AIKEN, S.C. — Every morning, be it a downpour or 20 degrees, my day here in southeastern South Carolina begins with a walk from my rental apartment to the big house for breakfast.
The big house is the Carriage House Inn in downtown Aiken where I have stayed several times. There are B&B rooms in the big house, but my choice, since Digby days, has been a one-bedroom apartment in the back that includes a fully furnished kitchen, even a dishwasher which I don’t have at home.
During the breakfast walk, my thoughts are always the same. What will Abbey, Andrea, or Angie have for breakfast? And, who will I share the big round table with?
Meeting other guests from all over the country, and a few from foreign countries, is a prime reason I stay here for several weeks. Conversation at the round table at 8 a.m. is brisk after the proper morning greetings are exchanged. It is a special treat if other guests also stay several days so that we can continue conversations each morning.
It was like old northwest Ohio week at the round table Friday morning. Nancy and Bob Hartung of Port Clinton are new guests at the inn. The Hartungs are retired teachers and like many other retirees are traveling through the South to find the perfect place to relocate. “We are both golfers so where we decide has to have a good golf course,” Bob said.
When I suggested they would have to get a horse if they move to Aiken, Nancy said,“No way; we are downsizing.” The Hartungs’ home is on Catawba.
Many couples who are retired or soon will be come to Aiken from northern states because they have decided to buy or build at the Woodside Plantation, an exclusive gated community with golf courses and a country club. I have heard more than one husband at the breakfast table say that finally they won’t have to keep driving from state to state looking for a retirement place that pleases their wives.
Single men and women are also in my circle of new acquaintances. The men often are associated with the Savannah River Site, a major nuclear project that covers thousands of acres in this area.
If I were to be here during the Masters at nearby Augusta, April 7-14, every room and apartment at the Carriage Inn would be occupied by Australians who come every year and were ecstatic last year when Adam Scott, a countryman, won the tournament.
Most of the women I have met at the table are not as interested in where they can shop or the best restaurants in town. They are horsewomen who have trailered their horses from eastern states and want only to connect with the many equestrian events here and to ride through Hitchcock Woods. I am intrigued by their love of and devotion to their horses as they speak of them as their best friends, much as pet owners speak of their dogs and cats.
The round table wouldn’t spin in such enjoyable harmony if it were not for the women I lovingly call the AAA team.
Angela Swearingen and Andrea Williams not only serve the breakfast, but they often also prepare the food as well as do the housekeeping at the inn.
The third A is Abbey Zipfil, who in addition to being manager often slips into the kitchen in the evening to prepare an overnight breakfast casserole.
Abbey has one rule for the hot breakfast dishes.
“They have to have few ingredients and are easy to fix,” she says.
Here are two quick, easy breakfast recipes from the Carriage House Inn.
Peach Upside Down Overnight French Toast
½ cup butter
1¼ cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 20-ounce can sliced peaches, drained
1 loaf French bread
5 eggs, beaten
1½ cups milk, or use 1 cup milk and ½ cup half and half
Spray a 10 by 15 inch pan with non stick cooking spray.
In a small saucepan melt butter; stir in brown sugar, and water and cook for 2 minutes on low heat.
Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.
Drain peaches and arrange evenly over first mixture.
Slice bread into ½-inch slices and arrange to cover peaches.
Beat eggs; add milk, and pour evenly over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Bake 40 minutes in 350-degree oven.
Cool 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving upside down.
Blueberry Granola Breakfast Bake
¼ cup sugar
1½ cups milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup fresh, or frozen, blueberries, or use another fruit
3 cups granola
Maple syrup, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round or square baking dish with non stick cooking spray.
Beat together egg, sugar, milk, and butter. Stir in blueberries and granola. Spoon into prepared pan and level with spoon.
Bake 45 to 60 minutes until set. Serve warm with maple syrup.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org