When was the last time your hotel stay included a glass of sherry upon arrival, free tennis lessons or a buggy ride around town?
Try as they might, the major hotel chains simply can't personalize every room in every locale to suit the individual tastes of their guests. But an ever-expanding network of bed-and-breakfast accommodations in this country is proof that travelers appreciate the thoughtful touches and varied settings only these smaller, privately hosted services can offer.
Europe has provided such hospitality for years, but the practice of lodging and dining in the homes of strangers is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States. One of the first successful bed-and-breakfast reservation services, Guesthouses in Charlottesville, Va., was begun in 1976, in part to house the great influx of tourists to the Washington area during the Bicentennial. Established by hostess Sally Reger, the business has mushroomed from a kitchen table operation with 15 rooms to a service offering 300 individual rooms, cottages and country estates.
Because her domain covers a relatively small area in central Virginia, Reger and her staff can personally inspect each home and better match guests with hosts. Reserving a bed and breakfast might involve a bit more time on the telephone, she acknowledges, but the results are worth the extra effort -- vegetarians won't find meat on their breakfast trays and allergy sufferers won't be placed in the homes of smokers.
The popularity of this alternative mode of lodging appears to be growing: in its two-year existence, the American Bed and Breakfast Association, the largest such trade organization, has doubled its membership to include an estimated 10,000 bed and breakfasts in North America. A brochure listing its services can be obtained freefrom The Bookshelf, Box 23294, Washington, D.C. 20026.
Bed and Breakfast/The National Network, operating in its fourth year, lists fewer accommodations but requires inspections of all member homes to assure guests of cleanliness, attractiveness and overall suitability. Based in Springfield, Mass., National Network has 20 reservation services across the country to assist travelers. Information can be obtained by calling (413) 783-1225.
Breakfast in a B&B can be as varied as tropical island fruit bread in Hawaii or peanut soup in Georgia, as illustrated in the fare served up in "The American Bed & Breakfast Cookbook" (The East Woods Press, $12.95), written by the Bed Post Writers Group of Philadelphia. Here the regional tastes of hosts from all 50 states are reflected in 200 breakfast, brunch and munching ideas.
You needn't be a bed-and-breakfast host to enjoy the following breakfast. Created from breakfasts served at establishments around the country, it includes an iced orange drink best served upon waking up. All you'll need on the shelf are flour, salt, sugar, oil and butter (preferably unsalted) following a trip through the express lane.
Express lane list: orange juice concentrate, vanilla ice cream, baking powder, bran cereal, eggs, milk, pecans, raisins LOS GATOS SUNSHINE RISER
6-ounce can orange juice concentrate
1 cup water
4 ice cubes
1 cup vanilla ice cream
Blend juice, water, ice cubes and ice cream in blender. Add more water if too thick. Serve in long-stemmed wine goblets. From Home Suite Homes, Sunnnyvale, Calif. NUTTY RAISIN BRAN WAFFLES (Makes 12 waffles)
1 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups bran cereal
2 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3/4 cup raisins
Mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cereal together in a medium-size bowl and set aside. Beat together eggs, milk and vegetable oil in another bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Fold in pecans and raisins. Bake on waffle iron until golden. Serve immediately. From Kay Cameron, Ozark Mountain Country Bed and Breakfast Service, Mo. ORANGE SYRUP (Makes 2 cups)
1 cup butter (preferably unsalted)
6-ounce can orange juice concentrate
1 cup sugar
Combine butter, juice and sugar in medium saucepan. Place over low heat until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Remove from heat, beat and serve warm over waffles.
Store covered in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. When reheating, heat slowly, remembering not to boil.
From Gloria Lyon, American Family Inn, Bed and Breakfast San Francisco, Calif.