Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Novel Ideas about Author and former Guest C.F. Dunn

My inn blog readers may have read of author Claire Dunn and her visit to Maine to research a novel she was preparing to write. Two guests, Dan and Karollynn Johnson, from (oddly) Johnson City, Tennessee presented me with that novel, MORTAL FIRE" upon check-in last week after reading my inn blog and Inn 's Facebook page.

Their reviews: "Tortuous," "A skillfully crafted story," "An ending that pulls everything together wonderfully."  This gift is one that I will enjoy as I had the pleasure of the author's acquaintance during her stay at The Inn at Long Lake.

 For a riveting read, Mortal Fire is truly your way to being "Dunn In" this Summer!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tribute to a Mentor (Part III): Chef Patrick Brideau

(From April 2012: For almost 15 years. Chef Patrick Brideau has made me laugh myself silly--and has taught me a lesson that was especially invaluable today. It was an honor to me when he donated his time and talents to feed the local Causeway Workers involved in the Naples Causeway Revitilization in April of this year.)        
Previously, I paid homage to two mentors with whom I worked at Phillips Exeter Academy during 1994-1997: Marshall Lyons and Carol Ann Edgerley. Sadly, these two role models of mine are not with us any longer, and yet I carry them with me every time I enter the kitchen at The Inn at Long Lake.

Another mentor that has made a marked influence on my life and career is my friend, Patrick Brideau. Patrick was the former Head Baker at Phillips Exeter and worked down the hall in a large bake shop (with his assistant Cindy) that fed the entire 800-1,000 students and faculty each day with fresh-baked muffins, breads, desserts, and homemade ice cream.
Arriving early each morning and departing early afternoon (baker's hours!), Patrick was a pleasure to work with as he was "un-shakeable" when the pressure was at a frantic pace (usually around serve time).

Patrick commanded my respect not only because he created freely using improvisation when things went "hoo-wee" (lol), but because he insisted that "losing your mind gets you nowhere fast." Many a time we younger, and less experienced, chefs were not so "contained" when the chaos started leaking into our production (the making of the food) or service (the plating and dispensing of our work for our guests to enjoy).  Even the slightest havoc creates a domino effect on the entire scene (enter high drama at its worst!) While I admit I am still working on not letting stress ruin the love and intention I place into creating the elements of hospitality, I hear Patrick's voice often. It often sounds like this: "Dude....dude....bring it in. Don't let the ship turn over. Dude...reel it in..." It helps to hear his voice in my head. It helps to know it is also a behavior that can be taught from within your own head---IF you can train yourself to respond that way.

Let's face it, folks. Life spins around---and at us---in such a furious, and crazy, way. I never thought that Life would be so busy--text messages, a phone in my pocket ringing, speed limits higher than 55 miles per hour, letters in a computer calling from a cyber-mailbox all day. It wears you down to a point where your physicality actually becomes detached from the moment you are supposed to be savoring and experiencing. Add lack of adequate sleep, or lack of faith or trusting in the Universal support (that gives us enough air every day to keep alive), and the un-awareness that support of friends and loved ones can be there for us when we need it, life can be pretty challenging at times!

Having experienced a meltdown or two during this, one of the most challenging times to run a small business, I was pretty hard on myself for being so emotional.  In its aftermath of shame that followed (I could barely face those who witnessed it all), I learned the lesson that Patrick had taught me 15 years after his words were spoken. It is this: Find a way to ground yourself when you are afraid. Take time each day to know WHAT that feeling FEELS like. When you can move yourself into that quiet place, it will provide you the peace to create, and share, and trust, and actually hear the breathe coming from your own physical body.

Take time to "reel it in" as my mentor and friend Patrick Brideau says. Remember: you are no good to anyone if you cannot offer the world a calm & centered YOU. And....when you are there, your true gifts can then be heard and shared!  Give yourself this gift, too. Whether you are baking, knitting, rocking a baby, or patting an animal---you will find this to be truth.

Keith A. Neubert

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Jump Up for Highballs!!

