French Haute Cuisine on the Banks of Lake Conroe: La Torretta Del Lago Resort & Spa

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This past weekend, a mixture of media and local Conroe dignitaries gathered at La Torretta Del Lago Resort & Spa for a cocktail party celebrating the opening of the very upscale Chez Roux, designed to be the best restaurant on the property. Guests got to walk through the kitchen and watch the cooks work while sampling hors d'oeuvres. The dessert side of the French menu was presented in the larger packed outer room and the only glitch there was finding the silverware to go with all the good food. Ever eat crème brulee with a fork? It's tricky once you get near the bottom.

Chez Roux is the brainchild of Chef Albert Roux, who will be flying in about four times a year to make sure things are going well under the hand of Chez Roux Executive Chef Wyatt McGuire, who trained under Roux at Le Gavroche restaurant (Britain's first Michelin-starred) in London.

La Torretta has been open since November, taking over the property from an earlier owner. It boasts several restaurants, meeting rooms, lounges, a golf course, a miniature golf course, a series of waterparks and swimming pools as well as access to Lake Conroe (check out the man-made white sand beach) and is in the process of finalizing its own marina. According to Executive Chef Joseph Trevino, who oversees all the rest of the restaurants at La Torretta, the idea is to "keep it on the property."

Guests were also encouraged to try the other restaurants, which is how we found ourselves over at the main restaurant, Prime, for dinner. This is Trevino's baby and its New American cuisine was sparkling. The surf and turf dinner of lobster and filet mignon in a brown sauce ($45) was delicious, although a little drawn butter would have been nice. It was also served with mashed potatoes with truffles oil (great) and sautéed spinach. Service was a little slow, but a later conversation with Trevino probably accounted for that - usually the room operates as a buffet, offering catered meals to corporate groups who come in for meetings.

The next day we stopped by for brunch ($42) which operated as a buffet and was excellent. In addition to the usual breakfast offerings (earlier in the day the breakfast-only buffet is $22), there was a sushi table and carved meat as well as a huge dessert table. Everything was carefully arranged for maximum presentation value. The sushi was fresh and the desserts were just too many to choose from. I had the crepes made on the spot featuring h Grand Marnier and brandy with orange garnish. Incredibly rich to the point where I couldn't eat two of them.

The other restaurants offer food at lower prices such as the hot dogs and chicken fingers at CoCo Cove Grill by the kids pool. There's also the Sonata Piano Bar and the lounge Energie, Essence Café, the Yoi Sushi Bar, Final Putt Lounge (by the golf course) and Mokka Café. Room service is available and La Torretta does a lot of catering and special events, Trevino says. For instance, they'll dig a pit and have a clam bake on their beach there and do a lobster and clam boil.

In addition to the high rise rooms, all of which come with a living room area and flat screen TVs, there are individual stucco cabins. The resort guest book warns that located where they are, it is not uncommon for wild creatures of the non-human variety to enter the guest rooms - and gives an emergency number to call. While we were there a young skunk sat pretty forlornly by the tennis courts, unharmed but stuck in a trap that had been set out for it.

The resort was gearing up for Spring Breakers and families. It hopes to get out-of-towners as well as lure locals to dine there on a regular basis. Trevino thinks the location can reach four star status with the right combination of staff and offerings. At about an hour and 15 minutes from Houston (as long as there's no tie-up on Interstate 45) it's worth a visit for a family or a business needing a seminar getaway.

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