Apr 16

Built in 1778 , The Greenbrier is a resort steeped in history. Nestled in the mountains of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia is has long been a retreat for U.S. presidents and politicians who prefer its seclusion to closer options in neighboring Washington DC  Its imposing 721 room property, reminiscent of The White House in architecture and style, has been named a National Historic landmark and earned the reputation of a luxury hotel even before its renowned spa and golf courses became signature amenities.

With the trend of late leaning more towards smaller scale, boutique hotels the mammoth Greenbrier estate has been seen by some as a dinosaur, on the verge of becoming extinct. After a rocky couple of years, the rumors were confirmed in April 2009 that the resort was indeed going bankrupt and after a series of negotiations the property was purchased by new ownership.

Speculation was broad as to what direction The Greenbrier might take in the grip of new hands steering its course.  Having fond memories of my wedding weekend there, I felt protective that the old fashioned charm of the place stay in tact and when my husband and I returned last month to celebrate our anniversary it was  with curious anticipation. Driving up its long, stately entrance we immediately sensed a buzz in the air as cars packed the once empty lots surrounding the main entrance and swarms of people bustled in and out of the lobby. Unlike our last visit, the expansive hallways were no longer desolate and quiet. Shops were sprung open, cafes had extended hours, and young families with their children filled all the spaces in between.

Due in part to the addition of a new casino and restaurant, the hotel had seemingly undergone a resurgence of growth, and we were excited to feel the new life and energy fill the property.  Still a place where we could comfortably relax by the ample fireplace during afternoon tea, float lazily in the sun-filled natatorium, or watch one of the nightly films in its cinema, The Greenbrier was also invigorated by new nightlife in its casino which we found to be a fun diversion.

Most importantly, the new crowds created more demand for things such as the highly reputed Sunday brunch buffet. Having never experienced the breakfast on previous trips, due to low occupancy in the hotel, my husband and I eagerly reserved a spot during this last visit and we were not disappointed. On view in the main dining room were surrounding displays of  Southern country breakfast favorites  like buttermilk biscuits and gravy,  French toast with housemade peach preserves, and eggs cooked every which way you could imagine. One of the house specialties, and my personal favorite on the menu, are the bite size pumpkin spice muffins that despite being unseasonal are so popular that the Chef keeps them available for breakfast all year round. Incredibly moist and studded with bits of brown sugar and raisin, the basket of these tiny morsels was the first to run out on the table of breakfast pastries.

Feeling forlorn that my visit to the resort was coming to an end, and knowing there were only so many muffins I could smuggle out of the buffet with me that morning, I coaxed the Chef into sharing the recipe.  The version he sent is adapted for home use, and I make the one small adjustment of adding chopped candied ginger to the batter before baking. Biting into one these at home, regardless of what time of year, quells my anxiousness to get back to The Greenbrier for another couple months.

PUMPKIN MUFFINS

(courtesy of The Greenbrier resort)

Yield:  2 Dozen

2 each fresh eggs

l cup  milk

l stick butter

l cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

l l/4 cup canned pumpkin

2 tsp baking powder

l tsp  cinnamon

l/4 tsp nutmeg

l/4 tsp salt

l/2 cup pecans or walnuts

l/2 cup raisins

Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Cream butter, sugar and pumpkin until smooth.  Add eggs.  Blend all four ingredients well.  Sift flour, baking powder and spices.  Add alternately with milk to egg batter.  Do not over-mix.

Fold in nuts and raisins.  Sprinkle little cinnamon-sugar on top before baking.  Bake in greased muffin tins at 375 degrees for approximately 25 minutes or until done.  Muffins can be frozen and reheated.  Do not open door while baking or muffins will fall.

This recipe may be used for Sweet Potato Muffins, substituting l l/4 cups of mashed sweet potato for pumpkin.

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