Monday, June 28, 2010

Travels with Gertie: EAST COAST FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL




[Gertie is the name of our GPS. She goes everywhere with us now, so we named her. "G" for Gertie - we haven't decided on a middle name (P) or a last name (S) yet, but are open for suggestions! Maybe "Scarborough" for her last name?]

On Saturday, we decided to go to the 3rd Annual "Food and Wine Festival" produced by the Slow Food organization and five New Jersey estate wine growers. Held in Pennington at Hopewell Valley Vineyards, the event promised an opportunity to enjoy top farmers, restaurants, and wineries gathered "to celebrate the Garden State's wealth of summer." I hoped for an opportunity to discover some small family farmers and artisan bakers or cheese makers with products we could use at the Scarborough Inn.

We arrived at Hopewell Valley and were directed to park the car in an upper field. White tents were erected in a large field close to the road and housed registration, the exhibitors, and areas for cooking demos or seminars. It was hot - beastly hot - so we decided to make a fast circuit of the festival grounds.

We headed for the first tent and enjoyed samples of Unionville Vineyards wines. Several of these paid homage to Revolutionary Times with names like "Lafayette's Pride" and "Fields of Fire." But we were very hungry and it was then that we discovered that the entrance fee to the "Food & Wine Festival" did NOT cover food!

A neighboring tent was selling food, thank goodness. Gus selected scallop kabobs - 2 lovely, large scallops on a bamboo skewer - and I had chicken kabobs which included squares of red and green peppers and onions - nicely grilled and tasty. Next, we sampled wines from Laurita Winery from New Egypt, NJ. The "Down the Shore Beachcomber Blush" was light and refreshing on a summer's day. And for our second lunch course, we shared a plate of pork pate with capers, pickled onions, and rounds of two kinds of rustic bread from another vendor.

The Hopewell Valley Vineyards tent was our next stop. The owner's family owns vineyards in Tuscany and, not surprisingly, the New Jersey winery specializes in Italian varietals and vinifera wines. Here we sampled an unfamiliar red wine, "Chambourcin," that was very good.

We circled on around the field and discovered some of the artisan farmers and food purveyors we were hoping to meet. Donna Pinder from Donna & Company crafts artisanal chocolates featuring wonderful ingredients that she will design to be paired with specific foods or wines. The folks from Herbertsville Honey Co. brought along a active bee hive along with jars of their light golden honey. We bought some "Lemon Honey" to try - might be good on Linda's (Scarborough Inn cook) homemade scones for Afternoon Refreshments.

The third course for lunch was our favorite! We enjoyed delectable homemade ice cream that was cool. silky, and full of fresh, natural flavor. The bent spoon: artisan ice cream & good ingredient bakery in Princeton must be a sweet-lover's heaven-on-earth. I'll have to think of a reason why we need to go to Princeton SOON, but in the meantime, we feasted on their Chocolate Orange and Blueberry-Mango ice creams. The "Chocolate Orange" was rich with just a hint of citrus and the "Blueberry Mango" was a deep purple color with rich blueberry flavor delicately complemented with the sweetness of mango. mmmmmmm...words fail

Tents in the middle of the field housed displays from a farm that raises alpacas for their soft, warm wool; a baker who makes his grandmother's recipe cheesecake featuring curd cheese and lemony flavoring; and a baker who features fresh herbs and spices in her scones. Also on hand were representatives from the magazine edibleJERSEY that "Celebrates Local Foods of the Garden State, Season by Season." Sounds like a good addition to the periodicals available at our Bed & Breakfast.

Cape May Winery & Vineyard, New Jersey's southernmost winery and a Scarborough Inn neighbor in Cape May County, was the next stop on our Tour of the Tents. I love the bright, clear flavors of their "Cape May Chardonnay" and we noticed that their new "Issac Smith Apple Dessert Wine" is now available. We'll try it next visit.

