Chestnut Inn http://www.chestnut-inn.com Sun, 21 Sep 2014 17:10:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Food as Art http://www.chestnut-inn.com/food-art/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/food-art/#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 17:10:31 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1243 Cooking for me is an expression of my creativity. I view food as art. The plate is a blank canvass. The ingredients are my paint. Every dish is an opportunity to create a masterpiece. The only difference between what I do and what a painter does is that my art also has to taste good. […]

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Cooking for me is an expression of my creativity. I view food as art. The plate is a blank canvass. The ingredients are my paint. Every dish is an opportunity to create a masterpiece. The only difference between what I do and what a painter does is that my art also has to taste good. I truly believe that we eat with our eyes as much as we eat with our taste buds. In fact, I think what you see is almost more important because if something isn’t appealing, you won’t taste it. Art is of course subjective, but ultimately it is up to me to come up with something that appeals to the widest swath of the population while simultaneously being true to my creative expression.

Having a background in dance, I have always had a creative drive in my body. When I cook, I am able to conjure that creativity and let it flow through a new medium. I think anyone who does some kind of art, whether it be fine art, music, dance or otherwise understands what that artistic juice feels like when it flows through your body. It’s an urge, a hunger if you will. That’s how I feel about cooking. I’m passionate about giving people food that is delicious and healthy, but I also find it deeply personal. I’m sharing a very vulnerable part of me with people with each dish and that comes with risk. The risk that they won’t like it and thereby as an extension of my creativity, they won’t like my art. But that’s also part of the challenge.

My basic rule of thumb with my food art is that everything on the plate should be completely edible. I have a great appreciation for molecular gastronomy in terms of scientific innovation, but I prefer to create without chemicals. It is important to me to utilize ingredients as close to their natural state as possible. I think nature is beautiful and food itself is beautiful. Sometimes simplicity is the best way to showcase that natural beauty. I also think that color is tantamount in terms of the plate. And finally, depth is important. The plate should be three dimensional, there should be different textures and layers that pop.

With that in mind, here is just a sampling of what I perceive to be my best “art.”

Scallops with Peach Fennel Chutney

Scallops with Peach Fennel Chutney

Caprese with Home Made Mozzarella

Caprese with Home Made Mozzarella

Scallop with Mango Chutney

Scallop with Mango Chutney

Black Bean Cake with Apple Slaw

Black Bean Cake with Apple Slaw

Deconstructed Beef Wellington

Deconstructed Beef Wellington

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

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The Schizophrenic World of Food and Body Image http://www.chestnut-inn.com/schizophrenic-world-food-body-image/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/schizophrenic-world-food-body-image/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 17:45:56 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1235 The title says it all, “The Schizophrenic World of Food and Body Image.” This blog post is personal and deeply important to me. Yesterday I was checking Facebook the way I always do, and as is usual, my feed was filled with the usual news, cats, Celine Dion and pictures of food. But it was […]

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The title says it all, “The Schizophrenic World of Food and Body Image.” This blog post is personal and deeply important to me. Yesterday I was checking Facebook the way I always do, and as is usual, my feed was filled with the usual news, cats, Celine Dion and pictures of food. But it was also filled with a number of other things, including bullying/suicide, body shaming and stories of eating disorders. It dawned on me that we live in a really screwed up world that simultaneously is obsessed with food and cooking while also being fixated on what the media portrays as perfection when it comes to weight. And you know what? It’s wrong. All of it is broken.

I have alluded before to having battled with eating disorders as a teenager/young adult and I have also discussed my rapid weight loss this year due to medical issues which are now under control. My personal experiences have certainly influenced my response to this topic greatly and I continue to evolve in terms of how I deal with it and approach the subject. Suffice it to say that we as a society have a screwed up perception of what is healthy. Yesterday when I came upon this photo I was appalled and disgusted.

Body Shaming

Body Shaming

This image struck a chord with me as I am sure it does with many women who felt fat as kids. The extremity of it is just a glimpse of how detrimental this kind of mixed media and body shaming can be to a young mind. It was tough in a world before the internet and social media, which is when I grew up, but I cannot even fathom how tough it is for young kids now. It is a constant barrage of negative body image messages.

Then later in the day I came upon the story of Lady Gaga and the ridiculous backlash she received from people on Instagram after posting this photo of herself with the caption: #bodyrevolution Proud at any size, because the inside is what really counts, Plus, it’s all how you pose!Just ask the supermodels!

