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Friday, October 28, 2016

We're in the news!

Earlier today, the local Fox 2 News station broadcast a story called "In Your Neighborhood". The morning news segment provided viewers with a closer look at different businesses in Lafayette Square. Napoleon's Retreat B&B was featured as a warm, welcoming place to stay in St. Louis. Here's a link to the broadcast: Napoleon's Retreat on Fox2 News

Reporters Kevin Steincross and Margie Ellisor were really friendly and asked a lot of great questions about our bed and breakfast. It was rather amusing to admit on camera that we sort of "fell into" innkeeping, rather than pursuing it as part of a planned career path. Then again, our move to St. Louis was also somewhat spontaneous. We visited St. Louis back in 2004, several years before we moved here. By sheer coincidence, we stayed in Lafayette Square. We never dreamed that some day it would be our home!

Stacy mentioned to the reporters that we love living in Lafayette Square. There are so many great shops and restaurants for our guests to visit. Our neighborhood is close enough to downtown to hear the fireworks when the Cardinals score a home run, yet we're often called a "hidden gem". The Fox2 news segment will certainly help spread the word about the many things Lafayette Square has to offer its visitors! Here are a few links to the news segments for the other businesses in Lafayette Square:

SqWires
1111 Mississippi
Vin de Set
Bailey's Chocolate Bar
Park Avenue Coffee
Clementine's Creamery
Element Restaurant
Climb So Ill rock climbing gym

(In the photo are some of our favorite breakfast dishes that were shown on camera: pear & brie tarts, chocolate strawberry shortcake, egg roulade filled with bacon & gouda, and stuffed French toast with raspberries.)




Saturday, July 30, 2016

Visiting with old friends

A few weeks ago, I noticed that our in-room journals were on their last pages. Over the years, our guests have filled the journals with their thoughts about their time in Saint Louis and their stay with us at Napoleon's Retreat. I purchased new journals and gathered up the old ones.

We have a page on our website called "Guest Reviews". Years ago, I began the process of typing up the handwritten reflections of our guests, going back to the first guests we hosted back in 2011. I intended to update the "Guest Review" page every month, but fell woefully behind as projects like renovating the carriage house took over my "spare" time. Well, I now have the full journals sitting next to me and I've restarted the process of recording our guests thoughts.

Reading our guests' reviews the past several days has made me smile, laugh out loud, blush, and even tear up a bit. It feels like I am visiting with old friends. I want to take a moment to say "Thank you" to all of our guests. I really appreciate you taking the time to write about your stay. Your kind and thoughtful words mean so much to us. Running a large B&B is very challenging, and I sometimes wonder if we made the right decision to buy a 136-year-old house that requires so much upkeep. Brian and I love Saint Louis, and I feel so fortunate to have the chance to work at my dream job.

Thank you to all of our guests who make this job so rewarding - and so much fun! Meeting you and spending time with you is the best part of being an innkeeper. <3

Stacy

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Be brave and make a soufflé!



Years ago when we opened Napoleon's Retreat, one of the first breakfast items I was determined to tackle is the classic soufflé. 

There are so many myths around baking this delicate-looking egg dish, such as tiptoeing around your kitchen to ensure that it does't fall, or *never* opening the oven door while a soufflé is baking. Not true! I've never had noise affect a soufflé. I've also opened the oven door to make sure the soufflé was achieving a nice, golden brown and it's turned out just fine. 

The biggest challenge to overcome is beating the egg whites and tempering the egg yolks with the melted cheese. Tempering the yolks requires adding the melted cheese slowly in small amounts. As for the egg whites, if you can make a meringue or an angel food cake, you can make a soufflé. 

This morning's soufflés turned out perfectly.  I did need to extend the cooking time by a few minutes to adjust for the high humidity we're experiencing in St. Louis!

Here's my favorite soufflé recipe. Try it! You will WOW your guests.

Cheddar & Chive Soufflé

4 Tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup white wine
4 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups aged cheddar, grated
5 eggs, separated
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus a few extra for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position the rack in the center of the oven. Spray 4 8-ounce ramekins with nonstick spray, then lightly coat each ramekin with 1 Tablespoon of the breadcrumbs. Set the ramekins on a cookie sheet.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour to make a roux (a smooth paste). Cook over medium high heat until it bubbles, thickens, and turns a light brown color.
  3. Remove the roux from heat. Whisk in the garlic salt. Slowly whisk in the white wine, ensuring there are no lumps. Whisk in the milk. Add the cheese, stirring to remove any lumps. 
  4. Use kitchen shears to snip the chives into 1/4-inch pieces while holding the chives over the bowl containing the cheese mixture. Stir to combine and set the mixture aside.
  5. Separate the eggs by placing the egg whites in a clean glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowl. (I use a paper towel with a little white vinegar on it and wipe the inside of the bowl to remove any potential reside. I then rinse the bowl and dry it with a paper towel.) Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, but avoid over-whisking. If the eggs are over whisked, they will break apart into dry-looking clumps. If you'd like, you can "cheat" and add a pinch of cream of tartar before you start whisking the eggs to help stabilize the peaks.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the melted cheese. Pour half of this egg mixture into the pan with the melted cheese and stir to combine. Then pour this mixture back into the bowl with the remaining egg yolks. 
  7. Using a rubber spatula, take about 2 Tablespoons of the egg whites and gently stir it into the yoke mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the egg whites.
  8. Divide the mixture into the ramekins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and golden. The outer edges should be firm to the touch, but the center should be soft and jiggle slightly when you gently shake the cookie sheet. Serve immediately!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Google wins again!


