- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: May 2010

The drum are here!

Ladies and Gentleman, the DRUM ARE HERE. Multiple boats have gone out this week catching drum, not just the little ones we’ve had the big ones! The Cape Queen went out yesterday the 22nd and pulled in a few drum, one weighting in at 72lbs. going in on season record board. Also out on the water yesterday was the Slammer and the Cape May Lady pulling in everything from Sea Bass to drum. Wait, did I say Sea Bass? That’s right opening season started yesterday, let’s get down here and get down to business, and Let the fishing begin! The reports are in that the NEW JERSEY DRUM BITE IS ON!

SOMA NewArtGallery's opening of "Reinventing the Romans"

The work of local artist Harriett Sosson and her son Max Samuelson were the focus of SOMA NewArtGallery’s opening  reception Saturday, May 22.  “Reinventing the Romans” features new paintings and collages by Sosson, who also owns and operates Poor Richards Inn on Jackson Street. Her work is about transforming Classical Roman statues to archetypal to 21st century contemporary art. The installation, “Woody Bicycles” features Samuelson’s hand-crafted wood bikes. The exhibition contiues to June 20. SOMA NewArt Gallery is located in Carpenters Square Mall, 31 Perry Street.

Roasting Meat – A Juicy Subject

Roasting meat is probably the most ancient form of cooking.

This month it is time to sink my teeth into a juicy subject. Roasting meat.

Roasting meat is probably the most ancient form of cooking. Forest fires and slow deer combined to give our ancestors their first taste of roasted meat. In the 20th century roasting came to mean cooking in dry heat in an enclosed oven. Prior to that, roasting was done over an open fire on a spit. Open fire roasting would be akin to barbecuing with a less smoky taste. Cooking meat over an open fire yields meat with a nice caramelized exterior and juicy interior. The Chaine de Rotisseurs, one of the world’s oldest gastronomic societies has its origins in the Guilds of medieval France. In the 13th century, King Louis IX granted a royal charter to the goose roasters and over the years their responsibilities grew to include poultry and venison. The guilds, think of the teamsters union with knives, codified roasting techniques and controlled how, who and when meats could be roasted. In those days large spits were turned by hand or chain cranks.

Roasting today is a less arduous process, but still time consuming.

The smell of roasting meat is one of the great smells. When it emanates from the kitchen, it stirs the appetite. The smell and color of roasted meat is caused by the Maillard reaction. This chemical change of amino acids and carbohydrates occurs when high heat and low moisture conditions occur.

For prime rib or English style round roasts, try the high-heat method. It yields better caramelization and a tastier exterior.

In contemporary oven roasting, there are two general schools of thought. High heat roasting or low heat roasting. Both methods have their pluses and minuses. Roasting generally involves the more tender leg or center cuts of meats. Less tender cuts such as brisket or shoulder cuts, if dry roasted, should be done low and slow.

For prime rib or English style round roasts, I prefer the high-heat method. It yields better caramelization and a tastier exterior. The downside is shrinkage. The high heat melts the fat quickly resulting in great flavor, but causing the meat to contract quickly as well.

Low-heat roasting preserves the fat and has less shrinkage, but does not have the deep carmelization which means less robust flavor. The solution for me is a combination. Roasting at 500 degrees for the first 20 minutes, then dropping the heat to 250 degrees or lower until the desired internal temperature is reached. I prefer 125 degrees for rare beef counting on 10%-15% carry-over cooking. The high-heat method also yields richly colored pan drippings for gravies and sauces. Friend and fellow Cape May chef Chris Shriver is a fervent proponent of low and slow roasting. After tasting his eight-hour, slow-roasted pulled pork, one can easily be converted to his point of view. The key advantages of low-slow are tenderness and juiciness.

Besides oven temperature, another debate is whether to roast on a rack or not. The concept of the rack is to provide air flow under the meat and allow the juices to drip. This provides all around browning and keeps the bottom of the meat from steaming in its own juices.

Personally, I like to use a base of mirepoix – rough chopped celery carrots and onions. This adds flavor to the meat and more importantly to the drippings which enhances the sauce.