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

She was immediately bombarded with negative feedback and hateful comments calling her fat and gross. Really?? If this is what people perceive to be fat we have serious problems in this country. That’s the first part, the second part is, when did we decide it was EVER OK to body shame anyone, even if it is a celebrity who puts herself out there for people to see. Nobody deserves to be treated that way.

We need to seriously reevaluate our perceptions and the way that we talk about our bodies. Quite frankly I’d be very happy to stop using the words “fat” or “skinny” and start talking about “healthy” which comes in all shapes and sizes. Food and our bodies are deeply personal things. We all have to eat and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. We also shouldn’t feel like we are constantly being judged by others no matter what size we are. As somebody who is passionate about food and about teaching people how to cook healthy and delicious recipes, it deeply saddens me that this mission is sabotaged at every corner by the media. We have to come to a point where we decide that enough is enough. We have to all change our dialogue and build one another up, not tear each other down. Weight fluctuates. Men and women gain weight as they age. Weight comes off and on for all kinds of reasons, be they medical, emotional or otherwise. Nobody knows what anyone else is going through and therefore it is important that we focus on the positive.

I will finish with one final image and that is of ballerina Misty Copeland. Misty, for those of you who don’t know her, is a soloist with the American Ballet Theater and unique because as a black woman she has overcome overwhelming obstacles to make it in a very white world. She was also told as a young woman that she didn’t have the right body for dance. She was too curvy and that would never fly in that world. Well, Misty defied the odds and is now a successful author, ballerina and recently has become one of the faces for the Under Armour campaign showing what athleticism really is. I have admired her for her talent and for her outspokenness about being comfortable with your body and who you are. I think we could all stand to learn from her example of self confidence and loving the body you are in.

#iwillwhatiwant

#iwillwhatiwant

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The Reality of Innkeeping http://www.chestnut-inn.com/reality-innkeeping/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/reality-innkeeping/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 18:16:02 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1232 So many people tell us that their dream is to own a bed and breakfast. They fantasize about the fun with guests, having an amazing historic home, getting the chance to cook for others and getting paid to work from home. But the reality of innkeeping is so much more than this fantasy and I […]

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So many people tell us that their dream is to own a bed and breakfast. They fantasize about the fun with guests, having an amazing historic home, getting the chance to cook for others and getting paid to work from home. But the reality of innkeeping is so much more than this fantasy and I think people don’t realize all that’s actually involved.

Let me preface this post by saying that I LOVE my job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It is my calling and something that I wake up feeling grateful to be doing every day. With that, however, there are so many things people don’t consider when they see owning a bed and breakfast at face value.

Myth #1: This is something fun to do in retirement. If you think this is retirement and you won’t really be working, think again. I can promise you that you will not only put in hours like  you did at a normal 9 to 5 job, but you will also be working physically. It’s exhausting on every level, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Your are “on” 24/7, whether you are taking care of guests or just answering phones/emails. You will be climbing stairs, kneeling, crouching, getting into nooks and crannies to clean and otherwise taxing your body in ways you didn’t expect. You will be making small talk and perpetually getting to know people, which is fun, but also requires a lot of energy. And even if you aren’t running a bed and breakfast and restaurant combined like we do, you will work long hours between breakfast preparation, service, clean up, room turns, check ins and otherwise accommodating guests needs. That doesn’t even include the busy work like accounting, marketing, social networking, etc. So no, you will NOT be retired.

Myth #2: You can take time off whenever you want to. This one is kind of true, although you are never REALLY off. You always are connected and taking care of your business, even if you are on vacation. And it’s really hard to commit to taking time off. No matter when you do it, you stand to lose revenue. There is no such thing as paid vacation which means if you don’t work, you aren’t making money and you aren’t paying the bills. I can tell you, that’s probably the biggest stress of all for me. The knowledge that you will always have something due to pay but you may not have the revenue stream to accommodate those expenses. Either way, you have to force yourself to take the time off because you will get burned out and your guests will notice.

