Archive for November, 2011

Stay Fresh, My Friends

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

The woman on the phone was asking the standard series of questions:

Where are you located?

Do all the rooms have private baths?

What amenities do you provide?

How much are the taxes?

But then she hit me with one that I had never heard before, one that stopped me dead in my tracks–“Is the room fresh?”

After a suitably pregnant pause, I blurted out a pithy response– “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You know, have the rooms been kept fresh?”

 I didn’t know.  However, my overly analytical mind started working on the problem. The short term framework for the “freshness” issue might involve newly cut flowers in the room or maybe a plug-in room odorizer, de-odorizer or both. It might also involve making sure that nothing of significant size has died in the room recently. The long term freshness framework might relate to how often we have redecorated over the 10 years we have been offering rooms to guests or how well we have kept up with fashion trends along the way.

The “freshness” problem continues to puzzle me to this day. The good news is that the caller reserved the Crane Suite, enjoyed a great stay here and hopefully we’ll see her again some time at our downtown Wilmington bed and breakfast. We will try to stay fresh in the interim.

Holiday Quickies

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The big day is almost here!  People are so busy this time of year, I thought I’d share a couple of recipes and tips that are quick, easy and yummy.  These work all year long, but bring an especially festive flair to your holiday dinner!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL!!!!

Roasted Sweet Potato Fingers


Sweet Potatoes

Fresh basil or sage leaves – as many as you have wedges

Thinly sliced prosciutto or bacon, cut in half horizontally-as many as you have wedges

Olive oil

Slice your regular sweet potatoes into wedges (8-12).  If you’re using the fingerlings, slice them in half.  Place one herb leaf on each wedge, wrap with prosciutto and lay in 13×9 pan.  Drizzle with some olive oil and roast in 350 oven till soft, about 15 minutes. 

Why isn’t there more chocolate featured for Thanksgiving?  If there’s anything to be thankful for……!

Here’s a simple, but decadent, dessert that showcases our farmers’ pecans, as well as, chocolate.  It freezes really well, so you can make it ahead of time or stash leftovers, if there are any.

Chocolate Orange Gateau


4 oz. semi or bittersweet chocolate

¼ cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup sugar

Grated rind of one navel orange

1 tablespoon Orange liqueur

3 eggs, lightly beaten

11/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Lightly grease 8inch springform pan.  Melt chocolate in double boiler, then stir in sugar and orange rind till well mixed.  Stir in eggs and liqueur, then pecans.  Pour into pan and bake at 375 25-30 minutes till set.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Release from pan, spread with glaze and garnish with more chopped pecans.


Melt together 1 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chips with 3 tablespoons butter.  Stir 1 tablespoon light corn syrup till blended. 

–         Mix together 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese or any quantities to taste.  Stir into roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes or turnips after taking them out of the oven.

–         If you boil your sweet potatoes, use the leftover water in soup stock or in your gravy

–         Dip fresh cranberries or grapes, washed and dried well, in a bit of beaten egg white and roll in granulated sugar. Let dry on cooling rack to use as garnish.


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

When we first came to Wilmington and opened the Camellia Cottage Bed and Breakfast we had no intention to allow pets to stay at our inn with their owners. But as we explored Wilmington’s downtown historic district, we were impressed by all the shops that welcomed pets, all our neighbors walking their dogs and several restaurants that allowed pets in their outdoor seating areas. Some of them even bring a bowl of ice water to refresh Fido!

Seeing all this dog-friendly activity and being dog lovers without our own dog, we made the decision to open as a pet-friendly B&B. After almost 10 years, we have not regretted this decision. Even though we now have our own Sparky, we still enjoy meeting new dogs almost every week.

We have also learned that there is absolutely no reason to impose a weight limit on the size of the dog we allow to stay here. The question is not “How big are they?” Rather, the most important question is “Are they well-behaved in a strange house with strange people and other dogs?” Speaking of the size of the dog…The largest pet we’ve hosted was a 230-lb English Mastiff. (I think his head alone weighed 50 lbs!) The smallest guy was a 2 lb Tea Cup Chihuahua.

So, Fido, the next time you stay with us, bring your people, too.

Autumn Breakfasts

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

When you’ve been serving breakfast to guests for 15 years, you have to stay creative in the kitchen,  both for the guests’s experience and your own amusement. While there are cookbooks, cooking shows, blogs and websites galore, I find that some basic formulas allow you to safely experiment depending on seasonal availability and guests’ food  restrictions/preferences. 

Quiche and stratas are standards, but I like to skip the crust and bread and layer the “inside goodies” in individual ramekins.  The presentation is more special and it is easier to accommodate one person’s unique requirements (vegetarian,  lactose-intolerant or gluten-intolerant, for example).  Use 6-inch oval  or one cup round oven-proof ceramic ramekins.  The ingredients can be prepped and layered the night before.  Add eggs and milk just before baking.  Here’s  a sample frittata, in fact, what we served this morning.

3 DEC potatoes, quartered and cut into ¼ inch slices, roasted till golden brown

Chopped, raw DEC spinach or other greens

2 cups grated cheese of your choice (I used the NC Dill Havarti from Carolina Farmin)

11/2 cups diced ham or cooked bacon

8 DEC eggs

2 cups ½ and ½ mixed with 1 tablespoon interesting mustard

Salt, pepper

Butter your ramekins.  4 if using the 6inch ovals, 8 if using the 1 cuppers.  Put down a layer of potatoes, followed by meat (if using), spinach and cheese on the top.  This can be covered and chilled overnight.  For frittatas, beat the eggs and milk/mustard and pour into ramekins.  Bake at 375 degrees till set and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.  For shirred eggs, break 2 eggs on top of the 6inchers and 1 egg on top of the 1 cuppers.  Pour the ½ and ½ into the ramekins and bake at 375 degrees till eggs are done to your liking, 10-15 minutes. 

Obviously, this is another really flexible recipe.  Other favorite ingredient options are mushrooms, onions, broccoli, peppers, sausage, prosciutto, the sky’s the limit!  Serve with your favorite cornbread, biscuit or grits recipe and some fresh fruit.  Easy and yummy, the perfect combo!