Sipping wine while sitting in rocking chairs on the westward facing porch at Westglow Resort & Spa at sunset is a memory that will not soon be forgotten. The evening sky over Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountain range was awash in the colors of the brilliant setting sun. The spectacular orange and yellow glow that radiates from behind the mountains and clouds is how this resort, located on a mountaintop in North Carolina, became known as “Westglow.”
Being situated on a mountaintop often affords breathtaking views and interesting weather patterns. Many residents in the South travel to higher ground to avoid the heat of summer and and to experience the tranquility of winter. In the fall, guests come to the mountains to see nature’s canvas splashed with the vibrant colors of changing leaves, while spring brings the vibrant flowers of this rich soil. The weather on the mountain is always in motion.
As we were sitting in the sunporch the next morning, enjoying our first cup of coffee before breakfast, we watched as storm clouds quickly rolled in. The wind gently rattled the window panes as the clouds whisked by. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes,” our server told us as he took our breakfast order.
Having heard that saying countless times before, you realize just how true it is as the approaching storm quickly passed and the sun came out, illuminating the early hours of the day. Located in North Central North Carolina, we now understand why this mountain community earned its name of Blowing Rock.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, overlooking Grandfather Mountain, Westglow Resort & Spa is an intimate luxury Relais & Chateaux property. Once home to the artist Elliott Dangerfield, this Greek Revival Mansion and seven-room resort feels more like a private family mountain retreat than a hotel.
Of course, that might be due in part to its current owners, Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, who are very hands-on, and their presence and touches are felt in everything from the personal photographs hanging prominently over the bar in the library to “Bonnie’s Tomato Salad” on the menu at the property’s restaurant, Rowland’s, named for her father. The executive chef tells us Bonnie tests everything on the menu and even visits the Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, returning with some of the produce that will be used throughout the week, particularly the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes.
From the public rooms with some of the original furnishings and artwork of the home, to the incredibly attentive staff, Westglow offers a casual mountain experience that is beautifully blended with upscale service and amenities. Retiring to your room to find luxurious linens and bedding with Aqua Parma toiletries is a welcome respite from a day spent touring the charming mountain town of Blowing Rock or engaging in any number of outdoor activities offered in the region, such as hiking, fly fishing, canoeing or playing tennis at the resort.
If outdoor adventures are not your preferred activity and relaxation is, then you could not come to a more perfect place. The spa at Westglow Resort was recently named the “Number 4 Best Destination Spa by Travel & Leisure’s 2013 World’s Best List.” With numerous spa treatments, complete wellness programs and exercise classes, guests are certain to find the perfect way to unwind. The relaxation room overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains is picture perfect and the ideal place to spend time prior to your treatment or to just relax, read a book or doze off a time or two before returning to the mansion for dinner.
One of the biggest surprises at Westglow was the ambitious and inspiring menu at Rowland’s Restaurant. In the evening, this restaurant, which also serves breakfast in the morning, becomes a fine-dining venue. With such a small property and the challenges that can present, we were impressed with their executive chef, Nate Curtis, and his playful and inventive menu.
Chef Curtis worked at several restaurants prior to Westglow and trained briefly under the property’s former executive chef. He also fervently reads and studies the cookbooks of world renowned chefs like Grant Atchaz (Alinea – Chicago) and Thomas Keller (The French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro) to adapt to his own preparations.
We were surprised at the technical knowledge and his use of molecular gastronomy in his dishes. His creativity, talent and passion for cooking come through in each dish and the preparations and methods made sense after learning the chefs who inspire him. The enthusiasm in his voice and his facial expressions when he talks about cooking show his obvious love for what he does. You rarely find this level of commitment and technique at a property of this size.
With supportive owners, Chef Curtis has the freedom and financial backing in the kitchen to create unique and unexpected flavor combinations using, but not limited to, the best local ingredients. One evening’s dinner included Ora King Salmon sourced from New Zealand. This salmon offers an extraordinary flavor profile, and the firm texture and buttery palate make it the choice of some of the finest chefs around the world. It was paired with Cous Cous, Cucumber, Tomato, Saffron, Tamarind and Basil. We also enjoyed Striped Bass with Johnny Cake, Beet Chow-Chow, Lemon Cucumbers, Scapes and Squash.
As the only true fine dining option in Blowing Rock, Rowland’s is also home to wine tastings and special events throughout the year. There are opportunities for both local residents and guests from afar to enjoy the luxuries of Westglow. Weddings at this mountain resort and private functions keep the kitchen and the property quite busy.
Wintertime can be a bit more challenging on the mountain with cold temperatures, quickly changing weather patterns and snow. However, I can’t think of anything better than getting snowed in for a long weekend at Westglow. With the heat on (yes, they have a generator), the kitchen open, and the setting sun creating the warm west glow over Grandfather Mountain, this would be a lovely way to spend a winter weekend. An excellent meal paired with a bottle of fine wine, followed by a bourbon enjoyed by a roaring fire in one of the home’s fireplaces while the snow falls on the mountain…what a perfect romantic getaway.
You might also enjoy this article about Atlantic Caviar and Sturgeon Company. We visited this unique farm with Chef Curtis during our stay at Westglow.
* Disclosure – Westglow Resort & Spa provided a media package for our visit. I was not asked to write any articles about my stay and have in no way been compensated. The opinions expressed regarding our experience are my own.
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