I know the concept of staying in a Bed and Breakfast is entirely foreign to some people, and I have often been accused of being crazy for wanting to stay as a guest in someone else’s home while vacationing. In fact, the first time Scott and I stayed in a B&B together, he was terribly nervous about the etiquette surrounding staying in a home versus a hotel and kept asking me if I was sure we could, for example, really just drink the pitcher of iced tea that was set out in the sun porch, and if it was okay to help ourselves to ice in the freezer (yes, and yes-although it’s always good to acquaint yourself with any special rules each individual B&B has).
I personally love B&Bs if you are in the right destination, and can find one that attracts other people with whom you enjoy having breakfast and a cup of coffee in the morning. Some of my all time favorite Bed and Breakfasts were in Dublin, Ireland, where I ate Irish oatmeal and drank breakfast tea alongside a couple of traveling carpenters, and in Sonoma Valley, California, where I met a college professor from The George Washington University who had a rare nose for wines he liked to share during afternoon snack time.
B&Bs work better in some locations than others … for example, I wouldn’t seek one out in Vegas or even on a trip to Ft. Myers or St. Louis…places where I would much rather rent a condo or a nice hotel room, but Lake Geneva, Door County and similar places seem well suited to B&Bs, when you are simply trying to get away and quietly relax.
Typically in a B&B you are greeted in the morning with coffee, tea, and a breakfast meal that many of us wouldn’t take the time to make for ourselves at home, your rooms have little kitschy items and details you wouldn’t find in a hotel, and rather than a concierge, you have the actual owners of the house taking care of your needs.
Saturday morning at The Bailey House we stuffed ourselves on homemade baked French toast and cream puffs and spent the early afternoon swimming and floating in the pool until we eventually ventured out for a walk to downtown Williams Bay and a couples’ massage at The White House Salon and Day Spa, 104 N. Walworth Ave.
After an hour of heavenly therapy, we were ready to eat again, this time at the 42nd annual Williams Bay Fire Department Chicken Roast in Edgewater Park. $24 had us sitting happily at a picnic table lakeside in the sun with two plates of awesome half roasted chickens, potato salad, cole slaw, buns, yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and two ice cold Miller Genuine Drafts. Once we’d had our fill, we headed down the Lake Geneva trail and back through the Aurora University-George Williams College Music by the Lake program (stunning set up), and up through the Yerkes Observatory grounds back to the B&B where, yes, you guessed it—we got ready to go out to dinner.
Saturday night’s dinner was at Kirsch’s Restaurant at the French Country Inn, W4190 West End Road, Lake Geneva, on Scott’s dad’s recommendation.
The view of the lake at Kirsch’s quite honestly makes the restaurant. Our food was good, it was fresh, the service was good and the wine was good, but the lake view simply made everything superb.
An appetizer of frutta de mer ($9.95) was a unique meld of carrots and celery, baby lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels in a light pesto and lemon sauce, and was very similar in flavors to a ceviche. It was a dish we enjoyed for its simplicity and the freshness of the seafood, but not necessarily one we would rush to order again.
Entrée specials of monkfish ($28.95) with a jumbo shrimp garnish and black bean rice, and a broiled thyme and oregano whitefish with softshell crab ($26.95) were both well presented and well cooked; the softshell crab shone as one of the better I have had in the Midwest. Dessert, too, was a delight at Kirsch’s, and although our pie was billed as a “Chocolate Pecan Pie” ($6.95) it was more like a deliciously thick and rich chocolate pecan brownie with raspberry sauce and whipped cream.
We had no complaints as we headed back for our last night in the B&B.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.