Innisbrook Resort and Spa

By Judi Gallagher –

Innisbrook Resort and Spa is a mere hour and fifteen minutes north of Sarasota and central to the Tampa Bay area, but feels like a hint of Virginia or North Carolina. The trees may not be in full autumn colors, but the greens on the golf course with a forest of beautiful tree-lined paths makes one feel they are far away.

A classic respite, how could it take me so long to take a weekend off to sip a vodka martini with pickled green tomato garnish- a new favorite cocktail and charcuterie? Ah, perhaps because I do not golf. My sport is spa days and I like to say I am in training for the spa Olympics. Innisbrook delivers on both an incredible day spa and a comfortable steakhouse serving Delmonico steaks, creamed spinach, Kona crusted lamb chops and beautiful fresh salads all a walk up that pretty path or an easy little tram. And how is it that I found one of the best pieces of simple grilled grouper in the state at Packard’s Steak house. And, how could my wonderful server Theresa actually have owned a restaurant in Gloucester around the time I had my dessert company just up the road? Dinner for one suddenly became a memorable reunion. And this was just night one.

After a brisk walk, I entered the Salamander Spa for the next 4 ½ hours where Judith, yes another close similarity took me to heaven with a 90-minute hot stone massage before anal fresco lunch of Asian chicken salad and champagne in the private spa garden complete with water feature, fire table and arbor of blooming vines.

Now back to the so for a facial and pedicure. AHHHHHH…. The salamander spa set the tone for an outdoor dinner in my private balcony with leftover grouper, creamed spinach and ¾ of the Delmonico.

I look forward to returning as the new chef of Innisbrook brings new flair with his German roots and undying passion for fresh local ingredients. Oh and pickled tomato vodka martini of course.

Less than 15 minutes away from Innisbrook is Tarpon Springs, a must morning jaunt, home of the infamous sponges and Greek cuisine. This is the perfect way to end the weekend. Stop at Hilla’s bakery for Greek coffee and

Baklava. Stroll the streets and shop by the waterfront before getting back on Alternate Rt. 19 for a Greek feast of calamari, gyros, Moussaka and a damn good rice pudding at Mama Maria’s.

When you return home take a hot shower with your new sponge and nibble on the box of Greek pastries.


A graduate of Johnson & Wales, Judi has managed restaurants and owned restaurants in the northeast and was the founder of a successful dessert company. Today, she is a sought-after restaurant consultant, TV cook on the ABC affiliate in her home town, and culinary editor of a city magazine. Her personal passions are culinary travel to exotic places and holiday cooking in her home for huge gatherings of friends and relatives. Her guilty pleasure? Bruce Springsteen concerts. “I follow him around the country and have for years,” she admits. “But, in every city where Bruce sings, I do check out new restaurants and talk to up and coming chefs. I want all the food news I can get.”
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