Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Featured Inn: Adora Inn

I remember rocking on our front porch and admiring the expansive craftsman style home across the street. The brick façade, wide screened-in porch, the garden-lined sidewalk, the way the lights reflected from the square attic windows onto the tin roof. It reminded me of New England like no other building in town. Our new neighbors came outside to greet us and invited us over for a glass of wine, introduced us to their playful Salukis and we talked all night. That evening that turned into our first "Dinner at the Inn" experience and the beginning of a great friendship with our neighbors, John and Arthur.

John and Arthur own and manage the Adora Inn, an early 1900's Arts & Crafts style home blended with their touch of modern simplicity and elegance. Walking through the spacious living and into the adjoining dining room, you’ll notice the traditional Persian rugs gracing the hardwood floors, a candlelit fireplace accented with modern shaped furniture, and Arthur's very own artwork adorning the walls. All the guest rooms are named after the natural earth-inspired tones that color them. However my favorite, the Treehouse, is named for the playful feeling it invokes. This spacious suite is tucked away in the attic and provides a fantastic treetop view of the town.

John's background is in hospitality management on the beaches of Miami as well as culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America. Arthur's past experience includes art and design in NYC. Interestingly though, Arthur is the Chef. He brings into the kitchen the same philosophy that started the Arts & Crafts movement that constructed their home; a revolt to mass-production and an appreciation for simplicity, artisanship, and hand made personal touches. Slow Food. A term John enlightened me with during a gastronomic trip to Italy last year to celebrate a birthday milestone for his partner, Arthur. Slow Food is actually a real term; an International movement towards local, fresh, simple ingredients combined with a dining experience meant to actually allow you to enjoy cuisine rather than merely quickly inhaling it to satiate your hunger.

My time in the kitchen with Arthur was more of a spectator sport as he is quite the Olympian when it comes to moving around a kitchen with the quick and deliberate movements of a well practiced chef.

As I sipped on a cin cin and watched our dinner experience unfold in the kitchen, I asked Arthur what he enjoyed most about cooking. His immediate reply was, "Eating, of course!" Isn't that everyone's favorite part? I laughed and gave him a look that let him know that I was being serious and he said, "Being an artist, I love the mixture of colors, scents and textures. For example, the contrast with the purple and green here in the artichoke. Cooking really is a melding of art & science in bringing ingredients together into new flavors."

So, how did Arthur become a chef? While putting the last finishing touches on our meal, Arthur told a story of being an art student in New York during the 1970s, working as a bus boy in an upscale art-inspired restaurant in SoHo. He was friends with the owner's daughter and received an invitation to a party at their house one weekend. At the house, Arthur experimented in the kitchen making some dishes for he and his friends to snack on. His friend's parents came home and found the left-overs of Arthur's creation in the refrigerator and loved what they tasted. They couldn't believe he was just a bus boy and quickly promoted him. As they always say, the rest is history. He prepared dishes for a variety of well-known and famous artists including Claes Oldenburg, Marisol, Warhol, and even famous food critic Craig Claiborne. His favorite memory, however, was when he prepared a Bouillabaisse from a Toulouse Lautrec recipe and a small group of Frenchmen in the restaurant stood up and applauded.

Lost in conversation with Arthur, I didn't even realize how hungry I was until we finally sat down to eat. Arthur had prepared a three course meal starting off with artichokes drizzled with warm Dijon vinaigrette leading into the main course of grilled lamb with a lemon white wine reduction and Provencal herbs, accompanied with simply fried eggplant, middle eastern spiced potatoes and carrots. A beautiful peach and blueberry country tart created the perfect finish. With all his international sophisticated culinary tricks and recipes, Arthur says he still prefers the simplicity of country style meals, mixing formal with informal.

Breakfast may be what a traveler typically thinks of when it comes to B&B's, but with monthly International wine tastings and exotic cuisine, dinner at the Adora Inn is truly a unique experience. Whether you are looking for a quiet intimate dinner alone or an interactive cooking demonstration, your palate and senses are sure to be pleased. John and Arthur offer upscale service and gourmet cuisine in a relaxed and casual environment.


