Stonewall Resort’s Appalachian Dinner Series is a spirited hit
If you’re looking for a great food and spirits-filled weekend nestled in relaxing and gorgeous surroundings, set your GPS to Stonewall Resort in the rolling hills of Central West Virginia near Weston.
I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the recent sold-out Big Timber Brewing Co. craft beer pairing extravaganza there, the first in a group of four Appalachian Dinner Series events taking place at the resort this winter.
On a snowy Saturday evening tucked into Lightburn’s Restaurant overlooking the stunning lodge, lake and golf course, some 60 guests were treated to a special evening featuring a four-course meal prepared by Stonewall Executive Chef Corey Pickens, with exclusive beers paired by Big Timber brewer Matt Kwasniewski.
Elkins-based Big Timber, by the way, was the first West Virginia brewer to win a medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival just a few months ago and was named Best Brewery in West Virginia by Brilliant Stream.
As each pairing was served that evening, both Pickens and Kwasniewski explained the food and drink guests were about to dive into, sharing the nuances of why they chose those particular flavors and textures to complement one another.
We began with a bowl of Walter Stew (think of it as a Reuben soup) featuring house corned beef, sweet and savory red cabbage, Havarti dill cheese and marbled rye croutons with spiced cream. It paired nicely with Big Timber’s Logger Lager, thanks to the pilsner’s crisp taste and light effervescence, which helped cut through the dish’s creamy base.
Next came a fantastic Bacon, Mushroom & Brie Strudel garnished with a sweet-and-tart cranberry orange slaw, which perfectly complimented the Alpenglow Cranberry Sour served with it, followed by Cast Iron Chicken Saltimbocca with fresh sage, Parmesan, prosciutto, rutabaga mash and fried Brussel sprout petals. That entrée was enjoyed with Big Timber’s Frost Notch Winter Ale, adding raisin and dark rye notes with each sip.
The meal capped off with a decadent Apple Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake with coffee toffee and fresh whipped cream, based on a recipe passed down by Pickens’ grandmother. But as delicious as that was, it didn’t stand a chance topping its awesome pairing – a hefty 13% ABV German Chocolate Cake Imperial Pastry Stout called Cake Smash. The beer’s toasted pecan notes added so much to the dessert, and it drank more like a thinner, refreshing cold brew than a thick and rich over-the-top brew.
It was a phenomenal finish to a fantastic night.
The second dinner in the series a few weeks later – featuring bourbon and ryes from West Virginia Fruit and Berry – also sold out, but you still have two (and maybe three) more chances to catch one of the remaining events.
Beers from Athens, Ohio-based Jackie O’s Brewery will be featured during a special dinner on Feb. 25, along with a menu featuring a Scottish egg paired with Raspberry Wheat Ale, smoked chicken chili-cheese soup and a cinnamon honey biscuit with Hazy Pale Ale, slow-braised short ribs and cabbage with a West Coast IPA and brown cake with bourbon pecan blueberries with a Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla and coffee beans.
On March 31, Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co. beers will be paired with a pecan-smoked pork cassoulet with fresh veggies and ginger (Apricot Persimmon Sour), a blackened snapper and quinoa salad with local honey (Hoper Vision IPA), herb-marinated beef tenderloins with braised napa and black garlic rye au poivre (Old Roads Rye IPA) and that same brown butter cake from above (Ballhooter Maple Vanilla Porter).
And based on the success of the series so far, Stonewall Marketing Director Chris Audia says the resort may add a fifth dinner in March, featuring spirits from another West Virginia business like Smooth Ambler Spirits near Lewisburg.
The cost for the remaining two dinners range from $309 to $349 per couple, which includes overnight accommodations in the lodge and all food-and-drink pairings during the dinner for two people. Event-only tickets without accommodations are available as well.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.StonewallResort.com and click on the Events tab.
• • •
In addition to that beer pairing dinner, I also spent a deliciously indulgent weekend enjoying the resort’s signature restaurant, Stillwater’s, overlooking the misty lake and snow-covered hills outside large picture windows.
For dinner Friday night, I skipped the “Appalachian Comfort” buffet (as good as it looked) and was bowled over by a plate of fresh cast iron-seared rainbow trout with fire-roasted poblano and lime butter, creamy risotto and crisp broccolini.
I swear, that fish was prepared to such moist, flaky perfection that it may have been the best trout I’ve ever had.
The next morning, I continued my “what New Year’s resolution?” weekend by crushing the giant buffet to create my own hearty breakfast of housemade granola with fresh yogurt and local maple syrup, creamed chipped beef over fluffy biscuits, cheesy herb-flecked grits, crispy hashbrowns, bacon, sausage and a made-to-order omelet with bacon, tomatoes, onions, peppers and mozzarella.
It was the biggest meal I’ve eaten in a long time. And I don’t regret a single bite.
• • •
Finally, I can’t end this week’s column without sharing this much-deserved shoutout.
The restaurant and hospitality industry has taken a beating lately, with many customers complaining about long waits, lack of employees, limited menus, higher prices and, well, just an overall downturn in service post-COVID.
I get the reasons why restaurants are struggling, but I also understand consumer frustrations. They just don’t understand WHY so many people don’t want to work these days, which is baffling to me as well.
But that was not the case at Stonewall Resort.
I obviously can’t see what happens “behind the scenes,” but from a visitor’s perspective there were plenty of hosts, servers, bartenders, cooks, housekeepers, front desk staff, maintenance folks and support staff at all times while I was there.
Even better, they were incredibly friendly and extremely accommodating, consistently checking on guests and offering help – and always with big smiles on their faces. Near the end of my weekend, in fact, I was sitting in the resort’s cozy study when an employee walked in to make sure the room was tidy and asked if I needed anything.
“Cleaning the lobby isn’t my job,” she told me, “but my area is slow right now and the woman covering this area is super busy so I just thought I’d check on things for her.”
It really was a sight to see. Good on you, Stonewall!
• • •
Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.