In Category: ‘Blog’

We are in the midst of an extended trip to the southwest, shooting several inns in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico. While shooting here, we’ve been struck by the exotic nature of this part of our country. More than any other region in the US, when you’re here (particularly outside of the cities) you feel as though you are in a foreign country–the intersecting cultures, the architecture, the weather, the landscape–all of it combines to convince you that you have left the US. You’re definitely not in Vermont, Dorothy!

Casa Escondida, a charming B&B in the small town of Chimayo feels particularly exotic. In a remote location, it feels like an ancient adobe hacienda on a ranch, far from civilization. We loved all of Belinda’s decor–the rugs, the weavings, the pottery–it is lovely. The iconic front porch was a perfect place to revel in the silence (although a beast to shoot!).

MG 4986 Two Charming New Mexico Inns and a Creative Breakfast Idea

Facade of Casa Escondida in Chimayo, near Santa Fe NM 

MG 4411 Edit Two Charming New Mexico Inns and a Creative Breakfast Idea

Casita at Casa Escondida with Traditional Kiva Fireplace 

MG 4225 Two Charming New Mexico Inns and a Creative Breakfast Idea

Long Driveway to Casa Escondida with a Killer New Mexico Sunset

Upon leaving Casa Escondida, we traveled to The Bobcat Inn, another adobe-style inn on a hilltop just outside Santa Fe, with gorgeous views in every direction. This is a really special spot, with a fantastic patio where guests relax and take in the view. We loved the decor here as well, with many of the rooms decorated with a refreshing sense of whimsy.

MG 5653 Edit 2 Two Charming New Mexico Inns and a Creative Breakfast Idea

Patio at Bobcat Inn Santa Fe – Guests Love this Space

MG 5846 Edit Two Charming New Mexico Inns and a Creative Breakfast Idea

The Moody and Inviting Living Room at Bobcat Inn

 

MG 5496 Two Charming New Mexico Inns and a Creative Breakfast Idea

“Egg Bakers” were delicious and beautifully presented at Bobcat Inn

One of the highlights here was Amy’s  breakfast creation called Egg Bakers, a guest favorite, similar to shirred eggs, but with a twist. Interestingly, the vessels looks local, but are anything but–they are from Japan! Here is the recipe:

Egg Bakers

Yields 4 servings

4 eggs

4 slices Canadian bacon

4 Tbs half and half

4 Tbs Monterey Jack cheese

4 Tbs green chile

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Spray pottery ramekins with cooking spray. Line ramekin bottom with a slice of Canadian bacon. Crack egg over bacon. Pour one tablespoon half and half over, and layer in a tablespoon of green chile, salt and pepper to taste.

Top with one tablespoon of cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, longer or shorter depending on how you like your egg. Serve with fresh salsa for a southwestern flair or hollandaise for a more traditional approach. You can substitute tomato for bacon, which is also delicious.

We recently returned from our 6th or 7th visit to The Swag, a (justifiably) legendary country inn on mountain top, bordering The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, not far from Asheville, NC. Whenever someone asks us “what is your favorite inn?”, The Swag inevitably ends up on the short list. Deener and Dan Matthews have created something remarkable over the past 31 years, and are still at the top of their game. On this visit, we focused on the abundant activities and events available right on the property or nearby: waterfalls, national park hiking trails, hilltop vistas, mossy verdant nature walks, the Thursday night barbeque and the daily pre-dinner social hour. We brought in models to make this all come to life, which really worked well. While there, we also did a few food shots.

To see more images of rooms, etc., check out our special spotlight on The Swag in the “Projects” section of our website.

Swag Scenics General 03 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

Sunrise activities on The Swag porch – the best time of day up here

Swag Hiking Hemphill 05 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

Couple near Hemphill Bald, resting after a hike

Swag Hiking Woods 01 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

An early morning hike on a national park trail

Swag Hiking Gooseberry 11 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

A very special place on The Swag Property: Gooseberry Knob at dawn

Swag Hiking Waterfall 03 X2 A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

This waterfall is a great destination hike from the inn

389794079 vhgL2 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

After your hike, imagine cleaning up for dinner in this fantasy fireside outdoor shower. Not roughing it!

Swag Food Social 04 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

Guests enjoying hors d’oeuvres on the porch before dinner–a Swag tradition

Swag Food ThursBBQ 12 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

Thursday night is barbeque night..and just behind the grill is the entrance to the National Park

Swag Food 01 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

A typical dinner entree: a seared salmon fillet with beets and greens from the Swag gardens

Swag Scenics Gooseberry 02 XL A Visit Back to The Swag   A Jewel in the Smoky Mountains

Another great spot to relax: The Gazebo at Gooseberry Knob

One of the stops we made on our last extended swing through New England was visiting long-time customer Squam Lake Inn in Holderness, NH. Innkeepers/Owners (also chef, restauranteurs and all-around entrepreneurs) Cindy and Rae run one of the most fun inns around. Simply put, it has a fabulous vibe. It’s not something easy to describe…nor is it easy to create. But they’ve done it and it’s a total joy to be there. (Kudos to the staff. What a positive, upbeat–and beautiful–group they’ve got working there!) A few years ago on a shoot, Cindy first introduced us to The St Germaine Cocktail - check out our post on that cocktail and recipe. Here is yet another creative and refreshing summer cocktail we wanted to share. During the summer, Cindy and Rae introduce a different garden-driven cocktail each week. Great idea, right??

