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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bocca Coal Fired Bistro - Margate, NJ

Bocca means mouth.  Naming a restaurant "Mouth" in another language makes it sound exotic, but imagine if the owners used the English word?

We went to Bocca Coal Fired Bistro on a rainy night during our beach vacation.  I had made a reservation earlier and was quite thankful they were able to accommodate us.  It was a bit crowded and hectic.

I settled down with a smooth and perfectly made Cosmopolitan.

The Mr. loves a good crock of French Onion soup and this is how Bocca does it:
 
We have never seen nor tasted soup with deep fried onions as the top layer.  It was dramatic and the taste was ok, but, we (well the Mr. especially) are a bit traditional when it comes to our favorite food and drink.
 
Mommy had a Caesar salad that still was not as good as my sister's.

A cup of the chicken taco soup was warming in both temperature and flavor.  The typical seasonings one would expect in a taco, particularly cumin, were present in this fun cup of culinary sunshine.  I could thoroughly appreciate the creative touch in this dish.

Our mother's both ordered the personal pizza which turned out to be maybe 3 millimeters smaller than a regular pizza and 1 could have easily been shared.


Can't say we weren't happy to take almost a whole pizza home to enjoy as lunch left-overs.  It was a well made and delicious pie.

Chicken and Crab Limon
 
The Mr. is always quite proud of himself when he orders something new and acts as though he is doing it for me.  I love that he never quite goes out of a certain food circle. Chicken is almost always a safe bet though he does eat other meats at home (the one we never buy or prepare is veal) and is in fact a hunter willing to try many game meats and fowl.
 
 
For me, the crab ravioli.  I love the sauce, the pasta dough is just the right texture and firmness, the filling is identifiably crab.  Very nice plate.

 
 
The atmosphere at Bocca did not scream vacation restaurant.  I think the crowd was a comfortable mix of travellers and locals or at least regulars.  We were well taken care of, the food was plentiful and my drink was fabulous.
 
We talk about the rest of our planned adventures while at the shore and decide what we will do and see over the next few days.  A family of Fed Well tourists leave feeling full and fulfilled. 
 
Bocca Coal Fired Bistro on Urbanspoon


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ventnor Coffee Shop

Coffee

Do most people remember their first cup of coffee?  I'm not sure I remember the very first one, but I remember trying to have some the night my father died.  I ended up adding so much sugar and milk that I joked with a family friend that I may as well not even pretend to drink coffee at all.

Years later I discovered flavored creamer which helped and then one of the popular coffee chains sold flavored coffee.  I'd found my java though I was still a tea gal at heart.  Now, weekends, holidays and special occasions (although to be honest, I seem to be buying it more frequently right now) I will indulge and buy myself a French Vanilla coffee with a bit of cream.  I mostly prefer just a hot coffee, but may go for a latte or ice.  

However, I really like a small town coffee house.  Something about the atmosphere and while on vacation, Ventnor Coffee did not disappoint.


On the outside, the entry way appears fairly standard for a coffee house.  Once inside I noticed the opening was once a garage door and the tracks are still suspended from the ceiling along with what appears to be a working door.  Perhaps that is how they close for the season?

Bicycles and pirate ships were parked outside.


The decorating theme is simply to be related to coffees, teas and sweets.  The whole "Keep calm and (whatever related activity saying inserted here)" signs are getting old and tired, but I smiled when I read the "Eat a cupcake then eat another" sign.  It felt like the hipster version of "Cheers."



I dropped by one weekday afternoon and the stage area seemed either prepped for the evening or not yet broken down from the previous night.  I imagine some super cool jazz or alternative rock being played by either young hopefuls or seasoned folks who just play for their own enjoyment.


Casual seating varies throughout the space from easy chairs to sofas as well as traditional tables with wooden chairs.  Customers can be found reading (material printed on paper - like newspapers and magazines) or browsing through various electronic devices.

I look through the long lists of drink choices, sweets and treats but stick with what I know I like; a medium hot french vanilla with cream and no sugar.  I wait to sip and leave with the Mr. to start another adventure on our vacation.  

We enjoy our time at Ventnor Coffee and head back to our rental house.  Life is good, "down at the shore," and we soak it all in while feeling Fed Well.



Ventnor Coffee on Urbanspoon





Monday, September 15, 2014

The Continental - Atlantic City, NJ

Bags packed, car loaded, GPS set for the vacation rental and we (Mommy and me) are off.  We will be meeting the Mr., his mother and our yellow lab, Maddy, but first a stop off in Atlantic City.
 
