If you licked this plate clean, it would disappear

Candies for the eye

Here's the plate I broke. Oops.

What happens when you break a plate at a fancy-schmancy restaurant? You eat it! To get rid of the evidence? No, because you can.  So, while I didn’t eat my plate at Herons, I could have.

Herons is the four-star, four-diamond restaurant at the five-star, five-diamond hotel The Umstead, in Cary, N.C. (near Durham, where I live). I know what you’re thinking. Diane, you are not a fancy-schmancy gal. You write about farms and you pack ham-and-cheese sandwiches to take on day trips. Yes, yes, all true.

But because I’m a Travel Writer, I get invited to all sorts of events and dinners. Usually, I pass. That’s either because I don’t need to go there for my work or, if I do want to write about a place, I go anonymously and pay my own way.

Premier King Lake View Room at The Umstead

One of Umstead's deluxe rooms, with a view of the lake behind it

But I made an exception to eat at Herons and tour the luxurious and totally gorgeous hotel and spa. Since the place opened in 2007, it’s gotten nothing but raves.

I was with a group of writers and editors much more sophisticated than myself, which was a good thing so I could watch which forks they used.

I should have photographed every stage of the glorious five-course meal, but because I was so exhausted from two days of schmoozing and speaking at the NC Governor’s Conference on Tourism, and because the food was spell-binding, I plumb forgot. (I also would have looked like a countrified idgit snapping away when every dish arrived, so it’s just as well.)

The meal was compliments of Herons and its brand-new, award-winning chef Scott Crawford, who came from the Georgian Room at the over-the-top Cloister resort at Sea Island, Ga. (though he’s so fresh-faced he looks more like he just graduated from the University of Georgia).

200903_34b_herons

The main dining room at Herons

So, from soup to nuts: 1) Amuse bouche, natch. 2) Malted parsnip soup, vanilla poached lobster, tangerine, almonds. 3) Roast quail, foie gras (yes, I felt guilty), date butter, apple marmalade, bacon sauce. 4) Kobe beef, oyster mushroom, potato puree, balsamic barbecue jus. 5) Tar Heel Mud Pie: dark chocolate, peanut butter wafer, salted caramel ice cream, from playful and superb pastry chef Daniel Benjamin. All courses came with wine pairings from sommelier Justin Tilley, who also looks about 22 and is ridiculously knowledgeable.

Just when it was safe to roll myself  home, Daniel brought us a few bonbons on plates. They had a more sophisticated name, which of course I’d never heard before and can’t recall now. The plates were adorned with glass medallions with our names in them (!) and a doodad design. As I examined mine, I broke it! I guess those Y workouts are working out.

A dessert plate or is it a plate dessert?

Is it a dessert plate or a plate dessert?

Then someone more in the know informed us: it was all hard candy! Yep, a plate of candy. The Herons’ media rep, the amazing Jennifer Noble Kelly, gave me her intact one to take home and show Wessel, hence the reason for Jen’s name in my plate o’ goodies in the photo.

I walked out of the four-star restaurant, five-star hotel, to-go box in hand, feeling more like a Gomer than a globe-trotter. Wessel was equally excited to see the candy/glass plate. I guess we were meant for each other. After all, he’s the one who makes my ham-and-cheese sandwiches.

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3 Responses to “If you licked this plate clean, it would disappear”

  1. karel Says:

    Be happy you woke up just in time, because there is almost no border between decadence and distinction

  2. Whitney Says:

    “I was with a group of writers and editors much more sophisticated than myself, which was a good thing so I could watch which forks they used.” This made me giggle. I could imagine you in that situation, haha.

    But seriously–do you know anything about how long fancy-pants restaurants have used candy plates? It seems like a gimmick that should have been around a while ago.

    • didaniel Says:

      Hey Whitney. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I don’t think it’s common because it’s so costly and gimmicky. Only a top restaurant would probably bother with doing it, and not often. But I’m just guessing!

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