BBOnline Member SINCE 1997

Carolina Bed & Breakfast

177 Cumberland Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Innkeeper(s): James and Susan Murray

Carolina Style Eggs Benedict: Goat Cheese Grit Cakes 10 Apr 2017, 9:04 am

Frying grit cakes

Carolina Style Eggs Benedict with Roasted Red Peppers Provencal, Goat Cheese Grit Cakes and Hollandaise Sauce

 

This is the third (and final) blog on our Carolina Style Eggs Benedict.  I can hear what you are thinking:  “This is the longest and most complicated recipe ever!  Why would I want to do this?  I can get it at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast!” Which is true.  But consider this, each component can be made a day or two in advance and extras can be made which can be used in other meals.  Some substitutions can  make it easier as well.  For example, you could use English muffins as the base if you didn’t want to go to the trouble of making Goat Cheese Grit Cakes.

One caveat:  please do take the trouble to get a good quality goat cheese.  People who say they don’t like goat cheese often find that it’s not all goat cheese they dislike, it is the cheaper commercial varieties. In my opinion,  small creameries produce a product that is really tasty and much  less sour and chalky.  Here in Western North Carolina we have a lot of small creameries but even if you live far from the herds you should be able to find a good quality goat cheese somewhere!

GOAT CHEESE GRIT CAKES

Makes 8 3-inch Grit Cakes
Four Servings

2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup Quick Grits
Dash Salt
1/2 cup creamy goat cheese

1/2 cup  flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg plus 1 tsp water

1/4 cup butter plus 2 tbsps olive oil.

1. Put the water and milk into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Slowly pour the grits into the boiling water.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring from time to time, 5-7 minutes until thickened.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the goat cheese and salt.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

3.  Pour into a buttered baking pan. Spread the grits evenly in the pan, cover and refrigerate until firm.  (I do this the night before)

4.  Put the bread crumbs, seasoned flour, and egg and water in three separate bowls.  Whisk the egg and water together.

5. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut the grits into eight cakes.  (If you don’t have a cookie cutter you can cut it into squares). Dip each grit cake carefully into the flour, then the egg and finally the bread crumbs. Let rest for ten minutes on a rack.

Resting the grit cakes for ten minutes after breading them helps the crust adhere when fried

6.  Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan until the butter “sings” in the pan.   Fry the grit cakes gently turning once until browned on both sides, about 2-3 minutes on a side. Drain on an paper towel and  keep warm until ready to serve.

Lightly fry the grit cakes until brown on both sides

And now, finally, put everything together (poached egg, roasted red peppers Provencal and the goat cheese grit cakes along with hollandaise sauce) to make

CAROLINA STYLE EGGS BENEDICT

For 4 People

8 poached eggs
2  portions Roasted Red Peppers Provencal
8 Goat Cheese Grit Cakes
1 cup Hollandaise Sauce

A word about Hollandaise Sauce:  it used to be that I would make this in advance and keep it warm in a thermos until I served it.  You can do this if you want, using a recipe of your own or this one for Blender Hollandaise Sauce.  But there is an even easier way if you are lucky enough have a Trader Joe’s near you.  Trader Joe’s Hollandaise Sauce comes in a small container (found in the refrigerated section).  It is ready to use, just heat it up in the microwave ten seconds at a time, stirring after every ten seconds until it is warm and smooth.    The best thing is, you can use just as much as you want or need and put the rest back in the fridge for another time.  There, now I have given away a trade secret!

Bring  a pot of water to a low boil. While this is getting hot, warm the red peppers gently in a skillet or microwave.  The grit cakes are keeping warm in the oven, right?  When the water is ready, gently dropped the eggs into the water and maintain at a low boil one and a half minutes for a runny egg, two to three minutes for a harder yolk.  While the eggs are cooking heat up the Hollandaise sauce.

Assemble the Eggs Benedict as follows: two grit cakes on a plate, topped with some red peppers and onion (it helps if you make a little nest for the eggs in them), place one egg on top of each grit cake then pour over Hollandaise sauce to your taste.  Garnish with some chopped parsley.  Enjoy!

Carolina Style Eggs Benedict with Roasted Red Peppers Provencal, Goat Cheese Grit Cakes and Hollandaise Sauce

 

 

Carolina Style Eggs Benedict, Part Two: Roasted Red Peppers Provencal 3 Apr 2017, 10:00 am

Oven Roast Red Peppers

Oven Fired Red Peppers with Caramelized Onions and Fresh herbs

This is the second installment in my online recipe for Carolina Style Eggs Benedict as served at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC.

