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Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Fine Getaway

My wife, Nedra and I took off for a couple of days, staying at the House on the Hill and eating at the Rowe Inn in Ellsworth, Michigan.

Ginger, our GPS, almost had a fit. She wanted us to move west from US 127 on Military Road near Houghton Lake. We kept going north taking US 75 to Gaylord, because we like a more scenic route than what she had in mind. She pouted “Recalculating,” with every missed opportunity.

The House on the Hill is a fabulous bed and breakfast, 9661 Lake Street, Ellsworth, Michigan. The owners and innkeepers are Phillip and Marcie Palajac, and they provide wonderful service. Phil was working out of town when we visited this time. It is located in Northern Lower Michigan’s Chain of Lakes resort area. Traverse City and Mackinac are an hour’s drive away. It is close to skiing, golf, water sports, hiking, and other activities that vary with the season.

Each newly redecorated guest room is quiet and comfortable and has its own bath. There is a lovely large front porch with wicker furniture overlooking St. Clair Lake. The inn's grounds offer extensive lake frontage as well as groomed walking trails for hiking, snow-shoeing, and cross-country skiing. We prefer the Maple Room, with its own fireplace and air conditioning. It is in a building separated from the house and has a back porch overlooking gardens, a brook that serenaded us constantly, and a sweeping hill leading to the wooded expanse with footpaths that disappear among the trees. The first night was absolutely beautiful. With no light pollution, we could see the whole northern sky, the Big Dipper almost horizontal to the northwest, the Little Dipper straight up in the center displaying Polaris perfectly. Ringing the two were Draco, Cephus, Cassiopia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Canes Venatica, and Bootes. The tree frogs added a chorus to the murmuring brook.

The Rowe Inn is only four tenths of a mile down the road from the House. It provides fine dining in a casual atmosphere. Seasonal menus make it difficult to choose, and the wine menu is brought to you in a three ring binder, which Wes Westoven, the owner, says is updated daily. We selected the sautéed foie gras and morel stuffed veal medallions, with a Pinot noir the first night. We had the fantastic asiago Dijon crusted mussels as an appetizer the second night. Nedra had the morel stuffed pierogi, Polish dumplings, and I had the duck confit, accompanied by a Haut-Médoc. We finished with a dark chocolate mousse (Nedra), crème brulée (Ed) and a fine port.

Wes Westoven was a chef by age 16. In the early 1970s he and his wife bought the Rowe, changing it from a chicken and burger place to a restaurant with the ambience of a French country inn, fresh local ingredients, French dishes, and fine wine.

These two spots are on our “favorites” list in a beautiful part of the state. We had a wonderful time and came home refreshed and happy.


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