A bright breakfast dish from Arbor House

Barbara Hootman

Mornings this summer see Theresa Fuller plucking herbs and vegetables from an old community garden by Lake Tomahawk to feed her guests at Arbor House of Black Mountain Bed and Breakfast. Recently that has included basil for the inn's Basil-Infused Watermelon and Tomato Fruit Dish.

"We have a garden plot in Dr. John Wilson’s original community garden,” Fuller said.  “My husband is a chef, and I am the cook who makes breakfast for our guests.  I use a lot of herbs and other produce that we grow in the homemade breakfast that our guests have every morning. I make homemade peach preserves that I serve for breakfast also. When we add dinner, (her husband) Jim will be the chef that prepares it.”

Theresa Fuller heads back to the Arbor House with tomatoes she picked from the community garden beside her inn.

An Arts & Crafts-style inn with five master bedrooms, Arbor House ( has impressive views of Lake Tomahawk and the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2015, the Fullers bought the inn from Carolyn Johnson, a gifted gardener who bought the property from Dr. John and Nancy Wilson. John Wilson started the first community garden on the banks of the lake (the garden later moved across Interstate 40). The season flower gardens at the inn were put in by Johnson.

In 2011 the Fullers moved to Charlotte in the hopes of buying a coffee shop/bistro. But they never found the right place.

“I love the changing seasons, and Jim loves the ocean,” Fuller said.   “We decided on the mountains. I came to Black Mountain originally to look at the Dripolator (then for sale).  I also looked at several bed and breakfast businesses that were on the market.  I had just about decided on one when the broker told me about Arbor House.  I met with Johnson over coffee and spent at least two hours getting to know her.  I fell in love with the place, but the price was out of reach then.

“Johnson closed Arbor House in December (2013).  I purchased it in October 2014 and set out on an adventure of being a first-time bed and breakfast owner.  The first year taught me a lot about the business.  The occupancy rate has beat every record of the last 10 years every month. I even had a 50 percent occupancy in March, and have an 80 percent rate through the summer season.

Fuller said that Arbor House, popular with adults of all ages, has a winning combination of mountains, water and wildlife.

“I have worked hard to make Arbor House a 'home away from home' for the guests,” she said.

Fuller said that most of her time is filled with keeping Arbor House running, pleasing guests and working in the gardens.

Christmas is Fuller’s favorite season. She celebrates with lot of lights inside and out.

“I have three decorated trees for Arbor House, and then I have my own Christmas tree in my quarters,” she said. “This Christmas should be very interesting, since a family from Australia is coming for the holiday.  The couple’s 14-year-old son found Arbor House online and told his dad that 'we have to go there.'"

Fuller starts her day at 6 a.m. and has breakfast ready for guests by 8:30 a.m. She places fresh flowers throughout the house and provides robes for guests.

“Our guests are looking for quality and to be pampered, and I accommodate them,” Fuller said.

The Fullers have a daughter, Lindsey, who is doing her internship in family medicine in Boston and a son, Scott, who is in commercial real estate in Charlotte.

Invite us to supper

The Black Mountain News wants to celebrate the wonderful cooks in the Swannanoa Valley by listing a recipe or two each week or so. If you’d like to nominate someone (or yourself), send an email titled Your Recipes to editor Paul Clark at Include the recipe, a line or two about you and maybe a 2 megabyte photo of the dish. 

Basil-Infused Watermelon and Tomato 

Basil-Infused Watermelon and Tomato

2 cups cubed tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cups cubed seeded watermelon

6 large basil leaves chiffonade (a chopping technique in which herbs are cut into long, thin strips.  Stack leaves, rolling them tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll.)

Let sit for ½ hour and top with ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and serve. 

For a bit more zest, mix 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 ½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.