West Hill House B&B

Category Archives: Food & Drink

Tea Primer

April 23, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Granny's favourite.

When we moved to Texas from Canada, two new friends, knowing of our Canadian & Scottish backgrounds, offered us tea – cups with water heated (not to boiling) in the microwave and presented with a tea bag on the side. YIKES! My mission from then on was to teach them to make a good cup of tea, properly made! Both new friends, who have since become near and dear, were excellent students and can now make a great cuppa’.

Here are a few basic terms that are useful to know when reading about and making tea.

Tea pot -The vessel from which hot tea is poured. Buy a tea pot if you haven’t one. Whether from a simple Brown Betty tea pot or an ornate fine china tea pot, pouring tea from a tea pot makes the experience of having a cuppa’ all the more enjoyable. (don’t use aluminum though it reacts badly with tea).

This small 2-cup tea pot along with its wee cream and sugar was used for many years by Peter’s Granny who lived to be one week short of 100 years old. In the latter years of her life Granny was confined to bed and Peter’s mum brought her tea in this little set each morning. Looking as good as new, sadly its tea cup is missing.

Tea kettle - the vessel in which you bring fresh water to a boil. Can be electric or stove top.

Tea cup – A china tea cup or mug are my favourites – but then, I’ve also drunk tea from a birch bark cup so I’ll take tea no matter!

Infuse or Steep – the process of extracting the flavour of the tea from the leaves to the water.

Loose  leaf or Tea bag – Use good quality loose, leaf is best. Most commonly used are tea bags which contain tea dust which is known for it quick extraction. With a myriad kinds of tea, make a visit your local tea shop for advice on what to purchase. (If you are in the Mad River Valley checkout the tea shop and restaurant called MINT- they have about 50 different teas and tisanes.)

Tisane-Though prepared in the same manner as tea, tisane is a combination of dried flowers, herbs and fruit and does not contain tea leaves.

One-for-the-pot - This refers to how much loose leaf or how many teabags to use. My guideline is 1 bag or one slightly rounded teaspoon of loose leaf per 10 oz of water. You preferences may vary for weaker or stronger tea.

Tea Ball or Tea Infuser  or Tea Egg – A tea ball is not a fancy dress dance, it ‘s a device into which loose tea leave are put for steeping. Once in the tea pot, the hot water poured over it  can seep through the mesh of a tea ball to the leaves.

Ready to make some tea? Stay tuned!

We know how to make tea!

April 15, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

A Ceylon tea set which was purchased by Peter's grandmother when she and her husband lived in Ceylon in the early 1900s.

Over the past few weeks I have attended two conferences, each providing various meals followed by coffee and tea,  but only if you asked for it.

My latest tea challenge came just the other day. I was brought a cup filled with very warm water (not hot enough to have been boiling) and a wooden case from which I could choose from about a dozen types of teas and tisanes. The tea bags were tucked into little cardboard boxes  1.75″ x 1.25″ x .75″ and wrapped with plastic wrap with a pull tab much like the wrapping on a cigarette package. By the time I had chosen my tea, finally removed the plastic from the box, got the box opened and the tea bag into the cup, the water had gone from very warm to warm. While the quality of tea was good, full-leaf tea in a triangular tea bag, I could only imagine what this would have tasted like had it been properly made.

It’s time tea was made and served correctly!

When you visit West Hill House, if you request tea, we will make you a proper cup of tea.Tea as it should be!

Beautiful New Mugs

March 29, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Liz  enjoys a homemade biscotti and hansels  our brand new mugs.

We recently received our beautiful new hand-thrown, signature stoneware mugs from Deneen Pottery of St. Paul, Minnesota. Deneen Pottery is a family owned and operated company and their products are handmade in the USA.

Liz and Joe from Fairbanks, AK were B&B guests the day the box of mugs arrived and Liz was the first to hansel our new mugs (hansel: to use something for the first time). They loved the mugs so much they bought two to take home with them.

We are delighted to offer these marvelous mugs to our guests for their hot beverages as well as to purchase as a reminder of a wonderful time at West Hill House B&B.

Find us on Facebook!

January 28, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Burns Supper at West Hill House

Burns Supper at West Hill House

While we post regularly to our blog here, you can also follow us on our Facebookpage. Often we duplicate postings but usually there is more on Facebook than here on the blog.

For example we just posted a photo album from our Burns Supper, held for the first time in our newly renovated Handsome Red Barn. (Click on the photo to see the full album.) About 25 local residents and B&B guests joined in the festivities, celebrating the 252nd birthday of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns who was born on January 25th 1759.

In addition to pipe music, we enjoyed Haggis with the traditional fixings, Scottish Trifle, some Burns poetry then Scottish Country Dancing led by Don and Martha Kent. A good time was had by all. Be sure to come next year!

