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Month: September 2009

The Best of Cape May 2009

Cyberspace drum roll please as we announce the 2009 winners of the 5th Annual Best of Cape May survey. Every year, winners of the Best of Cape May are determined by online voting. There were 58 categories and awards will be presented to 25 of the winners – many won awards in multiple categories. Voters cast their online picks for 26 days in August, and it was a record turnout for voters. It took us half a day to tally the results!

So now without further ado – the Winners, knowing that this is Cape May and there are no losers. We don’t allow them to cross the bridge. We sent them back to someplace else.

The Best Places to Stay

QueenVictoria
Best B&B The Queen Victoria

columbiahouse
Best Guest House The Columbia House

congresshall
Best Hotel Congress Hall

beachcomber
Best Campground Beachcomber

billmae
Best Pet-Friendly Accommodation Billmae Cottage

congresshall
Best Kid-Friendly Accommodation Congress Hall

The Best Customer Service

Washington Inn Exterior
Best restaurant customer service The Washington Inn

QueenVictoria
Best accommodation customer service The Queen Victoria

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Best store customer service The Whale’s Tale

QueenVictoria

Best overall customer service The Queen Victoria

The Best Shopping

caroline4
Best store for clothing
Caroline Boutique

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Best store for beach wear Dellas 5 & 10

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Best store for jewelry The Whale’s Tale

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Best store for bargains Dellas 5 & 10

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Best store for accessories Kaleidoscope

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Best gift store
The Whale’s Tale

fudgekitchen
Best  store for candy & fudge The Original Fudge Kitchen

The Best Dining

wawa
Best Coffee WaWa

louiespizza
Best Pizza Louie’s

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Best Hamburger The Ugly Mug

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Best Sandwich The Ugly Mug

Washington Inn Exterior
Best Fine dining The Washington Inn

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Best cheapest breakfast George’s Place

madbatter
Best brunch The Mad Batter

lobsterhouse
Best takeout The Lobster House

unclebills
Best kid-friendly restaurant Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

kohrbros
Best ice cream Kohr Bros.

Washington Inn Exterior
Best overall restaurant The Washington Inn

lobsterhouse
Best seafood The Lobster House

lobsterhouse
Best crabcakes The Lobster House

The Best Beaches

thecovebeach

Best beach for tanning Steger’s
Best beach for surfing The Cove
Best beach for families The Cove
Best place to escape the sun The arcade

The Best Activities

shopping
Best thing to do on a rainy day Shop

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Best theater company Cape May Stage

beachtheatre
Best movie theater The Beach Theater

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Best kid-friendly activity Miniature Golf

limabeanfestival
Best festival The Lima Bean Festival

capemaypoint
Best birding spot Cape May Point

lighthouse
Most interesting tourist spot The Lighthouse

cmngc
Best area golf course Cape May National Golf Club

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Best mini-golf course Ocean Putt on Jackson Street

Best watersports activity Parasail

The Best of Nightlife

brownroom
Best place for a cocktail The Brown Room at Congress Hall

boilerroom
Best music venue The Boiler Room at Congress Hall

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Best nighttime hangout Cabanas

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Best overall bar The Ugly Mug

The Best Around Town

washingtonstreemall
Best place to meet people Washington Street Mall

cviewinn
Most likely place to meet a local The C-View

QueenVictoria
Best Victorian building The Queen Victoria

macemlen
Most interesting architectural building The Emlen Physick Estate (MAC)
Best history tour Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts
Best ghost tour MAC’s Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour

whalewatcher
Best water/boat tour Cape May Whale Watcher

sunsetbeach
Best photo spot Sunset Beach

sunsetblvd
Best bicycle route Sunset Boulevard

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Best Cape May publication or website CapeMay.com / Cape May Magazine


A Rose By Any Other Name…

Rugosa rose

Rugosa rose

Cape May has wonderful sun and sea breezes that make most roses grow well. Hybrid teas are fussier than most roses and need a good deal of rotted manure and compost added to the soil. Other easy roses such as Knock Out also thrive at the ‘shore’ given just a bit of compost and light mulch. These are disease resistant and bloom from May to November. But the easiest to grow of all roses at the shore is the Rosa Ragusa. This one has grown all over Cape May for a good many years. Its fragrant blooms have given way to bright orange pods this time of the season. These can be planted now for a shrub in future years.