Banner Art In The Air

One of our local Innkeepers and Mount Dora Artist, Barry with the Captain's Inn, is participating in a exhibit called "Art In The Air," a local outdoor art exhibit taking place on the main entrance and road into town. Here, Barry talks about his inspiration and his technique. I've taken some photos, but they don't quite do it justice. If you're in town, stop by and check out Art In The Air. --Rachelle

"Being part of the "Art in the Air" is fantastic. Think about it, Donnelly Street is now an art gallery and as time goes by this event will not only grow, but will inspire and create more great Mount Dora artists.

Mount Dora is a great inspiration for getting creative. It is like a Norman Rockwell painting no matter where you look, it is art to the eyes. For the Banner, I have chose 2 pieces from my new suite, "Fall In Love With Mount Dora." One is, In The Village, a picture of the Donnelly House and the other is, Mount Dora Nostalgia, an inspiration of time long ago.

The process I use for painting this Banner Art in the Air is a mix media. First capturing the image through film then transferring the image onto canvas through modern techniques. I then highlight the picture, which is not that different from highlighting your hair. It entails painting tiny bright dots of paint on the picture to give it more texture and luminescence. For instance, a little more pink on the rose bushes, a little more green on the trees. Everything changes then ... the sky changes, life changes. Take a brush and dip into green paint and then with quick short strokes, dapple the underside of a tree, just a touch, but the tree will suddenly stand out from the other trees and it will seem newly bright and full. Truly one-of-a-kind. That's my method of painting these banners, it's all about painting life." --Captain Barry, The Captain's Inn

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I think the best way to really experience the change in seasons is through flavors and spices, and the Mount Dora Historic Inn has shared with us a great Fall breakfast recipe ... Sweet Potato Pancakes.


1 Cup Flour (If you have self rising flour, you can exclude the baking powder and salt)
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh Nutmeg
1/3 Cup light brown sugar (packed ... meaning, fully loaded cup of sweetness!)
1 lb (approx 2 large) sweet potatoes
2 large eggs
1/3 stick of melted butter
1/3 cup of whole milk
real vanilla extract

1) Combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & brown sugar) together in a medium sized bowl and whisk together until well blended. Set aside. **This step is important to bring out the flavor of the spices and sweet potatoes.

2) Next, clean, peel and chop your sweet potatoes and boil them until they are tender (approx 25 to 30 minutes after the water starts to boil). Saving the water for later use, strain the boiled sweet potatoes and mash until soft and set aside.

3) Take your dry ingredient mixture and add 1/2 cup of the water used to boil the potatoes, 2 large eggs, 1/3 stick of melted butter, 2 capfuls of vanilla and 1/2 cup of milk and blend together. This should be a little liquidy, if it is too thick, add a splash more of milk.

4) Next, add your sweet potatoes. This will thicken the batter. Blend well and let sit for 5 minutes.

5) Pre-heat your griddle to 280 degrees. If you are using a gas griddle, set to med/low heat. When griddle is hot, spray with cooking spray and spoon batter with a heaping tablespoon(s) per pancake.

6) Voila! Yummy fall inspired breakfast! Serve fresh maple syrup on the side. Chef Jim says the pancakes are sweet enough on their own, but a little syrup for dipping is good too.

Some other tips ...

*If you are pressed for time, you can use Bisquick or Hungry Jack pancake mix instead of the flour, baking powder and salt.

*If sweet potatoes are not in season, a 15 ounce can of yams can be used as a substitute.

*When sweet potatoes are in season, you can boil some extra to freeze. If you freeze them in the water they were boiled in, it will help prevent freezer burn and keep your flavors fresh.
If you have any questions, please comment below! I'll be getting "Inn The Kitchen" at Mount Dora Historic Inn soon to demonstrate this recipe, so stay tuned!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tzatziki Refined

I love Tzatziki! There is something about it being yogurt-based that makes me feel a little less guilty about indulging in this savory dip as opposed to it's mayo-based rivals.

The first time I made Tzatziki I got the recipe verbally from a Greek friend of mine. She said, "It's easy! Just take some yogurt and add some cucumber, dill, garlic and lemon juice." Sounds simple enough. But there are a many different ways you can put those ingredients together and get entirely different results.

My last few tries at making this Middle Eastern appetizer have resulted in the garlic flavor being so overwhelming that I'm sure to repel a legion of vampires this Halloween. Thank God for my Chef friend and neighbor, Arthur Natale with the Adora Inn, who shared with me his recipe and expert tips.

Adora Inn's Tzatziki


1 Cucumber
Greek Style Yogurt
1 Garlic Clove
1 Lemon
Several Sprigs of Fresh Mint

1) Peel the cucumber and cut in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and then chop into fine bits.

2) Peel and press the garlic clove. (HERE'S THE COOL TRICK) then RUB the bowl with the clove, releasing the garlic oil. Discard clove. (I know you're all now nodding your head saying, "aaahh! That's how he does it!")
3) Finely chop the mint.

4) Add the yogurt, cucumber and mint into garlic rubbed bowl and mix.
5) Cut lemon in half and squeeze lemon juice into the yogurt and mix.
6) Drizzle with olive oil and kalmata olives ... Tzatziki Refined!

Arthur likes his Greek Style yogurt fully loaded when it comes to calories and fat. But he's a tall, thin and handsome Italian man, so he can afford it. If you're watching your trim girlish (or boyish) figure, then try a new brand of Greek yogurt I recently found at our local grocery store. It's called Oikos and is in collaboration with Stonyfield Farms. It's organic, has zero fat, 22 grams of protein, and is just as rich and creamy as the regular stuff.


Piece of Cake

Hmm ... you want me to taste four fabulous desserts? Okay, well, twist my arm. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

Such is the role of one of our fellow Innkeepers, Jim Tuttle, with the Mount Dora Historic Inn. As a chef with quite a talent for sweet things such as his famous breads and sweet potato pancakes, judging a dessert recipe contest for him should be a piece of cake. The contest was a co-collaboration with the Retro Steakhouse in Eustis and Focus Magazine. The winning dish will be available on the menu starting in October.

So, Thursday night I tagged along with Jim & Ana to the Retro for some dinner and dessert while he judged the competition. Walking into the restaurant we ran into a lot of familiar and friendly faces. Ana and I scooted to a table in the back and ordered some veggies and a steak to split so that we could put some real food in our system before sampling ourselves into a sugar-induced coma. Jim took his place at the Judge's Table and carefully savored each bite, while Ana and I dove right in and devoured every sample presented before us. Did I mention we split everything so we could at least brag that it was only half the calories? But, who are we kidding ... it's a dessert contest for crying out loud!

Jim says, "This whole event was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to competing in it next time!"

Here are the contestants ...

Sunshine Coconut Pineapple Cake -- Carrot cake happens to be one of my favorite sweet treats, and this was a very nice upgrade from regular carrot cake. Chunks of pineapple and shaved coconut made it much more dreamy.

Williamsburg Rum Cream
-- Whoa. Definitely a "Sex In The City" style dessert. Served in a martini glass with a little berry, a little cream, and a big dash of rum.

Walnut Chocolate Extremes -- For me, these little treats scored high for presentation. Anything drizzled in chocolate would catch my eye.

Frosty Pumpkin Pie -- The winner and my personal favorite. Pumpkin flavored ice cream in a cinnamon graham cracker pie crust shell. The perfect Florida fall dessert as it has all the flavors of the season with the refreshing temp and texture of ice cream for our warmer climate. Two forks up!

And this next little photo had to get an honorable mention. After indulging in so much dessert we walked around downtown Eustis to burn some calories before driving home and were lucky enough to discover this little shop mascot sitting in the window. Love it!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Playing Cinderella

Being an Innkeeper is definitely not a one woman job. (Or a one man job for that matter!) I'm recovering from running the ship all by myself this weekend. Multiple phones attached at my hip (inevitably always ringing at the same time), 4 rooms to clean ... twice, and 7 loads of laundry have left me feeling a little like Cinderella. And thank GOD my prince arrives back home tomorrow.

I'll finally be able to get back in my element, hovering over a cup of hot tea in my office and clanking away at the keys on my laptop. Aaahh, to have time to finally relax and reflect back on a fabulous week of food, including dinner at the Adora Inn, learning to make tzatziki, and tasting some fabulous desserts as a tag-along at a recipe contest. Mmm. Gonna have to hit the gym a bit more this week after all of my multi-caloric extra-curricular activities!

With a pen tucked behind my ear and a notepad stashed away in my purse, I have to admit that even though I'm "green" I am addicted to paper. Yes, you know the type. Despite the evolution from pen & paper ... to typewriters ... to word processors ... to computers ... I still prefer to write on paper. Must be a tactile thing or just the way I'm used to editing. I even think if I was geeky enough to have an iPhone that I would still write things out on a napkin and then text it into the phone. Weird, I know.

Anyway, stay tuned as I transfer my stories from notebook to screen and catch you up on the activities from this past week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Inn The Kitchen: Making Pumpkin Bread

I luuuuv to bake. And I'm not a chef at all (like other Innkeepers) but I can bake up a storm. Must be my sweet tooth calling. I think subconsciously I burn dinner just so that I can skip straight to dessert. I'll have to learn how to develop my savory side. Anyway, this week, I took Christopher's Inn Pumpkin Bread recipe and had a go at it in my kitchen. Take a look below for some hints, tips and photographic evidence of my first Inn The Kitchen experiment.

As the Pioneer Woman would say, here are the "cast of characters." Two are not photographed here because I forgot about them until after I had ripped open their packages and started creating a mess. Can you tell what's missing? Good! Forget I mentioned it. Just follow the recipe.

Hmm ... already looks like I'm going to need a bigger bowl. I started adding the ingredients in the order that they're listed, however, I would recommend mixing all the dry ingredients first and then add the eggs, oil and pumpkin. (I should have known this, but I was just so excited to get started that I jumped right in and starting pouring as listed without thinking.) I might also try and experiment by adding an additional can of pumpkin in place of the oil.

I wish ALL baking ingredients came with this same nifty scoop-leveler-can-thingy. Definitely keeps you from unnecessarily spilling ingredients.

Saving time is sometimes more important than saving money. These pre-measured
packages of 1 cup of walnuts help save a step!

Mmm... this is starting to look tasty.

The recipe calls for 2 bread pans. I opted to make some additional muffins so that I could have a tasty treat while waiting for the bread to cool.

Yum. Delicious, made-from-scratch pumpkin bread!


Going Green Saving Blue

So, what does it take to "go green?" While a lot of things that are labeled "green" or "organic" have inflated prices, there are many things you can do that still save you some green in your wallet as well. It is possible to conserve and save on your electric and water without spending a fortune.

Just this past weekend, the City of Mount Dora hosted a rain barrel workshop where they explained the benefits of collecting rain water, instructions on creating and installing rain barrels and even a fun outdoor painting session afterward. Did you know that during a storm where we receive just an inch of rain water, that inch equates to 600 gallons of water collected from a 1000 square foot roof? That's nothing to sneeze at!

The rain barrels hold up to 55 gallons of rain water that can be used for drip irrigation, watering potted plants, washing your car, cleaning garden tools and any other outdoor water need you can think of. They're pretty affordable, running anywhere from $45 to $100 depending on the size and style. Much more affordable and easier to set up than a cistern system. Plus, painting it is kinda fun.

Last year, Tremain Street Cottages became the 1st Certified Green Lodging in Lake County through the State of Florida's Florida Green Lodging program. Just trying to do our part to create a healthier environment for ourselves and our guests by making more informed choices. So I'm looking forward to adding this new hand-painted lawn tool to our garden to save water and green up our lawn!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Friday

One of the other Innkeepers once said (I think it was Inez with Christopher's Inn) that seeing empty beds is her least favorite thing about being an Innkeeper. Perhaps it is something that we all fear ... but every once and awhile it can be a welcome break.

