I’ve Escaped to Paradise and I’m Close to Home!

CascadesFrontAs I mentioned in my last blog entry, I love finding escapes close to home, so I was looking forward to coming to the Crystal Springs Resort this weekend. In beautiful Sussex County, it is the perfect escape, easily accessible from all regions of the state. It really is a hidden jewel. I arrived in the mid afternoon and driving into the property was a truly spectacular scene. The interior of the Grand Cascades Lodge proves to be just as breathtaking as the nature that surrounds it. The majestic Adirondack style lodge is a 4-Star property and has only been opened since July 2007.

Since I am with my family this weekend, we’re staying in a one bedroom suite which consists of one standard hotel room with two queen beds, and another room with a king bed, a kitchen complete with granite countertops, and our own washer and dryer. kitchenThere is a fireplace in the living room and a spacious terrace overlooking the mountains. RoomThe bathroom is the suite is huge, with a shower and a separate jacuzzi tub. And the best part about the rooms? They have Tempurpedic mattresses! I am so excited to go to sleep tonight!

While waiting for my family to arrive today, I went to the gym and did a little cardio on their modern elliptical machines, each equipped with its own television, and then went into the Biosphere, which is a major complex consisting of a pool, hot tub, sauna, and steam room. I enjoyed them all! At last I was relaxing, which is a very difficult thing for me to do! The 10,000 square foot Biosphere consists of two exotic free form pools, heated year round. A translucent retractable roof permits the sun’s rays to penetrate through, allowing a winter tan, which is always fun! There’s also an aquarium with colorful fish and lush plants which make you feel like you’re in a tropical rainforest.

For dinner, we were going to eat at the trademark Restaurant Lator, known for its incredible wine collection, but because there was a VIP dinner being held there, we ate at the Crystal Tavern, whose name fit the atmosphere perfectly. In addition to the elegant and world class food, the atmosphere was casual, filled with live-music. While the atmosphere was casual with a live band playing, the food andraw bar drinks were out of this world.

To begin the meal, we started with the Raw Bar Sampler, Shrimp Cocktail, and Tuna Taratare. The oysters, clams, shrimp, and crab legs that came on this sampler were deliciously fresh, free of unnecessary tampering that may have inhibited the natural taste of the sea. For a soup, my parents tried the New England Clam Chowder, which they seem to sample most places they go, and this one got a big thumbs up. As health nuts, my brother and I ordered the Arugula and Friseé Salad, which was topped with a gently crisp duck confit, radicchio, roasted cashews, Saladand honey-sherry vinaigrette. I was very impressed with the larger than expected size of the salad and the perfect combination of ingredients. For entrees, my family was split between the Seared Sea Scallops and the King Salmon. The scallops, which were enhanced with a maderira-mirin glaze, capers, shallots, almonds; and accompanied by a cauliflower purée and Israeli couscous, did not disappoint. The scallops were remarkably satisfying, some of the best I have had in my life.


The second entree was King Salmon, which was cedar plank grilled and topped with a citrus beurre blanc sauce, with braised fennel, wild rice, radicchio, and scallions was also mouthwatering in its surprisingly rich flavor. SalmonThe mixed drinks were just as creative, infused with fruits such as pomegranate, kiwi, and guava.

As if all of this fantastic food was not enough, we had to try dessert. If our previous courses were any indication of what was to come, I knew it would be worth it. I enjoyed the light and tasty rasberry, blood orange, and green apple sorbet. In what was one of the most creative presentations I have ever seen, the Triolgie of Flower Pot Cakes took three decadent chocolate treats and delivered them in adorable ceramic flower pots. Top these two off with a towering chocolate brownie sundae, and it was the perfect way to end the day.Sorbet

Special thanks to the Chef D’Cuisine Rusty Obra for his extremely well prepared meal, and our friendly and always attentive waitress Sage, who helped make it an evening to remember for all of us. I’m really looking forward to mother and daughter time at the brand new “Reflections” spa tomorrow and the Grand Tasting NJ Food and Wine Festival in the evening.