Story by Carol Stigger
Photography courtesy of J.W. Marriott San Antonio, Texas
A fine resort of natural beauty near San Antonio
J.W. Marriott in San Antonio, Texas, Hill Country has spaces and places for couples, families, weddings, meetings, and conferences. The layout provides spacious lounges and intimate spaces such as the cozy, well-appointed library and private garden nooks. The outside is an extension of the inside with comfortable chairs for visiting or just lounging around with a book—in shade or in sunlight. Flowers bloom around the well-groomed property. Indoor and outdoor fireplaces are not just for ambience. S’mores parties are a popular among all ages. Guest rooms have a view of outdoor beauty from their Juliet balconies. I booked a room there for a few nights so I could get away from the crowds along San Antonio’s River Walk. While I enjoyed the river meandering through town, both on foot and by boat, I wanted more space in the evening and a few days to enjoy the lovely resort grounds and the spa.
Teeing off and splashing around
While I am not a golfer, guests are pleased with the two 18 hole, 72-par golf courses. One includes the topographic subtleties of Hill Country terrain framed by live oaks, and the other has wide fairways and panoramic views of the adjacent Cibolo Canyons. These were designed by two of golf's most innovative architects: Pete Dye and Greg Norman. Situated on 2,800 rolling acres at the base of the San Antonio Hill Country, the course is host to the annual Valero Texas Open.
Water activities abound. There is an adult infinity pool that I enjoyed, a children’s pool that I avoided, and a large, all-ages pool plus water slides and a lazy river. Cabanas can be rented for a day. If children are still wired for fun and parents need a nap – or would like to enjoy the sports’ bar or a “date night” with fine dining, the kids’ club offers creative activities and a qualified child care staff.
The on-site Lantana Spa has 30 treatment rooms including two couples’ suites with fireplaces. The spa embraces the spirit and traditions of Latin American Curanderos, or native healers. After I changed into a robe and slippers, I was presented with a red ribbon and introduced to the Seven Knots Ritual. I was instructed that every worry that entered my mind should be tied into a knot and left there. After 30 minutes in the aromatherapy room, my ribbon was all knots, but my mind was free of stress.
I chose the 80-minute Signature Massage of the Curanderos, which was $190. The masseuse used hot bolos of lavender, chamomile, orange peel, arnica, and lemon grass for a treatment that is similar to hot stones and includes gentle yoga movements of all joints. Arnica, which I had not heard of before, is a homeopathic topical treatment for nerve pain. The aroma of the combined scents did even more than the red ribbon to heal my inner and outer aches. After my massage, I added my knotted red ribbon to a large, glass bowl filled with red ribbons. I hope they burn them somewhere in a ritual manner for I do not want my worries back.
A Jacuzzi, and hydrotherapy showers complete the offerings of the spa’s inner sanctum. Outside, I floated in a heated pool that is just for spa guests. It was difficult to leave the pool and its soft lounge chairs, but I was getting hungry. After such a healthy few hours, a hamburger sounded nasty. Fortunately, the Replenish Spa Bistro serves healthy, light lunches with organic ingredients, freshly picked herbs, fruit smoothies and light wines. Here the menu changes according to the chef’s dawn harvests, and my salad contained the freshest greens I have tasted since I grew my own lettuce.
Barbeque brisket and a deer tail
The resort offers a range of dining options from breakfast through late night snacks. Cibolo Moon in the hotel serves Texas-style regional cuisine with Mexican influences. Their bountiful breakfast buffet is legendary. I had lunch there before a hike along a green, gentle trail behind one of the golf courses. After learning the brisket is smoked right outside the kitchen door, I ordered a chopped barbeque brisket sandwich and that Texas classic, a Dublin Texas Root Beer. This sweet, slightly creamy brew earned 3.5 kegs on Erik’s Gourmet Root Beer site.
The meal provided sufficient fuel for my hike in Texas hill country, all within the resort grounds that include a certified Audubon Sanctuary. I enjoyed walking in the shade of live oaks, smelling the lavender and sage, listening to bird song, and I think I saw a flicker of the tail of a white-tail deer. Although offered a segue tour, I decided that nature feels more natural on foot. As for the staff person who suggested a mountain bike, I just had to ask if he were willing to push me. He handed me a map of foot trails instead and suggested walks he thought I would enjoy.
Duck fat fries and baby beets
By dinnertime I had arrived at the unlady-like state of famished, so I donned my loosest “smart casual” dress and walked across the law to 18 Oaks, a fine dining steakhouse in the clubhouse. Here, meats are cured on-site and the produce grown is on the property or sourced locally. The wine list at all hotel venues is extensive and ranges from $11 a glass to more than $1,000 for a magnum of Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia, a 2010 Super Tuscan blend . All bread and pastry are baked on the premises, and the honey is from the resort’s hives.
For starters, I could not decide between the house cured and smoked bacon with golden raisin and pear jam and the duck fat French fries, so I ordered a half serving of each. Bacon and jam is truly a gourmet creation, which I enjoyed very much. French fries fried in duck fat are hard to find across the U.S., but the chef did a masterful job. The crispy potatoes were tender inside and had a hint of decadent, delicious duck – plus a sprig of rosemary and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Although I have been “beet’ to death this season in restaurants from Amsterdam to Chicago, and they are not my favorite vegetable, the beet salad ingredients sounded irresistible: roasted baby beets with arugula, locally made goat cheese, yogurt, and Texas pecans with a vinaigrette dressing. I believe the secret to this chef’s success with beets is that the baby beets are youngsters, not stunted grown-ups.
The steak selection is extensive and includes Beeman Ranch Texas Wagyu. Wild game varies according to availability, and antelope was on the menu. I opted for the Windy Bar Ranch Short Ribs "Osso Bucco,” which was delicious and fork-tender to even the dullest camping kit fork. Bourbon glazed mushrooms were a flavorful side dish.
I went to bed with the drapes open. In this Texas-size resort with a Texas-size sky, I saw a million stars.
For more information, you can visit their web site at www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/satjw-jw-marriott-san-antonio-hill-country-resort-and-spa
Thanks to the resort, the chefs, and the spa for their gracious hospitality.
© January 2015 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.