The family, the time together, the beach and yes, the food. Something special is sprinkled into the meals on vacation - breakfast is a bit slower and later blending with lunch, the foods that need a few extra minutes of time which one simply doesn't have when they are rushing off to work are enjoyed. One of the first meals I shared with my son on vacation was a late breakfast, as we arrived too early to pick up our keys and decided eating was a wonderful and appropriate activity since we were both starving from leaving early with little food in our bellies.
I ordered the Eggs Florentine. A base of toasted English Muffin, topped with sliced tomatoes and sauteed spinach with a perfectly luscious poached egg. Crisp yet tender center breakfast potatoes on the side with a small slice of fresh, ripe and sweet watermelon made a fairly balanced plate.
I watched as a nearby table received a fruit plate and though I was relatively full, felt we could certainly share more of the sweet and succulent fruit. We did our best. The tender flesh of the melons yielded their juice with the slightest pressure and the berries though sweet were firm and burst on the tongue.
The next memorable meal was not photographed at a seafood restaurant, but the memories remain. A thick, creamy and hearty New England Clam Chowder, a Clams Casino appetizer with crisp bacon, a main course of soft shell crab and I worried I would not be able to fit into my bathing suit the following day. The tastes, the textures, the laughs and stories we shared at the table... but we were not all together yet. A party of 6, it would be two more days until my sister would arrive with her sons.
We cooked a traditional family Sunday dinner the next day. Though the menu was not beach related, we dined on ham, macaroni and cheese, tossed salad, fresh corn on the cob and sat together around the large dining room table in our rented vacation house. Fed Well with food and life.
On the afternoon my sister arrived, we had a snack of fresh bruschetta made with her own garden tomatoes and basil over toasted Italian bread. Also for snacking were shrimp and a variety of chips and dips.
Later that day, we are all gathered and decide to try an Italian restaurant. The 9 of us have varied interests in all things, including the menu. The 2 young boys order quesadillas, 2 order the cannelloni stuffed with lobster and shrimp, 2 traditional veal parmesans, one chicken parmesan, a gyro pita, and I had the crab meat ravioli. Too full to order dessert, we walked it off later at the Wildwood Boardwalk.
In the rental agreement, we noticed the promise of a gas grill and subsequently planned to mix in some home cooking. Closer inspection of the grill revealed an empty propane tank and so the sirloin steaks my sister brought would have to instead by broiled. The meat was tender and flavorful accompanied by my version of red potatoes with green bell peppers and onion, other sides were pan fried mushrooms and onion with the final side of fresh from my sister's garden zucchini and squash.
Though my sister could not stay the entire week, we enjoyed eating the remaining fresh produce after admiring the colorful centerpiece.
Our final seafood dinner out was at Carmen's by the bay. We were able to watch boats come and go and feel the open bay breeze. It just so happened to be my birthday! Those of us who simply love seafood ordered the following meals and yes, we all offered the others a taste:
Designed as an appetizer, this full bowl of clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, lobster tail and crab claw were in a buttery bath seasoned with perhaps a bit too much Oregano, but simply luxurious nonetheless.
Carmen's Seafood Spaghetti was actually Angel Hair pasta smothered in a full bodied tomato sauce, with split lobster tail and a number of fresh mussels.
Ever popular, simple and satisfying, crab legs served with drawn butter. Lip smacking, finger licking joy from the sea.
The vacation continued and I made homemade sauce with meatballs, sausage and the leftover sirloin with my mother-in-law one night. We ordered delivery pizza which we jazzed up with our own bell peppers with onions or the left over sausage (or simply ate plain) and yes, we indulged in the time honored birthday cake. Mine was from Carvel with the chocolate crunchies separating chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and the blue icing which can stain anything. Of course I blew out the candles and made a wish... but that's a secret.