I took my wife to Blowing Rock, near her hometown, for a long weekend to celebrate her 39th birthday. After lots of online research I decided to book a room at the Green Park Inn. For our first night dinner I opted for the convenience of the hotel's dining room, the Laurel Room-- in spite of its "14th Best in Blowing Rock" rating on TripAdvisor.com.
I would bet all that I own that there are not 13 better restaurants in Blowing Rock-- I doubt if there are 13 better in the state of North Carolina. We eat out often in Nashville, where we live, and enjoy the many wonderful dining options we have here. I have traveled the nation and major cities around the world, sampling some of the most acclaimed chef's cuisines. I can absolutely say that the two dinners we enjoyed at the Laurel Room were among the very best meals we have ever experienced.anywhere.
Chef James Welch is a creative genius. For our first evening in Blowing Rock, I hesitantly ordered the "Espresso Encrusted Bitter Sweet Chocolate Stuffed Beef Tenderloin;" the idea of combining a prime filet with bittersweet chocolate seemed radical-- and it is, radically delicious. My wife and another lady in our party of four ordered "Pan Seared Halibut, topped with pecan crust and served over wilted arugula with goat cheese." They raved about it. The other gentleman in our party ordered "Thai Seasoned Crabmeat Encrusted Rare Tuna" and loved it. All of the entrees were generous, beautifully presented, and priced well below most other restaurants of similar quality.
These creative entrees were paired with Watermelon and Mozzerella salad for one of us, the Spinach Salad for my wife and me, and the Heirloom Tomato salad for another. They were all delicious,. unusual and generous salads.
Having enjoyed our first evening so much, my wife and I decided to forego trying a different (higher-rated) restaurant and return for another dinner at Laurel Room on our second night. We asked if the "Chef's Table" was available that evening; fortunately, it was so I reserved it. If you have a chance to experience eating IN the spacious, sparkling clean kitchen, served by the Chef himself, don't miss it. Chef James prepared special, off-menu courses for us-- five courses in all-- and each was more delicious than the one before it. Hearing him describe how he had selected the vegetables he served us from the garden behind the hotel, where his ideas for unusual recipes came from, and of his passion for making Laurel Room a world-class fine dining establishment-- all of it made for a most memorable, entertaining and (most importantly) delicious evening which we will always remember.
As one of the owners of the restaurant, Chef James is working hard to build its reputation; he has been at the helm for only about a year, coming from Crippen's, also in Blowing Rock. He deserves more recognition for the excellent cuisine he creates, for the value delivered, and for the staff he is developing.
As one who rarely raves about restaurant experiences, I am now a true fan of Chef James and Laurel Room; we will return as soon as another (six and a half hour) trip to Blowing Rock is possible!
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