Louisiana’s River Road Plantations

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

While I’ve visited New Orleans, I’ve always wanted to see the plantation houses on Louisiana’s River Road, a 70-mile stretch on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The banks are dotted with these monumental homes, built by wealthy sugar planters in the decades before the Civil War. What is also critically important to understand is that their economic success was dependent on the forced labor and lifeblood of enslaved people.

We chose three destinations for our tour — Oak Alley Plantation, the Whitney Plantation and Houmas House. With their outstanding architecture, lovely antiques and stunning settings, the River Road mansions clearly convey the privileged white life of the antebellum period, but we had a much deeper, richer and authentic visit as we also learned about the horror — and resilience — of African-Americans who also lived on the land during the same time.

Our first stop was Oak Alley Plantation, where the story of the “Big House” was told separately from the story of the reconstructed slave quarters just 100 yards from the front door. Oak Alley is known for the quarter-mile row of facing 300-year-old oaks leading up to the plantation house.

A different perspective greeted us down the road. A visit to the Whitney Plantation, opened in 2014, was a remarkable way to be immersed in events that are still difficult to discuss 150 years after the Civil War. Whitney provided a visceral experience, told through the real narratives of enslaved children and in the footsteps of the enslaved people who lived on this plantation.

In a white clapboard church, we met 40 life-sized statues of slave children created by Woodrow Nash. Around my neck, the lanyard had a portrayal of former slave Ann Hawthorne, a little girl in a hat and pinafore, whose story was recorded by the Federal Writers’ Project in 1930.

“I was bo’n in slavery, and I was a right sizable gal when freedom came,” she tells me. Nearby rows of granite slab walls — The Wall of Honor — captured the names of 356 people enslaved on the plantation through the years. Seven slave cabins stand on the site, two of them original and the others acquired from another plantation. Our guide walked us slowly around the property and told stories of hardship, privation, death and hope.

Standing in the master’s Creole French-style house, our guide patted the head of another statue and told her story. Anna was raped by the brother of the owner. Her son by that encounter was given the owner’s name and eventually freed. His great-granddaughter became a well-known local activist and married the first black mayor of New Orleans; their son also became mayor.

The guide looked at our group and said, “If this child could turn his life into such a gift of service, what excuse do you have not to make a difference?”

To anchor our weekend, we chose the striking Greek Revival mansion, Houmas House, with its two-storied colonnade, lushly landscaped gardens, newly built guest cottages and several excellent restaurants on site.

At Latil’s Landing, we had a wonderful five-course prix fixe meal that provided a stark contrast to the stories we had heard earlier in the day. Later, we sat on the wraparound porch in the gathering twilight and discussed what we had learned.

It was easier now to see the ghosts of all who lived and died to support the “Sugar Palace” and the other grand houses on River Road, including the thousands of enslaved men, women and children whose voices we are only now beginning to hear.

Romantic Weekend in Michigan

IMG_1488 Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, the romantic in your family really needs to get busy if a special weekend is your heart’s desire. There is an array of possibilities in all directions. In around two hours you can get to Chicago or Detroit. Both offer lots of different choices, and those are just the big city opportunities.

For travel

Chicago offers a huge variety, from lodging to food to entertainment. For a deluxe weekend, I’d book a room at the Langham Chicago. The hotel’s pink and gold colors are a perfect backdrop to a five-star experience. If you book their Valentine’s package, it comes with roses, bubbly and chocolates. Given the February weather, you may not want to leave the hotel, so book a room on the club level and ask Carlos, the head butler or one of his staff, to draw you a bath. The hotel’s restaurant, Travelle, is a great choice for dinner or brunch with Chef Tim Graham’s innovative menu.

