Cape May’s Craft Beer and Crab Festival hit town last Saturday. The day was gray and intermittently rainy – not ideal beach weather. So lots of people showed up on the lawn at the Physick Estate. There was a long (but fast-moving) line for crabs and crab cakes under the striped tent, and lots of covered seating nearby. There was a small crafts fair – I particularly liked the Guatemalan pottery – pony rides, and a teensy-weensy circus appropriately called the Tiny Circus.
Leith Hall Bed and Breakfast Chocolate Cherry Cake
I recently served this rich chocolate cherry cake at Leith Hall at teatime. Our guests asked for the recipe, so here it is. I bake it in a glass bundt pan, but it would work in any ring-shaped pan, or in two nine-inch round cake pans with a frosting or icing.
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup cocoa powder (I use Droste’s, Rademaker, or Van Houten)
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup milk
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla paste
½ cup dried cherries, dusted with flour
1 jar of cherry preserves
Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Beat the sugar, oil coffee, milk, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the flour mixture and beat in. Fold in the dried cherries. Turn into a greased and floured bundt pan. Place a ring of cherry preserves on top of the batter by teaspoonsfull . As the cake bakes, it will sink toward the bottom. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Check the cake by prodding with a finger. It should spring back and seem fully baked and cakelike. Add time as needed.
This past week, our guests devoured this cake and a cherry devil’s food cake at afternoon tea. They asked for the recipe for both cakes. This is the orange one, which is flavored with sour cream and orange marmalade and tastes like a Creamsicle pop. The chocolate recipe will follow in a later post. I hope that you enjoy them at Syracuse!
I use a glass tube pan to bake this cake in, so that I can keep an eye on the color, (it has to get golden brown to be fully baked in the center) but you can use any pan that you have. If you use layer cake pans, it will take less time.
Leith Hall’s Orange and Cream Cake
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup softened unsalted butter (one stick)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or vanilla paste)
1 tsp. orange extract
½ tsp. lemon extract
¾ cup milk
¼ cup bitter orange marmalade
1/3 cup sour cream
Tube pan, greased and floured
350 degrees 30—35 minutes. Check for doneness and add time if needed.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Beat the butter with the sugar, then the orange marmalade, then the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the flavorings, then the sour cream. Beat in the flour mixture and the milk, alternately to make a smooth batter. Turn into the pan, bake until the cake is golden (darkish brown) and springs back firmly when poked with a fingertip.
I serve this cake right-side up without an icing. You could drizzle an icing made of powdered sugar, orange juice and melted butter on top; or you could sprinkle it with powdered sugar for decoration.
A new festival in Cape May – The Craft Beer and Crab Festival will be this coming August 11 on the grounds of the Physick Estate. The café patio will be transformed into a food court with crabs (of course), pulled pork barbecue, corn on the cob, and lots of other food. There will be several local breweries represented and music on the outdoor stage, pony rides for the kids, a little Victorian “midway” with games of skill and chance. There will also be a crafts show on the front lawn of the Physick Estate. With all of the games, music, food, beer and crafts show on the grounds, the Physick Estate should be the fun place to be on Saturday August 11th. Make your Leith Hall bed and breakfast reservations now! The water is warmer than ever, the beach is beckoning, and the festivals are festing. Our guests are breakfasting on the porch and Elan is baking for tea
At Leith Hall we often have wedding parties, or guests at local weddings, but most often we have proposals and engagements. We once had a guest who planned an elaborate scheme to create a romantic setting in which to pop the question to his girlfriend. He reserved an evening horse and carriage ride and arranged for the driver to stop at a scenic spot. His girlfriend was annoyed at the stop and wanted to know what’s wrong with these people. Not the right atmosphere. They went to dinner at the Washington Inn and he asked the waiter to hide the ring in the dessert for her to discover. She was grumpy and complaining about the waiter and the dinner. After spending the dinner complaining about the carriage ride, she said that she didn’t want dessert. He had it brought to the table anyway. It was his last opportunity. He asked. She accepted.
The next morning he came down to breakfast with this story and a beaming financee and her new ring. I predicted a long and happy marriage because he knew exactly what he was getting into and had no unwelcome surprises in store.
A recent Leith Hall bed and breakfast guest was visiting the many wineries that have opened recently near Cape May. He is a wine expert and was telling us that New Jersey wine is not famous for a reason, but that Cape May county is the exception, that all of the good wine in the state comes from Cape May, that we’re the Napa Valley of New Jersey.
Though I’m originally a New Yorker, I’m not one to scoff at New Jersey’s accomplishments, and good table wine is certainly one of them. A very local favorite is Hawk Haven Vineyards, which gives you the choice of Chardonnay aged in French Oak or Chardonnay aged in stainless steel. I’ve never liked the oaky-ness of California Chardonnay. It always tastes a little too much like turpentine to me Chardonnay aged in stainless however, is refreshing and delicious.
Hawk Haven also produces a small amount of Tempranillo. This is the grape used in Spain to make Rioja, so it’s delicious and fruity and low in acid. A great wine that ages well, and is complex, but without that mouth puckering tannic acid that many big red wines have.
Turdo Winery is one of my favorites. It is so friendly, the wines are so delicious, and you can imagine yourself in Sicily. When Suzie and I spent a month in Sicily a few years ago, we often stopped for a glass of Moscato di Sicilia or Moscato di Pantellerria before dinner. With a great dinner, we could have a great wine like Barolo (which is one of the best red wines in the world) which is made of Niebbolo grapes. Both of these are available at Turdo Vineyards – only a couple of miles from Leith Hall.
Turdo also makes Sangiovese, which is best known as Chianti, fruity and acidic to drink with major meaty dishes like steak or pot roast. They also make a Pinot Grigio which is light and refreshing. I have a classmate who always refers to Pinot Grigio as “eau de pee pee” because it’s usually a yellow wine that’s pretty acidic and not much else. Turdo’s version is good and flavorful.
There are several more vineyards very close to Leith Hall bed and breakfast in Cape May. You can visit them by taking The Cape May Wine Trail offered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities. A trolley will transport you from winery to vineyard so you don’t have to restrain yourself. In September, the Cape May Food and Wine Celebration offers a debauch of local restaurants and wineries for a taste of the high life. If you visit us at Leith Hall, we’ll be happy to direct you to all of the local vineyards.
One of our guests recently gave us a huge quarter-of-a-circle sandwich that they had left over from a picnic on the beach. They’d bought a giant circular sandwich made of a flat disk filled with mushrooms and wonderful cheeses and Italian cured meats. They got the sandwich from Seaside Cheese in West Cape May and it was both very high quality and big enough to fed a family of eight.
When we moved to Cape May twenty-three years ago, if we
wanted good or interesting cheese, we had to go to Philadelphia. Acme and Shoprite didn’t have cheese departments and there was no real Parmigiano Reggiano in the entire county. Now we have a treasure right next door. Seaside Cheese on Park Boulevard in West Cape May has great cheese, interesting cheese, and yummy cheese. When we came back from a winter vacation in Italy, we went looking for Gorgonzola dolce for a dinner party. It’s sweet gorgonzola (as opposed to strong) and is great melted on top of pumpkin gnocchi or pumpkin ravioli. We had to go to the Italian market in Philadelphia to get it. Now we can go across the street. Seaside Cheese also has a number of cheeses that are basically aged Goudas. They are nutty, strong and delicious.
Seaside Cheese is also an outlet for Hawk Haven Winery, so you can get cheese and cured
meats to go with your wine. They are also an outlet for The Ravioli House in Wildwood, so you can get their ravioli, tortellini, and gnocchi to go with your cheese and sauce. When you think of a picnic at the beach, consider Seaside Cheese. It’s a short trip from Leith Hall bed and breakfast and we’ll even lent you plates if you want to eat on the porch.
Those of you old enough will remember the 1973 movie Sleeper, in which Woody Allen wakes up far, far, into the future and discovers that the really healthy activities are smoking cigarettes and eating ice cream. It’s come true! A recent story reported by WebMD described a large Australian study that found that eating three to six ounces of high-percentage chocolate every day greatly lowered your risk of heart disease. That was one to two chocolate bars of 60 to 70 percent chocolate every day!
Chocolate – Miracle Food!
Having had two heart attacks, four angioplasties a quintuple bypass, and a partridge in a pear tree, this is news I want to hear! Suzie has prophetically been implementing the recommendations of this study for years. One of the conclusions of the story was that money spent teaching people to eat chocolate would save so much in medical costs later that it would be cheaper for Medicare to pay to encourage chocolate eating. The next thing we’ll hear is that World Peace has broken out and lions are napping with lambs.
This cheesecake is trying to reproduce one made by an old college friend, Kenny
Kleinrock’s mother. She approached the task as a scientific experiment, trying many variations ’till she found the perfect, the archetypal, the uber-cheesecake. She found that the definitive cheesecake had to have both lemon and orange flavor in it, to cut the extreme richness.
New York Cheesecakes
To make the crust
1 cup. (4 oz) graham cracker crumbs (or 4 whole crackers and food-processed)
1 Tbs. sugar
5 Tbs. unsalted butter melted, plus 1 Tbs. for buttering pan
Combine above and press into bottom of 9 inch springform pan. Bake at 325 f. to 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling
To make the filling
2 ½ lbs. cream cheese at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups (10 ½ oz) sugar
1/3 cup (2 ½ oz) sour cream
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolks plus 6 eggs
1 tsp. lemon zest and 1 tsp. orange zest, grated.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, scrape, beat in salt and sugar, scrape. Add sour cream lemon juice, vanilla, and zest. Beat and scrape.
Add eggs one at a time. Beat and scrape.
Bake on rimmed cookie sheet. Bake at 500 F. for 10 minutes. Turn down oven to 200 F. and bake approx 1 ½ hours (instant read thermometer 150 F) Run paring knife around cake. Cool 2 ½ to 3 hours. Wrap in pan and cool at least 3 hours, or overnight
New York and Palermo
When I was a child in New York, you could get Sicilian cheesecake is every Italian bakery. A few years ago, Suzie and I spent a month traveling around Sicily and I was on a mission to find this old-fashioned dessert. Everywhere, I ordered Cassata alla Siciliana, and all’antica. Usually I got a ricotta dessert held together with lime-green jello. Sometimes I got spongecake layered with cannolli cream. Never did I get the old fashioned cheesecake of my childhood. The closest was a Cassata di Ricotta in Palermo, which was a pie with the ricotta and candied fruit filling
Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake
3 lbs whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
2 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 egg whites, beaten till soft peaks form
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2-1 tablespoon grated fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup candied and dried fruit, chopped. (candied citron,
dried pineapple, golden raisins, candied orange rind, etc.)
1 double recipe pie crust
Line a 12″ springform pan with the pie crust. In an electric mixer, beat the ricotta, sugar, flour, egg yolks, lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix in the candied fruits. Remove from mixer and fold in whipped egg whites and cream. Pour into crust-lined springform pan. Bake at 425 F. for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 F. and bake for one hour. Turn off oven and don’t open it. Allow to cool in oven for three hours. Then refrigerate.
This is restaurant week in Cape May. Many of our best eateries have prix fixe, three course dinners for $35. This is a great time to sample the offerings at some of the best restaurants in New Jersey – 410 Bank Street and Fresco’s, the Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel, the Sea Salt in the new Ocean Club Hotel and Union Park at the Macomber Hotel, as well as the Washington Inn. Four restaurants even have $25 dinners; Harry’s Ocean
Bar and Grille, Cucina Rosa, The Pilot House, and Carney’s, Restaurant week will run through June 10th, so there’s still time to reserve and feast.