Well, some of you Bed & Breakfast innkeepers missed a golden opportunity. I went to websites of inns best known for their food, but no entrees were even mentioned. How can it be that an award-winning inn for their breakfast does not describe any breakfast? So I went to websites that proudly described their dishes. Here are a few of them.
The Buttonwood Inn is in a small New Hampshire town called North Conway, but nothing about their breakfast is small. They may begin with some Pumpkin-Walnut bread or Apricot-Orange scones, Maple Cinnamon rolls, Blueberry-Walnut Crumb Coffee Cake, or Warm Fruit Crisp with granola, accompanied by cool, fresh fruit topped with raspberry sauce. That would be enough breakfast for me, but the chef is just getting warmed up. Next comes a savory dish like Mushroom-Sausage and Cheddar Cheese Strata, Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese and Chives and a side of roasted Red Bliss Rosemary potatoes. Then comes the sweet entrée: Baked French Toast Casserole with Pecan and Wild Maine Blueberry topping. Or Light Yeasted Belgian waffles under fresh blueberry sauce. Hail to Buttonwood.
Mission Oak Inn of Henry, Illinois offers some wonderful breakfast dishes like French Banana Crepes and fabulous Blueberry Pancakes, but it was their dinners that snapped me to attention. How about a Pizza of roasted chicken, onion, and cheese atop a dreamy creamy sun-dried tomato sauce? Or tender meat medallions served in a cream, brandy, maple and mustard reduction? Or grilled salmon on fresh greens with original sauce and topped by bacon, green onions, parmesan cheese, and walnuts? Or pork tenderloin marinated in apple cider, grilled, then smothered with homemade apple / peach chutney?
Then I happened to catch Jane of the Hawk Valley Retreat on the phone. When I asked about her most popular dishes, her voice became secretive and sultry and she led me lovingly down the list: German Baked Apple Pancakes, Baked Peach French Toast, pancakes with a brown sugar / strawberry compote, Green Onion and Spinach Cheese Quiche with hash brown crust, and Eggs Benedict with her own secret Hollandaise sauce recipe. The names of her entrees did not bowl me over. But as she described every detail, every ingredient and spice, I knew cooking is not just fun for her, it is a luscious adventure. There's a difference. Jane is a master of simple baking.
Like many of these top inns, the chefs at the Bloomsbury Inn use only fresh local farm products. I never expected a South Carolina inn to be full of such scientifically talented people. But they've experimented with hundreds of dishes, and the creativity of their top picks boggles the imagination: hot apple soup, poached pears and baked peaches with toasted peanut butter rolls, creamed eggs in a puff pastry, baked cinnamon-raisin French toast, toasted bacon-pecan bread, homemade biscuits with chocolate gravy, peppered praline bacon, and their own version of Eggs Benedict: a delicious crème sauce over croissant, wilted spinach, peppered ham, avocado, and poached egg. Exquisite.
Sue of the Harbor Ridge Inn in Osage was not about to be outdone. She emailed me with her choices, and I appreciated the personal attention. Sue serves fruitinis in martini glasses with a white chocolate mousse base on which she slices banana. Then she pours in Chambord-soaked strawberries with a dollop of whipping cream and a mint leaf for garnish. She does the Bloomsbury Inn one better by nesting her Cinnamon-Raisin French toast atop a whipping cream custard base accommodated by sausage loaf and delicate poached pears in red wine and orange juice. Another popular French toast starts with fresh grilled pineapple slices, country ham, sliced cheese. Add sourdough bread soaked in French toast batter, grilled and served with a strawberry-jalapeno pepper jam. She also makes egg casserole to order with choices of fresh stuff like roasted red peppers, leeks, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, spinach, diced ham, cheeses and fresh basil and dill. I was impressed. Nice email.
The Judge Porter House in Natchitoches (where?), Louisiana it not to be missed. The first course at the judge's might be peach or apple dumplings, bread pudding with warm maple sauce, Peach Crisp baked with a coconut-pecan topping, Apple Brown Betty topped with vanilla yogurt, pecans, and cinnamon, or Berry Puff Pastry stuffed with fresh berries, drizzled with raspberry sauce, and topped with whipped cream. The second course may include delicious pancakes, waffles or French toast, but I featured those things in other reviews so let me emphasize the egg dishes. One baked egg dish features eggs with savory mushrooms and crème Francais cradled in Black Forest ham crisps. Another favorite is Southwestern egg mixture baked in individual ramekins and topped with hearty salsa. Then there's the Queen Anne Quiche, but the chef was very hush-hush about it. Guess you'll have to visit the judge's to check it out.
The two most attractive things Bed & Breakfasts offer are cozy, top rate lodging and terrific breakfasts. Check out these terrific inns for the best breakfast ever.