Sometimes the road less traveled leads to an amazing meal. County Road 243 in Madison County is one such road. It meanders through beautiful forest and a very pretty little lake north of Greenville, Florida before arriving at Honey Lake Plantation. The plantation bills itself as the Southeast’s premier destinations for weddings, hunting trips, and special events. Becky recently learned Honey Lake Plantation’s restaurant is open to the public, and after snagging her momma to watch the kids we made the ride out to the Whispering Pines Restaurant.
The restaurant is located in the large hall on a small hill overlooking a lake. Across the street is the plantation’s chapel. We arrived a little after 6 o’clock and parked in the grass lot next to the drive. There was one other vehicle in the lot, and for a moment I feared they were closed. With Becky in tow we walked across the brick entry way towards the front door. Opening the door led into a small foyer. We walked into the restaurant and I looked for a hostess or waitress. After not finding either I stuck my head into the kitchen and gave a holler. A moment later the chef’s white hat clad head popped around a corner. He told us to take a seat where ever we liked, and that our waitress would be there momentarily.
The dining room was painted white. Deep gold colored curtains hung from rods decorated with pine cones at the ends. The floor was multicolored brick arranged in a square pattern. The tables were dark colored wood with matching chairs. Forest green napkins were wrapped around heavy cutlery atop white plates painted with a pine tree motif. It felt like a lodge and would have been cozy except for the open doorway that led into the expansive adjoining main hall.
Our waitress arrived and politely took our drink order. When we attempted to order wine, she informed us Madison County was still dry, though they were taking up the issue in the upcoming election. I settled for a raspberry sweet tea and looked over the menu. I decided to get the Cioppino as an appetizer, and for my entree opted for the grilled pork chop with mushroom risotto and mixed vegetables.
The Cioppino arrived in a wide brimmed white bowl with two pieces of Crostini at the top. Shrimp, fish and vegetables were melded into a rich stew. It had a good seafood flavor without being too strong. The portion size was so large, it could have served as a meal. Thankfully my inner fat kid took over, and I was able to polish off the bowl along with some of Becky’s sinful white truffle Parmesan French fries.
The entrees arrived shortly after we finished the first course. Becky opted for local Grouper topped with a pineapple mixture over couscous. She let me try a bite and it was delicious. My thick cut pork chop arrived on a bed of rissoto surrounded by carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. A sprig of rosemary from the restaurant’s herb garden served as a garnish. I ordered my pork medium and it was cooked to order and juicy. The mushroom rissoto had an earthy flavor, and the vegetables were cooked without being overdone.
Service throughout the meal was attentive and friendly. As we worked towards dessert, peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream, the chef, Bill Mann, came and chatted with us. He discussed his philosophy of food and where he got the ingredients he used in our meals. He was very friendly and took pride in his work which was evident by the way our meal tasted. While Honey Lake Plantation and the Whispering Pines Restaurant may be a bit of a drive, it is worth the ride for a special meal.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating: