the best of breakfasts (spicy edition)

This being the UK tradition generally dictates that breakfast at a B&B is equally important, if not more so, than the bed. To be considered proper it must be cooked, too: eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms and invariably some type of fried bread. But if you look at the small letters at the bottom of the breakfast menu at Harbour View B&B you can also opt for a Thai Breakfast, which turns out to be a mutable thing, dependent on the whims of the market and the chef for that matter. (This being an island off the coast of an island off the coast of continental Europe, creative substitutions for certain Thai ingredients must often be made) After expressing an interest in Thai food, however, my hostess, Swan Tomkinson, took a certain vested interest in me. “It’s spicy, you know,” she told me on the first morning, trying to warn me off a plate of scrambled eggs with rice and curried rashers. “I love Thai,” I countered. “The spicier the better.” And with that she recognized a kindred spirit: “I will cook you real Thai food.” Over the next five days a challenge ensued. Each day I would ask for something unattainable for breakfast the following morning - green papaya salad one day, pad prik king another – and she would counter with a pretty good approximation, for example substituting cucumbers in place of the green papaya and adding an extra dose of the Thai basil which grows prodigiously in her garden. On day four I was surprised with a plate of larb, the spicy ground pork salad popular in northeastern Thailand. “I’ve been craving larb but had nobody to share it with,” Swan confided, revealing a pang of longing every stranger in a strange land must eventually feel. “Cooking for people makes me happy,” she was quick to add. “Especially food that they like.” Like Thai, I gestured, pushing a plate of freshly picked herbs out of the way, inviting Swan to join me in the most unexpected – and tastiest –  breakfast of my life. “One time, a Russian couple came into the kitchen as I was cooking dinner for me and Alan,” she began. “I was making Beef Stroganoff and they said the smell reminded them of home. ‘Could we have the leftovers for breakfast,’ they asked me.” She laughed at the memory. “Yes, I said, I will make you Beef Stroganoff for breakfast.”


a room with a view

As I’m sure you can gather, I don’t frequent too many bed and breakfasts. I’m much more of a five-star hotel kind of guy. Yet in a small town or village what often passes for the local hotel is invariably dark, dingy, and disappointing. Much better to take the B&B route as I discovered on this trip, where the proprietors are actually homeowners who keep up a certain standard. It is, after all, their house in which you and they are both sleeping. The trick is finding a B&B that jives with your particular standards. I lucked out with Alan and Swan Tomkinson’s Harbour View, which proved the perfect match for me: clean, quiet, a view to die for, and only five minutes hike from the center of town. Swan also happens to cook one of the most delicious breakfasts I’ve ever had – but more on that later.


home baking

After a day on the trail of white-tailed eagles there was nothing more inviting than the sight of a sign at the side of the road in Pennyghael advertising home baking. Naturally we pulled over. Inside we found strong coffee and the even stronger aroma of warm scones coming out of the oven. Three cheers for truth in advertising. And for seconds.


dine and dash, new england edition

Culinary travel is hotter than ever and New England in summer is one of the best places to do the surf and the turf. Here are just a handful of packages recently found via New England Inns & Resorts, a collection of nearly 250 aligned inns, resorts, and B&Bs. The website has a handy reservations widget so you can search availability across the collection – or download their free app to view info on each property and plan a vacation.

Farm to Fork Weekend (Nonantum Resort, Kennebunkport, ME) – As the farm-to-table movement continues to grow, this weekend showcases Kennebunkport’s best local purveyors. Begin with a meet and greet that includes demonstrations from Cabot Cheese, Urban Farm Fermentory, and Shipyard Brewing Co. Saturday starts with breakfast in 95 Ocean Dining Room followed by a customized Foodie Tour of the Kennebunks, a lobster boat ride on the Rugosa, cooking class with the resort’s Executive Chef and a private dinner featuring a “Farm to Fork” menu. The weekend ends with a sunset walk and a Jazz Brunch. Starts at $598 per couple.

Now We’re Cookin’ (Johnson & Wales Inn, Seekonk, MA) – This package includes overnight lodging for two in an executive suite, a $50 dinner gift certificate for Audrey’s Restaurant, a 3-4 hour recreational cooking class for two at the campus of Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, two Chef’s Choice aprons and breakfast for two at Audrey’s Restaurant. Starts at $369 per couple. Tax and gratuity not included.