Myth #3: Having people in your home and touching your stuff won’t be a big deal because people are generally respectful. For us this one partially doesn’t hold true because we bought this property with the intent of it being a business and are not all that attached to anything in it aside from a couple of personal items (like my Celine Dion autograph which is sacred so don’t touch!!). However, a LOT of innkeepers take their family homes after their kids go off to college and turn them into b and b’s and I can tell you it’s VERY challenging to let go of your stuff. No matter how respectful people are, things will happen, stuff will break and you cannot possibly put enough “rules” in place to keep that from happening. Personally, I am put off by properties that make me sign off on a do’s and don’ts list. I’m supposed to feel at home, cared for, not like I’m intruding on someone else’s privacy.

Myth #4: It’s always going to be fun. I can tell you that in 10 years of doing this, 98% of guests are lovely and yes, it IS fun. But there is no such thing as perfect and there are always going to be people or situations that will test you. They will test your patience, your attitude, your physical endurance and sometimes your ability to keep guests from getting into awkward conversations about things that may cause discomfort for many. Believe it or not I often find myself playing mediator with guests, trying to actively steer the topic of conversation to things that are more neutral like the weather, kids or food. There is also the fact of the matter that nobody is perfect every day. You will get sick, you will have a fight with your spouse, you will wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you will fall and break your ankle, you will need to have surgery, you will burn yourself or cut yourself. Lots of things can and will happen. It’s inevitable. And the longer you are in business, the more opportunity there is for stuff to go wrong. Guess what though? There’s no such thing as calling in sick. When guests are paying to stay with you and to be taken care of, they come first. I can’t tell you the number of times I just sucked it up, took some medicine, put a smile on my face and showed up. Because that’s what innkeepers do. Show must go on no matter what.

So would I recommend innkeeping as a profession? I can wholeheartedly say yes. I just encourage people to consider all these things before making that decision and the commitment. You give up a lot by making this choice. A lot of privacy, a lot of solitude, a lot of security and even a little sanity. But if you are the right kind of person for this job, you will find it just as rewarding as I do.

Bed and Breakfast

Bed and Breakfast

 

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The Hundred Foot Journey http://www.chestnut-inn.com/hundred-foot-journey/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/hundred-foot-journey/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:36:23 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1222 I’m not typically one to write movie reviews, but last night I had the great pleasure of seeing the movie “The Hundred Foot Journey,” which is based upon the novel by the same name written by Richard C. Morais and stars Helen Mirren, and to say it was fantastic would be an understatement. It was […]

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I’m not typically one to write movie reviews, but last night I had the great pleasure of seeing the movie “The Hundred Foot Journey,” which is based upon the novel by the same name written by Richard C. Morais and stars Helen Mirren, and to say it was fantastic would be an understatement. It was a tremendous, thoughtful movie that really struck a chord with me personally on many levels. Beyond that, it was a beautiful movie filled with incredible food, which I’m certain will appeal to any self proclaimed foodie.

The premise of the movie is that a family from India, through a series of unfortunate circumstances ends up in a small village in France, where they end up opening an Indian restaurant directly across from a Michelen starred French restaurant. Without divulging too much of the plot, there is a love story, the ascendance of a great chef, and ultimately the return of that chef to his adopted home town and to his roots. For myself, the part of the movie that struck the greatest chord was the fact that this young man, through hard work and talent, was able to achieve greatness in an industry that traditionally rewards those who have attended big name culinary schools. As a self taught chef, who has spent a lot of time studying and has also ultimately received her certification as a Culinary Professional through the International Association of Culinary Professionals, I can understand and recognize the difficulty of breaking into this kind of old boys club, even more so as a female in a profession largely occupied by men.

The second aspect of the film that struck a chord with me was the dynamic and sometimes violent nature of inter-cultural relationships. We see so much hatred and war going on right now between people of different religions and cultures. In this movie, some of the locals in the French village are resentful of the differences that the Indian family represents and resort to violence to make their point. The owner of the French restaurant, after indirectly inciting the violence with her vitriol, puts them in their place by reminding them that the French constitution is based upon the foundation of “liberte, egalite et fraternite” or libery, equality and fraternity. These are principles that she believes should be extended to anyone wishing to make a home in France, that is willing to work hard and become a part of their community. I have a particular affinity to this kind of mindfulness. As someone who is deeply pained by the violence often attributed to social and cultural differences, I was happy to see her stand up for the “others” in this movie, discover the error of her ways and atone for them.