We concluded the circuit of the Festival with a visit to the Alba Vineyard tent where we sampled a delicious "Rosa" (blush) wine with an appealing taste and a brightly colored, funky label. I love a good label.

Finally, we decided to attend a wine seminar with Mark Phillips of "Enjoying Wine with Mark Phillips" on PBS. Basically his message is, "enjoy the wines that you like without all of the snobbery and rituals." And if you can honestly say that you "liked the wine at the price you paid, than it was a good price!" Good, sensible advice that makes drinking and enjoying wine much more approachable and fun.

We also spotted Mike Colameco from "Colameco's Food Show" giving a presentation and Mary Ann Esposito, host of "Ciao Italia", preparing to address the crowd. She was very accommodating when Gus approached her about purchasing a cookbook, but the NJN rep would not allow that.

By this time, it was so hot that we dragged ourselves to the car and headed home to Ocean City the back way - using local, blue highways. On Route 206 we were luckier and found a great farmer's market where we selected Jersey Fresh tomatoes, corn, yellow squash, peaches, and blueberries. But the real jackpot was in Hammonton where we found a case of just-picked blueberries at Bagliani's Italian Market and carted it back to the inn. I was already contemplating the delicious omelets, crisps or cobblers, or crudites to be fashioned for our guests!

Of course, we also took home some store-made Sausage with Parsley and Provolone, broccoli rabe, and a small, round loaf of crusty bread for our dinner.

**********
SLOW FOOD is a non-profit organization formed in Italy in 1986. The mission includes, "protecting small food producers who make quality products...and working toward safeguarding traditional food and wine heritage."

For more information visit www.SlowFoodUSA.org

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Waterfront Park & Marina



The city of Ocean City, NJ recently acquired waterfront property on the bay side of the island and promptly transformed an empty, weed-choked lot into the O.C. Waterfront Park and Marina at 200 Bay Avenue.

Partly funded by the New Jersey Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, the new facility features 49 boat slips, 36 parking spaces (with an eco-friendly crushed shell surface), and a grassy passive recreational area. The Marina is open from April 15 until November 30 for seasonal or transient (7 days or less) dockage. The area may also be used for fishing or waterfront picnicking and includes a bike rack and seasonal office with restroom.

Scarborough Inn guests might enjoy this area as a waterside location for a picnic or for a spectacular view of the sunset over the bay. Don't forget your camera!

The Waterfront Park and Marina is an easy walk or bike ride from the inn; we'll be happy to give you directions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: SOFIA

Sofia Restaurant
9314 Amherst Ave., Margate, NJ (609-822-9111)

I love to go to an unfamiliar restaurant! It's an adventure - a treasure hunt even. Will it be good? disappointing? better than expected?

We visited Sofia Restaurant for the first time in March. Just about 15 or 20 minutes from the Scarborough Inn (720 Ocean Ave., Ocean City, NJ), it was like a mini-vacation to Greece and an easy drive for guests of our B&B!

Ambiance - The interior of the restaurant is surprisingly large, but thanks to the cleverly divided dining space, it felt cozy and romantic. Decorative wrought iron railings, half-walls, and tall columns separate the dining space into smaller areas decorated with rough plaster walls, tile floors, and substantial dark wood tables and chairs. A fire in a raised hearth added warmth and a cheerful glow on a chilly evening. An enormous chandelier was suspended from the high ceiling and we glimpsed evocative murals on the upper walls rendered in soft pastel colors.

There's a Wine Bar/Lounge area plus outdoor dining spaces available in warmer months when you can also enjoy the fountains and seasonal flowers.

Service - We arrived for our early reservation (5:45pm) during "shoulder season" so the restaurant was nearly empty. We were welcomed and escorted to our table in a secluded corner near a fireplace. The server was knowledgeable and helpful with menu selections and portion sizes. Service was accommodating and efficient.

