1) Bed and Breakfast…and COFFEE!

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Italian-made Cappuccino / Espresso machine at St Francis Inn

We’ve always thought coffee represented “low-hanging fruit”–easy to improve upon and impress guests at inns (and hotels for that matter). It’s obviously a big part of our culture (especially among young people), so WHY is the coffee so completely boring at 99% of the inns we visit? Sadly, the quality is so poor we often secretly bring our own. Typically, we’ve found the  quality of the coffee and brewing techniques deteriorate the further you move away from The Pacific Northwest or New England. Generally speaking, the coffee in the South is the weakest and least interesting. (Who are we–the coffee gods?) During our shoot in December of 2013, it was great to see what Joe Finnegan and his team at St Francis Inn in St Augustine have “brewed up”. They offer delicious cappuccino and espresso to guests, using their sparkling new cappuccino/espresso machine–a serious machine which the staff operates. We loved the fact that the specialty coffees are complimentary, and everyone LOVES them! Joe says it has been an overwhelming hit with his guests. Read a guest comment on Trip Advisor.

2) Adding a Contemporary FLAIR

In 2013, we saw many inns adding a contemporary twist to otherwise traditional spaces. It’s amazing what a little paint, new furnishings and bedding can do to make a room feel fresh and new. Sometimes it’s as simple as a new way of making the bed or arranging the pillows.

 

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At Lucille’s Mountaintop Inn in Georgia, they blend contemporary and traditional styles with finesse. The bedding, lampshade and color-palette make the room feel fresh.

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This traditional room at Blacksmith Inn on the Shore in Wisconsin employs timeless geometric patterns, and seems  a bit more fresh and new with a contemporary pillow arrangement

Aftonbefore after A Look Back at 2013: 10 Amenities, Trends and Ideas we Loved

Before (left) and after (right) of the Goodwin Room at Afton Mountain B&B. What a difference!

3) Re-Thinking Breakfast

If one word could sum up breakfast trends at inns in 2013, it would be CHOICE–regarding where you eat, what you eat, and when you eat. Early, more health-conscious buffet offerings and increasing dietary requests are on the rise. The age-old debate of THE ONE BIG BREAKFAST TABLE vs individual tables was addressed by many this way: “lets do both!” Hard-core socializers can hang out at the big table while folks who crave privacy have the individual option. Still think that menu choice is a luxury applicable only to large inns? Well, five-room Greenlake Guest House in Seattle offers a hot entree of the day as well as eggs to order, oatmeal or granola with fruit and yogurt, plus a fruit course and fresh bread offering. Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s in P-Town, MA, serves breakfast in your guest room,on your private deck, “fountain-side” in the garden, or at an individual table or a large communal table inside. In New England, lots of innkeepers do a buffet with cold/quick items and also offer a full hot breakfast. This is one of my favorite approaches as it caters to guests that might want something quick and then get on their way.

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At Garden Gables Inn in Lenox, MA they offer choice, New England style: the buffet as well as a full menued breakfast

 

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At Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s on Cape Cod, reviews on Trip Adviser rave about the good times at the communal breakfast table, while individual tables offer more privacy

4) Innovations in the Dining Room

Speaking of dining, we loved the breakfast experience at Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Massachusetts. For one thing, the room was over-the-top comfortable and elegant with soothing colors and banquettes around the perimeter, highlighting a view of the pool. They beautifully integrated a flat screen monitor in the wall, where they display gorgeous photos of local sites and activities–a great way to stir up breakfast conversation about the possibilities for the day. As an added bonus, the monitor makes the room effective for conferences, small parties, etc.

HarborLight Common Breakfast 01 XL A Look Back at 2013: 10 Amenities, Trends and Ideas we Loved

The elegant breakfast room at Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, MA – the monitor inspires guest to see more of the beautiful spots in the area

5) Expansion Ideas: Think PREFAB

Iris Inn in Waynesboro, VA wanted to expand their inn by adding new accommodations. While there on a shoot a few years ago, we told them about our experience adding cottages at our former inn, The Woolverton Inn and how that transformed our business into a truly profitable enterprise. Dave and Heidi decided to expand and took a very interesting and cost-effective approach with pre-fab construction. They customized these pre-fab units with high end finished to create something new and exciting with tons of appeal. To see more pictures and read all about what they did, check out this blog post we wrote last summer.

Iris Cabin 23 XL A Look Back at 2013: 10 Amenities, Trends and Ideas we Loved

Think of adding rooms at your property? Before you do, take a look at what the Iris Inn did in 2013.

