The Restaurant Sampler
Darlene’s at the
The life of a professional diner is one of constant change and variety. No local eatery or beanery is beneath one’s notice—all are to be equally welcomed into the family of restaurants, taken to the heart of the sampler and ingested with all available senses.
At times, one must tread the low road of commercial production meals packaged by national retail chains whose highest instinct is that every meal should at least appear the same.
And then there are times when one is called to a higher level, a more refined table.
Obedient to my duty to transmit these musings across economic and social classes, I girded up my loins and set out for the heights—or to be more exact, the hill that looms to the north of town over the Peaceful Valley, the one which makes Hidden Valley a valley.
There, between Jefferson and Van Buren streets and above Mound street, is the impressive edifice of the Hotel Nashville, perched above the little town with the same excellent views afforded by the public library.
If one proceeds through the well-appointed lobby and up a flight of stairs, one will discover a delightful and rewarding dining experience, as it were, at the top of the town.
My first stop was the cozy little bar, all done up and with wood and windows—ample yet snug—where a perfect cocktail, leisurely partaken, may help one to attain the elevated mood so important to fine dining.
Adjourning to the hushed, tastefully decorated dining room, one is confronted with a plethora of gustatory choices—well worth the climb.
The appetizers alone are enough to get one’s juices operating: a hot crab dip that blends the delicious pink crustacean flesh with cream cheese, spices, and topped with almonds; a wheel of brie with apples, grapes and French bread; or the house French onion soup topped with garlic croutons and mozzarella.
I opted for the shrimp cocktail, with six plump, fresh gulf shrimp chilled and served on a bed of lettuce with classic cocktail sauce.
The homemade soup of the day was a delicious tomato and garlic with which I spoon-fed my dining companion, a quiet enchantress of surpassing beauty and refined tastes.
I sensed a scampi in my future—big shrimp sautéed in garlic butter and served on a bed of wild rice—but, in the end, I decided to go “whole hog” and ordered the “Surf and Turf,” an eight-ounce Filet Mignon AND a six-ounce lobster tail.
The filet, also shared with my famished friend, was wrapped in bacon and perfectly cooked, done outside with just a hint of pink within.
The steak was perfect, and, so was the lobster, which is a pleasant surprise in a time and place when one is often subjected, in lesser establishments, to lobster devoid of flavor.
This little lobster was terribly tasty, leading to unseemly jockeying between us for the final tempting tidbits.
Also available among the entrees were a 12-ounce choice-cut grilled Porterhouse pork chop, a grilled salmon served with a mustard tarragon sauce, and an eight-ounce swordfish steak blackened with a blend of special spices or grilled with lemon dill butter.
On the lighter side, there’s a chicken parmesan—a plump grilled chicken breast topped with marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and served on a bed of fettuccini or fettuccini alfredo with fresh vegetables, grilled chicken, or shrimp.
My companion ordered the “Chicken Oscar,” a boneless grilled chicken breast topped with crabmeat, asparagus spears and béarnaise sauce. It was delicious and came with a cute little loaf of hot fresh bread and real butter.
When one is taking the epicurean high road, no matter how appealing and fulfilling the main course, one must, by rights, address the question of a proper dessert.
Ours came in the form of a delightful cherry cobbler topped with ice cream.
Darlene’s, the restaurant at Hotel Nashville, was well worth the trip up the hill and the walk upstairs. If you’re in the mood for a night of high-toned dining, it is highly recommended
As I sat over coffee and slowly savored the ice cream and cobbler, I reflected on fine dining and fast food, and the relative elevation of the various and varied dining experiences.
How might those old log-cabin pioneers feel, if suddenly whisked from their eternal rest into the modern, cultured dining room of the Hotel Nashville?
I don’t think they’d be put off. Rather, I feel certain they would savor, not only the fancy but comfortable setting, but the choice victuals as well.
I’m sure they would find the experience, as did my dining companion, “High class but comfortable; upscale but not pretentious.”
For dining days and hours call the Hotel Nashville at 812-988-8400 or 800-848-6274.