Archive for August, 2011

Perfect Pears

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Some people are gifted with a sophisticated palate. Me, not so much. I’ve been to wine tastings and, for the life of me, I can’t find the chocolate, citrus or tobacco essences on the back of my tongue. So, I haven’t eaten pears in awhile. They generally went from hard little rocks, bland and flavorless, to mush, bland and flavorless.

But I tried the pears from Drowning Creek Farms (hope springs eternal!). They were beautiful little red, cream and yellow little darlings. Then I bit into one! So, this is a pear!! Sweet, juicy, firm not hard or mushy and tasting of, well, pear! The closest thing I had come to these was the pear flavored Jelly Bellies, sad but true. Again, the simplest preparation is the best so guests of Camellia Cottage Bed and Breakfast have been enjoying this yummy custard lately. Also great with plums or any kind of berry. Sprinkle some crushed pecans on top before baking.

Pear Custard

11/2 cups cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 fresh eggs
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl. Grease 6 4 oz. ramekins and place in 9×13 pan. Cut about 3-4 pears into small dice and divide into ramekins. Pour custard around pears. Sprinkle with crushed nuts. Bake at 350 degress till just set, about 20-30 minutes.

Marvelous Mediterranean Fare at Black Sea Grill

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Here at the Camellia Cottage B&B we are blessed to be within walking distance of several really good restaurants in downtown Wilmington NC. We’re so spoiled that we won’t get in the car to drive for a meal. We were lucky enough to have dinner at Black Sea Grill on Front Street on Wednesday and it was just fabulous! We have been recommending this “Mediterranean” restaurant to our guests for quite a while now, however we hadn’t taste tested it in about three years.

I don’t know why we waited so long. All five of us had either grilled or pan-fried fish and all were perfectly cooked. The salad, rice and veggies were all “just right.” Some of our guests who were sitting at the next table had some luscious lamb chops, proving that the chef has a way with terrestrial as well as sea food. The kebabs at the next table also looked and smelled great. We just can’t say enough about our dinner at Black Sea Grill. Check it out.

You Never Forget Your First

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

I have lived in or near farm country most of my adult life. Wisconsin, for 27 years and North Carolina for nine and a half. I have been an innkeeper for a total of 15 years. I can honestly say I know a little bit about eggs. They have been a critically important (and tasty!) feature of breakfasts I have served to guests. However, truth be told, I have never had a fresh, I mean FRESH egg, before last week. Then I was told about Down East Connect. I love the idea of buying locally, of knowing where my food and my guests’ food come from. So, I went to, and perused the food and the farmers. Fresh eggs! Fresh pears! Fresh pecans! Not to mention chicken, steak, corn syrup, potatoes….

I started slowly. I read about Paul’s Amazing Garden and was so touched by the work ethic of this 16 year old that I had to buy Amazing Paul’s Amazing Eggs. They were beautiful. Different shades of tan and brown. What to do with your first real egg? I know at least a million recipes for eggs — some sweet, some savory, some simple, some complex. That’s the wonderful thing about eggs!

So, when the time came for my first fresh egg recipe, I went classic: poached with homemade pumpernickel toast. The yolk was a beautiful orangey-yellow. A word of warning – real eggs are much more fragile than store-bought. The yolk breaks more easily, which makes mixing them much easier. Good to know for my first real egg experiment. (My guests at the Camellia Cottage Bed and Breakfast in Wilmington often are also my guinea pigs but no one complains.)

The results exceeded my wildest expectations. It was heaven! Soft and flavorful, not too big, not too small. Aaahh, my favorite comfort food.

Here is the classic soft boiled egg recipe. Garnish with some fresh herbs or place your perfectly poached eggs on a toasted English Muffin with Canadian bacon for the full Eggs Benedict experience. Hard to go wrong when you start with a pure thing. This time of year you can substitute a slice of fresh tomato from one of the Downeast Connect farmers for the Canadian bacon.

Start with fresh eggs. Heat at least 2 inches of water in a deep skillet or saucepan to a gentle simmer. Add a tablespoon of cider or white wine vinegar to help the eggs hold their shape. Simmer 3 minutes for soft yolks, 5 minutes for firmer. You can store the poached eggs in cold water in the fridge for up to 2 days and reheat in hot water for 10 seconds before serving.

The Joy of Repeat Guests

Monday, August 8th, 2011

For innkeepers, there is a lot to enjoy and be thankful for.

We get to live in a beautiful old house, in a beautiful historic district, a stone’s throw from a beautiful river, in a beautiful old (about 300 years) city – Wilmington NC. On those few special days when our schedule allows, we can be walking barefoot on the beach in 20 minutes. A short walk to the River Walk makes it feel like we’re on vacation – any day of the year.

We get to meet and greet people from all over the world. Some innkeepers proudly display maps or globes with pins denoting the homes of international guests who have stayed at their bed and breakfast. We have our own mental list of guests and their countries but it gets more difficult as the brain cells continue to die off due to natural or not-so-natural causes.

Paula gets to indulge her love of cooking and baking almost every morning and receive instant gratification from appreciative guests. I get to indulge my love of toilet cleaning – making our seven commodes shine like new sends me to Seventh Heaven daily. We both get to tend our gardens – an activity that helps us relax and ultimately helps our guests relax as well.

Far and away the greatest innkeeping joy for us is when guests choose to return to our inn over and over again. It has been said that it’s the web site that brings guests in the front door the first time but it’s the innkeepers and their relationships with guests that brings them back a second or third or fourth time. (Our record is twelve.) We cherish those relationships. It warms our hearts when guests make return stays with us. It feels even better when they bring friends or family the second time to share with them what they experienced once before.

Perhaps the ultimate reward for us is when guests stay with us several times as part of their process of finding a new place to live. Then they move here, perhaps even to our neighborhood. Believe it or not, it’s great to lose a regular guest and gain a friend and neighbor!