Saturday, February 28, 2009

Narragansett's Signs of Spring

Wishful thinking

It’s been more than two weeks since we’ve had any measurable snow or sleet and local optimists (a distinct minority) are beginning to hope that the worst of winter is behind us. Gauging this kind of thing is a tricky business in New England. It’s not at all unusual for us to get as much snow in March as in January. But lately there have been a couple of sights that reinforce the notion that warmer days are coming soon.

Narragansett Maple Syrup Buckets

Right after Valentine’s Day I noticed that the sap buckets had appeared on the older sugar maples that line the main road bringing people in from the freeway to our little town.

Old fashioned sap buckets in Narragansett, RI

As the weather warms and the tree juices begin to flow, members of our town’s chapter of Future Farmers of America collect it to make maple syrup. Their Sugar Shack is located at the Narragansett High School. (More on that when the cooking starts.)

Narragansett syrup is great on Blueberry Cove Inn pancakes

Apparently the sappiest place in Narragansett a little patch of land near the elementary school, tucked in between the public tennis courts and the American Legion ball field. There are at least half a dozen trees with three or more buckets. It's such an old fashioned sign of spring.

Posted by: Wandering Photographer Dave, Blueberry Cove Inn

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Warm Winter Fruit Part 2


Narragansett is not the Garden of Eden of Produce in the winter. Thanks to our friendly citrus farmers in Florida we nearly always have plenty of grapefruit. If we’re really lucky we might find the Ruby Red or Rio Star Texas strains once or twice a year. (Although half of Rhode Island winters in Florida we really do prefer the Texas grapefruit. Go Aggies!) Whatever state sends the fruit your way, try to buy the red or pink flesh varieties which tend to be sweeter or less acidic. Unless you are a citrus farmer you'll probably need to look at the tag as the skin color doesn't indicate the flesh color.

We have a simple way to dress up any grapefruit and offer something warm on a chilly winter morning is to simply sprinkle a little brown sugar and some cinnamon on the top of a sectioned half.


Place the halves on a pan and pop in your oven or broiler for about five minutes. That’s enough time for the fruit to warm and for the sugar to melt and run into the cracks for maximum sweet and sour goodness. When you pull it out of the broiler, spread the sugar syrup evenly with the back of a spoon over the top of the fruit.

Blueberry Cove Inn Carefully transfer the halves to a serving bowl. We like to use pressed glass custard cups but you can do whatever works for you on Wednesdays. Or any other day of the week. Narragansett, RI

Next week I'll post our most popular warm winter fruit, a New England classic, baked apples.

Posted by Head Chef Dave, Blueberry Cove Inn

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Week in the Life

One of the more enjoyable aspects of running a B&B is that you get a chance to meet people from hundreds of places visiting for all sorts of reasons. We have had guests from all 50 states and 31 foreign countries in the 10 years we've been operating. Who knew Narragansett, RI was such a cross roads for travelers!

What brought this to mind was the fascinating cross-section of folks that have passed through here in the last seven days. Normally this is a pretty quiet time of year (except for the Valentine's Day extravaganza). But for some reason, we have had a very welcome influx of midweek visitors from several far-flung starting points.

We had a gentleman from Lowell, Mass., who proposed to his sweetheart on Valentine's Day at the Beavertail Lighthouse. Fortunately, he got the answer he was looking for and she was flashing a big ring and an even bigger smile at breakfast Sunday morning.

Then there was the couple from upstate New York who had brought their daughters to a retreat at a local Catholic girls school and got spend some private time together. They never missed a serving on our three-day chocolate weekend and promised to come back for future festivities.

On Sunday we welcomed two University of Rhode Island visiting professors, one from Portugal and one from Ecuador, who are staying for five days. To my relief, their English was much better than my rusty high school Spanish and they have enjoyed sampling the local restaurants.

On Monday, a mom from from California checked into the Hideaway Suite with a nanny and three children (oldest age 9). Youngsters often require adjustments in menus and frequently provide cleaning challenges, but in the slow season you have to be willing to go the extra mile to keep your income stream flowing.

Thursday we're expecting a father and daughter from Pennsylvania who are on the road scouting out colleges in New England.

That's four states, three continents, people crossing the Atlantic and traveling from the Pacific, ages ranging from 3 to 79, professors and soon-to-be college students, young couples about to marry and parents enjoying a few moments away from family, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons. And that's just in one week during the off season. If you like variety, this is the job for you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Warm Winter Fruit: Poached Pears

As I watch the icicles forming on the bird feeders, my mind drifts to one of the trickiest aspects of being open year-round: finding fresh fruit and figuring out ways to serve it warm in the depths of the frigid season.

After years of trial and error we have found three types of fruit that are generally available even in December, January, and February. Fortunately (or unfortunately) those are the months least likely to produce full houses or lengthy stays, so you need less variety than in July and August where you might be full (16 people) four or five days a week and some guests will stay for a week or more.

This is an offering with less sweetness and more spice. Begin by peeling, coring and halving as many firm pears as needed for your crowd. The finished pears will keep in the fridge for a week so you might want to make extras.
Blueberry Cove Bed and Breakfast InnBoth Bartlett and Anjou varieties work well in this dish. Place the prepped pears in a wide-bottomed fairly deep pan and pour in enough cranberry juice to cover the fruit. Add a couple of cinnamon sticks and four or five cloves (more of each if you’re poaching more than six pears). Romantic winter get- awaysCover the pot and put the mixture on the lowest possible flame for 35-45 minutes. You want them simmering, not boiling away. You’ll know they’re done when the pears have absorbed some of the color from the cranberry juice and are still firm to the touch but can be pierced easily with a fork. (If you zone out and overcook the pears just mash them up into a coarse sauce like chunky apple sauce.) Refrigerate overnight and heat for about 5 minutes over a low flame before serving. These are also great just chilled if your climate is a bit more tropical.

