Tucked away on a corner in Elizabeth is a house with people laughing loudly in German on the front porch, a poodle named Mushroom scampering around inside, and chicks chirping in the backyard. It's a somewhat curious scene, but just another morning for Baxter Hoffman, who turned her home into a bed and breakfast (www.baxterandthebees.com) a little more than a year ago. "It was a little bit of a running joke that I already had one for a while, just 'cause I'd always make breakfast for my friends when they'd come over," says Hoffman. "A lot of people come here expecting a little old lady. This one couple was surprised I was texting, until they met me." For Hoffman, cooking is a creative outlet, and the bed and breakfast has helped her keep her recipes fresh. "There have been times when I've thought about going off somewhere, France or something, to study it in depth. I've kept in touch with a lot of people, visited some and still planning to visit others. It's been really great for me."
Creative Loafing: Why did you choose to offer an exclusively vegetarian breakfast?
Baxter Hoffman: I've been a vegetarian for 13 years, and I know what it's like to have limited options. A band played the Visulite and their guitar player was a vegetarian, so that and the music room in the house made them want to stay here. I can do the vegan thing, too. I like to use things that if you're not a vegetarian, you usually don't eat. I had a mom and daughter from Arizona who'd never had tempeh, and a few weeks after they left, they texted me a picture of a tempeh dish they were making.
You're a frequent flier. How do your travels affect your experimentation in the kitchen?
I always take a little bit of where I go home with me. When I'm playing around in the kitchen, I go through phases, focus on certain spices — I love when I haven't gone to the grocery store in a while and I have to get creative. I love fusing flavors together and eating different cuisines. My favorite food in the world is Ethiopian food. My dad's side of the family is Greek, and I make great vegetarian moussaka. You can never try too many different things.
You mentioned that when your mother cooks, she cooks for the whole neighborhood. Is it safe to say the apple didn't fall too far from the tree?
I grew up with my mom cooking, and she loves to take credit for me loving to have people to cook for. I like to help my friends out. I've fed people at RecessFest and Soul Sunday. It's really common that my friends don't really know how to cook, but they want to learn. That's another thing I'm getting into, showing people that it's really easy to make good, healthy food. I did an event [Bizarre Bazaar] where I did a food demo; I made all sorts of things to show people they don't have to be intimidated by healthy cooking.