Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread (and other assorted stories)

Well, it's been awhile since my last post, but I've not been idle. Let's see, I've been to Maine and back, I had an exquisite lunch at Vita in Basking Ridge, and enjoyed some fun and tasty pre-theatre dishes at Bar Breton in NYC. And, of course, I have a delicious recipe to share with you. Where to begin?

Let's start with the northeastern most state in the union: the Pine Tree state (or its advertising slogan "Vacationland"); yes, I'm talking about Maine. It was only a short trip a couple of weeks ago, but the weather was beautiful and there were still some nice foliage views to be had. We took a ride along Rt 15 through Penobscot and Orland to Castine, home to the US Maritime Academy and quaint New England architecture. No real food stories here as it was post-season and other than Dennett's Wharf, nothing was open. But a picturesque ride nonetheless.

We again enjoyed a terrific dinner at Red Sky in Southwest Harbor - see earlier post here. I love the warmth and personal attention you get here from the owners.

A lovely find for lodging has arrived in Belfast: the Belfast Bay Inn. Belfast is a charming little town about two hours north of Portland (and very close to our home in Stockton Springs), full of artsy-type shops, a very cool martini bar called 3 Tides, and a great vegetarian restaurant (Chase's Daily), but no decent lodging. Finally, someone has seen the light and opened a luxury all-suite boutique hotel on Main Street. That someone is Judy and Ed Hemmingsen, former owners of the award-winning Bluenose Inn in Bar Harbor. They took an historic building and transformed it into exceptional accommodations. If you find yourself in the Belfast area and want to wrap yourself in comfortable luxury for the night, please visit the Belfast Bay Inn. Now all we need in Belfast is a high-end restaurant, the likes of Primo in Rockland or Francine in Camden, and Belfast will become a destination for like-minded travelers.

In geographic order, New York City is next. We had a great time at a (way) off-Broadway play called "Penny Penniworth," an hysterical send-up of every Dickens story you've ever read. The play closed last weekend after an extended run but the cast is hopeful that another production company will pick it up soon. If it returns, don't miss it. Before the play, we had dinner at Bar Breton, a nice, little brasserie-style restaurant in Chelsea. Gallettes are the house specialty - buckwheat crepes with an assortment of savories. We had the special which was filled with short ribs - delicious. Entrees sampled included the hangar steak, and pan-seared cod - all very good.

Finally, making our way back to New Jersey in this culinary travelogue, I am thrilled to tell you about a fabulous lunch at Vita Restaurant in the Dolce Hotel in Basking Ridge. I had lunch "in the kitchen" of Vita, sitting up close and personal, to take in all the action of a delicious lunch presentation by Chef Paul Bogardus and his talented staff. We began with an appetizer of Warm Crab Cake with Roasted Corn, Porcini and Ricotta Fondue. This was followed by a main course of Mushroom and Plum Stuffed Roasted Pork Loin with Pancetta and Rosemary Grits and Pomegranate Glaze - doesn't
this sound like the perfect Fall dish? Dessert was (as they say) the pièce de résistance: the Art of Flambe with House-made Crepes - classic crepes suzette, cherries jubilee, and bananas foster - oui! Everything was just divine. If you find yourself in the Basking Ridge area, put Vita on your short list of must-visit restaurants.

And in preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I will leave you with a lovely little bread - perfect for a quick nosh with coffee before you get started on the day's cooking, or add some freshly whipped cream and serve it as part of your holiday dessert offerings. This Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread comes from one of my favorite food sites, Leite's Culinaria.
From the cookbook, Grand Central Baking, the batter goes through a number of whippings to incorporate the wet and dry ingredients, and it produces an extremely ethereal batter - when you look at it, it almost resembles a yeast dough (see picture).

Light in texture, not too sweet/not too tart, and like a bonus, the recipe makes two loaves. So you can pop one in the freezer to enjoy at a later date.

I'll be taking my frozen loaf with us to the islands where we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving on the beautiful, warm beaches of St John.

I doubt I will have time for another post before we leave, so I will wish you all now a very Happy Thanksgiving! May your table be full of happy friends, loving family, and good food.

Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread

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