Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Goldmoor Inn and Galena, Illinois

My friend Cortney and I headed to Galena, Illinois, just before the holidays this past year. She had been there before, but it was my first trip.

As we headed there, I was surprised to see the dramatic change in the Illinois landscape. What had started as flat farm land had turned into rolling hills, some of them high enough to be considered small ski mountains.

Our home for the long weekend would be the Goldmoor Inn and we were impressed from the start.

It looked like an English castle, with 18 suites inside, as well as three cottages and two cabins on the property for those looking for real privacy.

Although we were on a girls’ getaway, I could also certainly see it as the perfect place for a romantic trip.

The 23 acres the Goldmoor is on are right on the Mississippi River, which offers fantastic views all year round, from every spot.

We were shown into our suite and first went through a common area, which was welcoming with a fireplace and couches.

Our suite was quite big. It had a separate kitchen with a small table, and a large room with a pull-out couch, Jacuzzi, and king-sized bed.

The bathroom was also quite big and had one of my favorite amenities, a towel warming rack.

We left the Goldmoor to head to Indulge Spa. I had found a deal on Groupon and thought a pedicure would get me in the mood for a relaxing weekend. It definitely did.

We left the spa and headed to the Green Street Tavern in the downtown DeSoto House Hotel. 

We were meeting Jeff Graack, Director of Sales & Marketing for the Galena/Jo Davies County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

We talked about Galena and all the things that were going on for the Christmas season we were visiting during.

Galena during the holidays is quite magical every year, especially with the Night of the Luminaria & Living Windows downtown. We were going to attend this the following evening.

While we chatted we sipped drinks from the Martini Flights Green Street Tavern offered.

I picked a sweeter grouping than Cortney did, and we both enjoyed our choices.

Desoto House was also getting ready for a Christmas event and had cakes and trees on display so we spent a few minutes looking at those before we left.

We went back to our suite at the Goldmoor Inn and got ready for our dinner in their dining room. It was quite elegant and the food was just as inviting as the décor.

One of the owners of the Goldmoor, Slobo Radin, showed us to our table and welcomed us to the Inn.

We started with some freshly made bread and butter, along with some pickled vegetables.

Goldmoor's Chef Carlos Valdez came to speak with us and tell us about his views on finding fresh, local ingredients whenever possible.

For an appetizer, we had the very tasty Trio Bruschetta. It was a selection of three toppings, roasted eggplant hummus, basil pesto, and tomatoes and garlic in olive oil, served with warm, grilled pita bread.

We also really enjoyed the cheese stuffed mushrooms we had ordered 

I saw one of my favorites on the menu, Beef Wellington, and was happy to hear Chef Valdez was willing to make it well-done for me. Many chefs insist it will ruin the dish, but the good ones know that you won’t enjoy something if it’s not made the temperature you like.

It was delicious. It was also served with a rich scalloped potato cake.

Cortney savored the Double Seared Pork Chop with an apple cider brandy sauce, roasted apples, and a fig & apricot chutney, with a salad on the side instead of the potatoes.

We finished with a selection of scrumptious house-made desserts before heading back to our suite.

It had been a long day and we had an even longer one coming up, exploring Galena/Jo County

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Osthoff Resort Spa Time and Downtime in Elkhart Lake

It was the final day in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for my friend Lisa and I. The trip had been quite relaxing and it was going to be even more so on day three.

We slept late in our suite at The Osthoff Resort . Their apartment-like setups had all the conveniences of home, even a kitchen to store and reheat the leftovers from all the great food we had been eating.

For the final day, we went out for breakfast. Downtown Elkhart Lake is very walkable so we left the car.

Off the Rail is a very popular local spot that’s only open for breakfast and lunch. 

They serve specialty coffees, as well as beer and wine, and make all sorts of bakery goods and sandwich concoctions.

Lisa chose a meat-filled breakfast casserole and a banana nut muffin, while I had the vegetable quiche and a chocolate chip muffin. It was all quite good.

If we had more time to go back there, I definitely would try the Freight Train Sandwich: turkey, Havarti cheese, bacon, sprouts, onion, tomato, and a creamy horseradish sauce.

We walked back to The Osthoff Resort and got our things together in the room before heading to their Aspira Spa.

The spa at Osthoff is definitely one of the best spas I have been to. The facilities are fantastic, with plenty of relaxing areas, including a room overlooking the lake which has a fireplace and a Jacuzzi.

I am not alone in loving this spa, which has been ranked No. 3 in a Condé Nast Traveler poll and named among the Top 100 Spas in the U.S. by Spas of America.

The only thing I didn’t like about it was that the relaxation area was open and noisy from those coming from the gym, but it was a minor issue for a major spa.

Lisa was doing a Swedish Massage and relaxing in the whirlpool.  I was getting the full head to toe treatment!

I was scheduled to start with the Elderberry Facial. Christine, my aesthetician, was very careful to check my allergies and substituted a few of the items to still give me glowing, tightened, and refreshed skin with Eminence products, except where noted:

Coconut Milk Cleanser
Steamed Towel soaked in Elderberry Tea
Hawthorne Tonique
Crushed Elderberry in a cream base
Gentle Lymphatic stimulation and stimulation of pressure points (reflexology)
Coconut Cream Masque
Hawthorne Tonique
Firm Skin acai booster serum
Bear berry eye cream
Bamboo firming fluid
Coconut age corrective moisturizer

I continued to feel relaxed and rejuvenated into my Sacred Waters Massage, a signature treatment at Aspira Spa.

