The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 7, 2013

Earthly delights

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — By Wendy Holdren

Register-Herald Reporter

The Ambrosia Inn is southern hospitality at its finest — from spacious rooms with gorgeous views to decadent food served up by a professional chef, this newly opened bed and breakfast has it all.

Upon arriving at one of Beckley’s oldest mansions, you’ll be greeted by the lovely Chef Sawsan Galal, who is sure to be whipping up something delicious in her island-style kitchen.

“This is where you’ll usually find me,” Galal said with a smile, as she stirred up a fresh batch of homemade grape jelly.

She picks her own grapes from a tiny vineyard located in the backyard, and she prides herself on using as many fresh ingredients as possible in her cooking.

She gave the jelly a quick stir, adjusted the heat settings, and said, “Come on, let me give you a tour.”

From the kitchen, guests are welcomed into a sunlit common area, with a bay window that wraps around the room. Chandeliers hang overhead and artwork of all sorts lines the walls.

Galal led the way to a breezy deck that overlooks several fruit trees outside. Guests are invited to smoke outside on the patios if they want, but no smoking is allowed inside the home.

Back inside and up a beautiful wooden staircase, guests will find three charming rooms, all named for edible flowers — Rose, Marigold and Sage Blossom.

The Rose Room is decorated in deep reds and light gold tones, with a mahogany four-poster queen bed, and is located near the hallway bath.

The next room, the Marigold Room, is decorated with gold and deep maroon tones, with a queen bed and a cozy reading corner.

Galal saves the master bedroom for last, the Sage Blossom Suite. While all the rooms are impressive, this one is jaw-dropping.

A four-poster king-sized bed, decked out with green and beige linens, sits in the middle of the room, with windows to the left and two giant closets to the right.

The suite’s adjoining room has a full-length mirror and a beautiful chest of drawers. Just past this room lies an in-suite bathroom, equipped with a shower and a luxurious sunken tub.

That’s not all the Sage Blossom Suite offers — just past the bathroom, suite guests are invited to enjoy a private balcony overlooking the grounds.

Amenities, like bathrobes, toothpaste, and other toiletries, are available for guests during their stay, and Internet access is also available.

An additional common room is also on the second floor, where guests can find a television, microwave and refreshments.

Back downstairs, Galal stopped in the dining room, equipped with a long table and 10 chairs, to talk more about her cooking background and the history of the home.

Before Galal and her family moved to Beckley, she said they lived in Boston and she always had an interest in cooking. Even though her background was in science, when her daughter, Salwa, was in pre-school, she decided to attend culinary school.

She received her culinary degree from Newbury College, where she was trained in French classical and international cuisines with a concentration in baking. Galal even traveled to Versailles, France, to attend Lenotre for an intensive cooking course in French pastry.

Their family moved to Beckley and into the historic home in 1997. Galal said the home was built in 1924 and the first documented owners were the Mentors.

The stone-covered Victorian mansion sits on over two acres of land filled with flowers, mint leaves and blackberry bushes and has one of the oldest magnolia trees in southern West Virginia.

Galal said her husband passed away a couple years ago, and her daughter lives in Boston, so she decided to transform the spacious, historic home into a bed and breakfast.

“There’s nothing around here like it, and I’ve had a lot of interest in it so far.”

All throughout the home tiny decorative treasures can be found, many of which were collected by Galal and her late husband during their travels.

Local artwork also adorns the walls, some purchased from the Cynthia Bickey Art Gallery, and there are even some needlepoints created by Galal and her mother.

She lives in the private upstairs quarters of the home, along with a few furry friends who can be found scampering around the house.

Breakfast is served daily and Galal will cater to any special dietary needs of her guests. She also offers a weekly cooking lesson, for an extra charge, available to the guests and the public.

The Ambrosia Inn is located at 611 N. Kanawha St. in Beckley. To contact Galal, call 304-253-0429 or e-mail info@theambrosiainn.com.

For rates, availability and some great recipes, visit www.theambrosiainn.com.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com