We just had our third annual Spring Chocolate Championship yesterday and, once again, I didn’t win. You may remember that Chocolate Championship was my suggestion several years ago for MAC to start a new tour during Spring Festival. Any tour is improved by adding chocolate. Last year I made Julia Childs’ chocolate mousse, which is the best chocolate mousse ever, and yet I didn’t win. I consider it an insult to Julia Childs’ memory . (Maybe we can get Meryl Streep to protest.) This year, Anna Marie McMain won with with her Chocolate Delight. It must have been spectacular, ’cause my truffles were pretty darn good. Richard Degner wrote a very nice article in the Atlantic City Press about the contest and Leith Hall. You can have chocolate treats every day at teatime, if you make a reservation.
ROMANTIC GETAWAY TRUFFLES
I started making these chocolate truffles to include in our Romantic Getaway package. The basic recipe is incredibly easy, and depends on really good ingredients. The different flavors are created with extracts.
32 oz. (1 quart) heavy whipping cream
32 oz. by weight of bittersweet chocolate
1 Tbs. organic extract.
Melt the chocolate in the cream. Use 60% to 72% chocolate. Use a very good brand because the quality of the truffles is entirely dependent upon the quality of the chocolate. I use Valrhona, Valor, Green and Black, Guittard or Ghirardelli. Don’t use Hershey’s or Nestlé’s. You can microwave it for one minute at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula between minutes. Or you can melt the chocolate in an uncovered metal bowl over simmering water. Or you can melt it in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is not to overheat the mixture and to stir often.
Stir in the extract. I always use organic extract from the health food store. It really does taste better. You can use orange extract, peppermint extract, coconut extract, almond extract, or any other that you like. You can also double or triple the amount of extract.
Cool the melted chocolate mixture (ganache) in the refrigerator until it thickens. Whip it in a stand mixer. It will double in size and fluff in a few minutes. Scoop the ganache into little balls with a little scoop. Put the balls onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate. Decorate the truffles by tossing in toasted coconut for coconut flavor, or toasted almond slivers for almond. You can toss any flavor in a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar.
concerts, we’ll provide you with a pair of tickets – free. May 29th, the New York Chamber ensemble will be playing a concert called Music by the Numbers, which will include both George Gershwin (Lullaby, I Got Rhythm, and Someone to Watch Over Me) and Joseph Hayden’s Surprise Symphony.
Cape May Convention Hall on the Beach
Sunday, June 3, the concert will be a tribute to George Mesterhazy, who was Cape May’s beloved jazz pianist. Several of his friends will be playing as well as special guest, Babatunde Lea. We are expecting a huge and enthusiastic crowd at the new Convention Hall.
Just give us a call at (609) 884-1934 or go to our website at www.leithhall.com to make an online reservation. Mention that
you’d like Music Festival Tickets when you make your reservation. Cannot be combined with other offers or discounts.
These cookies look like the sand on the beach in Cape May. The sprinkle of sugar on top even gives them the texture of the sand on the beach in Cape May. The best things about them are that they are stunningly easy to make and the richest cookies you’ll ever eat. I usually make this recipe in a parchment lined 9”x13” pan and cut them into bars for serving at afternoon tea. You could halve the recipe and make them in an 8”x8” or 9”x9” parchment lined pan. Or you can roll he dough out (thick) and make cookie cutter cookies.
If you prefer, you can substitute lemon extract for the orange, or use vanilla extract for plain shortbread or even coconut extract. I use organic extracts from the health food store because they really do taste better.
1 ½ lbs. unsalted butter (3 sticks) melted
2 cups sugar
1 tbs. orange extract
7 cups white unbleached flour
½ tsp. salt
Turbinado or white sugar for sprinkling
Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Mix melted butter and orange extract. Mix flour mixture and butter together with a pastry blender, a rubber spatula, or a whisk. The idea is to cut the butter and flour together into crumbles, not to press them together into a dough. Dump the mixed crumbles into the lined baking dish. Press into an even layer with your finger-tips. Dock the dough by piercing it all over with the tines of a fork. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 350F/degrees for about 20 minutes. The cookies are done when they are very light gold around the edges. Remove from oven and cut into bars or squares with a sharp knife immediately. Allow to cool in the pan completely before turning out.
