AMTRAK’s Andre Ledgister really did an awesome job planning the Red Wing and Winona getaway…that even novice travelers like me and my hubby Glenn found the trip really that comfortable, enjoyable and definitely memorable. Winona was a brief hour drive away from Red Wing so the wait for the 7:30 dinner schedule at Betty Jo Byoloski’s Restaurant was not that long; we all just wanted a taste of Winona’s famous southern comfort right away. The wonderful Patt Mutter, Executive Director of Winona’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CVB) made everybody felt welcome…there was no need for Hawaiian leis at all, Patt’s smiles and “big heart” were enough to tell us…”Welcome to Winona…welcome to the Island!” Burgers and fries, cheese steak and fish sandwiches were served and the rest of the nite were filled with mugs of beer and loads of fun chats and laughter. It was a perfect welcome to Winona and later we were brought to our B & Bs (Alexander Mansion and Carriage House).
THE ALEXANDER MANSION
This is not your ordinary Bed & Breakfast…to me, this is simply the best Bed & Breakfast, period. Owners Lynn and Frederic Ihrke really pulled out all stops in converting this 1886 Victorian Mansion to a really lavish “fit for a king and a diva” enchanting home, with wonderful attention to details. Spacious rooms indeed, but that’s not all there is to it…imagine these amenities…Watkin’s makeup remover (I haven’t seen that even in 5-star hotels!), a shot of Bailey’s with almond rocha chocolates, a small book of erotic poems atop one of the pillows, fine European linens, robes and yes turn-down service too…it was always worth looking forward to at the end of the day. And then waking up to a 5-course breakfast served in formal elegant dining room, I repeat, 5 yummy morning treats, starting with a cup of freshly-brewed coffee and yes, we had to say no to the 5th offering (fruit smoothie). Visit their website: www.alexandermansionbb.com.
And it was time to explore Winona…and the long day started with food and ended with food again, but of course…now that is called “a great experience”.
*Breakfast was at Blue Heron (where muffins were absolutely splendid) and while waiting for food to be served I browsed on cookbooks at the Book shelf that shared space with the Blue Heron restaurant (now that is indeed a cool combination for a small business).
*Made a stop at Winona Visitor’s Center.
*Tour of the Cathedral Crafts Stained Glass Studio was really interesting, and the craftsmen showed us the many different aspects of the glass works. Definitely a man’s job!
*Chef Douglas Dahlgren impressed us with his supreme gourmet lunch offerings at the Signatures…
Belgian Endive and Apple Salad with Honey Vinaigrette, Grilled Lamb Chops, Creamy Saffron Polenta, Grilled Local Ramps, Broccolini, Tzatziki and Cabernet Reduction and for dessert, Double Blueberry Cobbler (Homemade blueberry sorbet and moist Blueberry Cobbler).
Thanks Chef Douglas…and I have to add he is tall and good looking too!
*At the Watkins Museum/Store with all the historical exhibits, I was introduced to double-strength vanilla extract which is both bake proof and freeze proof…meaning vanilla won’t be lost in the baking process or in the freezer. And we did enjoy the over 350 Watkins products on display at the store, including the array of spices.
*City tour of Downtown Winona and also a tour of the Polish Museum where I did my interview for the Celebr-EAT-y Circle with the perfect host Patt Mutter (and yes, Patt is of asian descent and you can really tell she enjoys her job…more power Patt!).
*Interesting tour of the MN Marine Art Museum, complete with wine/cheese reception. And we were the first to view some Monet, Renoir and other world art masterpieces at the Gallery, really pretty expensive marine art collection of Mary Burrichter and Bob Kierlin.
*Met with the City Mayor at the Winona County Historical Museum, tour and dinner and wine (courtesy of Garvin Heights Vineyards) and yes, some local entertainers gave us some well-applauded performances.
Patt Mutter would really love you to come visit, explore, and enjoy Winona attractions and festivals soon (don’t forget AMTRAK will take you there!).
Watkins’ Simply Sweet Cinnamon Strawberry Shortcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix together flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, cinnamon, orange peel, salt and butter. Stir in vanilla, cream and walnuts. Drop on baking sheet using a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until brown. Cool shortcakes and cover with strawberries and whipped cream. Makes about 12 biscuits.
Watkins’ Caramel Apple/Pear Dip
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 to 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon caramel extract (optional)
Apples or pears, cored and sliced
Blend first four ingredients using electric mixer. Use as a dip for the fruit slices. Makes 1 cup.