Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beware/BeFair Trip Advisor

Social Media is the venue the majority of us use to, check out places where we’d like to eat, stay and go sightseeing. And, what better way to find out about a location and its food and/or beds, than considering the point of view from a 'friend' or another real person? I have added my humble opinion on various locations, and I sure hope my opinions have helped other folks. But, it can be hard to judge a property when competing local businesses sign up with a bogus name, ID, and city, for the purpose of leaving fake reviews. Usually it is easy for the owner they may be attacking, to figure it out their identities. These reviewers usually go to their own site the same day and go on and on about their food, the view, the chef, etc. The appropriate motto for these types: 'If you cannot compete, Cheat!' We currently have an appeal in the works with Google, which targets a couple obvious bogus reviews against our property, from a couple of affiliated local businesses.
On our site you might find some reviews that are almost funny. For instance, there was one poor gal who was such high maintenance after 6-8 phone calls, I had to tell her I did not think I would be able to accommodate her needs. I truly would not have been able. Her requirements for her meal, wedding and floral needs were so outrageous, I was not going to put myself in that position. I let her know BEFORE she drove up to Hannibal from STL. I saved her miles, expense and time. You can tell by her review she was upset. I would be too, if someone told me I could not hold my wedding at the venue I had pictured in my dreams. I have hosted bridezillas in the past, and do my best to avoid them whenever possible.
I guess my main concern with Trip Advisor and even with Google reviews, is the fact that the person writing the review can say anything they want, truth or not. You can be a big fat pig with a cigar hanging from your mouth, ashes falling in the food, while making their grilled cheese sandwich in your bathrobe with flip flops on. But when posting a management response, basically all you can do is apologize and ask for forgiveness for something that may have been a total fabrication. Management is not allowed to give a true account of a situation, even when unkind or derogatory remarks are unfairly left by the reviewer. Management is not allowed to defend oneself by telling what transpired. AND, it usually takes several weeks to be placed on the site once it IS accepted by the staff at Trip Advisor. So for weeks and weeks you have some convoluted review steering people away from your establishment unfairly. Luckily enough for us, we have garnered a reputation for caring about our guests, being fun innkeepers and providing an environment that is beautiful, comfortable and inviting.

The main point I would like to make: Not all 'places', whether they’re listed on 'Google Places' or Trip Advisor are treated equally. Try to dig into these horrid reviews, or the ones that are over-the-top glowing reports. Did the poster make more than one review on a different location? Sometimes you can find if they left a complete opposite one on their own site. Maybe one was left for a different city, or state. Use your own good judgment when weeding through these types or reviews, and making your decisions.

All in all, as you plan your next trip or evening out and are trying someplace new, use your bat brain Batman.  Have a safe New Year and hope to see you in the 2012 year, which in Hannibal we call 20Twain.  More on that later...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Winter Wonderland and Wine at Garth

I will be the first one to say I hate the cold weather.  But, it does give me a good excuse to turn on the fireplaces and find a good movie to watch.  Even sitting in the restaurant dining room with the cold snow out the windows is not so bad if you are playing dominoes with some of the guests on a cold winter afternoon or evening.  Especially if are a fab player like I am! HA.
This starts the time of year when I send John to the market to get the fresh fruits and such.  Most everything else gets delivered, but being so picky on my fruits and veggies there is no alternative to hand selecting.
                                                     TASTE AND SEE 
We have listened long enough to our guests and the local folks;  it finally sunk in. We will be doing wine tasting at the mansion on the weekends.  Saturdays 11-3 and Sundays 12-4.  We have found some great wines from 5 different wineries in our fine state of Missouri.  And you know what?  They are pretty good wines!! Seriously, I always thought of our wines of pretty wussie wines, all sweet and just tasting like sugar. 
Now that the wines are coming in, I am truly amazed at the flavors the shine through.  It is not all about sugar.  Boy, what a wine snob I was.  Sorry Missouri.
The wines we are using are from more of the southern portion of the state.  We decided not to use any of the ones from Hermann as they are pretty near here and it can be had at so many of the local grocers.  What I wanted to focus on was Saint James, Montelle, Augusta, Crown Valley and Blumenhof.  Several of these have been awarded more than one gold medal and best of show, etc. 
My favorite for now is the St. Wenceslaus from Montelle Winery, it means Santa Claus and is a spicy wine to be served warm, cold or room temp.  You cannot go wrong with this one.  Just a small portion in a mug is great, too.  Nice of a little night cap.
After you taste the wines, and we are not giving out thimble size tastes, we will give you a guided tour of the mansion with some of the history of the home and the Garth family.  To save me washing all the wine glasses, sanitizing them and then polishing them you will take your glass home with you.  I mean, you also get to keep the wine glass for a souvinier.
All wines can be purchased here and EVERY one of them are priced for less than what the wineries sell them for at their location.
Starting the weekend of the 17th of December, stop by for some great tastes and a tour of the mansion.  You may purchase a bottle and sit in the restaurant and enjoy with some appetizers or take some home for gifts.  Either way, you will have all of 2012 to enjoy tours, wines and good friends.  Hope to see you n the New Year.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cooking with Guests in the Kitchen