The body treatment comes from using the waters of Elkhart Lake, considered to be sacred by the Native Americans who once lived here.

The massage with the warm water was soothing and my muscles were ready to melt by the time I left there.

Although we had a late checkout, it was already into the afternoon when we finished at the spa.

We ordered some lunch to go from Otto’s Restaurant, got our things from our suite, and checked out of The Osthoff Resort.

It had been a perfect girls getaway. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Activities, Spa and Food in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

My friend Lisa and I had enjoyed our first day at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, but day two was filled with more fun – and food.

We were up early for a great yoga class at Osthoff’s AspiraSpa. It was the perfect start to the day.

I was starving by the time we got to breakfast at Otto’s Restaurant, but there was plenty to eat there. I had a fruit smoothie and German Potato Pancakes, while Lisa loved the eggs benedict.

We were both excited to try snowshoeing for the first time and we headed over to Quit Qui Oc Golf Course. Todd Montaba, the owner, helped us both with the equipment and showed us the map of the trails we could take.

Since it was our first time out, we didn’t go that far, but it was a lot of fun and a sport I’m sure I’ll try again.

On the way back to the Osthoff Resort, we passed Road America.

Road Racing started in Elkhart Lake in 1950 with an open race circuit here. The Road America location is still a big attraction, as international events still take place on the 640 acres the center is on, within the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

While racing grew, so did this Wisconsin resort town, with beaches, restaurants and bars. Accommodations from home rentals and inns were built, but the mainstay was and is the three major resorts: Victorian Village, Siebken’s, and the largest, Osthoff Lake Resort.

When we returned we decided to spend the afternoon relaxing in the spa. We spent some time in the meditation room, as well as the whirlpool and the sauna. 

It definitely eased the muscles that had experienced snowshoeing for the first time. We were excited that we would be returning in the morning for treatments at the spa.

Lisa and I showered and dressed for dinner at the Elkhart Inn. 

It was just down the road still and a property of Osthoff Resort.

The Elkhart Inn was quaint and I’d have to say the perfect place for a romantic dinner – or a girls’ getaway meal.

The menu was definitely meat centric and, while this thrilled Lisa, the flexitarian in me still found options which sounded delicious.

We ordered some wine from their extensive wine list and started off with a perfectly roasted brie, served with sautéed mushrooms, as well as some freshly made soup.

After consulting the waiter on the best options, Lisa decided on the Elk Chop and I had the pappardelle pasta. We both agreed they were good choices.

We were full, but took to the suggestion to bring the rest of our dinners back to our suite so we had room for dessert. It was hard to argue and we lingered with coffee, apple caramel crisp and cheesecake.                                                           

It was a long day filled with fun and food and we were more than ready to retire for the night, but decided to have a nightcap at the Elk Room before going to our room. We still had one day left to enjoy the Osthoff Resort

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Girls Getaway to Elkhart Lake

Wisconsin is filled with many towns that have a charm all of their own. I find out Elkhart Lake definitely belongs toward the top of that list.

My friend Lisa and I took an uneventful four-hour drive.

Our first stop was at the Quit Qui Oc Golf Course, where we met Kathleen Eickoff, Director of Tourism for Elkhart Lake.  

The golf course, a popular spot for the town, has a bar restaurant and we enjoyed chili and fish as we talked about the town we were about to meet.

Kathleen explained how this spot, which is just about two and a half hours from Chicago, became a vacation destination in the late 1800s. This was mostly due to the addition of a railroad that would take people from the “big city."

She also offered to set us up with snowshoeing, a popular sport at the golf course in the winter months. Neither Lisa or I had done it before and we were excited to give it a try the next day.

When we pulled up to The Osthoff Resort, the biggest of three Elkhart Lake Resorts,

I began to get the feeling that this was quite a bit place.

That was reinforced when we were given the map at check-in, and saw for ourselves from our two-bedroom suite.

Suites are the norm here as guests often come in groups and quite often stay for a week or more.

Osthoff welcomed us with a basket full of local goodies and we got settled in our very comfortable apartment, with two baths, a full kitchen, living room, and a balcony with a view of the huge resort.

Lisa decided to stay back while I took tour of property with Laura Otten, Marketing Manager.

Osthoff Resort had been here since 1885. It is an all-season resort, with indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, activities, children’s program, cooking school, she explained as we walked around the property.

They also have extensive banquet rooms, for conventions, weddings, and other events.

The Cooking School was closed, and had been already booked full for the weekend before we made our reservations, but it definitely looked like something I wanted to come back to.

The resort reminded me a lot of the Catskills in New York, in the days when there were big resorts with lots of year round activities. I used to go there with my family every year.

After the tour, Lisa and I got a specialty coffee from the Elk Room and enjoyed the view from our balcony for a while before changing for dinner.

Lola’s on the Lake turned out to be a beautiful restaurant with great views. The food and service was as good as the scenery.

We lingered over a long dinner, starting with some cocktails and delicious warm bread.

We shared a pear salad before soup, butternut squash for me and a trio for Lisa that also included lobster bisque.

Lisa loved her Salmon Wellington, while I was thrilled with my short ribs.

We finished the night sharing two scrumptious desserts, a Chocolate Hazelnut Croquentine and a Crème Brulee, before calling it a night at Osthoff Lake Resort in Elkhart Lake.