A Valentine’s Day in Detroit can be equally romantic and a little less expensive. The Inn on Ferry Street is four restored Victorian mansions and two carriage houses. They also offer a romance package with roses and the works, but I’d opt for the Dining in the D package, which includes a four-course meal at the Whitney with wine, including round-trip transportation. The Whitney is an elegantly restored 1894 mansion with a reputation for fine dining. I can personally recommend the crab cakes, calamari and the filet mignon. With this Inn you are close to the Detroit Institute of the Arts, where walking hand-in-haIMG_2325nd through their current exhibit “Ordinary People by Extraordinary Artists: Works on Paper by Degas, Renoir and Friends” is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Saugatuck offers a number of bed and breakfast choices, but I like the Wickwood Inn owned by Silver Palette cookbook author, Julee Rosso. While the lodgings are lovely, it’s the food which is really something special at the Wickwood. Be sure you arrive in time for cocktail hour, when the guests gather in the library to sample an array of tempting hors d’oeuvres.

For close to home

Closer to home, I’d suggest booking my favorite type of lodging, a bed and breakfast or small inn. This close to Feb. 14 may make it hard to find a room but you can always offer your sweetheart a rain check.

Kalamazoo has two properties worth a visit: The Kalamazoo House right downtown and Henderson Castle near Western Michigan University. The rooms at Kalamazoo House are very comfortable with a classic full breakfast. They also offer warm cookies upon check-in. There are lots of dining choices within walking distance, including our favorites, Rustica and Food Dance. Another option is the grand Castle, which sits on a hill with a spa and a winery among its other attractions.

Greencrest Manor is another favorite for a romantic overnight right outside of Battle Creek. With only eight rooms, this is a lovely stone house in a French Normandy style. Breakfast is included in the rate but you may want to bring your own Valentine treats to surprise your sweetie.

In Marshall, spend a cozy evening at the National House Inn. Innkeeper Barb Bradley will do everything she can to make your weekend a dream come true. The house has been welcoming guests for 170 years so they must be doing something right. Schuler’s Restaurant is within walking distance. Book a table in their newly renovated Grill Room with private booths and a crackling fireplace.

These are just a few romantic spots to while away a weekend and remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place.

Go for a spring fling in Allegan County

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer
Repeat after me: It will be spring. It will be spring. It will be spring.

As of today, it has officially been spring for ten days. How about planning a romantic weekend, so you are ready to take advantage of the first warm weather and spring flowers?

I love upscale bed and breakfast lodging, and Michigan offers quite a few nice ones. So, a weekend trip that includes a stay at one of those destinations, a great meal (or two), and beer, wine and hard cider tasting — that just might do the trick to finish chasing away the snow and ice.

Start by booking one of the ten rooms at the Castle in the Country in Allegan, a 65-acre estate with two buildings, one historic and one contemporary. The owners took the castle theme into everything they did, including naming their local woods “The Enchanted Forest.” Their rooms have names like the Golden Tower and the Lady Guinevere Suite.

I’d add some spa treatments to make the stay even more royal. Of course, their onsite facility is called the Royal Retreat SpaSome people like the side-by-side couple’s massage, but my husband and I prefer to relax separately and then bring our totally relaxed selves back together for dinner.

For dinner, we chose the Salt of the Earth restaurant. In 2009, this small gem of a restaurant was opened in a storefront in downtown Fennville. Chef Matthew Pietsch joined owners Steve Darpel and Mark Schrock in forming strong relationships with local farmers and producers.

A mark of a truly wonderful restaurant is the quality of its bread, and Salt of the Earth doesn’t disappoint. Filling up on the bread was a risk, as they bake their artisan bread by hand. My favorite was the herb and salt French bread.

My husband chose the hanger steak with cheesy au gratin potatoes. For me, it was the sea scallops with celery root and apple butter. The desserts were tempting, but we had no more room , so we took a slice of chocolate cake to go.

The Castle offered three morning seatings at individual tables. I like being able to choose times. I also liked not being forced to sit with people I don’t know, especially first thing in the morning (or anytime, actually).

The fruit, baked goods and egg soufflé collectively ring up at some enormous amount of very tasty calories.

The afternoon was spent on a leisurely tour starting at Fenn Valley Vineyard and Cellar in Fenville.

White wines are really best suited to Michigan’s climate, and Fenn Valley offered several, including a few sparkling wines. My husband loves any wine, but those with tiny bubbles top his list. The sparkling Riesling was on the sweet side and had a nice apple fruit character.

