Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monmouth's Guest Chef

Meet visiting chef, Jeffrey Decker.
Jeff is at Monmouth for a limited engagement. He orchestrated our recent Valentines dinners featuring local products.
"I am especially excited about Natchez's own MarLynn Farms with its great reputation for delicious cheeses," says the visiting chef who studied culinary arts at the Lorenzo d' Medici University in Florence, Italy, after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. Jeffrey most recently trained at Spago in Beverly Hills and is enjoying learning southern cuisine here in Natchez.
Come by for dinner and meet him!
Lani & Ron

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Search this Blog

Are you new to blogging? If so, you should know about the search engine that is built right in.

With so many posts on our blog, it can be difficult & time consuming to find what you are looking for if you try to scroll through every post. To use the "search this blog" box at the top of every post, simply type in a word that you might be looking for, and go.

For instance, you might want to learn more on the history of Natchez, just type "history" or you're curious about our antique wallpaper in the main hall, type "wallpaper."

It's so easy !

Lani & Ron

Monday, February 26, 2007

Springtime at Monmouth

Twenty-six beautifully landscaped acres include pebble paths through gardens bursting with flowers. Mississippi songbirds abound.
Make your plans now to experience Monmouth in the Spring.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


May/04/2007 - May/05/2007

Location: Natchez Area Historic Homes

Natchez gardens are as much a part of all the beauty Natchez has to offer, as it's magnificent antebellum mansions. The Symphony of Gardens Tour will showcase the artistry and beauty when some of the finest gardens in historic Natchez will be on view. Many of these are opening for public view for the first time ever. From elaborate estates to petite pocket and urban gardens, this is a unique opportunity to view some of the finest landscapes in the region.

The Garden Tour ticket pricing is as follows: Friday, May 4, Noon - 4 p.m. Adult $15 Child (12 & Under) $8 Groups (10 or more) $10/person Garden Tours, Plant Sale, Musical Entertainment Saturday, May 5, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Adult $20 Child (12 & Under) $10 Groups (10 or more) $15/person Tickets for both days - Adult $30, Child $15, and Groups $25.00/person

Visit Their Web Site: Natchez Pilgrimage ToursPhone: 601-445-6103 or 800-647-6742

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Response to LA Times Article

Dear Lani,

What a beautiful article and such great coverage of Monmouth! It really took me back to our wonderful visit to Natchez for 'the wedding!!!

We'll never forget that trip and fun we all had visiting shops around town, going to the elegant parties in your friends' homes, and just hangin' out at the home we stayed at. I remember the cook was Clarence, and I still have his 'secret' recipe for his breakfast biscuits.

The wedding tho' was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Such a special time!

What a beautiful picture of Monmouth. If I had 3 wishes of a Genie in a Bottle, one would be to return to Natchez to experience 'the South' like I'd never experienced before!

Congratulations on a wonderful article -- hope it brings you much additional business!

Love, hugs & blessings,


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Natchez Indians Grand Village Pow-Wow

The drums will beat at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians on March 24th and 25th, 2007, and native americans from around the region will dress in full regalia to entertain both young and old.

Bring your lawn chair or blanket and filter into the scenery to watch ceremonial dances and dramatic spiritual performances while basking in the warm spring sun. Food and Crafts will be available so come join in the fun and festive activities. It's a weekend you won't soon forget.

The Village is located at 400 Jeff Davis Blvd. and for more information, please call 601-446-6502 or email them at gvni@telepak.netClick here for more >>

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Natchez Spring Pilgrimage Celebrates 75 Years

Since 1932 the annual Spring Pilgrimage has been held giving visitors the opportunity to tour many privately owned historic homes open only during the historic Natchez, MS annual Spring Pilgrimage, March 10 – April 14, 2007.

A number of the stately homes on tour have remained in the same families for over 150 years. Twenty eight pre-Civil War mansions will open for tour during Pilgrimage, houses and gardens, dating from the late 1700s to 1860, will include country and city estates ranking among the most beautiful Colonial and Antebellum homes in America.

Tickets are not sold at individual homes during Pilgrimage, so please visit the NPT website at to see what's in store, or call NPT at 800-647-6724.Click here for more >>

Monday, February 19, 2007

Natchez Festival of Music 2007

The 17th Season for the Natchez Music Festival promises to be the most exciting yet according to its Director, Dr David Blackburn. This year’s featured productions are Mozart’s Requiem– May 5, My Fair Lady—May 11 & 12, A Night of Jazz– May 19, featuring David Shenton and Erin Shields among others, Noah’s Flood - May 20 and we will end the season with Verdi’s Falstaff -May 26. Dr Blackburn went on to describe other events of this year’s Festival.

