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Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 01:40 am

Getting away close to home

The Illinois Bed and Breakfast Cookbook


Tony Leone with the new cookbook featuring numerous recipes from the Pasfield House.

Whether it’s spring when they’re carpeted with wildflowers, the fall when maples form a golden canopy overhead, or winter when snow blankets the ground and frosts the trees; whenever I take a walk in the woods across from our house, I’m struck by the fact that people travel far distances to experience such beauty and serenity. How fortunate I am that in minutes, and with little effort or planning, I can be surrounded by the natural world and escape everyday pressures and hustle-bustle! And I realize I don’t take those walks nearly enough.

I had a similar realization thumbing through the Illinois Bed and Breakfast Cookbook. My husband, Peter, and I plan trips that require scheduling time off, exhausting travel, and can be hard on the checkbook. The Illinois B&B Cookbook lists dozens of eclectic destinations throughout Illinois, perfect for short getaways. Many are historic houses and mansions in historic towns; others range from a lakeside log cabin or renovated “Tool Shed,” both in the Shawnee National Forest, to a 40-foot private sailboat/yacht docked in Chicago’s Benton Harbor.

Then there’s the food. B&Bs include breakfast, of course, though some simply offer cereal, juice and store-bought breads. Not these. They’re included in the cookbook because of the excellent recipes they submitted to the publisher, according to editor Becky LeJeune. Sweet and savory breakfast dishes predominate, but there are also intriguing lunch or dinner recipes, ranging from simple (Herb Roasted Chicken) to elaborate (Herbed Duck Breast with Seared Fois Gras and Chervil Polenta).

I’d never thought of spending the night in Pontiac. That was before I read a guest’s comments about Pontiac’s Three Roses B&B: “This was the greatest bed and breakfast experience I have ever had in my entire existence on this planet.” And before I read innkeeper Sharon Hansen’s recipe for Canneloni, made with chicken, veal, pork, proscuitto and homemade crepes. The innkeepers of that Shawnee Forest log cabin, the Irish Inn, included not only Irish recipes, but also dishes they learned while living in India.

Two Springfield B&Bs are included. The Pasfield House is just steps west of the State Capitol. The Henry Mischler House, one block south of the Lincoln Home, features antiques throughout, and a view of the Home from the front porch. Innkeeper Jane Murphy says, “It’s pretty much like spending the night as Lincoln’s neighbor.”

It took former Clerk of the Illinois House Tony Leone six years to restore the Pasfield House and make it a sought-after location for receptions and meetings as well as a luxurious B&B. It’s received awards for its architecture and interior design, and has been featured on the Food Network, WSEC’s “Illinois Stories,” and international television. The six guest suites were all formerly apartments, and so have private baths and kitchenettes. Food is a priority at the Pasfield House, and not just breakfast. Leone himself has prepared dinners for the Roman Cultural Society’s past three hugely popular Columbus dinners. Usually, however, he recruits talented local chefs for receptions and special events. They also teach the cooking classes offered in conjunction with Lincoln Land Community College, held in a specially designed kitchen.

The Illinois Bed and Breakfast Cookbook is available at most of its listed establishments; also at bookstores such as Barnes and Noble.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

Check out the recipes for Pasfield House Egg Strata and Asparagi alla Stimpirata

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