The Roasted Red Peppers are one of my favorite components.  Grilled under the broiler until the skin blackens and blisters, then paired with roasted onions, tossed with fresh herbs and dressed with balsamic vinegar and oil, they add depth of flavor and umami to the final dish.  As a bonus, any extras  are excellent as a side dish by themselves,  or used in salads, sandwiches and other dishes.  I call them “Provencal” because the first time I ever had them was in France at the home of a friend who was from the southern region of Province.  It was a life changing moment (seriously!).

Don’t be tempted to use roasted red peppers from a jar.  The process of preserving them adds vinegar and acid to the peppers which overwhelms the deep smokey flavor of the charring process.  It’s like the difference between a homemade chocolate chip cookie and a “Chips Ahoy” store-bought cookie, not the same thing at all.

In figuring quantities, I use one-third to a half of a red pepper/person and 1/4 medium yellow onion/person

Preheat the oven  grill to high

Slice the onion into thick slices about six slices/onion.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Prepared peppers and onions ready to go in the oven

Rub the peppers and onions all over with olive oil and place on the baking sheet.  Roast under the grill  until onions have caramelized and peppers are charred–about 30-45 minutes.  The onions may cook faster than the peppers so start checking them at about 15 minutes in and remove the onions once they are brown. Continue to cook  and turn the peppers until they are charred on all sides. I find that the peppers char faster after they have been in the oven for a while, so I turn them the first time at about 15 minutes and subsequent times at ten minutes.  Remove the peppers from the oven, place in a plastic bag and let them cool for five minutes or so.

Onions should be caramelized and peppers charred

Now peel off the charred skin, halve the peppers and remove the seeds and white membrane.  Slice them into six to eight pieces per pepper.  Place them in a bowl. (They may contain some wonderful juices inside them.  It’s worth trying to rescue this and add it  to the peppers in the bowl as well.)  Slice the onions in half and add them to the peppers.  Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the peppers and onions and sprinkle with some fresh chopped thyme, oregano and salt and pepper.  (The quantities are pretty much up to your taste but I usually do a three-to-one oil to vinegar mix and a teaspoon of each herb).  Give them a good toss and place them in the fridge overnight.

And now you are ready for my next installment: Goat Cheese Grit Cakes to use as a base for Carolina Eggs Benedict!

ROASTED RED PEPPERS:

For 4 people

2 large red peppers
1 medium onion- peeled and thickly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
1 tsp fresh oregano (chopped)
1 clove finely chopped garlic (optional)
salt and pepper to taste.

Rub the red peppers and onions with olive oil and place under the broiler until the onions are caramelized and the red peppers are charred all over.  Peel the red peppers, remove seeds, stem and membrane and pour any juices into a bowl.  Slice the peppers and put them in the bowl along with the onions.  Make a dressing using the remaining ingredients: put everything into a jar and give it a good shake until it is homogenized.  Pour over the vegetables and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.  Best served at room temperature.

Carolina Style Eggs Benedict

 

Carolina Style Eggs Benedict, Part One: The Poached Egg 27 Mar 2017, 6:56 am

egg in sieve

Because it’s April which brings Easter and Eggs and Spring,  I thought I would make the April Recipe of the Month Eggs Benedict Carolina Style.  But as I started to look at the recipe I realized that the first thing I needed to do was to make sure everyone felt comfortable with the Poached Egg.  I say that because for a long time I stayed away from this bed & breakfast classic at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, mostly because of the difficulties (I thought) of poaching a number of eggs at once.

Two things happened to change that.  The first was a wonderful article on Serious Eats by Kenji with a great method for poaching eggs which works close to perfectly. And the second was the discovery that I could poach eggs a day or more in advance and then quickly heat them up just before serving.  Suddenly Eggs Benedict went from scary to possible.

