Hideaways fit for a king are the stuff of fairytales. Sometimes. A rare few palatial estates resembling castles or chateaus still dot the American landscape. Graylyn in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is such a place and you can dine and sleep here like royalty.
Constructed in the 1930s from rustic stone, Graylyn resembles a Norman Revival style mansion. The castle-like structure rests on 55 palatial acres near downtown Winston-Salem. It was once home to America’s R.J. Reynolds tobacco kingpin Bowman Gray. While it’s been decades since Gray lived at his North Carolinian castle, the property’s majestic interiors and landscaping have been completely renovated before being converted to a luxury hotel and conference center. Wake Forest University now owns and operates Graylyn as a historic hotel and restaurant, providing well-healed hungry travelers the opportunity to check-in, sleepover and dine like a king.
Thankfully for traveling gourmets and history buffs whose budgets don’t allow for the total Graylyn overnight accommodation emersion, you can still dine here somewhat affordably. Anyone can make a reservation and enjoy sumptuous cuisine in lavish surroundings reminiscent of Gilded Age luxury – an unforgettable experience that begins at Graylyn’s front door.
Gilded Age Elegance
“Good evening. Welcome to Graylyn m’lady,” was the greeting I received from the butler who greeted me with a welcoming glass of champagne before leading me to the Persian Card Room, one of several dining areas. The room was elaborately decorated with carved and gilded wood panels that once adorned an Istanbul mosque.
Matching the opulent surroundings was the evening’s sumptuous parade of plates, a four-course feast; beginning with one of Graylyn’s signature soups, Creamy Five-Onion Soup. Decadently rich, this classic Gilded Age bisque slowly caramelizes an onion combo to bring out their savory sweetness before suspending them in an herbed cream base. Graylyn’s chefs finished the dish with an unexpected southern touch, crisp cornbread croutons.
Surprising tweaks continued with each arty plate presented. The house salad, aka the Manor Salad, was elevated with additions of oranges and goat cheese before being dressed with aged balsamic. The evening’s entrees emphasized the chef’s mastery of sauces: a cabernet demi- glaze for aged grilled filets and the satiny smooth chardonnay beurre blanc draping my pan seared sea bass.
Exemplary service and plush surroundings are Graylyn’s hallmarks. They feature a well-trained staff of butlers and cooks who stand ready to cater to each guest’s special needs and wishes.
According Graylyn Executive Chef Gregory Rollins, they put in extra effort to cater to guests, especially special requests directed to the kitchen. Chef Rollins told me how one night after he had just closed the kitchen a guest dressed in nightclothes and robe walked into the kitchen craving fried chicken. The guest was Oprah Winfrey. Of course, Oprah got her chicken despite the late hour. Chef was delighted to fry and serve his version of yard bird, which yielded the bonus of an unforgettable conversation with the TV and movie star.
While late night trips to the kitchen aren’t encouraged, most guests are more than satisfied with Chef Rollins’ and Sous Chef Josh Wentworth’s varied menu. It’s a menu that includes standout classics such as Filet Mignon with Cabernet Demi-glace and Pan Seared Duck Breast with Sherry Reduction. Both dishes display how Graylyn’s chefs give a refreshing spin to traditional dishes with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Before making dinner reservations contact Graylyn and see if they have any dining events on the calendar. With luck there may be one of Graylyn’s special five- or three-course dinners. If not, simply reserve a table and prepare to have your palate pampered with any combination of delights from the a la carte menu – all plated and served in royal style. — Story by Suzanne Corbett, RFT Food History Editor
For more information about Graylyn and its fine dining experiences click on www.graylyn.com
Watch for Chef Rollins’s delectable recipe for Grilled Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus.