Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Lodge at Blue Ridge Summit

As we drove up the driveway, still slushy from recent snows, the anticipation mounted. Things were looking good. The lodge appeared before us – unpretentious yet welcoming. The absence of other cars in the parking lot did not dissuade us. We were venturing out midweek and rather late for the typical lunch crowd: 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon in mid-winter. Consequently, the lack of other diners was not surprising.

Rather than being concerned, we instead envisioned the delightful prospect of attentive service and one-at-a-time meals that we would enjoy as the only customers in the deserted dining room.

Through the front doors we stepped. What a show! As we gazed past the elegantly attired dining room, our eyes were drawn across the tables, through the enclosed outdoor patio and outward to an absolutely gorgeous panoramic view of the valleys and hills of nearby Eastern Pennsylvania.

While enjoying the amazing view, we were greeted warmly by the one young woman on duty who served as both hostess and wait staff. Allowed to select any table we desired, we decided on that one perfect table that provided views of both the great outdoors and of the wonderfully warm glowing fire crackling in the massive fireplace. The scent of wood smoke permeated the room generating a warm, welcoming sensation all around.

2 gold stars so far. View and ambience.

But, there’s more to culinary heaven than warm ambience. Time to peruse the menu. Oh, it was hard to decide. How to choose, how to choose? Appetizers alone created a dilemma. Crab bisque or roasted butternut squash soup? Sautéed mussels in a roasted red pepper saffron broth or herb & red chile accented grilled pizza dough layered with fontina, parmigianno-reggiano & mozzarella? Not a pedestrian selection in the group.

And, then there were the sandwich entrees. Each one sounding as enticing as the others. Ribeyes and crab cakes and big old juicy angus burgers and reubens on marble rye and, need I go on?

But wait, I haven’t even mentioned the most exciting part. This is M.L. Carroll’s place. You know you know who she is. ML is and has been the owner and top chef of Canapes catering in Frederick for years and years and is widely regarded as one of, if not THE top food executors in the area. Never disappointed with any of her catered affairs in the past decade – we were salivating at getting a taste of what she could do in her own restaurant.

We expected amazing culinary delights to come out of her kitchen when she didn’t have to make 250 at a time. We just knew that this would be the perfect venue for her to showcase her incredible talents. We were almost giddy with anticipation.

From all of the choices on the appetizer menu, we selected two: the crab bisque and the Avocado Spring Rolls served with a peanut sauce and a sweet chili dipping glaze. Props to the bisque. Actually very tasty with plenty of crab meat and flavor. The bisque was not overly thick as can often happen with less attentive chefs. So, yay for the soup.

Sadly, the praise must now come to an end. My mother always told me not to say anything if I didn’t have anything nice to say. So, if I were a good girl, and always did as my mother told me, then the review would end here. But who ever said I was a good girl?

For those of you who only like good news, I suggest you stop reading now. For there was nothing else we ate that lived up to its billing.

The avocado spring rolls? Well, they were hot. The delicate almost unseasoned avocado filling would have been far better served by a light wrapper – perhaps a phyllo dough or a thin spring roll wrapper. Instead, it was enmeshed in a hard eggroll type wrapper that did absolutely nothing to enhance the flavor of the dish. It could also have benefited by the addition of salt. And the accompanying sauces? Both overly sweet. And the peanut sauce had a clumpy skin on top – almost as if it had been sitting in the refrigerator without benefit of a lid.

The fire grilled ribeye? The generously portioned yet flavorless, unseasoned, unmarinated un-anything piece of meat had absolutely no grilled flavor - nor flavor of any kind. Oh, and the cracked peppercorn and horseradish cream with which it was supposed to be topped? Nowhere to be found.

Where the heck is the salt cellar in the kitchen? Did we somehow end up dining on “reduce your blood pressure day”??

How about the creamy lump crab cake served on toasted focaccia with a Chesapeake remoulade? Creamy is not the adjective I would use to describe the texture of this well portioned cake. More like, doughy. Too much filler, not enough lump crab meat. Oh, and like the topping for the ribeye, the promised Chesapeake remoulade was not to be found.

Hey, it’s not like the place was packed and the kitchen staff was working frantically to garnish plates. We were the ONLY people in the restaurant! You would think that they could pay a bit of attention to the food they were sending out.

Our server handled the missing items with aplomb, appearing promptly with replacements. The horseradish cream was fine. But the Chesapeake remoulade? Can you say mayonnaise with relish?

But, I have saved the best for last. The omnipresent “Pasta Creation” served with each entree. The creation that graced our plates consisted of old cold egg noodles with a few julienned pepper strips thrown in for color. And a slice of mushroom.

You know the hard edge that pasta gets when you have it in the fridge too long? Well, the Lodge’s pasta creation made an art of them. My guess is that at some previous meal, wide egg noodles were served as a side dish and there were just too many left over to throw out. Add a bare minimum of slivered veggies, sprinkle on far too little parmagianna and voila: Pasta Creation!

What the heck happened here? Where are the refinement of flavors and taste explosions for which M.L. is known and respected? Is she even in the workspace anymore or is she torn between too many responsibilities with the lodge, the inn and the catering business? Or was this just an anomaly - a single day when the chef was out of town and the staff members didn't step up?

Oh, we so wanted to love it there. The view, the ambience, the crackling fire. Sadly, our Great Expecations turned in to Bleak House.


Anonymous said...

We were at the Lodge last week and the Food was Great.

Dining Diva said...

Glad to hear it... we were only there the one time , so it may have just been a bad day.

I'm wondering if it is under new ownership?

Anonymous said...

So sorry you were mis-informed. ML never owned the Lodge or the Inn at Blue Ridge Summit, she was simply a squatter trying to make a name for herself at others expense. Check the history, and you will find that this woman leaves a trail of destruction behind her wherever she goes, and yes by the way she is no longer there, happy hunting.

Anonymous said...

I think it is very clear that the last writing was from ML's ex- partner and the sour feelings are still haunting some people. I don't know either indiviuals just some small comments from the staff regarding ML and ML. I have been to dinner several times with friends and it is hit or miss depending on the night. We do enjoy it around the fall season and we drive from Mt. Airy for the view and leaves. It is simply a nice drive and sorry to say a decent dinner, things have changed. I can say that it makes for a nice Saturday drive but do not stay at the Inn. It is boring and lifeless, make it a day visit and don't set your hopes to high and you will enjoy. Mary

Anonymous said...

she was simply a squatter trying to make a name for herself at others expense. Check the history, and you will find that this woman leaves a trail of destruction behind her wherever she goes,


Anonymous said...

she was simply a squatter trying to make a name for herself at others expense. Check the history, and you will find that this woman leaves a trail of destruction behind her wherever she goes,


Dining Diva said...

I hope we can move on from discussing who used to own it and on to discussing how the food is now.

Sounds like the food quality is somewhat inconsistent. For the amount of time and money invested in making a trip to Fairfield - I personally want the food to be good each and every time I make the trip!

Abbeynormal5 said...

just moved to this area and visited here. I have no clue who ML is but I have to agree that the location and mood was great. Unfortunatly this put the food at a lower level than it was. Nothing was bad, but nothing was good. Everything was extremely bland tasting and looking. Need spices and some fresh meals. what we had seemed to have been made in advance and reheated.

Dining Diva said...

Abbeynormal....love your screen name! Reminds me of a certain Mel Brooks movie.....