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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.

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