Would you drive two hours for a dinner you’ll never forget? Sure you would. That after your marvel of a meal at chef Thomas Henkelmann’s Homestead Inn you can toddle up the stairs to a plush room decorated by his interior-designer wife Theresa is just, well, sauce Perigord. This over-the-top 18-room hotel/restaurant is a phantasmagoria of Fili D’Oro linens, Bulgari toiletries, marble baths, and wonders culled from all over the world — Indonesian puppets, hand-carved friezes, a plethora of pillows, lavish beds, art books, statues, a life-size moss tree. Thomas, born in Germany and trained in France, keeps his clientele sated with updated — and unforgettable — contemporary French classics: seared foie gras with macaroni and cheese and caramelized apples; roast venison with mustard spaetzle, mushroom flan and chestnut puree. If you don’t order his vacherin for dessert, he may send it out anyway, just to show off its layers of meringue, crème chantilly, sorbet, ice cream and fresh berries. Still, what will strike you most here is the service: From your arrival to departure, the European concierges, waiters, even chambermaids, tread perfectly the elusive line that is warm but not falsely personal, seeming genuinely pleased to make your happiness their life’s work. 420 Field Point Road, Greenwich, Connecticut, 203-869-7500, homesteadinn.com.
Expect to pay: $250 to $495 per night for double occupancy, plus money for lunches and dinners. (A full dinner for two at the Homestead Inn will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $200.)
Be sure to: Stroll the Homestead’s neighborhood of gobsmacking mansions, from the bouldered behemoth next door to the Italian palazzo down the block. Soft-spoken concierge Helen Fehrmann will draw you a walking-route map. This won’t cost a dime, leaving you more to spend on your second stroll, amongst the chichi shops (Alice + Olivia, Bang & Olufsen, Saks, EuroChasse, BCBG) of main drag Greenwich Avenue.
Eat at: Why would you eat dinner anywhere else? You can take a break from white truffles and pheasant quenelles with lunch at the retro Putnam Restaurant — get the Reno cheeseburger, or corned beef hash and eggs (373 Greenwich Avenue, 203-869-4683, putnamrestaurant.com) — or petite, charming Méli-Mélo, where you can pair a croque monsieur or brie-and-herb buckwheat crepe with any of a dozen-plus homemade soups for less than $20 (362 Greenwich Avenue, 203-629-6153, melimelogreenwich.com).
Take this advice: Homestead sommelier Pierre Grall is infinitely charming whether you order the house pinot noir or a pricey bottle of burgundy — so call on his expertise. And for God’s sake, don’t snack before dinner. Our meal featured two amuse-bouches (salmon in puff pastry, and foie gras-capped shrimp), a gratis plate of pastries — and that vacherin.
Crave a food high, but don’t need the high life? Try this! Rooms at the grande dame Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May (about an hour and 40 minutes from Philly by car) lack phones and TV, but there are plenty of rockers on the porch. Midweek, stay four days and three nights for as little as $516, double occupancy — and that includes a buffet breakfast and four-course dinner each day in the hotel’s Southern-flavored Magnolia Room (301 Howard Street, Cape May, 609-884-8409, chalfonte.com). Or rent the rustic cottage at potbellied pig haven/inn Ross Mill Farm in Rushland (about 50 minutes from Philly by car) for $120 a night, and bring the pets and kids (2480 Walton Road, Rushland, 215-322-1539, rossmillfarm.com). Drive 10 minutes for dinner at Doylestown’s Waterwheel Inn, where hosts Mickey and Kenny Hicklin serve impeccably grilled steaks, succulent rack of lamb and a bangin’ Sunday brunch in their 18th-century
gristmill (4424 Old Easton Road, Doyles-town, 215-345-9544, thewaterwheelrestaurant.com).