By Ann Cipperly
Situated at the entrance to the Northside Historic District, the Heritage House has stood as a landmark since 1912 when W.C. Davis built the house as a gift to his bride. Over the years, it has been a private home, antique shop, bed and breakfast, private home again and is now once again a stately bed and breakfast.
Haley Wilder and her mother Virginia Haley opened the inn last April, with the elegant mansion providing a cozy retreat for travelers and a gorgeous setting for weddings, parties and events.
Traditional, scrumptious southern breakfasts are served to guests, using many local ingredients. The owners are sharing a few of their specialty breakfast recipes.
Haley and Virginia are expanding their business this week by opening the Carriage House Antiques and Interiors Friday, Feb. 17 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 18 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. The shop is located in the back of the inn in the original carriage house.
Both owners have had interesting careers and extensive studies that came together for creating the ideal background for innkeepers.
Born in Birmingham, Virginia moved when she was a child with her family to Nashville, Tenn. Her father had graduated from Auburn University, and Virginia followed suit, graduating in 1968 along with other family members.
Virginia has always had a love for art. After graduating from Auburn, she entered the art field and arranged special events for the governor of Tennessee for eight years. During this time she opened a floral business.
She then moved to Colorado and opened an art gallery in Evergreen outside Denver. Virginia operated the art gallery for 25 years.
When her father moved back to Auburn to spend his retirement years and Haley was attending Auburn, Virginia decided to move back to the area.
In 2007, she went to work for Susie Gogue, wife of Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue. Virginia worked with Mrs. Gouge to form a special events department for the college, which included the museum and library. The department created a central place for arranging all special events.
After three years, Virginia went to work planning events at a ranch in Wyoming. While at the ranch, Haley called her to ask if she would move to Opelika to work with her. “I thought the bed and breakfast sounded exciting,” says Virginia.
Haley grew up in Nashville and attended a college in Boulder, Co., majoring in political science and art. After graduation, she worked in creative fields in Atlanta. Haley also studied decorative arts and wine at Christie’s in London.
She then decided to attend Auburn for a master’s in historical preservation. During the process, she switched to landscape architecture, as it is basically the same.
While at Auburn, Haley spent much time in Opelika. “I kept seeing this house,” she says, “with a for sale sign up and then down.”
After graduating, she lived in Boston and New York. “I was in New York and had enough,” she says, “and started making my way back to Opelika. It had been ten years since I tried to look at this house the first time. It was back on the market.”
Haley had a friend go with her to see the house. Then, she called her mother. They purchased the house in November 2015. “We hit the ground running,” says Haley.
Looking back, they see how much they have done walking in without any furniture. Since it is an older house, they had the wiring checked, did repairs and painting. They were thankful for the work the Pattons had done restoring the house in the 90s when the house was an inn.
The heavy drapes were removed, and other editing was done to reveal the handsome bones of the house. The bed and breakfast is nicely furnished and well decorated.
Haley and Virginia opened the Heritage House on April 1st last year. Since then, the house has been filled with parties, weddings and business retreats. Virginia does floral arrangements for events.
Each morning, they serve a generous traditional breakfast. The menu changes daily and can feature an assortment of southern favorites, including omelets, hash browns, local bacon, homemade English muffins, lemon poppy seed cake, homemade honey granola with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit in season along with Brioche French Toast.
For the Brioche French Toast, Haley will start two days ahead, as it takes so long to make the bread. Instead of French toast some mornings, the brioche is toasted and served with Asparagus and Eggs.
They are sharing several of their special recipes, including Brioche French Toast, Baked Omelette Soufflé with Gruyere, Green Onion Latkes served with poached eggs and Serrano Ham as well as Filet of Beef and Arugula Brunch Sandwiches with Dijon-Horseradish sauce, among others.
They set the table the night before for breakfast. If guests are staying several nights, the breakfast table is decorated differently each day.
The owners have enjoyed their first year as innkeepers and meeting people from all over the country.
Haley and Virginia are also enjoying being a part of the community and looking forward to becoming more involved. Haley is on the board at the Museum of East Alabama.
“We want to say a big thank you to the people of Opelika,” says Virginia. “We both have lived a lot of different places, but living here is a real treat for us.”
If you would like more information on the Heritage House and the Carriage House Antiques and Interiors, go to heritagehouse1913.com and 201north8th.com.
Ann Cipperly can be contacted at email@example.com.