For a change of pace, we slipped in a micro-brewery visit. The Saugatuck Brewing Company in Douglas is a full-service microbrewery, including the Lucky Stone Pub. After the full breakfast, we didn’t feel like a few pints and a burger. The lobster mac did sound very tempting. We sampled their “Best in Brew” award-winning Bonfire Brown, a malty, dark ale that was supposed to taste of chocolate, biscuits and nuts and remind me of sitting around a campfire. Seriously, I need to work on my beer palette.

Our third stop was at McIntosh Orchards and Wine Cellar in South Haven. At the winery’s tasting bar, I liked the hand-crafted hard cider. With all the apples grown in Michigan, hard cider is a natural value added product.

Whether you plan your spring fling in Allegan County or elsewhere in Michigan, have a great time welcoming the season after this long, cold winter.

Things That Go Bump In The Night at Haunted Hotels

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer, October 25, 2013

I love the last of the blazing color in the trees, the fresh cider and the pumpkin patches of late October. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday with no pressure to buy anything but bags and bags of candy.

With Halloween a few days away, one last visit to a spooky inn or haunted house may be just how you want to spend some time at the end of this month. Or how about a pumpkin patch?

Depending on how far you want to travel for a little bump in the night, I found five spooky overnight locations. As close as Kalamazoo, you can spend the night at Henderson Castle, where the ghosts of the home’s original owners, Frank and Mary Henderson, as well as those of a Spanish-American War veteran, a little girl, and a dog are reported to interact regularly with guests. The castle has been in three horror movies.

Marshall is home to the National House Inn, where an elegant full-bodied apparition, a lady in red, wanders the house. She’s also been spotted looking out the second floor window.

If Detroit is your destination, The Inn on Ferry Street has two reported spirits, a friendly woman in a wedding dress who roams the halls in the inn’s Roehm House, plus a male ghost in the inn’s Owen House Room 4102, who grabs your arm at night.

You can also check in at the Sweet Dreams Inn Victorian Bed & Breakfast in Bay Port, where the hosts will organize a ghost hunt from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., including lodging for the night, pizza and pop. No refunds if you leave in the middle of the night.

The Blue Pelican Inn, in Central Lake, Antrim County, is where your stay comes with an entire host of ghostly spirits. The property was used as a temporary school when the original Central Lake School burned down. Reported sightings includes the shade of Mrs. Gill, who managed the property in the ‘20s and ‘30s and came back to stay in the 1950s, when she died in one of the rooms. Also seen is a young woman who tried to elope from the second floor outside window, tripped on her gown and fell to her death. The third “ghostie” is a little girl who is looking out the attic dormer, surrounded by her schoolbooks.

If a day trip fits better into your schedule, try DarkSyde Acres in Jonesville, with more than 70,000 indoor square feet, one of the biggest and largest haunted attractions in three states. Where else do you have the opportunity to have a Zombie Wedding for $400? Or, you can participate in Zombie Paintball Massacre and “splat off” one of the living dead.

The 2013 Pumpkin Fest and Haunted Barn at Wilson’s Barn in Livonia offers the more traditional fields of pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, as well as pony and hay rides. Or visit the annual Tee Lake Halloween in Lewiston, which offers a free Drive-Thru Haunt — a family-friendly, self-guided tour through haunted displays. Your car radio can be tuned to their spooky station. “Terror at Tee Lake” is a walk-through haunted house, or you can stay over in a haunted cabin, The Witch’s Cottage or Igor’s Hideaway.

If spooky is not your thing, you can visit the local pumpkin patch in Richland at Gull Meadows farms, or in Marshall at Bosserd Family Farm.

From full-blown ghost adventures to picking out the perfect pumpkin, enjoy the last few days of fall fun. Boo to you.

Weekend escape to Indianapolis

Published in the Battle Creek Equirer

If you haven’t been to Indianapolis in the last ten years, you won’t recognize the bubbling, energetic, interesting city it has become from the rather sleepy, provincial place it was. Downtown Indianapolis offers excellent hotels, great dining choices, sports, theatre, and museums – just to list a few.

Let’s start with where to stay. Nothing can beat the historic Canterbury Hotel, smack in the center of the city.  Entering the hotel’s brass doors, you can feel the history of what must have a showplace in 1928 when the current hotel building replaced a previous hotel built in 1858. Luckily for guests, the hotel received a major facelift and renovation in 2010 when the current owners took over. The restaurant was re-opened and named for the new owner, Turner’s Cocktails and Cuisine. Afternoon tea was a favorite of ours, and is a great way to spend a few hours in the hotel’s atrium, scones and finger sandwiches served accompanied by a pianist.

While we are into historic Indy, dinner at St. Elmo’s is a requirement. A landmark downtown since 1902, the restaurant was named after the patron saint of sailors, St Elmo. With a Chicago saloon décor, which matched its start as a tavern, the restaurant has evolved over the years to provide a great dining experience if you like steak especially. Also not to be missed was their shrimp cocktail with a sauce so spicy it cleared my husband’s headcold.We also liked Oceanaire for seafood choices. While it was part of an upscale chain, their seafood was wonderful even this far from the ocean.  Baked shrimp stuffed with crab and served over linguine tasted as good as it sounded.

Slightly on the edge of downtown, we noshed on fabulous deli at Shapiro’s. Not a lot of atmosphere in the cafeteria style restaurant but huge sandwiches and old style favorites like meatloaf and mashed potatoes make up for chic. They have been serving locals since 1905 with the motto, “Cook good. Serve generously. Price modestly. People will come.”

If you plan ahead, you might be able to snag a seat for a Pacers or Colts game, both teams play in stadiums right downtown.

Some 12 downtown hotels connect directly to the Circle Centre Mall. Although it doesn’t offer quite what it did when Nordstrom’s was an anchor store, I still found enough shopping opportunities. They also have a huge movie theatre with all the first run flicks when you need to rest your feet.

For those more culturally inclined, the red sandstone Eiteljorg Musuem of American Indians and Western Art looks out of place in downtown Indianapolis. Named after its founder, an Indy businessman,  the museum sets out to inspire deeper understanding of the art, history and culture of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. It is the only museum of its kind in the Midwest and only one of two east of the Mississippi that combine Native America and the American West in connected exhibits.

No weekend visit would be complete without a visit to The Slippery Noodle Inn, Indiana’s oldest bar and home of the blues, founded in 1850. Two live, local bands play in different parts of the historic building starting at 9 p.m. We didn’t hang around until the wee hours of the morning but I’m confident it was hopping all night long.

Just a shade over three hours south, Indianapolis is an easy weekend away.

 

Planning for a capital vacation

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer  1/21/13

Four years ago, I had the extraordinary opportunity (through the kindness of an old friend) to sit on the inaugural platform as Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States. Attending the inauguration of any president is both a terrific civics lesson and a great party. Watching the Mall fill up from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument, one mile in length, is a once in a lifetime sight. This year, I’m going to observe the festivities from the comfort of my living room but Washington, D.C., is still one of my favorites cities to visit, any time of year.

The benefit of visiting Washington, D.C., during the winter is that it is usually warmer than Michigan. Airfares are lower, as are hotel rates (except during inaugural week). Check into flights to Baltimore Washington International Airport, about 30 miles from the city. You can take a free shuttle to two different trains, either the regional line, MARC, or Amtrak. Both take you directly to Union Station, a bustling train and Metro station, filled with interesting shops and several restaurants. The U.S. Capitol is right across the street.

