Eating with the Inn Crowd
We’re well-familiar with the players of the local food movement by now: farmers, grocers, restaurants, and farmers’ markets. But how often do you think about the role of the bed & breakfast or inn?
B&Bs and inns on Cape Cod are on the front lines of the hospitality trade. The owners provide warmth and friendliness to their guests, and pivot to special requests. Many innkeepers across the Cape embrace the local food culture and reap the benefits as more and more travelers are enjoying and pointedly seeking out Cape-unique offerings. The local food movement isn’t just a Cape Cod happening, it’s a national crusade. It stands to reason that vacationers would make food sourcing a point of emphasis when planning an itinerary.
“I call it garden to table,” says Jo-Anne Hoad, who owns The Parsonage Inn on Main Street in East Orleans along with her husband Richard. Indeed, the Hoads’ three raised planting beds in the backyard produce an array of herbs and vegetables that Jo-Anne uses for guests throughout the summer.
In 2012, with the youngest of their five children preparing for college, the Hoads began to research the next chapter in their lives. The quest took them up and down the Eastern seaboard, and after a winter visit to a desolate Kennebunkport in Maine, they tried Cape Cod. The pair of transplanted Londoners moved into The Parsonage Inn after extensive renovations and began running the inn on their own in 2013. “This was for me,” Jo-Anne says. Her parents ran an inn for years, but she had no formal training in the kitchen aside from cooking for the family of seven (some would say that’s plenty of experience).
Jo-Anne considers the rotation of breakfast offerings to be rustic and healthy. “It’s what you would serve to your family,” she says. Each week features a sequence of two buffets, a savory meal three or four times and a sweet breakfast such as French toast or waffles. The common denominator is the freshness. The Hoads shop every day for groceries. Rich grins, “People are amazed at how much we shop. It’s a very English way of doing things.” Stops at Phoenix Fruit for produce and Lake Farm for eggs augment what the Hoads grow in their garden, which has been a bit too bountiful at times. One year, the bumper crop was arugula. “Arugula went on every plate!” roars Richard. “Even the French toast got arugula!”
The warm smiles and hearty laughter are just two of the reasons why the Parsonage Inn is a destination for many, and a younger crowd is finding their way to the establishment. “They come in with their heads buried in their cell phones in the beginning,” states Jo-Anne. “But by the end of their visit, they’re chatting everyone up.” The guest book also includes some wellknown names in the music industry. Richard and Jo-Anne, in addition to supporting local food purveyors, are also involved with the Cotuit Center for the Arts. Their backing comes in the form of providing lodging for visiting musical performers. Recent guests include Paula Cole and Steve Earle. The Parsonage Inn, and others like it, offer what the large hotels can’t. As Jo-Anne says, “They’re looking for that local and personal touch.”
The personal touch that Bluefish Bed & Breakfast in Harwich offers is a breakfast prepared by a trained chef. Tim O’Brien and his wife, Lori Schiraga, are in their twelfth season owning the B&B located on Parallel Street in Harwich center. And here’s the twist: after preparing breakfast for his guests, O’Brien heads to his other job, chef at Bistro On Main in Chatham.
The couple met in Santa Barbara and moved to Cape Cod in 2004. “We bought the place kind of on a whim,” O’Brien remembers. After seeing an inn that they didn’t care for, O’Brien and Lori found the Bluefish and threw open the doors. “We’ve gotten into the local food movement,” O’Brien says. “Coming from Santa Barbara, we’ve always been into sourcing our food locally.”
On the Cape, O’Brien can turn to several sources for his ingredients, including his own backyard. Along with a plot in the community garden, his line-up of herb garden wine barrel planters supply a great deal of what is prepared every morning. “I grow a majority of what I cook,” O’Brien claims. The morning routine is one that the guests have come to enjoy. “Oftentimes, people see me out back picking things for breakfast that they’re eating fifteen minutes later.” He does need to fill in the gaps, with produce from Jeff Deck of Not Enough Acres Farm in Dennis and Bill Kaser, the Brewster veterinarian who runs his own hobby farm in his free time.
