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Gluten free and delicious!

Looking for a decadent gluten free getaway? At Port d’Hiver Bed and Breakfast we have lots of friends whose diets require a little special finesse. Dairy sensitive? With all the great lactose free products out there, you’re easy! Vegetarian? Vegan? No big deal. But gluten free? Hmmm. How to make all of those yummy French Toasts, sweet muffins and birthday cakes turn out just as soft and delicious as ever?

Beach Front Florida B&BThe other day I read that about 6 percent of our population, or about 18 million people, have sensitivity to gluten and over the years it feels like we’ve tried that many different recipes looking for the perfect moist gluten free muffin! Sorghum flour, white rice flour, tapioca flour all work fairly well, but are inconsistent and more often than not muffins turn out crumbly, a little grainy or worse, doughy. Then one lovely afternoon in Barnes and Noble I found my new favorite book The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free by Anne Byrn.

I know, it sounds like cheating but seriously…it’s great! Brownies, muffins, cookies, bars, layer cakes, you name it and she’s got it. The idea is that instead of making your own flour base with a combination of sorghum, rice, tapioca flour, etcetera – you use gluten free cake mix from the grocery store as the base and usually a little instant pudding mix for moisture and texture then add in all kinds of other goodies to make your treat unique. For instance, “Kathy’s Cinnamon Breakfast Cake” recipe adds pecans, pure vanilla extract, eggs, cinnamon sugar and vanilla pudding mix, and makes the most delicious muffins. I used to separate the batter in half then add mashed brown bananas and chocolate chips to the rest so that we ended up with 6 cinnamon and 6 banana chocolate chip muffins for our guests (this also works great with the chocolate cake mix!) Then one day our non-gluten free teenage daughters happened by for a little “taste test” and now when I bake a batch we only end up with 6 muffins for our guests and the kids steal the rest!

But don’t worry, not all of our gluten free recipes come from Anne’s book. Here is one of our favorite gluten and lactose free French Toast recipes from our Favorite Recipes from Port d’Hiver cookbook:

sliced canned pears                                                            pinch of salt
1 cup raw cane sugar                                                         1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup water                                                                        ½ cup golden raisins
½ tsp. nutmeg                                                                     ¾ cup honey
1 ½ cups plus 2 tbl unsweetened soy milk                          3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups 1” tapioca bread cubes                                            1/3 cup plus 2 tbl plain soy yogurt

Spray a 9” cake pan with cooking spray (Mazola Pure No-Stick cooking spray is gluten-free) and lay pear slices in the bottom. Set aside. Combine sugar, water and salt and heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and when the syrup is light brown, stir in 2 Tbl soy yogurt and allow to cook for 1 minute. Pour over pears and set aside. In a large bowl, combine bread, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg. In small bowl, combine eggs, soymilk, remaining yogurt and honey, whisking until combined then gently toss in bread cubes. Pour mixture over pears. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and with the foil on bake for about 55 minutes taking the foil off for the last 10 or so. Dish is done when it puffs and is golden brown, let cool for a few minutes then turn pan over in one swift motion onto a plate. Serve warm allowing the caramel sauce to drizzle down the sides. We like to top each slice with a couple red raspberries and a light sprinkling of powdered sugar just to make it extra pretty before serving at our Melbourne Beach Inn.

Extra tip: One of our favorite guest couples, Thomas and Julie, are gluten free, lactose free Vegans! For this recipe we use egg replacer instead of the real eggs and it still turns out great.  Our favorite is Ener-G Egg Replacer. It is gluten free!

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What’s your favorite book?

After breakfast this morning I was chatting with Michael and Sharon, a really nice couple from New York who are visiting Port d’Hiver Bed and Breakfast for the first time and staying in the Windward Suite. Having recently bought a new house, they were excited to tour the grounds and other guest rooms, talk about the design of our Melbourne Beach B&B and get inspiration for their new project. Cocoa Beach Bed & Breakfast

Our first stop after the dining room, is the garden courtyard just outside. The ground under our feet is covered in old Chicago bricks and red petals from the giant bougainvillea that looks over the garden. In the corner is the rocky old fountain made of coquina from the beach across the street and the remains of a stone overseer’s bench with woman’s face and winged body. But instead of a wooden seat, a cabbage palm grows, covered with the spiky arms and huge white flowers of a Night Blooming Cereus.

Cocoa Beach B&BAbove the garden is the New Orleans-like balcony of Dianne’s Room with its intricate scrollwork panels of vines and passionflowers, a deeply southern and meaningful image that has been used for centuries in European art and architecture.

