Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Biltmore - The House (And Gardens) That Vanderbilt Built

What's the most amazing thing about George Vanderbilt's Biltmore?

Maybe it's the 43 bathrooms in the 250-room, 175,000 square feet house or the fact that it sits on eight THOUSAND acres; or it could be the kitchen that spreads across many rooms. 

Everything combined makes this an incredible stop and definitely worthy (in the Michelin nomenclature) of not just a detour, but a special trip. 

The fact that it isn’t a ROYAL palace makes it all the more noteworthy. To me, the action in the kitchen indicates more than anything how luxuriously the Vanderbilt family lived. 

I found the daily kitchen routine fascinating. There was the main kitchen, a rotisserie kitchen, a pastry kitchen, plenty of pantries and walk in refrigerated rooms. Stoves were lit in the early morning, then breakfast for the staff of 35 was served. Breakfast for the family and guests could have been served in the Breakfast Room or on trays sent up to their rooms. 


There was lunch for the staff and then a 6 course meal was served to the Vanderbilts and guests at 1 pm, followed by tea at 4 pm. The staff was served dinner in the Servant’s Dining Room, which looks like it could be part of a scene from Upstairs, Downstairs or the wonderful Gosford Park with the staff dining at a lonnnggg table with the lowliest maid serving them. I imagine it would probably be years, if ever, that she would make it upstairs.
Dinner for the family and guests was a formal affair served in the Banquet Hall. If it were just family, there was a smaller round table set by the fire for them.
I loved hearing about the meeting of Mrs. Vanderbilt and the head housekeeper (literally the keeper of the keys to every door, cabinet and chest in the house), which took place each morning with the regularity of a chief of staff briefing the president. 

Each room was beautiful, but what was also amazing was the house and estate taken as a whole, with plenty of creature comforts inside and tons of recreational opportunities outside. 

The Gardens, including the Kitchen Garden, which provides fruits and vegetables for the Biltmore’s restaurants, were incredible.

I’m sure the Garden tours are wonderful. Next time…

A wine tasting in the Winery was included in the $40 admission ticket, so it was well-attended. 

I liked one of the four wines I tasted, which I would have used in a sangria. That probably means I really didn’t like it that much. But it was fun.

We capped off our day with dinner in The Bistro, which is an attractive, casual restaurant, which was just fine after a day amongst the treasures of Biltmore.


Adam said...

Wow well that place is absolutely stunning. I've heard amazing things about it, especially with me only being about 3 hours away from it or so. You're def motivating me to check it out.

How's things on your end Sue buddy?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

What a place. How great that they the resataurants are self-sustained through their own farms -kind of like Blue Hill.

Sue said...

Welcome back! Get yourself there. In addition to the house and gardens, you can ride horses, go on the water and goodness knows what else...

We missed you. I wanna hear about your Carolinian adventures. Do you eat grits now?

You're so right. And they do a lot of educational events as well.