A third aspect of the movie that really hit home with me was the notion of aspiring to fame or being known in the big time. That certainly has it’s advantages in terms of financial rewards, flexibility to travel, notoriety, etc. But many of these things come at a huge cost. I have often wondered what it would be like if I could make it big time, become a celebrity chef and have my own show on the Food Network. How things would change. How I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore. How everyone would know me and I’d have a bigger platform to talk about healthy eating, organic/local foods and eating with dietary restrictions. All that would be great. But the flip side of that can include a lot of loneliness, answering to others, lack of independence and ultimately it can mean compromising your ideals and your passions. In the end of the movie, the lead character realizes this and returns back to his little village to cook the food he believes in at the French restaurant alongside the girl he loves. That is what I do here at CSI and it’s something I am very proud of. It certainly reinforces why I do what I do, where I do it, with the person I love.

A couple of final thoughts on the movie that I found of interest. The Michelin star system in and of itself is a fascinating, if not slightly bizarre, rating system. It has existed forever and I realize that it is of huge importance, particularly to the French. In fact, there are stories of French chefs committing suicide because their restaurant lost a star. The notion that a newbie could possibly ascend the ranks of Michelin starred chefs so quickly is a little far fetched, but I will give the story brownie points for being a super Cinderella esque rags to riches story. I also had a small beef with the fact that the young woman at the restaurant, who had put in time working there, had experience and was equally as talented, was not offered the position as chef de cuisine when the male chef de cuisine was fired. In my ideal world, she would have been promoted, created amazing food herself, and gotten the second Michelin star for the restaurant, but realistically speaking, this is still a very male dominated industry, particularly in France, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too overly surprised.

Ultimately, I do have to say that I loved the movie, I look forward to seeing it again in the theater, and I am certain I will own it. It was touching, inspiring, hunger inducing and funny. And it points out the one universal truth that is common among us all. We all have to eat. That should be the tie that binds us, not that pulls us apart. If there is nothing else that can bring us together in such a fractured and often violent world, it should be sitting around the table and enjoying a meal together. Go see it. You won’t regret it.

 

The 100 Foot Journey

The Hundred Foot Journey

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Happy International Charlie Trotter Day http://www.chestnut-inn.com/happy-international-charlie-trotter-day/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/happy-international-charlie-trotter-day/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 20:24:27 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1216 Happy International Charlie Trotter Day! For those of you who don’t know who he is, Charlie Trotter was a legendary chef who owned a world renowned restaurant in Chicago which he closed in 2012, just prior to passing away on November 5, 2013 from complications due to a stroke. He was one of the first […]

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Happy International Charlie Trotter Day! For those of you who don’t know who he is, Charlie Trotter was a legendary chef who owned a world renowned restaurant in Chicago which he closed in 2012, just prior to passing away on November 5, 2013 from complications due to a stroke. He was one of the first to take food and wine pairings seriously and his viewpoint of food was to view it as more of an art form than just something we have to do to stay alive. He saw cooking as a delicate balance between using the finest ingredients he could find and elevating them to the highest possible level. He inspired legions of today’s biggest chefs, despite having had the reputation of being very difficult to work with.

My experience with him was solely as a customer. For my 33rd birthday, Jeff arranged for us to dine at Trotter’s restaurant in the kitchen at his chef’s table which was a VERY difficult reservation to get. We were fortunate to have friends who knew the sous chef and were able to help us get the reservation on a Tuesday night. I had no idea where we were going and actually didn’t know where we were until we were already at the restaurant. We were joined by our friends who helped us get the reservation as well as by my father in law and his girlfriend, who literally flew to Chicago for dinner all the way from California. (A super story to tell the folks at work the next day.)

We opted for the elaborate taster menu along with the full wine pairings. And let me just say that from beginning to end, the entire staff, waiters, sommelier, chefs and bus boys were fantastic. For what it’s worth, Charlie may have been a challenge to work with, but he most certainly knew how to train his staff to provide the highest possible level of service and cuisine you could hope for.

Trotter Menu

Trotter Menu

As soon as we began chatting with the head waiter we told him we also own a restaurant so they immediately proceeded to put me in a chef smock and actually had me plate the entire rest of the meal. It was quite fun. The highlight, however, was when Charlie himself arrived. We were toward the end of the savory section of the meal and leading into the desserts. From the moment he arrived to the moment he left, he was absolutely lovely with us. He spent the better part of about a half an hour with us, chatting, drinking and being jovial. At one point he had me behind the line plating and he says to me, “I’m going to pretend to be Gordon Ramsey and yell at you.” Just at that moment Jeff snapped a photo. It was perfect. Classic memory from an unforgettable night.