What a blast being an innkeeper is when you love your 'job' and you have such great staff.  I guess that would be perfect with most any job you chose, and I am glad I have found this one.  And this is called work.
The phone rang and some business guests arriving later that evening wanted to know if they could all eat in the kitchen when they were having dinner.   Sounded like fun to me!  So we set everything up in the kitchen for six guests to eat, chat and add their 2 cents in on how they wanted their meat cooked and banana sauced.  They were getting pretty sauced themselves as we kept making trips to the wine cellar for more wine.  Simply Naked was the wine of choice for the evening, which made it fun to say they were drinking simply naked in my kitchen.  All in good fun.

All my prep was done, salads made, and meat in the marinade.  They are used to eating in stuffy or redneck restaurants, pubs or cafes.  They can eat wherever they like and it is nice they choose to eat with us, let alone in my kitchen.  We laughed so hard tears came to our eyes, as we chatted about surgeries and work, snow and plowing.  Everyone has a story to tell and when you have all the time in the world you can hear them all.

I think that is what makes it nice when business travelers opt for the B&B rather that a point based system at one of the major hotels.  If you do not enjoy your stay, or take one a little less than standard just so you can enjoy a few extra points to get you that great vacation, you are really missing out on everyday life.  Too many business trips to just get through and miss half you life as it passes by without you even knowing it.

It reminds me of a good friend telling my son, who is a photographer, to try not taking his camera with him on vacation.  He missed the entire vacation if he is always trying to 'get the perfect shot.'  His whole vacation is seen through the lens instead of his own eyes and that passes by as well.  He probably didn't listen as it was one of my friends, and mothers generally do not know too much.  Although as he approaches 30 both his father and I are getting a little smarter.

So, if you do travel for business, try a B&B, ask for  a business rate, ask if they have any rewards if you know you are going to frequent the area.  Some of our best (read favorite) guests are the business folks from the hospital, General Mills, and Continental Cement.  We give them free range of the place and they are happy to come and go as they please.  Sometimes I even put a chef's coat on them and have them help me in the kitchen.  My momma didn't raise no fool!  The Tom Sawyer trick works several times here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cookbook is finally on its way to Garth

I have only been working on it for a million years.  But now the time has come to push the 'go' button and allow 'it' to be printed.  Seems several times it was ready until I realized there were a few more changes or additions~just one more time.  The Cookbook, the cookbook, I am talking about the ding dang recipes everyone asking to buy.
Now, I am not frogging around any more.  The big ugly gray three ring binder can be pitched.  They are all copied, edited by many, eaten by several and a big purple check mark on each page.  Actually, an orange, green, red and purple check mark.  Everyone that help edit had their own color.  I just have a big sigh of relief it is over.
So...if you want to order your copy of Inn the Kitchen at the Mansion then go right ahead.  If I receive your order before they arrive you will not have to pay the shipping to get it to you.  They are going to be the same price as the coffee cups, $15, so you may go to the gift shop page and order from there. It is the one on the top with 'picture coming soon.'  I ordered 500 and thought that was a huge amount but am quickly finding out they will not last as long as I presumed.  I can always order more; that is a good thing, right?
The book has the eggy cheesy recipes, the fluted quiche, several muffins and breads and one of the guests favorite~Garth Juice.

Here's the best part~they all have names. NAMES.  Each recipe has a name.  I laugh when I make something up in the a.m., when I seem the most creative.  Dump a little of that, and this goes with it, and lo and behold when it is served a guests always wants to know what it is called.  If you read the Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, you know that Eve always wanted to name everything. 
MONDAY.--This new creature with the long hair is a good deal in the way. It is always hanging around and following me about. I don't like this; I am not used to company. I wish it would stay with the other animals.... Cloudy today, wind in the east; think we shall have rain.... WE? Where did I get that word-- the new creature uses it.  ~Mark Twain.

Well, a little role reversal here and I feel like Adam.  Why does everything have to have a name attached to it?  Well, I came up with some good ones.  Or at least it fits the items. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chocolate Extravaganza in Hannibal next weekend!

