Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation – Behind The Story

Written by Patti on September 16th, 2010

Good Morning, Darlings!

As promised, here is the behind the scenes story to supplement my article in this month’s Design Is Magazine in my column, Living The Ritz Life. A magazine only allows so many words, but on my blog, I can blather on forever. So, if you want to hear the whole story about our stay at The Lodge, here you go.

Imagine a place where all your cares melt away at the door. A place where the phrase “my pleasure” actually means “my pleasure.” Imagine a place that is a retreat for the soul as well as the body.

A short one and a half hour drive from downtown Atlanta takes you to such a retreat. The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation is close to the big city, but a world away.

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation

Arriving on a sultry Friday evening, this lodge of the well-heeled looms into view only after turning off the beaten path of Interstate 20. At the front door, friendly valets dressed in ivy caps, knickerbockers and argyle socks, ala golfer Payne Stewart, greeted us. Check-in was seamless and the weekend was now underway.

As we entered the club-level guest room, a roughhewn box on the hallway table caught my eye. Inside the box were graham crackers, Hershey bars and marshmallows, all the fixings for s’mores at the complimentary evening campfire. There were also notes welcoming my husband & me along with a jar of delicious spiced pecans (with the recipe attached). The king-sized bed was dressed with crisp white linens and the softest down pillows.  Two wooden chairs and a table on our balcony ensured a view of the lush greenery.

Smores Fixings!

Our stress level was decreasing rapidly.

To enter the Club Lounge, we needed only to step outside our room, directly across the hall. Inside the lounge a Cocktail & Hors d’Oeuvres party awaited.  With a self-service bar (including sparkling wine) and appetizers that included chicken pot stickers, vegetable samosas, individual crudités, crostini topped with brie, beef brisket and caramelized onions, a sophisticated cheese platter and flowered shaped beets adorned with goat cheese and walnuts. We helped ourselves to a beverage and a nibble before we strolled the property.

Entrance to Club Level Lounge

One of the treats of travel is meeting fellow guests. Judy & Dave from Myrtle Beach told me their story of being upgraded to the Club Level after Judy explained to their reservation specialist that they were on a special vacation. Judy spends her days taking care of her 15-year-old autistic grandson. After listening to Judy’s story, she was upgraded to Club Level.  Judi Fleming, the lodge’s charming concierge, later revealed to me that it is “my pleasure” to welcome families visiting with a terminally ill relative and make their stay as comfortable and accommodating as possible. Judy & Dave, although grandparents, were as giddy as school kids at the special treatment. It was the first of many stories I would hear about the intensely caring staff at The Lodge.

Club Level Goodies

A scenic, leisurely walk to the lake area was our next stop. With grass so verdant and luxurious, it doesn’t seem real and sparkling Lake Oconee laid out before us like a carpet of diamonds, we made our way to Gaby’s by the Lake – with a sign that exclaimed, “no shirt, no shoes, our pleasure.” Every detail is designed to make one smile. Once situated on the rustic bar stools that look to be fashioned from tree limbs, we were greeted by our bartender, Meyer, who took the greatest of care of us and was funny and engaging without being the least bit intrusive. My glass of champagne and my husband’s beer were both icy cold, which was something of a miracle on this 90F day.

Guests enjoying the infinity pool

Rustic seating at the lakeside bar


Feeling carefree and unhurried, we ambled back to our room to change for dinner at Georgia’s Bistro. A massive chandelier and paintings of sunflowers enhance this cozy dining room. One perfect sunflower graces each table. Cameron and Price were our expert servers for the evening. We started with two appetizers-Crispy Tuna, served with a shrimp roll and pineapple chutney and the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. Both dishes were sublime. The rare tuna was wrapped in a tempura batter and fried. This was a totally new taste experience for me. Our other starter, the Wild Mushroom Ravioli was rich and silky, bathed in pesto garlic cream.

