Texas: The Inn at Dos Brisas
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The Inn at Dos Brisas10000 Champion Drive 77880-1702 Washington, TX 979/277-7750 dosbrisas.com
Touring the estate's farming operations with head farmer Lisa Roese, to sample the produce and learn about the trials and tribulations of doing things the organic way.
Raiding your in-room fridge, stocked with Mexican Cokes and a carafe of homemade sweet tea (the simple syrup is provided on the side) .
A hands-on lesson with veteran horse trainer O.K. Estes in the explosively popular equestrian sport of cutting, where cowboys on quarter horses compete on their ability to separate cows from a herd.
Curling up fireside with a warming Washington Apple cocktail, made from bourbon infused on-site with local apples and pie spices by wine director Joel Tennyson.
Getting clean in the sweet morning air with an outdoor shower, located in a private nook poolside at each hacienda.
- 10 haciendas and cacitas
- Horseback riding
- Clay shooting
- Carriage rides
- In-room breakfast
- Champagne upon arrival
- Wireless Internet
Luckily, I'm not the only yankee walking around with this particular fantasy of rural Texas life. Doug Bosch, a New York transplant now based in Houston, first bought his 313-acre property in the foothills of Texas Hill Country in 2000 with plans to use it as a private retreat (it was previously a working cattle ranch, and before that, a cotton ranch). The Inn that now sits there is a result of serious mission creep on the part of Doug and his wife, Jennifer: the private estate became a small but well-regarded restaurant, then a restaurant with overnight accommodations, and finally a fully-functional resort with Relais & Chateaux membership. Throughout the transitions it has retained the feel of a private property— a casualness and intimacy that makes you feel more like a houseguest than a paying customer.
Today, the Inn at Dos Brisas boasts six ultra-luxurious haciendas, each of which includes a large living room and bedroom equipped with gas fireplaces, an outdoor heated plunge pool, a bathroom kitted out with a cavernous rain shower and soaking tub, and a screened porch that may in itself be larger than my Manhattan apartment. Each is decorated in a rugged equestrian style, all rich leather and knotty French oak, cathedral ceilings and exposed beams. The ranch's four smaller casitas, which functioned as the property's original guest accommodations, are appointed in the same mode as the haciendas but on a smaller scale. Filled to capacity, the Inn accommodates fewer than 30 guests.
There are several ways to while away your days at the ranch, from trail rides to fishing to shooting sporting clays, biking, or simply relaxing poolside, but the resort's most potent draw is its food. Nearly all the vegetables consumed at Dos Brisas are grown on premises on 24 acres of certified organic farmland, and much of the fruit, too. The farm generates an extraordinary variety of produce, ranging from globe artichokes to thai bird chilis to Hokkaido squash.
Chef Zachary Ladwig uses the ranch's bounty to full effect in vegetable-focused lunch and dinner menus that defy all stereotypes of Texas cooking as heavy-handed and staid. Lunch might include a delicate salad of heirloom touchon carrot, wild ginger, and marcona almond, topped with steamed whey left over from the restaurant's house-made mozzarella. At dinner, wild duckling might be served with pineapple quince and wild safflower root velouté—that's my kind of cowboy food. —Elizabeth Gunnison
IN THE AREA
- Blue Bell Creamery: Blue Bell's deeply wonderful ice creams are a cult favorite throughout the South, and the company's first creamery has been churning out dairy products (yup, pun intended) in the nearby town of Brenham since 1907. Tours of the factory—which include a serving of ice cream—run from Monday to Friday. 1101 South Blue Bell Road, Brenham, TX; tel: 800/327-8135; bluebell.com
- Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo: This celebration of all things country qualifies as a must-see for anyone visiting the region during the three weeks when it takes over Houston's Reliant Stadium each March. The world's largest livestock exhibition has been a Texas institution since 1934, and currently draws crowds of over 2 million for a wide array of activities including concerts, pig racing, barbecue and wine competitions, livestock competitions and auctions, and of course, rodeo. Reliant Stadium, 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX; tel: 832/667-1000; rodeohouston.com
- Texas Football: Football is a religion in Texas, as they say, and guests at Dos Brisas are in prime position for attending high mass: the Houston Texans, Texas A&M University Aggies, University of Texas Longhorns, as well as a variety of nation's best high school teams all play within a two hour drive of the ranch.