Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Elms and 88 at the Elms

First the disclaimer, I love the Elms. I even liked it way back when it had a funky musty smell and the lap pool was, well, scary.  The Elms has just experienced a $17 million (or is it  $19 million?)  overhaul. The result is incredible. The must smell is gone and the place is absolutely gorgeous.  I could live in the grotto... but I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start with what is normally my focus: the food and drink. There are two restaurants / bars. The first is 88 at the Elms which is formal yet still comfortable. The Tavern is a casual place where sometimes, if you're lucky, there will be live music.

The Food

The food is amazing. The restaurants (both 88 at the Elms and the Tavern) focus on local food with flair. Importantly, it is approachable food that is executed well. I really like the small plates. My favorites are the beet salad and the short ribs. The salad is a lovely mix of beets, cranberries, and Shatto farms (a local diary) curds.  I think it's incredible, but then I am a sucker for beets. The short ribs are melt-in-your-mouth tender. I only got one bite of them -- I did not order them myself. I will not make that mistake again. My husband liked the calamari with pickled veggies.
The calamari with pickled veggies

Now on to the entrees... My husband loved the antelope. I tried it and it is delicious - who knew? I had the salmon which was perfectly cooked and quite tasty.

The salmon at 88 Elms
I have not had the rib eye or the entre version of the short ribs which are next on the  list. On a different visit I had the pasta with spinach and squash. I loved the squash. The pasta is handmade but not quite there -- those of you who make your own pasta will know what I mean. It was good, but not perfect.  Maybe it was an off night for the past person.

I don't want to skip over the pub menu. I love, love, love their hamburger with the Fiscalini cave-aged cheddar. (So, so good - trust me. I would never steer you wrong with food).  Katie and I split the hamburger (it is huge). The the fries that come with it are great. I love a good hamburger and this one may be my favorite dish at the restaurant. Steven usually gets the street tacos (also good).  Steven says the turkey club is excellent. I did not try it - I'm not a turkey fan and besides, I was preoccupied with my hamburger.

Katie's View

I love the food! It's amazing and delicious. The Scottish Salmon is to die for. Its flavor is amazing and it has a crispy fish skin on the top as garnish. (In my opinion it's a little too fishy to eat.) The short ribs are very good. They are melt-in-your-mouth tender. The calamari is crispy and wonderful. It has a picked salad that is okay. If you want to get a dessert salad then I totally recommend the apple salad. It has a shortbread crumble that is just amazing.
The salad with shortbread crumble 

The bar menu is good. I like the hamburger - it is my favorite thing on the bar menu.

Cocktails (Amy Again - Katie doesn't get real cocktails)

If you know me, you know I'm a sucker for a great cocktail. I am also pretty picky about my cocktails. I like gin cocktails or drinks that Steven calls "candy in a cup". My preference is gin - usually Hendricks. Like I said, I'm picky. Every once in a while I will drink a dirty Belvedere martini with blue cheese stuffed olives but I am mainly getting the drink for the olives. Steven (who likes vodka more than gin - go figure) gets the drink. I steal his olives.

The Elms does great cocktails. I like homemade sweet and sour mix rather than the usually stale bottled stuff. No, really. I make my own and the difference is amazing. (Here's my recipe for great sweet and sour mix.) I absolutely love the fact that the Elms is as picky as I am. They make their own sweet and sour,  grenadine, and they juice real fruit for their drinks.  It makes a huge difference. Katie will tell you that their Shirley Temples are the best in town.

I have had some of the best gin cocktails at the Elms. (Yes, better than the Manifesto downtown but maybe I am biased). I only get cocktails when Andrew -- the resident senior mixologist) -- is behind the bar. He is even picker about his cocktails than I am. He also knows that I love Hendricks gin so he tailors drinks to my tastes, and will do the same for you. That is what drink perfectionists do.  I currently have two favorite cocktails. The first is Andrew's cucumber gin gimlet made with Hendricks. The cucumber gimlet really plays up the taste of the Hendricks and is fresh and tasty.
Cucumber Gin Gimlet with mood lighting- Yes it's that good
The second drink doesn't have a name-- but lets call it "the Andrew." It is a gin drink made with simple syrup and muddled cucumber and red bell pepper.  It is so fresh, a prefect spring summer drink with a bit of spice. I thought it had jalapeno pepper in it but it doesn't. He may tell you that the White Lady is his signature but trust me if you love gin (especially Hendricks) try the other two.

The White Lady

Katie's View

The Shirley Temple that Andrew makes is the best I've ever had (and I've had a lot of Shirley Temples.) It's made with homemade grenadine and a lot of cherries. The grenadine is delicious and wonderful. I think that is what makes the Shirley Temple so good.

The Spa

Ahh the spa. First, let me start with Kevin Snedden, the spa manager. He has been inducted into the massage hall of fame. Yeah, he's that good. The staff here are amazing - incredibly service orientated and always willing to go the extra mile. The spa is warm and inviting and not at all snooty. It is a place where you want to spend time. And the grotto.... Wow doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about it. The grotto is a heavenly spot for relaxation and recharge. It includes a dry sauna, steam sauna, a huge hot tub, a steam shower and a cold-water "shock" shower. It is wondrous. Truly. Use of the grotto comes with any spa service.   The spa alone is worth a trip -- but you get great food and drinks too.

Steven totally relaxed
Katie's View

The spa is beautiful. It has changed completely. The spa manager is awesome and wonderful at his job. The people who work there are very good at their jobs. The quiet room is beautiful and peaceful. When we stepped foot in the spa, I decided that I wanted to live there.

Katie in the quiet room

I have only touched on the Elms. I did not cover the rooms, the grounds, the cafe, its history or its ghosts. Since it is just a little ways outside of town, I'm sure that I will be visiting often and will have more posts in the coming months.
Eighty Eight at The Elms on Urbanspoon


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