I like to grow all kinds of roses, but dislike using chemicals on them. Some of my roses grow beautifully. Others look a bit ragged when the heat and humidity begin. Actually, we sprinkle sulfur or copper on them before the hot summer weather sets in and they do pretty well. Hybrid teas are elegant, look like a rose, sometimes smell good, but are usually the fussiest of all roses to grow. These love to be watered well and fed often. Other carefree shrub roses bloom well and have healthy, glossy foliage. Many of the French and old-fashion roses are strong and vigorous and even bloom most of the season. They often look like peonies or cabbage roses. But, the roses that smell the best are the almost flat type blooms found on the Rugosa rose shrub. They are in both white and deep rose in my gardens and do well in sandy soil.

Lady in Red salvia is a good plant to grow near the rose as they like similar conditions

Lady in Red salvia is a good plant to grow near the rose as they like similar conditions

Rugosa hips or “sea tomatoes,” as they have been called in a past generation, were a standard fruit item. Today many people do not even know what they are but the hips, which are full of vitamin C, are still harvested for commercial uses, including for rose hip teas. I love their rose fragrance blooms that are edible raw or cooked, the glossy, handsome leaves can be used for tea.

This native of Asia does have many cultivars with varying growth habits, but the species shrub itself, with strongly upright growth habit to about six feet was first introduced in America, into New England, in the mid 1800s. They were soon grown in orchards that have gone wild and naturalized in coastal regions along with another native rose.

I love to have these colorful plants around the outside of my garden fence where I enjoy their fragrance all season. If there is any drawback to growing Rugosa, it is the intense spikiness of the limbs. But it makes a stunning protective hedge, or even anti-burglar shrub under windows. The dense, thorny upright limbs have a stark look in winter that has a certain type of beauty. If the hips are not harvested in autumn, they linger among the leafless branches long into winter until the birds find them.

Blue birds as well as many other birds make the fall rose hips a part  of their diet.

Blue birds as well as many other birds make the fall rose hips a part of their diet.

These plants require very little care to bloom and fruit well. I give mine a handful of 10–10–10 each spring because they are growing in sand. They want full sun, though they are tolerant of a little shade if need be. The plants in one of the corners of the herb garden actually get too much shade after years of being there, so we planted a few new ones along the back sunny border. The most care that needs to be done for their maximum beauty is an annual pruning, in late winter before spring growth begins. The oldest canes should be cut out of the shrub, right down to the ground.

Suckers are easily removed when still young. These can be potted and given away once they’re well rooted. An old wives’ tale says if suckers are picked soon enough as stubby shoots devoid of thorns, they can be cooked in soup. I am not so sure I would like this, but then who knows.

Sedum is another plant that will grow fine near the rugosa rose.

Sedum is another plant that will grow fine near the rugosa rose.

The fragrant blooms make fruit that begins green but soon turns a colorful orangey red. These fruits begin to ripen in August when the hips look like small orange tomatoes. They become soft and sweet enough to eat fresh off the branches in fall after a few frosts. The birds also enjoy them then. They’re seedy, however, and some may prefer to use them in jams and jellies, cooking and then sieving the seeds out. Some herbalist says that if the seeds are eaten, they do have a great deal of Vitamin E, to add to the Vitamin C content of the fruit’s flesh. In some areas along the coast sieved seeds were traditionally saved, dried, ground up, and mixed with flour to use in baked goods.

Rugosa rose

Rugosa rose

Rosa Rugosa is a hardy, low-maintenance, sturdy shrub adaptable to almost any soil condition except wet clay. It is nice to have because it produces beautiful very fragrant flowers all summer long, with re-bloom until the first hard frost when there are usually copious amounts of fruits. If you have a dry, sunny spot, this is the rose for you. There are many select cultivars available that heighten the plant’s natural beauty. Choose one and you will never regret it.

Email Lorraine at Lorraine@tripleoaks.com. Visit her in Cape May during the annual food and wine festival. She will have her book Best Garden Plants for New Jersey with her and be happy to sign a copy.


Striper Season

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editors-note
This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, Fall 2008.

