Sunday, April 05, 2009

A “Foster Harris House Cookbook” Giveaway – Recipes, a Memoir and a Visual Feast

Every cookbook tells a story. Rarely is a collection of recipes simply an instruction manual. The life experiences, family connections and personal passions of the creator flavor every ingredient, measurement, technique and photo. In total, a cookbook is a very personal bequest – a delicious meal wrapped in memories and seasoned with a collection of unforgettable experiences.

The debut of the Foster Harris House Cookbook is a significant chapter in the culinary journey of John and Diane MacPherson, owners of the Foster Harris House bed & breakfast in Washington, Virginia.

“It’s somewhat of an unexpected chapter,” says John. “I don’t think we had it in our plans to write a cookbook.” But, over time, the compilation of the volume, which includes more than 80 recipes and 130 full-color photographs, came to reflect, not only the extraordinary food served at the Foster Harris House, but the personal story of John and Diane.

“When we were putting it together, we didn’t plan on it being a memoir, but it just kind of evolved into that,” John explains. “We felt that for someone to pick this up and look at it, we really wanted them to have a sense of the place and a sense of the people. So the recipes came first, and then we added the story about the inn, and the story about us, and the story about our guests.”

The MacPhersons left their jobs in September 2004 and purchased the Foster Harris House, located in the heart of Virginia food and wine country. They quickly established a reputation for imaginative breakfasts and warm hospitality.

“In the end, the cookbook really kind of encapsulated our whole life and our journey to get here, and also what it feels like to be here at the Foster Harris House,” says John.

Guests would frequently request recipes and initially the MacPhersons thought the cookbook would be a simple spiral-bound paperback. But then, John Spaulding – a professional photographer and visitor to the Foster Harris House – offered to photograph the recipes. The photos truly capture the artistry of the food served at the Foster Harris House. When Spaulding got involved, John MacPherson says the vision for the cookbook changed.

“The first night we sat down and looked at the day’s pictures, we realized it had to be more than a spiral-bound paperback book.”

From recipes scribbled on yellow-lined paper and stuffed in a three-ring binder, emerged a handsome coffee table edition featuring John’s signature breakfast entrees as well as recipes for soups, salads, dinner entrees and desserts.

With each page, the reader is treated to personal anecdotes (John’s mother Jan influenced his love of cooking), favorite family dining experiences and glimpses of the morning rituals at the Foster Harris House. Diane served as editor and taught herself computer design to assemble the book. She also asked visitors to contribute their favorite food memories. The book represents the collective experiences of the MacPhersons and the many guests who visit the Foster Harris House. “We live this place, and this is what we do,” says John, “So, I guess we were really fortunate that it was able to be transposed onto the page.”

The photos and text convey a critical element of John’s culinary philosophy – that breakfast “be a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach.” Indeed, the visual experience is a key dimension of the gastronomic pleasures found at the Foster Harris House.

“When it comes to the food, it’s just really important to convey a level of anticipation,” John explains. “When that plate comes and it’s set in front of someone, it needs to look a certain way. It needs to look incredibly appetizing, and it needs to have dimension to it. A few ingredients on a beautiful plate, placed-well, can convey so much about the person that’s cooking it, the place that they’re eating it, and what they should expect when they first put a fork into it.”

John says the cookbook allows guests to recall memories of visiting the Foster Harris House in a very tangible way. “I want them to remember their stay here and remember it fondly. They get to experience the meal here and the place and then take this book home, and are able to replicate these dishes at home and share them with people. They just get to relive the experience a little bit more.”
The tempting aroma of baked goods is one memory all guests recall as it signals the start of breakfast at the Foster Harris House each morning. As you take a seat at the table, Diane places a towering basket of scones in front of you, creating that kind of anticipation for the meal that John describes. Here is John’s recipe for Ginger Scones. John says: “No one is able to resist these light, buttery scones. The key to great scones is keeping everything cold. I put the cutting board, mixing bowls and pastry blender in the fridge before I start. After cutting the butter into the dry ingredients, put the bowl back into the fridge for a few minutes.”

Ginger Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
¾ cup chopped candied ginger
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Raw sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place ungreased baking sheet in freezer. Place flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a cold, large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until pea-sized pieces are left. Stir in ginger. Set aside in the fridge.

Whisk together egg and cream. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Knead a few times in the bowl to bring the dough together. Turn the dough out onto a cold, floured surface and form into a flat disc about 3/4-inch thick. Cut out 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter and place on a cold, ungreased baking sheet 1 ½ inches apart. Brush tops with cream and dust with raw sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just golden brown. Makes 12-18 scones.

Cookbook Giveaway Details: If you leave a comment on this post between now and 11:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on April 15 and mention your favorite breakfast dish, you are eligible for a random drawing. The winner will receive a copy of the beautiful Foster Harris House Cookbook sent directly to their home.

(Photography of John MacPherson and Ginger Scones by John Spaulding)

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Elyse said...

What a lovely-sounding cookbook. I love those cookbooks that reflect fabulous memories. And if these ginger scones are any indication, all of the recipes must be delightfully scrumptious!

Foodiewife said...

If the cover of this cookbook is an indication of it's contents, I can see myself making a pot of tea and noshing on scones while reading each page! I just made my first attempt at scones-- now, I read that keeping everything cold is the key. Interesting...

My favorite breakfast? Cheese blintzes with sour cream and fresh strawberries. The best I've found is at a small restaurant where I live, in Carmel. It's my secret place.

Kathy said...

