Friday, January 22, 2010

Blueberry Blast

By Brianne Harrison

I’m a sucker for pancakes on the weekend, but I was having trouble finding a good “from scratch” recipe. Most of the cakes I ended up with went tough seconds after they came out of the pan, or they ended up too flat. I wanted a fluffy stack of pancakes that’d soak up a nice helping of maple syrup. And then, I found a recipe for good old fashioned pancakes and my search was officially over.

The pancakes in this recipe come out moist and fluffy every time, and they’re good for snacking on even hours after they’re cooked. This past weekend, I had a little fun with the master recipe and started playing with it. The results were particularly memorable.

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes
1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 T white sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch of cloves (optional)
1 c fresh or frozen blueberries
1 ¼ c milk
1 egg
3 T butter, melted

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon and cloves into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix thoroughly, until smooth. Stir in the blueberries.

Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Grease lightly if necessary. Scoop the batter onto the griddle or pan, using about ¼ cup for each pancake. Cook until browned on both sides (unlike most pancake recipes, these pancakes don’t start to bubble on top, so don’t wait for that or they’ll burn).

Cooked pancakes can be kept warm in a 200 degree oven. Serve plain or with a good-quality maple syrup.

Quick Tip: White whole wheat is a bit sweeter than regular whole wheat, which can be a little bitter. If you can’t find white whole wheat, you might want to make these with ¾ cup whole wheat flour and ¾ cup white flour, mixed.

Healthy Roundup:
Whole wheat flour is a rich source of B-vitamins, vitamin E, and protein. It also contains more trace minerals and dietary fiber than regular white flour.

Blueberries are high in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. In fact, they’re among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. Certain studies have also suggested that regularly eating blueberries may slow aging (specifically, age-related loss of mental capacity), and researchers at Rutgers University have identified compounds in blueberries that promote urinary tract health and reduce the risk of infection. There’s also some speculation that blueberries may raise your metabolism.

Cinnamon has been said to lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon is also a rich source of antioxidants; can stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and yeast; and has anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. Talk about a super spice!

Winterize Your Pet!

By Brianne Harrison

The weather outside may be frightful, but man’s best friend still needs to go out for a walk. As you wrap up in jacket, boots, scarf, and hat, consider doing a few things to keep your pet safe and warm in wintery conditions.

Apply Vaseline to your dog’s paws in icy conditions. It’ll act as a barrier between the paws and road salt. You should also make sure to buy salt that’s pet friendly. Most major pet stores carry it this time of year. If your dog’s paws are very sensitive, you might want to consider buying some booties. I’ve heard good things about PAWZ booties, which are just thick enough to protect those paws but thin enough that your dog can still feel the ground he’s walking on!

If there’s salt on the roads or sidewalks, gently clean it off your dog’s paws with a towel after your walks. Salt can be very irritating to dogs’ paws.

Considering a coat for your dog? Keep in mind that only breeds that have thin coats (like most small breeds) really need them. If your dog starts shivering in the chilly wind, he may need a coat or sweater. Make sure you get one that’s easy to put on and take off, but that isn’t so loose it gets in your dog’s way!

If the weather’s so bad you can only get out for the absolute essentials, make sure you give your dog some indoor exercise time. Push back the furniture to give yourselves some room and play a game of fetch (as long as nothing breakable’s around!) or tug-of-war. If you need other ideas on how to keep your dog occupied, see our pet expert’s article on Cabin Fever.

Stay warm!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Follow My Lead

By Judith Garfield

“Shall we dance?”

Well, that depends. First answer a few questions for me. Are you rhythmically challenged? Have you ever been accused of having two left feet? Do the words “Ouch, that’s my toe!” sound familiar? If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, then I have one more. “Mind if I lead?”

Lots of people go through life hiding during wedding receptions and parties because they feel they can’t dance. We sit at our table pretending to be enjoying watching all the other dancing couples, half dreading, half hoping that someone will ask us to dance. In my mind I am always thinking ahead to the actual dancing that will take place if someone does ask me and I say yes.

Talk or no talk. Contact or no contact. Can I trust this guy to watch out for the crazies on the dance floor? Will he even realize if am subtly taking the lead? Oh, the anxiety. If only men were able to check their macho-meter at the door, and let the better dancer lead. But soon, women might want to drive. Even vote. Who knows what kind of chaos would ensue?

Arthur Murray, the ballroom dancer and founder of the Arthur Murray Dance Studios, started a lot of trouble when he said “Don’t little lady blame your crushed toe on your partner. Maybe your back steps are too short. Get out of his way.” Hmph! Blame the follower. What if the leader is a total disaster? Ever been dipped by a dip?

S. is most accommodating and lets my inner Ginger gently guide his inner Fred. Some dancers are better followers. Some are better leaders. It has nothing to do with gender. S. has no issues with letting me lead and we really have fun when we trip the light fantastic.

If you want to improve your dance skills and feel more comfortable on the dance floor, ignore the chauvinism of Mr. Murray and find one of his studios for lessons. Dancing is exhilarating and a great way to exercise.

The next time you hit the dance floor, try to relax and have fun. They say you should dance like nobody is watching. But please, watch where you’re dancing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can You Be Bought?

By Maureen C. Petrosky

At 61, my dad is back in law school and his very first course is Ethics. First—props, dad, that is super cool. Second, I found it fitting that Ethics was on the agenda. It’s something most of us need to re-visit once in a while, and most recently I’ve been questioning the ethics of wine writing.

