Innisbrook Resort and Spa is a mere hour and fifteen minutes north, but feels it could be in Virginia or North Carolina. The trees may not be dressed in full autumn colors, but the greens on the golf course, with a forest of beautiful tree-lined paths, makes you feel you're far, far away.
So how did it take me so long to take a weekend off to get there? Perhaps because I do not golf. My sport is spa days, and I like to say I'm in training for the spa Olympics.
Well, Innisbrook delivers on both an incredible day spa and a comfortable steakhouse in Packard's Steak House, serving Delmonico steaks, creamed spinach, Kona-crusted lamb chops and beautiful fresh salads. And I found one of the best pieces of simple grilled grouper in the state there, too. Even better: my wonderful server, Theresa, actually owned a restaurant in Gloucester, Massachusetts, around the time I had my dessert company just up the road. Dinner for one suddenly became a memorable reunion. And this was just night one.
After a brisk walk the next morning, I entered the Salamander Spa for the next four-and-a-half hours, where Judith took me to heaven with a 90-minute hot stone massage before an al fresco lunch of Asian chicken salad and champagne in the private spa garden, complete with water feature, fire table and arbor of blooming vines.
Then it was back to the spa for a facial and pedicure. Ahhhh. The Salamander Spa set the relaxing tone for an outdoor dinner in my private balcony with leftover grouper, creamed spinach and three-quarters of that Delmonico.
Needless to say, I look forward to returning, as the new chef at Innisbrook brings great flair thanks to his German roots and passion for fresh, local ingredients. And I loved the pickled tomato martini, too.
Less than 15 minutes away from Innisbrook is Tarpon Springs, a must-see and home to those famous sponges and Greek cuisine. A stop there is the perfect way to end the weekend. Go to Hilla’s Bakery for Greek coffee and baklava. Stroll the streets and shop by the waterfront before getting back on Alternate Route 19 for a Greek feast of calamari, gyros, moussaka and a damn good rice pudding at Mama Maria’s. Then, when you return home, take a hot shower with your new sponge and nibble on the box of Greek pastries. I'd say it's the recipe for a perfect weekend.