As I look at the viney ironwork and discuss the courtyard with Michael and Sharon, I can’t help but think of the book A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. In the early years, before the house became the Melbourne Beach Bed and Breakfast guests know today, the courtyard’s big bougainvillea and purple allamanda had twisted and grown together untamed for more than forty years so that you could not tell one from the next. Cocoa Beach Bed and BreakfastThey grew over the fence and around the porch rails and through the gaps in the house’s siding. As we took apart the bead board ceilings to update the old cloth wiring, inside we found vines and tendrils winding through the walls all the way to the second floor as though the house and plants were all one big organic structure growing up together from the ground. This, combined with all that we were learning about the Brown family and others who had lived in the house on Ocean Avenue throughout the years, made it seem as though the lines between inside and outside were blurring like Hughes’ dreamy depiction of 19th century British colonial island life: plantation, barefoot children, tabby cats,  jungle palms, southern sun and sea whipped and shaken and spun together into a beautiful wild adventure.

Cocoa Beach Bed and Breakfast“As they followed the lane toward the sea they came to a place where, yesterday, a fair sized spring had bubbled up by the roadside. Now it was dry. But even as they passed a kind of gout of water gushed forth: and then it was dry again, although gurgling inwardly to itself. But the cavalcade were hot, far too hot to speak to one another they sat their ponies as loosely as possible, longing for the sea.”

In addition to the historic photos of the Brown family that guests find hanging on the walls here at our Bed and Breakfast in Melbourne Beach, I’ve often thought of framing passages like the one above from A High Wind in Jamaica. But in the end I wasn’t sure if people would understand and find them beautiful or maybe just think we were a little strange.

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Why Melbourne Beach?

Have you ever wondered what Port d’Hiver means? It’s French for “Port of Winter” and Ella Belle Brown named the property in 1925. The main historic house at Port d’Hiver Bed and Breakfast is an important landmark for Melbourne Beach and is known as the “Walter Brown House” but in the past locals called it “The Pink House”.

Leaning against the window in the sunroom is a weathered plaque that we found in the house years ago. It says the Melbourne Beach Improvement Company originally sold “The Pink House” to Neffie S. Long, who then sold to Florence Peel in 1922. Around 1925, the house was bought by Walter Brown and his wife Ella Belle.

Melbourne Beach Bed and Breakfast

Ella Belle in the 20s

Ella Belle Brown went to school at the Sorbonne in Paris and she and Walter spoke French at home. They thought that Port d’Hiver would become their winter home, but soon fell in love with our little barrier island and moved in full time.

Sometimes people ask, why go to Melbourne Beach? Because they haven’t heard of it and it isn’t touristy. But we say that is exactly why they should come to Melbourne, Florida. It is a very cool little town with a unique history and natural beauty. Not only have many of the country’s professional surfers learned right here on our beaches, but Melbourne Beach is also the 2nd largest nesting colony of Loggerhead Turtles in the nation (Matt Damon did a little documentary type promo about it.)

In the morning, we watch the sunrise over the ocean before breakfast at our romantic Florida getaway, and in the evening, after wine hour, our guests wander down for dinner at Djon’s Steak and Lobster House and to watch the beautiful sunsets on the Indian River.

So the answer is, go north for the “spring break” experience, stay at our Melbourne Beach Bed and Breakfast for a real, natural, adult experience. Port d’Hiver is an island within an island. Once inside…with the pool, fountains, tropical plants, friendly people, good food and music…we all get that same feeling that made Walter and Ella Belle Brown decide stay all those years ago. Melbourne Beach is just special, it settles in, becomes a part of you and soon you find that you don’t need to go anywhere else.

Posted in Around Town, At the inn, Barrier Island, History, Indian River, Melbourne Beach, Things to do, Turtles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beach Renourishment in Progress

The beach across the street is currently undergoing a renourishment effort to replenish sand washed away by storms and natural erosion. The beach is still open during this effort…only about 100 yard stretches are closed for a day or so at a time. This happens once every 6-7 years as part of a fifty year long federal government project.

This photo shows my favorite part of this process. That large tripod thing is actually a vehicle with three large tires. Somebody climbs a ladder to the top and drives this along the beach and out several hundred yards into the ocean to move sections of pipe. I’ve asked the family for one for Christmas. I think it would be fun to drive the kids to school up the river!

I’ve copied some information below from this website that shows how the process works: http://www.brevardcounty.us/environmental_management/bbbb_nsrp_process.cfm

Hopper Dredges

Hopper dredges move slowly over the borrow area (in this case, Canaveral Shoals) pulling two drag arms that suck sand from the ocean floor and temporarily store it in the ship’s hull—the “hopper.” When full, the ship sets course to the beach construction area, hooks to a pipe running ashore, and then pumps the sand from its hopper to the beach.

Pipeline on the Beach

During construction, a pipeline ran from offshore to a landing point on the beach. Hopper dredges pumped their cargos of sand through the pipeline to widen the beach at the landing point. Beach renourishment then proceeded to the north or south of the landing point by adding lengths of pipe along the beach.

Eventually, the direction of renourishment would be “flipped” from north to south or south to north, while the landing pipeline itself remained stationary. It would then be detached and relocated to the next landing point. During this process, temporary sand ramps were maintained over the pipeline at regular intervals to provide safe public access to the ocean and newly widened beach.

Crews worked around the clock, producing noise from engines and safety backup alarms, and using lights from dusk until dawn. The small, active construction area affected by the sounds and lights typically progressed past individual properties in 48 hours or less. On average, the construction progressed over 500 feet per day along the beach. Safety backup alarms were exempt from all local noise ordinances.

