Headed Due North, Seeking Comfort and Cuisine




On a sunny afternoon this past summer, a group of us climbed into a minivan to search for culture, cuisine, and "bed and breakfasts." Our route took us up north through New York's Finger Lakes region, then on to Stratford, Ontario, followed by a trip south to Pennsylvania's own "Grand Canyon."

B&B's have become the ultimate boutique lodging. A new breed of innkeepers — former lawyers, teachers and other professionals — are creating plush accommodations with all the luxuries they expect and have enjoyed on their own travels.

People of all ages are opting for the elegant comfort and pampering offered by small country inns, rather than citified hotels. Knowledgeable innkeepers will tell you the best places to dine and visit, all spiced with local folklore and harmless gossip.

Our first stop was Corning. We stayed at Hillcrest Manor, a boutique lodge run by Dick Bright and Kyle Goodman. The Colonial Revival house is filled with Steuben glass and original Western art. And a full breakfast is served in the cherry-paneled dining room.

At Niagara-on-the Lake, we stayed at Girasole, an Italian-style, "country mansion" B&B set in the midst of acres of vineyards. We received a warm welcome from Franco and Elizabeth Olivieri, in addition to some very bountiful breakfasts.

We watched Franco effortlessly fix breakfast in the sunny kitchen adjoining the breakfast room — fresh fruit muffins, apple pancakes drizzled with Canadian maple syrup and fresh squeezed orange juice.

And since Niagara on the Lake rests in the heart of Niagara wine country, we couldn't pass up Dr. Constantin Frank's Vivifera Wine Cellars, a family-owned winery boasting award-winning results.

When you think of Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame comes to mind. But it's also the summer home of the Glimmerglass Opera Festival, where Purcell and Verdi productions were on our must-see list.

In Rhinebeck, N.Y., Stone Church Road B&B at the end of a quiet, tree-lined road was our destination. There, Marsha DeBlasi baked her signature apricot scones — irresistible.

In town, at Sabroso, co-owner and chef Erika Mahlkuch serves up sensational Latin cuisine. One of her signature dishes is skirt steak with chimichurri sauce and yucca fries.

Then, at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, we found the best of Swedish-style comfort and cuisine at Arvgarden, a B&B on a 118-acre farm just outside the quaint town of Wellsboro.

Owners Keith and Hilma Cooper told us that Arvgarden means "inheritance." While Hilma made breakfast, Keith, a retired teacher, regaled us with fascinating stories about the area.

Our quest for culture, cuisine and comfort was justly rewarded with wonderful meals — and many user-friendly recipes to take home with us.

Marsha's Apricot Scones

From Stone Church Road B&B, Rhinebeck, N.Y.

2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup sugar 
1 Tbsp. baking powder 
pinch salt 
11/4 cups heavy cream 
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 400°.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Make a well in center and pour in the cream. Mix with a fork until a shaggy dough is formed. Add a little more cream if the dough is too dry.

Using a wooden spoon, drop half-spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Makes 16 scones.

Approximate nutrients per scone: calories, 142; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat 7 g; cholesterol, 25 mg; sodium, 99 mg.

Yucca Fries

Yucca may be purchased frozen. Do not thaw before cooking.

11/2 lbs. frozen yucca 
vegetable oil for frying 
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (optional)

Cook the yucca with 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot of boiling water.

Cook 12 to 15 minutes, or until almost translucent and tender when pierced with a knife.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer to layers of paper towels. Let stand 10 minutes to drain and dry completely. Cut into 1/3-inch fries. Discard any fibrous core.

Heat about 11/2-inches oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat (360° on a deep-fat thermometer) or until a cube of bread browns in 60 seconds.

Working in batches, fry the yucca, turning often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (optional). Arrange fries in one layer on a baking sheet. Keep warm in 300° oven until all batches are cooked.

Note: If using fresh yucca, peel and cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick fries. Cook 12 to 15 minutes; test as for frozen yucca.

Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 422; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 43 g; fat, 28 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 18 mg.

Swedish Cardamom Cake

This was shared by Hilma Cooper of Arvgarden. Pearl sugar can be found in specialty stores.

11/2 cups all-purpose flour 
11/2 tsps. baking powder 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 tsp. cardamom 
6 Tbsps. butter, softened 
3/4 cup milk 
pearl sugar or cinnamon to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 400°.

Brush an 8-inch cake pan with soft butter. Dust with dry breadcrumbs or spray with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter to resemble coarse breadcrumbs — or use your fingers. Make a well in center and stir in the milk. Mix well.

Transfer mixture into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle with pearl sugar or cinnamon.

Bake for at least 30 minutes.

Serves 8 to 10.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 199; protein, 3 g; carbohydrates, 30 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 84 mg.


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