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The Greenbrier Resort: romance and tradition


Gifted Gourmet
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Speaking of the culinary arts, dining at the Greenbrier is a highlight of any visit. Nowhere is The Greenbrier's Southern heritage more apparent than at the breakfast table. Pan-fried brook trout, buckwheat cakes, hominy grits, Virginia ham, cornbread, biscuits, gravy, and homemade preserves are served each morning in the magnificent Main Dining Room. Dressing for dinner is part of the tradition, and the dining room with its crystal chandeliers, candlelight, and string ensemble makes a perfect setting for a leisurely meal. Greenbrier favorites include peaches and bread pudding for dessert. Cooking enthusiasts are in luck, too. Every spring since 1991, Anne Willan, founder and president of the famed Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne of France, invites guest chefs and culinary colleagues to teach alongside her at La Varenne at The Greenbrier.

So, has anyone here, no matter what part of the country you live in, had the spectacular opportunity to stay at and enjoy the bounty of The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia? :rolleyes:

The website section on their dining

If so, please share your experiences with us! :biggrin:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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We went to the Greenbrier about 4-5 years ago for my Dad's 60th birthday. My recollection is a bit foggy, but the main things I recall are:

1. I took a picture of my Dad and stepmother during dinner. Evidently, Jack Germond (journalist) was in the background and complained. So, I was scolded by the staff.

2. The dining room was huge . . . and almost empty . . . on a Saturday night.

3. My sister brought a date, who was sort of a dud. But, I felt bad for him because he neglected to wear a tie, and they refused to seat him. So, he had to borrow a tie from the lost and found. It was sort of a purple knit tie that looked, shall I say, "Bold", in combination with his green dinner jacket.

4. I recall that the food was ok, but not memorable.

5. Expensive.

6. Having been once, we won't be returning.

7. We didn't stay there because we have a home in West Virginia. So, I can't comment on the lodging.

Basically, it was as expensive or more expensive than a top of the line restaurant; however, the food was mediocre (for the money) and the atmosphere was, in a word, lacking.

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I am always somewhat surprised by The Greenbrier. It is really smack dab in the middle of Almost-Nowhere (which is something like Almost-Heaven), West Virginia.

You drive through miles of nothing, and then there it is. It is imposing...and it is elegant and it has the same aura that other resort hotels such as The Breakers hold.

There is no wandering in...by 'just anybody' here. Your car will not be parked by the valet unless there is good reason to be there. It is old world WASP snotty in its own charming way.

There are dress codes. You will see families with small children...where even the children are wearing dresses or nice pants rather than jeans.

The food? It can be very good during the seasons that the hotel is sure to be well booked. But again, this is an old WASP'y place, and tasty exciting food is not right up at the top of most old WASP families Wish Lists. If one orders well, one might get something quite tasty, but that is not what sells the place to the people that frequent it year after year.

On the other hand, it hosts cooking classes both for adults and for children year-round, with major cookbook authors and chefs coming in to teach for a week or two at a pretty penny.

And there is the food writers conference, too...here is the link:

http://www.greenbrier.com/foodwriters/

(Looks like Ruhlman is going to appear at this year's conference...)

One other very nice thing about The Greenbrier is that they are working within the community to improve and develop opportunities for young people who might wish to enter the world of fine dining or other foodservice careers...by financially supporting and being quite involved in the operation of a new curriculum which is offered at the very small Greenbrier Community College (part of the WVU system but not a well-known one) and by also offering work-study programs for degree-seeking students.

Finally...I must say...where else can one go to study 'falconry' as part of a vacation package?!

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i like the greenbrier. i teach there about every other year (next year, not this year). but it is a straight shot of old south country club-style. picture a place where coca-cola execs dream of going. the main bar is called "the old white club" with no apparent irony. on the other hand, they do search out some great ingredients and treat them respectfully. and i don't think i've ever stayed anywhere with better service.

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on the other hand, they do search out some great ingredients and treat them respectfully. and i don't think i've ever stayed anywhere with better service.

Yes...the service is top-notch for anywhere in the world...as are the facilities.

And they do work with local farmers to have them grow produce and meat(s) to exact specs. No small feat. And when it works right, it glows.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We took my mother and father-in-law there as a retirement gift - a little more than 20 years ago. They were old Waspy people who liked to play golf. We couldn't have picked a better place :smile: . And I got to meet Chief Justice Burger before I argued a case in the Supreme Court :wink: . The place is very hospitable and even-handed - "all of our guests are important". When Alexander Haig called the tennis staff and asked to cancel my tennis lesson because he wanted empty courts on both sides of his court when he played - the staff said no. I played tennis and he didn't. Big downside was airline lost my luggage and I wound up having to wear my mother-in-law's evening clothes because my airplane clothes weren't acceptable in the dining room (no exceptions for lost luggage).

The food wasn't interesting - but it was presented very nicely. They always had a big bowl of terrific strawberries at lunch - and when someone messed up the whip cream on top - even a little - they'd "redo" it - so it would be perfect.

That said - it's not our cup of tea - and I understand that it's a bit more convention oriented these days. Not recommended unless your name is Muffy or Buffy or you like to play golf on well-manicured resort courses. Robyn

P.S. For this type of resort - the "old southern" golf place - it is the best I've been to. I'd pick it over a place like Pinehurst any day - although the rooms in both places are equally miserable and out-of-date.

And I don't think it's anywhere close to a place like the Breakers (which is course - not an "old southern" golf place). The Breakers is in my opinion an architectural masterpiece - and once it was kicked in the *ss by the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton - and spent millions on renovations over the course of many years - it became a world class resort. And - there's a lot more to do in Palm Beach than the middle of West Virginia (I was going to say it's warmer in the winter too - but we tend to go in the summer - when everything in Palm Beach is relatively relaxed and relatively cheap).

Edited by robyn (log)
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I stayed at the Greenbrier for five days this past June for a work conference. Here are the highlights in my opinion:

-Kate's Mountain, lovely view, they had a bbq there that was amazing with the Chef who writes those "BBQ university" books, I can not think of his name. Good though.

-The Main Dinning Room. The food here was always excellent. I had a salmon wellington app, the fillet for dinner, all lovely. One of the great things about the Greenbrier, is that brekfast and dinner are included with the room, so you really only have to pay fo lunch.

-The tour of the bunker/former Senate/congress amazing.

-Sam Sneads was a god place for lunch, typical sandwhich type food. The photos downstairs are really cool with all the celebs with Sam Snead.

-Drapers was another great lunch dinner place, more low key than the dinning room, but equally great food and service.

-The highlight of the trip would have to be the Spa. I had a swedish massage from "Terry" (who I would ask for if ever there!) and it was supurb!

Work is work, and I had to work there, but the down time, was hardly that!

-Sean

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