Baked Omelette Soufflé with Gruyere
This recipe has been perfected (by trial and error!) over the past years as breakfast, brunch and dinner. It can be made in a skillet and cut into wedges or baked in individual ramekins for guests. The oven gives the eggs such a beautiful texture, and the delicate flavor of the Gruyere is just enough.
8 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups freshly shredded Gruyere
Fresh fines herbes (see note*): minced parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil
Butter and olive oil, as desired
Kosher salt and cracked pepper
Heat oven to 375. Separate eggs and beat whites until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks lightly; add cream, Gruyere and fines herbes. Fold whites into yolk mixture.
If using a skillet, melt butter or heat olive oil over medium-low heat before adding mixture. Gently pour egg mixture into skillet, and allow it to set before transferring to the oven.
Cook in oven until high and fluffy and just lightly golden. Remove, slide onto a large serving platter, fold in half and cut into wedges. Depending on the crowd it will serve 4 to 6 people.
Baked in Ramekins: If using ramekins, butter generously before filling. Pour mixture into 6 to 8 medium individual ramekins and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until fluffy, high, and lightly browned. Allow these to cool a bit before serving, but not too long as they will fall.
*Note: Fines herbes designate a combination of herbs that form the mainstay of French cuisine.
Everyone loves this bacon. It is the most requested thing we serve and disappears as soon as it is placed on the sideboards.
Good, thick-cut bacon (local if possible, not peppered)
Grade-A maple syrup
Preheat oven to 400. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place bacon side by side on a baking rack on top of the parchment, making sure the pieces do not touch.
Cook bacon until golden, remove from oven and brush with maple syrup. Return bacon to the oven to finish cooking. Watch it carefully so the syrup crystallizes but does not burn.
Once bacon is cooked, transfer to another baking rack with newspaper underneath to drain (it will stick to anything else). Serve warm.
Filet of Beef and Arugula Brunch Sandwiches
This is quickly becoming a favorite of our guests, especially for late-season brunches before a big game. We love the savory combination of good filet with the Dijon-Horseradish Sauce and peppery arugula. This is best on good crusty French bread, sliced on the diagonal.
1/2 filet of beef
Butter, unsalted and at room temperature
Dijon mustard (the grainier the better)
1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
Pat filet dry and coat in a mixture of butter and Dijon mustard (give it a nice healthy coating). Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper. Roast on a sheet pan in the oven at 500 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. (Test for desired doneness.) Remove filet from oven, cover with foil, and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp. horseradish
2 Tbsp. sour cream
Kosher salt, to taste
Mix the sauce and make up another batch of the Dijon-room temperature butter mixture.
Take two pieces of crusty bread: on one side, slather with sauce. Use plenty! On the other piece of bread, spread more of the butter-Dijon mixture.
Add arugula and thinly sliced filet, put it all together, and serve.
Spring Green Onion Latkes
Serve with poached eggs and Serrano ham
4 cups cold water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 small yellow onion
1 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 green onions, dark and light green parts only
Cracked black pepper
Neutral-flavored oil, for frying
Combine 4 cups cold water with 1 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large bowl. Stir until salt is completely dissolved. Stir in the potato (coarsely grated) and leave to sit for 15-20 minutes. Drain potatoes, and squeeze out any excess water with a cheesecloth.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together eggs, onion and pepper in a large bowl. Add potato and flour and mix until well-blended. Fold in thinly sliced green onions.
Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot, and place the potato mixture by spoonfuls into the oil (flatten them as you go). Cook until golden brown on both sides, drain on paper towels, and transfer to a baking sheet in preheated oven to complete cooking.
Homemade Brioche French Toast
Best to make the brioche a day or two ahead of time, so it will hold up.
1/2 cup warm water
2-1/2 Tbsp. dry yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
6 large eggs
4 cups flour
1/2 lb. unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 egg and 1 Tbsp. milk for egg wash
In a stainless steel bowl with a paddle mixer attached, combine water, yeast and sugar (mix this part by hand). Add eggs, and beat with mixer for a minute or so.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour and salt, then add about half to mixer. Mix on low for 5 minutes. Add remaining flour; mix on low for another 5 minutes. Add butter and mix for a few minutes until blended. Once blended, take the dough and place in a large buttered bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, allow dough to rise to room temperature. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 2 halves, and place in 2 buttered loaf pans. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise again for 2 hours, at room temperature. Add egg wash before baking. Place in a 375 oven for approximately 50 minutes.
