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February + Chocolate = Love

February 1st, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

February is finally here and we are looking forward to putting something chocolate on the breakfast table at The Speckled Hen Inn every single day this month.  Our very first offering this month will be our Mexican Hot Chocolate Cream for desert after breakfast.  This little bit of comfort food provides just the right touch of chocolatey goodness to put a sweet finish on our bountiful breakfast.  A slightly larger portion would make a decadent desert after dinner or a late night chocolate splurge.  We serve it warm so the consistency is somewhere between thick sipping cream and a spoonable chocolate mousse.  Garnish the little cup of cream with a bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate or cinnamon.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cream from the kitchen of The Speckled Hen Inn

3 Egg Yolks

February Desert

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cream for Desert

1/2 cup Sugar

2 cakes of Ibarra Mexican Chocolate chopped into pieces

1 cup Whipping Cream

1 cup Milk

In a medium saucepan whisk together the yolks and sugar.  Add cream and milk and begin cooking over medium heat whisking constantly.  As the milk begins to warm add in the chopped chocolate and continue cooking and stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture thickens to the consistency of thick cream. Do not allow to boil.

Serve warm topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate or cinnamon sugar.

Serves 10-12 (demitasse cups)

The Gazebo – A place to enjoy a little music, a little wine, a pretty view.

August 17th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

The Gazebo at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed & Breakfast in Madison WI

The Gazebo – a space for guest to enjoy.

Earlier this summer I visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens, our award-winning city garden in Madison, Wisconsin.  I discovered that they had created several small sitting areas throughout the garden where visitors could stop and rest and enjoy the views of the garden or perhaps become a part of the garden.  I decided that guests might enjoy doing the same thing at The Speckled Hen Inn.

I often feel that some guests, with their desire for privacy, fail to take advantage of all the extra little places around our property where they can share a quiet conversation, relax and enjoy the natural surroundings, and disconnect from whatever it is that they need to get away from.  Our rooms in the Inn are great places but we have more to offer.

So, Bob and I set out to create those spaces on the property for our guests to enjoy.  One space that already existed is our garden gazebo.  The Gazebo was constructed in 2002, just in time for a wedding on the property.  It is made of Canadian red cedar and still carries that sweet smell when you step in the double doors.  There is comfortable seating in the gazebo and the screen covered windows provide a panoramic view of the garden pond, pasture, gardens and the Inn.

To make the gazebo more guest friendly we added a larger top on the dining table so sharing a meal there is a bit less cramped or the scrabble board now fits nicely on the table.  We installed a new CD player and stocked the collection of CD’s there with more relaxing titles.  We also installed a wine refrigerator that has dual temperature sections for red and white wines.  Of course, it is fully stocked with wines from our wine list and glasses, cork screw, and menus from a couple of local restaurants that will deliver right to the gazebo (or the Inn) are on hand.

Since the gazebo is right in the middle of the garden we also decided that it would be a good spot for our collection of books that will help guests identify butterflies, wildflowers, and birds.  Of course the gazebo is a great destination for guests looking for a comfortable spot to settle in with a good book or their laptop.  The gazebo gets a good strong wifi signal too.

 

A Rainy Day at The Speckled Hen Inn

August 8th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Hummingbird at the feader at the Speckled Hen Inn in Madison Wisconsin

Hummingbird has lunch in the rain

It has been a long hot summer in Madison, Wisconsin.  There was hardly any rain at all during the months of June and July.  All the ferns in the beds around the Speckled Hen Inn turned brown and crispy.  It was a struggle just to keep up with the watering of the vegetable gardens, flower pots and new trees and shrubs that had been planted this spring. But now, it’s August and a few rain showers have turned the pastures green again.  The lawn is recovering from dormancy and we are no longer stressing about how we will feed our sheep and llamas this winter.  The gardens are providing lots of fresh veggies for the breakfast table and a few peaches even managed to ripen and find their way onto the menu.

Today this little hummingbird seemed to express our gratitude for the rain as she danced and darted about in the raindrops and was determined to have her lunch.  Perhaps she was celebrating the return of the rain too as it will mean a more bountiful buffet of nectar bearing flowers for her to enjoy.

The boys at The Speckled Hen Inn have a new toy.

March 9th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Happy and Bob doing chores at the bed and breakfast

Can I drive next time?

