For Christmas this year, my super thoughtful in-laws gifted us a two night stay at Gateway Lodge in Cook Forest, PA. This past weekend the hubby and I decided to cash in on the offer for some much needed R&R splashed with a little bit of romance! My hubby’s family has a camp nearby, so we’re pretty familiar with the area. It’s hard to believe that as many times as we’ve been down to camp, we hadn’t hit ANY of the stops that we did on this trip! Little did I know, Jeff had a trick or two up his sleeve and scouted out a few wineries in the area to surprise me. The funny thing is, I had found a Moonshine Distillery months before to surprise him! Isn’t it cute how we’re always thinking of each other?!? The key to a good marriage…..is apparently LOTS of booze if you’re basing it off of this trip! But seriously, I like to think that it’s the time we spend together. Awww!!!
Our first stop, on the way in, is so close to our camp, that I think it’s going to be the new family hangout! Red Bandana Winery is located just 7 miles outside of Cook Forest. Red Bandana is owned and operated by husband and wife team Mike and Kate Hall and sits on their 20 acre estate in Leeper, PA. Head to the rustic barn for a wine tasting, great food, and even live music every weekend! Yep, EVERY weekend!! The barn also doubles as Kate’s art gallery. Seriously, it’s worth the trip just to see her artwork, but the wine is a nice bonus!! Speaking of their wines, I pretty much wanted to take home a bottle of everything. No really! We ended up settling on a bottle of their Rebel Red, Concord, Blackberry, Blueberry, and a Niagara that we drank on the spot (pictured below). We’ll be back to see ya soon! Promise.
After all that wine we needed some grub. We headed over to Sportsmans Paradise on Route 66. The restaurant looks as if it’s been newly renovated and the food was delish! I went with the Meatball Wedgie which I highly recommend. I mean c’mon, just look at that cheese!! The onion rings were top notch too. My hubby opted for the Construction Burger which came with Side Winders, their unique spinoff on fries. You’re gonna wanna try them!
And then it was time to check in! Gateway Lodge is nestled among the pine and hemlock in the beautiful 8500 acres of Cook Forest. It features all the amenities of a luxury lodge, but with more of a bed and breakfast feel. It’s surprising to me that winter is their off season because it’s my favorite time to visit. The snow makes this charming lodge even more picturesque!
You can feel how warm and inviting this place is before you even walk in. Just look at how welcoming this front porch looks!
The rooms are the perfect place to enjoy a weekend of self pampering! The suites are the way to go, and feature a king size bed, your own private balcony, as well as a relaxing jacuzzi tub and romantic gas fireplace. One other thing….there is no TV….which makes this the perfect place to unplug for a bit! Something we could all use from time to time. As mentioned before, winter is their low season, which means it’s when you get the best deals!!! Be sure to hit the specials page of their website for current promotions.
The Great Room is the largest common area with it’s large wood burning fireplace, loft and outdoor patio. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, which is self serve all day, and work on a puzzle, play a board game, or just enjoy the quiet. Make sure you stop back for afternoon tea at least once during your stay! They also offer the best homemade baked goods which changes daily.
The wood burning fire casts it’s warmth on the entire lodge. No really! You can feel it as soon as you walk in and smell it too. I love the smell of a wood burning fire! It also doubles as a great place to pose for pics.
Ok so let me talk a little bit about breakfast, which was included in our stay. During the winter they offer two choices for breakfast and the menu rotates daily. Here’s the best part!! Breakfast…..comes….. with a starter!!! Like an appetizer for your breakfast! Why haven’t I thought of this idea sooner??? The first day we enjoyed this strawberry coconut milk smoothie paired with a carrot cake muffin. Both were heavenly!
But the real star was the main course, apple cinnamon french toast. OMG!!! This was to die for. I’m normally a bacon girl but the sausage was amazing too. Smother this plate in syrup and let’s call it a day!