There are lots of perks to this job. Wine samples, press lunches, dinners, and yes, press trips. To you this may sound like free wine, free food, and free travel, but ask my husband and he’ll tell you how annoying the notepad is while we’re having dinner, and don’t even get him started on press trips. At the beginning of my career he thought I was just gallivanting across the globe, until he decided to tag along on one of these trips. He quickly saw how intense the travel is, often on and off planes a couple of times in one day, treacherous road trips that would have even a steel gut rumbling, and the endless meetings that often begin at 7 a.m. and don’t have you in bed until well after 2 a.m. In between, we’re documenting our research, keeping our endless tasting notes organized, and coming up with creative ways to teach you about what we’re doing. While the experiences are amazing, at the end of the day it is still a job.

Recently, I was invited on a press trip BUT…I was asked to guarantee the placement of an article about the company before joining the trip? HUH? Who can write about something they haven’t yet experienced? I know it is super hard in our ever-tightening economy to turn down work, but is it really worth the money if it makes you feel so cheap?

Turn on the news. Look at Haiti. Every major network has reporters in place to give us first-hand accounts of what’s happening. They didn’t report on the earthquake before it happened. That’s not the job of a journalist. As a food and wine writer it’s our responsibility to share great finds, bargains, and the inside scoop on great places to visit with wine, and wine lists that rock. Most people laugh and say, “Tough job you’ve got”. That’s precisely why those who are so lucky to have it shouldn’t ruin it for the rest of us. The quickest way to lose your status as a journalist is to let yourself be bought.

Remember quid pro quo is unethical and if you don’t get that Google it, and while you’re at it, search Karma too.

Here is a great wine and they didn’t pay me a dime to mention them. They deserve it.
Thelema, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, $40
The first sip is impressive like a strong handshake, and followed up by an alluring nose of tobacco and ripe blackberries. This wine is smooth, stylish, and will age gracefully.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oenophile’s Weekend

By Brianne Harrison

January’s the month winter blues tend to set in—the weather’s lousy, and there aren’t many big holidays to look forward to (unless you count Valentine’s Day). But I’ve found that one thing that helps chase away the winter blahs is a nice glass of wine, and New Jersey’s vineyards and wine shops are ready to provide it this weekend.

The folks at Natali Vineyards in Cape May Courthouse have planned a Kick the Winter Blues Festival this Saturday. Appropriately, entertainment will be provided by blues legend Frank Bey. There will also be local crafts and food specialties available to sample or buy and, of course, wine tastings. For more information, visit

Also getting into the swing of things is Heritage Vinearyds, which is hosting Rhythm, Reds & Whites—a Special Wine and Jazz Event Saturday and Sunday. Check out their wines, paired with hot hors d’oeuvres, cheeses, and desserts, while listening to the music of a jazz trio.

CoolVines will be holding a Many Faces of Riesling tasting at both their Princeton and their Westfield locations on Saturday. Learn about where Riesling comes from, why it’s wonderful, and what foods pair perfectly with it. Visit for more information.

Amalthea Cellars will have its 2007 New Release Celebration Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Try the new wines and enjoy special barrel tastings and complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

Heat up the Winter at Four Sisters Winery Saturday and Sunday. Complimentary wine tastings, cellar tours, and desserts will help chase away the chill!

Father John Morley of Seton Hall University will lead a Blessing of the Vineyards at Laurita Winery on Saturday. The ceremony will be followed by wine and feasting, as it should be.

Monday, January 18, 2010

America’s First Black Top Chef

By Pat Tanner

Today we take for granted that America’s most acclaimed restaurant chefs come in all colors. Yet it wasn’t that many decades ago that chefs of color, no matter how talented, worked in obscurity. The first one to break through, at least in recent memory, was Patrick Clark, who won a James Beard Award in 1995, just three years before his untimely death at the age of 42.

A few years ago I came across another aspect of the African-American culinary experience: the legions of dining car chefs and attendants, mostly black, employed by the Pullman Company to service its luxury trains from the late 19th century to well into the 20th. Among them was Rufus Estes, who was born a slave in Tennessee 1857. He worked his way up from Pullman porter to spend much of his working life as a chef handling special parties in private cars. At a time when most fine restaurants would not hire a black chef, Estes cooked for Presidents Cleveland and Harrison, the Polish pianist Paderewski, and the African explorer Stanley, as well as European royalty.

We know this and a bit more because Estes went on to write the first cookbook by an African-American chef. The book’s elegant recipes provide a fascinating glimpse into the life of dining car chefs, who in the Estes’ days used wood and coal stoves for heat and blocks of ice for refrigeration. Many recipes are startlingly contemporary, such as an omelet made with squash blossoms and turkey stuffed with black truffles.

The recipe below, reprinted almost exactly as it appears in “Good Things to Eat,” is for a refined but easy to make citrus salad with blue cheese dressing. Although Estes’ recipes don’t include modern amenities such as a separate list of ingredients or the number of servings, home cooks will have no trouble replicating this one. Of course, few people these days bother to peel grapes. (Just cut seedless green grapes in half and call it a day.)

“Rufus Estes’ Good Things to Eat” (Dover Publications 2004; first issued by Rufus Estes in 1911)

Cut one grapefruit and two oranges in sections and free from seeds and membrane. Skin and seed one cup white grapes and cut one-third cup pecan nutmeats in small pieces. Mix ingredients, arrange on a bed of romaine and pour over the following dressing: [In advance] mix four tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon grape juice, one tablespoon grape vinegar, one-fourth teaspoon paprika, one-eighth teaspoon pepper and one tablespoon finely chopped Roquefort cheese. This dressing should stand in the icebox four or five hours to become seasoned.

*Image courtesy of