Kings Island’s newest attraction isn’t for the faint of heart… or weak of stomach.
Madame Fatale’s Dead Inn Feast made its debut with this season’s Halloween Haunt. For $48.99, diners can enjoy a “high-end” feast inside the antechamber of the new Madame Fatale’s Cavern of Terror, and be among the first park visitors to navigate the haunted maze.
Because, as Kings Island knows, if there’s anything worse than being terrified, it’s being terrified on an empty stomach.
The exclusive dining experience — seating is limited to just 48 diners each Friday and Saturday night — features characters dressed in macabre finery who serve and entertain guests with morbid humor.
But there’s nothing frightening about the multi-course menu, which features dishes like chicken Marsala, beef tenderloin medallions, pasta rustica, garlic shrimp pasta and an array of sweet temptations served family-style.
The Mason theme park had been wanting to add a high-end dining option to Halloween Haunt since 2007, and the addition earlier this year of food director Gary Gochenour made that possible, said Don Helbig, park spokesman.
“It’s a totally unique experience you can’t get anywhere else in the region,” he said. “With the addition of having the most immersive Halloween Haunt, you add something like this and it takes our Halloween Haunt to a whole new level.”
Diners register for the feast online at www.visitkingsisland.com. Doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner served between 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Diners are also first in line each night to tour Madame Fatale’s Cavern of Terror, a wax-museum-themed horror maze, before it opens to the public at 7 p.m.
I stopped by the feast on the opening night of Halloween Haunt with two Enquirer colleagues, fellow vegetarian Luann Gibbs, administrative assistant for editorial and business pages, and omnivore Robin Buchanan in our photo reprint department. Click through to see what we sampled.
Luann: We were seated around extra-long banquet tables decked out in macabre finery, and attended to by ghoulish servers and feted by Madame herself, along with her side-kick Mortimer Hemlock. It was campy and fun; everyone was in character and playing their roles to a hilt.
Robin: Two different dining rooms straight from a scene of a Transylvania horror movie filled with ambient soft lighting and the walls filled with figures and shapes your curiosity and inquisitiveness wanted to explore. But there was no time for that I was told, as I started to wonder if it was going be my head served on a platter.
Rachel: Imagine dining with the Addam’s family and you’ll begin to have a feel for Madame Fatale’s quarters. Illuminated by soft red lighting and shrouds of mist, the dining room can only be described as frighteningly formal, with gargoyles keeping watch overhead and wax candle homages to ghouls and goblins featured throughout. Madame Fatale and her sidekick, Mortimer Hemlock, are both top-rate actors, with neither breaking character. Both are full of humorous quips, such as Madame musing about her lost cockroach collection.
Field green salad with vinaigrette and warm bread
Luann: Spring mix with red onion, olives, Parmesan, and pine nuts – always a touch of class – tossed in a bright, garlicky vinaigrette.
Robin: The salad was light and tasty with pine nuts, red onions, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, olives, field greens and something a bit garlicky must have been in the dressing. A great ingredient to keep vampires at bay.
Rachel: The bread was delightfully warm and yeasty and made a good pairing to the salad, which was light with a tart vinaigrette — a good start to the meal. Unfortunately, because of the family-style serving and being among the last to be passed the bowl, I didn’t get any olives, red onion, tomatoes or pine nuts in my salad.
Appetizers: Bruschetta and sausage-stuffed mushrooms
Luann: I liked the bruschetta appetizer but someone in the kitchen was a little too heavy-handed with the balsamic vinegar; it’s tart zing overpowered the olive oil and tomatoes.
Robin: Jumbo sausage stuffed mushrooms, mild with a splash of spice and good to the last drop with some words of wisdom from Madam Fatale as she passed my chair murmuring ‘beware’, but I’m still alive so they weren’t poisonous.
Rachel: The toasted bread was just as it should be, crunchy and and topped with a fresh blend of tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
Appetizer: Crab cakes on a bed of field greens
Robin: Ahhh heaven, melt in your mouth lump crab.
Shrimp Alfredo with spinach pasta
Robin: A bit of a disappointment for me after all of the wonderful bites I’d eaten before. Although the shrimp, hefty in size and lightly grilled were “to die for” and the alfredo sauce light and garlicy, I thought the spinach pasta was a bit chewy and the dish lost its appeal for me.
Robin: Nicely presented with abundant mushrooms. So moist the meat melted in my mouth. Yum!
Three-cheese ravioli and snap beans
Luann: Green beans – perfectly cooked with a slight crunch.
Robin: Snap peas, light and crisp.