So “like” us on Facebook to keep up with ALL the news!

Baked Blueberry Croissant French Toast

January 25, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Stirring it up! Can you think of a better breakfast than hot steaming Baked French Toast on a cold and blustery winter morning? Me neither! The other day I made Baked Blueberry Croissant French Toast for our guests. I often create and adapt recipes when I cook and don’t take time to write them down so I had to think about this one for a bit – it was one of my “let’s try this” recipes. It is easy to do because you put this together the night before, refrigerate it and cook it in the morning. I made this for 20 people and that is a bit much for the ordinary family so here’s is how to work this out on a smaller scale.

We're feeling blue.

  • 1 slightly frozen croissant for every two people (Real croissants, not the brand name pop-open-the-container and bake kind!)
  • 1/4 cup of whole milk (or Silk) per person
  • 1 egg per person plus 1 extra egg for every 4 people
  • 2 T softened cream cheese per person
  • 1/8 t vanilla per person – a little more if you like a stronger vanilla flavour
  • 1/4 cup medium sized blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 T brown sugar per person
  • 1 t melted butter per person
  • 1 T chopped nuts per person (pecans or almonds are nice)
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Whipped cream
  • Powdered sugar

Grease a pan large enough to hold the croissants in one layer. The pan should have 2″ high sides. Depending on number of folks you are feeding you may need several pans.

Carefully cut the croissant while still slightly frozen and spread each half with cream cheese, spreading is easier this way. Place the croissant halves cream cheese side up in one layer in the greased pan.  Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla in a bowl and beat until well mixed and all eggs are incorporated. Pour the mixture over the croissants so that they are just barely covered with liquid. If you find that you need more liquid make more 1 egg, 1/4c milk mixture until you have sufficient. The actual amount will vary depending on the moisture content in the croissant. Lightly dust with cinnamon then grate a sprinkling of nutmeg over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and tuck into the fridge until morning.

In the morning,  about  an hour or so before you wish to eat,  set the oven to heat to 350’F. Remove the pan from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes or so to warm up to room temperature. While it is sitting out, mix together the brown sugar, melted butter and nuts. Dot croissants with spoonfulls of the sugar mixture and carefully spread it around with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with blueberries. Cover lightly with foil and pop into the oven for about 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and return to oven for another 5-10 minutes to brown.

Let it cool just a bit then serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, a dollop of whipped cream, some real maple syrup or blueberry syrup and some bacon or sausages. Yumm!

Dishing it out! About three years ago I decided our blueberry bushes were way too tall, at this point they were about 10′ tall, and even with poles and ladders, getting a net over the top was neigh on impossible. In fact it was a useless exercise and that year we harvested the 3 berries that the birds missed! The obvious thing to do was to trim the bushes – but how? After consulting several agricultural extension sites on the internet a plan was devised, the tools were gathered and with lots of TLC the bushes were cut back to a respectable size . The results? Great bushes for the last three years but not a single blueberry in sight. Most disappointing and we’re feeling quite blue – what had we done wrong?  Thank goodness for the local farmers’ market where we can purchase this fantastic fruit from our neighbouring farms.

Be Scottish for an Evening: Burns Supper

January 4, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Robert Burns

On January 22nd 2011 we will be holding a Burns Supper to celebrate the 252nd anniversary of the birth, on January 25th 1759, of this great Scottish Poet.

A Burns Supper is a significant tradition in Scotland and among Scots around the world. The evening will consistent of traditional Scottish fair including Haggis (which really is worth trying!) and Scottish Trifle.

The Haggis will be piped in by local piper Amos Horn and will be addressed in the traditional manner by Peter:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm. …

Scottish Dancing after dinner will be led by dance instructors Martha & Don Kent.

This year the Burns Supper will be held in our newly renovated handsome Red Barn so we have room for a total of 30 guests. We expect a sell-out so don’t wait till the last minute to book. Tickets must be purchased by January 14th.

The Burns Supper is just $39 per person (plus tax), and it is sure to be a memorable evening. Stay two nights and we will include the supper at the reduced rate of $60 per couple.

Farmers’ Market Bounty

November 26, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Last weekend we attended our local Thanksgiving Mad River Valley Farmers’ Market.  There was a definite feeling of winter in the air so it was fortunate that this event was held indoors at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm.

What a variety of food, handicrafts and even some music! Locals and visitors alike wandered among the displays filling their bags with local fare.

Everything from beautiful handicrafts, to amazing cheeses made by Three Shepherds Cheese (we really liked the strong King Louis cheese), to chair massages from Mad River Massage (always relaxing), to a magnificent array of vegetables from local farms. The amazing displays pictured here are from David Hartshorns’ Santa Davida Farm.

