Tuesday, January 03, 2012

A Weekend Away

While the girls were with us (still are), we thought we should do something for New Year's weekend. We've done some interesting things for New Year's over the years—a couple of Caribbean cruises, a trip to Disneyland, a weekend in Sonoma, a week in Hawaii. This year, we stayed closer to home and drove three hours east to Nemacolin Woodland Resort in Farmington, PA.

I made reservations sort of late, and we all wanted to stay together, so our only choice was to rent one of the townhouses on the sprawling property. There are a lot of good things about this resort, but the townhouses are not one of them—it was like staying at an old Quality Inn along the interstate in a forgotten town in Nebraska where the pool is lined with algae and the doors don't fit the frames and something smells but for four times the price. I may be exaggerating.

The townhouses are near a golf course just about five minutes from the main hotel, so we got to know the property pretty well. It's strange.

As you make your way out of the main complex with a large hotel, a spa, a shopping area and conference center, you find yourself passing a miniature golf course with the statue of a golfer beside it, a running path with the statue of a running woman beside it, a pond with the statue of a contemplative visitor beside it, and so on. Lots of statues. Then you pass a section with a safari theme, a building with antique cars, a building with an antique plane, a section of the Berlin wall, more statues, and then you find you are among wild animals in large pens—black bears, bison, mountain goats, a white lion pacing in his fenced in yard.

Our townhouse was within walking distance of the animals, and we could watch the lion pacing from a seat at our kitchen table. When we stepped out onto the back deck, this is what we saw—camels and zebra grazing together. What you can't see is a statue of a fisherman with a line in the pond.

Typically, we would drive to the main lodging after a leisurely breakfast, park the car, and hang out. It's a very long building that winds around a bit with nooks here and there and restaurants and lounges and shops. It feels distinctly like a cruise ship in that regard, so we started referring to it as The Ship. No. 1 even imagined the floor was swaying was we walked past one of the shops, as if we were on a lower deck that moves with the ocean current more than do the upper decks.

After dinner the first evening, No. 1 and I attended a Champagne and chocolate tasting, which is exactly the kind of thing a cruise ship would offer. A sommelier poured two types of Champagne paired with truffles from one of the restaurants onboard ship, and he told us how Champagne is made. It was all very interesting, and we had a hearty laugh over the drunk guy who tried to crash the event.

The next afternoon, Eustacia and I attended a cooking demonstration with the executive sous chef who talked about brines. We were seated at cafe tables on stage beside a portable kitchen, and we were served a feast. The guy made pork roast with cheese grits, fried chicken filets with mashed red skin potatoes, roasted salmon with an arugula salad and a simple roasted chicken so flavorful from the brine, it needed no other seasoning. It was a great, and I believe I'll be brining salmon from now on.

Husband and I on New Year's Eve.
We went all out for dinner on New Year's Eve and sat for a tasting menu at Lautrec, a five-star restaurant at the resort. I'm telling you, this was the most amazing dining experience I believe I've ever had. For two hours, staff brought small plates of tasty things, each paired with a different wine. First, the sommelier would pour the wine, describe it, and tell us why it was chosen to go with the course. Then the course would arrive, something lovely on an interesting plate and described in detail by the server. There was an amuse bouche—a small tin with crab and caviar—then a salad, an incredible soup, a large scallop with a bean cassoulet and a finishing sauce, pork belly with sour kraut puree, Kobe beef with tiny broccoli florets and potato butter, fresh pasta with truffle shavings and a poached egg, a tiny glass of maple soda with a tiny straw, and finally a mint chocolate terrine and a little box of truffles. Oh my goodness. I mean, Oh My Goodness.

It all sort of fell apart the next day, however, when we woke to the news the whole place was under a winter storm warning and was expecting 8 to 12 inches of snow the next morning beginning early. We decided to leave Sunday afternoon instead of Monday and hit the road. This is the last piece of Nemacolin I saw, a tree with a furrowed brow and its tongue sticking out telling us to beat it, whydon'tcha.

We went from there to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, which is about 15 minutes from the resort. More on that later.

Overall, it was a good weekend at a place like a ship with an odd menagerie of things to see. Nemacolin could stand to update their townhouses, and it was a shame the weather wasn't more cooperative, but I'd go back.

1 comment:

dive said...

What a weird and wonderful weekend, Robyn.
I love your description of the town house; there's a short story in there, surely. And the statues sound hilarious and slightly creepy.
The food, on the other hand, sounds like it made all the rest worthwhile.