6) Oatmeal is Hot

As we mentioned above, CHOICE in breakfast offerings is a trend we’ve seen a lot this year. An easy way to offer choice is to provide a hot breakfast cereal like oatmeal as an option. In our experience, the best oatmeal we’ve encountered is actually made in advance (once or twice a week) and warmed to order, adding milk or water. The Swag in Waynesville, NC does just that, as does The Sayre Mansion and Settler’s Inn both in Pennsylvania. Oatmeal, especially long-cook Irish Oats actually taste better after being warmed up. Another fun thing about a hot cereal is you can get really creative with different whole grains…Irish oats, faro, wheat berries, quinoa…you name it. Then add another layer of customization by providing a choice of toppings–brown sugar, maple syrup, currants, candied walnuts, dried cherries…use your imagination. Here is our favorite recipe, “Rustic Grains”  from the Genzlinger family which owns and operate three fabulous inns: Settlers Inn, Sayre Mansion and Ledges Hotel, all in Pennsylvania:

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“Rustic Grains”, a great hot cereal recipe from The Settler’s Inn and Sayre Mansion in Pennsylvania

Rustic Grains

1 Cup Steel cut oats (Irish oats)

1 Cup Rolled Oats (such as Quaker Old Fashioned Oats)

1/4 Cup Wheat Berries

1/4 Cup Barley

1/2 tsp salt

4 Cups water

4 Cups milk

Soak the dry ingredients overnight in the hot water. Cook the next day in the milk for 1 hour at a simmer. Stir frequently. Add more salt to taste. Thin as desired with water or milk.

Leftover may be reheated. Will keep for three days for reheating. Serves 10.

*Note – we make ours dairy-free (just substitute water for milk) and just added dairy the day we reheat. This will extend the shelf life a few days in the fridge.

7) Re-Branding a Country Inn Restaurant 

Innkeepers Celeste and Chef Alain Borel have been at the helm of L’Auberge Provencale in White Post, Virginia for over 20 years…but instead of becoming complacent, they constantly embrace

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Al Fresco dining at newly re-branded La Table Provencale

change. Case in point: during their recent website re-design process, the White Stone Marketing team suggested renaming and re-branding their nationally-known restaurant, formally known simply in conjunction with the inn, L’Auberge Provencale. The restaurant was relaunched with a new name, logo and stand-alone website, now known as “La Table Provencale”. This major change offers great new synergies and internet marketing opportunities for both the lodging and dining aspects, allowing for “cross-pollinating” when folks search on either the inn or the restaurant. A major benefit of this separation is that it will help to drive more local restaurant business. Oftentimes, country inn dining can fly under the radar of locals who have little reason to search on lodging right down the road…or it can be associated with less-than-full-service or a less professional restaurant experience. Giving the restaurant a stand-alone presence and identity will elevate the visibility and perceived quality of the restaurant experience. This is a trend we have been seeing quite often in the city hotel, cruise ship and resort worlds, and we think they will see great benefits from marketing and branding with this new strategy. Check out the new stand-alone restaurant website for La Table Provencale.

Dan and Michelle Brown at Swift House Inn in Middlebury, Vermont made a similar move several years ago, when they re-branded their fine dining restaurant “Jessica’s”. They added lower-priced menu selections, jettisoned the white table cloths, added a deck for dining, and offered craft beers. Now they get reservations they might never have gotten on sites like Open Table.  Dan reports that the result has been a 40% increase in gross dining revenue at the Inn. They also created a stand-alone restaurant website – Check it out here.

8) Delicious Alternative to Maple Syrup

When we shoot for Deb Mossiman at Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast in Lancaster County, we look forward to breakfast. In August 2013, we visited again and fell in love with her signature syrup–a sinfully delicious alternative to pure maple syrup. Maple syrup is classic, but expensive, and perhaps even a little pedestrian. Deb’s brown sugar and butter based syrup is rich and AMAZING…and surprising! She gets constant rave reviews about it. When was the last time your guests “raved” over simple maple syrup??

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Swiss Woods justifiably famous brown-sugar syrup over blueberry pancakes

Swiss Woods Syrup

“This is a rendition of my mother’s sticky bun syrup which, as kids, we ate on everything from corn fritters, ice cream and French toast to actually using it to make sticky buns.  This version is somewhat tamer with less butter. The guests continually rave.. someday I may try to bottle it!” Deb Mossman, Innkeeper, Swiss Woods

This recipe makes a bunch, but it keeps forever in the fridge. Warm it up to serve.