With Summer BBQ and lawn parties, the warm weather might make you and your guests a little thirsty for a cold drinkie. Through all the heat and the sultry laziness of the weekends, keep beverage service simple!

"Highballs" are a truly simple class of cocktails great for most sipping tastes. They are simple to learn because they are usually comprised of a portion of liquor and a mixer, be it carbonated or juice. Even easier is that your guest will tell you what they want--no fancy drink name to remember! YAY! For example, "Whiskey & Ginger (ale)," "Rum & Cola," "Vodka & 7up," and "Scotch and Soda" are some popular highball drinks.

These drinks are easy to make(come on! you really can play bartender!!). Fill a 12 oz. glass (or cup) with ice cubes (to the top, please---we have profit to consider! lol) Then, add a standard shot/pour of liquor (usually 1 oz. to 1-1/2 oz.), using a jigger or shot glass, if you are not fine-tuned on your "free-pouring." Fill to (almost) the top of the glass and serve with a straw or swizzle stick. No fancy Tom Cruise mixing required. You do not have to even stir the drink you have created!

Some Highball drinks are served with a garnish, some do not. As a rule, a CLEAR liquor (rum, vodka, gin, and tequila) and a CLEAR mixer (7up, soda) are will be presented with either a lime or lemon wedge squeezed and dropped into the drink prior to service. (Some barkeeps like to cut a notch in the wedge of fruit and hang it on the rim of the glass/cup for the guest to squeeze their own.) So.....rum and soda, vodka & tonic, tequila and 7up would all taste and look fantastic with a colorful piece of fruit in or on.

Many dark liquors (scotch, whiskey, bourbon, etc.) highballs do not generally get a garnish. Mind you, a twist of lemon peel (the fruit removed from the lemon) can zip up a scotch & soda as twwwwwiiiiisssssting the lemon peel into the drink (and gently wiping the lemon oils within the rind that are set free) is a "zesty" (lol) way of ramping up the flavor of quite a simple drink. Other drinks like Rum & Coke (exception to the clear/clear rule, sometimes get a lime, if requested) .

Remember: any of the top shelf (more expensive) brands can be served. These may be called for by name with the mixer your guest would like. For example, Bacardi & coke,
Dewar's & soda, Stoli and Cranberry Juice. Try to serve the better quality of liquor at your gatherings. They are worth the extra $3.00 or so.

Some highballs might have a simple recipe but it is the seasoned barkeep that doesn't get thrown by a name given to a simple drink. Some of them are simple highballs with an automatic garnish included. You will find them simple once you know their easy names! Some named ones are:
*CAPE CODDER: vodka and cranberry juice with lime squeeze
*CUBA LIBRE: rum and cola with lime squeeze
*SCREWDRIVER:  vodka and orange juice
*SLOE SCREW: sloe gin liqueur and orange juice
*SLOW COMFORTABLE SCREW: sloe gin liqueur, Southern Comfort, and orange juice
*MADRAS (like the Indian blanket):  vodka, orange juice, and cranberry juice
*SEABREEZE: vodka, grapefruit juice,and cranberry juice with lime squeeze
*HAWAIIAN SEABREEZE (I love these!): vodka, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice (no lime)

Twelve ounce glasses may be too small for some groups (too dainty) so just add more mixer if using a larger serving glass. Fill with ice, add a portion of liquor, and fill with mixers.....stick a straw in it, garnish, if necessary, and BingBadaBoom!---positively simple!!Remember: serving alcohol requires a responsible hand. Your friends and the neighborhood will appreciate your prudent serving practices!  Pick up a book on basic mixology and read up on all the various cocktails, including highballs. They will be a simple way to play bartender that does not require anything but a smile and a straw!

Happy sipping!
Keith A. Neubert, Innkeeper-Chef, The Inn at Long Lake, Naples, Maine.               

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Every Star has 5 Jagged Points...."

