Friday, September 25, 2009

Good Guests Remember Plum Cake

By Millicent K. Brody

As much as many of us love to entertain, it tends to be pretty tiring. By the time you sit down to eat, you’re ready for bed! And, there’s the “Plus-One Factor”: after perusing the guest list and deciding how many leaves you’re going to need to extend your dining room table, there is always a last-minute someone who calls and asks if they could bring one or two of their friendly, overnight visitors. You don’t dare refuse.

But, as tiring as it is, entertaining is also very rewarding, and it’s always great to get your friends together. As one of my friends says, regardless of the holiday, as soon as it’s a table full of people, it’s like Christmas: Lots of good food and lots of people having a great time.

And make no mistake, there’s always lots of good food at my parties (and the parties I go to!) One friend of mine who is expecting sixteen for Yom Kippur is dishing up a Blintz Souffle. As for me, I’ll be serving my traditional Italian Prune Plum Cake. I’ve discovered that plums purchased at a local farmer’s market are far plumper than those you may find in a supermarket, so start scouring your local market and see what you can find.

Delicious Plum Cake
2 C. flour
2 C. sugar
2 sticks butter
4 eggs plus one egg white, beaten
2 tsp. baking powder
28 prune plums, halved, skin side up
cinnamon and sugar to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice prune plums and toss with 2 teas. cinnamon and 2 teas. sugar to taste

Grease a 9x13 Pyrex dish

In large bowl, beat eggs, butter, and baking powder. Add flour. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Take 5 or 6 plums and cut them into several pieces. Toss into the batter.

Hand stir and fold the batter several more times.

Pour the mixture into a Pyrex dish.

Top with remaining plums. Dab with bits of butter. Drizzle with cinnamon and sugar.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Served with your favorite cup of coffee and vanilla ice cream.

Blintz Soufflé
2 boxes of Golden or Ratners Blintzes. (Cherry or Blueberry)
1 stick butter or margarine
4 eggs
1/4 t. salt
1 t. orange juice
1 t. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Take 1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) and place it in a 9x13 casserole dish. Melt in oven.

Place all the other ingredients except Blintzes in a blender and combine.

Place 12 blintzes over melted butter. Pour and pack mixture from blender.

Bake for 45 minutes uncovered. Serve warm with extra sour cream.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chic Crowds, Stiletto Blisters, and Anna Wintour at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Photo by Peter Stigter and
Jonas Gustavsson for The Times

By Liz Donovan

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, in all its glory, is admittedly a little intimidating. The crowd at Bryant Park is tough to please, which I learned the hard way during my first venture into the tents last fall. (One comment from a fellow attendee I tried to introduce myself to: “I didn’t know there was a life in New Jersey.”) But for the Spring/Summer presentations, September 10 to 17, I arrived in Manhattan confidently prepared to shine — and snub, if necessary. I managed to pull together a chic outfit, which required me to ditch my glasses so to not compete with my hair accessories. Vision-impairment aside, I fell into the herd, strutting from Promenade to Salon to the main Tent, taking in the newest and hottest designs set to hit stores and fashion rags over the next season. Here are some highlights from the week:
  • On Thursday, September 10, Tory Burch made her debut in the tents. Burch opted for a presentation instead of a runway show — a packed house of attendees circled around the runway, where models posed clad in the designer’s newest looks.
  • Shopaholics and fashionistas alike hit the streets on Thursday, September 10, for Fashion’s Night Out, sponsored by Vogue. Shops across the city offered cocktails and entertainment, among other perks, to encourage shopping and boost the city’s economy.
  • NJL spotted a fierce-looking Anna Wintour leaving the Michael Kors presentation on Wednesday, September 16.
  • Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, co-designers of menswear line Duckie Brown, teamed with event sponsor McCafe to launch a limited-edition glove line that will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Actress and philanthropist Holly Robinson Peete was a guest speaker at the unveiling on September 10 in the Bryant Park McCafe booth. To purchase the gloves for a suggested donation of $50, send a Twitter message at
  • Funktastic designer Betsey Johnson made an appearance at the Sharpie booth Monday, September 14 to design a one-of-a-kind tee-shirt that will be auctioned off to benefit cancer research center City of Hope. Fashion week attendees were given exclusive Sharpie tee-shirts, also designed by Betsey, and were invited to create their own designs by stenciling and doodling on bracelets, headbands, ties, and clutches.

By the end of the week, I had gained one traffic ticket, countless stiletto-induced blisters, and tons of material for New Jersey Life’s fashion pages. Stay tuned for the latest trends and looks you’ll love.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Get Your Crush On

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Harvest is one of the most enchanting of all wine experiences. The air seems fresher, the dirt beneath your feet more intoxicating, your heartbeat a little faster. It’s surreal feeling the sweat on your brow and the clusters of grapes in your hands. Unfortunately, most of us can’t take the time to go pick grapes in California or Europe, but the good news is we can we can walk a day in the shoes of a winemaker—actually, almost a year in those wine-stained shoes--without having to catch a plane.