46 oz Old Barrel Dark Syrup OR light molasses

3 cups brown sugar

6 Tbsp butter

¾ cup boiling water

Mix all the above ingredients together and bring to a boil. Boil for 7 min.

2 Tbsp Vanilla*

*Add to the syrup as it is cooling

Let the whole mixture cool. Pour into a large container and store in the fridge. Reheat portions as needed.

If you like this, check out another recipe we posted from Deb’s kitchen this summer - Parmesan Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

9) Outdoor Showers

In 2013, we made our annual pilgrimage to The Swag, near Waynesville, NC to shoot three new private outdoor showers…and rumor has it they are adding more in 2014. It’s a fabulous amenity at inn…there is just something very exotic and fun about showering outdoors in a beautiful place. Check out our post on The Swag’s outdoor showers and pictures from the shoot. 

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Shower with a view at The Swag in NC…This is a hot new amenity

10) S’mores Package

Ideas like this are what really separates inns from hotels, and truly makes them “a better way to stay”. On our recent shoot at St Francis Inn in St Augustine, Florida, they asked that we shoot their s’mores package. They have a gas-fueled outdoor fire pit in their courtyard and pass these packages out (complimentary) to their guests during cool winter evenings. These are the things that make memories, make guests return and make for great stories back home. It also minds us what a fun industry this is and how lucky we are to be asked to document it!!

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The S’mores amenity at St Francis Inn in Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

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On the first day of winter this year, we made our very favorite winter dish, in honor of Judy Rodgers, the chef at San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe who passed away early this month. Judy was a fantastic chef and cookbook author and we were so sorry to hear of her death. We’re fortunate to have been to her restaurant in San Francisco several times and our copy of  “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook”, published in 2002, is in tatters from use. This Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken is a real winner. It’s a dry 24 hour salt-brined small bird cooked in a high-heat oven served atop a crunchy bread salad with greens, currants and pine nuts. Matthew has made this dish so many times he can do it with eyes closed. Please note that we like to add cauliflower to the mix–it’s optional.

 

 

Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken 07 L The Worlds Best Roast Chicken  A Salute to Judy Rodgers

Zuni Cafe Chicken © Jumping Rocks Photography

 

Zuni Layout The Worlds Best Roast Chicken  A Salute to Judy Rodgers

Bread Salad before it goes in the oven and chicken resting before carving © Jumping Rocks

Zuni Cafe Chicken

Adapted from Judy Rodgers by Eric Asimov of The New York Times with further adaptions by Matthew Lovette

TOTAL TIME
60 to 90 minutes, plus 1 to 2 days for dry brining 

INGREDIENTS

  • One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 pounds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Two cups cauliflower, optional

PREPARATION

1.
Season the chicken 1 to 3 days before serving (for 3 1/4- to 3 1/2-pound chickens, at least 2 days): Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry (a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown).
2.
Slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Push an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
3.
Using about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt per pound of chicken and pepper to taste, season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity and on the backbone. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
4.
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat the oven to 475 degrees. Depending on your oven and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 degrees or as low as 450 degrees during roasting to brown the chicken properly.
5.
Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
6.
Place in the center of the oven and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking). At this point, toss in two cups of cauliflower florets that have been tossed in Olive Oil and salt. 
Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to 1 hour.
7.
Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Pour the clear fat from the pan, leaving the drippings. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. As the chicken rests, tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape.
8.
Cut the chicken into pieces and pour the pan drippings over the chicken.
YIELD 2 or more servings
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They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, they’re right! The facade of The Victorian Inn in Los Alamos (just an hour north of Santa Barbara) screams “quintessential Victorian Bed and Breakfast”. But step inside, and that whole idea vanishes instantly. “The Vick” (as it’s known to its fans) is about as far from Victorian as you can get. It is completely–and dramatically–themed inside, from top to bottom. We recently had the pleasure of photographing each of the six themed suites and it was fun, interesting and…wonderfully bizarre! Who can say they have photographed a full-size gypsy wagon INSIDE a guestroom, which, incidentally, is also the bed you sleep in? If sleeping in a Roman chariot is more your style, request the Roman Suite. It’s all about fantasy here–from Ancient Egypt to a Parisian Artist’ loft, you can live out your fantasy at The Vick.

 

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Stately and traditional facade…but this is NOT your typical B&B!

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A 1956 Cadillac is your bed in the 50′s room, complete with a private drive in movie screen and authentic sound system.