Inn to Inn Culinary Herb Tour (Inn at Ellis River, Jackson, NH) – Visit 10 different inns for tasty herb treats, recipes, seeds or plants for the garden, and culinary lore. This package includes a welcome reception, herb-themed breakfasts, tours, and a gift from the inn from $249-$469 depending on room choice. A limited number of one night packages are also available for $159-$179 or stay a third night for an additional $99-$139.

King Arthur Flour Discount (Norwich Inn, Norwich, VT) –  Aching to get baking? Sign up for a class at King Arthur Flour’s Baking Education Center and take advantage of a 20% discount on accommodations at the Inn. Additionally, the Inn and King Arthur offer a 10% discount on memorabilia at the Inn and many items at the Baker’s Store (excluding Cafe and baked foods). Classes cater from beginners on up to expert bakers and include such favorites as Pizza Perfected, Bread: Principles and Practice, and Cake 101. This is a midweek-only deal available Sunday – Thursday. Rates at the hotel start at $129 per night.

Roaring Ramble Package (The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA) – Hit the road on your motorcycle with Executive Chef Brian Alberg for a freewheeling half-day ride through Berkshire farmlands and back roads before stopping at one of the chef’s favorite farms or a microbrewery.  Package includes a Sustainable Foods dinner for two at the Inn, overnight accommodations, and a sustainable breakfast the next day. Available from $525, including tax and gratuity, it’s available for overnights Sunday June 19 and Sunday August 21, with rides taking place the following day.



it’s not unusual

Instead of the same old same old weekends this summer, what if you went for something a bit more memorable? B&Bs, for the most part, are the very definition of unusual. From Victorian and rustic to urban and Queen Anne, bed and breakfasts come in all sorts of quirky shapes and curious styles. Some even make a point of ratcheting up the unique factor: how about diving into breakfast on the deck of a tall ship or choo choo chewing the morning meal inside a former railroad caboose? Not only are there benefits to be had from wallet-friendly amenities like guest pantries stocked with free snacks. complimentary internet, and breakfast included, but you’ll also take home a  singular travel experience. Get ready for a summer of surprises with these five one-of-a-kind inns:

Featherbed Railroad Bed & Breakfast Resort  – Nice, CA: All aboard at this special, one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast where you’ll be able to stay in one of nine specially themed former railroad caboose cars including the “Orient Express,” “Casablanca,” “Wine Country” and the “Tropicaboose” with its second-story cupola seating for two. Relax in the cars’ Jacuzzi tub or take a short stroll to the beaches and piers of Clear Lake for some boating and fishing.

Thyme for Bed – Lowell, IN: No, you haven’t stepped into a scene from Star Wars. The monolithic dome that houses this 3-room B&B was built from scratch by owner and engineer Donald Bainbridge and his wife, Sherryl, in 1998. Its concrete and steel shell is fireproof and can sustain winds of up to 300 mph. Enjoy bird watching, fishing, hiking trails and horseback riding on their 10 country acres.

The Cajun Village Cottages – Sorrento, LA: The shotgun houses that make up this B&B got their name from the idea that if a shotgun was fired from one end, the bullet could travel straight through and exit out the other side. These structures date back more than a century and have been restored with authentic antiques and furnishings. You can shop for hand-crafted antiques, pottery and artwork at The Cajun Village and grab a bite at The Coffee House, both located next door.

Vertical Horizons Treehouse Paradise Bed & Breakfast Inn – Cave Junction, OR: Sleep amongst the birds and soar to new heights at this B&B located close to the spectacular southern Oregon coastline and the Redwood National Forest. You can immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature in any one of the three uniquely themed treehouses. Recreational day and night tree climbing is also available.

Schooner Manitou – Traverse City, MI: Prepare your sea legs and head for the open waters on board this 12-cabin mid-1800s style windjammer that can accommodate 24 guests. Spend the night in one of the built-in bunks or roll out a sleeping bag and catch some shut-eye under the stars. Sign up for a specialty cruise including wine and beer samplings or live entertainment on the high seas. A full breakfast cooked on a woodburning stove will greet you topside in the morning.


weekend snapshot: beacon

Mt. Beacon B&B not only has the most charming of hostesses in the mother-daughter team of Barbara and Lauren Walling, but also a decadent breakfast that just might send you back to bed for a little nap.


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