We will of course continue with other favorite events such as the Plantation Recitals and Night of Stars. We will also participate in the wonderful new Symphony of Gardens Tour, an event that run concurrently with our Festival.

It was a constant request for many years: Is there a show in Natchez that features songs about the South? Well, Dr. David Blackburn, Artistic Director of the Natchez Festival of Music knows and acts on a wonderful idea when he hears one and Songs of the South is the result. This soul-stirring foot-tapping, hand clapping show is based on the type of entertainment you would have experienced on a Showboat in the mid 1800s!

You can experience Songs of the South on April 9, 10, 12, 13 and 14 at 8:00pm, admission is only $15.00. Call Natchez Pilgrimage Tours for information and tickets – 800-647-6742 or 601-446-6631 or go to

Friday, February 16, 2007

Monmouth Featured in Los Angeles Times!

A Magnolia state of mind

It's a New South, but vestiges of the Old -- its sumptuous mansions, lush gardens and gracious manners -- flower each spring in Natchez.

By Karen Dardick, Special to The Times February 11, 2007

Natchez, Miss. — YOU know those annoying people who peek into medicine cabinets or ask you intensely personal (and highly inappropriate) questions? I'm not one of them.

And yet ….Last spring, I found myself in private parlors, poking my head into china cabinets, sizing up strangers' furnishings, learning about their pasts and their heirlooms.

Thus began my life as a voyeur, although it lasted only as long as the Spring Pilgrimage in Natchez, an annual ritual (March 10 through April 14 this year) during which 27 of this town's fine antebellum mansions throw open their doors and reveal their past. It's the ultimate interactive history lesson, one that I have reason to learn: After more than three decades in Los Angeles, I have transplanted myself to Natchez in southwestern Mississippi.

I had grown tried of L.A.'s congestion, its traffic and fast-paced living, so I cashed out of my modern, glass-filled house and moved into a stately Victorian in historic downtown Natchez.My friends thought I had lost my mind, and on the surface, perhaps it seemed so.

For openers, I'm a native New Yorker and aside from a stint on a ranch in Newhall, I've been an urban dweller all my life. In my college days, at the height of the civil-rights movement, Mississippi was more a news headline than a potential home. But a trip to Natchez in July 2005 convinced me that there is a New South, where people of different races and backgrounds live and share responsibilities of government and business.

I was captivated by the town's hospitality, history and beauty — and, of course, those amazing houses, including Victorians and about 600 antebellum structures in town and in surrounding Adams County. Most are situated on sweeping lawns, dotted with centuries-old live oaks festooned with Spanish moss. Majestic magnolia trees and heritage camellia bushes fill many of the grounds, as well as colorful azalea bushes, usually in full bloom in early spring. It is the South at its most seductive.

A sumptuous setting

THE beauty of the houses and gardens is reflective of the setting. Natchez, midway between Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, faces the fertile lands of Louisiana directly across the Mississippi River, and its location made it a prime site for settlement.

Natchez Indians settled here a millennium ago, but their civilization was destroyed with the arrival of European explorers and settlers — first French, then Spanish, English and finally Americans who settled in what had been western Florida.

Natchez thrived when cotton was king. "Before the Civil War, Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country," Hugh Howard writes in "Natchez: The Houses and History of the Jewel of the Mississippi." Many of the cotton barons had plantations across the river, but in Natchez and surrounding areas, they built sumptuous mansions and filled them with elaborate furniture and antiques.

Besides doing business in the North, many had families there too. So when the Civil War began, there was some sympathy for the Union, even though Mississippi was the second state to secede.Because of its location, Natchez was, militarily, an important site. Union forces demanded surrender in 1862, and city leaders quickly complied. Although Union troops occupied Natchez for the rest of the war, the elegant mansions remained largely unscathed. Only a grand estate named Clifton was destroyed, supposedly because a Union officer was offended when he was excluded from a dinner party there.

Natchez's buildings were intact, but its economy was in ruins, and it fell into — and lingered in — genteel poverty for decades. The warm, wet and humid climate took its toll too, and some structures decayed or collapsed. But in 1931, a chance event changed everything. While hosting the annual convention of the Mississippi Federation of Garden Clubs, several of the town's leading ladies opened their antebellum homes to guests. The visitors were astounded by the gleaming sterling silver on priceless tables, Cornelius and Baker chandeliers hanging from elaborate ceiling medallions, lush carpets, draperies and wallpapers that dated to antebellum times.

Katherine Grafton Miller, owner of Hope Farm, part of which dates to 1775, quickly recognized the value of opening these private homes to paying guests. With help from her friends, the Spring Pilgrimage was born in 1932. (There is also now a Fall Pilgrimage, although fewer homes are open.)

In those early years, visitors could stay at the homes on tour. Today, it's still possible at Hope Farm, the Shields Town House, Linden, Elgin, Glenburnie and Monmouth Plantation.Hospitality was an essential part of pilgrimage.

