Eating Out: a formal dinner at the Holiday Inn, Alexandria VA

Dinner outside in 100 degreeF is never going to be fun at the best of times, not matter how good the food (and the food was good!). We were eating outside because our hotel (providing both conference facilities and accommodation) had lost power in a stronger-than-expected storm. And 24 hours on (lets bear in mind it was a weekend!) we still had no power. Not the fault of the hotel, certainly, but a shame that our gathering had to pay the price.

Dinner was meant to be a formal affair – Highland dress (did mention it was over 150 members of the Clan MacLeod meeting up?) black tie or military uniform. I’d brought heels and a cocktail dress! But as we ended up eating outside, on the sister hotel’s patio, formalwear became seriously optional. Thick wooly kilt socks were not comfortable, apparently!

The setup looked lovely, despite being on the patio! Both hotels had done well to bring table dressings and meal across, and everything looked nice. The staff did well, and the food was really good. But it was so, so hot. I heard a rumour about fans, but didn’t see any.

The first course was a salad with deliciously poached pears, blue cheese, dried cranberries and red wine vinegarette. Lovely!
Next we had haggis, piped in, toasted and duly stabbed. It was pretty good! And served with mashed neeps and tatties, as it should be.
My main was braised beef, with garlic mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli, and a delicious gravy. All excellent – some of the best beef I’ve had.
Dessert was a passable chocolate cake.

The food was really good, and was served a Zinfandel and a Sauvignon Blanc from MacLeod vineyards in Sonoma CA – both great wines, shipped in for the occasion. So it was a real shame that other arrangements couldn’t be made for our dinner, because the heat spoiled it: cold food heating up, chilled wine spoiled, and no one was really able to enjoy the meal, the entertainment, or the company in blathering heat.

On top of dinner outside, our conference and accommodation were also in unlit and un-air conditioned rooms. I realise it could’ve been worse – no one was hurt and we had a roof over our heads. But still…

I can’t help feeling if we hadn’t been such a large group they could’ve/would’ve made more of an effort to rehouse guests (as they did with others). 36 hours after the storm the power came back on, as gathering guests were checking out. I don’t know how other guests got on asking for a reduced bill, but I’ll be writing to the general manager asking for compensation.

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