So here’s the trick.  As you obviously know, eggs are made up of two parts: the yolk and the white.  As eggs get older the white (albumen) starts to break down.  This is great if you

Drain the egg before poaching for a few minutes

want to make meringues as it makes them whip faster and higher but not so good for poaching eggs as they will form long streamers and part from the yolk in the water.  This is why everyone always says to use the freshest possible eggs when poaching them.  Again, great if you live near a farm or market where you can get super fresh eggs but most of us buy our eggs from supermarkets.  Recent articles alarmingly claim that supermarket eggs may be as much as 45 days old before you buy them.    While I think that is a rare case, there is no question that they are not as fresh as they could be and then there’s the time they have spent sitting in your fridge to consider as well.    Kenji suggests that you break the egg into a small sieve and let it drain for a minute or two before poaching it.  This has the effect of removing the wispy bits of

Using this method, your eggs should (mostly) stay together

the white so that your egg will hold together in the water.

Now you are ready to poach the eggs.  I usually do four at a time.  Heat a large pot of water to just below a boil.  Place the eggs in the water and poach gently (just at a lower simmer) for three and a half minutes if you are doing this in advance, four to five minutes if you intend to eat it right away.  If you are making them in advance remove them from the water and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and store in the refrigerator. The next day, heat a large pot of water once again to a low simmer.  Place the eggs in the simmering water for one and a half minutes.  This will produce a slightly runny yolk.  If you like your eggs better done cook them a minute or two longer. It’s that easy.

So now we are ready to get to Carolina Style Eggs Benedict: poached eggs served on goat cheese grit cakes with roasted red peppers and onions and Hollandaise sauce.  I’m sorry to say that this recipe is not included in my cookbook,  Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad, so you will have to keep an eye out for my next blog coming up in a day or two!

Making a Tasty Style Video with The Ingles Table at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast 17 Mar 2017, 10:16 am

Taking a beauty shot of French Toast

Continuing  my education in cooking demonstrations, both live and on film, yesterday I learned how to make a Tasty-style video!  You know what I am talking about: Tasty Videos are the quick 30-60 overhead video shots of food being created which are all over Facebook these days.  I was asked to make some  by the folks at Ingles Markets to help promote their website, The Ingles Table.

I was so excited when Ingles contacted me.  They found me (I think) because of my cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons From A Life Abroad, which is for sale here in Asheville as well as online.  And, according to them, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast and I are just what they were looking for: local food experts doing interesting things with food and recipes whom the Ingles shopper would be interested in knowing about. (For those of you who are not familiar with Ingles Markets, it  is an American Regional Supermarket chain based in Black Mountain, NC.  They have more than 200 supermarkets in the southeastern USA.)  Ingles Markets also has a website, The Ingles Table, which has great recipes and short videos from a number of really interesting people from the Western North Carolina Area.  It’s worth taking a look at if you are a foodie!

Yesterday the team from Bclip Productions arrived early at our Asheville Inn and set up their equipment for filming.  This was not just a man with a camera!  It included a teleprompter, multiple big lights, three cameras and a production assistant.  They even brought a movie clapboard to synchronize the cameras before each take. (I’m easily impressed, I know)  In short order they took over the room, draping windows, moving things in and out of sight-lines and placing flowers on both sides of the oven–which, while not practical, was certainly a look I like.

Filming is very different from a live demo.  I am used to making contact with the audience all around the room and I found it hard to talk just to the camera.  I kept addressing comments to the other people in the room.  It’s also very tiring to be upbeat and perky to a camera for 5 hours.  We used the teleprompter for the intros and endings but in between I cooked and talked.  At times I felt like I was just babbling away but the team seemed okay with it.  After each dish was completed, we re-filmed things which the camera missed, took some still promo shots and then set up the next one.  Since we didn’t clean up the dishes but just moved them aside by the end of the day there was a monumental mess!

This was just the beginning of the day. What a mess!

Another complicating factor was my oven.  It stopped working the afternoon before the filming.  This meant that James had to take the finished dishes over to Sarah’s house to cook them and bring them back, where they sat and got cold until we needed them.  It really was not ideal and I’m not too happy about how some of them looked.  I am trusting the photographers to fix it.

Finally we got to the Tasty-style videos.  This was really fun: for one thing I didn’t have to talk at all.

Mike and Chris outlined the corners of a box on top of my kitchen island with some tape and then spotted the center of the frame.  A camera was hung directly over the top and the monitor was right to the side so we could see how it looks.