To tour our legislative seat of power, make arrangements with your local Congressperson or U.S. Senator. Make ticket requests at least four to six months ahead of your trip or likely nothing will be available. You can arrange White House tours (very limited), a seat in the visitor’s gallery of the House or the Senate (if they are in session), the Supreme Court and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing all on the website of your federal elected official. If you are in town on a Tuesday morning, you can attend “Good Morning Michigan,” hosted by Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Every major hotel chain has several hotels in the District at all prices. Pick your hotel on price and proximity to the subway system, known as the Metro. You can get cheaper rooms in nearby Virginia or Maryland but the travel time and flexibility of staying in town is worth the extra cost. I’ve stayed at every major hotel and don’t have a favorite. I do like some of the smaller hotels and inns. The Tabard Inn, with 40 rooms, has a great dining room and bar. The Swann House has 12 rooms in a lovely old mansion near Dupont Circle.

You don’t need a car as public transportation is excellent and taxicabs are plentiful. If you do drive, overnight parking at your hotel will add to your expense and parking in the city is tough.

Start your sightseeing at the Smithsonian Institution’s website (www.si.edu). The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum complex with 19 buildings and the National Zoo, all with free admission. There is a museum for every interest, with exhibits for all ages. Every museum also has a cafeteria. One of my favorites is the Mitsitam Café at the Native American Museum. The cafe features native foods from the Northern Woodlands, South America, the Northwest Coast, Meso America and the Great Plains. Try a buffalo burger or a chicken taco.

Two favorite restaurants include the Old Ebbitt Grill, a dining institution established in 1856 across from the Treasury Department, famous for their chili and crab cakes. For innovative and delicious Italian and Mediterranean dishes, try the much newer Siroc restaurant on 15th street with pastas, salads and entrées. If you can’t choose between the incredible pasta dishes, ask for half and half.

You can’t leave the city without touring a few of the national monuments, whether it is the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials or the newest one, the Martin Luther King Jr. monument. A driving tour at night is my favorite way to take in several illuminated monuments and the grandeur of the tidal basin.

I’m sure you’ll agree that one visit won’t be enough to our monumental nation’s capital.

Ludington’s a sandy summer dream

Published July 22, 2012  Battle Creek Enquirer

With over 3000 miles of coastline in Michigan, let’s celebrate the longest freshwater coastline in the United States. So many miles of beaches, so little time.  We decided to dip our toes into Lake Michigan from the white sand beaches of Ludington for a weekend getaway.

Spur of the moment trips can either yield great bargains or premium costs. We love intimate, historic bed and breakfasts and as well as the reliability of chain hotels. Luckily, Ludington had lots of different choices in both categories. We choose the five room Cartier Mansion Bed & Breakfast, the 1905 estate of Ludington lumber baron Warren Cartier. This neoclassical beauty of a home sits right on the main drag with two-story white columns decorating its impressive portico.

True to his professional calling, Cartier built his home to showcase a variety of different varieties of wood, including the foyer’s white oak and the black walnut in the library. Admiring the woodwork, we slipped past a lively cocktail reception on the first floor to our comfortable rooms upstairs.

In search of seafood, we picked P.M. Steamers, a 30 year dining tradition situated on waterfront and at the home port of the historic SS Badger, the largest car ferry to ever sail Lake Michigan and the only coal-fired steamship still in operation in the U.S. The restaurant’s name pays homage to Michigan’s steamship era. Enough about history; how was the food? The Michigan trout with cherries and the potato-crusted Canadian walleye were exceptional.

Ludington is known for its beaches, and they didn’t disappoint. We went to see the sugar sand beach at Ludington State Park Beach north of town. The name seemed appropriate, since the sand was very white. We set up towels and wiggled our toes in the sand until we were too hot and had to jump in the Lake to cool off. A few hours of sitting in the sun and relaxing with a good summer book is exactly what I needed to really feel that summer had arrived.

No trip to this city is complete without a stop at the House of Flavors,a ‘50s diner with a full menu and out-of-this-world ice cream made on the premises. The Neal family has been making ice cream in town since 1948.  Practice does make perfect with 400,000 gallons of ice cream produced every week. In addition to all of the regular flavors, they offer a line called Ashby’s Sterling Flavors. I had to try Anniversary Cake, a cake batter ice cream with cake and frosting pieces. Wow. It was the kind of place to throw caution and diets to the wind and enjoy every fully loaded lick.

