. This place is huge!
The resort published its own cookbook in 1992, calling it not surprisingly, The Greenbrier Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from America's Resort. The hardbound 190-page book details the colorful history of the resort, with emphasis on the evolution of dining and entertaining beginning with a pivotal dinner in 1908 that changed the course of the resort.
The recipes are fun to read and relatively simple to prepare, featuring mostly traditional dishes like Vichyssoise and Veal Fricassee, with an occasional twist on a classic, like the Turkey Scaloppine with Black Bean Relish. The southern influence is pronounced, with Corn Pudding, Chilled Peach Soup, Southern Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuits. The resort constantly updates its menu, therefore not all of the recipes in the book are still offered through the dining venues.
One of my favorite desserts, Coconut Almond Pound Cake, is not in the book, but the Chef graciously shared it with me and so I pass it on to you. Here's the secret to this recipe, which wasn't stated in the printed version: the resort cuts the cake into about a two-inch slice and griddles it in a hot sauté pan with a touch of butter. Before bringing it to the table, a generous scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream is added to the warm, luscious cake. Incredible!
300 West Main Street
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia 24986
Accommodations: 637 guest rooms, including 46 suites and 71 guest and estate houses.
Activities: Golf (3 championship courses); tennis; swimming; fly-fishing; trap & skeet shooting; bowling; horseback riding; croquet; falconry; Land Rover Driving School; mountain biking; whitewater rafting; spa treatments; LaVarenne at The Greenbrier cooking school.
Rates: Driven by season; range $203-$395 per person (double occupancy)—includes breakfast and dinner April through October. Call for rates or visit their website at www.greenbrier.com.
Copyright © 2001, Gwen Ashley Walters. All rights reserved.
Gwen Ashley Walters is cookbook author, cooking teacher, food writer and Certified Culinary Professional with a degree in Culinary Arts. Gwen's travel guide/cookbooks, The Great Ranch Cookbook, (1998) and The Cool Mountain Cookbook, (2001) were published by Pen & Fork Communications.
This page created July 2001