Goldmoor Inn: Elegant Setting and Fabulous Food With a View

Restaurant Profile: Discover a Galena-area retreat that’s turning heads from the likes of CBS Chicago and Yahoo! Travel – and discover what makes this bed-and-breakfast a dining getaway, too.

Owners Patricia and Tom Smith with chefs Nicholas Puls and Taylor Harkness.

In January 2011, CBS Chicago rated it one of the top five Bed & Breakfasts outside of Chicago. In 2010, Yahoo! Travel rated it one of the top five coziest B&Bs in America. Since 1993, it has been a Select Registry inn, one of only 400 – out of more than 20,000 B&Bs and inns in North America – to meet the rigorous standards set by the 30-year-old organization.

But Goldmoor Inn, 9001 W. Sand Hill Road, on bluffs above the Mississippi River near Galena, Ill., offers more than hospitality and deluxe accommodations. Elegant appointments, stunning views, impeccable service and fabulous food describe dinner here, from chefs Taylor Harkness and Nicholas Puls.

“When we only did guest breakfasts and weddings, I did the cooking myself, ” says Patricia Smith, who co-owns Goldmoor Inn with husband Tom. “Four years ago, we added 11,000 square feet, including seven new units, a culinary kitchen and 5,000-square-foot dining room, and started offering evening dining Thursday through Monday. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Harkness, the first to join, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, St. Paul/Minneapolis. Puls, who earned his culinary arts degree at Chicago’s Kendall College and spent several years working both locally and in Napa Valley, Calif., followed two years later.

“Nicholas was referred to me, and he had an impressive and varied work experience,” says Smith. “He brings a calm, confident leadership to the kitchen. Taylor came straight from culinary college, with no experience in purchasing or front of house. But he brings all of the forward, progressive techniques, and I could see, in his personality and character, a real drive to prove himself. They’re both very talented and fun, and they complement each other well.”

Local vendors are used when possible. The menu is a mix of cuisines, more American than anything, and changes seasonally. Smith’s late spouse, Jim Goldthorpe, who originally purchased the mansion, was English, so two items are constant: cheese and chutney appetizer and made-to-order Beef Wellington.

“One of the things I love about our kitchen is that everything is homemade – stocks, sauces, pasta, pastry, salad dressings – and we use fresh herbs and vegetables,” says Smith.

Starters include two soups, prepared fresh daily by Harkness, and four appetizers, such as fresh crab cakes or poached shrimp with lemon cocktail sauce. A choice of six to eight entrées includes a mix of red meat, poultry, fish, pasta and vegetarian dishes.

“Right now, my favorite dish to prepare is the pork osso bucco,” says Puls. “We pan sear the pork shanks to a nice brown and slow roast them for five hours with herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables, until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender. Then we make a rich sauce from the drippings, and serve with mashed potatoes.”

Each season, Smith has a favorite dish: “Right now, it’s our salmon steak, served with julienned vegetables and ginger lime couscous drizzled with a soy glaze.” Other favorites are oil-poached halibut; Cornish game hen; New York strip steak with shrimp; and vegetarian lasagna with portobello mushrooms.

The wine cellar houses 90 varieties, with a small reserve list. Imports from places like Spain, Australia and France are hand-picked by Smith’s daughter, Katelyn.

Puls does the desserts: Crème brûlée, homemade ice cream and chocolate cake are standard, with treats like bread pudding, cobblers and tortes in season. His philosophie de cuisine: “I cook with love, making every dish as if it’s for my family and friends.”

Says Harkness: “My only philosophy is to do it right, without any shortcuts, and the outcome will often be better than expected.”

Smith, an interior designer, decorated the dining room, which has knotty alder walls and custom ceramic tiles depicting each family member’s face, made by her sister. Windsor and cascade draperies frame the windows; pendant lights are oil-rubbed bronze with silk fabric and amber crystals; fringe and tassels add to the English Country feel. It accommodates 85, and every seat has a fantastic view.
The adventurous can dine at the Chef’s Table in the kitchen, and ask questions as the chefs prepare the food. “The interaction really draws the chefs out and inspires them,” says Smith.

“In the dining room, our talented servers, who’ve been in the industry longer than I have, make sure the diners have an enjoyable evening,” says Puls.

Made-from-scratch cuisine and attention to detail add up to a memorable dining experience at Goldmoor Inn. ❚