Such as this Friday night when we had only one car in the parking lot. After hyperventilating for a little bit, we avoided a full on panic attack when we looked at our books and realized we're full tomorrow. A Friday night to be free and out on the town is a rare occasion, so we jumped on the opportunity to have a date night.

Since it's difficult to have a true "night off" in the town we live-in, work-in and adore, we drove 35 minutes to downtown Orlando for dinner and a show. There is a cute little bohemian section of Orlando where you'll find holistic food stores, cafes, casting directors, art lofts, and a wide Vietnamese restaurants. It's a speck of the size of China Town in NYC, but it is our little Asian food haven. Pho noodle bowls, bobo teas, and my favorite rice noodle spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce. I'll take two please! They even have durian fruit smoothies. Since Andrew Zimmerman won't eat durian fruit, I'm not going to be daring enough try it! At least not tonight anyway. An old favorite of ours, Little Saigon, has been winning awards for their Vietnamese cuisine for over 10 years.

When we were seated, our waitress greeted us with a big smile and said, "Happy Friday." Happy Friday indeed! As an Innkeeper, we usually loose track of what day of the week it is and weekends are spent working. Not that I'm complaining! It was just nice to have a little change.

After dinner, we grabbed a coffee, went for a walk around Lake Eola and then headed over the SAK Comedy Lab for an Improv Show. We enjoyed a good hour and a half of belly laughs before driving home. Happy Friday!

Tremain Street Cottages

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shopoholics Anonymous!

I've been purposefully not turning on my television to avoid all the doom and gloom the media has been perpetuating this week. The stock market crashing, oil prices rising, hurricane devastation, election polls, mortgage crisis, real estate devalued, nah, nah, nah. The big networks would have us believing that it's the end of the world and there is nothing we can do about it.

Sorry for the rant, but I had to get it out of my system because there is something we can do about it. There ARE positive stories out there. All we have to do is share them. Work is being done, vacations are being planned, Holiday hopes are being held onto, and yes, people are shopping and having a good time while doing it!

Innkeepers, Jim & Ana, with the Mount Dora Historic Inn shared a story that brought a smile to my face and uplifted my day. Recent guests of theirs had a fabulous experience shop hopping in downtown Mount Dora. This was made possible by the friendly merchants and our small town charm. Wall Street may be down, but the spirit on Donnelly Street is looking up.

Here are there comments ...
"Every single shopkeeper we encountered were all extremely friendly and very helpful. Specifically Karen, owner of Timeless Keepsakes, whose sense of humor had us laughing and made us feel very welcome. Also, Larry at the Wildlife Store honored our VIP visitor card even though he was not a participant of this particular promotion. It made our day!" -- Yvonne & Sheri, Gainesville, FL

"It’s very nice to hear that our town has not lost its warmth and gracious hospitality. This is exactly why we moved here, and why we have made Mount Dora our home." -- Ana, Mount Dora Historic Inn
Ana also said Yvonne & Sheri also could not stop talking about Jim’s scrumptious breakfast. They raved about how beautiful the soufflé looked, and once they tasted it … they were in heaven! Full tummies, warm hearts, rested souls, and hands full of shopping bags and good memories to take home.

That's what being an Innkeeper is all about!


Christopher's Inn -- All Purpose Cleaner Recipe

I've asked the Innkeepers to share with us their unique tips & tricks for keeping a clean house while saving time and money.

Here are two home-made cleaner recipes from Inez with Christopher's Inn. I can't wait to try these!

All Purpose Cleaner

Add the following ingredients
to a large spray bottle:

2 1/2 teaspoons liquid soap (Dr. Bronners, etc.)
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
2 cups of water

Glass Cleaner

Soak a cloth in a solution of 1 tablespoon of corn starch
dissolved in 1 quart of water.
This will make your windows and mirrors really sparkle!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back Pain & Bourbon

Innkeepers are always looking for a reason to celebrate. That's just the entertainer in us. Every week we all get together to clank wine glasses, break bread, make sure everyone has heads in beds, and exchange funny stories of our hospitality experiences and our Guest-zillas. Yes, I said guest-zillas. Anyone that works in some sort of Customer Service roll knows exactly what I'm talking about. But I won't be sharing those stories today.

