Maryland B&B cuisine earns A's

THE INN FOOD

September 19, 1993|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Staff Writer

Imagine having strangers constantly wandering through your home and then having to greet them cheerfully every morning with a hearty breakfast.

For most of us caught up in the daily work grind, it's often a Herculean effort to growl hello to our spouse and throw a box of cereal on the table. But for the owners of bed and breakfast inns, having never-ending company is a preferred way of life. Often, it was life in the fast lane that led to life on the country lane.

John Gonzalez, owner of the Deer Park Inn in Western Maryland, was only too glad to leave behind the life of a corporate cook in Washington. "The round-the-clock responsibility of running a kitchen leads to a tremendous burnout rate," says the former executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton/Jockey Club and Watergate Hotel.

Jim and Tracy Stone also decided to say good-bye to hectic D.C. The couple, who have two children, bought the Inn at Mitchell House in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore and have found "it's a wonderful lifestyle for kids."

Whether the innkeepers are trained chefs like Mr. Gonzalez or "just love to cook" like Ms. Stone, they enjoy working with food. After 20 years in the B&B business, Jane Rossig of the Strawberry Inn in New Market has found that her guests like simple things such as ham and eggs, pancakes and "always muffins."

Richard Mollett at Antrim 1844 in Taneytown prefers to be a little more adventuresome. "He's known for his Belgian waffles," says his wife, Dorothy.

It's difficult to find out how many bed and breakfasts there are in Maryland since there is no central organization to keep track of the inns, although B&Bs in some regions have joined together in informal groups. But whether they're officially counted or not, there are plenty of these inns, and they offer a wide range of prices and menus.

Here are five inns, which are close to scenic, historic and recreational sites, and, of course, offer terrific food.

The Inn at Mitchell House

Box 329, R.D. 2

Tolchester Estates

Chestertown, Md. 21620

(410) 778-6500

A long gravel driveway leads to the 18th-century Georgian manor house owned by Jim and Tracy Stone. After leaving their jobs -- Ms. Stone worked in the White House during the Reagan years, and Mr. Stone taught middle school at Sidwell Friends School in Washington -- they moved into the already established bed and breakfast to fulfill a dream.

In the seven years they've been living there, they've had two children, Zach, 5, and Lori, 4, and have expanded from serving breakfast to offering dinner in the quaint dining room off the grand entrance foyer.

"I call it elegant home cooking," says Ms. Stone, 33, who relies on local game and produce for her menus. After growing up in St. Louis, she says, she loves having access to fresh fish and Eastern Shore fruits and vegetables.

In the morning, though, she keeps the menu basic.

"People like the usual things, like French toast," she says, although she does surprise them with scrapple sometimes.

Fabulous French toast

Makes 4 servings

6 eggs

2/3 cup orange juice

1/3 cup orange liqueur

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

rind of one orange, finely grated

12 slices of French bread, about an inch thick

butter or margarine for frying

powdered sugar and orange slices for garnish

maple syrup

Beat eggs in large bowl. Add orange juice, orange liqueur, milk, vanilla, orange rind and mix well. Dip bread in mixture and place in large baking dish. Pour remaining mixture over bread. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt butter or margarine and brown the bread on both sides. Garnish with orange slices and powdered sugar. Serve with warm maple syrup.

Antrim 1844

30 Trevanion Road

Taneytown, Md. 21787

(410) 756-6812

Antrim is drenched in elegance, from the fresh flowers to the decanter of port in each room. Dorothy and Richard Mollett fell in love with the former plantation manor from the day they discovered it in 1988, even though it had been abandoned for 60 years. "It had such great character," Ms. Mollett says of the Greek Revival mansion.

The Molletts, who are in their 40s and have two teen-age boys, were no strangers to renovations. This is the sixth house they have restored. But it's their first bed and breakfast.

Like the Stones of Mitchell House, they, too, have added dinners for their guests. While Mr. Mollett is king of the kitchen in the morning, several chefs staff the kitchen for the nightly fare, which might include salmon or duckling.

While dinner is served in a former smokehouse charmingly accented with red plaid furnishings and a huge fireplace, breakfast is offered "where ever we think people will feel comfortable," Ms. Mollett says, referring to the indoor formal dining room or outdoor veranda overlooking the gardens.

But before guests sample Mr. Mollett's breakfast offerings, they're treated to a visit from James the butler. The wooden figure stands outside each door with a silver tray laden with coffee, muffins and a newspaper. It's a grand life.

Baked Bosc pears

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 1/4 cups sugar

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