Rachel: The snap peas had just the right brushing of olive oil and remained crisp and tasty despite a small wait for the rest of the entrees. Although I wished the feast offered more than one vegetarian main dish, the three-cheese ravioli was stuffed with cheese and came topped with a hearty and robust marinara sauce.
Beef tenderloin medallions and mashed potatoes
Luann: Dismayed that the mashed potatoes were served on the same plate as the beef medallions. This is a big no-no for vegetarians, but thankfully the other diners let us have first servings of the mash, so that we could spoon them out from the side of the plate not touching the meat. I realize that the reason the potatoes and beef were on the same plate was for presentation purposes (it looked amazing) but mixing veg and non-veg on the same plate just isn’t cool.
Rachel: As a fellow vegetarian, I was a little put off by the serving of mashed potatoes on the same platter as meat, but I’m glad I tried them. The potatoes were lumpy and creamy with the right blend of garlic and herbs — better than mom’s. I could eat an entire plate of nothing but Madame Fatalele’s mashed potatoes.
Pasta Rustica with Italian sausage
Robin: Pasta marinara with sausage, a table favorite!
Petits fours and coffee
Robin: Bite-sized delights of cheese cakes and other morsels. My choice turned out to be a lemon meringue, quite zestful and airy at the same time. My other choice unraveled its mystery ingredients melting in my mouth: caramel, chocolate and almonds in a creamy mixture, all experienced while watching a character traverse the table holding a white pet rat.
Rachel: Diners with a sweet tooth will definitely want to save room for dessert! The three-tier array is aptly named “sweet temptations” as it’s hard to select from among the array of at least 5 different treats. I tried a cheesecake petit four topped with a sliver of white chocolate — divinely creamy and rich. The lemon meringue was also my favorite. The delightfully tart lemon flavor really shone through. A table favorite seemed to be an Oreo-topped treat, with diners asking the tray to be passed around for seconds of this crowd favorite. A character walked around the table holding two pet rats, which were intended to add to the eerie dinner ambiance, but the little critters were more cute than creepy.
Luann: Overall, the experience was a hoot. Best of all, the food was actually very, very good. Not sure it’s $48.99 good, but it’s all-you-can-eat-and-drink, and yes, kiddies, that means booze too.
Rachel: As a vegetarian, I’m not sure if I would pay $48.99 for a mostly meat-based dinner, but meat-eaters certainly have cause to rejoice. Madame Fatale’s Dead Inn Feast is more than just a dinner, it’s an experience and a unique one at that. For those who are Halloween Haunt-bound, the feast would make for a wonderfully spooky start to an evening sure to abound with thrills and chills.
Luann: The timing of courses wasn’t great, especially for those of us who are vegetarian and had to wait through several passes of food before we got something we could actually eat, and then had to hurry through the course because everyone else had already finished and moved on to the next round. Plus since we kept having to stop eating to pass a plate, it took a little longer to get through the meal than I think the staff had anticipated, because toward the end we were getting rushed to finish. A better flow would be to bring out smaller portioned bowls and platters, and place them throughout the table instead of concentrating on the ends.
Robin: Don’t sit in the middle of the table: It’s tightly cramped with little arm room to maneuver the family-style entrees, of which the pasta dishes are a bit difficult to dish out (you could elbow your neighbor in the face or end up with a plate of spilled pasta) Several dishes didn’t make it to us, or they were empty with a server no where to be found. We were somewhat hidden behind a large table decoration which could have been a hindrance. As this was their premier run, they’ll have time to work out the waxy kinks for a smarter paced dining experience.
Rachel: The Dead Inn Feast is not for introverts. I found the seating to be tightly cramped, with very little elbow room, which made passing of large and sometimes heavy platters difficult. On the up side, you get to know your dining companions rather well. The pacing of the food needed improvement — we often had to ask for dishes that had long been passed around and depleted. As it is, I’m inclined to give the crew a break considering it was their first live run. They certainly seemed attentive to feedback and I’m sure they will only improve.
Madame Fatale’s Cavern of Terror
Luann: The ride/attraction itself was well thought-out and well executed. The premise is that Madame Fatale runs a wax museum…and she seems to get her wax by melting human beings down into tallow. Throughout the attraction there were lots of ghouls in various states of dismemberment and melt, and there was lots of screaming – more so by the actors inside the attraction rather than the visitors going through the ride, but maybe that was just us. We don’t scare easily.
Robin: The Cavern of Terror grand opening which, like our dinner, did not disappoint. My screams and others could be heard throughout.
Rachel: Hands down, KI’s best horror maze. The special effects were amazing and each room a wonderland of creepy oddities. Look out for the 6-foot-5-inch executioner — he’s not a statue! Bravo, Madame Fatale, bravo.