We spent a weekend in Idyllwild with our engineering group officers for our annual retreat. It’s actually only the second retreat we’ve held, but we get a lot of planning done for the upcoming year and it’s a good way to reward the officers for their volunteered time. Plus, we get to meet spouses/guests/etc and also just get to know each other better in a social setting. I’m glad we started doing this and I hope we continue the event.
I had never been to Idyllwild, so I was relying on the internet to help me find a place for our group dinner. I found Cafe Aroma, which is a mainly Italian restaurant with good seafood and steak dishes, too. Also, a very decent beer and wine list. They also run a coffee shop, so if you need an espresso hit in the morning, they’re the place to go. As evidenced by all the dog photo art and water bowls placed around the outside patio, they’re probably the most dog-friendly establishment in Idyllwild. This was good as our group included two cute Boston Terriers.
We were split into about 4 tables (but 1 check) so there was no communal plate gazing. Our table had the Saturday-only prime rib (2), chicken Florentine ravioli, and mussels Calvados. I’m very hesitant to order mussels anymore since the ones we had in Scotland were so over-the-top wonderful. Before then, I had been happy with the ones at The Prado in Balboa Park. Usually, mussel dishes end up being full of too-large mussels that are slightly overcooked. Not my favorite.
T took a picture of my steak!
Anywho, the mussels looked and smelled wonderful, were small (but not tiny) so they were tender, and had little bits of pear and apple to complement the Calvados in the sauce. Yum. The ravioli had a good bite to it and was filled with spinach and cheese with chicken and more spinach on top. It had a light olive oil sauce – not too oily and not too heavy, a nice complement. Our table got the last two prime rib dinners (sorry, guys!) that came with cream cheese garlic mashed potatoes and were cooked medium rare. A nice hunk of meat and tender. And tasty. And huge. I took half of mine home, which we had on a nice salad last night.
They bring out a dessert plate and admit that the desserts are not house made. I admire them for that. Even still, the mocha crunch cake we split was delicious. Thin layers of cake with a mocha filling and a topping of buttery toffee crunch. Even the white russians were spectacular (very coffee flavored and not overpowered with vodka).
If you happen to be in Idyllwild (only a couple of hours from San Diego AND you’ll pass by Leonesse), I highly recommend Cafe Aroma for dinner. The other restaurant on our list was Gastrognome, but it was a little pricier. However, one of the couples had dinner there the night before and said the food was outstanding. Their lunch menu is supposed to be good and also cheaper.
We stayed at the Strawberry Creek Inn, one of the bed and breakfasts in the area. The people with dogs were in a separate vacation rental. We took up all the rooms at the B&B, with the exception of the separate cottage next door. As B&Bs go, it was very cute with each room decorated differently. The Sunday breakfast of banana bread, fruit, and corn strata was delicious, too. Also, they put out fresh chocolate chip cookies on weekend nights and set out a great appetizer tray for us on Saturday. My favorite were the little brie and onion puff pastry bites.
However, one of the owners was a little uptight and made me feel a little less than welcome. I’m sure it was overwhelming to have such a large group of people instead of a varied bunch of couples (I’ll admit, the dynamic was very different from times I’ve stayed at a B&B), but it’s not like we were disturbing anyone (because it was just us) and we weren’t throwing things in the house. We had moved some of the chairs around so we could hold our planning meeting and he came out to make sure we were planning on putting it all back when we were done. I mean, we were planning to, but even if we didn’t, would they have charged us extra to move back a few chairs? We spent some time after dinner at the local bar/restaurant for some prime people watching and speculating. When we mentioned that to the owner, he kind of looked aghast that we had been there and quickly said that he never would have recommended the place had he known we were thinking of going. It just seemed like he needed to lighten up. Either than, or he should have said no when we wanted to completely book up his Inn for the weekend.
All in all, a good weekend that was also productive. I’m glad we went to Idyllwild, because I’d like to go back and spend a little more time just wandering around or taking a hike along one of the trails.
update: in response to the complaint that never got to me firsthand, I formed a response in case the offended party who still has yet to complain “to my face” regarding this post keeps checking up: https://threedogkitchen.com/2007/08/23/sigh/