Nothing says hospitality like a good, hot breakfast and an invitation to come to the table.
In today’s grab-and-go world, a sit-down breakfast is a fading luxury. That’s one reason a limited number of bed-and-breakfast establishments in Charleston continue to offer that experience to their guests, day in and day out. It’s a culinary welcome to travelers that feeds the body and in many cases, the soul.
We asked four innkeepers to talk about that kind of hospitality, which goes a long way in making Charleston a top travel destination in the country. As Mary Kittrell, general manager of the Governor’s House Inn says, “It always amazes me how many people make friends at the dining room table.”
We also asked the innkeepers to share recipes for their guests’ favorite dishes, which they kindly obliged.
The family of Karen Spell Shaw has owned Two Meeting Street Inn since 1946, and she represents the third generation in the hospitality business. Her guests appreciate a full breakfast, and the inn tries to make it as close to home as possible.
That can mean shrimp caught by family members or freshly picked berries from Maple Ridge Farm in Canadys. The inspiration for many of the dishes, all prepared in house, is found in local cookbooks. “What we grew up eating,” Shaw says.
The house, built in 1890 as a wedding present from father to daughter, is a marvel of Victorian craftmanship. No room is square. Arches abound. The English oak woodwork glows with patina. All seven of the original stained-glass windows survive, including two custom made by Tiffany’s in New York, which depict dogwood and magnolia trees in bloom.
Guests may eat in the courtyard, on the veranda or gather at the dining room table.
“The fellowship of having breakfast together is as much a part of the experience as the cuisine itself,” Shaw says.
Yield: 8 servings
1 pound bulk sage pork sausage, such as Jimmy Dean
1 (4-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained and chopped
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (4-ounce) jar pimientos, drained
1 (4-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 package puff pastry sheets (2 sheets), such as Pepperidge Farm
1 egg white, beaten
Brown sausage and mushrooms in a skillet, then drain. Transfer to bowl. While sausage mixture is hot, add cheddar and cream cheese and mix well. Stir in pimientos and water chestnuts.
Cut each puff pastry sheet into quarters. Put 1 heaping tablespoon of sausage mixture in the center of each pastry square and fold pastry over to form a triangle. Seal edges well with a fork. Brush the pastry with egg white for a golden finish.
Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Variations: Serve with either homemade sweet tomato jam or hollandaise sauce. In the summer, substitute 1 pound of cooked local shrimp for the sausage.
In the formal dining room of the Governor’s House Inn at 117 Broad St., no glasses are ever set on the table that don’t have a stem, even for orange juice.
It’s part of the gentility of the inn, says General Manager Mary Kittrell. “We try to spoil our guests as much as they let us.”
Guests, in turn, like to spoil the affable house cat “New,” who once lived on New Street but wormed his way into permanent residence at the inn.
The traditional Georgian double house, built in 1760, lays claim to being the home of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rutledge was elected governor of South Carolina in 1798, serving two years before his untimely death.
The inn’s menu changes every day and with the seasons. Recipes come from many sources, including staff, “but we always put our own spin” on them, Kittrell says. Favorites include eggs Florentine in a ham “basket” and a Bananas Foster in puff pastry.
Assistant manager Sally Ann Bell runs the kitchen and is the architect of the menu. But, she says, “It’s a team effort here.”
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup raspberry jam
12 slices French bread
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray two 9x13-inch baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray (use more baking dishes if needed). Mix ricotta cheese and raspberry jam together. Spread some of the mixture over one side of one French bread slice. Place slice, mixture side up, in the baking dish. Take a second slice of bread and spread the ricotta mixture over one side. Keeping spread side down, match two slices together, like a sandwich. Repeat with remaining slices, laying in the baking dish side by side but not overlapping, and using up all of the ricotta mixture.
Whisk eggs, half-and-half and vanilla together. Pour over bread slices. Press bread down gently while pouring to ensure the egg mixture soaks into the bread. Place dishes in oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until bread is golden brown on top and underneath. Top with raspberry compote (recipe follows).
1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix raspberries, orange juice and sugar in a small pot and bring to a slight boil, cooking until sauce thickens. Stir occasionally, being careful not to let sauce burn. Serve over French toast with whipped cream.
“The guests really enjoy breakfast because it’s not just the food, they enjoy getting to know each other,” says Martha Hogge, house manager and family friend at 15 Church St.