Trotter and Me

Trotter and Me

Right afterward he remarked that he liked having a female chef next to him wearing heels and that maybe he should have all his female chefs wear heels. A little tongue in cheek but it was supposed to be a joke. He also at one point made a toast to us saying “I’d rather be here with you people than with the finest people in the world.” We got a good laugh at that.

After our meal, we were given a full tour of the facility, including the impressive wine cellar and classroom kitchen and upon leaving, I was informed that Charlie had left me a gift for my birthday. A bag with 3 of his esteemed cookbooks and a signature Charlie Trotter baseball cap. A classy touch to a classy, delicious and incredible night.

So while chefs and foodies around the world celebrate Charlie Trotter’s legacy today, I celebrate the man I met for a brief moment in time and the amazing dining experience he and his staff crafted for us that evening. I will always think of him fondly and will always hold a special place in my heart for the generous hospitality he showed us that night. May you rest in peace Charlie Trotter.

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Never Trust a Skinny Chef http://www.chestnut-inn.com/never-trust-skinny-chef/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/never-trust-skinny-chef/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 17:00:12 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1205 Never Trust a Skinny Chef. How many times have you heard this one? Well I think it’s nonsense. I can’t tell you how frequently guests jokingly say this to me and I always chuckle but in the back of my mind think the stereotype is extraordinarily ridiculous. Historically speaking, yes, there were a lot of […]

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Never Trust a Skinny Chef. How many times have you heard this one? Well I think it’s nonsense. I can’t tell you how frequently guests jokingly say this to me and I always chuckle but in the back of my mind think the stereotype is extraordinarily ridiculous. Historically speaking, yes, there were a lot of heavy set chefs. There were also a lot of male chefs and very few female chefs so I suppose it would have been just as easy to say never trust a female chef, which also sounds ludicrous. Any stereotype suggesting there is a “supposed to be” in the culinary world, or any world for that matter, rubs me the wrong way. It places unnecessary restrictions and constraints upon what’s normal and doesn’t allow the doors to stay open to anyone with talent, knowledge and the desire to achieve in that world. When it comes to the size of a chef, I can wholeheartedly assure you that size does not matter.

Very early on in my culinary career I read an article about Paul Prudhomme and how he had such difficulty losing weight. He hired a nutritionist to follow him around the kitchen for two weeks. She painstakingly calculated the calories of every sample he ingested and came to the conclusion that despite his not eating much else besides the samples he was consuming, he was ingesting something like 6000 calories per day, far to high for even an adult male of his stature. This was a good lesson to me to curb my sampling and to be mindful of the amount of fat, salt and sugar I am adding to my food. It also was a good lesson in the need for making smart choices in my other meals throughout the day and in the need to exercise to help mitigate the probability of weight gain from sampling. I have been diligent about this from day one so while my weight has fluctuated somewhat, I have never been a big person and have been even more diligent about it of late.

A thin chef indicates two things to me. One, the chef is disciplined. Not only is he/she disciplined in the kitchen, but also as a person. They keep themselves fit, not necessarily because of ego, but because being on your feet for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is difficult work. Not all chefs work those hours but they all spend a lot of time on their feet and in less than ideal conditions. If you are not fit, you will burn out. It’s a young persons game and if you plan on doing this as a career long term, you better take care of yourself and stay fit. End of story.

The second thing it indicates to me is that they are mindful of both portions and of the types of foods they are cooking. In observing what is “normal” in terms of portion sizes in this area I am often horrified by what is considered to be “normal.” I used to try to compete but have since reduced my portions, opting rather to spend more money on quality rather than quantity of food. I still think my portions are more than adequate and in fact quite generous, but not gluttonous. Additionally, I tend to make vegetables the star of a dish more often than not. I think meat is fine and in fact I love a good steak, but I could be just as happy being a vegetarian. Vegetables are infinitely interesting and take a lot of finesse to cook/prepare well. We all know we are supposed to be eating more fruits and veggies and the ability to utilize them well and make them appetizing is tantamount to good health and fitness. This is something I am quite proud of being able to do.