Crisp west winds awake the Cape. Yes, fall is finally here! It’s the beginning of the season, for the most sought after fish – Striped Bass! Striped Bass or “Stripers” as the locals call them, is to New Jersey what Salmon is to Alaska. Stripers have made the biggest comeback of any fish species in modern history. In the late 70s and 80s the Stripers were on the endangered list. Before the 70s they were so abundant they were used for fertilizer. The comeback of these fish has created a spark in the local economy. It’s extended the boating season six to eight weeks. In fact, up to 60 percent of boaters and fishermen keep their boats in the water through “Striper season.”

The trickle down is that bait and tackle shops are loaded with customers each morning buying fresh bait and tackle. Local bars and restaurants are filled at Happy Hour with fishermen chatting about where the “bite” is. Wawa is packed to the gills every morning at 5:00 a.m. with people going Striper fishing.

off the hook b&t striper3There are two local tournaments for Stripers held in Cape May that draw anglers into town as well. Talk to one out of three locals and, I’ll bet you, they fish for stripers or know someone that does. You might say Stripers are a way of life in Cape May.

Stripers have a lot going for them. They are very good eating, can be caught close to shore, and are great fish to catch because of their great fight. The two most common ways to catch Stripers are chunking and drifting live baits. Chunking generally starts the second week of October. Look for these fish in areas like Sixty Foot Slough, Twenty Foot Slough, Brandywine Shoal and the Horseshoe where chunking boats will anchor up and fish four lines. The tackle used is a 36 inch/50 pound leader tied to a 5/0 hook with a fish finder rig with a 4-8 ounce weigh.

off the hook B & T striperFresh Bunker is the key. The fresher the Bunker, the more fish you will catch, period! Fresh Herring also works well. The baits are fished whole and cut into parts such as the head and body. If you want to catch trophy size Striper, chunking is the way to go!  Stripers range in weight – anywhere from 20 pounds to over 60 pounds!

The second most common method for catching Stripers is drifting live baits such as Eels, Spot fish and Croakers. The areas that are most common are known as “the rips,” an area where the bay and ocean meet around Cape May Point. In this area there are numerous shoals in which bait fish school up. Stripers feed on these bait fish. Baits are drifted over these shoals using 5/0 circle hooks with a 34” leader and 3-ounce drail weight. Fishing the rips is not for the faint hearted. It’s not uncommon to have 5-foot breaking waves moving over the shoals. Make sure you initially go out with someone who has fished the rips before.

Prissywick, Eph, Middle and Overfalls shoals are the most common areas when fishing the rips. Late November through December you can chase birds like “gannets” and gig bucktails with white or pink artificial worms. Stripers can also be caught off the beach on lumps and clam beds. The bait of choice is clam. This fishing usually starts late November until mid December. You can use the same tackle set up as you would drifting live baits over the rips.

off  the hook b&t striperYou do not need a boat to catch stripers. In fact the current IGFA world record of 77 pounds was caught on a jetty in New Jersey waters. When fishing from shore, use plugs and bucktails. At night, drift live eels without the drail weight. The jetties and beaches from the “gun mount” to the point are always productive, as the jetties around Cold Spring Inlet or the Cape May Inlet, as it’s commonly called.

No matter how you fish for Stripers, the most important thing is to fish for them during the incoming or outgoing tide. Fishing around the change of tide is generally most productive.

steve spagnuola 1 photoWhen Striper fishing, there are some things to note: These fish are considered game fish and are protected. As such, the current regulations are two fish at 28” or greater per angler. Fish must be caught within three miles from shore. Three miles or greater is illegal. You will not see striped bass on any menus in restaurants in New Jersey because it is illegal to sell them commercially. If you do see it, it’s not “wild caught” striped bass, and will not taste nearly as good.

Charter and party boats all fish for striped bass. Most trips are eight hours. Boats will target these fish from mid-October until late December. So, if you have the summertime blues or football’s not your thing, give striper fishing a shot and don’t be surprised if you, too don’t “get hooked”!

steve-spagnuolaStephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May.. Visit Steve online


Working at the Top: Cape May’s Lighthouse Keepers

This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine‘s Fall 2007 edition.

Mayhugh Palmer Tees inside the lighthouse.