We like to plate the pears with a puddle of vanilla yogurt and serve granola on the side. The plates always come back to the kitchen clean which is a great ego booster for the cook.Narragansett breakfast treats
Our other favorite warm fruits involve apples and grapefruit. Check back for the other recipes that work for me on Wednesdays.

posted by Head Cook Dave

Friday, February 13, 2009

Final Chocolate Weekend Menu

At long last the menu was finalized. Longtime favorites are back and a few new choices have appeared. We even test baked a few of them ahead of time to spare our guests yucky calories. Oh, not that there are any calories or fat molecules involved. Just lots of healthy and wholesome things like organic free range eggs, hormone free heavy cream, fresh cheeses, and a very popular cocoa bean product so everyone gets a vegetable this weekend.

Blueberry Cove Inn
welcomes you to
Chocolate Weekend 2009

Friday Afternoon
(4:00-6:30 p.m.)
Assorted Cookies and Chocolate Bites
Walnut Fudge Brownies

Friday Evening
(8:00 -10:00 p.m.)
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Mint Parfaits
Raspberry Cream Fudge Cake

Saturday Afternoon
(4:00-6:30 p.m.)
Crème Puffs and Chocolate Éclairs
Double Chocolate Brownies

Saturday Evening
(8:00-10:00 p.m.)
Black Forest Cake
Snickers Tarts
Twelve Layer Cake

Sunday Afternoon
(4:00-6:30 p.m.)
Chocolate Fountain
with assorted treats for dipping

Sunday Evening
(8:00 -10:00 p.m.)
German Chocolate Praline Hearts
Chocolate Cream Pie

And of course, our breakfast menus this weekend include Orange Croissant French Toast, Chocolate Babka French Toast, Pancakes (plain, blueberry or chocolate chip), Eggs Florentine, Chocolate-Walnut-Coconut Turnovers.

Vote in our comment section for the recipe you'd most like to see posted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My little helper

Baking is in full swing around here. For the first time I have a helper. This morning she started on cookies. These happen to be chocolate chip with walnuts.

cookies for Blueberry Cove Inn Narragansett, RI

Just look at that precision! I have to use a cookie scoop to get evenly sized cookies but she just goes at it with two spoons.

I love baking on parchment paper. It is so easy to slide the hot cookies off the tray onto a newspaper covered table so they don't overcook.

Narragansett B&B chocolate event

Wait! what is she doing?? She knows she can't touch the food with bare hands!

BUSTED!!!Loves the Rose Garden Room and chocolate

Thanks for the help Mom.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rug cleaning

We finally finished finished the living room! The new ceiling looks pretty good for a far-from-expert installer (I will never get the hang of mudding.) Dave painted the ceiling which made the walls look grungier so he painted the walls too. That meant it was time to bring in the rug we have been storing in the garage for a few months since we bought it for a song at a consignment store. It might have been the filthiest rug in Narragansett so cleaning was a must. I learned a cleaning trick from an old Iranian rug dealer years ago when we lived in Houston. It also works with those heavy waffle pattern water hog style door mats or any area rug.

We decided that the easiest way to transfer the rug to the house was by wheel barrow and the handicapped lift.

Once the rug was inside we assembled the tools: the upright vacuum with beater brush, the rented rug cleaner, and a hepa filter. Before anyone faints, I would not use a rental shampoo machine on a fine antique rug. This rug is hand knotted but wouldn't qualify as an heirloom quality piece. The hepa filter and a closed door will help keep the dust out of the rest of the house but you could open a window if you don't have a filter. If you are smarter than I am you will also wear a hepa dust mask and put on some tunes, reggae is perfect for this job.

Next we turned the rug upside down. The first and longest step was to use the vacuum with a beater brush on the backside. This shakes the deep down dirt out of the rug. In the Victorian era my servant ancestors would have been beating the rug by hand out in the yard. The vacuum is much easier. After ten minutes the rug is pulled back to reveal the dirt.
Sweep up the dirt with the vacuum and repeat. Believe it or not I repeated this process for nearly 3 hours and was still getting dirt and sand out. When you become exhausted, get very little dirt out, or just get to bored to continue flip the rug over and vacuum the correct side a few times. Then go take a bubble bath and save the actual shampooing until tomorrow. Yes, that's what really works for me on Wednesday, a good hot bath.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good times in South County, RI

Yes, it is winter. Yes, it has been cold and snowy. And, yes, you should enjoy some of the diversions we have in the area this week. The South County Independent has a lovely description of things to do, places to go and people to see this week. Events range from a wine tasting fundraiser to night time Owl Prowl or star gazing to a Sweethearts Square dance (or the very popular dance nights at the historic Narragansett Towers just three blocks away) to free lectures on several interesting topics. I would love to get on board one of the seal watching boats this weekend - the weather is supposed to be beautiful. It is supposed to be so beautiful that a picnic on the beach might be my heart's desire. Alas, I will be "stuck" inside. It is time for the Chocolate Weekend baking to begin!!!!