As the project progressed, bulldozers, front-end loaders, and other necessary construction equipment could be seen engaged in the creation of a smooth, wide beach using the new sand as it is was pumped ashore.

The new beach sand was discharged onto the beach through the pipeline in a powerful jet of water.

The area immediately surrounding the open, working end of the pipeline was closed for public safety while construction was underway. It was important to stay well clear of this operation. The off-limits area moved an average of 500 feet per day and a maximum of 1200 feet per day as the project progressed along the beach. Safety officers were posted to guard this area at all times.

Equilibration

Beach width increases as sand is added to the shoreline. As time passes, waves and currents shift some of the newly-added sand from the extra-wide beach to sand bars in the surf zone. This process is known as “equilibration.” Eventually, about 2/3 of the new material will be underwater, supporting the wider dry beach much as a foundation supports a house. Sand bars migrate onto the beach during the summer, increasing beach width, only to return offshore as a result of winter storm erosion. This fluctuation is a natural beach process restored by the renourishment project. Since this is a 50 year project, the beach will continue to be renourished every 6 years or as needed. This renourishment interval will be determined by the frequency and severity of storms that impact Brevard County over the 50 years.

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Flights Into Melbourne Airport

The Melbourne Airport has recently added some new flights. You can now fly round trip to Melbourne (MLB) four times daily from Atlanta (ATL) on Delta, three times daily from Charlotte (CLT) on USAir, and twice weekly from Niagra Falls, NY (IAG) and Punta Gorda, FL (PGD) on Direct Air. Port d’Hiver is a short ten minute cab ride from the airport and you can walk to restaurants and several stores. Makes an easy, romantic beach getaway.

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Triathlon in Melbourne Beach in June

The popular Rotary Pineapple Man Triathlon that takes place just down the street on Sunday, June 6th, is filling up fast. They cap participation at 500 and already have 370 applicants. Linda will do a Triathletes breakfast before the race and we’ll save a full breakfast for when you get back. Check it out here: http://rotarypineappleman.org/

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Honeymoon Packages

Love is in the air! Check out our new honeymoon packages: candlelight, mimosas, picnic lunch for two and more…

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Sand on the Beach Bar and Grill – Djon’s New Oceanfront Restaurant

I wrote a while back about the dearth of restaurants on the beach in our area. Well the long wait is over and Djon’s new restaurant and bar, Sand on the Beach, is opening this week. The atmosphere and cuisine are expected to be casual and beachy, providing a great place for our guests to have a romantic meal on the beach. Here is a picture of the building (scroll down to see a before picture from several months ago).

Mike

Sand on the Beach Sept 09

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Check out our new packages

Linda has put together a couple of new packages that would make for a great Florida beach getaway or a romantic respite.

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The Flowers Are Blooming!

Our Night Blooming Cereus have been blooming the last couple of nights. These plants have been on the property for awhile…we don’t know if they were planted by the previous owner or how they got here. They only bloom once a year in late May/early June and only after sundown and each flower blooms once, then wilts away. They are beautiful and smell wonderfully and are rarely seen by people.

dscf0058

In the picture below, you can see several blooms for the night and some of the blooms from previous nights that are wilting away.

Several blooms outside the dining room

Here is some information on the plant:

One of the strangest plants of the desert, the Night-bloomiing Cereus is a member of the Cactus Family that resembles nothing more than a dead bush most of the year. It is rarely seen in the wild because of its inconspicuousness. But for one midsummer’s night each year, its exqusitely scented flower opens as night falls, then closes forever with the first rays of the morning sun.

Range
Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of southern Arizona, east to western Texas and south to northern Mexico.

Habitat
Desert flats and washes between 3000 and 5000 feet, often in the shade of desert shrubs like Creosote.

Flowers
These very fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers, which bloom for only one night in June or July, are up to 4 inches wide and as much as 8 inches long. The waxy, creamy-white, many-petaled flowers are followed by a red-orange, short-spined ellipitical fruit about 3 inches long.

Description
The Night-blooming Cereus has sparse, angular, lead-gray, twiggy stems about 1/2 inch in diameter. Extremeley small spines grow along the 4 to 6 ribs of these woody stems, which can easily break. It can be erect or sprawling, reaching a length of up to 8 feet, but is usually half that length.

The Night Blooming Cereus has a tuberous, turnip-like root usually weighing 5 to 15 pounds (but in some specimens weighing over 100 pounds), which Native Americans used as a food source.

A close Baja relation (Peniocereus. johnstonii), called Saramatraca, Pitayita, or Matraca is locally popular for its edible tuber, which is said to account for the plant’s scarcity there.

Night-blooming Cereus is popular in rock gardens and can be grown from stem cuttings. After the cut end is is allowed to heal for several weeks, it is planted in dry sand. Like all cactus, Night-blooming Cereus may be protected in certain desert areas, and permits may be required to collect them.

 Mike

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