Mayhugh Palmer Tees inside the lighthouse.

She prefers working at the top.

Saturday mornings at 8:15 a.m., this slender dark haired woman, moving with a dancer’s grace, ascends the 199 steps to the look-out at the Cape May Lighthouse. This is her ritual, no matter the sea-swept winds, rain and fog that sometimes shroud the red cap atop the cream tower that is Cape Island’s most visible landmark. On a clear day she can see 20 miles in all directions. This July morning the sun splashes millions of diamonds on the sapphire sea. The light salty breezes rustle her log book as she writes.

She pauses, touches the rail, and circles the observation deck, absorbing the 360-degree view from 136 feet high. She scans the horizon for oil tankers, fishing boats, sloops, schooners and ferries. “Flounder must be running,” she says to herself, observing a village of vessels.

Who is this solitary figure? An apparition, the lost spirit of Florence Arabelle “Belle” Palmer who assumed keeper duties when her husband Harry suffered a serious heart attack in 1933?

Photograph by Thomas Michael Mann

Photograph by Thomas Michael Mann

A surreal phantom she certainly is not. She has a striking resemblance to Cape May’s last lighthouse keeper, Harry Hall Palmer. She is his descendant, his granddaughter– Mayhugh Palmer Tees, who inherited his proclivity for life at the top. Like her grandfather, she is a lighthouse keeper, and has been for 11 years. She is one of several contemporary keepers of the Cape May Lighthouse, a museum since 1988, telling its 148-year history and lore to the 100,000 visitors each year.

“I come early for my watch at the top,” she says, “a half hour or so to meditate and enjoy the beauty, solitude and quiet my grandfather must have experienced at this high level. It is my peace to absorb the power of nature and stay connected to the Palmer family. They lived in that white house down there.”

This only surviving keeper’s house was built in 1860. (It is now the private home of the Cape May Point State Park superintendent.) Originally there were two identical white clapboard cottages, one and one-half stories, with red trim and green shutters. The grounds that ran toward the sea were surrounded with white-washed fences. The basement and walkways were red brick. The first floor featured three rooms, front and back porches, and a stairway to four second floor bedrooms. (One of the houses was later expanded to accommodate two keeper families. It was burned by vandals in 1968.)

LIghthouse Keeper Harry Palmer. Photograph courtesy of MAC.

LIghthouse Keeper Harry Palmer. Photograph courtesy of MAC.

Mayhugh’s grandfather and family—wife, three daughters and son– arrived at their new home at the Cape May Light – the official name- in 1924. Nature forced them to depart the 1767 Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, which was teetering and tottering seaward. They were sad to leave their beloved Delaware, but on crossing the hazardous shoals in Delaware Bay, a bad storm brewed with gale force winds. Daughter Ada later told her son Charles Givens, “We were so seasick and scared that we were all happy to land safely, and start our new life at Cape May Light.” (Two years later in 1926, stormy waters undermined Cape Henlopen Lighthouse and the 45-foot
tower collapsed into the sea.)

His first year at Cape May Light, Harry Palmer earned $960. Stamps were two cents. Calvin Coolidge occupied the White House, Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra introduced George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and daughter Ada was pulling grass from lighthouse brick walkways, dreaming of a flapper’s dress and hairdo.

Harry Palmer (center) and family

Harry Palmer (center) and family

The post of lighthouse keeper entailed a unique lifestyle for the keeper and his family. The duties were often lonely and tedious and could be downright dangerous when storms buffeted the lantern. It was especially perilous if weather forced the keeper to climb from the watch room to the lantern landing and remove snow and ice from the 16 windows 12 stories up. Harry Palmer, like the long line of keepers before him, night after night, climbed the 217 steps from the Oil House with two and one-half gallons of fuel to fire the light just before dusk and make sure it was extinguished just after dawn. The four-hour vigil, or watch, was alternated with an assistant keeper or two. A watch included assisting with sea disasters, if necessary, and keeping a log of fuel, weather and passing ships. Lenses that reflected the light had to be kept sparkling, brass shined, windows cleaned, the tower and top ball painted. They were the air traffic controllers of their day, writes John Bailey, in his book Sentinel of the Jersey Cape.