Selecting new room names for The Inn at Long Lake was such fun back in 2008 when I purchased the property! My lovely friend, Fay, helped by suggesting Classic Hollywood names in addition to the American music icons on my list. And, so...while many rooms at the inn were (and are) named after notables like Glenn Miller, Mae West, and Cole Porter, several luminaries were overlooked ("Hey. It's a 16-room inn. Gimme a break for more rooms!" lol).

One such actress from Hollywood's bygone era of creativity was Matilda "Tilda" Manique. From her meagar beginnings in Iowa as a drugstore salad bar attendant (she was later lovingly known as "Cukie from Du-bukie" by her closest friends) to her discovery by the motion picture industry eating a Knickerbocker Sundae in a West Hollywood diner, Tilda's career was fraught with ups and downs.

Her legendary role in 1940's "Bally Ho in Bali Hai" was a high point for Tilda. As the Pina Colada-soaked streetwalker spreading happy cheer throughout the paths and byways of the Somoan mountainsides, she was endeared by legions of fans in movie houses, primarily workers in the pineapple and coconut professions. Her musical song from the film "Smile is  Free...Coconuts Cost a' Plenty" was nominated for several Tony and film awards.

Later in life--long after the cameras stopped rolling--Ms. Manique was reputed to have spent solitude living in (and by) a box near Franzia Vineyards. She happily signed autographs to faithful fans, a tribute to her short, but glorious, acting career.

Her comeback as "one of the colored girls" backing Lou Reed in his 1971 "I Got One Song..but It's Great" Tour brought new success to her. Tilda was beat out (and up) by Clara Peller for Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" marketing campaign. The company refused her to read her lines off cue cards...

She was last seen riding a 2-person bicycle alone by the Grand Canyon. Her fans fear that, like her career of yesteryear, her fall was a quick ride into the proverbial gulch. Her presence today remains unknown.

Remember: Everybody has their moment in the sun, so stock up on your Coppertone and prepare yourself as best you can. And...try to think of good ole' Tilda when the chips are down!

Keith A. Neubert

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tribute to a Mentor (Part II): Carol Ann Edgerley

In my last installment of paying tribute to the mentors who have inspired me I wrote about Chef Marshall Lyons. In this segment I remember a woman who taught me reminded me of one of the greatest aspects of anyone who pursues their passion in their work. Her name is Carol Edgerley.
Like Chef Marshall, I met Carol at the venerable Phillips Exeter Academy in 1993. The institution had two dining halls: Wetherell and Elm Street. Carol was the Lead Dinner Cook at Elm Street, a newer, more open-concept facility. I was her counterpart at the older, history-steeped facility about a quarter mile away. (My kitchen was the kitchen that in the old days fed Lincoln's children, the children of the Carnegie and Coors families--the old tunnels off the kitchen were super spooky and fun to poke around in!)
My shifts at work ran the usual Monday through Friday, which suited me fine since I bartended on the weekends at a restaurant. I started at 11:30am and the very large kitchen was cleaned and put to bed by 7:30pm each day. The hall was closed on Wednesdays and my assistant and I would go to Elm Street to feed the entire school (a total of 800 people!). I enjoyed Wednesdays because I got to work with Carol for part of the day.
Carol was a Mother and it was in that role that she brought the best of her work to the Academy. While most of our weekday conversations would be on the telephone (a mere 4 digit extension to "her side of campus"), we conferred 3 or 4 times a day so that the entrees we were preparing were standardized (similar, no matter which hall the students and faculty went it would be the same). In our chats we'd approach together the best way to prepare the 3 entrees for which we were responsible. It was such an amazing experience to open up this healthy dialogue between the two of us. Always---and without fail---the goal was efficient production and nutritious food that expressed care.
Carol was a divorced Mother. I could tell that it affected her like so many that have been let down by someone they loved, and later let them down. Still, and the most amazing gift she lived, was her care for the students at the school. She never took shortcuts to "make her day easier." She might not have had the experience that culinary schools could offer her. Through it all, though, Carol cared for the students as if they were her own! Too often the actual intention of care gets lost in the recipe. Spending those four years with her smokey voice on the other end of a telephone line, I have remembered her gift----no matter the experience, no matter the recipe, there is an element of care towards others that must be a part of pursuing any hobby, passion, or work.
And, if you have a challenging time finding it in whatever you are doing, find something else to evoke this love! When you find the right path, it will be natural and overflowing. The excitement of what you are doing will be contagious! It will translate into the senses of others and be felt. In cooking and entertaining, Carol taught me more than flavors and smells. She stirred in me the importance of connecting your heart to the heart of others via food.
It is a lesson I carry everyday. I rarely have a set menu at The Inn at Long Lake. The phrase "I'll know it when I see it" is trumped by the phrase "I'll make it when I feel it" ("it" being joy, happiness, quirky frivolity, reverence, etc.)
Carol passed away in 2003. I found her obituary online this morning. I still hear her raspy laugh. I still recall dialing her extension and saying "Wetherell calling Elm Street" (she would always laugh even if she was busy in the heat of the kitchen.)
Today, consider assessing during your day how much you are actually attached to the things you are doing. In some cases, perhaps it might be better to farm some things out to others--believe me, there is always someone out there who would find wonderful joy in the things you can't, or don't want to, do. Focus on the activities and work that fill your heart, for it is there where magic is truly made! It is there that you uniquely express yourself to the world. You will care to overflowing!
Like the lesson I learned from Carol, it truly is the "most intriguing spice" that is in your spice rack!
Keith A. Neubert
Naples, Maine