One perfect sunflower at each table at Georgia's Bistro

For our entrees, I chose the “Three Little Pigs”-a trio of pork-Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin, Bacon and Cheek Polenta, D’Anjou Pears & Walnuts.  Every bite was savory, porcine goodness. My husband decided on the BBQ Greensboro Quail & Duck Breast with Bacon-Bread Pudding & Garden Thyme Sauce. The quail’s piquancy was set off with peach stuffing. The duck breast was perfection. We were both extremely too full to even consider dessert, although the carrot cake sounded wonderful.

Three Little Pigs Dish

To work off a few of those dinner calories, we sauntered down to the infinity pool for an evening swim. The infinity pool is built to look as if it flowing over into the lake. With only a few other guests around, it was as if we had the pool all to ourselves. A special bottle of champagne was packed for this occasion and as we enjoyed sips by the pool, we were gently reminded by the bartender, Joel, that glass was not allowed poolside. But instead of confiscating our contraband, he deftly took our glasses back to the bar and returned with non-breakable plastic so we could enjoy the rest of the bubbly. It’s solutions like this that set the Ritz-Carlton staff apart. We also had an opportunity to get to know Joel better as we discussed our travels. We learned he had visited Thailand and looks forward to traveling to Chile, where we had vacationed a few years ago. And did I mention that the pool stays open 24 hours a day? I am sure you will agree this is another delightful resort anomaly.

Ambling back up to the room for a dry change of clothes, we peeked into the Club Lounge and were met by Club Level Concierge, Shirley, who told us she had started at the hotel in Housekeeping and worked her way up through the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Program. The Club Lounge bar was laden with treats such as crème brulee, pina colada tarts and chocolate fondue to accompany the free flowing champagne. After a tiny bite, we moved outside to the roomy Adirondack chairs surrounding the glowing campfire, where we caught up on all those conversations that get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. Sharing dreams and making plans, our only company were the birds in the trees and the fireflies on the lawn.

Miss Shirley

It should come as no surprise that slumber came easily.

Saturday morning arrived and we awoke refreshed and ready for the day’s surprises. Breakfast at the Club Lounge fortified us with an assortment of fare-waffles, crepes, oatmeal, pastries, fresh fruit, ham, cottage cheese and bagels with all the accoutrements (lox, cream cheese, onion and ripe tomato slices). We were served by David, who regaled us with a hilarious tale of laundry gone wrong when he was in charge of George W. Bush’s shirts while the president was staying at a former property in Los Angeles. It seems the Secret Service became panicked when they found plastic collar stays in the president’s shirt that it didn’t have when they were dropped off. David had to explain to the Secret Service that he always put collar stays in the shirts when he returned them, so they would keep their shape. This was just another story of staff excellence.

Ready for breakfast!

At ten o’clock sharp, we were at the desk of charming concierge, Judi, who introduced us to “Segway David,” who would be teaching us the fine art of balancing and a very special tour of the property. Joining us were Christa, a resident of Reynolds Plantation and her friend, Rhonda, visiting from Houston. The i2 Segways have been custom-painted Ritz-Carlton Gold exclusively for the property and the Lodge is the only certified operator of Segway tours in the state of Georgia.

Eric is ready to ride

David explains the Segways

David is the Nureyev of the Segways. I was not as confident, but with his sincerely kind and patient coaching, I was soon riding like a professional. Well, maybe not a professional, but I was very comfortable on my two-wheeled chariot. When I mentioned that the Segways seemed high-tech for such a glamorous yet rustic setting, David explained it as, “old world opulence meets modern technology.”  I just called it fun. David told me the oldest guests he toured with were a couple, ages 96 & 98, celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. Honestly, David’s kind and happy nature would put anyone at ease. He is truly passionate about people and it shows.

Ok, I'm up!

During our 90-minute tour, we were treated to vast vistas of the property’s five award-winning golf courses. Our stops also included a visit to Heritage House, which is home to several indigenous snakes and turtles and the Reynolds Plantation Marina.

They say that time flies when you’re having fun. I can attest that time slows down at The Lodge. I have no idea how they do it, but we always had ample time to relax and enjoy ourselves before the next event.

