04 October 2008

Fall Get-Aways...

Ah, fall.

And what better way to say "HELLO!" to fall than a quick trip to the spa/inn for a lovely two day get-away with your way-cool Mom? (I don't know about you, but I can't think of a better way...)

My Mom was visiting from the great state of Oklahoma AND it was her brithday. I was trying to think of something kind of special to do, and I was hitting some roadblocks. Then my friends from upstairs had recommended the Millcroft Inn and and Spa in Alton, and I had to look into it.

The website makes it look gorgeous (which I do understand is the job of the website!), and when we got there, my ticklebone was fancied by all of the fall foliage...

And the pumpkins...

And beautiful scenery...

The Millcroft is a bit of an odd fellow. We got there (after realizing that their google map directions took you to the right street in the wrong town!) and checked in a the lovely little main building. I had opted to book Mom and I into the "Crofts", which are little two-story rooms with fireplaces and a back patio. The patio is lovely...

But the way TO the rooms is a wee bit sketchy. I didn't take a picture, but we parked the car and walked to the side of the Spa towards the croft building. And it just looks like this kind of dank apartment complex. We thought you couldn't go through the pool, so we were walking around this little bizarre walk-through because our croft was the second to the last one of the lot.

Imagine our PLEASANT surprise to open the door and find that the room was quite lovely! And super cozy. I couldn't wait to get back in the evening so that we could have a fire and relax in the lovely suite. The room had a good-sized bathroom with towel heater, lots of glasses (including wine glasses), and a lovely little room upstairs with windows and cd's of local artists. Mom opted to sleep on the sofa bed downstairs because she didn't want to climb the stairs (she's not supposed to climb stairs as a result of the issues with her heart), which I didn't really think about when I booked. I just liked the idea that there were two separate sleeping arrangements so that we could both have some space!

What I did think of was the Millcroft dining services. As part of a lot of the room packages, you are given a dinner voucher for a three course dinner at their dining room. They also have the option of upgrading that to a tasting menu. I knew that Mom had never done a tasting menu before, and I thought that this wold be a nice opportunity to start. So I booked us in!

When we arrived, we were seated in the main dining room. And it was empty. I mean, completely devoid of any people. But they have a "pod" room that is enclosed in glass with fairy lights and quite nice. And it was right across from us, with a few people in it.

The waitress came over and asked us if we'd like to move into the pod? I of course said yes! And we moved on over...

Much nicer.

I had asked Mom if she was nervous about the tasting menu, and I think she was a bit. This is one where you are both given the same thing (so you are SOL if you don't like it), and there is no menu given so you can't dread a certain course. Mom and I are not the MOST adventurous food eaters, but we are game to give things a go. And the dinner started.

Our amuse bouche was a chilled cucumber soup, which I do not have a picture of. It was fine. Really cucumber-y, which to me ends up tasting like body lotion, but it was lovely. Our next course was a Braised Leek with house Double-Smoked Bacon and Parmesan Shavings.

This was really really nice. The leeks were cool and really sweet, where as the double-smoked back added a nice sharpness and saltiness. And the parmesan and green salad was very fresh tasting. (Mom had never had leeks before, and she cleaned her plate, so I think it was good!)

From there we had roasted asparagus with a phyllo parcel of cheese and some peach something or other.

Mom had said when the waiter left that she was not a fan of asparagus at all. But when she tried this, she really liked it! I think part of it was because it was roasted, which really makes it sweet and delcious. The parcel was really nice, but I gave a pass on the peach salsa. It was a dumb addition, in my book. I am not a huge fan of fruit with meals, and when it comes to things like fruit salsas, I am all manner of thumbs-down. This was no exception.

Then came the foie gras course.

And honestly, I was dreading this moment. I do not like foie gras. But I am always game to try it. This looked like it may be okay, it was really charred on the outside, but it was almost raw on the inside, and in the dim light, it was just turning my stomach. I was worried Mom would be grossed out, but she tried it, tried it again, and then set it to the side of her plate. The ravioli and tomato couli was AMAZING. Really fresh and delicious. More bacon, which never hurt anyone (except my Mom who is supposed to be on a low-salt diet) and just an overall great experience except for the foie. No foie. No foie. No foie.

Our waiter was really nice, and didn't even roll his eyes when we ordered diet coke and tap water instead of wine. Mom can't drink alcohol because of the medication she takes, and I a) wasn't going to drink alone and b) don't drink when I am taking allergy medicine due to the headache situation. So we soldiered on with acutally really delicious diet coke! Their mix was really spot on.

Our next course was a chocolate-pumpkin foam...

It looked like poo but tasted like chocolate and the outside of the pumpkin. Not sweet at all, but really refreshing. It had toasted sunflower seeds on top, which I really could have lived without.

Then it was the main course. I had worried that this course would be lamb because I know that Mom really doesn't like lamb. Imagine my surprise...


I didn't know what Mom was going to do. She'd said earlier in the week that she was unwilling to try duck, so I thought we might have hit an impasse. It was served on a bed of pumpkin gnocchi and vegetables. The thing in the corner is crispy fried skin.

Well? MOM LOVED IT! She thought the duck was amazing, and ate every bite of the food on her plate. It was great!

Then we had a cheese course with a cheese that was too strong...

The best part of this was the chai soaked plum. Yum. I could have eaten that twice over and then eaten it again. It was great. The cheese was a blue and it was just too strong.

Then dessert. And the dreaded panna cotta.

And a really nice ice cream. No panna cotta for me, but yeah on the ice cream.

All in all, this was a really nice dinner. Mom and I had the opportunity to discuss our favorite foods and food memories, and I realized that that is something that we had never done before. I don't know why I am so interested in food and food culture, but I am, and it was great to discuss food memories with Mom. We walked back to the croft, full, satisfied, and pretty darn proud of ourselves. Mom had gotten to try things that she would never have tried if it hadn't just been presented to her, and she says she really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, and would likely do it again!

What I didn't take any photos of was the spa. But man alive, I had the pumpkin and apple body wrap, and it was great. But I felt like Ralph from the Simpsons because I said to the woman doing the treatment, "I smell like pie." But I did. Good times, the spa is smallish, only one shower in the bathroom (that should be wiped out more often), but the treatment rooms are lovely and I enjoyed my Indian Head Massage and Pumpkin wrap.

Just a few more pics of the pretty surroundings...

(You can see on the left of this picture the little glassed in area. That's the pod where you have dinner... and you look down over this...)

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