SquamLake U Cocktails 06 X2 Refreshing Summer Cocktail from the Garden at Squam Lake Inn

Strawberry Basil Gimlet from The Squam Lake Inn

Strawberry Basil Gimlet at the Squam Lake Inn

  • Muddle 2 strawberries and fresh basil leaves
  • Add 2 oz Bulldog Gin
  • 1 oz. St Germain Elderflower liquor
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice

Mint can be substituted for basil if you wish

 

While at Squam Lake Inn,  we also shot the newly-renovated Eagles Nest Suite. This is their first luxury bathroom. We thought the new bathroom was especially fun, cheery and very much infused with that Squam Lake Inn vibe.

SquamLake Rooms EaglesNest 01 XL Refreshing Summer Cocktail from the Garden at Squam Lake Inn

New Bathroom in Eagles Nest Suite at Squam Lake Inn

 

 

One of the more interesting shoots we did this year was at the beautiful and multi-faceted Fort Lewis Lodge in Virginia–check out a post we wrote last month on the inn.  After the shoot, we realized we had great content for a video/slideshow. We mentioned this to them and they loved the idea, so we got to work. We really liked this idea for them for a few reasons:

  1. Rather than viewing photos by clicking and clicking around a website, many potential guests like to sit back and passively watch a video of beautiful photos. Less work for them makes the experience more relaxing and enjoyable.
  2. In this context, photos appearing one right after the other, the visual impact is super-concentrated, and is much more powerful than if the photos are all on separate pages, broken up by text, website navigation, marketing messages, etc.
  3. The Fort Lewis Lodge experience is FAR from your customary inn experience; they have a unique story to tell and the slideshow suggests a rich, but gentle narrative. No voice over is needed to get the message across.
  4. YouTube is the second largest search engine. A fancy video might be overkill and outside the budget for many inns, but a simple video like this is very compelling and gives your inn presence in this important search engine.
  5. Video makes your website more interactive…and interactive is good!
  6. This simple type of video becomes another great thing to share with your social media network. We produced a 2011 “Looking Back in Pictures” piece, and it was by far our most popular blog post and most-commented entry we ever had on Facebook. People love this stuff!
  7. It’s cheap (especially compared to a total video production)
  8. It makes your photo investment go further!

Check it out…

Of the many inns we have visited, there are very few which have taken a theme and executed it so beautifully as L’Auberge Provencale (new website coming soon) in White Post, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. We’ve shot the inn and restaurant several times and every time we are there, we’re awestruck at the great attention to detail, particularly the way the Provence theme is so pervasive and consistently addressed. From the French-style orchard to the ochre-stained plaster walls covered with French art to the fragrance of lavender in the garden to the house-made croissants that arrive in a basket at breakfast each morning. More than all of that is the sense of quality and craftsmanship that you tend to see in all things French. Farm-to-table dining is trendy these days…but these guys have been doing it for 30 years! The sum total of all this recreates the experience of visiting a fine Auberge in the south of France, right in the backyard of one of the most populated regions in the US–the Washington DC metro area.

At the end of this post, you’ll find a recipe for a fantastic rustic onion tart; be sure to check it out.

Here a few shots from our last shoot:

Lauberge Dining Outside 03 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of Virginia

Alfresco dining at L’Auberge Provencale’s Restaurant…go totally French and enjoy a long nap after the meal!

Lauberge Gardens A 10 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of Virginia

The kitchen garden at the inn. These guys were doing “Farm-to-Table” long before it was cool

Lauberge x background 06 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of VirginiaNatural-pigment ochre that one finds in ancient buildings in Provence is also found throughout the Inn. It’s all in the details!

289358646 ubUmK XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of Virginia

Imported French tile in the bathroom

Lauberge Provence B 09 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of VirginiaProvence-style picnic in in the orchard

Lauberge Provence E 02 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of VirginiaA still life in the inn’s gardens

Lauberge Food entrees 22 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of VirginiaSome of the beautiful creations from the Inn’s kitchen

Lauberge Food entrees 16 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of Virginia

Local Morel mushrooms and fiddle-head fern pasta

Lauberge Gardens A 04 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of VirginiaThe gardens at the Inn looking towards the Inn’s orchard

Lauberge Food entrees 25 XL Capturing the Essence of Provence...in the Heart of VirginiaOnion Tart – The recipe is below

Provençale Caramelized Onion Tartlet with Fresh Thyme Flowers

Makes Two Tarts

INGREDIENTS:

2 oz Butter, room temperature

1/4 oz Dry Yeast

3/4 Cup of Warm Water

1 0z. Sugar

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Egg

12 0z. Bread Flour

 

In Mixer, Hydrate yeast in Water.  Add egg,  add sugar, and 2/3 flour.  Let proof in bowl and then add last 1/3 of flour with butter and Salt.  Let proof again, about 30minutes.  Remove from bowl and place on floured surface.

Punch down and roll into 2 12″ diameter circles 1/4 inch thick.  Put on Baking Pans.  Let proof again.

 

While the dough is proofing on the baking pans make caramelized onion topping.

INGREDIENTS:

4 Large Vidalia Onions cut in have and sliced into strips about 1/4 inch thick.

2 tablespoons fresh Thyme (de-stemmed)

1 cup of White Wine

4 tablespoons of Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1/4 cup of fresh thyme flowers

In Skillet sautée onions in Olive Oil. Add salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes. Add White Wine.  Cook until the Onions are translucent and onion begins to change to a light caramel color.  Add Thyme and Remove from heat.

Put onion mixture on top of dough. Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is golden brown.  .  Just before serving drizzle with Provencale Pizza Oil or Olive Oil and garnish with fresh thyme flowers and freshly ground black pepper.