Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two Toasts for Tom

By Maureen C. Petrosky

Each year we wine writers are asked what is the best wine for Thanksgiving. In short, my answer is usually a Beaujolais Cru or a Pinot Noir. Both wine types tend to be crowd pleasers and also marry well with the mélange of flavors in the traditional Thanksgiving spread. This year I’m excited to say our traditional Tom Turkey is taking on some new sidekicks. My sister-in-law and niece, both originally from Venezuela, always lend a little spice to our family soirees, but this year their extended family is joining us, turning the typical Petrosky affair into our first international feast! The addition of empanadas, arepas and Pabellón Criollo is sure to add pizazz to our mashed potatoes and peas.

We all know the first Thanksgiving was a clash of culture and cuisine resulting in one of the few non-secular holidays everyone in this country enjoys indulging in. Whether your table will be full of the usual suspects or you’re adding a new dish or friend to the mix, I think it’s only right we toast Tom for bringing us all to the table. This year we’ll be starting with an aperitif that suits the season and the celebration: Pomegranate Champagne.

Pomegranates are abundant this time of year, and not only does the addition of this ruby-colored fruit makes for a fabulous centerpiece, it also makes for a sensational sip. So, if you’re looking to tip off turkey day with something pretty and pretty delicious or to top off your food-induced coma with a sweeter sip, here are two ways to wow your guests this Thanksgiving.

Pomegranate Champagne
1 ounce PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
3 ounces Champagne
Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Add the PAMA to a champagne flute. Top off with the Champagne and add a couple of Pomegranate seeds for garnish.

If you’re looking for a sweeter sip, maybe something to go with that apple pie a la mode, try this instead:

PAMA and Champagne
3 ounces PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 ounce Champagne
Granulated sugar to rim the glass

Dip the rim of a chilled champagne flute into the sugar. Pour the PAMA in and top with the Champagne.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Festive Feasts and Family

By Brianne Harrison

As we’re fast approaching a holiday dedicated to feasting, it seems only fitting to mention Festive Feasts and Culinary Creations, a new exhibit at the Monmouth Museum that runs through January 3.

Festive Feasts is the museum’s annual holiday exhibition, and it features trees decorated by local garden clubs and the Friends of the Museum, stories and family-friendly activities, and their traditional, ever-expanding model railroad. The museum also has several holiday and food-related activities scheduled throughout the month. Activities include a festival of songs with Maureen McCrink on November 29; Chocolate Fairies with Don Magee—a chocolate tasting featuring bittersweet chocolate popcorn and fountain dipped chocolate pretzels on December 6; stories of festival feasts with Joan Jannerone on December 13; and Who Says You Can’t Play With Your Food? where participants learn to make crafts with food items, on December 20.

Holiday programs are held from 2-3:30 p.m. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $7 per person (children under 2 and Monmouth Museum members free). Visit for more information.

Don’t Miss…
The Thanksgiving Family Festival on November 27. Find buried treasure, uncover ancient stories, and learn to make pottery at the Newark Museum.

Annual Tree Lighting at Palmer Square on November 27. Enjoy music by Holiday Brass and the Princeton High School Choir as well as a reading of The Night Before Christmas before the 65-foot Norwegian spruce is lit by Santa Claus. Festivities will continue every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in December and on Christmas Eve.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Visions of Gingerbread

By Pat Tanner

Every year I have the same fantasy: that I will finally make a perfect gingerbread house. This never happens. I’ve come to the conclusion that what it takes are equal parts baking expertise, artistic flair, and engineering acumen. I come up short on at least two of these.

If you’re like me, don’t despair! I’ve found the perfect solution. And if you’re not like me, I encourage you to show off your skills while competing for some pretty nifty prizes. First, the solution.

At last summer’s Fancy Food Show I came across Virginia-based Gingerhaus Baking Kits, which even I cannot mess up. The genius is that you bake the pieces on a cardboard template – an armature, if you will - that includes tabs. You mix the dough (included in the kit and developed with the King Arthur Flour people), cut out the flat panels, flip them over, and bake. The kits include royal icing mix and decorations, and you apply them to the baked flat panels, and then assemble via the tabs. I’m partial to the deluxe house, which resembles a Bavarian town hall, but the smaller chalet is awfully cute. The big kit comes with panels for trees and gingerbread boys and girls as well. Decorations include peppermint sticks, peppermints, and candy hearts, but you can be creative and add your own. (That much should be doable, right?)

An all-natural version of the chalet kit is carried by the Whole Foods chain. Standard Gingerhaus kits are available at and, but the best price I could find for the full-sized house is at [$19.95]

Once you’ve made your house - whether using a kit or your own ingenuity – you can enter it into the 5th annual contest taking place this Saturday (Nov. 28) at Grounds for Sculpture, as part of their Lights On! celebration. There are four categories: child, family, adult, and visitor’s choice. The gingerbread house drop-off period is up to 3 p.m. that day and winners will be announced at 4:30. The judges are Grounds for Sculpture staff and yours truly. Prizes include free memberships to Grounds for Sculpture (GFS), gift certificates to the museum shop, tickets to upcoming concerts, and GFS t-shirts, calendars, and mugs. Grounds for Sculpture is located at 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton. To view the official rules and for more information about all the other activities surrounding the Lights On! celebration, which runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. that day, visit