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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 Lacl├Ęde 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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fun and laughter fills the inn

We had a group of wonderful guests visit from Kansas City this weekend. Five couples chose Napoleon's Retreat as part of their getaway weekend.

Our location was perfect for their dinner at Element, ( www.elementstl.com) an excellent upscale restaurant just 3 blocks from our bed & breakfast. The group finished their evening with delicious chocolate martinis and decadent desserts at Bailey's Chocolate Bar (www.baileyschocolatebar.com). We're fortunate to have two award-winning restaurants so close to our inn. Our guests enjoyed a beautiful, 2-block walk through historic Lafayette Square to Bailey's -- which means no one had to miss out on enjoying a martini!

Of the five couples who stayed with us, one couple gave us the honor of being their first bed and breakfast experience. Stacy served one of her personal favorite breakfast entrees: blueberry strudel French toast topped with maple rum sauce. We hope the charm of gorgeous Lafayette Square combined with the warm welcome they received at Napoleon's Retreat has convinced them to stay at many more bed and breakfasts during their travels!


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Romance - it's not just for Valentine's Day!

Spring is around the corner and love is in the air! Cupid's arrows have found their mark, and couples are searching for romantic getaways. Every year, we're flooded with calls right up until the evening of February 14th from folks desperate to make a last-minute reservation to surprise their loved one. Unfortunately, we have to turn away numerous requests because we are always full on Valentine's Day.

Why not do something different and surprise your sweetie by reserving a stay any day of the year? Napoleon's Retreat Bed & Breakfast is always a romantic place to stay!


Think of how big of a surprise it would have been if you stayed with us on February 6th -- totally unexpected! You would have avoided the overcrowded restaurants, overpriced roses, and the frantic rush to find the perfect romantic gesture for your sweetie.

It's not too late to completely surprise your dearest love with a romantic stay at a cozy bed and breakfast. We'd love to pamper you in our historic, 130-year old mansion filled with antiques, and guest rooms with private baths and Jacuzzis. Why not stay with us for Leap Year? Or cuddle up by the fireplace in our honeymoon suite during one of those last chilly days in March? We can even arrange for an in-room couples massage from the wonderful therapists at MorganFord Spa. We hope to see you soon!



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart

We love serving fresh fruit when it's in season, however wintertime creates a bit of a challenge. We've found that preparing baked goods using fresh fruit and a bit of sugar is an excellent way to offer our guests a healthy start to their mornings. This rustic apple cranberry tart has a light, flaky crust. If you're in a hurry, a pre-made pie crust can be substituted.


Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 tablespoon water, or as needed
4 apples - peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2/3 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup brown sugar, or more to taste
 1/4 cup white sugar, or more to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts, or more to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Directions

  1. Place 2 cups flour in a bowl. Cut butter and cream cheese into flour using a knife or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gently mix water into flour mixture until dough forms into a ball.
  2. Mix apples and cranberries with brown sugar, white sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl until coated.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  4. Roll dough onto a lightly floured work surface, forming about an 11-inch circle. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet. Arrange apple-cranberry mixture decoratively on the dough, leaving a 2-inch rim of exposed dough. Sprinkle walnuts over apple-cranberry mixture. Fold exposed crust up and over the edge of the fruit.
  5. Brush egg over the crust and around the edge of the tart; sprinkle with raw sugar.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until crust is browned and filling is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall comfort food

Fall is our favorite time of year. Lafayette Park is full of beautiful trees changing color, the air is brisk, and we can cozy up by the fireplace with a good book.

Fall also means it's time for comfort food. One of Stacy's time-honored breakfasts is making banana bread French toast. It's an unexpected way to prepare a traditional recipe, and our returning guests frequently request it!

Here's the recipe:

Banana Bread

1 ¼ cups sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ½ cup mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1. Move oven rack to low position so that the tops of the pan(s) will be in the center of the oven. Heat oven to 350°. Grease the bottoms only of 2 loaf pans 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ or one loaf pan 9 x 5 x 3 inches with shortening. (I only use one pan.)
2. Mix sugar & butter in a large bowl. Add eggs & blend. Add bananas, buttermilk, & vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt until just moistened.  Pour into pans. (I combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then slowly add them to the wet ingredients.)
3. Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 ¼ hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then run a butter knife around the edges and place onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.

For French toast, just whisk a couple of eggs in milk or half and half, then batter thick slices of the banana bread. Cook on a lightly buttered griddle heated at 350 degrees. If you'd like to serve the French toast with caramelized bananas, just set a few slices of banana on the griddle and heat until golden (about 2 minutes on each side). Serve with warm maple syrup.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Notes about Napoleon

It seems fitting that the very first blog post from us at Napoleon's Retreat should focus on our namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Why is our bed and breakfast named Napoleon's Retreat? Great question... and one that I didn't know the answer to until after we purchased Napoleon's Retreat! Shortly after we moved to Lafayette Square, I had the pleasure of meeting Larry Bennett, one of our new neighbors. Larry and his husband Garth first opened the doors of 1815 Lafayette Avenue to B&B guests over 25 years ago. One night over dinner, Larry asked Garth what they should name their new bed and breakfast. Without missing a beat, Garth (a history buff), said, "Well, Napoleon retreated from Waterloo in 1815. It should be Napoleon's Retreat."

Thus, 1815 Lafayette Avenue became known as Napoleon's Retreat. When Brian and I bought the bed and breakfast in 2011, we had no desire to change the name. It fits with the French history of Lafayette Square, and provides the inn with a "mascot" of sorts. Napoleonic items are scattered throughout our bed and breakfast. There are numerous busts, prints, and paintings of Napoleon. Many of the items are gifts from Larry. We've added our own touches to the inn, too. A portrait of Josephine's now hangs beside the majestic painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps, and Josephine serenely smiles at guests from the top of the staircase.

Our guests often ask why we have bees on our coffee mugs, water glasses, and plates. Napoleon's personal symbol was the bee. It was part of his coat of arms. The cloak Napoleon wore when he was crowned emperor was embroidered with bees, as was the gown Josephine wore to the coronation. Only favored members of Napoleon's court were permitted to wear his bee symbol on their person. Bees were all the rage during Napoleon's reign. I've never really collected anything before, but I now find myself looking for unique items embellished with Napoleon's bee.

Our future blog posts will be used to notify guests of happenings in St. Louis, share recipes, and provide updates about our inn. We'll post again soon!

Stacy