For French toast:
6 large eggs
1-1/2 cups milk or half and half
Kosher salt (a dash or two)
Cinnamon (hold for morning)
Whisk ingredients, except cinnamon. in a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning allow time for mixture to get to room temperature; add cinnamon.
Pour mixture into a shallow casserole and soak 3-4 pieces of the bread at a time, for 5 minutes total, turning once. Check to make sure they are soaked through.
Heat a tablespoon or so of butter and a bit of oil in a good-sized frying pan until medium-hot; fry brioche. It will turn golden brown with edges just crisp.
Keep toast warm in a medium-low oven (225f or so) until ready. Serve with 10x sugar and lightly warmed maple syrup. Perfect with bacon and a mimosa!
Brioche Toast with Asparagus and Eggs
Making the brioche is a time consuming process, but it is so good for many recipes that it is well worth the effort. This is a simple and excellent way to start the day, and it is one of our favorites. Add country ham or some crispy bacon on the side if you like — and use asparagus you like best. Some swear by the thinner varieties, but we find that the medium and thicker ones roast just as beautifully and are just as tender. Serves 4.
4 slices brioche
1 lb. asparagus, rough ends trimmed (if you’re not sure where to trim, take one asparagus and snap 1/3 of it off, towards the rough end — it will show you where to cut)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
Turn on broiler. Place brioche slices and asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Broil until bread is toasted, turning once, about 1-2 minutes.
Transfer bread to serving plates, and continue to broil asparagus, tossing once, until tender (about 5-8 minutes more).
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and carefully lower eggs into water. Reduce heat tot a simmer and cook for 6 minutes; remove eggs from the pan. Peel under cool running water.
Divide asparagus and place on toast, add shaved Parmesan, and top with eggs.
Vine Street Pound Cake
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter
4 cups 10x sugar
3 cups sifted flour
6 large eggs
1 tsp. lemon extract (substitute vanilla or almond, as preferred)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a standard-sized Bundt pan.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar for 5 minutes on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, and 1/2 cup flour alternately, with mixer continually on low speed.
Add extract and continue to mix until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 60-75 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Better second or third day.
We use this vinaigrette for brunch asparagus with poached quail eggs and ham, as well as for salads in the summer. It’s simple to make and works with many dishes. Easily made in an old-fashioned salad dressing shaker and will keep for a good while.
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard (the grainier the better)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Fresh minced basil
Pinch of Beau Monde
Combine all ingredients.
Sweet Potato Hash with Pancetta and Melted Onions
This is a guest favorite for autumn and football season brunches. It’s wonderful alone or with a poached egg on top with a few fresh chives, and the melted onions can be made up to three days in advance. The onions make delicious sauces as well. Makes 6-8 servings.
3 large onions
10-12 black peppercorns
Clove of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup unsalted butter
12-14 oz. pancetta or good bacon (at least 1/2 inch thick)
1 Tbsp. minced chives
3 lbs. sweet potatoes, boiled or roasted, diced
3-4 sprigs of thyme
Begin by slicing onions and cooking over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add a pinch of salt, and cook at a low simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or so. Tie bay leaf, about half of thyme, peppercorns, and smashed garlic into a cheesecloth.
Cut butter into 8 equal pieces; add both butter and cheesecloth to onions. Stir skillet, cover (lightly, allow some steam to escape), and continue to cook for 30 to 35 minutes over medium-low heat. Add salt to taste.
Cut bacon crosswise (the pieces should look like fat matchsticks). Pour a small amount of water into a pan and set over medium heat. Add bacon, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes or so (it will not be crisp with this recipe, but it will be golden and rendered). Once cooked, place bacon on paper towels, reserve bacon drippings, and leave a good bit in the pan for the hash.
Turn on oven to 200 degrees. Place half of cooked and diced sweet potatoes in the pan, add a dash of salt and leaves from remaining thyme. Cook over medium-low heat until crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of melted onions and a quarter of bacon. Fold together over heat until warmed through, then transfer to oven to keep warm.
Serve hash with poached eggs and remaining bacon on top, with fresh garden chives, if you have them at hand.
Best Hollandaise Sauce
Serve warm over asparagus or eggs benedict.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
Place butter in small saucepan over low heat until sizzling hot (watch it so it doesn’t burn).
In a blender, place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper; blitz quickly — just enough to blend ingredients. Close lid on the blender, turn it on high, and pour sizzling butter through the top spout very gradually, until it’s all added and thoroughly mixed. Turn off blender and allow to sit for 5 minutes.