Something about the frenzy and promise of listening to the electronic dings, bells and beeps as you walk through a casino floor.  People are both excited and disgusted as they sit in front of quiet machines.  Are they plotting how they will explain their losses or dreaming of ways to spend the days winnings?  What about those at the tables?  Are they losing their monthly mortgage or winning back the money they lost from their last visit?
 
We are ready for a bit of lunch and stroll out from Caesar's to the shops and this is the view of the beach:

It's just classic to me.  Timeless. 
 
The beach is where my soul wants to go to heal and refresh.  It is the place I imagine to be when people joke about going to their "happy place."  It is calming and soothing though I can get anxious if the water is too rough or intimidating. 
 
Ah, but I must pull my mind back and think about the mid-day meal.  We stop at The Continental.  It seems fun and has a bit of an old-school wink in appearance and feel.
 
The menu includes head shot photos of the staff.  Kinda cool.  By the way, the staff were all very nice and attentive without hovering.  I like to be seated promptly when possible, usually prefer time between ordering a drink and ordering the meal (I may sometimes be under a time constraint, but I will identify that rather than be impatient) and to receive the correct order.  I like to be "checked on" once during the meal and overall not feel like I am an inconvenience.  Pretty average standards.
 
Time to order and I opt for something a bit unusual for me and light.
 
Grilled Thai Chicken Skewers
with Jasmine rice and peanut sauce.
 
Delicious.  The chicken has a nice bit of charred crust but the meat is moist and flavorful.  I especially enjoy mixing the rice with a bit of the peanut sauce. 
 
For Mommy:

 
A classic turkey club served with fresh fruit.
 
Wow.  No fries for either of us! It is our lucky day.
 
 
A short time later, I stood by the ocean.
It is a dream come true. 

"I am at the beach." 

I just want to skip or twirl or something to show the universe that I am happy and exactly where I am supposed to be.

Being able to share this vacation with a portion of my family and looking forward to a week's worth of fabulous meals are all I need to feel Fed Well.


The Continental on Urbanspoon


 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On the Boardwalk

What is a New Jersey shore vacation without an evening trip to a boardwalk?  If you stay in a town that does not have an active boardwalk nightlife, you are not likely far from one that does and it really is mandatory.

This past summer we went for a week with both of our mothers and stayed in a town not far from Atlantic City.  We visited the nearby boardwalk in Ocean City.  As a side note, the Mr.'s mother has 84 years of life experience and loves being near the beach.  When asked if she felt up to a walk on the boardwalk, her answer was an absolutely, unequivocally, enthusiastic, "Yes."

Something too about that magical light at dusk on the beach...
 
Can you hear each of the sounds? Gulls calling out, the waves, shrieks and laughter of children, the flapping of kites and the rhythmic beat of stroller or walker wheels as they pass over the individual boards can all be heard.
 

The boardwalk truly is one of those places that has something for kids of all ages.  A simple stroll, people watching, games, mini-golf...

 
and yes, most importantly - FOOD.


I was on a hunt for one of my favorites - chocolate covered strawberries.  I found a candy shop that simply smelled like sugar as soon as the door was opened.  It was like Willy Wonka's gift shop.  If you could think of it, they probably sold it and everyone wanted one!  Hard candies, flavors of fudge, taffy by the ton, dipped fruits and confections of every variety were on shelves, behind glass cases and being sold quicker than the next customer decide what to order.

The front window had this animated display that was perfect for catching the eyes of passers-by.  The doll would lift herself up on the bar, then fall to the front and somersault through before rising again to repeat her act.  Mesmerizing. 
 
After I bought my sweets (which I kept wrapped for another time), everyone began to act on their cravings.  The Mr. sought out then consumed the perfect slice of Sicilian style pizza.  I found a one stop stand that sold hand cut french fries (by what seemed like the pound) and included a nifty separate carrier for ketchup as well as...



Fried Dough and


freshly squeezed lemonade!
 
A heavenly snack filled night was had by all.  We shared our treats and treasures, alternating between sitting on a bench and strolling along and I had a bit of everything.  The pizza was fair, the fried dough and french fries were amazing with epic size portions and I saved the strawberries until we were home, but they were plump, juicy berries bathed separately in milk and dark chocolate.  Heaven must have a boardwalk and fair-type foods.   
 
Together, near the Atlantic, we were Fed Well.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Maynard's and Lucy the Elephant

What is a vacation without a visit to the local attractions?  And yes, if you can take a vacation someplace, it is quite likely that they have their own tourist attraction. Margate, New Jersey has Lucy the Elephant.  Lucy stands 6 stories high and visitors can have guided tours which includes a video about her history, the ability to peer out of all her windows and a climb to the top.



