THE FRENCH MANOR EXPERIENCE
Stateliest in the realm
By Kevin Conroy
The long driveway feels like primal forest lined with flowers, then it comes into view, all stone and windows, turreted and mossy-roofed. Before you stands the French Manor.
One is struck with a sense of the majestic. Under a massive arch the door heaves open to reveal a handsome lobby. “Bienvenue!” smiles co-owner Bridget Logan Weber. “Welcome to the French Manor.”
For decades, the French Manor has been a yardstick by which other restaurants have been measured. “The restaurant is so important,” explains owner Genevieve Logan Reese. “It supports the overall business and makes us a destination.” And while this chateau does frame the youthful elegance of Chef Adam LaFave’s dishes, to view the Manor as solely a restaurant would be a disservice.
The French Manor has for many years been a Four Diamond awarded country inn. Built in 1937 by entrepreneur Joseph Hirshhorn to curate a massive art collection, this stone-for-stone replication of a French chateau was purchased by the Logan family in 1990. The Logans enhance the estate on a consistent basis and, in 2009, complemented the inn to include Le Spa Fôret. “The spa is a getaway for adults,” says Bridget.
Poised to arrange a relaxed, pampered, and restorative experience, Le Spa Fôret is an investment in one’s self. An elegant salt water pool greets guests as they enter; the cedar sauna stands to one side, complete with eucalyptus water.
Guests, inn guests and day guests alike, begin at the well-appointed reception area. Essential oils in a number of blends are available for treatments. Bright changing rooms and wooden lockers await; a cozy fireside is the perfect accompaniment for a warm bamboo massage. At dusk, tai chi is offered on the lawn.
In the Spa Suites, massive four poster beds host percale sheets; leather sofas expect to be relaxed in. Out on the private balconies the views are spectacular in every season, often the perfect spot for the Inn’s gourmet breakfasts. Traditional fare as well as house specialties are available at breakfast time. Exceptional is the Healthy Riser, poached eggs served with mesclun salad tossed in extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. So is the Breakfast Parfait of fresh berries layered with yogurt and homemade vanilla almond granola.
“We bring the spa experience to all our guests,” says Bridget.
In the Manor house, Turret Suite hosts a lovely French swag bed and sweeping, thirty-mile view. It is a spot filled with romance.
Evening dining experiences are fascinating. Under the soaring ceiling of the great room, damask covered tables sparkle with fine china and silver, while out on the veranda things are a bit less formal. “Even close to home the veranda feels like miles from everywhere,” says Bridget. Either is an apt setting for Chef LaFave’s creativity.
“Knowing I have made people happy,” says Chef LaFave, “is the most important part of my job.” Chef’s Mer et Terre, pairing grilled venison with butter-poached lobster, shows true genius in his deconstructed béarnaise sauce of Malbec reduction, caramelized shallots, tarragon oil, and cured egg yolk. All Chef LaFave’s dishes are thoughtfully presented and display a master level of creativity.
The major demand facing this business may not be what one would expect. “My greatest reward is our staff,” says Genevieve. “But making the perfect match of employee’s talents to their responsibilities can be challenging.” As a result, the service is not pretentious, but courteous and helpful in every aspect of the French Manor experience.
Whether dining, lodging, or taking advantage of spa treatments, the French Manor may be the stateliest venue for life’s enjoyments.