O’Brien and Schiraga have seen an increase in people coming to stay at the inn specifically for the food, and after a look at their website at the various dishes O’Brien creates, it’s easy to see why. A first course of fresh berry coffee cakes or apple gallettes with house caramel sauce could be followed by apple cranberry buckwheat waffles with hand-whipped cream, house made sausage and garden vegetable crepes with pesto cream. Brewster farm fresh eggs Benedict with Lyonnais potatoes is enough to entice just about any grumbling tummy, even from off the street. O’Brien and Schiraga occasionally offer a “pop-up” breakfast. If there is availability, they will take a very limited number of reservations from non-guests. Guests often have to wait a little extra long for their food at the Bluefish, however. You could say it’s all O’Brien’s fault, too. He points out, “We often hear people from the dining room say, ‘Wait! Don’t eat that yet. I want to take a picture of it.’” Good things come to those who wait…
At many inns, if you overslept and missed breakfast, you’re out of luck and will have to wait until the next morning’s meal. At the Belfry Inn & Bistro on Jarvis Street in Sandwich, however, there’s no need to wait at all. You could call The Belfry a bed and breakfast…and lunch…and dinner. For twenty years the Belfry Inn has been one of the premier destinations in Sandwich. Grown to three properties over the years, the stunning architecture of the Abbey and the Painted Lady are a must-see for those who appreciate style and design. Innkeeper Christopher Wilson takes care of the breakfast at the inn, while new arrival Chef Toby Hill handles the bistro for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
Well-known and -traveled, Hill brings talent with a legion of followers. When it comes to sourcing his ingredients, he is a passionate supporter of buying local, yet sees the challenges with that. “You’ve got to look at it a little differently,” Hill states. “No one location is going to be able to supply you with all you need.” Instead, Hill urges restaurants to come from another angle. It’s something he learned long ago from his friend, Gil Pepin, of the former 902 Main in Yarmouth.
“I’d pop in on my day off from wherever I was working at the time for a ten-minute visit,” Hill recalls. He would watch local vendor after local vendor arrive at the back door with their produce. Pepin would take it all and, from that, craft something special. Hill continues, “It’s a bit of a learning curve, but you’ve got to figure out what they can bring you and what you can make with it.”
After spending much of his Cape culinary career on the lower Cape, Hill has his own learning to do about what’s available in the Sandwich area. Good thing for him Crow Farm is right around the corner on Route 6A. Hill’s point is to embrace the specialty of the local food. There isn’t enough to supply menu items seven days a week? Okay, create ever-changing dinner additions that discerning patrons will continue to seek out.
The Lamb and Lion Inn on Route 6A in West Barnstable is the ultimate resource for those looking to find the flavors of Cape Cod…on their own. Ali Pitcher, along with her partner Tom Dott (Yes, the same Tom Dott whose stories you read in these pages. Is there nothing that man can’t do?) have owned the venerable inn since 1999 and continue to be welcoming and witty hosts to guests desiring the true Cape Cod experience. As Pitcher points out, “We get people asking us all the time where do we like to go.” So much so that over the years, Dott and Pitcher have crafted their own self-guided driving tours for guests ready to explore. The pages are jam-packed with directions and descriptions of places not to be missed. Inevitably, discussions about itineraries turn to sustenance. Assistant innkeeper, Eileen Stanton, has noticed a growing clientele that wants to try everything the Cape has to offer…after they get their fill of lobster, chowder, and steamers.
“More and more people want to eat their way from one end of the Cape to the other,” she states. Visitors are encouraged to take in farmers’ markets and pick-your-own farms, often returning to the inn with their bounty to have Pitcher turn it into something warm and tasty the next morning. For instance, Dott and Pitcher will make arrangements for folks to visit oyster farms for a special experience. “They come back to the inn, and we’ll cook up the oysters,” she adds, indicating the poolside grill that’s available for such occasions.
The Lamb and Lion is a great example of the significant role inns and bed & breakfasts play in maintaining a healthy local food environment. Not only do they purchase and use goods from neighbor purveyors, but they also direct lodgers to additional suppliers beyond what the innkeepers can use in their own kitchen. The travelers, in turn, are better for it. They enjoy what Cape Cod truly is: a thriving network of cultivators and creators. Upon returning home from vacation, maybe someday soon people will answer the question, “How was the beach?” with, “I didn’t go to the beach. I went to Cape Cod…and it was delicious!”
Belfry Inn & Bistro
6 Jarves Street, Sandwich
Bluefish Bed & Breakfast
102 Parallel Street, Harwich
Lamb and Lion Inn
2504 Main Street, West Barnstable
The Parsonage Inn
202 Main Street, East Orleans