Last Friday, as the first of 2009’s grapes were being delivered, the energy of the California vineyards from where they came seeped into The Wine Room at Cherry Hill. Here, from grape to bottle, you get to play winemaker. Don’t freak out, you’re not on your own. A staff of educated winemakers is there to handle the heavy stuff (enology and enzymes etc.). Depending on how much wine you want you can go in on a barrel (240 bottles) with a few friends, a half (120 bottles), or even a quarter barrel (60 bottles). You can pick your poison online from their 2009 grape menu. Call to schedule your first winemaking session and then over the next ten months or so you’ll crush the grapes, blend if you like, move the wine to barrels, create your own label, maybe visit your juice just to say hi, and finally bottle the good stuff. Each visit to the Wine Room guarantees a good time. It’s ideal for getting together with those friends you love but just can’t seem to see enough. It’s also a perfect team builder for families or co-workers.

If you can’t get your California grape crush on now, no worries! You can crush in the spring with grapes that arrive from Chile. Either way, if you’ve got the love of wine running through your veins, head to The Wine Room and reap the rewards of your very own vintage.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Auto Fixation

By Brianne Harrison

Let me just say right up front that I know next to nothing about cars. I’m proud of myself if I manage to open the hood and check the oil without screwing something up. Any time a warning light goes on, I take it to the garage. No way am I messing around with any of that.

Having said that, I do enjoy a good car show. And I’m willing to bet a lot of other automobile-impaired people do too. Just because we don’t really know what’s going on under the hood doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the beauty of a lovingly preserved or restored car from the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond. Let’s face it—they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Before they were designed by computers and all started looking almost exactly alike (can you tell the difference between a four-door BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus when they aren’t close enough to see the logo? I can’t.) cars were works of art—beautifully shaped and luxuriously detailed.

This weekend, there are two chances to celebrate beautiful old cars. The first is the East Coast Boardwalk Classic Car Show, which runs from the 24 through the 27. Spend a fine day at the beach with some lovely old autos and specially planned entertainment. On Thursday, from 6:30 to 9:30, is the first annual Classic Car Street Festival, featuring the Funseekers Band, food, and trophies for the Best Original, Best Hot Rod, and Best of Show. The band Exceptions will be playing Motown and music from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s Friday night from 7 to 9:30. Saturday culminates with an awards ceremony, with prizes ranging from the usual (Best of Show) to the entertaining (Most Likely to get Pulled Over). For more information, visit

If you’re a fan of older cars, you should check out the 2009 Monmouth County Concours d’Elegance at Hop Brook Farm on the 26 (raindate Sunday, September 27). The Concours will feature pristine classic cars from 1900 to 1969. The event benefits the Embrace Kids Foundation, which helps families with children suffering from cancer, sickle cell disease, and other blood disorders. For more information, visit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jambalaya Fest 2009

By Pat Tanner

I apologize if I have misled you into thinking Jambalaya Fest is an upcoming public event. In fact, Jambalaya Fest is an annual private party thrown by my good friends Helen and George. And the 5th one took place a couple of weeks ago.

So why am I telling you this? First, to inspire you to devise some sort of annual entertaining event that includes, as does Jambalaya Fest, good food, good drink, good music (preferably live), and a reason to reconnect a group of friends (or friends of friends) who may see each other only once a year and who enjoy catching up.

Guests at Jambalaya Fest have come to expect top-notch jambalaya, cornbread, and cole slaw, to name just a few of the treats provided by our hosts. We also enjoy the music of a jazzy/bluesy local band. (You can preview their work at

Some guests bring wine or beer, some bring dessert. Which brings me to the second reason. This year I dredged up a decades-old recipe for a confection that turned out to be the hit of the dessert table. These crunchy-sweet nuggets are easy to make, store well, and make a great hostess gift. Use the largest, freshest pecans you can find.

PRALINE NUGGETS (from Gourmet Magazine?)

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, whisked or sieved to remove lumps

2 tablespoons ground pecans
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon
bourbon or dark rum
1 large egg white, at room temperature
Pinch of
cream of tartar

Pinch of salt
2 cups pecan halves

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Butter two large baking sheets. In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, ground pecans, and cornstarch. Add the bourbon and whisk the mixture until well blended.

In another bowl, beat the egg white with the cream of tartar and
salt until it holds stiff peaks. Stir one-third into the sugar mixture and fold in the remaining whites. (The mixture will become more liquid.) Add the pecan halves, stirring to coat them well. Arrange them individually, rounded side up, two inches apart on the baking sheets. (You will have batter left over.) Bake for 12 minutes or until they are puffed and golden brown. (It sometimes takes longer.)

Let the nuggets cool on the sheets for one minute. Transfer them to racks and let them cool completely. The nuggets will keep in airtight containers for five days. Makes about 100 nuggets.