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Woodlands Resort & Inn

Woodlands Resort & Inn
March 2009

As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This adage rings true in the best of senses regarding recent transitions at the renowned Woodlands Inn & Resort in Summerville. The stately 1906 hotel, now owned and operated by Salamander Hospitality and awarded Relais Gourmand by Relais & Chateaux, is the only property in South Carolina and one of only three properties in the U.S. to earn AAA Five Diamond Awards and Mobil Five-Star Awards for both dining and lodging. Recently renovated under the direction of owner Sheila Johnson and president Prem Devadas, the property gleams, from its quiet country approach amidst gentle pine forests to the burnished treasure of a dining room and brilliant new menu created by executive chef Nathan Whiting. When the weather is cool, the glowing fire in the drawing room delivers the perfect greeting as guests arrive for dinner. After a brief pause there recently, we moved to the dining room and were fortunate to be seated at a charming corner table. While the layout remains the same, immediately noticeable changes in color and furnishings have transformed the room from its former Barbadian style into a more traditional space in golds and plums—handsome and warmly comfortable. Whiting is no new kid on the block at Woodlands, having worked for four years with former chef Tarver King after completing internships at well-known restaurants in the United States and Italy, including the Inn at Little Washington, Le Bernadin, Maestro, and properties in Bergamo. Describing his style as “New American,” Whiting marries old-world technique with primarily domestic ingredients, and while his personality may be reserved, his menu is just the opposite—bold and bright, with pairings that could be described as a celebration of both the local and the exotic. Woodlands offers several options, including three- or four-course à la carte menus, chef’s tasting or vegetable tasting menus, or the chef’s table menu. For a number of years, Woodlands has been fortunate to feature the expertise of sommelier Stephane Peltier, whose impeccable taste and uncanny ability to pair wines with food is reflected in the extensive wine list. Soon appearing to guide our wine selections, he recommended the Casa de la Hermita 2006, a viognier from the Jumilla region of Spain, with our first course of New Zealand langoustine and Neapolitan spaghetti with sweet chili threads. The lobster with chili-spiced pasta was a bit exotic with ginger and fresh lime segments that unexpectedly burst in our mouths. With the hay-smoked Manchester Farms Quail and sautéed foie gras, our affable server, Fabien, suggested Canadian Vidal ice wine from Magnotta vineyard. The South Carolina quail breast, splen­didly topped with foie gras on a poppy seed galette served with apple-onion compote, was a tiny feast in its own right. The main courses, Keegan Farm suckling pig and crispy duck breast, again mirrored the chef’s themes of the local and the exotic. The pig loin, braised and pressed between delicious belly layers, was served with grained mustard, exquisite collards, Anson Mills polenta, and a whisper of finely ground espresso. Lush duck breast with braised leeks served with carrot purée and seasoned with Chinese five spice and creamy misoyaki was delicious paired with Eola Hills Willamette Valley pinot noir. Irresistible cheddar biscuits flavored with rosemary and sourdough rolls served with ­salted Plugrá butter and toasted-pecan honey butter arrived throughout the meal. A selection of cheeses—including boucheron with fennel pollen, cow cheese with honey, French St. Nectaire with pear chutney, and a wonderful blue with preserved walnut—served as a perfect transition to dessert. Finally, we celebrated the end of this phenomenal meal with pastry chef Caitlin Kelly’s coconut vacherin with mango and passion fruit cream, tropical fruit salad, and coconut sorbet—unbelievable! The hot ginger cake with caramel-roasted pineapple and sweet moromi custard was also excellent. Moving in balanced harmony, the Woodlands staff are true professionals who remained relaxed, engaging, and unfailingly competent in their delivery of signature service throughout the evening. Woodlands Resort & Inn 125 Parsons Rd., Summerville. (843) 308-2115, Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Sunday Brunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Three- or four-course à la carte menu: $62 & $75, respectively Prestige Chef’s Tasting menu: $98 ($157 with wine pairings) Chef’s Table Experience menu: $175