An unforgettable experience awaits you at Rowland’s, located at Westglow Resort and Spa just a couple miles down Hwy 221 from downtown Blowing Rock. Perhaps because of its off-downtown location, this culinary gem may not be as well-discovered as some of its closer-in cousins. But if you follow our advice and pay them a visit – I assure you – you will be delighted!
There are a number of things that immediately stand out about this fine-dining venue. The first and most important in my opinion is the passion and presence of the staff. Care of their guests and pride in their fare simply emanates from this establishment. It begins with the manager, Matt Metz and works its way through the entire staff. Everyone we encountered from the receptionist – Natalie (married to Executive Chef, Nate Curtis) who warmly greeted us upon arrival, to the Manager, Executive Chef and wait staff were solicitous about our needs and treatment. This translates we found to the quality and zest of their culinary art as you will see.
Another significant element to the unique experience at Rowland’s is quite simply the architecture of the home. Set in an old, historic home on a summit of the Appalachian escarpment overlooking – it would seem – the entire southeast, one is simply stunned at its grandeur. Walking about – out- of-doors, the views of Grandfather Mountain are the best I’ve seen in Blowing Rock. But the real grandeur is walking into the interior of this stately old home. Everything seems to speak generations and centuries gone by. Walking through the magnificent doors into the entry hall over lustrous hardwood floors the elegance of this old home is simply captivating. The ceilings, railings, wainscoting all take you back to another era when things weren’t so rushed. And so this architecture combined with the incomparably gracious service transport you into a nostalgic reverie. Thus it is the perfect choice for that special occasion – the anniversary, graduation, partner’s birthday, or any occasion that merits marking as special – because no one you bring here will ever forget the experience.
Speaking to manager, Matt Metz you quickly discover some powerful points in their guiding philosophy. They want their guest to feel at home first and foremost – and so much is made of the greeting – simple and almost out-of-date as that may seem. Hospitality permeates this restaurant. And this is where the architecture and service blend into a remarkable dining experience. The home’s setting is nothing if not intimate. With only twelve tables you will feel cozy, comfortable and well-attended-to. The rooms themselves are warm and embracing with wonderful windows admitting the natural world. Yet within, all is peace and quiet. The only sounds are the waiters’ footsteps and your conversation. It is the essence of peace. Matt said he wants you to feel as if you were in your own home. Above all they want time to slow down during your dinner with them and for you never to feel rushed.
Matt talks about their southern roots. Throughout their fine-dining cuisine you will experience southern influences, Appalachian culture and the freshest, local foods available. And while the experience is entirely southern you will find the setting extremely upscale in the fine dining spectrum. Matt is very proud of their young Executive Chef, Nate Curtis. They relate to each other as friends and the warmth and synergy works measured by the experience they are delivering. Both Matt and Nate are younger men – I am guessing in their late twenties yet with years of experience and commitment behind them in their craft. But the overriding emphasis in their success in my opinion is their passion. Take a moment when you walk in and engage either Matt or Nate in conversation about what Rowland’s means to them and you will be dumbstruck with how passionately they feel about their work here.
Nate has been at Rowland’s for six years. He rose from the ground up, beginning as a day chef, graduating to sous-chef before attaining his current position. Matt describes Nate’s passion for detail and prep as unparalleled. Nate talks about growing up in Andrews, North Carolina and inheriting a family tradition of hunting and fishing but using everything he caught and respecting it. I’ve never heard anyone speak about food like this young man. He loves conveying in his culinary art – a heritage of growing up hunting and fishing in the southern woods and streams. Nate was a sophomore in college when he realized that he was happiest when he was preparing food and that this was to be his path in life. How it shows in his work! How many of us identify our gift at twenty years old!
Nate is understandably proud of their commitment to local farmers and they focus their offerings based on what is available locally. The result of this commitment is fresher fare and a sharing of their success with those who responsibly develop the agriculture within the southern high country. Their local commitment supports our environment in addition to enhancing freshness and supporting local growers and farmers. One could listen to Nate speak about his art for hours. He enthuses about local discoveries. When a vendor surprises them with special produce he tells you he must find a way to use it in the evening’s fare. As he says, “If I get something great I have to use it!” And as you watch him say the words you can’t help noticing his entire face light up. This is the heart of excitement for him to respond to these spontaneous fresh food discoveries by adapting their night’s presentations to including what is fresh and special. This young man is a chef we want to support!
I asked Nate to tell us about one of their signature dishes and he immediately described the exquisite pork belly, known for its lean and crispy presentation. Not being a southerner I wasn’t convinced. Being a southerner he graciously excused himself and returned shortly thereafter to watch me gratefully eat their signature dish along with my words – forever becoming a fan of this delicious delicacy.
Nate has fun with presentation. He likes to utilize organic shapes as opposed to what he calls “stacking and cubes”. He likes for his fare to reach your table looking like it was just picked from your garden. Nate talks about a “whimsical, gardenscape feel” and he loves to surprise his patrons. Wait til you see the way he plays with color! When he talks about his profession he uses words like “consistency.” Nate says without it you cannot sustain repeat dishes – you risk disappointing a guest – and as he likes to say, “You only get one chance – if they have a bad experience, they won’t return. You have one shot and it has to be right the first time. We focus on the minute details.”
I’ve listened to Nate describe his creations but will let him speak for himself in the video as I cannot pronounce, let alone spell half of the words he uses to describe these elaborate preparations. I can tell you however that I more than sampled every single one of them and my mouth is now watering simply recounting the memory of those dishes to you. So please don’t get me started describing “Chocolate Earth” to you!
When I asked Matt why you should drive over and join them for dinner tonight, his answer was, “Here, we do your special experience very well.”