My wife and were celebrating our 27th anniversary and wanted to find someplace nice, classy, and not to far from Denver. We wanted a quiet, beautiful getaway for the weekend. What we found, can only be described as amazing. I don’t want to use the words “hidden gem” because I think that is an understatement. Magnificent, beautiful, extraordinary, and tasteful doesn’t even begin to describe our experience. From the beautifully kept grounds to the overwhelming but quaint beauty of the hotel itself, it truly is something to behold. What’s even more extraordinary, is it’s in a town that if you blinked you would miss it, right off of I-70 about 2 hours from Denver called Stratton. I’m guessing anyone traveling to Kansas has passed right by and not even noticed. Most stop in Burlington about 20 miles up the road to refuel before getting back on the road. Stop here though, you should.
Our experience started with being greeted at the door by Brad – winemaker, chef, host, waiter, concierge – Brad does it all. We were ushered in with warm hospitality and I’m assuming a smile (we could only see his eyes behind the stat mandated mask,) and checked in right away. We were amazed as we entered, the “dining” area I would consider a mini ballroom, with 2 story ceilings accented with beautiful twin brass chandeliers like something out of a movie. What was even more amazing, is how insanely immaculate it was. Claremont Inn is out on the plains, which at the time of year we visited, is very windy, and somewhat dusty. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought this place was in downtown Denver, with a full-time cleaning staff constantly dusting, polishing, vacuuming, and more. A great first impression.
Our check-in experience felt down-home. The “reception desk” is the kitchen \ gift shop area and it is reminiscent of a high-end home. Don’t be fooled though, this is where all the magic happens. If incredibly good cuisine is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll elaborate a little later, and all I can say for now is WOW. I honestly don’t think I’ve tasted better food ANYWHERE. San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas have NOTHING on this place. Who would think? I know I was incredibly surprised. Did I mention the food is really good? Sorry, I think I got off into the weeds a little, where were we, oh yes, checking in!
Once all the necessities were completed, Brad explained that our room was on the garden level, so we could pull our car around and enter from there. As we walked down the stairs, it was hard to believe this place was 25 years old. It certainly didn’t look it, it looked as if it had just recently been finished. Beautiful wood bookshelves lined the hallway, and at the foot of the stairs was our door. They weren’t kidding when they named it the “Hidden Garden” – aptly named as you would miss the doorway if weren’t careful! Hidden it was, and wow, when we walked in, we couldn’t believe how nice it was. Let me start by saying, it knocked our socks off! The room was HUGE, beautifully laid out, jetted tub, fireplace, very romantic. It truly was a hidden Eden.
Mind you, two years ago, we stayed in the middle of the second most popular and recognizable part of wine country in California, Sonoma Valley for our 25th anniversary. At the time, it was one of the best experiences we had staying at an Inn, until this weekend. Yes, Sonoma and the Russian River Valley are incredibly beautiful, with rolling vineyards around every corner – the countryside is amazing. This place though, if you’re wanting the experience of really good food, excellent service in a very relaxing and unpretentious environment, then this is the place for you. You feel as if you have arrived, with a distinct mid-western hospitality.
On to the food. Before dinner, you get to choose your flight of wines for tasting, a total of 5. I went all reds and wasn’t disappointed. As we were tasting, Brad explained the numbering of the samples, like any good restaurant. As we started in, Brad whisked away to the kitchen to return just a few moments later with a tasty appetizer. So far, yum! Perfect temp, both the wine and the appetizer. So far, great experience. Then, Brad came back with our salads, and wow, cool, crisp, very flavorful and fresh. So far, we’re impressed. Next, came the main course, a pork steak with a mushroom cream sauce, beautifully presented with garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus cooked in lemon sauce. My first bite….I couldn’t believe it. Absolute perfection! I’m not a big pork fan, but, it was tender, moist, and so succulent! Not to mention….a real cut! Not some cutesy micro steak, but a real, large, full steak! I’m a fairly large man with quite an appetite, and, I had to take a “to-go box” down to the room (which had a full refrigerator BTW). No, Brad had no issue offering up that “to go box” – it didn’t seem awkward at all.
Also, I decided to go with a smooth and full-bodied blend, Outback Duo to accompany dinner. I’m a big fan of both Cabs and Shiraz’, and this dynamic blend didn’t disappoint. Great wine, great meal, great service. It was definitely an excellent evening that didn’t disappoint a great start to a wonderful weekend. After a friendly visit from Dave – one of the owners, we let our food settle in. The best part was, afterwards all we had was a short walk down a flight of stairs, and our peaceful serene romantic room awaited.
Did I mention, breakfast can be served per your schedule, next morning? An hour prior, then send you a carafe of coffee to help you wake? Yes…this is part of the experience. An experience it is too. With our taste buds dazzled the night before, surely breakfast would be good, but……could it compare? The answer is YES! Brad’s wonderful wife (we only saw her upon checkout) is as good of a chef as Brad, and she’s responsible for your breakfast in the morning. All I can say is…I’ve never had a croissant that compares. Holy wow! The reviews aren’t kidding, they taste like they are directly from a French bakery in Paris! Truly amazing! Fresh fruit, quiche cooked to perfection, sausage….again…WOW. I was starting to think I was in a dream! This place was amazing! I’m going to be so disappointed when I have to come home, I can already tell!
The second night, dinner was every bit as good as the first. Ribeye with a coffee garlic rub accompanied by a baked potato and shredded Brussel sprouts. Another incredibly wonderful salad and appetizer, no letdown AT ALL dinner 2. How is this even possible? These guys know what they’re doing, and it shows! Wait, again, this is in Stratton Colorado? I grew up playing sports against small-town schools like this, who would have thought one of these quaint little “exit” farm towns would have such a place of this? I certainly wouldn’t have thought.
All I can say is, if you ever get the chance, visit the Claremont Inn. It’s truly an experience, one that is definitely one to remember. If you like good wine, good service, a beautiful place, this should be your next weekend getaway. You won’t be disappointed.