Breakfast at the inn was as delicious as advertised.  The praline French toast was my favorite. As with all good innkeepers, this breakfast recipe was made the night before, so that the early morning food preparation isn’t any earlier than necessary. One thing to know if you choose this kind of lodging is that you have to be prepared to make conversation with other guests before your first cup of coffee. Sometimes your group may be seated at your own table, but most often you sit with the other guests. On our visit, we met a nice young couple enjoying some anniversary, but it was early which made it difficult to recall all of the details.

And, in case you were wondering, even after the million-calorie breakfast, we sampled another flavor on our way home, licking the drips as we drove. Sand, water and ice cream—a summer’s dream.

 


It’s Date Night in Michigan

Pubished in the Battle Creek Enquirer 5/16/2012

Every couple needs a night out from time to time, just to keep the home fires burning! Whether you’ve been a couple for two weeks or 25 years, sometimes ‘date night’ can fall into a boring routine.  By the time you’ve aligned your calendars, found a baby sitter, written the emergency contact number notes, planning your special evening can seem daunting. Admit it, you’ve settled for home and a delivered pizza. Boring.

Never fear, The Indulgent Traveler is here with suggestions for a romantic evening, or an overnight trip that will recharge your batteries in that way only a little romance can accomplish — all within driving distance. One rule, you have to leave the house. I’m all for candlelight dinners on the patio, but to rediscover, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other, you have to be interruption-and-television free, preferably for 24 hours.

Most couples have a special restaurant. Ours is Schuler’s Restaurant and Pub In Marshall. Call ahead and ask for a table by the fire in the main dining room. They’ve been open for more than 100 years, so they must be doing something right. Prime rib is the specialty, but the Great Lakes White Fish is melt-in-your mouth good. They make all their own bread, crackers and desserts on property, so leave lots of room for the peppermint ribbon pie.

Walk hand-in-hand down Marshall’s quaint main street and window shop. If your time away includes an overnight, you can walk another block and spend the night at the National House, an upscale bed and breakfast right on Fountain Circle—a Marshall landmark.

Another fabulously romantic bed and breakfast in the area is Greencrest Manor, overlooking St Mary’s Lake.  Plan an overnight at the French Normandy-style Manor House in one of their suites. It’s guaranteed to spark something. Owners Tom and Kathy VanDaff have lovingly restored the mansion and will lavish attention on you, as well. Stroll through the lovely gardens soaking up serenity and spending precious time with each other.

A wonderful daytime date is a trip to Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek with a picnic lunch. You can wander the gardens and lose yourselves in the gardens if nature is what you like to experience together.

And then there is Lake Michigan. Something about that broad expanse of blue water t is good for romance. Pick any of the terrific towns within an easy drive of Battle Creek. Saugatuck and South Haven are particular favorites.

In Saugatuck, try the Wickwood Inn, where a champagne brunch, wine and hors d’oeuvres and endless fresh baked sweets are part of the overnight package.  The Inn’s owner is author of five acclaimed cookbooks including my personal favorite, The Silver Palette.  The Inn is cozy and charming. Saugatuck is another wonderful town for a stroll along the lakefront known as the “Art Coast.” Plop down some beach chairs and wiggle your toes in the sand for a few hours.

At the other end of the date spectrum and the state, how about a trip to the Big D, (Detroit) and a Tigers game?  Stay at the newly renovated Westin Book Cadillac. Right now, hey have a special room and tickets rate. The hotel is one of Detroit’s many architectural treasures — an Italian Renaissance–style hotel, built by Detroit’s famous Book brothers. It was the tallest hotel in the world when it was built in 1924.  It’s a big hotel, with beige marble and warm wood, accenting spacious rooms. They have a lovely spa. Roast, off the lobby, is the signature restaurant of celebrity chef Michael Symon.

If sports don’t work for both of you, Detroit has many other dynamic date options from Detroit Institute of the Arts to a walk on the three-mile RiverWalk. Or visit Eastern Market on Saturday, a six-block public market that has been feeding Detroit since 1891. A foodie’s delight  with hundreds of open-air stalls.