So next time you see a skinny chef, look at it as something positive, a sign that that chef is doing something right. Ultimately it comes down to not judging a book by its cover. Judge it by its content. In the chefs case, judge them by what they produce in the kitchen and send out for their guests to enjoy.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

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Life Lessons Learned Through Innkeeping http://www.chestnut-inn.com/life-lessons-learned-innkeeping/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/life-lessons-learned-innkeeping/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:51:16 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1198 We have been innkeepers for going on almost ten years now, which is as mind boggling to me as to any of our repeat guests who have been coming to see us for that long. One of the things that has emerged over these last ten years are the life lessons learned through innkeeping. There […]

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We have been innkeepers for going on almost ten years now, which is as mind boggling to me as to any of our repeat guests who have been coming to see us for that long. One of the things that has emerged over these last ten years are the life lessons learned through innkeeping. There are many, and I do believe that they are not exclusive to innkeepers. They are things that I think can be applied to anyone’s life and to any profession. Here are just a few that are worth mentioning and thinking about.

1) Patience is a virtue. While this seems like a silly catchphrase, it is definitely true. Guests, weather, every day occurrences, all of these will test your patience and test it often. Learning how to work through this and to maintain your cool is key to not only providing good customer service, but to maintaining a certain level of sanity. If you lose your cool, you not only will impact the comfort of your guests, but in the long run it’ll wear on you and make you unhappy.

2) Make your health and wellness a priority. Innkeepers don’t get paid sick days. Heck, there is no such thing as calling in sick. Most of the time you just have to suck it up and deal with it. That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fair share of medical issues, including two surgeries over the last 3 years during which Jeff had to play solo innkeeper, but the vast majority of the time I am pleased to say, knock on wood, that we have both been able to stay remarkably healthy. This work is physical, there are no bones about it. We are on our feet for long hours, run around a lot, do a lot of bending and lifting and sometimes don’t get a lot of sleep during peak season. The only way to sustain that kind of schedule is to make sure you eat well, exercise and in our case take some supplements to maintain our basic health and well being. It’s worked thus far and I suspect it’ll continue working as long as we are diligent about it.

3) Take time off. No matter how much you love your job, love people and love your life, you have to decompress. For us that means we have to physically remove ourselves from the inn or we will find something to do. I think this is particularly applicable to parents with small children. Giving yourselves the permission to go away and focus on just you is absolutely necessary if not for physical well being, more so for emotional and spiritual well being. Even just a couple of days does wonders to boost your morale and make you that much more efficient at what you do.

4) We are all human and by that very nature we all make mistakes. Try as I may to do everything right all the time, because I am an absolute perfectionist, I am quite fallible and am often reminded of this. It is humbling when you burn something or spill something or realize you forgot to do something in a room before check in. Most of the time, if you are honest about making a mistake and you apologize, people will not only forgive you but appreciate your being human. This has proven itself time after time to be the truth.

5) Be prepared for everything and even then, be prepared for the unexpected. No matter how much we budget, plan and prepare for things, something always comes up. It can often be deflating and feel like a real setback. Sometimes I blame it on my beautiful historic money pit of a home, but in reality, all homeowners deal with the unexpected. Heck, all humans deal with the unexpected. Life is what happens while we all make plans and this is something I know to be truer than anything else. You have no control over what may happen. The only thing you have control over is how you are going to deal with it. Do you fall apart and go hide from it or do you face it head on and then move on? I’ve found that fretting and freaking out doesn’t do anything except to make me anxious and not feel well. When I gather my wits about me, evaluate the problem and then come up with solutions I tend to be a lot more effective and a lot happier.

Innkeeping is at its very core an exercise in humanity. It often offers the opportunity for us to evaluate who we are and to try to become better innkeepers and better people. We as innkeepers are reflected in the eyes and in the hearts of all of our guests. It is up to us to look into their eyes and hearts and to take all of it in, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Jeff and Monika

Jeff and Monika

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Children and Inns http://www.chestnut-inn.com/children-inns/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/children-inns/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 14:55:36 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1193 Children and inns is a subject that is very sensitive to many, and one that every innkeeper has to delicately address, factoring in the ambiance they are trying to achieve with their property and the potential benefit/loss ratio of either allowing kids or not allowing kids. For the record, I don’t know of an innkeeper […]

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Children and inns is a subject that is very sensitive to many, and one that every innkeeper has to delicately address, factoring in the ambiance they are trying to achieve with their property and the potential benefit/loss ratio of either allowing kids or not allowing kids. For the record, I don’t know of an innkeeper who doesn’t like kids. Many have their own children and grandchildren and love them dearly. However, many have established no child policies at their properties for varying reasons. We are one of those. Our policy is 12 and up when it comes to the bed and breakfast. We have in fact bent our rule many times, but are more and more inclined to not do so. This upsets some who want to travel as a family and who do not wish to stay at chain hotels and motels, but our reasons are many. **Please note: We do allow children to dine at our restaurant who are not staying as long as they are tended by their parents and kept at their table so as not to intrude on the dining experience of others. We do not have a children’s menu, but we will offer half portions of the menu for that evening.