At Montaigne, circa 1855, owner Mary Louise Shields welcomed guests and pinned a camellia fresh from the gardens on each female visitor. She did so until she was 97, when she began sitting on the porch to greet guests and share tales of her family. Next month, the now-100-year-old Shields will take up her accustomed place. She invites her guests into the formal gardens full of hundreds of enormous camellia bushes. It is a stroll into a sumptuous past.

Family stories

AT Green Leaves, in the same family since 1849, history and the attendant drama came alive for me.Directing our attention to the glass transom above the front door, Ruth Coy, our costumed guide, pointed out the bullet hole, a relic of the turbulent Reconstruction era.

George Washington Koontz, Coy's great-great-grandfather, narrowly escaped death when a carpetbagger shot at him as he stood on his front porch.

Coy, niece of current resident Virginia Lee Beltzhoover Morrison, has been dressing in period clothes and greeting guests during Pilgrimage for most of her life. She was raised in Green Leaves and lives in Bontura, circa 1851, also on the tour.

"Growing up in a historic house, dressing up and greeting tourists was so much fun," she said. "We told our family stories and just took it all for granted."

When she receives guests, she wears a navy blue silk taffeta hoop skirt replicating one that an ancestor, Mary Rowan Beltzhoover Koontz, wore in a family portrait that hangs in the enormous reception hall.

Every room on the public tour of Green Leaves is filled with antiques and heirlooms, some extremely rare, including a set of French china hand-painted by John James Audubon. The ornithologist and naturalist visited Natchez in the early 1820s, painting and sketching the region's colorful birds, and tutoring genteel young women.

More treasures fill an immense display cabinet containing thousands of dolls and antique toys, dating from the 1860s. They represent six generations of family who have lived at Green Leaves.

Monmouth Plantation, built in 1818, can't claim continuous family ownership, but it can claim a Los Angeles connection. As I toured it, it was hard to believe that it once was in disrepair.

In the 1970s, Ron and Lani Riches of Los Angeles saw it and realized its potential.Today, the gleaming white Greek Revival mansion has been restored and redecorated to the period.

What began as a five-room bed-and-breakfast has expanded to a 30-room luxury inn with 26 acres of woodlands, strolling gardens and ponds. As I admired intricately carved mahogany and rosewood furniture set in spacious rooms, I felt immersed in the essence of gracious Southern living.

I also toured several vacant guest rooms, where rates begin at $195.

One of the most authentic houses on tour is Lansdowne, built in 1853 and functioning as a cotton plantation until after the Civil War. It's still owned by the direct descendants of the builder, George M. Marshall.

The front parlor contains original French Zuber wallpaper, and although it shows the ravages of time, it's an example of the family's commitment to preserving design history.

My favorite aspect of this tour was in the dining room, where gleaming sterling silver tea sets, huge serving pieces and ornately detailed cutlery are on display. Old Paris china fills the antique cabinets and adorns the enormous dining table.

I delighted in hearing family members share stories, including how Great-Grandmother directed servants to hide the silver before the Yankees came.

Vistas and carriage rides

THERE'S more to experience in Natchez than historic houses. One of my favorite pastimes is strolling the bluff along the mighty Mississippi, with its spacious vista across the river to the low country of Louisiana.

I've also played tourist on a one-hour horse-drawn carriage tour that winds through residential and business sections, including town houses and period two- and three-story commercial buildings. They are being rescued from decay and contain assorted stores, including antiques and reproductions. As the horse clip-clops along, the guides spin fascinating tales, some more tall than true.

Visitors also can drive the Natchez Trace, an ancient Indian trail and now a 444-mile parkway connecting Natchez to central Tennessee. Surrounded by woods, accented by historical markers, the Trace is like entering a time tunnel where trucks are prohibited and motorists driving above the posted 50 mph limit are ticketed.

There's a bitter side to the history of this region too, and it's also depicted. Before the Civil War, Natchez was home to one of the South's largest and busiest slave markets, the Forks of the Road. Today, a commemorative sign marks the site, where Liberty Road, St. Catherine Street and D'evereux Drive intersect. Several evenings during Spring Pilgrimage, members of the Holy Family Gospel Choir present "Southern Road to Freedom," a musical tribute to African Americans from the Colonial period to today. It is a poignant reminder that history is never far away in this remarkable Mississippi town.

Hoop-skirt hospitality


From LAX, connecting service to Jackson, Miss., about 95 miles from Natchez, is offered on American, Continental, Delta and Southwest. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $164.

