Thursday, September 6, 2012

Galena, Illinois, The Garlic Company, and the Stoney Creek Inn

Those of you who know me well probably figured out, if you checked a map, that we were headed for Galena, Illinois, today.  This is our third visit to Galena.  The first time, I had a broken foot, so could only ride through the main drag of town, oohing and ahhhing, but  couldn't get out of the car to walk the over one mile Main Street full of shops, wine bars, galleries, and other fun places that women love to visit. (It was a miserable time for me.)

The hour ride from Rockford to Galena was quite lovely, once the horizon got hilly. Rt. 20, only 2 lanes, however, seemed a bit perilous with some huge trucks going well over the speed limit on those hills. (OK. I hear you. I know I am not a good rider, but even Randy got the chills due to these trucks, and he was driving, and he pulled over and let them go by.)  You would have felt the same way, I'd bet.  They were speeding.  We were not. We tried to enjoy the scenery anyway. Illinois farm country is quite serene.

We were in Galena the second time ,a few years ago. Not sure what year without my journals in front of me, but we had a wonderful place to stay: The Stoney Creek Inn, which was newly opened whatever year that was.  It's a marvelous story to tell, but that was then and this is now.  Suffice it to say that we made a reservation last night to stay here for tonight, and knew we'd be treated as if we were royalty............and since our 4:00 arrival, that is who we have been. Great place. Lovely woodsy theme, a drink with your room, indoor pool, breakfast, nice doesn't get much better.

Galena, Illinois was the home of General and President  Ulysses S. Grant.  Once the Civil War was over, the townspeople gave him and his wife a new home to live in, up on top of a hill overlooking Galena.  It is sort of the main event of this town, historically speaking, which we love.  We did a stop-by at the Grant home on our entrance into Galena. We walked to the statue of his wife, Julia Dent Grant,  First Lady from 1869 to 1877, which is overlooking the city, as if she is waiting for him to come home. Interestingly, there are only three statues of  First Ladies in this country. (Why?)

Standing there, I realized that Randy had a grasshopper on his shoulder. He calmly told me to leave it alone, but I had to take a photo of "Jiminy" before Randy brushed him off.


 We have not had the inside tour of the Grant home, but twice have walked around the house and gotten the feeling of how appreciative the people were for Grant's service to the Union during the Great War.

Eighty percent of the homes in Galena are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. It is obvious when you walk down Main Street.  It's a very long street filled with fun places to shop!

  My favorite experience today was when I went into the Galena Garlic Company. In the front window was a photo of the owner of the shop standing next to Food Network Star, Guy Fieri, who we love.  We got really excited to know that Guy had visited this place, and just then the young man said, "Yep.  He got to meet me!"

This little store is filled with spices and garlic and balsamic vinegars and olive oils. The smells are wonderful.  After a long day of shopping elsewhere, I came back and bought the Garlic Company poster, which you may see in my kitchen when you visit.  It is like the store: bright, colorful, and full of happiness.

Galena, downtown, is full of hills and stairways to places above Main Street.  Parks on corners give shade to resting people. One of our favorite dinners ever was at Vinnie's, an Italian restaurant on a hill downtown, under clear lights on a summer evening, that previous visit.

Randy and I had lunch at Durty Gurts. We were starving by the time we had walked the length of Main Street, and found this fun place at the far end of the street, almost. "She's Not Durty, She's Just Gurty," is the logo. The restaurant was filled with fun sayings and signs. A sign on a toilet told us where to drop our suggestions. The menu included lots of enormous sandwiches and good beer. We enjoyed a shared pulled pork sandwich with sweet potato fries.  This was a fun place.

Then we did the Main Street Shopping, which involved a full length of the street walk, including jaywalking constantly to and from each side of the street to be sure not to miss a single store.  We probably could not have done this during the summer when the tourists are everywhere, and cars are trying to go up and down the street, but today the kids were all back in school and the summer visitors were gone.  We did hear, however, from one gourmet wine shop keeper, that today was a good day with lots of happy tourists and the shops might even stay open later tonight due to the abundance of later-season tourists.

We went to a wine-tasting at the Massbach Winery, finding the atmosphere calm and refreshing. I bought a bottle of white wine to bring home, and Randy found a good red in another store. Want to bet on that bottle making it home?

Our feet hurt by the time we'd covered the entire street, both going and coming back to our parking spot.  We checked into the Stoney Creek Inn and prepared to go to dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes, which apparently is "the place to go" for dinner.

Fried Green Tomatoes is a very lovely restaurant in Galena, on Main Street.  It has good lighting, excellent food and fabulous wait staff. Our server, Stacey, couldn't have been better.  We both ordered just enough, not more than we needed for dinner.  The "small plates" menu suited us just fine. Randy had a pork chop, and I had a Mediterranean Spaghetti thing that was out of this world.  A round loaf of bread covered with Parmesan and an amazing tossed salad were served prior to the main course. Wonderful place!  If only there had been an al fresco option, it would have been perfect, but other than that, it was.

Back at the Stoney Creek Inn, we enjoyed our free drinks, a wine and Crown Royal, on the back deck, then sat in the clean and quiet hot tub. We took a swim in the not-too-cold and very, very CLEAN indoor pool. This place gets an A+ for clean!

What a wonderful day we've had!  Tomorrow we continue our western trek.  Come along.......