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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Torches on the Hudson for Sunday Brunch!

What is a more fitting way to spend a Sunday (late morning into early afternoon) then with one's lady friends, river side and enjoying a classic brunch buffet?  It was a lovely experience and Torches on the Hudson has set the bar. We watched many visitors begin a day of Hudson Valley tourism with brunch and then set off on one of the river cruises, but it was also a great way for local friends, families or even those on a date, to get together and share a meal.

Brunch cocktails are not available until noon, so if that is a priority either plan accordingly or be patient.  Here are the Bellini, Bloody Mary and Mimosa.

I enjoyed the peach and champagne cocktail that is a Bellini.

The buffet also includes custom omelette's ordered via our server and/or Eggs Benedict.  Eggs Benedict are my favorite breakfast food - something about the lush feeling of a poached egg smothered in a well made Hollandaise that makes me happy. I have the egg with Canadian bacon or ham and over either a toasted English muffin or my absolute favorite is a slice of fresh, seasonal tomato.  I am almost giddy with food anticipation and brunch excitement.

We head to the buffet in shifts.  Some of the ladies stay at the table to both guard our bags and belongings (something our mothers taught us I suppose) and ward off the evil yellow jacket bees!

Mini-waffles are a popular item at the buffet and are served alongside bowls of sliced and fragrant strawberries as well as whipped cream.

Another beloved aspect of brunch is the availability of both breakfast and lunch menu items.  An antipasto platter is perfectly at home on the same serving table as a silver tray of scrambled eggs, baked pastries, and slices of quiche.

For those who prefer something with far less salt and exponentially greater nutritional value - a beautiful variety of fruit is nearby.

And of course, an assortment of cheeses...

My first plate (yes, that is the down side to a buffet - we tend to overeat) includes a few slices of salami, a single piece of ham, a portion of Chicken Marsala, a serving of the perfect texture and well seasoned breakfast potatoes with red peppers and onion, a small section of quiche and a few olives.  Salt heaven!

My second plate (I can tell you without shame because we are not making eye contact), includes a bit of Tilapia, fresh green beans, more of those heavenly spuds and from the carving station; a slice of roast turkey with gravy.  It just can't get any better than a waterfront brunch buffet with great friends and a Bellini, right?  

Maybe it can!  A dessert buffet is the cherry on the proverbial sundae or literal cupcake depending on your selection.

Bread Pudding

Yogurt Parfaits

A Tower of Treats

Sweets, sweets, everywhere!

Panna cotta with Blackberries and Cream 
 (Learn more about panna cotta by clicking here)

What did 5 women in their 30's - 50's talk about over brunch? Work, kids, the food, the bees, and the ladies from the Red Hat Society who were getting ready to board one of the river cruise boats.

Ok, about those bees...I was minding my own business and was stung on the back of the neck and then, the last precious sip I had saved of my delicious Bellini was ruined by a dive bombing yellow jacket who landed in the alcohol laced nectar I was thoroughly enjoying.  Hmmph.

The breakfast buffet at Torches on the Hudson would be great for catching up with friends or family and a great date for couples of all ages.  A great destination for being and feeling Fed Well.

Torches On The Hudson on Urbanspoon

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


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