Champagne and chocolate chip cookies.
If there’s any better combination, enjoyed while wearing a plush robe inside one of the newly renovated guestrooms at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, I can’t think of one.
I should note that these aren’t just any chocolate chip cookies. These are Barbara Bush’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies, offered in-room as a nod to the famous first lady who once held residence on these grounds along with her husband, President George H.W. Bush, in the 1980s.
Remarkable Houstonian Hotel design
When I visited The Houstonian for a quick one-night getaway in April, it was my first night apart from my husband and kids since the pandemic started. I picked this property because of its esteemed reputation among my friends in Houston –– a city I called home for nearly 10 years –– and because I was curious to see the fruits of its $65 million master plan project, which includes the renovation of hotel guestroom suites, the newly renovated Trellis Spa that reopened in February, and a recently opened in-house pastry shop and floral studio.
As I stepped into my room, one of 289 at the hotel, I was delighted to find the aforementioned cookies and a floor-to-ceiling view of the wooded property, which spans 27 acres adjacent to the city’s popular Memorial Park. Designed with a rich blue, cream and gold palette, my renovated room included a custom-made king-size bed with bedside lighting controls, locally crafted and American-made pieces and expanded bathroom square footage.
After a few minutes spent taking in the view and basking in the sound of silence, I slipped into my swimsuit and headed to one of three pools that are part of the sprawling Houstonian Club, the hotel’s nationally recognized health and fitness facility that also features tennis courts, wooded trails and 160 fitness classes held in studios, poolside and outdoor venues. In March, the Houstonian Club began its own renovation that will take place in three phases over 18 to 24 months.
The hotel, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020, has not yet lifted its COVID-19 protocols and requires masks for all visitors when not eating or drinking as well as reservations for exercise classes, spa treatments, pool time and dining. I found check-in at the pool to be seamless and enjoyed having a pre-reserved spot to soak in the sun.
At dinner, I was joined by my dear friend Monica at TRIBUTE, which serves “food Houstonians love to eat” inspired by Texas, Louisiana and Mexico cuisine. As we lingered over a smattering of dishes including wood-fired gulf oysters and wild salmon with dried tomato pesto, hearts of palm, Yukon potato arugula, red onion and lemon oil, I couldn’t help relishing the moment. Both newly vaccinated, it was our first chance to enjoy an indoor meal together –– and a delightful one, at that –– in over a year.
After a few photos in front of the magnificent twinkle-light-adorned 100-year-old oak tree on the front meadow and an incredible night of unadulterated sleep, I woke early to make my way to Trellis Spa, which just underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation and now covers an incredible 26,500 square feet, making it the largest spa in Texas.
The renovation, inspired by “bathing cultures found around the world,” has many highlights, including: the 6,500-square-foot Soaking Pools and Garden, which consists of two hot pools, a cold shower, private cabanas and fire pits; two new dining spaces featuring heathy cuisine by Neal Cox, the hotel’s executive chef; and 21 rooms for treatments that include a Sea Glow Scrub, a Couples Vitamin C Splash and an Orveda Recovery and Anti-Fatigue Facial.
A place of healing
“As we are slowly emerging from a global pandemic, mental health and physical touch are among the many deprivations people are experiencing,” said Renae Cassam, Trellis Spa general manager. “With so many of us isolated and missing that sense of community and connection, we’ve been fortunate to welcome clients we’ve missed back to Trellis and offer a true oasis in the heart of Houston.”
My 60-minute CBD Massage, which focuses on reducing inflammation through the body and relieving muscular pain and tension, incorporated a mix of CBD and essential oils, which are known for their healing benefits. The experience was so rich and my masseuse so good that by the time I finally dragged myself away from the spa’s inviting clutches, I had declared the experience the best massage of my life.
My stay may have been less than 24 hours, but it was rife with things I cherish and had been deeply missing –– delicious food, great conversation, moments of tranquility and opportunities for self-care. And, of course, those delicious cookies.
BARBARA BUSH’S FAMOUS CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE
1 cup butter
I cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups instant oatmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips
Blend the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs. Sift and add the flour. Add the baking soda and salt. Add and mix in the oatmeal, vanilla and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
If You Go
The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, located at 111 N. Post Oak Lane, is about two-and-a-half hours from Austin.
The hotel’s 289 guest rooms have been recently renovated and include a rich blue, cream and gold palette.
Book a treatment at Trellis Spa, Houston’s only Forbes Four-Star spa, which features dozens of rejuvenating massages, facials, body treatments and more.
Food and drink:
TRIBUTE at The Houstonian serves favorites inspired by chefs, towns and passed-down recipes from Texas, Louisiana and Mexico.