First and foremost, our focus as a destination bed and breakfast is upon gourmet dining, which is not something that most children understand or appreciate because young palates are not as developed or sophisticated. We also wish to create an adult environment that allows guests to enjoy the company of their significant others or friends and to get away from their own children. It is incredibly important for parents to get away from their kids every so often to rejuvenate and reconnect. We view our bed and breakfast as just the place for that and it would be unfair for us to allow one person’s kids when another room is looking for a child free weekend.

Secondly, we have many valuables and sentimental items on display throughout the house. I will make a disclaimer that not all children are hyper or incapable of behaving, but children are children. They are curious. It’s a new environment and they want to explore. That’s normal and I would not expect it to be any other way. I just don’t want them touching and picking everything up or breaking anything which puts both us and the parents in an awkward position.

Thirdly, children are not usually the problem, it’s the parents. I cannot tell you how many times I have made exceptions for kids and the parents tell me their children are very well behaved and mature. Perhaps when they are at home or in an environment that they are accustomed to, this is true, but in a new environment all bets are off. Parents are relaxed, they are trying to enjoy themselves, they may even be enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two. That’s great, but that doesn’t mean you stop minding or disciplining your children. What ends up happening is that we as the innkeepers end up having to either entertain the kids or keep them from harming themselves or something else. Some parents don’t mind, but others take offense to this. It’s uncomfortable all around and it distracts us from what we really should be doing, which is to provide our guests with everything they need and to create outstanding food.

So these are just some reasons innkeepers may have for maintaining a no child policy. Others welcome families. It’s an individual decision and a very personal one. As for us, we love kids. We have many young ones in our family that we enjoy being around and in fact are quite good with kids. I am personally passionate about education and specifically about food in schools and have on many occasions participated in school and after school programs with young kids educating them about healthy eating. But when it comes to the experience we are trying to craft for our guests, we have to hone in on what best suits that vision and for us that means keeping it to adults only.

Chestnut Street Inn

Chestnut Street Inn

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The Not So Sweet Truth About Fruit http://www.chestnut-inn.com/sweet-truth-fruit/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/sweet-truth-fruit/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 14:45:30 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1187 This morning I was preparing for breakfast. I had a beautiful assortment of fruit laid out to serve. Some lovely looking apricots, peaches, kiwis, bananas and pineapple. From the exterior they all looked pristine and perfect. When I started cutting them up I realized that the vast majority were either totally rotten or totally unripened. […]

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This morning I was preparing for breakfast. I had a beautiful assortment of fruit laid out to serve. Some lovely looking apricots, peaches, kiwis, bananas and pineapple. From the exterior they all looked pristine and perfect. When I started cutting them up I realized that the vast majority were either totally rotten or totally unripened. This is the not so sweet truth about fruit. It’s all about looks, but no substance.

We live in a country where every grocery store is stocked with a vast array of fruits and vegetables, year round. You can find tropical fruits like kiwis and bananas year round at the local Super Walmart, and at a reasonable price. But the cost of this abundance of variety is enormous. Most of this fruit came not just from across the country, but from around the world. Take a look at some of the labels. The kiwis we can buy locally come from Italy (which perplexes me because Italy is most certainly not a tropical island). Oranges and avocados come from Mexico. Tomatoes may come from the U.S. but are generally hydroponically grown or grown in a hot house, without ever seeing the light of day.

These fruits and vegetables are shells of what they really should be. They have no flavor and no scent. You are almost better off consuming fake wax fruit from a decorative bowl. They would probably have more flavor than these pseudo fruits. Most fruit is picked completely unripened so that it can withstand the long voyage it will make to your local grocery store. Delicate fruits like strawberries and apricots cannot withstand 1000′s of miles and several days in a truck en route to your Super Walmart so they are brought to a warehouse and then gassed with ethylene gas to quickly ripen them, or at least give the illusion from the outside that they are ripe. By the time you see the perfect looking fruits and veggies at the grocery store, they have been harvested more than a week prior, gassed and possibly waxed to show a shiny, pristine looking fruit.

