Book Review: Recipes from Heceta Head, Oregon's Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast

Wind sweeps across the Pacific Ocean, battering the rugged coastline with foam-flecked waves and sheets of rain. Defying the elements, gnarled Evergreens clutch weather-beaten cliffs, and refuse to fall into the sea. Rich with timber and easy access to salmon, this land has been home to traders and trappers for centuries.

Against this stormy backdrop, Heceta Head Lighthouse warns of the impending coastline. The adjacent Queen Anne-style homes with cranberry-colored shingles, housed the lighthouse lamplighters. Throughout the night, they worked in four hour shifts, manually keeping the flame alive.

Technology advanced and automation eventually eliminated the need for lamplighters. As the buildings deteriorated, local citizens fought to preserve these historic structures.

Enter: an innovative idea + the husband and wife team of Mike and Carol Korgan.

Today, an interpretive center sits on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service, and the lightkeeper residences have been converted into Heceta Head Bed & Breakfast. Mike and Carol played a crucial role in preserving these landmark buildings and served as the B&B’s first proprietors. Now retired, the torch has been passed to their daughter Michelle and her husband, Steven.

Oregon coast’s Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world and the corresponding B&B is renowned for their seven-course breakfast. The Lighthouse Breakfast Cookbook (Westwiinds Press, 2009) documents the history of Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B, and reveals their most coveted recipes.

This book has become my secret weapon! Making regular appearances at brunch or as a light dessert, the Almond Butter Cake is my go-to recipe. Dense yet incredibly moist, its light kiss of sweetness makes this cake surprisingly versatile.

Included in the book is James Beard’s cheater version of Liver Pate. Beard, a former Oregon resident, once slipped Mike the recipe…and I made it immediately! The secret? A hearty mixture of liverwurst and cream cheese. Embellished with a dash of this and that, you’d never guess the origins, but trust me, it’s a welcome addition. Over the holidays, this Liver Pate was the first to go, every time. (Warning: double the recipe. You’ll want more!)

Chapters in the Light House Breakfast Cookbook follow Heceta Head B&B’s famed seven course breakfast menu: Fruit; Sweet Bread; Seafood; Frappes; Eggs; Meat; Dessert; Fruit & Cheese.

Composed Fruit salads make a welcome addition to entertaining menus as well as weekday breakfasts. In the Moroccan Fruit Salad, for example, the usual suspects of pear, apple and banana get a guild-the-lily flourish with orange flower water, mint & pomegranate seeds.

My one quibble lies solely in the Sweet Bread section. Each recipe makes three loaves. This is not a problem with tried & true recipes, but for the untested, it can be a risky maneuver. “Serve one loaf, freeze the other two” works great if you’ve got a winner. The Lemon Poppy Seed Bread was not a favorite. I had middle of the road results—not bad, but certainly not great--and I had three loves on my hands! Going forward, I’ll tread carefully in this section, and divide the recipes accordingly. (Portion sizes in other areas of the book are less risky, serving 6, on average.)

If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll want to keep this book close at hand. Wild Chinook Salmon Sweet Corn Cakes and the Oregon Dungeness Crab, Fennel, Orange and Avocado salad with Mango Curry Dressing were quick additions to my permanent files. Other recipes like Bay Shrimp Mousse and the Scallop and Bay Shrimp Seviche scream: easy entertaining with big flavor payoff.

In the seven-course lineup, frappes are served as palate cleansers. This section includes intriguing flavor combinations, such as: Strawberry, Candied Ginger and Fresh Mint; Hibiscus, Melon, and Wildflower Honey; and Pear with Orange Blossom Honey and Cardamom.

The Eggs chapter offers more than a few unexpected surprises. Imagine serving your houseguests Shirred Eggs with Oregon White Truffles or a Sweet Potato, Sage, and Juniper Grove Smoked Chevre Strata. Houseguests may never leave!

By Meats, they mean sausage, mostly. My first sausage-making foray was a revelation and I was thrilled to discover several new recipes in this book: Greek Lamb Sausage (with pine nuts, kalamata olives, and mint); Roasted Garlic Chicken Sausage; or the more exotic Thai Coconut Green Curry Chicken Sausage.

Desserts run the gamut from strudels (apple, poppy seed, or Marionberry), cakes (pound, almond butter, or cranberry upside down) to tarts (pear or lemon). While this is the longest chapter, some dishes do double duty as dessert or breakfast (crumbcake, crepes, or apple pancake).

The Fruit and Cheese chapter profiles local cheeses and serving suggestions. Whether you’ll be able to find these cheeses is debatable, but even if you substitute other varieties, the serving suggestions are worth exploring. “Siletz River Stones River’s Edge Chevre – This hand-ladled Crottin is full flavored and spiked with green peppercorns. The spicy surprise joins nicely with a pomegranate syrup and the clean, crispy textures of Asian pears.”

Ingredients for the majority of these recipes should be readily available nationwide. Worth noting are the few recipes that require special ingredients. Coconut Powder was new to me. Fortunately, the Special Ingredients Glossary explained “Just as the name describes, it is powdered coconut. Read the label before buying because some have added sugar or are just coconut-flavored powder. Coconut powder is fantastic for any application that calls for coconut milk when fresh coconut is not available. Just reconstitute the desired consistency.” A source or DYI alternative would have been nice. So far, the only place I’ve found coconut powder, sells it in a 10 pound box. (My guess: I’ll be able to replicate coconut powder with unsweetened dried coconut and a handy mini Cuisinart.)

The Resources section threw a spotlight on several new-to-me Oregon-based vendors (most with mail order capabilities). I’m looking forward to exploring GloryBee Foods (honey), Schondecken Coffee Roasters and the Oregon Lox Co.

Photos in the book are by San Diego-based Tim Mantoani. Plating at the B&B is individual, as opposed to buffet or family-style and the presentations come across well. A large majority of the images leap off the page and are mostly food-centric. A limited number of images are of the B&B’s interior, which is a little disappointing, and none of the dining room itself. Archival images and family photos lend themselves well to the historical context in the introduction.

I love local books that give a sense of place. The Lighthouse Breakfast Cookbook - Recipes from Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B offers well-crafted storytelling and recipes with an emphasis on local ingredients. Within these pages, there’s plenty to enjoy--even if you don’t have easy access to Dungeness Crab or Umpqua Oysters.

And if you’re yearning for a seaside respite with jaw-dropping views? Mosey along the Oregon stretch of Highway 101 and find your way to the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. Lull to sleep with the sound of sea and surf. But most important…save room for breakfast! Seven courses await you.