It was a big help to be able to see what the camera sees

They spent some time creating a really nice embellishment of lemon slices and fresh thyme which appears on the side of the frame.  Once that was done we were ready to begin. Basically, it goes like this:  slide a dish into the center of the frame then remove your hands.  Repeat this action until all of the prepped ingredients are in the frame.  This allows another person (Meagan) to label the ingredients on the final video.  Then one by one, put the ingredients into the dish.  This will all be sped up so it looks cool and magical. Finally remove the uncooked dish and slide in the finished dish (which hopefully looks enticing on camera).  And my job was done.  Now it was up to the editors to pull it all together.

The thyme and lemon slices looked so pretty!

As I looked around at my trashed kitchen I was thinking about starting to clean up when Mike asked me if I would mind coming with them to a nearby Ingles so they could get some film of me shopping.  Apparently they like to use the newest store for these promo shots so we drove out to the Ingles across from the Asheville Malls.  Ingles likes to keep updating and improving their stores so that they are state of the art and this market looked amazing.  I think it says a lot about a company when they listen to their customers and go out of their way to satisfy them, modernizing as needed.  We filled an Ingles shopping bag with some boxed groceries to give it some bulk and then headed to the produce section where I was asked to looked delighted and pleased by the range and quality of the produce.  This was not difficult for me at all as they did have some really nice items there with some hard to find fresh vegetables and herbs.  Off to the cash register to show off my Ingles Advantage card and we were finally done.

One last wonderful thing:  James cleaned up the kitchen while I was gone.  What a man!

For this series we filmed Medallions of Lemon-Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast with Blueberry-Thyme Compote, Upside-Down Mango Bread Pudding, and French Eggs in Puff Pastry.  The Tasty-style videos were of Coronation Chicken and Yogurt based Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Coulis. Keep a lookout for them on The Ingles Table.  I will post them on our Facebook page when they are up.  The recipes are also available in my cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad.  This can be purchased through Amazon or on the Carolina Bed & Breakfast Website.

How to Create a Cooking Demo for Live Presentation 27 Feb 2017, 12:43 pm

Food Demo Tray

One of the best things about being an innkeeper is all of the new opportunities it has brought to me.  Over the past eight years, in addition to learning how to run a B&B, I have learned about marketing (especially over the internet), social media, book publishing and selling and now, how to create and perform a cooking demo for a live presentation.  I had no idea when we bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC that it would open up so many new horizons for me.

If you follow this blog then you know that I recently published a cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad.  Writing, editing and publishing the cookbook is only the first step.  After all of that, you have to sell it (online on our website, on Amazon and at selected shops in Asheville!)  Luckily our life as innkeepers here in Asheville has brought a number of food bloggers and journalists to our door.  In addition,  my work with our local association, the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (the best inns in Asheville!) has also broadened my reach and provided me with many opportunities to network among media, and food and travel writers. Which is how I found myself on the Savor NC Cooking Stage at the Southern Spring Home and Garden Expo this past week!

I was joined on stage by Heidi Billotto, host of the Savor NC Cooking Stage

Some of you may have seen my demo since my daughter, Abby, is extremely gifted at social media and she live-streamed it on the Carolina Bed & Breakfast Facebook page. (Actually you still can view it as Facebook lets you post it as video after the live-stream is over).  And while it may look easy, a whole lot of work went into making that happen.

Initially I was told that I would need to fill 45 minutes, which is just an immense amount of time. But later I got a letter from the stage manager there stating that 45 minutes was the absolute maximum time allowed and the 20-30 minutes was preferred. (Whew!).

So first I had to think about what I wanted to present.  I tried to think of something people would be drawn to see which might be a little different from the usual cooking stage demo.  Since our inn is famous for its evening reception I decided to demonstrate how we get a “party” on the table every night in 40-30 minutes or less.  After all people are always interested in a party.

I picked four different hors d’oeurves from my cookbook.  I tried to get things that were original, unusual and included common ingredients used in unusual ways.  I broke each recipe down into the ingredients needed and wrote that on a note card.  Then I looked at the processes involved and decided which I would do onstage and which I would have already chopped, cooked or otherwise prepped.  Key to this was not having anything that took too long to prepare or  for which there wasn’t really anything I could say about the ingredient or the process.  Then I made an initial estimate of how long I thought each dish would take to prepare.

I assembled all of the ingredients on a tray, making a note of what equipment I needed to prepare it.  Everything had to be brought with me from our inn in Asheville down to Charlotte so I needed to be careful not to forget anything.  And then, in addition to writing this all down, I took a picture of the tray.

