It is finally cardigan wearing weather. That means the holiday season is upon us once more. There is a stir of excitement in the air, a tingle of anticipation. The weather is changing. The sky seems to bend light in a different way. The feeling of bitter cold and chilliness numbs the skin. The clouds begin sifting flakes of crystal white snow downward upon the ground. It’s a time for drinking hot cocoa and sitting by the fire. Though, I don’t have a fireplace in my one bedroom apartment, and I seem to be all out of hot cocoa. *sighs* This isn’t a good start.
Even in the midst of final exam prep, I still take moments here and there to cook and photograph. I find for myself that if I create a balance between work and relaxation, my anxiety and stuttering levels decrease. My escapism is food. Being in the kitchen and working with food takes me away. For a singular point in time, I’m momentarily away from all my problems and fears. It becomes me and the food, simple as that. I believe hard work is vital to any person’s success, but equally as true is taking moments of rejuvenation for oneself. No one is going to take these moments for you. Of course, this ideology is WAY easier to said than done. This is a concept I’m still teaching myself daily to do.
Speaking of taking moments of relaxation, two weekends ago, I went on a family getaway to Galena, Illinois. Located at the northwest corner of the state, Galena is a historic little town nestled on a hill. From the rolling farm country, it's rich history, and upscale eateries, Galena is a definite destination for anyone in search of a quiet, relaxing weekend. My family has made the four hour drive as a weekend getaway for years now. This town is my favorite trip destination! Its trapped-in-time, upscale vibe reminds me of piano jazz and fine wine. From large family gatherings or small excursions, the Galena area feels like a second home to me. The area brings about a wave of peace and joy that no other destination does for me. It’s hard to describe, but easy to show.
I think I can safely say I know a little about what to do and where to go in the Galena area. If you’re heading to Galena, but don’t know where to start or what to do or where to eat, here are some links to get you on your journey. *
Where to Stay
Stoney Creek Inn (Galea, IL) – I’ve stayed at this hotel on multiple visits to Galena. The staff is lovely, one of the kindest and most helpful hotel staff I’ve experienced. The hotel has a log cabin feel, which makes you forget that you’re staying in a hotel. Plus, the hotel is a less than five-minute drive away from the downtown area!
DeSoto House Hotel (Galena, IL – Downtown) - A beautifully historic hotel right on the downtown strip. My parents stayed here for an anniversary and fell in love. On our most recent trip, the hotel was hosting a festival of trees event, which benefited a local arts organization. Festive and beautiful!
Where to Eat
Vinny Vanucchi’s (Galena, IL & Dubuque, IO – downtown) – I eat here every time I am in town with the family. I’m not exaggerating here; this quirky Italian gem serves the BEST Fettuccini Chicken Alfredo.With big band music swinging gently in the air, this restaurants' family-centered charm and impeccable service will forever be a must on each Galena trip-- What to Get: Fettuccini Chicken Alfredo, Eggplant Parmesan, and Beef Raviolis. The garlic bread and salad, tossed in a subtly sweet vinaigrette, are fantastic starters as well.
One Eleven Main (Galena, IL – Downtown) – On my most recent trip to Galena, the family and I had lunch at this farm to table staple for the first time. This restaurant uses all local and fresh ingredients along with supplying a host of regional beers and wines from all around the Midwest. Under the same ownership as Vinny’s, I knew we weren’t going to be disappointed. -- What to Get: Beer Cheese Fondue, Smoked Gouda and Prosciutto Mac and Cheese, and the Cheeseburgers.
Embe (Galena, IL - Downtown) – Feeling tired and cold from a day of shopping? Stop in at this quaint bistro for a cup of coffee and mid-afternoon snack, preferably the homemade bread pudding with a rum sauce. BEST. STUFF. EVER. -- What to Get: Bread pudding
Kaladi’s Coffee Bar (Galena, IL - Downtown) – a cute little café on the main strip. Great atmosphere for catching up with old friends or working quietly for business.
What to Do
- Shop in Galena’s historic downtown district (this is a MUST) – check out my favorite store, the Galena Canning Company. High-quality jams, jellies, olive oils, and more. I always spend way too much money when I go.
- Take in the history by touring at the DeSotoHouse, General Grant’s home, and Belvedere Mansion and Gardens
- Mississippi Palisades State Park – beautiful outlooks and opportunities for photos.
- Ski resort outlook
- Fenelon Place Elevator (4th street elevator) in Dubuque – amazing views at night.
- If you’re in Dubuque for the holidays, check out Reflections in the Park, a beautiful lighted drive through Louis Murphy Park. All proceeds go to Hillcrest Family Services. A great time and a yearly family tradition!
- Eagle watching
Visit Galena is also an excellent source of information on restaurants, tours, etc.
*All opinions expressed in this post are my own
Vinny Parmesan Bread
This recipe is inspired by the garlic bread served at Vinny Vanucchi’s in Galena, IL. This restaurant has served as one of my defining culinary inspirations. And, this bread is one of my favorite foods of all time. It’s cheesy, oily, warm, and with a perfect balance between soft and crunchy. It took me months to adapt the recipe to my liking. This bread is a dinner party hit for sure!
One loaf of French bread
½ cup roasted garlic olive oil or any regular, good-quality olive oil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the olive oil to a small bowl and the Parmesan cheese into another small bowl. Slice the bread into roughly one inch thick pieces. Dunk the sliced bread into the olive oil first, flat side down, and let soak for five to seven seconds. Dread in the Parmesan cheese and pressing slightly down for maximum coating. Place slices of bread on a ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.