Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Breakfast! The second "B"

In the winter of 1981, when we were starting our career with Minolta, the camera company, we moved from Springfield, Missouri to Chicago. Wow! our first big city. What a change! Country boy and girl go to the big city! For some reason, we both took to it like pond fish dropped in a clear stream. Paula found a job downtown just off State Street, and I found the office and the airport. If I wasn’t at one, or out of town, I was at the other.

O’Hare Airport, way back then, was the busiest airport in the US, and I didn’t mind at all. It all was so new and fascinating to me I enjoyed every minute of the travel and the game of getting in and out of airports and hotels around the US.

This is when my interest in the hospitality industry started developing, and coincidentally, my interest in food. During those 15 years with Minolta, I got to eat at some of the best restaurants in the US and Canada, plus a bunch in Europe, South America, the Caribbean Islands, and Japan. I tried everything. Nothing was off limits. Some foods I loved, and some I didn’t, but the experience was amazing.

While in Chicago, we started watching the Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith on PBS. That summer he was doing a lot of omelets, so we got the pans and cooked right along with him. Who would know those omelets would lead me to the Walnut Street Inn and the second “B” in Bed & Breakfast?

Now, don’t get the wrong impression. My job is to hang around during breakfast until someone needs me, not to prepare it. We are lucky to have a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) chef who plans our menus and makes our breakfasts. Her name is Rita, and she is a bit publicity-shy, so I won’t go any further than to say we are very, very lucky to have her (and so are our guests.) People come to the Walnut Street Inn for many reasons, but many of our guests come back for the breakfasts. We have about 40 menu items we rotate through, according to season and availability.

We started this winter with a push to buy locally (see the blog about our organic, free-range chicken eggs!), so I’m certain our chef will get even more creative as spring crops start coming in. Sausage Strudel, Oatmeal Walnut Pancakes, Florentine Egg Ramekins, Dutch Babies, Lemon Buttercream Blueberry Pancakes, Ham & Cheese Puffs, Spring Veggie Quiche (often out of Rita’s garden!) -- the list keeps growing and changing. I’m getting hungry just writing it!

We have found we can’t move too far from center when cooking for our guests as a whole. Individually, some guests are adventurous eaters, but as a population (and what a population! about 4,000 plates a year) we can’t get too far afield, or we get “that sounds wonderful! But could I get scrambled eggs and bacon?”

Generally, vegetarians aside, our guests don’t want fish, beef, or chicken for breakfast, but there had better be pork in there somewhere. I give my dad credit for saying, “It ain’t breakfast if a pig don’t die,” but in fact, I think that is my line.

Fruit can be a garnish, but shouldn’t be an entree unless it is covered with brown sugar and baked (as in grapefruit). Eggs can be served almost any way, except don’t overdo the Mexican style of anything. Homemade Granola is appreciated, but it had better be on the side, or over the fruit garnish, or in a bowl with some yogurt, so there is room for a protein of some kind (see pork and eggs above). Potatoes have to show up at least every 3 days, or folks will wander off to Cracker Barrel for lunch.

If we stick to these basic guidelines, we keep em’ happy and coming back. Rita sneaks in a little culture now and then (I see crepes are on the menu for tomorrow. Yay!). But sometimes I have to sneak out for a bowl of frosted mini wheats or a pop tart, just to see how others live…

Breakfast at the Walnut Street Inn! So good you'll wanna slap yo momma!

Gary at Walnut Street Inn
900 E Walnut Street
Springfield, MO 65806
Info: 417-864-6346
Reservations: 800-593-6346


  1. Gary, you Missouri boys KNOW breakfast! And this Southern lady is teaching Kansan's all about pork. Tried for 10 years to get my midwest guests to understand Grits are necessary for a proper breakfast but have tossed that aside. Everyone was polite, tasted one teaspoon, and the rest went down the tubes. Even Southern Belles know when to give it up. Fresh fruit, homemade granola, farm fresh eggs, pork any way you want it, potatoes & hoememade bread are what make our hearts beat! We, too, mix things up but always know that our guests get the essentials to get their day off to a great start and that is just what they want.

  2. I remember last summer....Rita made gluten free french toast for us and it was delicious. Really enjoying your blog and can't wait to visit your Inn again! Still eating gluten free but next time I want the pig. too!

  3. We were there in January and the Florentine Egg Ramekins were die for. Seriously I would do anything for that recipe - it was incredible! Also there was a steak and egg hash thing the next day what was wonderful. Just wonderful. :)

  4. Pamela! Next trip I will share it with you, just remind me of your note here. It is easy and fun!

  5. Gary, My husband and I are finally planning a trip back to the in for a babymoon before our little one arrives. Any chance we could see the spinach florentine ramekins for breakfast along with a deliscious hash that was made that weekend (my husband s favorite)? I would be happy to pay extra to have both andbe able to ssurprise my hubby. Eitherway I cant wait to come back! !! We will be booking soon...think early to mid November.


The Walnut Street Inn

The Walnut Street Inn
the Inn is made up of three 100+ year old buildings.