We were famished after riding the Segways (it is much more of a workout than you might realize).  Off we headed to Gaby’s by the Lake for lunch before my spa appointment. At our lakeside table, I enjoyed a Maine Lobster Grilled Cheese with fries while my husband munched on a Cheese Pizza. They were both incredibly tasty. Our server, Nicole, kept our cold drinks filled and made sure we had everything we desired on this bright, summer’s day. The dock allows boats to anchor at Gaby’s and grab a bite during a day on the lake.

Lobster grilled cheese

Sated by lunch, we retired to the room for a short nap before I left for the Spa.

At my appointed time, I made my way over to The Spa for the Summer Surrender treatment. I was greeted by Kristi, who took me on a tour of the spa facilities and who introduced me to Kathleen and Brandon, the Spa Operations Supervisor. Kristi then escorted me to the locker area, where I met Yamica and Angela, who was enjoying her second day on the job at the spa. I changed into my swimsuit, put on a signature Ritz-Carlton robe and slippers and indulged in the hot and cold plunge pools before it was time to meet Ron, my spa therapist.

The treatment was a combination of aromatherapy, scrub and hot stone massage. In essence, it was heaven. Ron, a music enthusiast, and part-time DJ, and I discussed rare record finds during our time together and I relaxed for what seemed like an eternity. Nothing seems rushed or hurried here. Every staff member makes you feel as if they are here to grant your every wish. I left the spa feeling invigorated.

The lovely spa staff

Returning to my room, I found my husband enjoying a book in the air conditioning.  I slipped between the sheets and took another nap. Upon rising, I showered and readied for the Chiminea Dining Experience-dinner for two lakeside, complete with Adirondack chairs, cozy blankets and a personal Chiminea bonfire. Angel, who would be taking care of us for the evening, met us in the lobby. We were escorted to the waiting golf cart and were taken to our lakeside table.  The Chiminea had been lit and on the table a fresh crab salad and shrimp cocktail was set out, along with two glasses of champagne. A tiny turtle craned his neck out of the lake to see what we were up to. When we finished, Angel appeared as if by magic to clear the table and pour the wine we ordered. Angel was a delight and we learned that she was teaching herself to speak Japanese and had visited Tokyo with her husband recently. As we relaxed by the lake, Angel returned with Rob Lowe (!), who served us our entrée of beef filet, salmon filet and sautéed shrimp over garlicky mashed potatoes, creamed corn and fresh vegetables, all nestled in a Le Cruiset dutch oven. We joked with Rob and Angel for a bit before digging into our luscious dinner. Dinner devoured, Angel reappeared with a lacquered box filled with ingredients for s’mores, spiced pecans and white & dark chocolate strawberries. Since we were more than full from dinner and needed a bit of time to recover before dessert, we enjoyed the moonlight on the lake, when out of the darkness Head Chef Steven Frain appeared to see if everything was to our satisfaction. Chef Frain told us the story of how he landed at Reynolds Plantation and like everyone else, spent time at the Lodge and fell in love with it. He convinced his friend and pastry chef, Brian Sundeen, who had previously worked in Moscow, to come along. At Christmas, Chef Sundeen builds a life-size ginger bread house in the lobby of the Lodge.

Angel, with our seafood cocktail. Yummy!

Eric and I enjoy champagne lakeside

Chef Frain

Our time at the Lodge was drawing nigh, but one experience summed up the entire weekend for me. On Saturday night, as I floated in the infinity pool, a shooting star soared across the sky as the DJ for the wedding on the adjoining lawn played, “It’s A Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong.

Did I make a wish? I didn’t have to, they had all come true.

xoxo, Patt

Today blogging to Lakeside – Fantastic Voyage


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. Tamara says:

    Hi Patti! This getaway sounds amazing! And the location is so close! I hope I am able to visit a place like this sometime soon, I need a vacay desperately! 🙂

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I am totally going for my birthday. I hope I see some Disco Pirates! This video is making my day.

  3. Patti says:

    @Tamara – you would love it!
    @Elizabeth – whatchu talkin’ bout?

  4. Holly says:

    This blog just transported me there…great article!

  5. Patti says:

    Holly, so glad you liked it! xoxoo, P