No matter where you go or what you decide to do, the most important thing is to choose an evening or afternoon where you can spend time together, laughing and talking, doing something a little out of the ordinary.

 

Georgia On My Mind– Glen-Ella Springs Inn

Somewhere not too far from Atlanta is a wonderful bed and breakfast where the craziness of city life (or just daily life) falls away. When I stayed at the Glen-Ella Springs Inn, it was just chilly enough to miss a swim in the pool but a great time of year to walk in the garden or rock in a wooden rocker and enjoy the bucolic setting of Glen-Ella Springs, where a home has stood for 100 years.

Be sure you don’t miss Barrie Aycock making pancakes on a Sunday morning. It is a special recipe of cakes that capture all that is right with breakfast as the most important meal of the day. You can also buy a bag of the mix to take home but somehow it just isn’t the same. You can’t tell from Barrie’s smile that this may be the millionth pancake she has flipped in her innkeeper role. Her wit is wry and her smile genuine. The breakfast buffet on other days is just as tasty.

Bobby and Barrie Aycock rescued the historic 1830s building in 1986. Leaving the original heart-pine walls, floors and ceilings, the 100 year-old Glen-Ella Springs Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Did I mention the rest of the meals? Glen Ella has a well deserved reputation for wonderful food — some southern favorites but with a lighter interpretation.  Chef Chris Bolton draws on regional recipes and local ingredients. Be sure you try the signature dish, Trout Pecan or the Jumbo Shrimp in Low Country Gravy over Fried Parmesan Grits. I picked up a copy of their cookbook and have made several of recipes. The Blue cheese spread is to die for and very easy to make (see the featured recipe).

While outside of building itself doesn’t sport much Victorian fanciness, my room had the full stop Indulgent Traveler bed—big and comfy with all the trimmings. With heart-pine paneled walls and ceilings, my room was both rustic and elegant with a mixture of period antiques and locally handcrafted items. There was no TV’s in the rooms, but there are two TV’s on the property with full satellite connections and frankly, I didn’t miss it at all.

Combining business and pleasure on this trip, my small group of 10 people met in the Garden House Living Room where we were very productive just so we could get outside and wander in the 17 acres of gardens and meadows.

I also have to warn you that getting to the Inn at night can be a challenge of navigation and steel nerves down some country lanes and finally a gravel road. But follow the directions and you will find that the destination is worth the journey. Prepare to let down, relax, enjoy wonderful food – and let the world pass you by while rocking rhythmically on the porch.

Trout Pecan 

This is our “signature” entrée at the Glen-Ella Springs Inn, having been on our menu since we opened in 1987. We were the first restaurant in the N. GA mountains to offer a sautéed boneless trout, and it remains our most popular entrée.

Serves 4: preparation time 15 minutes

4 6-7 ounce fresh rainbow trout filets
2 cups of our coating mix (see below)
1/2 cup butter, or half butter and half cooking oil
1 large or two small limes, halved
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon minced fresh mild herbs such as parsley, thyme, oregano

Coating mix:
2 cups Bisquick baking mix
3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs or croutons

» Toast pecans about 5 minutes in a 350 oven and set aside. Turn oven to 325.

» In a food processor, combine ingredients for coating mix and process until combined.

» Dredge fish filets in coating mix. In a large non-stick skillet, heat enough butter, or oil and butter, to just cover the bottom of the skillet, when butter is hot, quickly add trout filets, skin side up. If your skillet isn’t large enough to hold all the trout without crowding, sauté half the fish at a time. Reduce heat to medium and cook trout on the flesh side for about 5 minutes until nicely browned.

» Transfer the fish, browned side up to an oven-proof baking dish and continue cooking the rest of the fish in the same manner adding more oil/butter if needed. If oil in skillet starts looked burned, wipe out skillet and add more.

» Squeeze limejuice over each fillet; sprinkle with the herbs and the toasted pecans. Place in oven and bake for about 5 minutes or until fillets flake easily with a fork. Serve immediately with an extra wedge of lime.