CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND, Va. — For a generic beach experience you’ll have to book elsewhere. The Channel Bass Inn, a rambling bed and breakfast in the tiny waterfront village of Chincoteague, is helmed by the flamboyant, fun and fascinating Barbara Wiedenheft, a Brit who lived all over the world before settling on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
If you prefer to lie low and maintain anonymity, this isn’t your place. But if you want to immerse yourself in this quirky town that time forgot and its famous sister island Assateague—home of the wild ponies made famous in Marguerite Henry’s classic book Misty of Chincoteague — Barbara is the hostess with the mostest. She’ll guide you towards the best food, shops, and beaches.
The night I stayed at the Channel Bass Inn, Barbara’s husband David got me settled into the Ambleside Suite on the second floor, a comfortable two-room affair with knockabout antiques, outfitted in chintz and peppered with books (everything from the biography of Princess Di to Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying).
The reason Barbara wasn’t there to check me in was she had traveled nearly two hours to the airport where she picked up one of the inn’s guests. The guest, a professional woman from the San Francisco Bay area, is a regular who flies in twice a year mostly to spend time at the inn and with Barbara, “decompressing” as she explained to me. In fact, the next morning, Barbara and her guest were off to Home Depot to pick out tiles for a bathroom under renovation at the inn.
Guests who wish to explore the islands, as I did, can tap into the treasure trove of beachy borrows from umbrellas to backpacks to bikes to binoculars that Barbara and David keep on the side porch.
Chincoteague seen through the lens of Barbara and David becomes more exotic and when you step through the doors and hear a mélange of music from Tunisia, France and Spain playing you feel as though you are visiting very glamorous, but down-to-earth friends who have landed in a far flung spot. Barbara and David are tossing around the idea of moving again to another interesting corner of the world, so should you wish to partake of their unique style of hospitality, seize the moment.
With her combined loves of entertaining and cooking, Barbara extends her hospitality beyond those staying at the inn. Non-guests can book breakfast, a multi-course affair involving crystal, fine china and fresh flowers. Breakfast features fruit compote, fresh yogurt, French toast, egg dishes, but the piece de resistance is Barbara’s signature scones. Forget the hockey pucks you’ve come to know and avoid. These scones, soft and moist (yes) and flavorful, are served with traditional clotted cream. She generally makes several varieties, but her personal favorite (and mine) is the ginger. Channel Bass also serves a formal afternoon tea featuring these scones among other homemade treats by advanced reservation.
BARBARA’S CHEESE SCONES
2 cups flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper (I sometimes add some crushed red pepper for more pizzaz!)
Combine all above . Cut in 1/3 cup unsalted butter (salted is OK, but then you should reduce the 1/4 tsp salt) Mix in 1 and 1/2 cups of good sharp cheddar, freshly grated (I use regular grated cheddar, or grated Swiss Cheese) - they come out fine!) 3 Tablespoons shredded parmesan. Stir together: 1/3 cup cold milk 2 large eggs. Combine milk mixture with flour mixture, handle carefully - dough will be soft. Brush tops with half and half before baking. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes.
Andrea Poe Travels the World at The Washington Times Communities.
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