Once we got our bellies full, we headed over to Blackbird Distillery to sample some moonshine. In case you didn’t know, it’s never too early for moonshine so don’t judge! Blackbird is the only distillery in Pennsylvania that makes moonshine the primitive way, or should I say the right way! All of the moonshine is handcrafted from grain to bottle, and let me tell ya something, this is the real deal folks. They’ll let you sample any 3 shines for free, with the exception of their American Shine, which is like 170 proof or so. Whoooo-weeeeee! One taste and you’ll see why they impose a 3 sample limit! This stuff is no joke. Even if shine’s not your thing, you’ll still want to stop in for some of their homemade goodies. The good folks at Blackbird can everything from salsa, to pepper jelly, to wing sauces, and everything in between. They even sell a variety of smoked meats and cheeses. We left with a big bottle of AppleJack shine, two small bottles of Root Beer and Blackberry shines, as well as a Moonshine Steak Sauce and BBQ sauce. If you’re starting your day on Blackout Drive, you know it’ll be one to remember, that is……if you’re able to!!
After all that Moonshine, I needed a little retail therapy to clear my head! So we set out to Lindemuth’s Country Store on Route 36. Lindemuth’s is a MUST stop if you’re in the Cook Forest area. Not only do they carry a massive collection of country and primitive decor, but the owner is the biggest sweetheart you will ever meet. The store was technically not even open when we arrived and she let us in anyways!! Really!! She was there doing inventory but she took time out of her day to not only show us around the store, but she also let us sample some wine. She really couldn’t have been any more welcoming and accommodating. But back to the store, I’m pretty sure this could be the largest collection of country crafts that Cook Forest has to offer. I mean, they had everything, from seasonal holiday items, to pet signs, hunting, camping, americana, furniture, you name it! It was hard to resist not buying EVERYTHING!!! Of course I did grab myself a Happy Wife Happy Life sign. Words to live by people!!
And then there’s the wine! Lindemuth’s also doubles as a satellite location for Buddy Boy Winery. You won’t want to miss this cozy little tasting room tucked in the front corner of the store. Rumor has it, they’ll be offering wine slushies in the summer. Sign me up!! We left with 2 bottles of their Strawberry Wine, which was our favorite, 2 bottles of Concord, a Niagara, and of course a bottle of Miss Pissy Pants, which I obviously won’t be sharing!
We decided to see what Clarion had to offer for lunch and decided Red River Roadhouse was the place to go! And boy were we right! The obvious choice was their Wisconsin Mac and Cheese Burger, an 8 oz burger topped with creamy mac and cheese, crispy bacon, and onion rings and then smothered in smoked cheddar and provolone. I think it’s pretty obvious that we skipped dinner that night!
From there we headed to the appropriately named Deer Creek Winery in Shippenville, PA. We turned onto Soap Fat Road and almost immediately saw two deer. Opened in 2009, the property has been in the family for 5 generations and now houses not only a vineyard and wine bar, but also a beautiful 8 bedroom inn. Our barista Alexis, was super friendly and knowledgeable and helped us choose our samples. We left with a bottle of their Fruity White, Clarion Concord, Cranberry Craze (which was my favorite!), Summer Breeze Sangria (also amazing!) as well as some Tuscan Herb and Garlic olive oils. Although the wine is the star of the show, there’s so much more going on at Deer Creek. They offer an onsite restaurant, tons of live music, as well as painting classes, cooking classes, wine tours, and so much more! We both decided we have to come back and stay at the inn!
After the winery we headed back to Gateway Lodge. If the weather permits, do not miss out on some of the great hiking trails that are readily available. We found this one just off the parking lot at the Lodge. Absolutely stunning! Someone had even plowed tracks to make the uphill climb a bit easier.
Afterwards it was time to warm up in the suite! I knew this jacuzzi and fireplace would come in handy. We brought along some rose petals to be fancy, but we also found some bubble bath in the room. Obviously we used both! So calm and relaxing. I can’t think of a better way to end a day.
Our starter the next day at breakfast was a poached pear, topped with yogurt and granola, as well as a slice of banana bread. Their banana bread is not to be missed. Seriously, it’s so good! Who do I need to talk to about getting that recipe?
The main course was fabulous as well, two eggs, any way you like them, bacon, fried potatoes and toast. I always go over medium, he always goes scrambled. Breakfast was so, SO good! We really need to try the dinner sometime. The sugar donuts with blackberry thyme jam are calling my name! There’s always next year!!
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