Everything needed to demonstrate my Pimento Goat Cheese

Once the tray was all set up with the ingredients and the equipment I shooed everyone out of the kitchen, set a timer for the estimated time, and ran through a demo out loud and in real time.  I was pleased to find that by and large I was pretty close on the timing. I did each dish once through then the next week I did them all again.

Finally, the week of the demonstration, I put everything in my car and drove down to Charlotte where I met with my friend and PR guru, Susan Dosier.  In her kitchen I set up all of my trays and ran through the whole demo from start to finish without stopping.  She had some great suggestions for things I should remember to bring and made some good comments on my delivery.

It actually turned out to be easier to talk and cook than I expected it too.  I watch a lot of cooking shows, include The Next Food Network Star (guilty pleasure!) and I tried to think about the tips they give their contestants:  bring in a story from your own life experiences, have some tips to share with the audience, explain your ingredients–what are they, where can you get them, and finally relax, smile and have a good time!

Next week I will be performing again and I have a few tweaks to make to make the demo go more smoothly.  I have figured out a way to cut down on some of the equipment so I don’t have quite so much to carry and I am changing out one of the dishes because there wasn’t enough to say about the original dish. And because I want to keep it fresh and alive I am already thinking of some new stories and tips so I am not boring myself either!

And there you have it:  how I created a cooking demo for a live presentation.

Thank you innkeeping for another new skill!

A Valentine’s Dinner Recipe: Duck Breast with Green Peppercorn Sauce 5 Feb 2017, 10:44 am

Cracklings on green salad

Duck Breast in Green Peppercorn Sauce is Served with Sauteed Apples and a Green Salad

Here is your recipe for February.  I am posting it a little early as it is a Valentine’s Dinner Recipe.   This recipe for Duck Breast with Green Peppercorn Sauce is one of my favorites from our days in Paris during the 1980’s but it is timeless in its appeal.  The recipe is also featured in my cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad (available on Amazon).  It is easy to prepare and will impress your Valentine with the flashy flaming of the brandy!

You may have some difficulty finding duck breasts.  Here in Asheville we have a wonderful butcher shop, The Chop Shop Butchery, which specializes in local and natural meats with a wide variety of choices and cuts.  It’s the first place I go  when I am looking to make a special dinner for James and myself at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.  If you have trouble finding duck breast, you can make this using nice piece of beef fillet. (You will need to adjust the time in the oven up) Or you can buy a whole duck and practice your knife skills.  (The legs and other parts of the duck can be used in another meal)

And one word of caution:  Calvados is an apple brandy and it is EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE. You will be pouring the Calvados into a hot pan so please take it off the stove top and out from under any overhanging hood or lights.  When you light it, stand well back. It is going to go WOOOSH!  But the flame will die down immediately.  If this step makes you nervous, you can skip the flame.  After you add the brandy, let it simmer for two minutes to burn off the harsh alcoholic flavor.  If you can’t find Calvados any brandy will work.

DUCK BREAST WITH GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE

2 boned duck breasts
1 tablespoon green peppercorns
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy), divided  (see note above)
½ cup crème fraiche
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the skin from the duck breast and cut into thin slices. Pierce the fat side with a fork a number times.  Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat and sauté the duck skin until the fat is rendered and the skin has browned.  Remove and reserve these duck cracklings.

Place the peppercorns in 2 tablespoons of the Calvados and reserve.

Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the duck fat from the skillet. (You may want to reserve the fat, it’s wonderful for sautéing  potatoes).  Return the pan to high heat.  Salt and pepper the duck breasts, then sear them in the skillet for 2 to 3 minutes on a side.  Pour the remaining ¼ cup Calvados over the duck breast and CAREFULLY light the brandy in the pan. ( If you have a low hood over your stove top you may want to move the pan away from the hood as the flames can leap quite high. ) Using a long-handled metal spoon, baste the breast with the flaming brandy until the alcohol has burned off and the flames die out.

Transfer the duck to a baking pan and roast for 10 minutes or until rare to medium rare.

Add the crème fraiche and the reserved peppercorn mixture to the reserved sauce in the skillet. Bring it to a boil, stirring up the brown bits off the bottom.  Let it boil for a minute or two or until the sauce is thick.  Taste the sauce and add salt if needed.  If it is too thick, a splash of white wine will thin it for you.

Slice the duck breasts and serve over rice with the sauce.  You can garnish it with the reserved cracklings or use them as topping on a green salad.

