My friends at www.Travel-Wise, where I am a Contributor, sent me K.C. Dermody’s incomparable guide to America’s Dinner Trains. If your summer travel plans put you near any one of these four culinary-focused Restaurants on Rails, be sure to add them to your itinerary. You’ll find these trains in California, Vermont, Kentucky and Iowa. So make your reservations right here and hop aboard for an unforgettable dining experience.
K.C. Dermody wrote this piece for us. According to her bio on www.Travel-Wise.com, “K.C. is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland and a freelance travel writer with hundreds of articles and guides published both online and in print. She has traveled to nearly all 50 states and over 20 different countries and counting, including visits to Ireland at least once a year. She has a passion for adventure travel in particular, and exploring the world’s last true remaining wilderness destinations, with places like Greenland, Labrador’s Torngat Mountains, Antarctica and Patagonia at the top of her bucket list.
K.C.’s goal is to impart what she has learned from her travel experiences to others, and to inspire more people to get out and truly explore, rather than spending their holidays in a lounge chair by the pool. When she’s not writing articles or working on her blog, K.C.’s Endless Adventures, you can be sure she’s on some adventure, swimming with sea lions in the Sea of Cortez, paddling among icebergs in Newfoundland, or perhaps hiking to the top of a volcanic crater in Iceland.”
Here’s what K.C. wrote…
Dinner trains allow passengers to experience the romance of the rails and enjoy the beautiful passing scenery while dining on delicious cuisine paired with fine wine. A culinary-centric rail journey is truly a destination in its own right, and provides an excursion you won’t soon forget. Whether you’re looking for a luxury train trip or something a little more down to earth, the following dinner trains make for a truly unforgettable experience.
Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa, CA
Napa Valley may be famous for its wine, but it’s also become world-renowned for its food scene — the Napa Valley Wine Train takes advantage of both. Often named as the top dinner train in the United States, it’s a rolling gourmet restaurant. The historic train, powered by modified 1950s engines, runs on a combination of diesel fuel and natural gas for a more eco-friendly ride. It features vintage cars that have been restored to their original glory with gorgeous details like mahogany panels, etched glass partitions and polished brass accents. In the spring and summer, you’ll ride at twilight, with the golden rays of the sun splashing across vineyard-filled landscapes. In fall and winter, rolling through after dark ups the romance factor.
Onboard kitchens allow the chefs to freshly prepare their culinary creations from scratch, providing a one-of-a-kind adventure and luxurious ambiance. Passengers enjoy a fresh-prepared multi-course meal with dishes featuring local produce, including items like roasted tenderloin of beef and pan-seared Pacific halibut.
The three-hour journey running through the heart of Napa Valley on the two-story Vista Dome takes dining to a whole new level, featuring fresh California cuisine served in opulent, plush booths that provide picturesque views from nearly every angle. Your onboard welcome includes a glass of California sparkling wine. The first course includes items like duck liver mousse or basil & ricotta ravioli made with black truffles and feta cheese from Napa Valley’s own Skyhill Farms. The second course often features a tasty soup du jour, followed by a main dish such as seared diver sea scallops and herb-roasted chicken. For dessert you might indulge in the strawberry tart or chocolate almond torte.
Green Mountain Railroad, Burlington, VT
There may be no better time to enjoy a dinner train in Vermont than autumn, when the train rolls through what’s considered to be one of the most breath-taking displays of fall foliage in the entire country. Of course, with an option of booking the multi-course fine dining experience on the Green Mountain Railroad dinner train, it’s a popular thing to do any time of the year. The train that takes you on a relaxing trip from Burlington to Middlebury has its own kitchen car for freshly prepared dishes that are served in historic dining cars.
Menus are seasonal to ensure the highest quality of taste, featuring a first course like Champlain salad that includes Vermont chevre, and a second course with options such as roast prime New York sirloin and baked stuffed sole Oscar style. A vegan and gluten-free dish like the stuffed portobello tower is offered too. You can also indulge in dessert of the chef’s choice, perhaps the often raved about flourless chocolate cake.
My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, Bardstown, KY
Enjoy plenty of southern comfort fare, including local and regional items, on this dinner train that revives the elegance of railway dining while traveling through Bourbon Country. My Old Kentucky Dinner Train runs between Bardstown and Limestone Springs Junction for a 37-mile, two-and-a-half- to three-hour roundtrip journey.
Passengers enjoy a formal setting, requiring “dressy/casual” attire for an extra-special excursion through the picturesque countryside. While menus change with the season, guests can choose an optional starter like the homemade warm Kentucky beer cheese. It comes with soft pretzel sticks, celery sticks and carrot sticks that can be dipped into the divine warm melted cheese. In the spring and summer, expect salad options such as the summer berry salad with fresh greens and juicy fruit; an appetizer of tomato and feta crostini; dinner entrees like hazelnut brandied pork; and desserts such as triple chocolate mousse and lemon berry cake.
Wolf Dinner Train, Boone, Iowa
Enjoy a scenic ride on the rails through the picturesque Des Moines River Valley of Iowa in vintage 1950s passenger cars once used on the Union Pacific Railroad’s renowned City of San Francisco and City of Los Angeles streamliners. The Wolf Dinner Train will take you past a variety of interesting sights and alluring scenery, including crossing the Bass Point Creek High Bridge and the Des Moines River Bridge, on an enchanting two-and-a-quarter-hour journey.
Dining features entrees like Iowa chop and spinach/ricotta-stuffed chicken breast, with a vegetarian option such as homemade vegetarian lasagne. Meals are served with dinner rolls and a non-alcoholic beverage followed by dessert.
A Dinner Train Recipe Made at Home
With some meals on the best dinner trains providing especially unforgettable dishes, including delectable desserts, you might want to try and re-create a recipe back home. Green Mountain Railroad’s flourless chocolate cake is a favorite. While you may not think you could put it together easily, it’s surprisingly simple. Don’t leave out the Grand Marnier, it’s key to the amazing taste of this cake. Here is the recipe.
Green Mountain Dinner Train's Grand Marnier Flourless Chocolate Cake
An absolutely delicious take on Flourless Chocolate Cake with the great flavor of Grand Marnier Whipping Cream to top it off.
- For the Cake:
- 1 Nine-inch springform cake pan
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup grass-fed butter
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 9 eggs
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- For the Grand Marnier Whipped Cream Topping
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 oz Grand Marnier
- To Top it off:
- Chocolate swirls from your best block of Chocolate
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Step 2 Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water and place it onto the stove on medium heat. Add chocolate and butter into a metal bowl and then place it on top of the saucepan to allow the chocolate to melt without burning
- Step 3 stir occasionally.
- Step 4 Add the sugar, letting it dissolve as you mix it in. Then, remove the bowl from the heat and add one egg at a time, mixing well before moving onto the next step. Add cocoa power and mix well again.
- Step 5 Butter your pan and then add the chocolate mixture. Set it inside of another pan and add water until it reaches about halfway up the side of the cake pan.
- Step 6 Place it into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.
- Step 7 Remove and invert onto a plate, allowing it to cool for 20 minutes before placing it into the refrigerator.
- Step 8 In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the Grand Marnier to the cream and beat until soft peaks form.
- Step 9 Once the cake has completely cooled, top with the Grand Marnier Whipped Cream. Use a spatula to smooth it over the cake. Top the whipped cream with the chocolate swirls and serve.