The boys at The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast in Madison, Wisconsin have a new toy to help out with the chores around the Inn.  The new UTV is great for getting the garbage cans to and from the curb.  The many trips to the stable to feed the sheep and chickens, collect the eggs, find the needed tool or pick a fresh tomato will be a little bit easier now and of course, Happy can go along for the ride.

The chore list at the Inn for the warm season ahead seems to get a bit longer every day.  One project always seems to spawn another.  We will be constructing a new greenhouse on the end of the stable by the garden and using those great passive solar water tubes that we picked up at the Habitat Re-Store.  If we have a greenhouse we can propagate pachasandra cuttings to use a ground cover when we re-design a part of the Japanese garden.  Another construction project is a garden ‘shed’ just outside the cutting garden to provide a focal point for the garden and to give a home to all the garden tools that seem to scatter about the property.  The design of this building is still in flux as we keep thinking of possible uses of just a little bit more storage space.  It seems that we never have enough storage space.  Of course, the garden surrounding the new shed will need to be expanded a bit for more flowers to use in the Inn and new raspberry beds and a grape arbor are on the planning list too.  The final (at least at this moment) building project for this summer is a garden house very similar to our gazebo.  We plan to locate this over by the pool and intend to use it as an outdoor sitting room.  It will be a great place to relax with a glass of wine at the end of the day or maybe even a spot to sneak away with a good book and a friendly dog.
  The ongoing project is the woodland restorations.  The UTV will really come in handy for getting into the woods without doing too much damage to the woodland floor.  The UTV is much lighter than our pick-up truck so we will not have to worry quite so much about compacting tree roots and trampeling wildflowers.  The bed in the back will be great for hauling out brush and cut firewood as well as for hauling in the tools that we will need to use.

Innkeepers Recharged by WBBA Conference

November 11th, 2011 by Pat Fischbeck

"Pumpkin the Kitty" at The Speckled Hen Inn

Distraction

Earlier this week the members of The Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association met at The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for their annual meeting and conference.  The conference began with a special day of presentations for Aspiring Innkeepers.  Sixteen future innkeepers learned about the profession from experts in business, financing, and insurance and received lots of advice from practicing innkeepers about marketing, policies, record keeping and websites.  Tours of local B&B’s were enjoyed by many of the conference attendees.  The keynote presentation was delived on Monday morning by Jay Karen of PAII.  His message encouraged innkeepers to reach out to the next generation of guests by listening to their needs and desires.  The rest of Monday and Tuesday were filled with interesting workshops, a trade show, and probably most importantly, time for the members of WBBA to share time with old friends and welcome some new ones into this family of innkeepers.

What does happen when innkeepers get together?  Do they tell horror stories about bad guests?  No, well maybe a little bit but innkeepers are really a positive group sharing the feeling that B&B guests are a very special group of people who make a conscious choice to be a guest at a B&B.  So innkeepers time together is a time to share best practices, tidbits of vendor information, and recipes and breakfast menu plans.  It really is a time to recharge and then go back to their B&B’s with a long, long list of ideas, projects, and concepts to explore during the slightly quieter months ahead.

So, a new year begins now before January even rolls around.  There is blogging to do, facebook to do better, pictures to take (especially food pictures), rooms to refurbish or redecorate, a cookbook to create, new marketing techniques to master, and time management issues to resolve.  You can share my journey on facebook, if you care to.  It promises to be interesting.

Wisconsin Top Ten Eco-Elegant Inns

November 15th, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

Crab Trees at The Speckled Hen Inn

The Speckled Hen Inn is delighted and proud to be named one of Wisconsin’s Top Ten Eco-Elegant Inns by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.  We take our participation in Wisconsin’s Travel Green certification program very seriously and want travelers to know that “traveling green” doesn’t mean having to forgo some of the very nice things in life.  It often means making the best choice available and that choice is often delicious, delightful, and downright fun.

Here is what they had to say about us:

   
 

Speckled Hen Inn, Madison, www.speckledheninn.com 

Their Green Story: Here’s a B&B that pampers guests with easy-going elegance while supporting principles of sustainable living. This 50-acre property of Patricia and Robert Fischbeck features pastures with sheep and llamas, orchards, gardens and walking trails. According to Pat Fischbeck, “We’re committed to green but also sustaining the culture and sense of place travelers enjoy in Wisconsin.”