(For this dinner, I sauteed an apple in the duck fat and served it warm with the breast.  A French Baguette was used to soak up the sauce.  The salad pictured consisted of spring greens, thinly sliced red onion, dried cranberries, Brie cheese and the reserved duck cracklings simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.)

The duck skin cracklings make a wonderful addition to this green salad

 

Thoughts on a Life Lived Abroad 30 Jan 2017, 10:37 am

On my blogging schedule for this week was a blog about the Lunar New Year which is being celebrated in many Asian countries this week.  But the events of the past few days have made it impossible for me to write a light hearted blog about the culture and food we enjoyed in our years living in HongKong and Singapore.  Instead I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on a life lived abroad.

James and I spent 27 years living outside of the United States. We were in Hong Kong when Pam Am flight 103 was brought down by a bomb over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland. We were in England when the Alfred P. Murrah building was bombed in Oklahoma City and we were in Singapore when the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11.

Our children went to  international schools with children from many cultures.  Their teachers were British and Australian, American and Asian.  The aides in their classrooms were Muslim and Buddhist and Christian and Sikh.  Our friends and colleagues came from countries all over the world. Our vacations were spent exploring the countries and learning about the cultures where we lived.

On September 11, 2001, it was evening in Singapore.  Abby, our youngest daughter, was in bed and Sarah and Emily were doing their homework upstairs.  James was in Malaysia with work and I was watching TV.  We were an American family living on a small island nation made of an extremely diverse population.  Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, is so close to Singapore that smoke from fires there affected the quality of the air outside our house.  We watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded and we worried about friends and family in the United States.  But we were not for one moment afraid for ourselves.

In the morning, our children went to school where they found that the Singaporean Government had installed Gurkhas to guard them and keep them safe.  Seeking to keep my mind busy while waiting to hear President Bush’s speech to the nation ( in what was the morning of the next day for us)  I went for a run.  And people waved to me and shouted words of support for the American people.  Everywhere we went in the next few days people went out of their way to share with us their outrage and sadness for what had happened.  We were all one people that day, mourning the loss of so many innocent lives.

And then I watched as the American people and government turned inward.  Fear and uncertainly leading to the passing of laws which grouped friend and foe together just because they came from the same country or shared the same religion. And I felt the atmosphere change and the good will disappeared.

I get it. Terrorism is scary.  I have friends and family spread out all over the world.  We are all at risk. Our safety lies in friendship not fear, in open arms and open hearts.  An outstretched hand offered today may lead to a hand up when we need it in the future.  Because we are all in this together.

 

Farewell to Otis, the Beloved Cat at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast 25 Jan 2017, 8:48 am

cat in front of fireplace

Otis, The Cat at the Carolina

This is one of the saddest posts I have ever written and it has taken me more than a week to be able to write it.  It is never easy to say goodbye to a pet, especially one who’s life was cut short by a speeding car in a quiet neighborhood.  But for all the happiness he brought us, Otis, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast cat, deserves a loving farewell.

When James and I bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, our inn in Asheville NC, we decided that we would run it as a pet-free facility. This was not because we don’t like pets.  On the contrary, our family had cats and a dog which were very much a part of our lives.  But they had lived to a graceful old age and we had not replaced them.  And we were mindful of the fact that some people have allergies or are not at ease with animals so we chose not only to keep our inn pet-free but also to respect our guests and have no pet of our own on the property.  This we did for six years. Still we missed the love and presence a pet brings into a home.  A short stay by our eldest daughter and her cat, Milo, convinced us that it was possible to have a cat of our own who could be kept away from our guests.  (Otis had other ideas but more about that later).

So we headed off to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue  where we found a TON of cats waiting to be rescued.  My thought had been to get an older cat who would not need as much time (time being hard to come by in an innkeeper’s life) but then we saw Otis.  Of course he was not named Otis then.  He had another name, like Roger or something like that.  But we were getting a cat because of Milo so we had already decided our cat would be named Otis.  Anyway, Otis was not an adult cat.  He was six months old.  He had been previously owned but the owner was having a baby and not able to keep him so she turned him in for adoption.  He had only been in the shelter for 4 days.  You could tell he was a little frightened by the noise and people but he snuggled into our arms and purred like a motor boat when we held him.  And he was the softest cat I have ever held. So he purred his way right into our home and hearts.

