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Cashew Chicken

May/June 2017 Issue

A Toast to Tomato Juice

The ubiquitous beverage made its debut
100 years ago in French Lick, Ind.

steak

Above: Superb steaks, such as this New York strip, pair perfectly with a chilled glass of tomato juice. French Lick Springs Hotel

Below: Tomato juice prior to a main mean not only tastes good, it improves your digestion. French Lick Springs Hotel

Restaurant

When visitors came to the French Lick Springs Hotel (AAA Four Diamonds) in French Lick, Ind., during the early 1900s, they expected impeccable food and service in addition to the area’s famed mineral water. So when a quick-thinking culinary master had to solve a supply problem, he not only fulfilled guests’ needs but also started a tradition for the hotel that spread throughout the country.

In 1917, hotel chef Louis Perrin needed a morning fresher for guests after running out of orange juice. Perrin knew French Lick’s well-healed cliental would expect their juice glass full. To solve the dilemma, he poured seasoned and chilled tomato juice in diminutive glasses. Within the decade, tomato juice became the new morning pick-me-up before it morphed into the classic aperitif, the Bloody Mary.

It’s been a hundred years since tomato juice was introduced in southern Indiana, and it remains an important offering at the 1875 Steakhouse, the posh restaurant that was added to the hotel in 2006 after the property’s multi-million dollar renovation and reopening.

The AAA Three Diamond restaurant, named to commemorate the first running of the Kentucky Derby, is located off the hotel lobby. The menu sports a mix of contemporary and retro-fare such as thick-cut aged steaks and Chesapeake oysters. Restaurant guests today can enjoy indulgent steaks and sides in lavish dining rooms, including one adorned in silver leaf.

“Guests back in the day entered through the hotel’s main entrance, which is now where the 1875’s silver leaf room is located,” said Dyan Duncan, public relations manager for the resort. “The 1875’s silver leaf dining room is quite unique when you consider our other pubic spaces glitter with gold leaf. The silver leaf dining room is one of the smaller more intimate dining areas, that’s become a favorite with 1875 diners.”

While the restaurant’s American Baroque décor sparkles, it doesn’t outshine the service and cuisine that’s overseen by chef Ryan West. His open kitchen produces a twist on classic and comfort plates. For example, lobster mac and cheese is given a literal twist with the use of fusilli, a corkscrew shaped pasta. Five Onion Soup, slowly simmered in stock, is ladled in a giant hollow Spanish onion, draped with Gruyère cheese, and baked. It arrives tableside impaled with a thyme sprig.

dining room

The restaurant’s silver leaf dining room drips in elegance. French Lick Springs Hotel

Counted among the full-plate picks achieving signature status are Amish chicken that’s beer brined and roasted, and the sophisticated Wagyu steak burger with black truffles that’s dressed with Gouda and watercress. Of course, let’s not forget the steaks, the menu’s main attraction.

Steak aficionados recommend paring the original tomato juice aperitif with 1875’s porterhouse steak, the choice of casino high rollers who came to French Lick to spend and eat big. Porterhouse, considered the king of T-bones, is a specialty cut that made its debut in the mid-1800s. While all porterhouses are T-bones, not all T-bones are porterhouses. The difference: Porterhouse steaks are generously cut to include the strip and tenderloin, thus earning the nickname the “his and her steak” — a strip for him, the filet for her. And whether or not ladies eat steak or drink tomato juice, they will depart 1875 satisfied and carry a complimentary long-stemmed red rose.

When you’re ready for a special dinner steeped in tradition, look no further than 1875: The Steakhouse.

Suzanne Corbett is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

BEFORE YOU GO

1875: The Steakhouse at French Lick Springs Hotel
8670 W. State Route 56
French Lick, IN 47432
(812) 936-8001

House: 6–9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Reservations recommended

 


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