Muenster, Texas, is a small, unassuming German town in the far northern part of the state. At just about an hour north of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, the traffic dies down, big buildings begin to disappear, and the air is a little fresher. Muenster might seem like just another rural town and not a vacation hot spot, but things are not always as they seem. Tucked away on a small country road, hidden behind trees, is Elm Creek Manor, one of the top-rated culinary inns in the world.
Establishments do not become the best by only having one or two great things to offer their guests. Such high distinctions are given to those that have more to offer, those that go above and beyond the rest, and Elm Creek Manor does just that. They check all the boxes. The rooms and grounds are unique and breathtaking, the food is entirely farm-to-table, the animals and garden are well cared for and happy, but most of all, the passion behind the people cultivating it is extraordinary.
The Rooms and Grounds
The bed and breakfast offers six private rooms, each with its own style. Each room is named after a different region and is decorated accordingly. Some offer whirlpool bathtubs or outdoor hot tubs, while others have unique amenities like a sauna and open-air showers. Each room has charm, and a special surprise, like the Château Alsace Cottage (with a tree in the middle of the room), or the old barn turned Austrian Imperial Haus, with its stone wall and wooden beams.
Rooms are complete with the highest quality amenities such as Egyptian cotton linens, Tempur-Pedic mattress pads, Keurigs, robes, and refrigerators. Guests enjoy a farm-to-table breakfast each morning delivered to their room and complimentary wine and hors-d’oeuvres every evening in the library.
The bed and breakfast sits on 14 lush acres with two creeks and plenty of hidden gardens to meander through. There is an outdoor area with giant chess and checkers, bocce ball, and tic-tac-toe. Rocking chairs line the front porch of the main house with a quaint library parlor inside. The service is attentive, yet not intrusive. Even during summer months, someone is always available to serve cool towels and water at the pool.
Elm Creek Manor provides guests with a serene, relaxing experience, but that is not the only part of what makes this inn so magical.
The food at Elm Creek Manor is more than part of the appeal. Sure, guests can enjoy luxury accommodations, and the rooms are fantastically unique, but what owner and Master Chef Marcia Scarbrough serves to her guests rises above and beyond extraordinary.
“I like doing unusual things that people don’t expect,” Marcia said. “I love when people say, ‘What is that?’”
With a garden, aquaponics, chicken coop, and goats on the property, her creativity soars. She creates generous charcuterie boards boasting homemade cheeses and meats during the week. Additionally, she serves three-course meals on Saturday evenings. Guests choose their main entrée ahead of time, and Marcia creates the salads, sides, and desserts accordingly.
“I usually don’t actually make a menu,” she said. “I just look in the refrigerator and see what I have. Oh, I have a ton of tomatoes or a lot of Japanese eggplants, and I’m thinking, ‘Okay. This is what we’re going to do.’”
Everything, except the salt, pepper, butter, and sugar, is made from food Marcia and her husband, Brad, have grown or their animals have produced. They plant their vegetables and fruits according to the almanac and moon phases. Their goats produce the fresh milk for all the dairy and cheese. The eggs are fresh from their chicken coop, and they raise the fish on their property. Their 800-acre farm is 35 miles up the road. It houses pigs, bees, and cows.
“So, [for] what we’re not able to produce here, or [if] something goes south in our aquaponic, we have a greenhouse at the farm,” she said. “We try and have a backup plan in a different location.”
It is truly extraordinary to find an entirely farm-to-table experience, but Elm Creek Manor takes it even one step further in the care of their garden and animals.
The goats and chickens live on the inn’s property, allowing guests to help with a little light farm work if they choose. At ten every morning, Brad milks the goats. Guests can try their hand at milking, follow him to the coop for collecting eggs, or through the garden picking fresh vegetables. The animals, including resident pot-bellied pig Rocky and his donkey friends, come when called and love petting and attention.
Keeping them happy and healthy is important. The Scarbroughs go to great lengths to ensure they know exactly what they are serving to their guests by feeding their animals quality, organic food. The animal feed is made from ingredients grown on the farm, like corn and soybeans.
“We have a grinder, and we still grind some of our feeds,” Brad said. If they are not grinding their feed, they provide the ingredients for the feed mill to grind it up.
But the Scarbroughs know what their animals need and make sure they get it in the most organic way possible. The chickens need calcium, so they feed them ground eggshells. The goats need copper, so they give them copper bolus.
“We also take the ashes from the fireplace and feed it back to the chickens and pigs,” Brad said. “They will dust themselves, and it will kill any mites.”
“They like getting it on their back,” Marcia said. “I don’t know if it’s soothing, but they like it.”
The symbiotic relationship between animals and owners makes for a happy farm and great tasting food, but the relationship between owners and guests is the final ingredient for the perfect experience.
Marcia has traveled and studied all over the world, including France, Tunisia, Germany, Italy, and New England, taking bits and pieces of what she has learned and incorporating them into her dishes. Brad comes from a family of farmers and tends diligently to the gardens and animals. They both attend the cocktail hour and take time to thank guests individually for coming to dinner. Their passion is evident in the obvious attention to detail.
Brad and Marcia are down-to-earth people who take pride in sharing what they have made with others, and value that the inn is small enough to have personal conversations with guests while still maintaining privacy. The Scarbroughs live on the property in the upstairs portion of the main house, and they open their doors to guests all day and evening, seven days a week.
Elm Creek Manor is one of Texas’s best-kept secrets, a hidden gem, and a truly farm-to-table experience, preserved in a most serene and private location. It is a place where guests can experience exquisite food in a “come as you are” down-to-earth atmosphere. Some might even say they came as guests but left as friends.
“What started with a garden, cattle, and a few hens has now become an evolution of food; an endless pursuit to accomplish more. Elm Creek Manor is much more than a culinary experience; it is about love and respect for food. It is also about creativity. Produce is grown and harvested from our land and the animals are raised on our property. Nothing is wasted; everything has its place. Seasonal to the moment….” -Elm Creek Manor