Harry Palmer was made of the right stuff for the job. When it came time to paint the lantern roof, and the ventilator ball on top, his daughter Ada told her children, “Father put a ladder on the watch look-out, threw a rope around the ball, and pulled himself up to the roof, waved and painted. All the while, Mother below was protesting loudly.”

Inspection reports indicate Harry Palmer was a meticulous lighthouse keeper. He nurtured his gardens with the same precise energy. He won awards for his hydrangeas. His vegetable garden covered half an acre. Ada’s daughter Harriet says her grandfather was “a very caring caretaker.” He loved peaches, fresh and preserved. He took great pride in his pole beans, tomatoes and corn. His wife stored the canned summer vegetables and prepared pickles in the bottom of what had been the 1847 lighthouse.

Photograph by Thomas Michael Mann

Photograph by Thomas Michael Mann

“They were a close family,” says grandson Charles Givens, a commercial crab fisherman. At night, the Cape May Light falls on his house on nearby New England Road. It gives him a sense of comfort and family connection. “They had a good life at the Lighthouse. When we get together, all the conversations point eventually to life at the light. Grandfather was highly respected in the U.S. Lighthouse Service and at Cape May Point. The locals would come to the Lighthouse for water. It was a gathering place to exchange news, and trade the day’s catch for Grandfather’s produce.”

Though keeper Palmer and his wife never drove an automobile, and were quite isolated, they enjoyed a social life. “They entertained famous ornithologists for dinners from their garden,” says Charles. “Both Witmer Stone, author of the Bird Studies of Old Cape May, and [noted ornithologist] Charles Urner were guests. Grandfather described birds and migration activity he observed from the tower.”

There have been more than 30 personalities involved in three lighthouses at Cape May Point. The first, built in 1823, was 68- feet tall, and is now lost to the sea, the casualty of erosion. The second, built in 1847, had a 78-foot tower and was replaced because it was poorly constructed. This third existing structure was first lighted on Halloween, 1859.

Keeper Caleb Woolson and family. Click for full image.

Keeper Caleb Woolson and family. Click for full image.

The second to last keeper of the Cape May Light was Caleb Swain Woolson, who, like keeper Palmer, has many descendants living within a few miles of the still flashing beacon.

Woolson tended the light for 41 years, from assistant in 1883 to retirement in 1924. He fell off a ladder and broke his wrist and hurt his hip as an assistant, but the next year -1903-was promoted to keeper at a salary of $760 a year. Theodore Roosevelt occupied the White House. Ford Motors incorporated and sold its first Model A. Gas was a nickel a gallon.

The Woolson family. Click for full image.

The Woolson family. Click for full image.

A Woolson descendant, Furman Lee, of nearby Erma, says his great-grandfather stabled cows in the cut-off base of the 1847 lighthouse. “They were self sufficient,” he says. “They produced their own milk and grew vegetables in two big fields.  His daughter, my grandmother, Bertha, bought a house at 402 Holly Avenue, at Cape May Point, for $7.47 at a tax sale in 1901. I was born in that house, just a few steps from Lake Lily, in 1932. The house is still there. My mother sold it for $6,300 in 1963. We were always Pointers. We swam Lake Lily in the summer, ice skated in winter. We walked dirt paths to the beach and school. It was very rural, very quiet. At night, the only light, the beacon and its consistent flash.”

The beacon has been the rhythm to lighthouse life, through historic times and weather, good and bad.

Now, in high season, almost 1,000 visitors a day are drawn to the lighthouse to experience history, the daily steps of the keepers, the weather and the most spectacular views at the tip of New Jersey. Keeper David Yeager, whose granddaughter Jennifer Keeler recently became engaged to Keith Snyder at the top, has been telling visitors stories and answering questions since 1989.

Caleb Swain Woolson. Click for full image

Caleb Swain Woolson. Click for full image

The Cape May Light would not be preserved as it is today if it were not for one of its angels, Tom Carroll, a retired Coast Guard captain. He stayed on in Cape May with his wife Sue in the 1980s to throw all their energies into restoring the old Mainstay Inn on Columbia Avenue into one of the best B&Bs in America. Tom says today he would not have wanted to be a lighthouse keeper. “Too boring and lonely for me,” he says.