March 12th is a Saturday this year.  And it will go down in history as the weekend to remember how much chocolate was consumed in the city.  The Historic Hannibal Marketing Council, HHMC, wanted to plan a March event.  It can be quiet in our little city as the weather can go many ways.  So one of the members took it upon herself to create this weekend.  Dena from the Mark Twain Boyhood Home  has gone way over the top.  We know we have to do this each year.  Everything fell into place and the chocolate idea truly is a Chocolate Extravaganza. If you are on Facebook you can see the fun things going on. 
We played  the Tom Sawyer trick here at Garth and convinced a repeat-guest-turned-friend to make his famous chocolate cheese cake for dessert that night.  So after the festivities are over that night we will come back to the mansion and have cheesecake.  Doc Block and his wife, Stephanie are great people and even if you cannot come that weekend you may watch us live in the kitchen, of course.
So, bottom line, if you like chocolate, like food, and want to enjoy a great weekend where we are finally getting some decent weather and the daffodils are popping out of the ground, then come on over to Hannibal next weekend and eat until you get sick. Oh, you can drink it, too.  Many places are offering the good stuff in liquid form as well.  We still have rooms and maybe one cottage.  And, yes, do not worry we will find chocolate to serve and justify for breakfast, too.  See you soon,  julie

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Peter Deneen stays and plays at Garth Mansion in Hannibal, MO

Peter Deneen  left our inn the other day.  I think he likes us almost as much as we like him.  For some reason I was able to talk him into donning a celebrity chef coat.  We both had a ball.  From making the dessert (2 times, we didn't make enough the first time) to each of the other courses we laughed so hard we almost cried. Jessie, our gal taking care of serving the food and waiting on the guests actually had to tell us to hold it down in the kitchen.  We did have a few guests eating in the kitchen as well.  They just joined in on the fun.

This is the always smiling Peter
William with his Deneen Mug
OK, so now you ask, "Who is Peter Deneen?"  Well, if you have stayed at a decent B&B chances are pretty high you drank a hot beverage out of one of his mugs.  Deneen Pottery, American Potter, not made in China which is AKA Cloth and Clay, is the top mug carried by innkeepers all over the country, and I am honored to call him and his family friends.  They are based out of Saint Paul, MN and have taken the industry by storm.  They now themselves have a cute cottage with a potter theme and a shop, whatever you call it, on site.  We carry appx 30 different colors of his mugs and sell about 500 per year.

 Until this week, Peter was a potter, but now he is also a Pewter Pourer.  I guess if you are really good would be called a Pewtersmith, but right now we are going to stick with Pewter Pourer.  Thank goodness Peter is a great potter.  We have convinced his not to give up his day job.  After four tries he got a fabulous spoon from a mold made in the 1600's.  Pretty cool.  Peter Potter Pewter Pourer.  Say that five times real fast!

ASL Pewter, just south of us here, are in Louisiana. (Missouri)  They, also, are the leader in their industry.  The 'Hollywood' folks arrived in Williamsburg and asked for the Pewtersmith.  There is not one anywhere near this historic town.  The troops call in Pat and Tom Hooper in our fair state.  They made all the pewter for the mini-series that was featured on HBO, John Adams.  Great people!  It is great feeling when you know good people you can introduce them into other good people.  I think I turned them into good friends as Tom taught Peter how to pour the 700 degree liquid into beautiful plates and spoons among all the other pieces in their store.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

AAA readers name Garth Mansion #1 B&B in the entire Midwest

AAA Traveler Magazine's July 2010 issue listed many favorite places, eateries, parks, bakeries etc. When they shot us an email and let us know we were chosen as thee favorite bed and breakfast I about wet my pants. OK, well, it wasn't that shocking, but it was a very welcome notice.
Pretty darn cool though. Some places you can pay your money for dues and do all the required things to pass inspections to belong. Those are all very important, BUT when all is said is done it has to do with the end product. The customers. We could lower our prices, take out several of the amenities we lavish our guests, but we stuck to our guns. Give the guests a little more than they expect and it will all come out in the end. If you are a AAA member, and you are one of those nice folks that voted us the favorite inn, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

It sure seems like the news media comes in spurts. Unlike the water pipes that froze last winter ~ that just plain gushed! We were in the LA Times article a few Sundays ago. Even the Hannibal video interview started and ended with the writer chatting with me.
He was delightful gentleman and would have added more on our restaurant dinner in the evening but the museum folks decided to take him to a restaurant that is more chain-like near a hotel on the outskirts of town. The writer was able to stop for lunch at least in the historic district, which is where he said he would have rather eaten since he was doing the 'Twain thing.'
The LA Times article has been picked up by the Kansas City Star, Chicago Tribune, STL Post and many other larger publications. That just makes the phones ring more and in Hannibal we love to introduce our town to new tourist to experience "America's Hometown."
photo credit: LATimes writer Chris Reynolds