Inn of the Patriots

Former White House chef now runs a bed & breakfast in Grover, North Carolina.

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By Hope S. Philbrick

A lot of dreams never come true. I know that, of course, but I keep on imagining all the great things I might do or might happen to me some day. My name is Hope, after all.

As a food writer, and especially as a human who likes to eat good food, I have long held the secret dream to one day dine at the White House. I imagine it’s the swankiest dining room around. Odds of my getting a golden invitation from the President are slim, but not impossible, and so I’ll continue to hold that aspiration (though it’s not like I’ve already bought the ball-gown).

Until then, in the unexpected location of Grover, North Carolina (which is south of Charlotte), it’s possible to fulfill the fantasy to some extent. A friend told me about Inn of the Patriots and that the bed and breakfast is helmed by a former chef of the White House. I didn’t need to hear more to schedule a stay.

Turns out, Chef Marti Mongiello has cooked for more than one President plus a whole lot of dignitaries—including President George H. W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro of Italy, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, His Majesty King Abdullah II and Her Majesty Queen Rania with Crown Prince Hussein and Prince Hashem of the Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Prime Minister Hashimoto of Japan, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, President Constantinos Stephanopolous of Greece, to name just a few.

Chef Marti served as a White House Chef during his 21-year stint in the military. He was in the White House Military Office attached under the White House Staff Mess that fields 55 to 75 U.S. Navy culinary specialist chefs, bakers and cooks with liaison work to the White House Communications Agency, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps. Chef Marti was Executive Chef at Camp David, as well as housekeeper, butler and bartender there. He has cooked U.S. State Dinners inside the White House and has won more than 200 awards.

Stay at his Inn of the Patriots and he’ll cook for you.

Chef Marti shares the Inn’s kitchen with his wife, Stormy. Chef Stormy has cooked at the Clinton Foundation, and also across the U.S., Japan and Korea.

Inn of the Patriots - pumpkin pancakesInn of the Patriots - cinnamon biscuit rollsWhile both chefs boast impressive résumés, you need not dress in your finery for the three-course breakfast. Chefs Marti and Stormy serve a 1780 Colonial-era war-period casual meal to guests seated around the 14-foot long wooden table in their dining room. Served family-style, the menu features options like oatmeal, hand-made sausages, syrups, skillet potatoes, pumpkin pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and other satisfying dishes.

Inn of the Patriots - Lincoln chinaBreakfast comes with a side-order of a history lesson, as Chef Marti gives a presentation while guests sip coffee and feast on the hearty meal. The day of my visit, his talk showcased Mary Todd Lincoln’s china, explaining why it was controversial (in a nutshell, it used purple, and in those days people considered purple a designation of royalty, so Mary’s choice was interpreted as arrogant). Chef Marti entertains using multiple voices, passing visual aids, sharing factoids, and simply by delving into aspects of culinary history that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else.

Housed in a building constructed in 1879, The Inn of the Patriots is a cozy B&B with guestrooms on two floors. Two main floor guestrooms have small, private bathrooms and another has a full-sized bathroom; two upstairs guestrooms share two bathrooms with the owners. Towels are colorful and oversized, beds are dressed in soft sheets and an array of pillows, and everywhere you look is a nod to Presidential history. Inn of the Patriots was voted No. 1 for history in 2009 and 2010 by the Military Officers of American Association.

Despite its name and focus, this is not a stuffy museum-like B&B. As the home of its owners, it feels lived-in and loved. Walk in to Inn of the Patriots and you’ll feel as welcomed as a long-lost friend.

Inn of the Patriots - entry hallInn of the Patriots

What To Do…

Inn of the Patriots - White House Easter EggThe Inn of the Patriots is home to the Presidential Culinary Museum, which showcases White House china, menus, souvenirs and tchotchkes you’ve most likely never had a chance to see before (e.g., Do you recognize each President’s White House china pattern? Did you know the President of the U.S. gets his M&Ms in special boxes, since everything a President eats has to be inspected? Did you know Laura Bush’s favorite hot sauce is Yucatan Sunshine Habanero Pepper? Have you ever seen a White House Easter Egg?) So you can find on-site entertainment just looking around the place.

If you want to head out, however, drive to Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard & Winery for a wine tasting. Part of North Carolina’s “Between The Rivers” wine trail, the first grapes were planted in 2003; today the winery produces nine different wines that range from dry to sweet, including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Traminette and blends featuring native or vinifera grapes. The $5 per person tasting fee is waived for guests of Inn of the Patriots, which leaves you some cash to put towards buying a bottle.

Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery

Dragonfly Wine Market - Chef Marti MongielloThen drive into Shelby, N.C., to visit Dragonfly Wine Market, which serves wine, beer and ciders at its bar, plus sells a range of alcoholic beverages as well as local foodstuffs in the market. Complimentary wine, beer and/or cider tastings are held at the bar every Friday and Saturday, accompanied by live musical performances. Bring a cooler because you’ll want to pick up some local cheese, bread and other tasty goodies. It’s one of the places that Chef Marti Mongiello enjoys shopping.

Ni Fen Bistro - chicken parmLooking for a dinner destination? Try Ni Fen Bistro in Shelby, N.C. This upscale casual eatery counts Chef Marti as a partner. The eclectic menu offers temptations like baked brie, pot stickers, chicken parmesan, beef shoulder tenderloin, seared Scottish salmon, and more. Save room for the coconut cake. Expect attentive service, generous portions and a relaxed atmosphere.

Inn Essentials…
  • Located in the North Carolina town and county named after President Grover Cleveland (Grover, Cleveland County)
  • Located near the N.C/S.C. border, near Kings Mountain National Military Park and Cowpens National Battlefield
  • Cooking classes available five days a week (daily except Wednesdays and Saturdays); classes start at 11:30 a.m.
  • Free high-speed Internet access
  • Free parking
  • Check in after 4 p.m.; check out by 11 a.m.
  • Three-course breakfast served at 9 a.m.; historic presentation begins at 9:30 a.m.
  • Welcome snacks
  • Dessert
  • Free bottled water upon arrival
  • Over-sized towels
  • 600-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets
  • Minuteman E-Check-in with digi-max door code texted/emailed to phone and Minuteman Digital Folio Check-out—no front desk interactions required if you’re in a hurry
  • No corkage fees
  • Pets welcome (limit 2), $30 fee per pet per visit
  • Kids welcome, $15 extra per person per room; note that cots or air mattresses are not provided and that rooms are equipped to accommodate two guests
  • Free Wall Street Journal and USA Today daily
  • Complimentary business center with free fax/color printing
  • Complimentary ACN video conferencing
  • Odds of Encountering Children: High since the owners have a child.
More Information…

Inn of the Patriots & Presidential Culinary Museum
301 Cleveland Avenue
Grover, NC 28073
704-937-2940

Inn of the PatriotsInn of the PatriotsInn of the PatriotsInn of the Patriots

Visit Cleveland County

Visit North Carolina

– Photos © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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