Retreating to Dallas
I’ll admit, I don’t spend much time in Dallas. Growing up in Austin with much of my family from Houston, reasons to traverse the white-knuckle traffic of I-35 to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex have been few and far between. And when I have ventured here, it’s usually been for a harried weekend in a downtown accommodation or for an overnight stop before flying out of DFW Airport.
But when I had the luxury of staying a few days at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas as part of the recent Texas Sommelier Conference (TEXSOM) I attended as a media guest, I was pleasantly surprised to find that you absolutely can find a quiet oasis retreat just beyond the confines of a bustling Texas metropolis. And this particular locale makes having to work feel like you’re on a vacation.
Those of you who are familiar with Dallas are probably thinking that if I had simply looked at a map to find that Las Colinas was a full 13 miles away from downtown in a ritzy west-side suburb of the "Big D," I would have had an inkling that this was no big-city dwelling. But since I was in full ‘conference mode’ and gearing up for three solid days of wine discussion in a giant, well-chilled conference room, I wasn’t fully expecting what I had in store. And perhaps that’s what made the experience so much more rewarding.
Despite a full conference schedule, I managed to squeeze in a little time to enjoy the property, which sits on a sprawling suburban acreage as part of a full Tournament Players Club (TPC) golf resort. Among the things I loved the most:
The Fitness Center
Yes, I’m listing this one first. When traveling for work, the easiest thing to neglect is exercise. But one glimpse at the sport and fitness center at this hotel and you’re a fool if you don’t make it a first priority on your list.
Yes, they have your requisite designated area for weights, treadmills, recumbent bikes, elliptical machines, and more, but to get to them you have to pass a series of racquetball and squash courses, 4 indoor tennis courts (with 8 more available outside), a 25-meter heated indoor pool (with another larger lap pool outside), an indoor track and a covey of brand new spin bikes.
I could go on as the friendly fitness attendant at the front desk offered me a seemingly endless list of even more amenities, but suffice it to say, this place was a fitness mecca, and I was keen to take advantage of it. Though there were also options for yoga, pilates and personal training classes, I opted for a few spin sessions on my own, as well as a few loops around the track and a lap or two in the pool.
When it comes to unwinding — especially when you’re on a work trip — there’s nothing better than relaxing at the spa. Here, the accommodations are enjoyable enough, even without a massage. A relaxing lounge room includes a jacuzzi, steam room and cold-dip pool; just outside is a private spa pool, free of the distractions you might find at the main hotel pool.
While I enjoyed a great massage, I was most looking forward to giving my skin a break from the summer heat with a rejuvenating facial. (Having spent the first half of my life ignoring how damaging ‘summer fun’ can be on my skin, I’m now doing what good I can to make up for it.)
The Cafe On The Green
I managed to dine here on a couple of evenings during my stay and found Cafe On The Green a step well above the average hotel restaurant. (Especially with the friendly help and impeccable service from server, John whose attention to detail and witty humor was a welcomed treat on both dining occasions.)
The menu alone is varied and intriguing, with a mind for local ingredients and a Continental-American style that suits most any appetite.
On one night I opted for perfectly seared scallops served with a savory, crisp crust on a summery, spiced puree of fresh peaches. It was a refreshingly light dish that followed a fresh salad of creamy burrata Caprese well. On the second night, I indulged with an order of roasted lamb chops in a savory jus reduction followed by a three-cheese selection and a glass of 18-year ruby port for dessert.
And while the dinner menu is enticing enough, perhaps what’s most appealing is the well-appointed wine list from Master Sommelier James Tidwell. While it lends itself to a few well-received standards such as Sonoma Chardonnay and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine menu (including wines by the glass) is just as varied as the ingredients of the dining menu with everything from crisp Greek Assyrtiko (white wine) to rich and brooding Cabernet Franc from the Chinon district of the French Loire Valley. (My favorite was a glass of Spy Valley “Envoy” Pinot Noir from New Zealand. At $20 a glass, it’s a fairly bold order, but when paired with the lamb chops, it’s well worth the splurge.)
At the end of the day, all the amenities of the world mean nothing if you can’t lay your head on a cozy pillow and enjoy a good night’s sleep, which is exactly what I did each night here.
My room was on a floor among a number of suites where families were staying. And while it could have been a long, noisy ride for the duration of my stay, I was amazed at how little noise pollution permeated my cozy little spot at the end of the hall. And the lovely view overlooking the golf course greens made if feel as though I was in a country chalet far from the confines of city life.
Sure, there was a draw back or two. In-room dining carts seemed to linger in the hallways a little too long after families had allowed their children to feast on room service. And I wish I could have had a few firm pillows rather than the squishy stack of feather pillows I arranged beneath my head at night.
But frivolous details like these are silly, really, when you consider all the comfort you could want in a home away from home. Indeed, when TEXSOM is back again, I’ll be happy to spring for a few nights at this little Dallas oasis.