Friday, August 12, 2016

On the Road: A weekend in Lake Geneva

Everybody needs a getaway every now and then, and Brandy is no exception.  Though she set down her roots pretty firmly in Chicago a few years ago, she's recently been missing her jet setting ways.  "Bunny's always flying off somewhere exciting," she often moans, "And I'm so used to the city that what was once sparkly and new now seems dingy and mundane.  Perhaps it's time for a little trip out of the city.  Out of the suburbs even.  Out of the state!  Yes, I think I know exactly where to go for a little refreshment."

Packing her bags and throwing them into her handy Zipcar, Brandy got on the road and headed to Lake Geneva for a soul refreshing weekend stay at Ridge Hotel.  The Ridge is located just a short drive from the center of Lake Geneva and features breath taking views of Lake Como.  The entire location had recently undergone extensive modernization and renovations, transforming it into a more relaxed, yet luxurious hideaway for wedding parties, holiday makers, and the like.  The grounds were lush and beautiful, while the newly decorated lobby welcomed guests with modern furnishings and an open, inviting space to sit, relax, and people watch for a spell.  Around the back, the hotel featured a cabana style bar, both indoor and out door swimming pools, cozy fire pits, and several nature paths leading down to the lake.  The hotel also housed a salon and spa, a gym, a cafe at the front and a brand new restaurant called Crafted Americana.

Brandy checked in with ease and before she headed to her room, she wandered over to Bean and Vine, a quaint cafe in the lobby.  Coolers at the front housed bottles of wine, liquor, and cocktail mixers so that guests could easily grab and go on their way to a lake side picnic.  She picked up a quick sandwich from the cafe (a hot and melty Ridge Scramble with cheese, bacon, eggs, onions, and spinach) as well as a massive eclair and a large cup of iced coffee, then she headed up the stairs to see her digs for the weekend.  She was delighted to find a comfortable room with a lakeside view, a kind sized bed, a loveseat, a desk, a luxury bathroom, and a flat screen television.  "This will do nicely," Brandy sighed as she set down her bags.  Not having been far away from the city in such a long while meant that the peaceful quiet of birds chirping and a gentle breeze running through the trees outside were already doing wonders for Brandy's state of mind.  But of course, she hadn't come out to Lake Geneva to simply sit around her hotel room, so she put on some of her favorite music and got ready for dinner.

Heading five minutes further down the road, Brandy landed at Hunt Club, a beautiful converted mansion over looking a scenic golf course that now housed a world class steak house.  Brandy was immediately charmed by the non-pretentious feel of the place, an achievement for a steak house, which can often feel stuffy and overly formal.  Seated at a window overlooking a water hazard, she ordered a glass of Moscatto to start off her meal while she munched on some house baked bread and herb butter.

First to the table was a Colossal Crab Cake roasted asparagus, sweet peas, and a beautifully delicate caramelized onion ragu.  Brandy really enjoyed the texture of the crab cake, which held together well, and had the perfect ratio of crab to breading.  Next up, she tried the Lobster Bisque, which was so rich and buttery and flavorful that she instantly knew it was the best lobster bisque she'd ever had.  "Oh, I could slurp about three more bowls of this and call it a night!" she exclaimed.  For her entree, she ordered the Tenderloin Trio, a grouping of filets with garlic parmesan, au poivre (peppercorn), and candied pecan crusts.  The steak, as to be expected, was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and was tender and juicy as a good steak should be.  Brandy loved all of the crusts, but was especially surprised by the candied pecans and how their slight bit of sweetness and crunch went perfectly with the steak.  For her sides, Brandy requested some Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (which she ordered topped with lobster at the suggestion of the waitress), and some smokey Roasted Brussels Sprouts with more candied pecans and house cured bacon.  Finally, she ended her meal with a delicate Apple Tarte Tatin, which had lovely tart Granny Smith apples over a thin and buttery crust, and was topped with salted caramel sauce and some vanilla gelato.  "It's no wonder they call this place Chicago's Playground," Brandy sighed in contentment as she finished off her dessert with a tiny espresso.

Returning to The Ridge, Brandy adjourned to the veranda for a few cocktails.  There she mingled with some of the other guests, most of which were part of one of two wedding parties at the hotel that weekend, and enjoyed the beautiful grounds and views of the lake until the sun fell below the horizon.  She considered going for a brief dip in the indoor pool, but remembered the old rule about not swimming after having eaten, and instead retired for the evening.

The following morning, Brandy awoke feeling somewhat refreshed and hungry once again, so she headed down to the newly opened Crafted Americana restaurant to see what Lake Geneva had to offer in the way of brunch.  The restaurant faced out towards the back of the hotel so that one could sit and admire the lake while enjoying a meal.  The tall windows filled the place with sunlight, even on a cloudy day, and everything from the open kitchen to the light fixtures to the leather backed booths gave off an atmosphere of comfort and luxury all at once.  Brandy started off with a simple Yogurt with granola and fresh berries, which had a lovely lightness.  For her main dish, she opted for the Beef and Grits, an unusual twist on the Southern classic made with a scoop of beef stew over creamy parmesan grits and topped with a perfectly poached egg.  Brandy quite liked the homey feel of the dish, which added to the over all unpretentious air of the place.

Finally, Brandy decided to explore the town.  First, she walked down to Lake Como and had a lovely and peaceful think by the water side, watching various boats wiz by, and then she headed out to the main drag to do a bit of shopping in the collection of unique boutiques and independent businesses that lined either side of the street.  Finally, she booked herself into a local spa for some real relaxation with a facial, pedicure, and a massage, before she ended her trip with a walk around an outdoor art fair.  "I can certainly see why Lake Geneva has become such a popular getaway for harried city folk like me," she commented, "And in fact, the gentle peace and friendliness I've experienced here is almost making me think twice about living in the city altogether!"  Regardless of her longing to stay for a few more days (or weeks, for that matter) Brandy reluctantly headed back to sweet home Chicago, but with enough left over peace of mind to confront the daily grind with some new found perspective.

Make sure to check out our Facebook page for lots more pictures of Brandy's trip to Lake Geneva!

The writers of this blog were invited to stay at The Ridge and dine at some of the mentioned restaurants free of charge in return for an honest review.