The temperatures in St. Louis have risen into the 90's, but I know somewhere cool you can visit!

I received a call yesterday from someone inquiring about our availability. I asked the caller if there was a particular room they'd like to reserve. He replied, "I haven't had a chance to visit your website. yet. I just googled 'cool hotels in St. Louis' and Napoleon's Retreat was the first result." I told the caller that he made my day!

Of course, I had to test these search results for myself. I cleared my browser history and searched for a "cool" hotel. Sure enough, there we are!

 I'm not sure how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works, and I have no idea what key words we might have on our website that gives Napoleon's Retreat such a cool online presence, but I take it as a compliment!

Come visit us at Napoleon's Retreat Bed & Breakfast -- the coolest place to stay in St. Louis!

Mention this blog post for 10% off your reservation ;-D



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Serving the best breakfast in Soulard! :-D

Today started off like any other morning, with Stacy in the kitchen preparing breakfast for our guests. The doorbell rang at 9:30AM, which was a bit unusual because we weren't expecting any packages or visitors.

A gentleman was at the door inquiring about breakfast. It turns out that if you google search for "best breakfast in Soulard", our B&B comes up as one of the top choices. Stacy explained that we're not a restaurant and don't have a menu. She jokingly added, "Today's breakfast is banana Nutella French toast if you'd like some." The man replied, "That sounds really good!"

Stacy set a place for him at the table, refilled the coffee carafe, and whipped up an additional serving of French toast. The new guest enjoyed a delightful breakfast and spent the morning chatting with the other people staying at our B&B.

It just goes to show that google truly does know everything, even when it's slightly off the mark. :-D







Sunday, March 6, 2016

Homemade Caramel sauce - you'll never buy the bottled stuff again!

We held a small dinner party this past weekend. The menu included a roasted leg of lamb and grilled veggies. The finishing touch was a salted caramel cheesecake, which as you can see by the photo was a huge hit. While that might already sound too decadent, what really set this cheesecake apart was the homemade caramel sauce. It was amazing! There are only 4 ingredients, but the technique definitely requires some preparation.  Many of our guests asked for the recipe, so here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cut into slices
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 pinch of sea salt to taste
 


Directions

  • Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until sugar begins to melt. Continue stirring until the sugar melts completely, begins to darken and all the chunks are dissolved, about 10 minutes. Stop stirring and continue to cook until the sugar begins to smoke and turns a dark shade of amber, 3 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and wait 30 seconds.
  • Whisk in butter until melted and combined. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cream, taking care because it can bubble over. Sprinkle in salt and stir to combine. Transfer sauce to a jar and cool completely before refrigerating.
You'll definitely want to make this in a medium saucepan because the melted, molten lava sugar really bubbles up when you add the butter. It's also helpful to use a rubber spatula to stir the sugar while it's melting to evenly scrape the pan.

There's a really great video on the Allrecipes website that shows all of the steps. Believe me, you'll want to make this as soon as possible Pour it on top of ice cream, French toast, apple slices, cakes, brownies, cookies.... the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!
http://allrecipes.com/video/1412/salted-caramel-sauce/

Friday, March 4, 2016

Vintage photos of St. Louis from 1904

Saint Louis has a rich, vibrant history that fascinates both its visitors and its residents. The city recently celebrated its 250th anniversary. It was founded in 1764 by Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau.

St. Louis City Hall in the early 1900's
Many of our guests ask why our bed and breakfast is named "Napoleon's Retreat" (see our first blog post if you're curious!) and inquire as to whether Napoleon ever stayed here. Napoleon never set foot on American soil, but he did sell Missouri to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1800 to fund his wars in Europe.

It surprises some folks to hear that St. Louis was the first U.S. city to host the Olympics in 1904 -- beating out the bid of our rival city, Chicago. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World's Fair was also held in 1904. The impressive bird cage at the St. Louis zoo was built for the World's Fair. Construction of the "Palace of Fine Art", modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla, was timed to be completed before the 1904 World's Fair. It's now known as the St. Louis Art Museum.

Union Station in 1904
When we first moved to St. Louis in 2007, we were impressed by its stunning architecture. We'd never seen so much brick! We now advise our guests to watch their steps while walking through downtown, as we often find ourselves looking up at the amazing architectural details instead of noticing when we're stepping off of a curb. Many of the buildings downtown date back to the early 1900's. It's surprising to see these old, intricately designed buildings now juxtaposed with modern architecture throughout our fair city.

If you are fascinated by the photos shared here, visit this website to view more of St. Louis as it looked in the early 1900's, with its dirt roads and horse-drawn carriages. http://www.vintag.es/2016/02/missouri-more-than-100-years-ago-66.html
Better yet, plan a visit to St. Louis and see these gorgeous buildings for yourself!
Washington Avenue west from Eighth Street, 1903