Southern experience

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG  -- Janice Delerno, owner of  The Stockade, a bed-and-breakfast inn in Baton Rouge, serves her Strawberry Bread with fresh strawberries and coffee.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Janice Delerno, owner of The Stockade, a bed-and-breakfast inn in Baton Rouge, serves her Strawberry Bread with fresh strawberries and coffee.

Area B&B owners say new generations like the food

Many travelers seek out bed-and-breakfast inns for their comforting atmosphere and their home-style meals. So, in Louisiana where cooking is almost an art form, bed-and-breakfast inn owners serve enticing dishes.

Two area B&B owners, Janice DeLerno of The Stockade Bed and Breakfast in Baton Rouge and Shirley Dittloff of Barrow House Inn in St. Francisville make sure their guests receive a true Southern experience. Both are owner/innkeepers and active members of the Louisiana Bed and Breakfast Association. Both also combine their knowledge of Louisiana cuisine with keen observation of guests’ culinary preferences. The results are innovative recipes that make for memorable dining.

Baton Rouge retreat

DeLerno, a New Orleans native has operated her B&B for 18 years. Her inn, a contemporary home with a Mediterranean flair, is filled with antiques and fine art. “The guests let me know what they like,” she said. “At first we had a lot of boomers. Now, we have a new generation, and they critique the food. They’re the generation that wants to take pictures of the food.”

Cooking comes naturally to DeLerno. “My mom taught me to cook,” she said. “I do enjoy it, and I play around with recipes to develop new techniques. I tweek my recipes to make them healthier and as my taste changes.”

She serves one egg dish every day. A mainstay on the menu is her asparagus egg casserole. The simple dish appeals to most people. DeLerno often changes the vegetable in the dish according to season.

“One of the best things about the dish is that it’s gluten free,” she said. “Also, we always have yogurt, cereal and fresh fruit. And, I serve Community Coffee exclusively.”

“I rotate my menu according to how long a guest stays,” DeLerno said. “I don’t serve the same menu two days in a row.”

“I try to use things out of my garden,” she said. “I grow green onions, bell peppers, red peppers and banana peppers. I also go to Southside Produce for additional fresh produce.”

One guest making a return visit to Baton Rouge brought DeLerno an ice cream banana plant from Florida. It thrived in The Stockade garden and produces creamy bananas. So, DeLerno created Bananas Foster Pain Perdu, a special breakfast dish using the bananas and praline liqueur.

“My plant only produces bananas once a year, so after they’re gone, I use regular bananas from the store,” said DeLerno.

She’s entertained guests from throughout the world and the U.S. “People choose to stay in B&Bs for many reasons, but mostly they come for the cultural experience of the South,” she said. “For example, today I have one guest from Pontchatoula, one from Texas, one from Iowa and one from Canada.”

She usually plans her meals before people arrive, and she considers their cultural background. “People from Europe don’t like grits,” she said. “They like breads and cheeses. I often have those along with blueberry muffins, banana bread and biscuits.”

DeLerno willingly shares recipes with her guests. Details on her B&B are available at http://www.thestockade.com.

St. Francisville retreat

Shirley Dittloff started Barrow House Inn on Royal Street in St. Francisville 27 years ago. She is both a hospitality expert and avid cook. In addition to LABA, she’s a founding member of the Professional Association of International Innkeepers.

Although not a Southerner, she has become one by inclination and love.

“I was born in Canada,” said Ditthoff. “My father went to work for the manned space program in the late 1950s so we moved to Houston.”

She graduated from Penn State in 1964 and worked as a medical technician for years.

“We came to St. Francisville on vacation in 1984. Driving down this street (Royal Street), I said it was a fairy tale street. This house was for sale and we bought it.”

She tackled the property and with determination and hard work, created one of Louisiana’s leading B&Bs.

“People come here to see plantation houses,” said Dittloff. Her inn reflects the Southern plantation lifestyle of the mid-1800s.

She said the most important thing about a B&B stay is the hospitality, not always the amenities. “It’s about the people you meet, their place, their things and their attitudes.”

She encourages people to experience a B&B stay that’s not like their own home. As a reminder, a sign over the back door reads, “So this isn’t Home Sweet Home … Adjust.”

Dittloff operates the Inn along with her son, Chris Dennis.

The two work together in operating the business and daily maintenance of the inn, which includes two properties: the Printer’s House and Camilla Leake Barrow House.

Guests come from all over the world, and the inn has become a popular stay for the Hollywood crowd making films in the area.

The oldest section of Barrow House dates from 1809 and the “new” addition from 1858. Rooms are furnished with Victorian and Eastlake antiques. Guests are served breakfast in a spacious, soft blue dining room where a large wood punka hangs above the formal table, which is set with sterling silverware and fine china.

“Cooking was always my hobby. I used to entertain a lot of friends,” said Dittloff.

For a number of years she served dinner as part of the inn package. Now, she only serves breakfast. Her recipes have appeared in Gourmet Magazine and in books by Anne Hamilton Butler and chef John Folse.

Dittloff has pared her New Orleans-styled breakfast menu to three egg dishes, all variations of traditional eggs Benedict.

Breakfast choice include the Classic Bene — two eggs on slices of hickory smoked ham atop two toasted English muffins covered with a luscious, creamy Hollandaise sauce.

“Eggs Creole features the poached eggs placed upon three-cheese grits with two slightly spicy sausage patties,” said Dittloff. “Eggs Basin Street is a take-off on Louisiana’s red beans and rice dish.”

It features poached eggs on rice with a dab of beans on the top and a side of andouille sausage from Jacob’s in LaPlace. All of the dishes have Hollandaise sauce.

An alternative to the egg dishes is a Continental breakfast consisting of a plate of pastries, including croissants, muffins and tea cakes. Coffee, tea and fruit juice come with all breakfasts.

“We always have fruit,“ said Dittloff. “Bed-and-breakfasts in America just generally do that.”

“Most guests say they like the meals,” Dittloff said. “If they have a dietary restriction, they tell me. One thing I found out is that guests who have very serious (health) problems often won’t tell you about them. They just want to relax and enjoy themselves.”

The innkeeper’s kitchen is “off-limits” to visitors. It’s Dittloff’s domain. However, we were allowed in to see her at work.

“People ask how do you cook eggs like this? Well, you just throw them into the water in the pan.”

Standing by her gas stove, she quickly cracks eggs and drops them into hot, simmering water in a large pan with deep sides.

When they are done, she removes the eggs with a slotted spoon onto a warm plate.

Then she quickly melts butter in a double boiler and whisks an egg yolk into the melted butter.

“I never add lemon juice, vinegar or salt and pepper. The butter is enough flavor. When lemon juice is put in Hollandaise sauce that’s when you put it on fish, not eggs.”

Dittloff enjoys sharing the recipes that she’s developed over the years.

Some are listed on the Barrow House Inn web site, http://www.topteninn.com.