That first day he was super-snuggly.  He slept on my lap while I watched TV and spent the night right up under my arm.  But shortly he got comfortable and got to work exploring the innkeeper’s quarters.  He very quickly learned not to go through the swinging door to the inn and to stay off the counter-tops and table in the kitchen.  He had clearly been trained for this as all we had to do was show him the spray bottle and he exited the scene quickly!  Like all cats he liked to walk on the computer keyboard while I was working, but his favorite perch was on top of the printer where he could watch what was going on in the kitchen without getting in the way.

Otis liked to be with us as we worked

He also loved to sleep on James’ shoulders but quickly discovered that mine were too small and bony to balance on.

And he loved to ride on James’ shoulders

And, as we soon learned, Otis was a very well socialized cat.  Unlike Milo who fled from our guests, Otis was happy to see them.  Many of our guests will remember being greeted by him as he threw himself on the ground in front of them and presented his belly for rubbing.  In the evening he would often make his way to the front porch to see what all those people were doing.

Like any animal he had his quirks.  He hated to use the cat flap.  Instead he would climb up the screen door to let us know he wanted to come in.  We thought that would come to an end when winter came.  Imagine my surprise when I heard a noise and looked over to see that he had climb up the wooden door and was staring in the window at the top!  Silly cat, a meow would have worked just as well.

And like clockwork, he came home every evening at 9PM.  We didn’t want him to spend the night outside–too many critters around for a cat who won’t bolt through the cat flap–so we had trained him to come when we called him.  It was one of my favorite parts of the day.  I would call his name once or twice and then hear his bell as he came shooting across the yard and through the door.  I would give him a treat and he would snuggle a bit before moving to the basket where he had made his bed.  Some time after we went upstairs we would hear the bell again and feel the bed move as he joined us for the night.

But on the night of January 14th, Otis did not return when we called.  James and I searched the neighborhood nearby fearing he had gotten trapped somewhere.  He liked to climb into cars which were left open and had been known to get trapped in our garage.  The next morning we alerted our neighbors who all knew Otis well and at noon one of them came to us and said she had found him by the side of the road.  Otis was white and brown cat, the spot where he was found is well lit. Our only thought is that someone was driving too fast and unable to stop in time.  While most people are careful on our street and mindful that it is a residential street, from time to time there are those who race down the road.

And now our house is quiet and the places where he filled the corners of our lives empty. We buried him on our property near a tree he liked to climb and in the spring I will plant flowers there.  We plan to get another cat but we will never forget our “little man” and the happiness he gave us.

Good-bye Little Man. May you have a warm fire, a soft bed and a loving family where ever you go

January Recipe of the Month: Sweet Breakfast Popovers 15 Jan 2017, 5:57 am

Pears and Cranberries in Ginger Mint Syrup

Sweet Popovers topped with Pear and Cranberry in Ginger Mint Syrup.

Here, as promised, is the recipe of the month for January:  Sweet Breakfast Popovers.  Guests at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast may recognize these as Wimbledon Popovers.  So what are they really?  Wimbledon Popovers are sweet breakfast popovers which are served with a mixture of summer berries reminiscent of the “Summer Pudding” which is a favorite treat in the UK and is often served in the hospitality tents at Wimbledon.  Since I served these in January when summer berries are not available locally, I topped them with a Pear and Cranberry Compote in a Ginger Syrup.  They are a relatively light main course so I usually start the meal with a yogurt based Vanilla Panna Cotta.  You will find the recipe for the panna cotta in my cookbook, Our Family Table (available on Amazon or from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast Website).

Sweet Breakfast Popovers with Pear and Cranberry Compote

Serves 6

For the Compote:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup blush wine
3 inch piece fresh ginger root
1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves

3 firmly rip pears
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Place water, sugar and wine in a medium saucepan.  Thinly slice the ginger root (no need to peel) and add to the pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the mint leaves.  Let cool in the pan.  Once cool, strain the syrup and return it to the pan.

Peel and dice the pears and add to the syrup. Add the cranberries.

Can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Reheat gently to warm the fruit through before serving.

Bright Cranberries and Sweet Pears in a Ginger Mint Syrup are gently heated to be served with sweet popovers

Sweet Popovers:

1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Spray or lightly grease a muffin tin.

