Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where's the menu?



Bed and breakfasts can differ widely, as those who love this form of accommodation well know. I was reminded of this recently when I happened upon a review of A Butler's Manor online. The poster had given us 5 stars and itemized many details he loved about his stay with us. He began the post by stating he was usually a "hotel guy," and was therefore a little leery of staying in a B&B because he thought of them as fussy, cluttered and overly cutesy (a style we call here in the trade "Death by Doily"). He was pleased to find we were none of these things, but said that if there was one thing he wished were different, it was breakfast. While the meal was wonderful, he said, there was no choice of entrees, nor was there a choice of breakfast times. What would make us perfect, he wrote, was if we would offer a choice of meal times and menus from which guests could choose.

I hope the gentleman will continue to try B&Bs when he travels, because that feature is offered in some bed and breakfasts. On our own travels, we have stayed at B&Bs that have a full dining room, waitstaff, and a menu of breakfast options from which to choose. (Notably, these are all much larger establishments than A Butler's Manor.) On the other hand, we are aware that other B&Bs of all sizes (including many here in the Hamptons) choose to offer a continental breakfast, served buffet style. These, and many other variations, are just some of the many differences to be enjoyed when choosing a B&B experience.

Wishing to maximize what we did best, Chris and I considered many variables when we began A Butler's Manor, and one of the things we most wanted to do was create memorable, beautiful breakfasts served communally, so that guests could interact over their meal. And we wanted to do it on Lenox china and Waterford crystal (even when served in the garden). With five rooms (a maximum of eleven guests), only me in the kitchen and Chris serving, we chose to create a breakfast experience with a single hot entree. Because it's critical to us that guests are able to enjoy their meal, we are vigilant in asking about dietary restrictions, food allergies, and things that people just plain don't care for, and I plan the menus around these needs. For those who prefer a lighter breakfast, a variety of cereals and yogurts is always available by request, and of course, fresh fruit, fresh OJ, and homemade baked goods are a feature at every breakfast.

We believe the main course should be fresh and hot, not kept warm in an oven (or--horrors!-- reheated in a microwave). The way we can ensure this is to set a fixed time for breakfast. As the majority of our guests are here for relaxation, this is usually no problem: early risers enjoy the early-bird coffee outside their room from 7AM on, then perhaps take a walk on the beach or a run through the village streets before breakfast, while others revel in the opportunity to sleep in a little. (We accommodate our midweek business guests, who usually have early morning meetings, with a somewhat simpler menu.)

Though we pride ourselves on our personal service, we've realized we are too small to be all things to all guests, and in this case, while we've both had lots of experience in the kitchen, neither of us is a short order cook (nor aspires to be one). :) Alas, a daily choice of menu at A Butler's Manor is not our style.

I'm grateful for that gentleman's comments, and for caring enough to post a review. I hope he continues his explorations of bed and breakfasts, as each of us have a unique approach...and that's what sets us apart from hotels.



One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. -- Luciano Pavarotti


Kim Allen

Innkeeper

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