Thursday, April 2, 2009

On location: Elkridge Furnace Inn

We visited two locations this past weekend; we started on Saturday with the Elkridge Furnace Inn, in Elkridge, MD.  It's an old historic house in Elkridge, MD, formerly a tavern, etc. etc. - you can read all those details on their web site.  It has a super-convenient location, just by 95 and 195; if you're not familiar with Maryland geography, that puts it about 10 minutes from the airport, and obviously near to 95 also.  

First impressions: compared to Vandiver, the restoration work at Elkridge has been a little more extensive and a little better done.  I imagine that's primarily because the building has historic status and gets state funding to help maintain it.  The grounds back onto the Patapsco River, and out to the side of the building, where brick-paved footpaths wind around the small kitchen building and slave quarters, there's a large patio with a small bumpout backing onto the river, where the ceremony would be held (none of the concerns of crowding or street noise that we had for Vandiver).  It didn't look amazing in late March, but it was easy to imagine how it would look once the leaves were out.  By the time we're planning to have the wedding they'll be turning, which should be pretty too.  

The interior of the house looked good too.  There are two floors that would be used for the cocktail hour, with small four person dining tables.  I wasn't a big fan of those - I'd rather have the tall cocktail-style tables.  The old kitchen (with an enormous fireplace) is set up as the bar.  

Out behind the house is the semi-permanent tent where the reception happens.  It has a brick floor, so no rain issues, and removable sides, so it can be warm or airy as the weather calls for.  Grassy space outside for the kids.  Plenty of space for the size of our party.  

Besides the geographic convenience of the location, they're down the street from a couple of the airport hotels, who can not only reserve room blocks at a good rate (I think they're pretty happy to have anyone actually reserve rooms with them before they wind up stuck at the airport), but will also shuttle guests to and from the site, and can keep their bar/lounge open for our guests to hang out afterwards.  This is great for many reasons: nobody from out of town needs to rent a car, but they can still get to DC and Baltimore if they're around for the whole weekend and want to tourist around.  That's key since, as Ellie mentioned, the Baltimore Running Festival is that weekend, so driving in Baltimore will be rough.  (Speaking of the public transit thing, I think she overstates my commitment to it slightly; I'm not trying to ram it down anybody's throat, and it's not a dealbreaker for me, but I really like the idea of making it available should our guests choose to use it.)  

The downsides?  They run a French restaurant in the tavern, so the food is fancy, and there isn't as much flexibility as the Vandiver had, or as we would have somewhere that we were bringing in our own caterer.  They don't want to make something that doesn't make them look classy and awesome, which gets away from Ellie's desire for a slightly more casual feel.  And, in a related development, it's expensive.  Probably really expensive.  We don't know, because they haven't sent us a formal proposal yet.  We futzed around with the menu a bit - I think we wound up asking him to put together his numbers with three stations - seafood, vegetarian (some sort of lo mein, I think?), and pasta.  The budget they suggest is a couple grand more than the Vandiver's estimate, and it doesn't include any rooms (the Vandiver has an 8-room block).  I think we might come in below their estimate with the options we chose, but  I can't really guess what it'll work out to.  It's #1 on Ellie's list so far, and pretty high on mine, but we may have to cut it when the numbers come in.  

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