Didn’t expect a gourmet experience at Reynolds Plantation, the 10,000-acre resort just south of Interstate 5 and midway between Atlanta and Athens, GA.
It s the golf – six courses by five different course architects, Charlie King’s Red Zone Challenge school and The Kingdom, TaylorMade’s unique by-invitation-only assessment and club fitting facility in the building marked by that standing Rolex clock you see at upmarket sporting events – that brings golfers, duffers to tour pros, to this lakeside resort.
No one ever mentioned the food but after “A Taste of Reynolds Plantation,” an evening of family-style tapas versions of clubhouse favorites, that was all our group of golf and food writers talked about.
The clubby, nineteenth hole Overlook setting was perfect and so were the crab claws, oysters on the half shell and boiled shrimp waiters brought out as starters. Eating just one of each couldn’t be done so we stopped trying. Figuring a dinner of appetizers followed, it seemed a prudent plan.
Should have known better. Chef Eric Fulkerson’s fried quail breasts, bacon-wrapped pork loin and roquefort cheese biscuits had already wowed us. Then there was the array of desserts covering the grand piano’s top.
Eventually we sat and were brought huge platters of Emilgna Roman Flatbread covered with – get ready – Green marinade, caramelized onions, smoked provolone, roasted red peppers, Genoa salami, olive tapenade and black truffle balsamic.
Groans began with the next series of platters – salads of radicchio and butter lettuce with hearts of palm, sundried tomatoes, Prosciutto ham and lemon vinaigrette.
We had no sooner wiped our lips and taken a deep breath when the wait staff arrived with Sweet and Sour Calamari – succulent morsels flash fried with a choice of Thai chili sauce and remoulade. If the Lays people want to know what you really can’t eat just one of they should try this.
Most of us limited the intake of Low Country Mussels in a lobster broth with Andouille sausage, roasted bell peppers and Vidalia onlons, but oh, Holy James Beard, more temptations were coming.
Tender pockets of Duck Ravioli with butternut squash puree, Montrachet chevre artichoke and arugula pesto just about did us in.
Justice was not done to Cherry-Fired Beef Tenderloin with Cipollini onions and Maitake mushrooms, but four in our group who were driving home the next day filled take-away bags with it.
They also made a dent in the left over desserts, but we dug in and managed a taste of them all: Pine Nut Tarts, Ginger Creme Brulee (perfection), Sweet Potato Flan with Maple Praline Cream (to die for), Caramel Cheesecake with Honey Figs (food for the gods), Olive Oil Cake and Almond Rice Pudding (an ultimate comfort food).
There were cookies and other sweet bits but the mind blanks like a computer struggling with too many bytes.
Chef assured us all of these delights appear on Reynolds Plantation menus during the year because the members insist.
I would, too, and will next time I head for the hills and pines surrounding Lake Oconee. You should too.