“It’s how we would like to be treated,” echoes Dr. Jack Simmons Jr., homeowner and innkeeper with his wife, Annelise.
The couple — he is a gynecologist and she a teacher — began a B&B in their stately 1842 home about eight years ago as a way to help with taxes and insurance. They like for their home, once a Civil War hospital, to be considered a word-of-mouth “hidden gem” that offers refined comfort and personality, down to their loving black Lab, Frannie, and orange tabby cat, Drifter, who drifted in to stay about three months ago.
A breakfast specialty of the Phillips-Yates-Snowden House, as it is known, has personal meaning as well. The “Hominy Surprise” is a recipe of Jack’s mother, the late Irene Robinson Simmons. The savory grits, eggs and cheese casserole is among the recipes in the venerable “Charleston Receipts” cookbook first published in 1950.
Jack Simmons notes that he has modified the original directions to reflect more modern cooking techniques.
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups stone-ground grits
1 tablespoon black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 raw eggs
1 cup milk
Extra shredded cheddar cheese for topping
Paprika for topping
For the hominy (grits), bring water and salt to a boil. Stir in grits slowly. Cover pot and reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until grits are thick and creamy, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pepper, Worcestershire, butter and cheese.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat eggs into the milk. While grits are still slightly warm, mix in the egg mixture.
Pour into 11/2-quart baking dish or divide among ramekins, about 12 to 14. Sprinkle with extra cheese and paprika. Bake 30 to 45 minutes.
Laid-back is the culture at 1837 Bed & Breakfast, operated by Rick and Lynn Dunn of James Island. “That’s just us, relaxed,” he says. “We try to make it a home away from home.”
Dunn restored and opened the Federal-style house at 126 Wentworth St. as a B&B in 1984 with his late wife, seeing the business as a way to own a historic home and live downtown. The house, once a cotton planter’s home, dates to pre-1837, but that year was its first appearance on record, in a will. The Dunns also have learned that the builder was Henry Muckenfuss, who was born in 1766.
Everybody on staff has to be able to cook breakfast, and the menu is different every day of the week. Much of the cooking is done by longtime manager Jane Floyd or assistant manager Amanda Harris. The kitchen prides itself on homemade goodies such as monkey bread and honey butter.
Harris’ recipe for bacon, spinach and tomato frittata is a hit with guests. “I took a page out of a Rachael Ray book for a BLT frittata and played around with it,” adding spices and seasonal vegetables, she says. “It’s very forgiving because it can be vegetarian, and you can use a lot of different vegetables.”
Serves: 6 or more wedges
Note: Although frittatas are traditionally made in a skillet, Harris prefers a pie or quiche pan because she finds the result moister and prefers the presentation.
1/3 pound sliced bacon, chopped (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped vegetables, such as onion, red or yellow bell pepper, yellow squash or zucchini
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon each paprika, basil, marjoram
1 teaspoon each thyme and rosemary
1/2 tablespoon each (or to taste) black pepper and salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 medium tomato, diced
Dash of lemon juice
4 ounces greens (spinach or arugula), torn or chopped (divided use)
11 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
Dollop spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup frozen hash browns, thawed (optional)
5 ounces cheddar, shredded, or shredded Mexican cheese blend
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry bacon (if using) until cooked but not hard. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Remove excess grease from pan.
Heat olive oil in pan and add vegetables. Add parsley, herbs, salt, pepper and vinegars. Cook until onions begin looking translucent, then add diced tomato, lemon juice, and half of the greens. Cook until the greens wilt. Take off the burner.
In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and mustard.
Spray a 10-inch glass or ceramic pie pan with nonstick spray. Scatter the hash browns over the bottom. Then layer the bacon, if using, the cooked vegetables with wilted greens, and the remaining raw greens. Pour the egg mixture over all.
Cook in oven 45-60 minutes, until the top is set and edges are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven; turn off oven. Sprinkle cheese over top and return pan to still-warm oven to let the cheese melt. Let sit 3-5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Lowcountry Wellington sits atop a bed of fresh tomatoes on a cinnamon-dusted plate, with a doily used to create the pattern, at Two Meeting Street Inn. Tomato jam on a tomatillo, freshly baked cinnamon bread, fresh fruit and orange juice complete the breakfast.×
Martha Hogge (from left), Jack Simmons Jr. and Annelise Simmons×
Rick Dunn (from left), Lynn Dunn and Amanda Harris×