Bring them home and you realize that they are tasteless and unripe. Or, in the case of some of the more delicate fruits, you bring them home and within a day they are completely rotten because they have been around for so long. It’s an incredible waste of money. I literally purchase a third more fruit than I think I will need for breakfasts, knowing full well that by the time I serve them, many will no longer be edible. It’s like gambling in a casino, only I think the odds are better at the blackjack table than with the fruit.

So what can you do? Really, if you are not located somewhere that has a moderate climate year round which can support fresh fruit growing all the time, you are kind of at the mercy of the commercial food system that has developed in this country. When possible, buy local. It is not only the best quality fruit you will get, but it supports the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint of your food. Around here we do have several farms that grow berries, apples, melons and more. This time of year all of these fruits will start appearing and even some of the local grocery chains will supply locally grown fruit. If you see them, opt for those.

In the winter I do what I can and select the fruits that are least likely to be problematic. I also opt for organic where I can. In some cases it doesn’t matter, bananas come to mind, but in others it does make a distinct difference in terms of the quality of the fruit. I won’t say it isn’t frustrating, but it is what it is. But I always maintain that money talks and if we want to see things change and to encourage more local small family farms, we have to put our money where our mouths and stomachs are and make sure we go out of our way to support those local farms when they have food available. That’s my policy here at CSI and I take it very seriously.

Fruit

The Not So Sweet Truth About Fruit

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Pet Friendly Debate http://www.chestnut-inn.com/pet-friendly-debate/ http://www.chestnut-inn.com/pet-friendly-debate/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 16:23:06 +0000 http://www.chestnut-inn.com/?p=1178 Among inns and innkeepers there is constantly a pet friendly debate going on. More and more properties are opening themselves up to guests who like to travel with their furrbabies. It’s good marketing and has a good built in clientele. But, there are also a lot of folks who are allergic to pets and unable […]

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Among inns and innkeepers there is constantly a pet friendly debate going on. More and more properties are opening themselves up to guests who like to travel with their furrbabies. It’s good marketing and has a good built in clientele. But, there are also a lot of folks who are allergic to pets and unable to stay in a facility that is pet friendly. So the debate is always whether being pet friendly will actually increase your business or decrease your business.

As an animal lover, okay maybe an animal freak (In fact my husband insists that if it were up to me we wouldn’t have a bnb we would have a petting zoo and there may be some truth to that), my heart says being pet friendly would be great, but because we are predominantly a bnb for foodies, my brain says otherwise. If we had the kind of property that had all hardwood or tile floors, not a lot of antiques and was located in a more urban area, we might reconsider that philosophy, but as it stands we feel that we are not equipped to clean adequately to make sure danders don’t get trapped into the carpet that would affect other guests that have allergies. So we have upheld our no pets policy. We tried once or twice to make an exception but decided that it wasn’t worth it after a few accidents. (Note: by law all businesses are required to accept service animals regardless of allergies)

What about our own pet?? Many people have asked me this as we do have a cat in residence. Our feline furrbaby is isolated to our innkeepers quarters only and is diligently monitored so that he does not get into the inn. We also made sure our venting for AC/Heating are completely separate from the rest of the inn so that there is no chance of danders travelling from one floor to the next. As far as myself, I am also very diligent about making sure I keep furr off myself and I am constantly washing my hands before handling any food or engaging with guests.

We found out early on that my father in law is highly allergic to cats and particularly sensitive to our feline for whatever reason. His asthma would act up and he would start sneezing uncontrollably the second he was anywhere near him. So we do take allergies very seriously. He stays with us regularly without any trouble as have many other guests with cat allergies.

That being said, we do periodically show off our furrbaby online because we think he is pretty darn adorable. And we find folks like to see photos of peoples pets and children. Since we don’t have children, we proudly parade our furrbaby. And there was the one year that Couscous won for employee of the year. Not sure exactly what he did to deserve it, but we figured he was due. If nothing else for moral support and purrs.

With that, here is a photo of our precocious and very large feline Couscous, in honor of National Hug Your Cat Day!

Couscous

The Chestnut Street Inn mascot. Couscous!

 

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