Saturday, April 14, 2012


It gives me great pleasure to announce that The Inn at Long Lake has been voted #1 Hotel/Inn/Bed & Breakfast in the Western Maine Lakes & Mountains area!
This is the 2nd year in a row that the inn has received this honor from the community. The results were published in Lake Region Weekly this past week.
Here I would like to thank the entire staff at the inn for all their creativity, hard work, and care that they bring to the honorable profession of hospitality towards others. Each of them bring their own uniqueness & personality to making sure our guests have a happy, safe, and interesting experience. Thank you Gail, Betsey, Francine, John, Andi, and Donna. You are all such special people. Your support means everything!
Thank you, also, to the local community who voted for the inn. We will honor your confidence with humility and hard work to bring people from all over to this special place of serenity and activity.
Keith A. Neubert, Innkeeper

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Some Spring Inspiration for Everyone....;-)

Dear Blog Friends:
I found this wonderfully inspiring verse in a folder with my college things. Hey, it's Spring...and we all have something to grow in the Spring! Enjoy!
How to Grow a Dream:
Take one great idea
Plant it in soil rich with inspiration
Nurture it with confidence, originality, common sense, and vision
Surround it with hardworking friends and colleagues
(Weed out all pessimists!)
Cultivate it lovingly for several years
Share your harvest with loved ones and fellow dreamers.
Yes, the metaphors have been beaten more than buttercream frosting, but you can glean the sense from this all.
Today....take a moment to assess what brings joy to your heart. Take a walk and see how Nature is constantly working its magic....Call a friend who might need a quick jolt of encouragement...Go to the Goodwill or Salvation Army store (with a bag of clothes you will never actually wear to give to THEM!) and pick up a cookbook to read at the beach this Summer. Take care of YOU. Give to others, too---good Karma always come back 3 times over, they say!
And...again...if you like to cook (which I hope that is why you are here reading me), try a new recipe out, bake a batch of cookies for the Volunteers at the Fire or Police Station (they risk their lives for others!), or organize some great new recipes for your next evening soiree!
Have a great day....or whichever day you wish for!
Keith A. Neubert
Innkeeper/Flour Bin Philosopher--The Inn at Long Lake

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tribute to a Mentor (Part I): Chef Marshall Lyons

(From 1995: Jim (the potwasher), Chef Marshall Lyons, and I pose for this photo at Phillips Exeter Academy before the dinner meal goes upstairs to the diningrooms above. Marshall always said 2 things constantly: 1. "You can always add more in, but you can't always take it out if you add too much", and 2. "A good Chef knows how to make good dishes; a great Chef knows how to rectify a potential kitchen mistake." ).