But a keeper he is. It was Tom who approached the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC) and with persistence and patience cajoled the non-profit organization into a complicated lease agreement that in 1986 saw the deteriorating lighthouse open to the public, but just the bottom. The top was in a sad state of decline. It was rusted, leaking and unsafe, even though it just had been named a National Historic Landmark.

The present lighthouse appears from behind the remains of the 1847 lighthouse. Photograph taken during the mid-70s by Vincent T. Marchese. Click for full image.

The present lighthouse appears from behind the remains of the 1847 lighthouse. Photograph taken during the mid-70s by Vincent T. Marchese. Click for full image.

The rallying cry was “Save the Lighthouse.” Thousands of lighthouse fans bought T-shirts, bricks for $2 each, steps for $100, windows for $500. In just two years the hard work of MAC officers and volunteers climaxed with a ribbon cutting on May 18, 1988. The tower was open to the public for tours, MAC charging admission and hosting a gift shop in the Oil Room to raise more money for continued restoration.

The miracle of the Cape May Lighthouse restoration is that other communities followed the formula so painstakingly worked out here, and have saved many other sentinels of the shore as public places to learn of a beacon’s safety and assurance.

Perhaps the best time to visit the Cape May Lighthouse is at night when precisely one-half hour before sunset, the light is lit. Standing beneath, head craned upward, the cream tower glowing at the red top, that steady beacon against the star-studded sky is comforting as a heartbeat. “The lights are the heart and soul of maritime history and the shore,” says Tom Carroll. “They are steady, friendly, welcoming open arms of light.”

Mayhew Palmer Tees, in navy blue uniform, much simpler than the dress blues with shiny brass buttons that her grandfather keeper Harry Palmer wore, once again climbs the 199 steps to the top. She opens the doors where her grandfather stood watch for nine years, and as he did more than 70 years ago, she lifts the cover of the log book.

She faithfully writes in the book every watch.

5/15/04 “A wedding at the Pavilion. The bride, groom and photographer made the climb to the top. She climbed in sleeveless white gown with a flowered headband, and a single white rose.  A beautiful bride.”

9/11/04 “Three years ago today I will never forget. New York was in chaos. By the time I arrived at the Lighthouse a plane had hit the Pentagon and then Flight 93 destined for its day in history. We must always remember and never forget 9/11/01. I still turn my eyes north and look to the air.”

9/10/05 “The Hill family from Michigan climbed up, walked outside, and got a cell phone call from their Army Sgt. son stationed in Baghdad. The parents described the view.  How extraordinary.”

And so do other descendants:

7/07/04 “We are related to Caleb Woolson who worked at the Lighthouse 1918 to 1924. My family came to this area in 1678, and worked as whalers in the bay and ocean.” Donald F. Woolson, Chicago.

8/15/04 “Family was one of the original Cape May families, came over on The Mayflower. Family ran the stage coach between Philadelphia and Cape May. After many years, we have all finally left Cape May, unfortunately.” Geoffrey S. Hughes.

8/16/04 “It is a shame I missed Mr. Hughes when he was here. I have Hughes in my family tree which also includes the names of Corson (of Hereford Light, in North Wildwood), Hand, Pierce, Swain, Schellenger and Leaming.” Mayhugh Palmer Tees.

The Cape May beacon, that steady, friendly, welcoming arm of light still shines bright.


Jersey On A Plate

scallops2I was recently asked to cater a 70th birthday party. The hostess requested that I design a menu with a Jersey flair and feature Cape May products. One ingredient stood out that would represent Cape May. The Scallop. There are three main types of Scallops – Bay, Sea and Calico. The best eating are the Atlantic Sea Scallops.

Scallops thrive in every ocean in the world and are the only migratory bivalve mollusk. The Scallop shell has long been a symbol of the Apostle James and of Christian pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that pilgrims carrying Scallops shells would present themselves at castles and abbeys along their route and would be given as much sustenance as they could get in one scoop. Even the poorest household could offer charity without being overburdened.

As a chef what I like about scallops is their versatility. The sweet white meat, what we actually eat is the abductor muscle, which opens and closes the shell, lends itself to almost any preparation.