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In The Egyptian Room, the whole ceiling is tented, creating a golden glow… the bed and windows provide an air of ancient grandeur.



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The French Suite recreates a Parisian artist’s loft with a dramatic vaulted ceiling, a painting in progress and views over Paris rooftops.

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In the Gypsy room, you sleep in a Gypsy Wagon! This ain’t The Holiday Inn Express!

 

TheCVIVBTS Fantasy, Delight and Whimsy in California: The Vick

Matthew risking his life for art in the French Suite’s “lofted” bed.

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One of our favorite things about late summer is great tomatoes, and especially the heirloom varieties that are packed with flavor and sweetness. Last week we were shooting at Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast Inn in Lititz, PA in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Innkeeper Deb Mosimann  is famous for the breakfast she serves at Swiss Woods; it’s always homemade, fresh and utilizes the incredible local ingredients of Lancaster Country. On this visit, we photographed  “Parmesan Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes”…it’s not a complicated dish, but PERFECT this time of year and it’s appropriate for breakfast OR dinner. Oh–it’s also beautiful!

Deb is also a broad. That is, she’s a member of the of the influential food-blogging collective known as Eight Broads in the Kitchen. They have hundreds of great recipes online–check them out.

 

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Parmesan Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes from Swiss Woods  Photo © Jumping Rocks Photography

Parmesan Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes from Swiss Woods

2

pints

heirloom cherry tomatoes, red and yellow

1/2

cup

panko bread crumbs

1/4

cup

coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

cracked black pepper

sea salt

1/4

cup

chopped herbs, any combination of basil, parsley, and chives

2

Tbsp

oil to drizzle

1.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise

2.

In a bowl, toss with the panko, Parmesan, herbs, cracked pepper and salt

3.

Spoon in 6 ramekins

4.

Drizzle with Oil

5.

Bake at 375F until a slight brown shows on some of the tomatoes, about 15 min

6.

Serve hot

Servings: 6

Oven Temperature: 375°F

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The mountaintop locale of The Swag Inn near Waynesville, NC is studded with the waterfalls and water features you’d expect in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But now, after a long hike in the adjacent park, you can enjoy your OWN waterfall, in one of their many private en-suite outdoor showers. We’ve just returned from our 6th trip shooting for The Swag, and every time we return they have added ANOTHER outdoor shower. We love the trend! There is something  both primeval and very romantic about the whole experience of an outdoor shower. We decided to highlight some of our favorite showers we’ve shot over the years. At the end of this post, we have supplied a little “behind the scenes” information on how we got these shots, i.e. how we lit them. It can be a little tricky!

Want to see more pictures of The Swag? Check our special page on The Swag on our Projects page.

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Ferns and other plants shower with you in this outdoor shower in The Family Room Guest Suite

 

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The Ridgeview Suite’s shower has a killer view over The Smoky Mountains. We stayed in this room and got to “test” this shower.

 

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The Cabin Suite’s outdoor shower has a view of the full-scale stone fireplace, for those chilly Smoky Mountain Nights

 

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In the Hideaway Room you get a different shower view–dense forest

 

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The private porch off Gail’s Room has both a giant copper soaking tub and an outdoor shower…all with fabulous mountain views

 

Swag Rooms Ridgeview 03 X3 A Different Kind of Waterfall in The Smokies: The Outdoor Showers at The Swag Inn

Some of The Swag’s outdoor showers are bathed in sun, while others are ensconced in woodland shade

 

How did we get these shots??

If you’ve ever tried to photograph a shower with the water running, you’ll notice the water usually “disappears” in the actual photo, and with it goes much of the appeal of the photo. In order to SEE that water (hey that’s the point of a shower, right?) we often have to come up with some pretty funky lighting plans, like strapping flashes to trees, affixing portable strobes to ceilings or as you see below, hanging off a balcony. In this shot, it was too high for a light-stand or a ladder to enable lighting the porch, so we had to resort to doing a little Photoshop trick: Matthew held a gridded strobe which was pointed directly at the water while Mark took the photo. Then Matthew was removed in the final image. Also, believe it or not, this was shot in broad daylight, but the porch was so heavily shaded it was pretty dark. Our solution was to give it an early evening effect by lighting the inside of the room using flashes and warm colored gels to evoke an evening mood.

 

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The outdoor shower in The Loft Suite is in deep shade. It was a trick to light this one!


 

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Matthew lighting the water and shower area with a strobe, covered with a grid-spot attachment. Or is he just playing Twister??

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