With the chilly months of New England Winters comes a kind of reflecti0n in the stillness of its quiet evenings. Gone inside are the children in town who rode their bicycles in Summer, or the boy down the street who practices bouncing and shooting his basketball every night after dinner. The waters of Long Lake, which I can see from my office window, have slowed from the cold and turned, ever so slowly, into a solid stage for snowmobilers and cross-country skiers.

Last year I celebrated 30 years in the hospitality field. While to many it was an accomplishment, some classified it as a sign of commitment to a passion and lifestyle. No matter how any of these years are defined, they have been borne of a blending of sacrifice and love. Every day in hospitality is truly different. From the ever-changing faces of guests, to the product you might be selling, to the influence of the weather on the entire atmosphere in which you serve, the learning that is available is endless.

Many mentors have dotted my career in these thirty years. These individuals stay in my head and in my heart. Perhaps more so recently, the economy has tested my own confidence and has brought me to a place where I re-visit these past teachers of mine. All have formed the professional who is writing for you now. During my many hours of baking and cooking I sometimes smile at them in my memories, express a silent smile of gratitude, and hope that they are proud of me carrying their legacy forward.

Marshall Lyons was the First Chef at Phillips Exeter Academy. When I got the second interview at P.E.A., the Assistant Director of Food Service told me that out of the 25 candidates that applied for the Second Cook's position, I had the least amount of actual cooking experience out of all of them. I looked at him and asked: "Then why am I here at a second interview?" The Asst. Director explained that I had an outstanding degree and that my honed Front-of-House experience was excellent. "We can teach skills, it is your attitude we like," said the man who was to become my boss. He explained that sometimes kitchen employees lose perspective on anything outside the kitchen door...that the idea of actual people and their opinions and feelings are out there, waiting to be served, impressed, and excited. "You have that perception of what a guest wants...and we need you to bring that standard into our kitchen," he said.

Only having a few Food & Beverage courses in my hotel degree, it was like running a marathon in the first few months of employment. The day crew buzzed around us on their meals while we started the dinner meal. After they finished at 3pm, the kitchen took on a wonderful quiet where Marshall always took my questions with a certain responsibility. He knew I was out of my element in the Back-of-House and yet would play teacher every chance he could. He would test me on cooking techniques, or come over and arrange my prep station so food would "flow" more easily towards its completion, or ask me to fill out the next day's production prep schedule.

Marshall was not the healthiest chef I had met. Years of kitchen work, which I knew deep inside his heart he loved, took its toll on the Chef. Eventually, his work schedule was dwindling and he became less and less reliable. I had gotten used to almost working without him and there were dinner meals where I remembered his words from the last time we did the meal in the "cycle" (which rotated back every 3 weeks or so).

Marshall cared about the skills involved in preparing food. He was adept in his best moments, worn down and needed a little more help (than he would have liked to admit wanting) at less shining times. Still, he took me under his wing and delighted in my curiousity. Maybe he knew I would someday take his place as Lead Dinner Chef. That was eventually what came to be.

Chef Marshall Lyons had a fierce sense of humor. We called him the "Redd Foxx" of the kitchen. He could take the jibes as well as dish them out. We would roar with laughter as we prepared our meals. Those happy moments and lessons remain with me today. Marshall passed away when I was in New Orleans. Even over 10 years later, I talk to him in my head in the inn's kitchen. He deserves that show of respect...that nod...for helping me become a better servant in hospitality today. And, I think...well, I hope....he is somewhere looking down...feeling proud of the student I still am.

Keith A. Neubert, Innkeeper-Chef, The Inn at Long Lake, Naples, Maine

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Nod of an Author

As an innkeeper we endeavor to highlight reasons in our marketing of our properties for guests to stay with us. Sometimes, though, a guest's visit to our inns means one step in the path to making their dream come true. We learn in the process that we provide a place to stay during that step. Such is the case for Claire Dunn of Rochester (Kent) in the United Kingdom.

