It’s a rare thing to have the inn to ourselves – very rare – but the other night I took the opportunity to actually sit in the unusually quiet dining room to work on my weekly menu planning while Abi watched the world cup soccer game back in our apartment. It’s true. I admit it. I could care less about watching the world cup soccer games. Am I the only one?
Here’s a look at what’s in front of me as I plan menus for the upcoming week.
Now there would be many a folk who would think, “What’s the big deal, just throw some bacon and eggs, or pancakes, on the plate and call it a day,” and oh boy don’t I wish it was that simple? When we bought the inn, I knew I could cook, that wasn’t an issue. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was some of the finer details involved in the planning. And now, 4 seasons in to this gig, each year we have seen a steady rise in guest expectations, which makes planning that much more demanding. Notice the size of my eraser? There’s a reason for that.
Here at Abigail’s we serve breakfast at 9:00 a.m. Just one seating. Sometimes, a guest will ask, 9:00 until when? To which we smile and respond, 9:00. Most B&B peeps that I know offer just one seating with a 2-course breakfast. I never post a menu for a couple of reasons; #1. we may get a walk-in with a food allergy that will throw off my plan or #2. – and this is the real reason – there are mornings when I walk into the kitchen and think, meh… I don’t feel like making that.
To start my planning I look at my reservation book and I find the guests that will be in the house the longest and then I plan every day with them in mind to ensure they do not get served the same meal twice. This isn’t actually too difficult because our average stay is just 3 days. So why can’t I just throw some bacon and eggs on the plate and call it a day?
Let’s see, how can I explain this while putting a positive spin on it? Actually, let me preface this by saying that I have the utmost respect for those who suffer from dietary issues such as celiac disease or diabetes and for sure, we accommodate such restrictions and/or allergies. However, if I’m being brutally honest, there are many guests who, shall we say, buy into the latest fad? What am I talking about? I’m talking about the guest who specifically asked for a vegan meal and after eating announced she’s not really vegan, she just prefers eating that way. Or, upon check in a guest will say, “Since I made my reservation I now prefer to eat gluten free.” Or, the guest that requests a gluten free meal and then gets caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. You see where I’m going with this, right? 😉
If someone is a vegetarian, that’s straightforward and easy to plan around. If, for example, I’m serving breakfast burritos, then I just have to make a separate serving with no meat. Or, on occasion I’ll make a vegan meal, which is a little more challenging but still doable.
You may be thinking, “Well, that’s not so difficult.” And you’d be right, to some degree. There are weeks though when I actually have to make tags for plates because we have so many restrictions I can’t keep them straight when we begin to plate the food, so I tag each plate to remind us who gets what. For example, we have a week coming up soon when I’ll have: 2 vegetarians, 1 diabetic, 1 gluten free, 2 no nuts, 1 no asparagus, 1 no mushrooms, 1 no pork and 1 no chocolate. That’s when it gets tricky, to plan breakfast for 10, with that many restrictions. And that’s why I need a big eraser because all too often I’ll think I’ve got it all covered and then when I double check myself, I’ll realize I missed something. And to keep it all interesting, every now and then we’ll get a surprise thrown at us. For example, the other morning, 5 minutes before we were ready to serve, a guest said to me, “Oh, I forgot to tell you I’m a vegetarian.” What?!
My overall goal is to give every guest the best possible breakfast – to make their taste buds dance for joy – while balancing all of the dietary issues of the day. Most often, I can plan a common entree – such as a vegetable frittata – and then work around the individual needs. And judging by the number of scraped clean plates that come back to the kitchen every morning, there’s a lot of happy taste buds in the house!
Well into our 4th season I’ve got a handle on the menu planning, but don’t even get me started on what I see coming next. I’m afraid this is where I’ll have to draw the line.