Scallops are sold either wet or dry-packed. The wet scallops are soaked in a phosphate solution which inflates their weight. You get less per pound and the liquid comes out during cooking yielding a tough mineral-tasting scallop and watered-down sauce. Dry-packed scallops are preferred since the flesh can be caramelized when seared, yielding a golden brown color and sweet crust that compliments the natural taste of the scallop. Scallops should be lightly seasoned with sea or kosher salt and seared over high heat with a minimum of fat or oil.

Scallops brushed with butter or oil also are great grilled. If using smaller Scallops, skewer them on rosemary they will be easier to turn and the herb adds a nice fragrance to the dish. A squeeze of lemon and melted butter complete the dish.

Besides wet or dry-pack, scallops are sold by count. The number refers to the amount of scallops per pound (12-15, 16-20, 21-25). The lower the number, the larger the scallops. Three to four 10-12 count scallops can be sufficient for a meal.

The dish I created for the birthday party was composed of the best New Jersey offers this time of year. Baby farm fresh arugula was tossed with roasted sweet white corn, and diced crisp slab bacon. The salad was topped with two perfectly seared U-10 scallops and served with a sauce of charred Jersey tomatoes.  Flavorful and colorful, this dish upon presentation caused the hostess to exclaim, “You created Jersey on a plate.”

What a great compliment. It is the goal of a chef to take the best of a state or region and represent the area through food. Sweet, colorful and a little salty, with a peppery bite, New Jersey on a plate indeed.

This month try your hand at this dish while the Jersey corn and tomatoes are still available.

When cooking Scallops, they are best when slightly under done to retain the sweetness and delicate texture. Overcooked they can become rubbery with the texture of a pencil eraser.

Scallops are also great in the South American classic ceviche. Lime juice, cilantro and fiery peppers contrast nicely with the ocean sweetness of scallops. Don’t be afraid that the scallops aren’t technically cooked. The citric acid makes it safe to eat.

Cream sauces curries, mustard and horseradish all work with the versatile scallops as well as a variety of starches from pasta and polenta to grits and potatoes. This month enjoy Jersey on a Plate as well as my spin on ceviche. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Scallop Avocado Ceviche

  • ½ pound 21-25 sea scallops
  • Green chopped onions
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all ingredients. Chill 3-4 hours. Serve in martini glass, dusted with smoked paprika.

Jersey On A Plate

The sauce and components for this salad can be prepared a day in advance. Sear the scallops just before serving.

  • 2 ears Jersey sweet corn
  • 8 slices thick slab bacon
  • Charred tomato vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 3 10-12 count scallops per person (see recipe below)

Roast corn on grill or in 400 degrees oven for 15 minutes. Cool. Remove husk. Cut from cob. Reserve. Dice bacon. In sauté in pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Heat on medium flame. Add bacon. Cook until crispy, approximately 15 minutes. Stir with wooden spoon to brown evenly and prevent sticking. Drain and reserve fat for dressing.

Charred Jersey Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 Large Jersey tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ¼ cup wine vinegar
  • Reserved fat from bacon
  • 2 teaspoons thyme

Rub tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt. Char on grill for 15 minutes, turning to cook evenly. Can also be done over gas burner. In sauce pan add tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, juice of 2 lemons, ¼ cup wine vinegar and reserved fat from bacon. Puree with immersion blender. Season to taste with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon fresh thyme.

For the Scallops

  • 3 10-12 count Scallops per person for a salad or 4-5 for an entrée
  • Sea Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Pat Scallops dry with paper towel. Season with sea salt. Heat large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sear 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown.

Assembly on large white plate. Ladle 3 ounces tomato vinaigrette. In bowl, mix 3 cups baby arugula with bacon and corn. Add juice of 1 lemon and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Mix well. Mound salad in middle of plate. Arrange scallops on top of sauce.

Scallops with Horseradish Bacon Cream Sauce and Scallion Mashed Potatoes

For sauce

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish
  • 1½ cups cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon

In sauté pan cook diced bacon until brown. Add shallots. Cook on high heat 3 minutes. Scrape pan gently with wooden spoon. Add lemon juice, zest and horseradish. Scrape pan. Add cream. Reduce until sauce coats back of spoon.

Sear 4 to 5 Scallops per person. Serve with your favorite mashed potato recipe, with 1 cup chopped scallions added.