Here's what Lucy sees through her eye portals...a perfect view of the Atlantic Ocean!



Inside Lucy are a number of works of art, a bit more about her history and in this photo board, a photograph of Mr. Rogers.


The view while standing in the howdah (the boxed carriage on Lucy's back):


The Front


The Rear

The spiral stairs may require a bit of negotiation as far as foot placement, but I found the glass skylight structure that was part of the howdah's floor to be a bit intimidating.  I avoided walking across the glass and was surprised at my level of concern that it may break though other guests and our guide, Harry, seemed to have no hesitation.

The 30 minute tour concludes with an opportunity to visit the gift shop.

My mother-in-law had found a coupon for a nearby restaurant that offered a Thursday night prime rib special (in their dining room only) so we set the GPS and were off. Nearby is an understatement as the restaurant was just a few blocks from Lucy. I was sent to scout out the seating before allowing the 84 year old matriarch and her walker out of the car. I peeked in and saw pool tables, game tables, a large bar and just a few tables around the perimeter of the large space.  I returned to the car with a thumbs down.  Upon further investigation, we realized the outside cafe dining was the same restaurant and we decided to give Maynard's a try.  However, they would not honor the prime rib special at the outdoor tables.

We had a lovely server who seemed to feel bad about the special (it must happen often) but was very helpful answering our questions, making sure we had drinks and overall took great care of us.

I tried something new to start; the Atlantic City Chowder, which was a combination of Manhattan and New England.  I thought it could be a colossal failure, but I would never know unless I tried.



It was fine.  Chunks of potatoes and clams in an orangey broth that was mild in flavor. If I were blindfolded I would never have thought it was a blend of 2 chowders, but yet, it really didn't have any defining taste of its own.


The Mr. and his mother each tried the Manhattan Clam Chowder and were happy with their choice.


Mommy had the Caesar salad and when asked how it was, she felt my sister makes a better salad and dressing.  For some reason, I could not resist the croutons though and asked if I could take one from the plate.  Even funnier, my mother-in-law followed suit.  You just haven't lived I guess until people pick toasted bread squares from your salad plate.

A peek at our main courses:


Chicken Saltimboca

The menu description of the Chicken Saltimboca is, "sauteed chicken with prosciutto, spinach and mozzarella in a white wine sauce served with a baked potato and jersey asparagus."  On point for description matching the dish.  Mommy seemed happy.

Fish and Chips for the Mr.'s Mom


The Mr.'s mom sent her dish back because it was not hot.  Whether the food was re-dunked in hot oil or how it happened really doesn't matter, but it seemed more to her liking the second time.

While we were eating, live entertainment was provided in the form of a young man playing a guitar and singing.  He was pleasant and accepted requests (we joked about yelling out, "Freebird") but when I asked if he could play, "Under the Boardwalk," he could not.  Shouldn't that be a mandatory song for anyone who plays within 20 miles of a beach?  Oh well.  He was talented and pleasant.

Absolutely Crabby

I had the "Absolutely Crabby," and I'm sorry to say, the dish was barely warm.  I felt bad sending it back when my mother-in-law had already had to have hers reheated.  The cheese was barely stringy when pulled out of the sauce with the fork.  The crabmeat was good and the pasta was nicely al dente.

Somehow, when preparing this post I realized I had no picture of the Mr.'s soft shell crab (his absolute shore favorite).  He was happy and had no complaints about the dishes temperature.

After our meal we were able to simply cross the street and enjoy a beautiful sunset across the bay.


We were lucky enough to come across a lovely group of strangers who were willing to take a group picture of us in front of the sunset.  Happy and thankful for Lucy, a meal together, a beautiful ending of a great night on a family vacation, we leave feeling Fed Well.

Maynard's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 5, 2014

Return to Wildfire Grill in Montgomery

"Let's get together."

People say it every day, life gets in the way and before you know it weeks or months have passed before you actually live out the promise of getting together.  One or the other person will eventually reach out with a plan.  It may look like this:

"Hey, want to rent paddle boats Saturday at Winding Hills Park?"

Ok. The first step is taken and the rest will fall into place.  We went on a double date with another couple and while we were paddling away in the middle of the lake, we thought about dinner plans and I suggested the Wildfire Grill in Montgomery.

I went not that long ago with the Mr. (click here to read my Hudson Valley Restaurant Week review) and we were happy so I felt comfortable returning with friends.

Funny, I clearly remember the bourbon bacon cocktail I had the last time I visited and was happy to see a specialty drink listed among the evening's blackboard specials.  This time, a Tamarind Margarita and since I had no idea what that could possibly taste like, the waiter was kind enough to bring a small sip to sample.  Sold.



