Death Valley - Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch
Had two lovely days at the Inn at Furnace Creek with tea, dinner and two breakfasts. Breakfasts excellent with real fresh squeezed orange juice and attention to every detail and ingredient. The potato hash was unique and delicious with both grated and cubed potatoes fried to a perfect soft and crisp combo. One morning I had the yogurt parfait which was the perfect, flavorful light touch after the previous evening's rich dinner. DH had one morning their famous corn cakes "benedict" ,and the standard bacon, eggs, potato hash and toast classic the next. All delicious.
DH had the stuffed pork chop and I had the flaky pastry artichoke, cheese and spinach tart with assorted fresh vegetables on the side. Both delicious enjoyed with a very nice Ravenswood Zinfandel. We both started with the spinach, bacon, parmesan and date salad, nicely dressed along with their homemade breads and variety of herb butters. The place cares about what it serves and the service is knowledgeable and friendly taking pride in what they provide their guests, is way too expensive as expected out here, but ranks as one of those once in a lifetime one must stay at the Furnace Creek Inn and enjoy its lovely ambiance. We hope to return and see they do offer "senior" discounts so hopefully it will be sooner than later.
They serve tea in the late afternoon either on the spacious front verandah or in the historic lounge with sweeping window over the desert horizon. Hint for tea for two is to order one serving of the dessert combo and then an additional pot of tea for the second person as they are are very generous with their sweets choices of either: petit fours, date bread, date cookies or fruit scones. We had more than enough to share with each of our choices: scones and date bread so just one choice and the extra pot of tea would have severed two easily - a 70 year tradition here to have tea at the Inn in the late afternoon.
One evening after hiking and not wanting to get dressed up for dinner at the Inn, we went to the Cafe at the Furnace Creek Ranch for different kinds of 8 ounce hamburgers (also very expensive) but with excellent french fries, having checked that the cole slaw and potato salad alternate choices were not made fresh there. Had some "Badwater Ale" on draft that is prepared for them I believe in Panamint City and was delicious.
On the way out of the valley we passed Shoshone to see the well-regarded "C'est si bon" cafe which had both an open and a closed sign on it and passed this tiny place by to stop at Baker instead at the always reliable though garish Mad Greek for large gyros, feta cheese, olives and Greek sweet treats to end the meal.
Dining in Death Valley is very expensive so plan accordingly. But they have you there as a captive audience, so it was delightful learning that the Inn takes care to make it worth it. An outfit called Xanterra runs the Inn, not the National Park Service. Nice job.
72112 Baker Blvd, Baker, CA 92309
We stayed up at the FCI a couple of winters ago. It was very windy up there (60+mph) and the power was knocked out. They did a very limited menu and dining was by candlelight. We had a blast and thought it was quite fun. Even under trying conditions, the food was still very good.
While I agree that the ambiance is very nice at the Furnace Creek Inn and it's wonderful to clean up after a long day of hiking to sit down for a fine meal, however, the Inn just didn't deliver. I don't expect the food to match the price because it's the desert and it costs a lot to transport food. However, I expected an above average meal and I got one of the worst meals I can remember.
The positives--excellent homemade breads, fairly attentive staff, casual elegant dining room.
The negatives--the waiter warned me not to get the smoked lamb because it was too smokey, but I love smoked meats and have never had smoked lamb. Well, he was right to avoid it but for the wrong reasons. The plate came with 4 small lamb chops (for $33) plated in pairs. I could barely cut into the lamb it was so tough. Then I realized why...they were completely raw and cold inside--like it was seared. And, it wasn't actually "smoked," they were just regular lamb chops covered with BBQ sauce. I can only remember a handful of times I have turned back a meal but this was one of them. I knew they would just microwave the meat so I chose a different meal--the glazed duck. The duck came with two good-sized leg/thigh pieces; one was tender and juicey but the other was dry and tough.
The waiter voluntarily took off half of the meal price because of the lamb incident, which we had not asked for but appreciated. (He seemed genuinely sorry for the kitchen's performance).
During our stay, we ate two other evenings at the 49er Cafe. It's very casual and filled with kids but the food was much better--simple and cooked well. Our party had fried chicken, chicken fried steak, and the BBQ burger--all were much better than our meal at the Inn. (Well, the chicken fried steak was a little too salty and the side vegetables were just canned, but otherwise all selections were quite good.)
I think the Inn should stick to simpler food and just do it right.