We Got Plenty of Muffin
At These B& Bs, It's More About the Breakfast Than the Bed
By Elissa Leibowitz Poma
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 6, 2006; C02

Just as our noses sadly desensitized to the comforting smell of the chocolate espresso muffins cooling on the stove, a new scent joined the mix: a French lemon tart baking in the kitchen of the Chesapeake Wood Duck Inn on Tilghman Island, Md. This was a place of serious food.  A short time later, four of us sat at the dining table wondering whether to dip into the muffin basket right away or be good boys and girls and finish our fruit first. It was, after all, a pretty tasty fruit salad: grapes and blueberries with snap, and out-of-season strawberries and watermelon with surprising summer freshness, topped with a dollop of key lime yogurt dressing. 

But the star of the day was co-innkeeper and chef Jeffrey Bushey's signature breakfast dish -- the Tilghman Island egg puff. It's a seemingly delicate but wholly hearty puff pastry-wrapped entree filled with fluffy eggs, leeks, prosciutto, asiago cheese and other ingredients. A raspberry coulis and a key lime mustard sauce zigzagged across the plate, with fresh asparagus adding a burst of color.

Breakfasts like this are half the appeal of going to a bed-and-breakfast, yet too many inns serve an ordinary meal -- store-bought croissants, a quick omelet or maybe the ubiquitous and easy banana-stuffed French toast.

"If you're going to take the time to go away, then you're not looking for the cereal that you grab on the run at home," says self-taught chef and innkeeper Jan Garrabrant of the Artist's Inn and Gallery near Lancaster, Pa. "You want to take your time and relax and be served."

The best brunches are found at B&Bs run by foodies and professional chefs, and there are several in the Washington area that serve high-end, gourmet breakfasts. Bushey worked as a chef at Washington hotels and restaurants before he and his wife, Kimberly, bought the Wood Duck Inn seven years ago. The coffee table in the sunroom is overflowing with food and travel magazines. The renovated kitchen suits the chef's needs in preparing meals for up to 14 people -- the inn has seven double rooms -- and has a suitable amount of whimsy in its lunchbox collection and mini-rolling pin and coffee mug knobs on the cabinets.

The inn sits midway down a small residential lane not far from the island drawbridge. Tilghman is a small, nothing-to-do idyll close to, but blessedly removed from, the tourist hub of St. Michaels (with its Christmas-themed stores, antique shops and catch-of-the-day bistros). But that's the appeal of the Wood Duck Inn -- doing little but sitting in the warm sunroom or on an Adirondack chair out back, watching the watermen pull out each morning . . . and waiting for breakfast.

1. The Chesapeake Wood Duck Inn, Gibsontown Road at Dogwood Harbor, Tilghman Island, Md., 800-956-2070, http://www.woodduckinn.com/. Rates for the six double rooms with private baths range from $128 to $189; the cottage is $199 to $249. Rate includes a three-course breakfast.

Four More Foodie Inns

If you're a food enthusiast, here are some nearby B&Bs where breakfast is a big deal (and included in the room rate).

2. INN AT MEANDER PLANTATION, LOCUST DALE, VA.

The breakfast: Owner and chef Suzie Blanchard's breakfast philosophy is simple: Serve familiar dishes with a twist. "We love good food, but we don't like it to be so far out there that you don't recognize it," she says. The three-course meal includes roasted vegetables adorning polenta squares with poached eggs, and heritage apples dressing up pumpkin-spiced waffles. And most of the herbs come from the inn's garden, so large that it includes 14 varieties of mint alone.

The place: The stately white plantation house, with its six front columns and formal boxwood gardens, dates to 1766; Thomas Jefferson frequently hung out in the parlor, which faces the Blue Ridge Mountains. Blanchard also runs an on-site cooking school.

Details: The inn is at 2333 N. James Madison Hwy. in Locust Dale, approximately 80 miles from Washington. 800-385-4936, http://www.meander.net/. Rates are $165 to $265. Cooking school/lodging package deals are available.

3. ARTIST'S INN AND GALLERY, TERRE HILL, PA.

The breakfast: Jan Garrabrandt tries to sneak vegetables into some of her dishes, for the health of her guests. Her baked acorn squash with maple syrup and cream usually wows them. Still, she has observed, "usually the wives eat most of the vegetables and the husbands just eat the dessert." The menu includes homemade scones and pastries and chilled peach soup, grilled mangoes with brown sugar and coconut, among other dishes. For the main course, Garrabrandt favors crepes. Dessert ranges from chocolate cake to ginger pumpkin mousse in a martini glass.

The place: Sit on the porch of this 150-year-old Federalist-style home in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and you may see more Amish buggies than cars. Not far from Lancaster, Pa., the B&B has three rooms and a cottage.

Details: The inn is at 117 E. Main St. in Terre Hill, about 140 miles from Washington. 888-999-4479, http://www.artistinn.com/. Rates $115 to $250.

4. PENINSULA HOUSE, ANNAPOLIS

The breakfast: Crystal glasses and silver cutlery don't stay hidden in hutches; the good stuff gets set on the breakfast table every morning. The sunny yellow dining room makes for a cheery meal, especially with dishes with such colorful names as "drunken crab strata" and "stout and gouda pancakes."

The place: The three rooms are filled with antiques; walls painted in warm colors match the gardens. Rates include much-coveted parking in downtown Annapolis.

Details: The inn is at 11 Chester Ave. in Annapolis, approximately 35 miles from Washington. 410-267-8796, http://www.peninsulahousemd.com/. Rates are $165 to $185.

5. WOOLVERTON INN, STOCKTON, N.J.

The breakfast: A 425-degree oven doesn't cut it in the summer, so one of the house specialties is reserved for the winter, when that kind of heat can be tolerated. Guests are then treated to an entree called "Dutch babies" -- puffy pancakes that are as light as crepes and served with sauteed apples and pears. Accompaniments could include pi?a colada scones and grilled pineapple, accompanied by a giant mug of hazelnut hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. And if you want to avoid the bed-head look at the dining table, have breakfast delivered to your room.

The place: The three-story, stone country estate house sits on 10 secluded acres and is surrounded by 300 acres of protected forests and farmland. Nearby New Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, N.J., are ideal for antiques lovers.

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