Of Special Note: Pat was the grand prize winner of the 2008 Wisconsin B&B Association recipe cook-off for her recipe for Wisconsin Breakfast Panini featuring cranberries and lots of other Wisconsin goodies.

Innkeepers’ Recommendations for Other Green Businesses Around Town: Guests come to the inn specifically to visit the Farmer’s Market on the Capitol square, the largest true farmers’ market in the nation. As an aside, Pat used to have a booth there selling homegrown herbs. For a taste of Wisconsin art, the Absolutely Art gallery features all Madison artists and the Bindley Collection gallery features all Wisconsin artists. Harvest restaurant is a top choice, thanks to their all local, in-season menu.

The Speckled Hen Inn in Madison, WI lists February events in the area

February 3rd, 2010 by Pat Fischbeck

There are many events in Madison Wisconsin this February that you will just not want to miss. 

  •  This coming weekend, February 6, is the big outdoor hockey event at Camp Randall stadium on the University of Wisconsin campus.  Will it be the largest crowd ever to watch a college hockey game?  The Badger women play at 2:00PM and the Hockey Badger men play at 6:00.  You will have to go to see how they created a level ice hockey rink on a very crested football field.
  • On February 11 Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love will be speaking at the Overture Center.  Her presentation is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
  • Get ready for spring at the Midwest Garden Expo at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall.  Just catching the aroma of fresh dirt when you enter the building gets me in the mood to start planning and planting.  The show is February 12-14.  A great thing to add to your Valentine’s weekend celebration.
  • On February 19-21 all of Madison will be having a grand old time at Madison Winter Festival.  Enjoy all of Madison’s favorite winter activities and see how fast cross country skiers can move.  It’s downtown on the beautiful Wisconsin Capitol Square.
  • February 27 we will offer guests at The Speckled Hen Inn an extreme contrast in recommended activities.  On Saturday afternoon head on over to Middleton to Capital Brewery for the celebration of the release of this year’s Blonde Doppelbock (that’s a beer, folks!).  You can even try to catch a smoked chub (that’s a fish, folks) tossed from the roof of the brewery.  Have a rowdy good time and then completely switch gears when nighttime comes and head for the UW Arboretum for their nightwalk.  Hear the crunch of your boots in the snow and then stand perfectly still and listen for the great horned owls or just stargaze. Ahhh.  What a day!

WBBA Cookbook is Here

December 11th, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

The new Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association cookbooks, with The Speckled Hen Inn on the front cover are here and ready to wrap up for Christmas.  We have a good supply at the Inn and will hold one for you to pick up at the Inn or we can also ship them to you.

The cookbook is more than just the recipes that have been contributed by over 150 different Wisconsin B&B’s.  It could even be used as a travel guide because there is information about each B&B that submitted a recipe and there are lots of fun facts about the food scene in Wisconsin.

The contents are not just focused on Breakfast, although there is a wonderful array of breakfast dishes.  There are appetizers, soups, luncheon and dinner entrees and marvelous deserts.

 

It is a fun read and a great gift for the foodies or cookbook collectors on your Christmas list.

Meet the Innkeepers at The Speckled Hen Inn

April 22nd, 2009 by Pat Fischbeck

 

Bob and I are both natives of Missouri.  We met in college in the late 60’s and were married in 1973.  We moved to Madison in 1978 and purchased the 50-acre parcel where The Speckled Hen Inn is located in 1984 and began construction and landscaping in 1986.  We completed the building of our home in 1990 and raised our two children in the house that is now the Inn.  In 2000, I opened the Speckled Hen Inn.  Bob retired from his “day job” of 32 years in 2005 and became the full-time assistant innkeeper .

Bob and Happy take a break.

Bob and Happy take a break.

 

Over the years, we have developed our interests in entertaining, cooking, gardening and wine appreciation.  They tell me that I have the creative genes that are best reflected in the decor of the Inn and interesting gourmet breakfasts served at the Inn.  The Inn is known for its breakfasts, warm ambiance and genuine hospitality.  Many of the breakfast entrées use ingredients produced at the Inn by the Innkeepers.   Bob is the assistant chef, head gardner and is responsible for the upkeep of the 50 acre estate.   The Inn is proud to be a member of Travel Green Wisconsin.

 

Come share our 25+ year labor of love and be prepared to be pampered and, of course,  well fed.

Pat with one of the lambs.

Pat with one of the lambs.