WV Travel Team: Wine and dine at W.Va. B&Bs
Ignore the milk and cereal or cold plastic-wrapped pastries.
At West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association inns and properties across the state, breakfasts may range from goat cheese and spinach omelets or roasted vegetable frittatas to Belgian waffles topped with West Virginia maple syrup, fresh raspberries, strawberries and blackberries or homemade biscuits and ramp butter.
What most people don’t realize, though, is that when staying at a WVBBA property, it’s not all just about the breakfast.
From the Eastern Panhandle to the New River/Greenbrier Valley, bed and breakfast inns across the Mountain State offer culinary venues from fine dining to picnic lunches, from wine pairings or casual dinners on the porch to romantic dinners for two.
It’s arguably one of the best-kept secrets in the state, but many WVBBA owners are also chefs de cuisine, sous chefs, pastry chefs, Master Sommeliers or Certified Wine Specialists.
Their culinary backgrounds and education are as diverse and expansive as their properties, from training at the Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (chef Justin Meyer, Hillbrook Inn), Gevrey Chambertin in Burgundy, France (Ed Fischer, North Fork Mountain Inn), or attending classes at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to establishing and contributing to the development of the culinary curriculum at Pierpont Culinary Academy in Fairmont (chef Tim Urbanic, Café Cimino Country Inn).
If you were to do a culinary B&B tour of the state, you might start in the Eastern Panhandle at The Hillbrook Inn & Spa, situated on 30 sprawling acres in Jefferson County.
As part of the Select Registry network, Hillbrook Inn’s guests are able to choose from 18 suites and cottages tastefully decorated in a European style.
Under Justin Meyer’s direction, the inn’s culinary team artfully prepares five-course candlelight dinners every night from the chef’s selection of prix-fixe menus.
Additional three-course dinners are served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. “Mindful Menus” are also available to accommodate specific dietary needs.
In addition to extraordinary culinary offerings, join one of Hillbrook Inn’s three expert chefs for a hands-on professional cooking class in their beautiful and newly renovated Hawthorn Estate kitchen.
Recipes are provided and, of course, each prepared dish is tasted and evaluated by the chef and class participants. Choose from foundation skills classes, such as basic knife skills or sauces, or skill building classes to create pastas or pastries.
Discover a weekend of culinary immersion in historic Charles Town. From there, travel southwest to North Fork Mountain Inn in Grant County, also on the Select Registry, and surround yourself in the Monongahela National Forest.
You will find expansive wraparound porches with majestic views of the Smoke Hole Canyon and an education in pairing wine with culinary delights.
Before starting your day, place your order for one of the North Fork Mountain Inn’s popular gourmet picnic lunches. With your basket in hand, get ready to indulge at nearby Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area.
Casual dining is presented Sunday through Friday evenings, with a variety of salads and entrées to choose from.
On Saturday evenings, fine dining is a very special event at the inn.
The evening begins with a complimentary and guided wine tasting of five to six wines from around the world. There are approximately 140 professionals who hold the title Master Sommelier in North America, and owner Ed Fischer is one of them.
“Wine tasting and appreciation is very much a subjective experience,” Fischer says. “I would invite each person to start their journey of wines around the world discovering why they enjoy the wines they do. What is most important is to enjoy wines that you like and not necessarily those that the experts say are the best.”
Travel southwest to the next stop on your tour — Café Cimino Country Inn in Braxton County.
Specializing in southern Italian cuisine and Euro/Mediterranean dishes, world-renowned chef Tim Urbanic’s reverence for food, the land and the quality of the dining experience demands that each guest’s dinner is thoughtfully prepared especially for them.
Executive sous chef Eli Urbanic is upholding and expanding the family tradition.
Pastas with heritage Italian sauces, handcrafted gnocchi with morels and ramps, or homemade lasagna are followed by desserts that are prepared daily.
On Tuesdays, Café Cimino Country Inn offers a “Cimino Little Dish” menu in the bistro on the banks of the Elk River.
The Italian-style tapas menu offers guests the opportunity to sample enticing appetizers, breads, olives or cheese plates with fine wines, their favorite cocktail or artisan beers.
As Melody Urbanic explains, “Café Cimino Country Inn offers upscale dining in a relaxed country-inn atmosphere, where guests can enjoy a great breakfast and also wonderful dinners, a river view bar and great wines from all over the world.
“Chef Tim and I are celebrating our 15th year in hospitality, and love the opportunity to offer an elevated dining experience in the relaxed atmosphere of a quaint little West Virginia town.”
There are many WVBBA properties throughout the state that offer culinary delights with dinners, lunches and special meals for guests and travelers. Visit the West Virginia Bed and Breakfast Association website at www.wvbedandbreakfasts.com for information to plan your culinary travels at WVBBA properties.
Toni Mathias-Harvey is a West Virginia innkeeper and president of the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.