This past weekend was the Victorian Fair on the grounds of the Physick Estate. We had pony rides, pony painting, Dr. Physick wandering the grounds, and John Phillip Sousa scaring little children. This year we had games of skill and chance with ridiculously easy-to-win prizes. There were lots of crafters, a nice selection of antiques (I saw a major 1880’s cover serving dish which I did not buy since I already own several.) Our guests at Leith Hall spent hours at the Fair.
This year’s Victorian Fair will feature The Stupefying Sandy, so feminine, so comely, yet with a full beard! Also, Tom Coyle, the strongest man in the Emerald Isle will amaze the audience with his feats of muscle. A juggler, stilt walker and a midway of Victorian games of skill and chance will continue the thrills. The grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate will also host a crafts fair with a variety of skilled artisans. There will be ponies to paint (apparently the ponies don’t mind the indignity.) Food, white elephant tables, wild (or very tame) animals will top off the day.
On the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate 1048 Washington Street, only a few blocks from the mall. Parking available. Call us to make a reservation for this fun event coming up June 9 and 10
Just a reminder of our Music Festival Special; we’ll supply your tickets if you visit us for any concert.
There are two great evenings coming up. Both part of the
CapeMay Music festival, but very different. The first is Tuesday June 5, and is a performance by the New York Chamber Ensemble featuring works by Mozart and Mendelsohn. The New York Chamber Ensemble is so moving and their virtuosity is extremely impressive. The setting in the Episcopal Church of the Advent is also so intimate and beautiful that their concerts are always a night to remember.
The next concert is by the Bay Atlantic Symphony orchestra on Thursday, June 7. Jed Gaylin is the conductor and he always explains what the orchestra is about to play, giving you more understanding and insight into the work.
Some classical work that you’ve heard before is suddenly new and fresh and you come away with more appreciation and enjoyment than you ever had before. It even works for difficult music, though this concert will be all very easy to listen to. The June 7 concert will be all Viennese composers; Webern, Hayden, Brahms and Schumann.
The Gaylin family often stays with us at Leith Hall and it is always a joy to see them again.
A recent Leith Hall b&b guest, Donna B., emailed me for two recipes for treats that we serve at afternoon tea. The first was Cape May bed and breakfast Gingerbread which was in an earlier post, and this is the second – Raspberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Of course, you could substitute any other preserves, but then it would be apricot or orange coffee cake.
Raspberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
2 tablespoons canola oil or melted butter
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/3 cup sour cream
1 small jar of raspberry preserves
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Line a 9”x11” baking pan with cooking parchment and spray with cooking spray.
Mix 1 1 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil or butter, 1/3 cup sour cream, and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients into egg mixture.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Drop raspberry preserves over batter by random teaspoons full. Combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. Sprinkle crumbs over batter.
Transfer pan to oven, and bake for about 23 minutes. . Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean or cake springs back when prodded with a finger.
Recently one of our guests at Leith Hall b&b contacted me to request two recipes we serve at afternoon tea. This one, Leith Hall’s Cape May bed and breakfast Gingerbread, is for Donna. It has bits of crystallized ginger in it for an extra sharp bite. Sometimes I ice it with a bittersweet chocolate and butter icing (which I’ll put on almost anything) and sometimes I’ll sprinkle it with confectioner’s sugar through a paper doily laid on top of the gingerbread. We always have one chocolate and one non-chocolate treat at teatime. Suzie would never forgive me if I left out the chocolate, and we sometimes have guests who (sadly) don’t like chocolate.
Leith Hall Cape May bed and breakfast Gingerbread
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup crystallized ginger, cut into tiny slices
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F Line a 9 “square pan with cooking parchment and spray with cooking spray
In an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Beat into the creamed mixture. Stir in the hot water. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until the gingerbread springs back when prodded with a fingertip. Allow to cool in pan before serving.
Did you know that wooden house trim is called gingerbread because gingerbread was once very heavily decorated? During the Middle Ages, ginger was fabulously expensive and gingerbread was a desert at Royal and Noble courts. Sometimes, it was ornamented with real gold leaf in elaborate swirls. When sawn wooden ornament was introduced in the nineteenth century, people started calling it gingerbread because it reminded them of Christmas gingerbread houses – which are the last vestige of great medieval gingerbread constructions.Architecture and dessert all in one, my favorite combination
Suzie and I just got back from New York where we saw the new Broadway production of Porgy and Bess, which is set in Catfish Row in Charleston South Carolina. Many thanks to SK for the tickets. The show was wonderful and the music was, as always, spectacular. The show, together with Memorial Day fast approaching, reminded me of the first Memorial Day, which is a little known story. Just after the Civil War, freed black slaves in Charleston South Carolina wanted to honor the hundreds of Union soldiers who were imprisoned and died in the Charleston race course. The soldiers had been buried in an unmarked mass grave, so the freedmen cleaned up the site, built a memorial arch and landscaped the grounds. On May 1, 1865, they held a memorial service and supper to honor the Union soldiers.
Confederate groups held services to commemorate Confederate dead, also usually in May. In the North, (in Waterloo, NY) John Logan proclaimed May 30 as Decoration Day in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization. The holiday was quickly adopted all over the North, while the south celebrated competing memorials on different days.
Memorial Day had its name changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day in 1967. It was moved to a Monday date along with many other federal holidays in 1968, and became an official Federal holiday in 1971. During Woodrow Wilson’s term, the emphasis of Memorial Day shifted from the Civil War to a more general national holiday, including the Spanish American War and WWI dead. Wilson was the first southern president elected since the Civil War, and was the president who imposed racial segregation in the Federal Government.
From the beginning, Memorial Day has been the occasion for
parades and barbeques, and the tradition continues in Cape May. Memorial Day weekend begins our season of band concerts and Crafts and Antiques Shows on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate. On May 28th MAC will offer the Atlantic Brass band in a free concert to round out the holiday.
This year we’ve moved our collection of crystal and mirrored balls from the mantle in the
Iris Room to the piano in the parlor. Lots of guests and tour-goers ask about them, and one of our guests suggested that we write this blog post about them.
No Witches at Leith Hall
First, they are not Witch Balls. Those were blue or green blown-glass balls used to catch evil spirits. These beliefs existed in Europe in the 17th century and before. They are sometimes ascribed to New England – probably because of the Salem witch trials – but without much evidence. Usually, fishing floats, which are also blown glass blue or green balls, are brought out as evidence.
Our collection is of mirrored balls and crystal balls. Gazing balls are the big mirrored balls seen on pedestals in gardens. They were very popular in the 19th century. Then again, Victorians could never leave well enough alone and packed their gardens with statuary, sundials, urns, gazing balls, trellises and arbors, obelisks, cupids and gnomes. We have a gazing ball in the tiny front garden at Leith Hall.
In the parlor, we have lots more mirrored balls. Some are mercury glass which was very popular in the early and mid-nineteenth century. It contains no mercury, but is silvered on the inside, then sealed. It was called mercury glass because it looks like mercury. One interesting use for them was to display one large reflective globe on the sideboard in a dining room. That way, the master or mistress of the house could keep an eye on the servants during a dinner party and make sure they were doing their jobs properly.
The clear balls are “crystal balls” for communicating with the “other side.” These became very popular after the Civil War, along with séances, Ouija boards, clairvoyants, and Theosophy. The explosion of interest in spiritualism probably resulted from the number of young men lost in the Civil War and their families’ reluctance to be cut off from them. Or, maybe being a clairvoyant was one of the few ways for women to be famous in Victorian times. Or, maybe it’s just another one of the new religions of the nineteenth century, like Mormonism, Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.
Susan says, “We have lots of collections beside the mirror balls; Victorian Eastlake style silver, decorated Easter eggs, shells, and Japanese woodblock prints. Come visit us and see all of the Victorian stuff at Leith Hall.”
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.