brunch on a Saturday-deluxe blueberry buttermilk pancakes with ricotta and berry cassis compote

One of my favorite breakfasts out ever:  the Donkey Diner in Coral Bay on St. John.  A funky little place where you can eat in at cute little booths or out on picnic tables in the shady "back yard" while hens, chicks, roosters, goats, calves and donkeys stop by as they work their way down the dry creek bed looking for food.  The boys devoured the Donkey Mess (eggs, peppers, onions, sausage and etc atop hash browns) with $2 Shafer beers which pretty much defines paradise in guy world.  Really wanted to order the hash special with coffee-rubbed brisket, barbecue sauce, hash browns and eggs.  However, you might remember that I don't really like eggs and I've never had barbecue sauce or brisket at 9 a.m. and didn't think the first time should be followed by a day of snorkeling!

It's not hard to love breakfast in paradise, but truly if you take away the spectacular settings most of them aren't terribly remarkable in food quality or abundance.  Some memorable ones:  Jaco in Costa Rica, Casa Magna Marriott in Puerto Vallarta  and the the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Casino.

Let's review last one first:  Greg and I were lucky enough to take three February trips to Puerto Vallarta when the girls were younger.  Love going away in February.  So luxurious to bask in the sun, read uninterrupted and drink fluffy drinks at whatever time of day.  Greg only needs coffee for breakfast, but I am not very pleasant without the most important meal of the day.  So I'd drag him to the open air restaurant by the pool and I'd enjoy my very overpriced continental Marriott breakfast of tropical fruit, those dry Mexican pastries and cereal.  The outstanding memory of breakfasts at the Casa Magna?  The roaming peacocks.  Those birds are majestic and feisty.  Breakfast is usually too early for the iguanas.  The sidewalks and rooftops are not warm enough yet, but beware of the quiet reptiles, they sneak up on you and are a little creepy.

Middle one:  Jaco in Costa Rica.  I do all the research from books and online and plan a fabulous trips.  Costa Rica was an awesome one.  One of the little details from Fodor's, breakfast at a little place in Jaco about a 10-minute cab ride from the Marriott Los Suenos Resort on the Pacific Ocean.  One of the rare days we did not have an excursion I still get the family up early so we can grab a cab and have the famous banana pancakes in town.  Kelly, Sara and I all order the banana pancakes and wait not so patiently for them, but we're sure they are amazing and worth all the trouble so it's fine.  Uh-huh, right until they serve them and they are a stack of plain pancakes with a peeled banana sitting on top.  No one will ever let me live that one down.   Not banana pancakes, but pancakes with bananas.  

Most recent one:  St. Kitt's Marriott Resort and Casino.  Usually we just packed those fun little cereal boxes and bought milk in the gift shop to keep in our mini bar for breakfast in the room.  But this Marriott had a little lobby shop right outside the breakfast buffet restaurant and I'd get the milk, fruit and some pastries and then after a few days realized the girls were passing by the buffet and grabbing cereal (without me signing for it) because truly the way it sat there at the cereal station it looked kind of like they were giving it away.  Yikes.  I think we only stole cereal three or four days.  The Marriott can afford it.  Greg stays in Marriotts over 75 nights every year.  Now we usually have concierge breakfasts, but back in the day when it was on us well, sometimes it was on them.  I think Greg's loyalty is worth the 6 or 8 little boxes of cereal.

So today while Kelly's home and Greg's off golfing in Florida we decide on brunch.  I had amazing blueberry ricotta pancakes at the Donkey Diner.  So after yoga I grab a few things at Meijer and look for a good recipe.  I don't quite read all the way through a Bobby Flay recipe for them because his recipes are so damn long with so many ingredients I am sure to shortcut and adapt it anyway.  So I measure out my dry ingredients.  Whisk together my wet ingredients and even whip up egg whites by hand to fold in (really a great idea, but only if you have lots of time) and look over the recipe to see just where the cup of ricotta cheese is added in.  Well, turns out it's one of the four toppings he offers up only this one does not have it's own little section in the ingredients list.  So tricky.  This is where I start to feel about as brilliant as I did on the great banana pancakes adventure in Costa Rica.   It was kind of a nice little topping mixed with a little milk and lemon juice, however.  I served our pancakes with a berry compote too and threw in the Cassis because that's just so delicious.  Along side I served the amazing veggie patties I had in St. John.  Yep, nothing special there because they were just Morningstar "sausage" veggie patties.  I'd never had them and they are really tasty.  Kind of hot and spicy and meaty for a textured soy product.  

Maybe you'll have a little time for a nice breakfast or brunch with Spring Break, Easter Weekend or Mother's Day.  Make some deluxe pancakes.  I make mine with butter on the griddle pan and don't serve extra butter, but feel free.  I don't really like maple syrup, so I'm big on the warm fruit compote.  Powdered sugar makes everything better.  And if you get ahead of your crowd, warm up your oven to 180 degrees or so and just keep your pancakes warm until they are ready.

Deluxe Blueberry-Buttermilk Pancakes

1 1/2 C flour (I like white whole wheat or part whole wheat and part all-purpose)
3 T sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/3 C buttermilk
1 T lemon zest
1/8 tsp vanilla
pinch of cream of tartar
2 C blueberries
butter for griddle pan


1/2 C ricotta
juice of 1/2 lemon


2 C berries, fresh or frozen blueberries or mixed berries
1/4 C sugar
2 T creme de cassis

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients:  flour through salt.  In a separate bowl whisk together egg yolks (reserving egg whites), oil, buttermilk, zest and vanilla.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet mixture.  Stir just to combine.  In your mixer bowl (or if you want to give your forearm a good workout, whisk in a medium bowl by hand) beat egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Fold beaten whites into batter mixture.  Let rest 15 minutes.

While batter is resting, make ricotta topping if desired blending ricotta cheese with lemon juice.  Make compote by heating berries and sugar in a small non-stick pan to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in cassis.  Keep warm.

Heat griddle pan over medium heat until water dropped on surface dances.  Add a teaspoon or so of butter to the pan and swirl it around to coat pan.  Stir blueberries into batter.  Using a measuring cup (or if you are a neater pourer than me, your batter bowl) pour pancakes onto hot buttered pan.  When tops of pancakes bubble, carefully lift an edge to see if they are ready to flip.  Flip pancakes and cook just another minute or so.  Never walk away from pancakes to do something silly like set the table or pour juice or read the paper or whatever.  As soon as you do that, you will have burnt pancakes and that's a kitchen tragedy you can easily avoid.

Remove pancakes to a cookie sheet in a warm (180 degree oven) until all pancakes are made and ready to serve.  Serve hot with a dollop of ricotta (if desired), a generous ladle of warm compote and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

dry ingredients

wet ingredients

egg whites beaten by hand to soft peaks

folding in egg whites


ricotta topping

berry compote

pancakes on my buttered griddle pan


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