Food - The menu features Greek titles with English translations and includes "Small Plates" (like appetizers or tapas), a la carte salads, and an eclectic variety of entrees. Our server suggested we share a Traditional Greek Salad and there was plenty for four of us. The salad greens were crisp and it contained all of the expected - olives, tomatoes, and feta with a tangy vinaigrette. A small loaf of hot bread accompanied the meal and was pronounced "exceptional" by one of our friends.

Gus selected Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna with Citrus Basmati Rice and Baby Bok Choy. The tuna was perfectly seared on the outside, rare and tender inside, and nicely complemented by the flavors of the unique vegetables. My Grilled Veal Porterhouse was huge and smothered in a Fig Port Reduction that was smooth and rich. It came with Grilled Red Peppers, creamy Polenta, and Horta (mixed cooked greens like broccoli, collards, and spinach - the combination changes) that was straightforward and delicious with the rich meat and sauce.

For dessert, our server suggested something that resembles a small, crisp cannoli shell and is stuffed with a light citrus-flavored creme. One serving was enough for two people and left us feeling satisfied and self-righteous. I can't remember the name of this lovely concoction, and it was not listed on the web site, so ask your server.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the different Mediterranean food options and ambiance; it made for a special evening with special friends.

Price - Sofia Restaurant is not inexpensive, but the ambiance, service, and food were all deeply satisfying. If price is a concern, ask about the availability of Sunset Menus (when we visited, $15.95 at 3 - 6pm, mid-week) or try a selection of Small Plates to share - perhaps in the lounge area?

Details - Some parking. Handicapped accessible. Credit cards. Dress - casual chic. I did not see a dedicated Children's Menu, although the Small Plates might suffice for well-behaved and adventurous young diners.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

FLAG DAY - June 14

The History of Flag Day

Remember Flag Day
Though the origin of Flag Day dates back to the late 19th century, its inspiration takes us further back to 1777. On June 14th of that year, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress passed a resolution specifying that the flag carry 13 stripes and 13 stars. The colors would represent hardiness and valor (red), purity and innocence (white), and vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue).

The concept of a specific day to annually recognize the American Flag came 108 years later. In 1885, a Fredonia, Wisconsin schoolteacher, B.J. Cigrand, arranged for the students in his school district to observe June 14th as ‘Flag Birthday’. In 1893, Philadelphia became the first city to celebrate Flag Day, and in the following year, New York was the first state to observe June 14th. After decades of expanding community observances, President Woodrow Wilson established Flag Day on May 30, 1916.

Still many communities did not celebrate Flag Day. It wasn’t until 1949, when President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress that National Flag Day be observed every June 14th. The Unites States Flag Code, as adopted by Congress, states “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” This is why we should give the flag our full respect.

Flag Day is celebrated on June 14.

(article from Fireworks.com)


Scarborough Inn GARDENS

The perennial gardens at the Scarborough Inn are like a kaleidoscope - an ever-changing display of colors, shapes, sizes, and scents.

The first spring flowers push through the soil long before the first Inn guests arrive. It is still chilly and gray when purple Crocus appear, followed closely by red and yellow Tulips, and impossibly sweet-smelling blue Hyacinth. Soon, the Flowering Pear Trees that flank the driveway are covered with delicate white petals that look like gigantic, round bouquets and the Weeping Cherry Trees are adorned with pink petals that brush the earth.

Daffodils, in a variety of cream and yellow color combinations, appear about this time and purple lilacs planted near the front stairs perfume the air as we pass. Other lilac varieties grow in the side gardens. One is deep purple and another features thin lines that outline each tiny petal like white eyeshadow. Elegant Iris blossoms are also predominately purple, but the Gladiolus are bedecked in a rich palette of hues. Some feature solid colors - white, yellow, deep burgundy, and lavender. Other "Glads" pair colors like magenta with cream or navy blue and white and all of them remind me of old-fashioned frilly prom dresses.