Mix together all of the ingredients until they are well blended.  (You can use a blender or an immersion blender for this).  Place 3 tbsp of batter in each of 12 muffin cups.  Place in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.  They will rise up in the tin and should be a light brown.

The Popovers will rise up when they are in the oven.

Remove the tin from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before trying to remove the popovers.  The popovers will deflate, forming a lovely little cup for your compote. They should release easily from the tin but if they stick a bit on the bottom, use a spoon to gently lift them out.  Fill with the Ginger Pear Cranberry Compote and serve warm.

I serve two popovers per person and accompany them with some crispy bacon.  They will keep in a warm oven for up to an hour before serving.

The Sweet Popovers will collapse down as they cool forming a cup to be filled with the filling of your choice.

For “Wimbledon Popovers” substitute a mixture of fresh raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries for the pears and cranberries.

Make your Valentine’s Day Special! 9 Jan 2017, 3:00 pm

boy and girl kissing salt and pepper shakers

Valentines day is coming and can I just say, right off the bat, that it is hard to imagine anywhere more romantic (and affordable) than a bed and breakfast?  Our Asheville inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, is a perfect example of this. We would love to help you make your Valentine’s Day special!

Here is how we will help you create a perfect Valentine’s Day.

First you need a romantic setting:

How about a lovely, craftsman style home on a quiet street in a mountain town filled with wonderful restaurants, shops and things to do?  In your room there is your own private fireplace, a comfortable bed and a huge bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub for two.  If you thought in advance, you may have ordered a special package to greet you in your room on arrival:  roses, champagne and chocolate, or, for those with different tastes, craft beer, fine cheeses and homemade pickles.  The inn is a short walk from town, in the heart of one of the most extensive historic districts in the United States.  On almost an acre of land, it is one of a number of beautiful homes built between 1885 and 1920.  But while the house may be vintage, the interior is modern with WiFi throughout the house and a flat screen TV in every room.  There is even a power strip in your room so you will be sure to have a place to plug in all your accessories!

A fireplace in your room adds to the glow of romance!

Secondly you will need some good advice.

Your innkeepers are friendly, full of knowledge about the town and are happy to help you plan your evening to your liking. (Although we will do a better job of this if you talk to us about it when you book your room–after all, this is Valentine’s Day!).  Our town is known for great beer, great restaurants and great music.  There are places to walk, places to watch people, places to sit and talk, and places to dance.  There are even special places to ask a question…

Thirdly you need to feel comfortable and pampered.

At the Carolina Bed & Breakfast there is always a comfortable place to sit, a cup of coffee or tea and cookie (or a special treat) waiting for you, and a sense that you have just come home.  In the morning, coffee is ready for you when you get up.  Breakfast is ready when you are, not the other way around (disclaimer: between 8:3-9:30AM!).  Our breakfasts are fresh and filling but not over-the-top heavy.  On Valentine’s Day you may find yourself being offered a Mimosa (FOC) while you wait for your food to arrive.  After a wonderful day exploring the town, visiting the Biltmore, driving through the mountains, or even skiing, you return home to a delicious spread of canapes and a glass of wine which you can enjoy with the other guests in front of the parlor fire or retire to a different room for more privacy.  If it’s not too cold, walk to town for your evening out.  If it is cold  and you don’t want to drive, we will help you get a taxi to your destination.  When you return to the inn you will find another small sweet surprise to nibble on in your room.  There are soft towels and robes, special lotion, shampoo and conditioner designed exclusively for the our Asheville Bed & Breakfast.  The beds are comfortable, the rooms spacious and quiet.

Is it any wonder that engagements have been made and weddings planned on the porch or in front of the fire at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast?

Raoul and Mary got engaged at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, made plans in front of the fire in the parlor and returned with their guests for the wedding!

I don’t think  you can find a hotel in Asheville  that will offer all of this to you,  much less at the same price we do.  Give us a call and let us help you put the ultimate in romance and comfort into your Valentine’s Day!  828-254-3608

VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL

Join us this February for Valentine’s Day and receive a bottle of champagne along with two lusciously mouth-watering truffles from The Chocolate Fetish, one of Asheville’s favorite chocolate shops, at no extra charge. 

OFFER VALID FEBRUARY 10-19, 2017 ONLY
YOU MUST INCLUDE THE CODE VDSPX WHEN BOOKING ONLINE OR MENTION THIS OFFER ON THE PHONE
TWO NIGHT MINIMUM REQUIRED