Although this is our last Farmers’ Market for the year we invite you to come experience our winter wonderland – see our immediately prior blog entry about Ski Time in the Mad River Valley – then return next summer to visit our Summer Farmers’ Market held every Saturday morning from Memorial Day through to the end of October.

It’s Ski Time in Vermont’s Mad River Valley!

November 25, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Skiing in the Mad River Valley, Vermont

Skiing in the Mad River Valley

Sugarbush opens today, November 25th, with a few runs, and both it and Mad River Glen will be fully open by early December.

The Mad River Valley, encompassing the picturesque towns of Warren and Waitsfield, is the perfect place to ski in the North East. We have three amazing ski hills, Lincoln Peak and Mt Ellen at Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen. The two high speed quads at the base of each of the Sugarbush hills mean short lines even on busy days, and at Mad River Glen – while you may have to wait a bit longer on weekends and holidays – you get to ride the legendary single chair and enjoy skier only slopes. (There’s lots of variety at Sugarbush for riders.) Plus we have great cross country skiing, including right outside our door on the golf course, as well as two extensive networks of groomed trails nearby.

And there’s more. We are privileged to offer a wide selection of excellent owner-operated restaurants here in the valley. No chains, no franchises, no fast food. One of our favorites is Mint, a boutique vegetarian restaurant that even meat eaters will love. Then there is The Hyde Away with a wide menu selection of good value home cooking open 7 nights a week. The Terra Rossa Ristorante will more than satisfy lovers of Italian food, and you can watch pizzas being cooked in front of you in the classic brick oven. Then of course there is The American Flatbread, the mecca of taking pizza to another level, which is so popular you almost always have to line up to eat there, but it’s always worth it. Our overall favorite? The Common Man where you will always enjoy great food, great service and a unique atmosphere.

For non-skiers, our Artisans, anchored by the beautiful Artisans’ Gallery in Waitsfield, are almost always open during the day and welcome your visits, we have Vermont classics to visit like Ben & Jerry’s and Cabot Cheese, and to relax we can arrange a soothing massage at Mad River Massage.

If you’ve never been here, you are missing out! If you have, it’s time to come back. Call us and we’ll help you plan your visit, tell you about specials, and get you booked into the top rated B&B in the area (guess where!). Ask us about the newly opened Logan’s Loft in the barn for a one-week stay.

See you soon!

SIPtemberfest 2010

August 15, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Lawson's Finest Liquids Warren VTSIPtemberfest 2010 brings back the tradition of a fall brew fest to the Mad River Valley!

SIPtemberfest will take place at Mad River Glen on Saturday, September 25 from 12 pm to 5 pm. Featuring specialty brews from some of Vermont’s premier breweries including Warren’s own Lawson’s Finest Liquids, paired with foliage rides on the fabled Single Chair, awesome local food and the spectacular fall foliage backdrop of the Green Mountains. Many of the brews are not available in stores and/or of limited nature.

There will also be live music with the Gordon Stone Band and Abby Jenne and The Enablers.

If you enjoy fine beers and beautiful fall colors, this is the event to come to West Hill House for.

Tickets are $25 and include 10 tastings and a souvenir glass. Check with us for details.

Featuring a Vermont Winery

June 27, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

We are now featuring 3 wines from Vermont’s East Shore Vineyard in our honor bar at West Hill House.

East Shore Vineyardis located in Grand Isle, Vermont on East Shore North overlooking Lake Champlain. In addition to creating a breathtaking backdrop to their vineyard, Lake Champlain helps make ESV an excellent place for growing grapes.

The deep lake waters provide them with a micro climate favorable for growing winter hardy cultivars capable of producing world class wines.

The wines:

  • Frontenac Rosé features deep mahogany hues and cherry aromas. On the palate, this wine is lively, flavorful, and balances a crisp acidity with just a touch of sweetness – making it semi-dry. Notable are its dark cherry and spice flavors followed by its balanced and refreshing finish.
  • Traminette is quickly becoming a favorite for all those lucky enough to have discovered it. A slightly spicy, off-dry white wine that harkens back to its Gewürztraminer and Seyval Blanc roots; very floral on the nose, slightly fruity on the palette finishing with a brisk, very clean acidity.
  • Cabernet Franc is a staple for wine bars and bistros throughout France, symbolizes a signature varietal from France’s Loire Valley. Our Cab is a medium-bodied, highly aromatic red, with a plum cherry start, and smooth tobacco finish that has a distinctive, tangy “old world” feel.

Their Traminette won a double gold medal in 2009 Tasters Guild International Wine Judging Event and the Cabernet Franc won a bronze medal.

For more information on Vermont Wines check out the VermontWine.com website.