I took a peek inside the book at Amazon and it looks quite nice. Thanks for bringing it to our attention! One of my favorite breakfasts is Eggs Benedict. Their recipe for Poached Eggs on Toast with Sauteed Spinach and Crispy Prosciutto sounds pretty good.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Not only am I going to look for this cookbook, but I'm also thinking how lovely it would be to stay at the inn! Favorite breakfast food for guests is a mushroom and asparagus strata; favorite breakfast for family has to be French toast made out of brioche, when my husband bakes bread.

joanne said...

I love homemade scones. This makes me want to bust out my recipe for cranberry orange ones. But I love love love pancakes - you can get so creative with them. Now I want those too!!

Anonymous said...

Not a big breakfast eater here, Tw..just an espresso and a brioche :)

Kathy said...

Thanks for introducing me to the inn and cookbook! They both sound wonderful. My favorite breakfast always centers around a good bread of some kind...biscuit, muffin, bagel...and butter with a great cup of coffee.

veron said...

Hungry Hubby loved these ginger scones! I had a good time there and enjoyed all my breakfasts. My favorite breakfast...banana pancakes and crisp fried bacon!

Ron said...

Boring as it seems, my favorite breakfast food is oatmeal. I am sometimes surprised with how good it can be at unexpected places, like the bowl I enjoyed this morning in the Jet Blue terminal at JFK. Carmalized bananas and yellow raisins on top of perfectly boiled Quaker oats.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

This is so different to make ginger scones. They look delicious. Great giveaway.

Joie de vivre said...

I think my favorite breakfast dish is bacon and eggs. But there are so many that I love.

As for your questions about St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, the way I understand it, it is just a regional specialty of St. Louis. Every bakery has their own take on it. Who knew? :)

Peter Scherman said...

I had the privilege of helping John and Diane buy Foster-Harris House B&B. Just after they moved in, John treated me to lunch of a California style burger cooked on his newly arrived grill that remains the best burger I've ever eaten. I am thrilled with their continued success and creativity. If you want to eat great food, stay at a beautiful B&B in a gorgeous setting, and want to meet REALLY nice people who "get it" when it comes to hospitality, stay at Foster-Harris House.

Tera said...

I love eating breakfast out. The Over Easy Cafe up on Chicago's north side has a pesto, sun-dried tomato and gouda omelette. LOVE. At Original Pancake House I'll always order the Dutch Baby. Butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice? Yes, please.

Thoughts of a Martinikitty said...

I love Swedish pancakes & Strawberry Crepes...thin pancakes are my fav

Anonymous said...

I loves learning new recipes! Deliciousness! :D

~~louise~~ said...

Oh T.W. that book "feels" like one I would just adore. I promise I won't drip my favorite breakfast treat while nestled in my corner chair reading it...

Oh what would that be? Eggs Benedict. I have a confession though, I think I'm more attracted to the Hollandaise:)

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Rochelle R. said...

I remember reading your previous posts about the Foster Harris House. It is wonderful that they have compiled a cookbook. It has always been a fantasy of mine to operate a B&B, I am sure I would find the book very interesting.
I like to make omelets for breakfast.

Cakespy said...

You've sold me! These scones look perfect, and I admire that they keep everything cold for the best final product (so few places do!). As for my favorite breakfast? I have to admit it is not sweet! Eggs benedict is my favorite AM treat!

Susan G said...

Your posters have reminded me of many of my favorite breakfasts. What I make over and over and always delight in is a simple omelet, still moist, with a 1/2 spread of salsa, turn and serve. More breakfast input would be welcome! This book looks lovely and I have vicariously enjoyed your visits there.

Anonymous said...

I checked this book out on Amazon and loved it! If I don't win it, then I'm definitely gonna buy it! I can read it while I chow down on my favorite breakfast of all time- French Toast Casserole! Hmmm... I want some right now actually!

Brilynn said...

I think eggs benedict might by my favourite, maybe with smoked salmon too?! I haven't had it in ages.

Joie de vivre said...

Came by to show some blog love! Thanks, as always, for your comments on my site.

Lori Lynn said...

No need to enter me in the giveaway, I am on my way to order the book from Amazon.

Once, years ago, I thought we might like to open a B&B. I bought serveral books and read up on the industry. Not in my future at this time, but I sure do appreciate the experience. I look forward to reading this book, and if I am ever in Washington Virginia, this will be my first choice of accommodations.

Thanks, great post.

In Season said...

John MacPherson here. Many thanks Tom for posting such a wonderful review of the book, your opinion means a world to Diane and I.
And we're thrilled that so many people have responded to the giveaway. I'll be happy to personalize the winners copy.
Best of luck to everyone!

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Easter, T.W.

Lynnette said...

The cookbook sounds so yummy!
My favorite breakfast is Oven Baked Cheese Omlete. But my favorite breakfast sweet is Cinnamon Raisin Buns!!!
Hope you have a nice holiday.

Unknown said...

Bacon. Thick cut and slowly rendered, from Blood Farm, a nearby raiser-and-processor of mostly their own animals. Accompanied by french toast made with a splash of grand marnier and slathered with good butter and homemade jam (we had strawberry apricot this morning).

lnross said...

Love the giveaway -- sounds like a great cookbook and a wonderful B&B. I can't wait to visit!

My favorite breakfast a tie between:

1. Warm baguette with creton (a French-Canadian pork rillette)that my Mother made all winter in NH when I was young


2. Crispy potato pancakes with homemade applesauce and sour cream

Thanks for the opportunity.