The patio garden near the fountain is accented in shades of blue in early Spring. Brilliant blue colors miniature Forget-Me-Not blossoms and royal blue tones color intricate Columbine. There's also an intriguing flower that looks like tiny pantaloons hanging on a washline. When the Azaleas and Rhododendron bloom, pink and rose become the predominant hues. Asiatic Lilies continue that color theme as June approaches.

We have just enjoyed the brief appearance of Peonies - their enormous flowery heads covered with white petals - some streaked with pink - and all sweetly perfumed. Inside, in small arrangements, the air is filled with their fragrance.

Purple Clematis covers the arbor near the Rose Garden and trails up a new trellis adjacent to the bath house, too. The Roses have completed their first flowering, but will continue to bloom throughout the Summer. They are a deep, pink shade and covered with a bounty of flowers. Liatrus - waist high - and sporting tall, spiked blooms grow nearby. Another Rose variety, planted near the parking area, is trained on trellises and are the palest, pastel pink. Hydrangeas are just beginning to bloom now and are pink this year; sometimes they are blue or lavender depending on soil conditions. Presently, the front flower beds also have a variety of annuals and perennials in shades of blue, lavender, and purple.

The flower colors were all carefully selected to complement the seven paint colors that adorn the inn and highlight its interesting architectural features. Many of the flower varieties were chosen because they would have been available and popular when the building was constructed in the late 1800s.

Scarborough Inn guests frequently comment on the beautiful gardens circling the Inn. One thing is certain...they are different every time and always a joy to behold!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Jersey STRAWBERRY PIE

Today is absolutely beautiful! Sunny, blue skies sprinkled with wispy clouds, a light breeze, and comfortable temperatures in the 70s. The humidity is low and that's key for comfort. For those so inclined, it is a perfect Ocean City beach day!

Me? I'm going to make a fresh Strawberry Pie this morning - there's time to enjoy the out of doors later. In fact, I can make the pie during breakfast, put it in the fridge, and enjoy it as dessert this evening. Also great for "Afternoon Refreshments" at the Scarborough Inn!

The best, really ONLY, time to make this pie is during strawberry season. In New Jersey, that is typically in June - depending on weather conditions. It's even better if you can locate a "pick-your-own" farm that will allow you to harvest your own strawberries right out in the fields and bring them home for pie, and jam, and shortcake, and.... (well, you get the idea). Locate farms that feature "pick-your-own" options on the Internet.

This recipe has few ingredients and is simple to make, but even so, I've included Notes for Novices following the recipe. Hope you enjoy his wonderful taste of the "Garden State!"

New Jersey STRAWBERRY PIE

1 baked 8" or 9" pie shell, cooled
1 quart NJ strawberries
1 cup sugar
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon, juiced)
2 Tbl. cornstarch, moistened in 1/2 cup water, combine until smooth
1 Tbl. butter

Bake one frozen pie shell following label directions; set aside to cool.

Wash, dry, and hull fresh, local strawberries. (Save a few berries with leaves attached for garnish.) Put one pint of whole berries into cooled pie shell. Put remainder into saucepan and crush; add sugar, cornstarch/water mixture, butter, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook about 10 minutes or until thick, stirring often.

Cool and pour over berries in pie shell. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Serve with fresh, whipped cream and garnish with reserved strawberries.

Notes for Novices:
1. Reserve 2-3 berries with leaves for garnish. Remove blemishes from berries (if necessary) and use these for the crushed filling; keep "perfect" berries to place whole into pie shell.
2. A hand-held potato masher OR meat tenderizer works well to mash berries. Small chunks will remain & that's fine.
3. While pie shell is cooling on rack, prepare remainder of ingredients (sugar, cornstarch mixture, butter, lemon juice); then cook with strawberries. The mixture should become thick and a beautiful, ruby red color. Stir often to prevent burning.
4. Make sure you cool again before pouring over berries in pie shell.
5. Prep in the morning and you'll have a delightful dessert for dinner.