In mid-2010 I received a booking from a travel agent in the U.K. We, as innkeepers, get wary to some extent when communication from oversees promises a long stay reservation prospect. (Credit card scams trap uninformed small business owners every day). The reservation was for the end of October of that year and when a Claire Dunn actually showed with her lovely daughter, Kate, my worry was proved "unfounded".

Both Claire and her daughter were easy-going guests. The enjoyed breakfasts each morning during their 5 days with us. I learned in one of our first conversations that Claire was there to do some research for a fiction novel she was writing. I was very intrigued, of course, because so many people have a great story in their hearts to write to the world, and this lady was actually doing what I so often write about: taking steps to the realizaton of your dreams!

Bed and breakfasts, usually owned by individuals, or couples, who have had to take the step away from the security of corporate life, live their dream everyday. It seems befitting, on hindsight, that a creative sort like Claire would not confine herself to the (generally sterile) energy of a corporate property. She and Kate ventured out liberally during the days and reported back some of the "writing" activities and personal adventures they had experienced during each day here.

I received an e-mail from Claire Dunn recently. Her novel, Mortal Fire, is to hit the retail bookshelves in May 2012!! It is the first book (the name of the series is the same) of FIVE. I was so tickled to hear that this creative spirit not only will be published to tell the world a story, but that Claire is working on Book 5 of the series at this very moment!

She teased me about the story in her recent e-mail and it sounded delicious:

"Based in Maine and in the UK, Emma - a young professor of history from the University of Cambridge - soon learns that all is not as it seems, and that truth is what you make it - to her cost."

If you are a fan of romantic mysteries (and to me romance is always that!), you should write that Mortal Fire on your Summer To-Read list! If it is anything like the captivating, easy-going author that stayed at the inn (and something tells me there is a little of her daughter, Kate, in the main character of Emma!), this story will transport you to another place----and, hopefully, for a moment in your reading--to the great state of Maine!

I am blessed to live my dream every day. When I can (even in some small way) help another's dream come true it is sublime. She thanked me--and many others--in the acknowledgement in the front of the book (!)---and nobody walks daring creative roads without support. And, so....while many of us visit inns for nearby activities, or to rest, or to be pampered, Claire Dunn took her time at The Inn at Long Lake to move toward a dream many have only thought about in fantasy. I think for this new author her reviews are already in: "BRAVO!!

And for all of you who need a place to start YOUR vision: we'll have coffee on and a smile to help you find your way...

From crisp, snow-dusted Maine this morning, I wish you all a wonderful day ahead.

Keith A. Neubert

The Inn at Long Lake--Naples, Maine

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter Herb Classes

One of Naple's greatest treasures is Betsey-Ann Golon (aka "Mrs. Greenjeans.") She and her husband, Dale, exemplify the spirit of the innovative entrepreneur. As owners of Common Folk Herb Farm (at the other end of Lakehouse Road), Betsey is involved in the Shaker Community, organizes the Annual Inn at Long Lake Craft Show each November, and has her hands in almost every pot, flower or otherwise, around.

Betsey will be presenting classes at the inn on the following dates: January 29, February 8 and 19. Classes are $25.00/person and includes a light lunch. Time: Noon-2. Our lovely Great Room is very comfortable and is the perfect setting to hear Betsey's information. One class is "Preserving the Herbal Harvest. " Here, Betsey explains age-old and new ideas to make pastes, how to dehydrate veggies, and (upon my suggestion) use them to create unique spirits (like infused vodkas!).

Another class is "Cooking with Lavender." We all enjoy soaking in a hot bath of it but did you know how wonderful it is to cook with?! Betsey will be showing you how versatile this common herb is---and how we can wow our recipe catalogs with some novel ideas of using this herb.

If you have other gardening questions, I am sure that Betsey can be pulled aside after the classes for brief Q & A. (Spring is just around the corner!!)

For more information or to sign up, please contact Betsey at the herb farm (207.787.2764) between the hours of Noon-4. Hope to see you there!