Our waiter seemed familiar and it took a bit of working it out before the Mr. and I realized he once worked with our younger son at one of the steakhouse chains.  Hugs and smiles abound.

Time to order...to start we have a "pizza" with fig spread, goat cheese, arugula and sliced pears.  I know the Mr. was skeptical, but he at least made an effort and tried a piece.  I loved it.  The crust was super thin, the fig spread was just sweet enough and the arugula peppery bite balanced everything out.  Spectacular!



Our second shared appetizer is more traditional (old school) and I cannot resist...fried calamari.  In case you may not know, I have a little addiction - to fried foods! These morsels were crispy, golden, and made my taste buds smile.



Quite a different flavor from the fig pizza!

Looking around at the decor, eclectic is certainly a word that comes to mind..,.




We talk about children and families - our own and our point of view on those of the world.  How much does each generation change? For the better or for worse?  Do people spend more or less time together? Has the overall family dynamic changed vastly due to divorce and blended families? Heavy topics for a double date?

Well, we also spent a few minutes on Bethel Woods; the museum, the concerts and the overall venue. 

Soon, our main courses arrive.  How funny that 3 of the orders are the evening's chicken special: Chicken Oscar.  The dish is chicken topped with lump crab meat and Hollandaise Sauce.  2/3 asked for no sauce.  The spinach was velvety, the mashed potatoes had a hint of garlic and the chicken/crab combo was tender.

I opted for the crabmeat ravioli with toasted garlic bread.  I cleaned my plate with the exception of one ravioli I shared with the Mr. Yes, I soaked up any remaining sauce with the bread and no, I'm not ashamed.  I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.  The pasta was perfectly al dente and the filling had a nice mouth feel - not pureed mush.



Our glasses were kept filled both with water and from the bar.  I enjoyed my Tamarind Margarita and our entire dining experience at the Wildfire Grill.  Double dating is fun, especially with a couple that has known you since the start of married life.  We are lucky and Fed Well.


Wildfire Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Harry's Oyster Bar - Atlantic City Boardwalk

Just the names of some places evoke images we cannot control. Paris = Eiffel Tower, New York City may be the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building and for Atlantic City we think of gambling and casinos, right? For me, it is really a combination of casinos, boardwalk, the ocean and yes, shopping.  It is so unfortunate that recent news about AC includes the closing of multi-million dollar casinos and regardless of the fault or where you stand on the issue of gambling, the impact will be sizable.

This past summer I was lucky to go on a week long vacation with the Mr. and our mothers.  We stayed in a small beach town just south of Atlantic City.  The location was perfect and allowed us easy access to AC while staying in a nearby shore area.

One day, the Mr. and I took my Mommy out for a little morning one-armed bandit wrestling which worked up our appetites before we hit the outlet stores.  We strolled a bit and came upon Harry's Oyster Bar and I fell in love with the outdoor seating.  I knew I wasn't quite close enough to hear the roar of the waves, smell the salt or feel the sea spray, but I was nearby enough to soak in the atmosphere that was clearly saturated with beach vibes.

 
The generous sized umbrellas allowed guests to enjoy their dining al fresco without feeling the sun's wicked summer scorch.
 
 
The restaurant only opens at noon and we are in our seats by 12:05 as the other tables begin to fill up quickly.  Staff are wearing sunglasses and the guests range from tourists like us to what appear to be local business folks.
 
I begin with..yes, New England Clam Chowder.  I know, I know, but just as I would eat cold fruit in the winter, I am perfectly happy with soup in the summer.
 
 
No, my camera did not need adjusting, the soup did have a pale greenish cast.  Could have been the ton of celery or the fresh bay leaf - either way it was pretty good soup.
 
The lunch menu was straightforward and as other's received their food, I felt like a cartoon character lifted into a horizontal position and trailing behind the most heavenly of lunchtime food aroma's - the after scent of fried food, more specifically french fries!
 
(photo source unknown)
 
Before you know it, our food arrives and I forget that none of us won $10,000 in the casino. 

The Mr.'s grilled chicken wrap
 
Mommy's classic cheeseburger
 

My lobster roll
 
I almost never eat the roll the lobster roll is served in.  Mostly because I simply enjoy the flavor of the lobster salad, but also if I am going to eat those preciously deep fried and perfectly salted potatoes, I think that is enough carbs for one sitting.  Also, I never really understood the shiny coating of butter and grilling of the roll, but that's just my taste.
 
 
Harry's Oyster Bar provided us with a great and simple lunch.  We were ready to face an afternoon of outlet shopping (despite the Mr. feeling I had revoked his man card) and were certainly feeling Fed Well.



Harry's Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon