Cape May Wineries – The Napa of New Jersey !

Cape May – The Napa of New Jersey?Cape May the Napa of New Jersey

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.

sherry in the palor at Leith Hall bed and breakfast
Sherry in the parlor at Leith Hall

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.

Wine and Food festivalThere 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.

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A TALE OF TWO CHEESECAKES

 

Jewish and Siciliano New York

This cheesecake is trying to reproduce one made by an old college friend, Kenny

New York Cheesecakes at cape may bed and breakfast
New York Cheesecake

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

Crostata di Ricotta, cheesecake in Cape May
Crostata di Ricotta

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

Ricotta Cheesecake at Leith Hall bed and breakfast
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,Candied fruit in Palermo in cheesecakes

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.

 

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FLOWERS AND GARDENS AT THE BEACH IN CAPE MAY

 A Victorian Flower Garden along the Sidewalk

flowers in the Victorian sidewalk garden at the beach
Sidewalk and Flowers at Leith Hall Cape May

When Suzie and I moved to Cape May in 1989, one of the first projects on our list was to replace the sidewalk in front of Leith Hall and plant a flower garden. Our neighbors have narrow sidewalks with planted verges between the curb and the pavement and between the pavement and the property line.  We wanted to replace our sidewalk with a narrow one and plant the verges. It never happened. New bathrooms, new furnace, new water heater, new roof, new porch; all these intervened. This year, twenty-three years later, we finally replaced the front sidewalk. We’re thrilled.

The sidewalk was laid by Mike Mohr of Mohr Masonry. He did a great job, worked really fast and was very easy to deal with. He’s coming back in a while to give the sidewalk a coating to make it resemble the slates next door more closely.

Victorian and native flowers

We’ve just planted the verges with thyme and phlox, sage and snow-in-summer, daylilies

Geraniums near the front steps at Leith Hall at the beach
Geraniums near the Front Steps at Leith Hall

and hostas. It still looks like a sea of mulch with tufts of greenery, but the plants are spreading and will cover the ground soon.  The plantings are low growing and low maintenance, which we need; but are also Victorian, which we want. Victorians called Hostas, Funkias, which sounds so much funkier, somehow. The daylilies we planted are the orange, old-fashioned Hemerocallis fulva which the Pilgrims

Hemerocallis fulva

brought from Europe and have been spreading ever since. Thyme and sage are the kitchen herbs and phloxes (Phlox subulata)  and snow in summer (Cerastium tomentosum) are natives. We’ll see how they all do only fifty yards from the beach and occasionally being stepped on.

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SICILY IN CAPE MAY

Beach in Sicily
Taormina

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 Cape May WneSicilia. 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

In Cape May, we have Turdo Vineyards. They make a Moscato di Sicilia that will make you feel like you are reclining on a deck chair in Taormina. Or, you can come visit us at Leith Hall and take a Cape May Wine Trail tour.

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A PAINTING OF THE ALHAMBRA PRETENDING TO BE TURKISH

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.

a painting of the Alhambra in the sitting room of the Turkish Suite in Leith Hall
A Painting of the Alhambra in the sitting room of the Turkish Suite in Leith Hall

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.

Todra Gorge with Suzie on a Camel
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VACATION PHOTOS

Now that spring is sprung in Cape May, we’re having some work done on Leith Hall this

Donkey Rides in Mijas
Donkey Rides in Mijas

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

View ovr Mijas
View over Mijas

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

Down the hill in Mijas
Looking Down the Hill in Mijas

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.

A Courtyard in the Alhambra
The Alhambra from the Generalife Gardens
In the Alhambra
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GELATO IN ROME AND CAPE MAY

 

Gelato in Rome and Cape May

Susan eating gelatoDuring the winter of 2011, Suzie and I spent six weeks in Rome, writing a self-guided walking tour book to be called The Secret Streets of Rome. It will be out next Fall, published by Andover Press in New York. I’ll be posting lots of information about art and architecture, but first things first – Gelato. I don’t know how they do it, but Italians make ice cream so much better than we do. It’s actually much lower in fat than ours, but has much more flavor. The chocolate is very, very dark and extremely strong, the raspberry is dark purple and aromatic with raspberries. My favorite is stracciatella – which is Italian for fudge ripple (it means streaky) and is creamy vanilla with dark rivers of fudge. There are several great Rome ice cream  travel ItalyGelaterie in Rome (of course) though aficionados insist that the best in Italy is in San Gimignano. Our favorite in Rome is the Gelateria del Teatro, located under a stairway to a tiny theater just west of the Piazza Navona.

Happily, for those of you who visit or live in Cape May, we need not despair. There’s a gelateria in Washington Commons (across Ocean Street from the Washington Street Mall) called Cione. For more ice cream, this one American, but organic, handmade, and really, really good, visit Bliss in the Carpenter’s Square Mall (that’s the little building behind Gecko’s in Carpenter’s Street).

 

 

 

 

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