WHERE TO STAY:Monmouth Plantation, 36 Melrose Ave.; (800) 828-4531,, offers the most luxurious accommodations in Natchez. The AAA-rated Four Diamond inn has 30 rooms and suites furnished with period antiques, some obtained from the original owners. Grounds include 26 acres of gardens, water features and woodlands. Full plantation breakfast is included in the room rate, which begins at $195.

Multi-course candlelight dinners with choice of entrée are served nightly in the elegant dining room at a communal table. Individual tables are also available. Prix-fixe five-course dinner is $48 and includes hors d'oeuvres in the cocktail lounge. Reservations recommended.


Natchez Convention & Visitors Bureau, 640 S. Canal St., Box C, Natchez, MS 39120; (601) 446-6345 or (800) 647-6724, .For details about tickets, tours and accommodations, contact Natchez Pilgrimage Tours; (800) 647-6742, . Three-home ticket is $24 (the minibus tour is $34); four homes are $32.

— Karen Dardick

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Natchez Happenings

Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration

February 22-25

This award-winning conference’s will focus on “Southern Accents: Language in the Deep South;” highlights will include programs on famous Southern preachers, country music lyrics, and how Hollywood presents Southern accents in films. Call 601/442-9111 or see

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Our Guests Say the Nicest Things

Room name or number that you stayed in : Deluxe Suite Live Oaks #40

Accommodations--Cleanliness :Superior Accommodations--Attractiveness :Superior Breakfast : Superior Staff : Superior Tour What pleased you most during your recent visit?

We enjoyed our stay so much. The grounds were beautiful and so was the suite we stayed in. I thought it was decorated so pretty and I felt like I was back during that time during my stay. The Staff was friendly and the breakfast was wonderful.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Our Valentine's Dinner Menu

Wednesday, February 14th
Saturday, February 17th

Citrus Poached Prawn Cocktail
Crab, Avocado, Tomato, and Mango Relish
Wine Pairing: 2005 Remy Pannier Rose

Marlynn Farms Pecan Crusted Goat Cheese,
Arugula, Baby Beets, and Caramelized Red Onion
Drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar and Truffle Oil
Wine Pairing: 2004 Sterling Merlot

Choice of:
Fresh Pan Seared Hawaiian Sea Bass
Oysters, Spinach, Artichoke Hearts, Parsnip Puree
Wine Pairing: 2005 Kendall Jackson Chardonnay

Mustard Encrusted Rack of Lamb
Three Potato Gratin and Roasted Parsnips
Wine Pairing: 2005 Estancia Pinot Noir

Medallions of Filet Mignon and Cabernet Braised Short Rib
Parmesan Polenta and Roasted Parsnips
Wine Pairing: 2003 Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon

Chocolate Flan with a Chocolate Dipped Strawberry
Wine Pairing: Domaine St. Michelle Brut

$48 per person

Wine by the Glass $8.00
Coffee or Tea $1.50
Gratuity and Tax will be added

Chef de Cuisine: Lanny Brasher
Guest Chef: Jeffrey Decker

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Mississippi Capital/River Region

From moss-draped trees to big city attractions, the Capital/River Region also features stately mansions, cannon-lined battlefields and rich southern history. Jefferson Davis grew up here, just down the river from where Union troops began their famous assault on Vicksburg. A trek to the Capital/River Region leads to Natchez and one of the greatest collections of pre-Civil War homes in America. It also leads to the state capital, Jackson, with its new Museum of Natural Science. From the State Capital to historic Woodville, this is one of Mississippi's grandest regions and it's waiting to be explored.

Lani & Ron

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Love Is In The Air

Shop Monmouth Plantation’s Gift Shop
For Your Valentine's Day Gifts

We have an extensive assortment of unique romantic
Valentine's Day gifts to say “I love you.”
36 Melrose Avenue, Natchez

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Monmouth Dining

Food is taken seriously at Monmouth Plantation. We have two fully equipped kitchens, three chefs with another kitchen planned for this year.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ideal for weddings, seminars and parties

Meeting Planners love our Conference Facilities. Ideal for weddings, seminars and parties.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Early Spring

Well, it looks as if we will have an early spring since the groundhog didn't see his shadow :)

Start making plans now to visit Monmouth in the spring. Our gardens are exquisite.

Of course, those of you who find yourselves "football widows" may want to plan a night out with friends this Sunday. How about having dinner with us at Monmouth?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Lani & Ron

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's February!

Wow! Where did January go? If you are like us, you haven't even recovered from the holidays and we are already beginning our second month of 2007!

Hope the New Year is treating you well and that you haven't broken too many of your resolutions. If one of those was to resolve to relax and recharge, it's not too late.

February at Monmouth is glorious. A world apart. Plus it is the month for romance - we have plenty of that in store with our Valentine's package and our Chef's Wine Dinners. Then there is the Literary Conference to look forward to at the end of the month.

We hope you will join us!

Lani & Ron