The Jew in me has a deep & abiding suspicion of golf clubs, so it almost came as a surprise to me when my ethnic credentials weren’t checked at the door of the Inverness Hotel & Conference Center when I arrived there last month for a Rodney Strong wine seminar. But not only did I not get dragged out, I was treated to a lovely presentation in a private room off Baca, the Inverness’s sprawling, sunny, colorfully pretty restaurant & sunken lounge overlooking the fairway—in which, it seemed, even I could get comfy.
Fast-forward to May, where I may actually have gotten a little too comfy at a press dinner that was intriguing to say the least.
First & foremost, press dinners are usually highly orchestrated events with limited menus featuring chef’s signatures, paired with complementary wines. At Baca, our server just handed us the new early summer menu from exec chef Rodney Herwerth & asked for our order. I was confused. “You mean we can just order anything?” I asked. She said yes, seemingly confused at my confusion. I was tempted to order everything, just to test their commitment. I didn’t, but having had a crummy day I did encourage her to refill my wine glass at every turn, which meant I probably went through a good bottle & a half by myself, & apologies may well have been in order.
Still, I wasn’t in such a state that I failed to pay attention to the eats, starting with 2 cheeses—Petit Basque & Boschetto al Tartufo, listed as a blend of cow’s & sheep’s milk studded with white truffle, but actually containing black truffle; no matter, it was nice anyway—& an order of confit duck taquitos.
They made for a fine start indeed, flaky on the outside, filled with rich, tender meat, roasted apple & corn, & I think a little cabbage; the dipping sauce was a bit on the thick side, & neither as spicy or plummy as the description suggested; in fact, interestingly enough (& it was), it evoked nothing so much as vodka sauce.
When it comes to salads, I don’t expect wild originality in general; when I find it—as with the Dickens Salad at WaterCourse Foods & Racine’s Nutty Cheese Salad—I’m thrilled. Otherwise, simple refreshment’s a worthy enough goal, & the house salad my +1 & I split offered plenty, combining mesclun, chopped candied pecans, dried cranberries & crumbled chèvre in a notable, almost frothy, tarragon-flecked buttermilk dressing.
But there were 2 dishes that totally wowed me—enough to score a tie for Dish of the Week. The first was my entree, a vibrant play on pork & beans: a generous portion of lightly breaded, greaselessly fried pork tenderloin over a medley of sauteed favas, cannellini & green beans, topped with a sauce based on roasted black olives that I thought would be overkill but instead added a pungent depth. Rather, it was the mac & cheese on the side that was probably unnecessary—but no less welcome for that, being a suave combination of al dente orecchiette, gruyère & fontina in perfect proportion, lightly browned for a bit of crunch on top.
The second was Sarah’s Banana Split, named for pastry chef Sarah Scriver but otherwise a totally misleading moniker—all to the better. Nothing like a banana split, it was instead a whimsical, multilayered arrangement of tender brown-sugar pound cake topped with fresh banana & a candied cherry, then ringed round with honeyed roasted pineapple as well as banana pannacotta with walnut ganache, a quenelle of vanilla ice cream & a sugar tuile. Part homey, part tropical, it was impressively balanced, not a hair out of place.
Though not quite as brilliant as that one, the other desserts we tried were satisfying in their own right: in front, a squat cylinder of cheesecake with blueberry compote & lemon sorbet, behind it a sort of fluffy crêpe with more vanilla ice cream & pistachios. Having gotten a glimpse of the young, pretty Scriver, I’m predicting a bright future. You heard it here first.
All in all, I was impressed by the Inverness’s efforts to exceed the surf-&-turf expectations of a Tech Center conference hotel. Tucked away behind the The Shops at Vallagio, it’s something to keep in mind as a dark-horse alternative to the likes of Street Kitchen Asian Bistro (not that it needs one).