I often serve these for tea at Leith Hall b&b. The other treat will always be something chocolate. If my other cake isn’t chocolate, I’ll dip the end of each shortbread bar in melted bittersweet chocolate. During the Summer when we’re sitting on the porch under the awnings, I know that Suzie will stage a insurrection if there’s no chocolate at teatime.
My last blog post was about the new exhibit at the Carriage House Gallery at the Physick Estate describing the restoration and renaissance of Cape May. That reminded me of our own restoration story at Leith Hall bed and breakfast. In 1989, when we bought Leith Hall, we had to decide what we wanted to make of it. A bed and breakfast is whatever the owners want it to be and usually reflects the owners’ interests and tastes. It is always better for the B&B to embody your real interests so that your enthusiasm shows for the guests’ sake and for your long term satisfaction, too.
Why an Authentic Restoration?
I used to work as an Historic Preservationist advising clients on restoring historic buildings. So, faced with a big 1880s house with 1960s furnishings and decorations, Suzie and I had to decide what we wanted our bed and breakfast to look like. We decided to make a Victorian period house. Since I learned what wallpaper, what furniture, and what objects were popular during any decade when I went to school, we decided that we’d make the house look like the 1880s.
Art Wallpaper at the Beach
The clues were in the woodwork. The baseboards, door and window surrounds and newel posts at Leith Hall have chamfered edges and bands of reeding. This style is part of the Aesthetic Movement that was popular in the 1870s and ‘80s, so we bought hand-made reproduction Aesthetic Movement wallpaper for the whole house. We bought Eastlake style (Aesthetic Movement) dressers and armoires, picture frames and decorations.
The Iris Room on the first floor is a good example. The wallpaper and ceiling paper are from a room-set by Bradbury and Bradbury called “Fenway”. The fens are swamps in Eastern England. All of the motifs in the wallpaper: the irises, cattails, fiddlehead ferns, whirlpools, and lightning bolts refer to the swamps. We thought of calling it the swamp room, but no one would rent it! So we called it the Iris Room. The dresser is made of walnut with burl walnut panels in Eastlake style and has a red marble top. The bedside table, rocking chair and side table, the mantelpiece and plates hanging on the walls – all date from the 1880s. Of course the television and the air-conditioning break with authenticity (not to mention the private bathroom) but even a b&b at the beach has to provide guests with modern amenities. Victorians after all, didn’t bathe much or change their clothes, so even I am not all for authenticity.
This Friday, a new show is opening at the Carriage House Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate. It is about Cape May’s revival during the 1970s and comes from a book by Ben Miller, The First Resort. An article in the Cape May County Herald consists of an interview with Tom Carroll, who was there at the time. Suzie and I were the beneficiaries of the “Cape May Renaissance” since we moved to town in 1989. If Cape May had torn down the Victorian houses to build motels, by now the motels would be thirty years old and unfashionable. Instead, we kept our architectural heritage and can re-use it every time Victoriana comes back into fashion.
The latest Victorian Revival is Steampunk. It’s been around for a few years now and is based on the idea- what if technology had continued on the steam-powered, mechanical path of the 19th century, and hadn’t become the electronic world that we have today? Wooden laptop computers, time-machines chairs, lots of leather and lace; it’s a hoot.
The First Resort exhibit will be on all Summer. Come visit us and visit the Carriage House Gallery while you’re here.
Several years ago, Suzie and I spent a month visiting Sicily. We saw the cities of Palermo and Catania, several hill towns like Ragusa and Noto (which are as cute as hill towns anywhere in Italy) and stayed in beach resorts like Cefalù and Taormina. Siracusa was my favorite place in Sicily, combining great architecture, Greek ruins and very posh stores. It’s sort of the Upper East Side of Sicily.
One part of Sicily that Cape May folk can enjoy that other Americans can’t is Moscato di Sicilia. It is a dessert wine that is so aromatic that the whole room will smell like honey and flowers when you pour the wine. Yet, it isn’t dark and oxidized like Sherry or Port or Madeira. Almost unique among dessert wines, it is light and fresh yet sweet and aromatic. It’s more like Sauternes or Icewine than the caramelized wines that we are used to. Unfortunately, it isn’t imported into the United States. I once ordered some from a wine store in Rome, but I suspect they weren’t as law abiding as they should be. I was stumped, then I discovered that there is one place in America that makes Moscato di Sicilia, Cape May
The last post about our vacation in Spain reminded me that we have a painting of the same view of a courtyard in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, hanging in the Turkish Suite in Leith Hall. I substituted a picture of Rashid Lamrani, who was our guide in Morocco for the young woman in the photograph. His friends had dressed him up in a traditional burnoose, so he looked very exotic. In reality, he was a very modern young man who had traveled all over the United States.
We also have a painting of the Todra Gorge in Morocco hanging in the bedroom of the Turkish Suite. If you look for the tiny figure riding a camel at the bottom of the painting – that’s Suzie. You too can see the paintings in the Turkish Suite by coming to visit us.
Now that spring is sprung in Cape May, we’re having some work done on Leith Hall this
midweek before it gets too busy. Easter is just over, and my mind turns to vacation. For us, vacation is always winter vacation, so I thought I’d share a few pictures of a trip we took to Andalucia, in Southern Spain, a few years ago. We toured most (or all) of the cities of Andalucia. One of these is Mijas, which is one of the “white villages” of Andalucia. It is very convenient to the beach resort of
Torremolinos and the other towns of the Costa del Sol, so it is often overrun with visitors. Not in January, however.
We’ve also been to the Alhambra in Granada a couple of times. I think that it may be the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen; oddly, in a completely different way than Western buildings. Instead of making the palace bigger and grander than a house, the designers made it more and more complicated. Instead of immense, like the palace of Versailles, it
has another courtyard with another set of rooms, and another and another. The result is a palace that is human scale and very pleasant to be in. Versailles is impressive, but not actually pleasant.
Today is Suzie‘s birthday, so I’m posting recipe for the densest, richest chocolate cake ever.
I often make it for birthdays and other special events. It is very short, like a French chocolate cake. It can be topped with some powdered sugar sifted through a paper doily and accompanied by whipped cream.
This cake resembles chocolate fudge when it’s done. You can make it more cake-like by adding 1/4 cup flour to the egg mixture. Of course, they it won’t be flour-less.
Flour-less Chocolate Cake
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ pound butter (2 Sticks ) cubed
¼ cup strong coffee or liqueur (Grand Marnier is good)
8” springform pan for 22-25 minutes or
9” springform pan for 18- 20 minutes
Line pan with parchment. Wrap the outside in foil.
Beat eggs with wire whisk attachment for 5 minutes. Melt chocolate and butter. Adding coffee or liqueur. Fold chocolate and egg foam mixtures together. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth surface. Bake in pan with boiling water half way up (this is a bain marie). Cool in pan then refrigerate overnight.
We wanted to share some pictures from the March Sherlock Holmes weekend in Cape May. This time we had one of the actors, Pamela Burke, stay with us. Our guests really got into the mystery and several brought wonderful costumes! Only in Cape May can a woman look perfect in a bustle and corset. Breakfast was fun with everyone discussing the clues and trying to get Pamela to cheat and give them some under-the-table help. She was good and refused to reveal the secrets.
Nancy and Jeff pouring sherry in Leith Hall’s parlor
Denise (in the middle in left picture) changed her outfit several times a day like a true Victorian woman – she looked absolutely wonderful. One of our guests, Jeff, was looking for a Victorian cane and found an entire Victorian morning coat outfit in his size. It looked great and fit perfectly.