Thursday, February 17, 2011

French Wine Dinner At The Inn On Crescent Lake

The intention of a planned evening out is just that; an opportunity to enjoy a pleasant dinner on a pleasant evening and really, that in itself is a treat and I can't ask for more. However, every now and then, said evening morphs into something wholly unexpected and in this case, far more meaningful. This is our evening at the Inn On Crescent Lake.

I had sadly only driven by this inn in Excelsior Springs previously and had never had the pleasure of entering its welcoming gates. The Inn had been under new ownership for the past year and I had heard wonderful things about the new proprietors and the Inn itself. Patrick and Beverly Delugeau moved from Normandy, France to find their dream bed and breakfast here in the States. Patrick had lived his entire life in France up until this point and was born in the Loire Valley. They had traveled around the U.S. and were thrilled to discover the charm of the Inn On Crescent Lake. Welcomed with open arms by the community and pouring their hearts and souls into the bed and breakfast infused a new energy into the Inn and it enjoyed a renewed reputation as a cherished retreat. Tragically, after a year spent with their dream destination, Patrick passed away unexpectedly and the community surrounded Beverly and her family with love and support. This was just a few months ago. Beverly's family and staff have helped her keep the dream alive and one of the ways they are honoring Patrick's memory is with these wine dinners. I had never met Patrick but amongst his many abilities were that of gourmet cook and great admirer of fine food and wine. I was excited to learn of these wine dinners that the Inn had begun hosting and we quickly moved to secure seating for the next one on the day after Valentine's Day.

We arrived through the stately gates with our friends Betty and Linda and were warmly welcomed by Beverly. I had never met Beverly and I instantly realized that she is one of those people who carry a wonderful presence....a true light. How fitting that she would be the proprietor of this charming inn. I would also meet her equally charming daughter Leah, who's been handling a lot of the day-to-day operations of the Inn. After the rest of the evening's diners arrived; around 20 of us, we were split into two groups and taken on a tour of the mansion and grounds. The breakfast nook with its panoramic view of the lake and its snow covered banks was first, and soon, we climbed the grand staircase and viewed the many rooms; each featuring their own romantic flourishes. The various inviting beds, some with willowy canopies were highlights but the centerpieces for me were the private baths.....in particular, the one that featured the sexy cherry-red claw-foot tub. We strolled the grounds as well and my favorite area there was of course, the wine cellar. Originally an old root cellar, Patrick had been working to evolve it into a wine cellar and the project was completed after his passing.

We returned to the cozy dining room for the main event. Leah would introduce the wine that would be paired with each course and Beverly would describe the dishes, in this case, French dishes with American similarities. The wines were from the family winery: Domaine Les Terres Chaudes. The description of the winery comes from the family themselves...

"Five generations of the DeLugeau family imbued the winery with a sense of its deep roots in the Loire Valley of France. They have a commitment to honor these roots, the estate and the family tradition through every wine produced. The DeLugeau's family winery, Domaine des Terres Chaudes, has an enduring reputation for elegant wines with a beautiful balance of finesse, power and complexity."

The first course was an array of tasty appetizers: small, savory cheese-filled pastries, prosciutto-wrapped melon slivers and bacon-wrapped prunes (an unexpected delight) and this was served with a glass of Rose D' Anjou, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Grolleau Gris(I loved listening to Beverly pronounce this) and Gamay. The salad course was mixed greens with a beautifully simple Dijon-based dressing and this was accompanied by a diminutive yet decadent chicken pot pie. I suddenly wished that I had brought something with me to take notes with as I was missing the French pronunciations on much of the meal.....so bear with me as I continue to describe the meal.

A quick aside....The previous day I had found the holy grail of cookbooks, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2 on clearance at my store at a ridiculously low price.....75% off of its originally $100.00 price and with my extra discount dropped the price to about seventeen bucks and some change. I brought it home and poured through the recipes, snickering as if I'd committed a master culinary heist. The next day, at this wine dinner, Beverly began describing the approaching main course and not only was I swooning over the delicious details but found that we would be enjoying some of the amazing dishes that I read about in Julia's Gold Standard Bible. A wonderful Pork Normandy was served featuring a luscious apple-based sauce atop baked apples. It is traditionally made with Calvados, a French apple brandy and when I read the recipe, I wondered if that could be found locally. We were then entertained by a story of how Patrick enjoyed the brandy right in that very dining room. The Pork Normandy was served with a to-die-for Gratin Dauphinois or French scalloped potatoes made with homemade creme fraiche as well as a julienned vegetable ragout. The entree was served with a glass of the Anjou Rouge, a Cabernet Franc that was my personal favorite.

Dessert was served; a sultry strawberry eclair that was accompanied by a glass of Cabernet D'Anjou, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The entire meal itself was nothing short of spectacular but it was the warm and loving tales shared by the ladies that added that something extra to the evening. The serving of each course was interwoven with stories of Patrick including witty bon mots that he would say. He loved to say that there was nothing better than good food and wine shared with good friends. As we sat, completely sated, Beverly shared the many photos and scrapbooks of her life and travels with Patrick and continued to tell wondrous stories. I was particularly mesmerized by the story of how they traveled this country looking for their dream bed and breakfast and had nearly given up when they discovered the Inn. She spoke of when they first laid eyes on the property and how upon entering the gates, Patrick whispered in French, as if he'd entered hallowed, sacred ground.

The entire experience was one that had left me not only completely satisfied by the meal but spellbound by the experience; as if I'd just shared a truly intimate experience with old friends, new friends and complete strangers. As I said before, I regretfully had never met Patrick but in the course of this magical evening, I felt his presence throughout and by night's end, I'd felt not only that I now had a wonderful portrait of what an amazing human being Patrick was but that we had been welcomed into the family of The Inn At Crescent Lake.

The next wine dinner is scheduled for March 8 and needless to say at this point, I highly recommend it. If you can't make one of the dinners, at least go check the Inn out. They specialize in relaxation and who couldn't use some of that these days? Check them out at http://www.crescentlake.com/index.html

Ladies, what a fantastic evening. Merci!

4 comments:

Lisa Mandina said...

The food looks yummy, but what I'm fascinated with is the claw foot bathtub. I've always wanted one of those, they're perfect for bubble baths!

Romantic Dinner said...

Yeah Very nice location Crescent Lake and i like wine dinner. lovely recipe and i think very testy. great idea for dinner and interesting this post. i loved that

Rocket French said...

Sounds delicious ! Very nice pictures :)
Cathy

Donald from French holiday cottages to rent said...

It’s seems to be a charming place. I would love to go there for few days and relax.

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