Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New thing #14: Holly Hotel

My girlfriend shared her great Groupon deal for a chef's selection dinner at the historic Holly Hotel, followed by a show in their comedy club. The Holly Hotel is over 100 years old and has been called the most haunted historic building in Michigan, so the six of us were ready for ghost sightings during dinner.

We were greeted with the scent of cinnamon and cloves as we entered the ornate and beautiful dining room. Although it was January, vintage holiday decorations still stretched up to the high ceilings and over the intricate trim. We were quickly seated in a quiet corner and the evening's menu was explained. The chef would improvise an eight-course gourmet menu featuring local ingredients and a selection of wines. I'm addicted to Food Network cooking shows, so I was really excited to try some new foods.

One of the most charming parts of the dinner was the place settings. Silverware stretched as far as the eye could see, the linens were starched, and a mixture of vintage china was used for each course. The portions were perfectly sized so we felt satisfied but not stuffed.  Our attentive waiter described each course as he brought it to the table:

  • 1st course, amuse-bouche: A "mouth amuser" to wake up our taste buds. This was a duck, raisin and apple salad served in a phyllo dough cup with a balsamic reduction. It was absolutely delicious. 
  • 2nd course, soup: The flavor of the parsnip, carrot & curry soup with fresh spinach was good, but the presentation fell a little short. It looked like lumpy gray wallpaper paste. 
  • 3rd course, salad: A fairly ordinary but tasty salad of winter greens that could have used a little more dressing (unusual for me to say, I like a dry salad).
  • 4th course, fish: This was gorgeous - a small piece of braised whitefish was topped with crab salad and some garlic sprouts, sitting in a muddy red sauce. Many in our group said this was their favorite course. 
  • 5th course, intermezzo: Time to cleanse our palates with a refreshing coconut/pineapple shaved ice.
  • 6th course, entree: Shredded lamb in a pastry shell was perfectly cooked and served over minted parsnips with hosin-mole sauce. It was the best lamb I've ever tasted, and probably my favorite course. 
  • 7th course, cheese: A light and airy Stilton mousse served on a toast point and garnished with a dollop of strawberry preserves. 
  • 8th course, dessert: This was a rather strange personal-sized pumpkin spice cheesecake, topped with with a cinnamon schnapps reduction and PopRocks candy. My girlfriend pointed out its uncomfortable resemblance to Fancy Feast, but it actually tasted pretty good. 
After dinner we moved to the lounge to enjoy coffee and live music before the comedy show. Space was at a premium here, and we were wedged in so close to the entertainer that we could have been his backup singers. He was a good sport, and it wasn't long before we headed down to the comedy club located in the basement. If you've ever been in the basement of a turn-of-the-century home, you can imagine what this was like. A dark, cramped space with low ceilings and way too many occupants to be within the fire code. I don't know how they get away with it. The saving grace was that our table was right next to the emergency exit. The show started soon so we settled in to watch.  The warm up guy was funny, and the "special guest" comedian was very funny. But the headliner was only a mildly funny illusionist who spent a great deal of time pulling an audience member's ring out of an orange. Or something like that. Meh.

Before calling it a night, we all went to the bar next door to catch the end of the football game. We knew we married great guys when they missed most of the Lions first trip to the postseason in 12 years and didn't complain about it. The Lions didn't win, but it couldn't put a damper on a memorable evening of great friends and lots of laughter. But sadly, no ghosts.

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