Biltmore and Bone Fish
Posted by eemilla on December 31, 2008
Yesterday we were tourists in our town; I had two gift certificates to places that I do not find particularly appealing so we used them both in one fell swoop. I must say that I did enjoy my time at the Biltmore House more than I had anticipated. The gardens and greenhouse really are lovely, even in winter (although it felt like spring); we took some great pictures from both, and I almost want to buy a season pass so we can meander through the vast acreage with the dog and throughout all the seasons. The house is massive and excessive. The website and the winery, however, take the cake for being wretched.
It is true that the site warns that entrance to the house may be restricted to timed entries on busy days, but there is no indication that one can obtain this timed reservation prior to entering the estate. Apparently, one can call ahead and reserve the time. We had three hours to kill on the grounds before we could enter the house; it would have been nice to know this before we left our the second half of our lunch (from Frank’s NY Deli) in the car (accessible via shuttle van). However, everything worked out as it took about two and a half hours to explore the gardens and the conservatory, including a leisurely walk through the azalea gardens to the bass pond and its waterfall. We returned via the woodland trail, and I do recommend it for its privacy and serenity; we saw two small groups on the entire half mile loop compared to never losing site of another group on the azalea garden trail which is a bit longer at one-third a mile. On the azalea trail the plants are identified, and there are several amazing specimens.
We chose to end the night at the winery because I wanted to take the free guided tours at either three or six, and due to our three hour wait, the three o’clock tour was not an option. However, unbeknownst to us, one must register for the complimentary guided tour. I have not been able to locate this anywhere on their website, and I was rather annoyed to learn it at the winery’s entrance. So we decided to complete the self-guided tour and end with (hopefully) a sample of their sparkling wine as we have had their other wines at various times, and neither of us have been impressed. The self guided tour includes an uninformative initial video, which I believe is to help kill time before the tasting. The tour proceeds to two more videos situated in front of vats and the sparkling wine (although it was called the champagne) bottling room; after the first video we skipped these. The end of the tour is the wait to enter the tasting room in the dark, dank stone corridors below the tasting room. After twenty or so minutes of waiting with little movement in the line, we decided their sparkling wine couldn’t be that much better than their other varieties so we proceeded up the line to the exit through the tasting room. This was the biggest annoyance of our winery tour. Although a large number of people were crammed into the dank corridors below, the room had ample space for the queue to form. Even if the end of the day wasn’t as wonderful as the afternoon, our tickets were free.
The next stop in corporate hospitality was Bonefish Grill; again, this was courtesy of another gift card. As the card was not sufficient to cover a full meal, the plan was to dine on two appetizers and each have a drink. Not surprisingly, the menu hadn’t really changed since we last used a gift card a few years ago. My husband deviated from his usual spicy shrimp appetizer and ordered the diablo shrimp fettucine that surprisingly contained a good number of shrimp as well as pasta; he was able to make this two meals. My ahi tuna appetizer was pretty tasty, but it was also disconcertingly cold. I love sushi and rare fish, so my issue with the temperature was that the menu states seared. While the fish had been cooked and coated with sesame seeds, it had also obviously been stored in the cooler. I do not eat at buffets, and I do not like to think my dish was completely prepared ahead and then not heated a bit so I could pretend it was prepared for me. Otherwise, our service was pretty mediocre. We arrived around nine (an hour and thirty minutes prior to closing), and the bar area that is first come first served was reasonably full. We ate in the area serviced by the hostess, and there were a steady flow of five or so other tables during the course of our meal as well as two other servers working our area. Maybe our server was new and did not have his flow down, or maybe he was first cut and focusing on his sidework, but whatever the reason everything from bread to drinks arrived terribly slow.
Here’s to eating and shopping local!