B&B. Bed & breakfast establishments are cropping up in every corner of the United States these days. Their reasonable rates, down-home appeal, and savory meals are all part of what is making them so successful. Maine's B&B boom

The state of Maine is unique in its profusion of B&Bs. According to the in-house journal Bed and Breakfast Shop-Talk, Maine ranks second in the nation for sheer number of B&Bs (240). In first place is California, with 615. With a population of about 1 million, this means Maine has more B&Bs per capita than any other state in the United States. Quite a few Mainers rent two or three rooms in the summmer, but are not primarily innkeepers. The American Bed and Breakfast Association calls this arrangement a ``Bed and Breakfast Homestay.'' Most of southern Maine's B&Bs would fall into this category, but in resort towns along the coast, a home with three guest rooms can be a full-fledged business.

In Kennebunkport, B&Bs caught on after neighbors watched the success of the opulent Captain Lord Mansion, a bed and breakfast inn (a B&B with more than 10 rooms is classified as an ``inn''). After nearly seven years of business, Rick Litchfield finds only two negative aspects of the business. The first, staff turnover, does not affect the smaller B&Bs. The second is probably universal: ``I do not enjoy the people who `do' Maine or New England, who don't have the time to enjoy what we have to offer,'' he says. ``Before they can see our coastline, hunt for antiques, or enjoy the ambiance of the mansion, they're already out of here.''

Broad generalizations tend not to apply to Bed & Breakfasts. Each owner has her or his own designing sense and special touches. Innkeeper Eva Downs emphasizes her garden, putting bouquets of fresh flowers and herbs in every room. Harriet Gott of Bufflehead Cove Inn enjoys creating an atmosphere where her guests can relax: ``I love changing things around, to see how they look.''

A night at a B&B thus necessarily includes more than a place to sleep. ``In a certain sense I see a Bed & Breakfast as a refuge,'' notes Ruth Evans, owner of Carleton Gardens in Portland, Maine.

Those who run B&Bs and those who stay in them alike find therein a place to relax, to meet people, and to call home.

Baked Apple Pancake (Carleton Gardens) Apples 2 tablespoons butter, melted 2 medium apples, sliced 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pancakes 2 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup milk 2 eggs Pinch of salt

Mix apple ingredients in bowl. Melt butter in 9-inch pie pan. Combine rest of pancake ingredients. Pour into hot pan on top of butter. Spread apple mixture in center. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F.

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