No, the theme this week has been one of appreciation. An appreciation for dodging the last few hurricanes (though we still have our fingers and toes crossed against any new storms that emerge) ... an appreciation for Innkeepers with physical therapy and massage/spa experience for helping us when we pull out our backs reaching for bourbon ... an appreciation for the slowly shrinking number of days until our busy season starts ... and overall an appreciation for each other and the support, laughter and friendship we share.

On that note, our last social gathering was a bit bittersweet. Two of our favorite Innkeepers, Mel & Andy, are relocating for a special work project. While they have recruited fantastic Innkeepers to manage The Grandview, their friendship and community support is irreplaceable. We hope they will come back and visit often and we'll keep their place setting ready and waiting at our social dinner table.

To learn more about The Grandview, here is a history of Blog posts ...

Featured Inn: The Grandview Bed & Breakfast

Meet Your Innkeepers: The Grandview B&B

Lei Breast Cancer To Rest

Fundraiser Made A Splash

We'll miss you guys!


Monday, September 8, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Inez with Christopher's Inn, has shared with us her popular Fall recipe for baking and one of my favorite season flavors ... pumpkin! I usually just buy a pre-packaged mix for pumpkin bread and doctor it up with a few extra yummy ingredients. But, Inez has the real deal! Pumpkin Bread with all fresh ingredients made from scratch.

Here's her recipe ... Happy Baking!

Pumpkin Bread

Add the following ingredients to a large bowl and
beat on a low speed until well mixed:

1 15 ounce can unsweetened pumpkin
1 cup of oil
3 cups of sugar
3 large eggs
3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cloves

Next add the following:

1 cup of raisins
1 cup of chopped walnuts

Pour entire batter into 2 9"x5" moistened loaf pans
and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Voila! Your home is filled with the scent of Fall and you've got a tasty treat to share with friends.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meet Your Innkeepers: Christopher's Inn

Innside Story with Inez,

Innkeeper at the Christopher's Inn

1) What was your first experience ever staying in a Bed & Breakfast?

Inez: My first experience was in St. Augustine, FL during the annual Christmas tour of B&B's.

2) What did you do before you were an Innkeeper?

Inez: Jack, my husband, was in management for a manufacturing company. I am an R.N. and I still work part-time as an oncology and infusion nurse for a local hospital.

3) What made you decide to want to own a Bed & Breakfast?

Inez: After living in Mount Dora for 20 years, the house was up for sale and we decided it would make a neat B&B since we're in a historic town right next to a park and close walking distance to the downtown and lake. So, we stayed!

4) What is your favorite part about owning a Bed & Breakfast?

Inez: Meeting new people.

5) What is your least favorite thing to do as a B&B owner?

Inez: Looking at empty rooms!

6) How did you decide on your room themes and decor?

Inez: The house is a cross between historic country and Victorian and done in period pieces. One room is named for my daughter, Sheila. One for Shelby, my granddaughter, and the other two rooms after Charlotte and Jacqueline, my nieces that grew up in this house.

7) Tell me one thing you love about Mount Dora?

Inez: Small town ambiance.

8) Describe your favorite breakfast creation at Christopher's Inn.

Inez: Pancakes served with fruit and Wisconsin maple syrup.

9) Do you have a recipe I can post?

Inez: I have one for pumpkin bread that will be great for the fall that I'll give you.

10) Tell me one unique thing that most people don't know about you.

Inez: Christopher's Inn is named after Jack's nephew who grew up in this house. For a long time, Christopher was a radio disc jockey and loved country music. He also was an avid reader and would frequently write articles for the newspaper about subjects that were of interest to him. His son, Christopher, is now 17. He is a carbon copy of his father in his mannerisms and looks and I'm sure his father would have been proud.