The Collins House Bed and Breakfast was a lucky find: an historic property built in the Prairie School style; a stately brick home on Lake Mendota, with four of its five guest rooms overlooking the lake; a short walk to State Street and the capitol, and a brisk jaunt to the UW-Madson campus. What more could aspiring innkeepers ask for? Plenty of parking (and it had that too). In 1985, the year we turned 29, Mike and I rennovated and opened this beautiful home to out-of-town guests, a dream that had been gaining momentum since we first discovered B&Bs five years earlier. For the next 20 years we would live the life of wooing people to the city we loved, with ample plates of carefully crafted breakfasts, and more bakery than anyone could eat. A catering business evolved, then wholesale bakery. Guests returned over and over--some moved here, others became lifelong friends--and through this joyful world of food and hospitality, a community took root.
Manna Cafe was an equally lucky find, a perfect location walking distance from home, where we could now cook for a larger audience in the form of a neighborhood cafe. Manna opened to lines of people who knew us, knew our B&B, and were ready to eat. But where the Collins House was limited as a public space, Manna now became a gatheiring place and community focal point--a "Third Place" where people came for the food, and stayed because the cafe felt like home. From oatmeal pancakes to deep dish custardy quiche, from hand-crafted rugelach to the tall, proud triple lemon cake, from nurturing bowls of matzo ball soup to fork-tender braised brisket, Manna nourished a community that had grown from its Collins House origins into community-like adulthood.
For 35 years, until Covid-19 forced our hands, Mike and I made a lifestyle of providing a warm food welcome to out-of-towners, friends, and neighbors. It began as a one-on-one experience at our inn with five rooms, and evolved into an extensive community of thousands.
This cookbook brings together those memorable years with stories, recipes, cooking lore and technique, and a bit of business wisdom that inforned us along the way.