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Breakfast and brunch in Wine Country can be a leisurely, pleasure-filled affair, especially if you are getting pampered at one of its many bed-and-breakfast inns or indulging on one of the traditional spring-brunch holidays — Easter and Mother's Day.

The Craftsman Inn in Calistoga, owned by Gillian and Nick Kite of England, serves a wide-ranging buffet that meets the standards of the "full English breakfast" (a famous array of fried eggs and tomatoes, bacon and bread, sausages and beans) but gives it a healthy California twist.

"At the hot station, we will do something like the California Cowboy Breakfast, which is beans, onions, tomatoes and basil," Gillian said. "It's warm, and you can have a poached egg on top, and chicken sausage on the side."

Then there's a cold buffet, where guests find tempting dollops of homemade yogurt and granola, cold fruit and milk, and a baked good such as a maple oat scone.

"I love to bake," said Gillian, who has 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. "That's my happy place."

Her seasonal breakfasts made her guests so happy that they demanded to take a bite home with them.

"I make my own granola... and people were asking to buy bags of it," Gillian said. "And I would get people asking for recipes all the time."

At the behest of her husband, she started to package her granola for sale and drew up a proposal for a cookbook on Wine Country breakfasts.

Through a mutual friend, Gillian connected with Gaye Allen of Cobb, in Lake County, a fellow Brit who publishes food-and-wine books through her own company, Meadowlark.

The two women hit it off, and with Nick's help, they produced "Inn Food: Seasonal Breakfasts in the Wine Country," a celebration of all kinds of seasonal morning food.

Allen, who worked closely with Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams to design many of their cookbooks, found a kindred spirit in Gillian.

"She has a very down-to-earth approach to cooking that reminded me a lot of Chuck," Allen said. "The sheer deight and passion for food was there."

But what clinched the deal was the jar of Indian tomato chutney that Gillian sent home with Allen.

"As soon as I tasted the chutney, I knew the book had to be made," Allen said. "I make this chutney when tomatoes are in season and give it to friends as Christmas presents every year."

Allen shot photos of every recipe in the book, from traditional pantry items like English Lemon Curd and Orange Marmalade to creative entrees like Breakfast Ravioli (raviolis filled with prosciutto, ricotta, Parmesan and a fresh egg) and Baked Cinnamon Apple Pancake (a mash-up of American pancakes and cinnamon rolls, with an Old-World twist.)

There are lots of recipes for baked goods, from muffins and quick breads to cakes, scones and the oatmeal cookies that greet guests at The Craftsman Inn.

"We serve these in our rooms with a decanter of sherry as a nightcap treat for our guests," Gillian said. "When my husband Nick checks people in, he always tells them where the cookie jar is because he knows they are addictive."

The book also includes a recipe for Breakfast Bars, a gluten-free treat the couple keeps in the freezer for guests with dietary issues.

Gillian and Nick Kite both grew up in Bristol, a port city in the southwest of England, and moved to the U.S. 20 years ago with their three children.

They lived in South Carolina for four years and Silicon Valley for six, then decided it was time to step off the globe-trotting, corporate treadmill and slow down their lives.

"We used to come up here to visit, and we thought, 'Why don't we move up here'?" Gillian said. "We saw a place for sale, we drove up, and that's how the whole idea started."

Ten years ago, the couple bought the Wine Way Inn, Calistoga's oldest bed-and-breakfast. Two years later, they purchased an historic home close to the main intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, resurrecting it as The Craftsman Inn.

"We get people from everywhere," Gillian said. "They come for the wine tasting, the spas... and the food."


"The only tricky part of this recipe is the glaze," she said. "If you don't add enough liquid to the sugar, the resulting glaze will drop off your fork in oversweet globs; too much liquid and it will be transparent and sticky. When just right, the residual warmth from the scone will set up the glaze perfectly."

Maple Oat Scones

Makes 12 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup walnut pieces, chopped

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon

1/4 cup maple syrup

3/4 teaspoon maple extract

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

12 walnut halves

1 tablespoon raw cane sugar

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl. Add the chopped walnuts, brown sugar and rolled oats. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the ? cup butter and cool for a few moments. In a bowl, combine the melted butter, the maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of the maple extract, and the whipping cream and mix together. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and gently combine with a spatula until a dough forms and starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Form each piece into a 6-inch round, then divide each round into 6 wedges. Place the 12 wedges on the prepared baking sheet and place a walnut half in the middle of each. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter then brush on the tops of the scones. Sprinkle with the raw cane sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a small bowl mix together the confectioners' sugar, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of maple extract, and warm water until the consistency is similar to thick liquid honey. Using a fork, drizzle the glaze over the scones. Allow the glaze ot dry for a few minutes before serving.


The following recipes are from Gillian Kite's "Inn Food: Seasonal Breakfasts in the Wine Country."

"In England, Heinz Baked Beans are a staple that might be served with any meal of the day, from breakfast through supper," Gillian writes. "Searching for something tasty for my guests who don't eat meat, I was inspired by my baked-bean memories to turn out this more sophisticated version. We pair it with chicken apple sausage and poached eggs for a tasty, modern-California version of a Western cowboy breakfast."

California Cowboy Breakfast

Makes 10 servings

1/2 large red onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons black olives

2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes

2 tablespoons fresh basil

1/3 cup lemon-infused olive oil

2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans

2 tablespoons tomato paste

— Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the onion, peel and crush the garlic, chop the olives and sundried tomatoes, and tear the basil into small pieces, setting aside half of the torn basil. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the bottom of a large ovenproof dish with a lid. Drain and rinse the cannellini beans then place them in the baking dish along with the onions, garlic, olives, sundried tomatoes, tomato paste and half of the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Gently toss until the ingredients are well mixed. Scatter the cherry tomatoes over the top and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Garnish with the reserved basil and serve.


"If I had to choose one dish that sums up my cooking style, this might be it," Gillian writes. "Quick and easy to prepare, it's made from a few simple ingredients yet is impressive to look at and has great seasonal flavors."

Chardonnay Baked Pears with Honey

Makes 6 servings

3 medium Comice pears

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup chardonnay

1 tablespoon raw cane sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Halve and core the pears. Cut each half into fine slices from stem to base. Arrange the pear slices evenly in a 10-inch baking dish, pushing and fanning them out so they lie flat in the dish. Drizzle the honey over on top, then pour over the wine, and sprinkle with the raw cane sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes then cool for 10 minutes. Serve for breakfast with yogurt, or as a dessert with creme fraiche.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

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