Making Mealtime Memories

By Susan Ungaro

Susan Ungaro

One of my favorite things about the holidays and the beginning of a New Year is the many opportunities to come together around the table with family and friends. Cooking some longtime favorites and trying out new recipes makes sharing a delicious meal a very special way to show the people we love our gratitude.

During my ten years working at the James Beard Foundation, I have sat at many tables and enjoyed many (many!) delicious meals with family and friends, old and new. Often, these dinners have been prepared by some of the finest, most talented chefs from around the country and around the world.

As you might guess, many of those memories were made at the James Beard House in New York City, and many were made at James Beard Award–winning restaurants around the country. Some of our favorites to visit when we travel around the country are the restaurants that have received our James Beard America’s Classic Award. These awards are given to restaurants that are locally owned and are beloved in their regions for quality food that reflects the character of its community. Many of these restaurants are informal and moderately priced, which make them even more accessible for visitors to a city or town—they’re the places you can stop in for breakfast, a snack, or an impromptu dinner with your family and friends.

This holiday season, many of us at the James Beard Foundation staff are giving our food-loving family and friends copies of our newest cookbook, James Beard’s All-American Eats: Recipes and Stories from Our Best-Loved Local Restaurants, and making dishes from it for our various holiday feasts, large and small.

I often hear our staff talking about their favorite dishes they’ve made from it—like these delicious blueberry-walnut pancakes from Al’s Breakfast in Minneapolis, which make for a comforting morning after a night of holiday entertaining!

As you sit by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa this winter, you’ll want to curl up with a cookbook like this. I’ll bet you’ll read it from cover to cover, poring over the profiles, photos, and information about great restaurants throughout the nation. Maybe you’ll even plan a food lover’s tour and visit some of these classic American restaurants in 2017!



Al’s Breakfast, Minneapolis, MN

The secret to these fluffy, ever-popular pancakes from JBF America’s Classics award winner Al’s Breakfast? A generous pour of buttermilk and a drizzle of melted butter in the batter. These are a great addition to your Sunday morning routine, and better yet, making them at home means you don’t have to stand out in the cold waiting in line at Al’s (it has only 14 seats)!

2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted,
plus extra for cooking and serving
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Maple syrup


In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and beaten egg. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the melted butter. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes, or overnight in the refrigerator.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a heavy skillet or griddle. When the butter is sizzling, pour about 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake onto the skillet, leaving space between the pancakes. (Depending on the size of your griddle, it’ll take 3 or 4 batches to make all the pancakes. Be sure to add more butter to the griddle between each batch.) Turn the heat to low and immediately place 5 or 6 frozen blueberries and 3 or 4 walnut pieces on each pancake. Cook until lightly brown, turning once with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve topped with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Get your copy of James Beard’s All-American Eats: Recipes and Stories from Our Best-Loved Local Restaurants (Rizzoli, 2016) at or wherever fine books are sold.

Making Mealtime Memories