Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Galena Getaway Recap Part II

You can view Part One of my recap here and Part Three here.

Yesterday, I discussed the first portion of the trip to Galena, where we focused on a lot of the historical activities available in Galena from a working blacksmith shop to the former home of US President Ulysses S Grant. Now we move on to the next set of our adventures, as we explored more of Galena.

One thing I loved about Galena was the walking and the beauty of it. As we went from Main Street area of downtown where the Galena History Musuem is located towards our next stop, we began climbing stairs, as the downtown (and the river) is in a valley amongst hills. We didn't go up the main steps, which are steep and plentiful, but our own steps to get us closer to where they have public garden tours were just fine.

Near the top, we discovered that one of the private gardens (that offers tours) is built around the foundation of the oldest African church in Illinois. You can see some of the old stone structure below (and part of the house owning the land next to it), which I've been told is a glorious riot of colors when it moves into season.

Our real stop in this area was the Seal House, which was built by a retired judge in 1871 who lived there with his "niece." The home has remained a private residence since then, and was most recently restored by Roth Weaver and Brad Davis who have spent much of the past few years bringing both the inside and outside to life.

They were able to save the curliques around the columns, but the remainder of the outside porch has been rebuilt to appear as close as possible to how it did when built. With the historical registry, any visible changes to the exterior have to fit with the period and be approved before they can be made.

Inside was simply gorgeous - and yes, this is their actual home. With their three cats. And their houseguest who gamely put up with strangers tramping through the house. Galena hospitality at its best! It was fascinating to see the details of the home and how Brad and Roth managed to create a space that pays homage to the origins of the house without making it feel like a museum.

I didn't take a ton of pictures inside because ... it felt *weird* taking pictures inside someone's house. They were both wonderful hosts and gave us a lot of information on what they've done (painting the blue room five times to get the right color) and plan to do (replace the shutters this summer).

Next up was a stop we all could appreciate after wandering Galena for so long. It involved sitting and relaxing, something our group did quite well. We visited the Galena Cellars in-town store (they have their actual winery out of town, but we didn't have time to get there - my aunt and uncle who have been simply rave about the views you have while there, in addition to the fantastic wines).

Here we were able to have our own tasting with a number of great wines - although we didn't get to keep the way fun glasses. Then again, mine probably would have ended up broken before I arrived home!

With our first wine, our sommelier of the day gave us instructions on how to properly sample the win - swirl, smell, sip. She also showed us the really funky sip it through your teeth maneuver that we enjoyed trying to replicate. Val did a great demonstration to begin. I will admit that we may not have been quite so proper as we made our way through the bottom half of the tasting list.

Tracey enjoyed her wines, both the reds and whites. I know she bought some to bring home with her (as did I), but I can't remember what she ended up choosing. Tracey also graciously volunteered to be our bottle model for many of the wines presented.

Our sommelier of the day may have looked as though she shouldn't be drinking any wine herself (she's 22, we asked), but she certainly knew her wines here. It was a great touch to have someone who could provide the background on the wines before we tasted them - and she did a great job helping us find the wines we "needed" to buy at the end of our tasting.

This was one of my favorite wines that we tasted - it is Oktoberfest, a lovely fruity white made in a German style from Muscat grapes. For $10.50, it was a really great wine - which won a silver medal in the Illinois State Fair in 2008. (And yes, I brought home two bottles of it, plus two bottles of other wines.)

As promised, Tracey made a great bottle model. The 2009 Nouveau was a red I could drink - which is a rarity - made from the Gamay Noir grape and a really nice young wine. Plus, who can turn down the oh so cool label at $11.99?

One of the later wines we tasted came with chocolate provided. Shame on me for not remembering which wine this was. It was really interesting to see the difference between the wine with and without the chocolate - it almost didn't taste like the same glass (and yes, WeaselMomma enjoyed her wine and chocolate!). I loved the touch from the Galena Cellars of actually providing that nuance for us so that we could more completely experience the wine.

Back in the store, they offered all sorts of items from the wine "glass"es (picture beer goggles) to wine themed t-shirts to wine glasses to wine accoutrements and more. WeaselMomma, Brandie, Val, me, and Tracey were big fans of the Sisterhood of W.I.N.E. (blow it up to see the acronym).

After the wine tasting, it was finally time for us to head to our humble abode. We were put up in a home in the Eagle Ridge Territories, which is located just outside Galena proper. This is a huge golf resort (five courses on site, I believe?) with all sorts of amenities from spas to kids' play areas and restaurants and more. There is an inn onsite, but those who live in the territories - either full time or with a vacation home - can rent out their homes, great for families or multiple couples vacationing together. Our group split into two homes where we each had our own bedroom. Mine was ... far larger than the bedroom I had at home.

We weren't done for the night, however! Once we dumped out bags, it was back out of the house to head to dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes. This popular restaurant used to be located outside town at a prison work camp, and the new building has no less character than the previous one. The brickwork is left exposed, and the history of the building can be felt throughout, including wall stencils that were applied when the building was a theater.

When you go to a restaurant, though, that isn't necessarily your focus. We rather enjoyed our drinks, which were poured with flair by our very friendly bartenders!

Brandie was one of the few who didn't have the bartender recommended drink, but her strawberry daquiri was top notch nonetheless (she who claims she never drinks!).

Fried Green Tomatoes of course serves... fried green tomatoes. But ohhh they so weren't what I was expecting when they were ordered. In fact, when this arrived in front of me, I wasn't sure what the order was. However, under that deliciously creamy thick layer of melted cheese lay the promised fried green tomatoes. I could have made a meal just of them.

When it came to my main course, I dithered. There were simply too many things on the menu that were unique and sounded delicious for the expresso encrusted fillet to lobster ravioli to sicilian beef and more. I finally settled on the special for the evening, a fillet oscar, one of my favorites.

At the end of the meal, we were encouraged to have dessert. And they all sounded delicious from the creme brulee to the chocolate mousse ice cream to the tiramisu (you can't be an Italian restaurant without it, can you?) to the molten chocolate cake. We were so full from the rest of the delicious meal that we did what any sane woman would do - we ordered some to share!

And share we did! They were great.

Finally after dinner, we headed back to our homes after 11pm. It had been a very long and full day, and we had to get up early for a 5:45am sunrise hot air balloon ride. More on our Sunday part of the trip soon! You wonder why it took us all so long to recover from this trip. It was a nonstop whirlwind. Thank you again to the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitor's Bureau for arranging this weekend, along with MomImpact and Sotaventure.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received no compensation of any kind other than the experiences as described on this weekend. All opinions expressed are my own.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle, you had fun! Love that they gave chocolate too. They know how to please their visitors.


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