Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Bright, New Easter Sunday At The Elms

The work continues as these Spring days go by; every day bringing a renewed aspect to various corners of my workplace-under-renovation, the Elms Hotel and Spa. As I've mentioned before, my latest temporary office is a corner of a table in the Truman Boardroom that tends to shrink in size daily. Various bottles of liquor, including some choice single-malt scotches, sit under linen on shelves behind me and no, they weren't written into my contract as company perks, but instead, the liquid remnants from the Library Lounge. Fitting once again, that a room once thought to house illegal activities in the Mob heydays would have these shelves of undercover liquor. All of that untouched liquor is a testament to the integrity of this management staff as the daily upheaval of renovation would be enough to drive anyone to cozy up to the Glenmorangie. From loud, echoing thumps on the roof above us to endless tests of various alarms, every day hosts a new surprise.

We weather the temptations and turmoil, though, as we do any of the myriad challenges that arise every day. We continue doing our work even as various corporate trainings go on in one room and as the inevitable construction snafus pop up. More importantly, various victories occurred and every little entry in the W column keeps us going. We hosted a trade show and luncheon for one company; our first event with guests and it went very well. We have beautiful new lobby restrooms that most importantly, WORK. The classy restroom doors with the smoked glass that enter into the lovely remodeled interior are just way-cool. The dark wood and retro wallpaper inside remind me of the TV show Mad Men. That's right, I said it....the lobby restrooms remind me of Mad Men. If that restroom featured a chanteuse warbling French songs while handing out warm hand towels and mixing martinis, I'd never leave. But I digress....

Every day brings new excitement. The spa gurus, Kevin and Seth, conducted a makeup class in the Carriage House. New dark trim was painted around the windows on one side of the exterior. We are taking several guests on tours of some of the completed guestrooms. The Elms sign on top of the building is newly a-lit with fresh neon and has been restored beautifully. Finally, we were able to pull off our first true Elms event; the Easter Brunch.

We were unsure as to whether we would be able to host the annual Easter Brunch this year and indeed, it was a close call to do so. Various associates were still toiling away on assembling the stunning and intricate new chandeliers in the Grand Ballroom, where the brunch would be held. This would be our new chef Steven Cameron and his staff's first big showing and they worked day and night to prepare. We even managed an Easter Egg Hunt before, despite the brief rain and ongoing construction. Keith and I even worked on mulching and creating some flower beds on the back lawn to pretty it up for the hunt.

We were also lucky to attend the Brunch ourselves. Originally, we were to attend it with family, but as the guestrooms weren't ready, the family decided not to come in from Jeff City. Our friends Cress, TJ and Betty joined us instead but we were prepared to help out should the staff need. The ballroom looked fabulous from the renovations alone and the added class of the decor from Russ at Changing Seasons really put the setting gloriously over the top. The staff looked sharp in their new uniforms. To absolutely no one's surprise, though, the food was the thing for me, and I was chomping at the bit to dig in to Chef Steven's fine fare. And fine it was...

Let's start at the beginning. Steaming cups of locally made Roasterie coffee were served. Were I up for a brunch cocktail, I might have chosen a refreshing Mimosa or the house Bloody Mary which included Guinness Stout as one of the ingredients. I was determined to try at least a bite of everything offered, so we began with the Cold Table. The eye-catching centerpiece of the table was the whole roasted chilled salmon adorned in razor-thin cucumber slices and truly, I could've made a meal out of this alone. However, I would have been denied the tasty artichoke, spinach and feta frittata or the flavorful baby red potatoes and green beans with tarragon creme fraiche. I loved the tangy and zesty spring mix with housemade mustard vinaigrette and fried shallots.

Approaching the hot table, I have to mention those sparkling new chafers on the buffet table...shiny new buffet-ware to match the new ballroom. But, oh, the food...warm, fresh buttermilk biscuits with redeye gravy, thick bacon and breakfast sausage and crazy-good and crispy caraway home fries with caramelized onions. Creative vegetable dishes included spring peas with roasted oyster and mint and grilled asparagus with prosciutto-hazelnut butter. Forget typical rubbery buffet chicken...this brunch featured a light and lovely lemon-thyme roasted chicken. Then there was the creamy Gruyere potato gratin and the amazing Calabrese-style Sagne Chine, or traditional Italian Easter Breakfast Lasagna.

It was with great difficulty to stop eating this magnificent meal in order to sample dessert but sacrifice we did. Boy, was it worth it...sugar-dusted brownies, chocolate mousse tartlets and housemade granola with honey yogurt and grapes were each delightful in their way but there were most assuredly two stars of that sweet show: the revelatory strawberry and black pepper Pain Perdu and the knock-your-socks-off white chocolate bread pudding. I am by nature, not a bread pudding fanatic but this rich, sweet and decadent version was a wow. The Pain Perdu, a sumptious French toast, with its hints of black pepper, was to die for.

Yes, it is a fact that I am biased...I do work for the Elms. But as anyone who knows me or has read this blog can attest, I'm also a big fan of the Elms as well. Sitting in that gorgeously renovated ballroom and dining on that spectacular food with friends who were equally swooning nearly made me teary with pride. Better yet, hearing the raves from longtime friends of the Elms like the Schwarzes and Troy Snelling make me so happy. Troy and his lovely ladyfriend Gretchen were kind enough to let me photograph them in front of his classic Packard in front of the hotel.

The renovation ride has been bumpy, sometimes alarmingly so, but man, when you start seeing the hard work paying off so handsomely, I am constantly reminded that the end result will most assuredly be worth it.


Lisa Mandina said...

Can't wait to see it all re-done! I miss seeing you at the bookstore! I walked in last night and as I walked towards the customer service desk on my way to the escalator, I felt the sad thought that I wouldn't be seeing you there when I came in to work anymore. :-(

Stacy said...

Thanks so much for the personal tour!
The kids think you and Keith rock!! Of course they are right.


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