Certain meats are more suitable to high-heat roasting than others. Prime rib and roast beef benefit best from this technique. Less tender cuts are often best braised, but can yield fantastic flavor when roasted low and slow.

This month try my recipes for English Roast Beef with au jus, Roast Leg of Lamb with Boulangere Potatoes, and Herb-Roasted Chicken with Sage Gravy.

English-Style Roast Beef

  • 8-10 pounds beef round roast
  • Kosher salt, cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 onions, sliced into rings

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

Season meat with Kosher salt, cracked black pepper, 2 teaspoons granulated garlic, 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce.

Mix spices, oil and Worcestershire sauce. Rub evenly over meat. Slice 2 onions into rings and arrange over meat. Place meat on rack in roasting pan. Place pan on middle rack in oven cook for 35 minutes at 500 degrees. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and cook for 7 minutes per pound. A 10-pound roast would be 1 hour 10 minutes. More importantly, do not open oven. When done, remove roast to platter. Cover. Let rest 10 minutes.

For Au Jus

  • 2 cups red wine
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • Salt
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary sprigs

Deglaze roasting pan with 2 cups red wine and 4 cups beef stock. Scrape pan. Well season with salt, thyme and rosemary sprigs. Simmer 10 minutes. Strain. Serve with rare roast beef

Roast Leg of Lamb with Boulangere Potatoes

  • 1 8-pound lamb roast
  • Salt, pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Rosemary
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 2 quartered onions
  • 4 peeled carrots, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups merlot wine
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 potatoes per person

Seasoned roast with salt, pepper, 4 tablespoons olive oil and generously sprinkled with chopped fresh rosemary.

In roasting pan, place 4 ribs celery, 2 quartered onions and 4 peeled carrots, split lengthwise. Cook at 375 degrees for approximately 1½ hours until meat thermometer reads 135 degrees. After the first 30 minutes, add 2 peeled and halved potatoes per person. Season potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. Turn potatoes after 20 minutes.

Let meat rest. Deglaze pan with 2 cups merlot wine, 4 sprigs rosemary, 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock. Simmer 10 minutes. Thicken with 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water. Bring jus to boil. Add slurry. Whisk. Bring back to boil. Serve with lamb and potatoes.

Herb Roasted Chicken with Sage Gravy

Rub an herb mixture underneath the chicken skin for a flavorful bird.

  • 1 3-pound roasting chicken
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 3 chopped onions
  • 3 celery ribs
  • 3 peeled chopped carrots
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 450 degrees

Place chicken in roasting pan over 3 chopped onions 3 celery ribs and 3 peeled chopped carrots. Loosen skin on chicken. Rub with herb mix under skin and all around. Stuff with 3 bay leaves, 6 cloves garlic, 1 bunch thyme and 2 lemons. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat. Cook 45 more minutes until 165 degrees internal temp is reached. Cover. Let rest 10 minutes.

To make gravy: Deglaze roasting pan with 5 cups chicken stock. Bring to boil. Knead 3 tablespoons flour with 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk into simmering liquid. Cook 5 minutes. Strain. Serve with chicken.

persnicketychefJon Davies is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University of Culinary Arts. His work as a chef has taken him to Aspen, Colorado; Cape May, NJ; and the odd private jet for culinary gigs for the rich and famous.

Of Lilacs and Lily of the Valley


As spring matures and May arrives, gentle breezes are laden with the fragrance of Lilacs and Lily of the Valley. I love these and can drift back to childhood days in either of my grandmothers’ gardens when I could smell their wonderful fragrances. Back then, I think that most everyone had hedges of lilacs, often started from ‘slips’ from friends or neighbor’s yards in years gone by. As for Lily of the Valley, they were allowed to race and run under trees and shrubs in many gardens. I still just give them free reign among the shade loving shrubs in boarders all over my gardens. They push right up through the leaves and never need any care whatsoever.

Garden Tip: It doesn’t hurt to give them a handful of granular 10-10-10 each spring.

What other ground cover is so tough, smells so good and multiplies so quickly? Lily of the Valley will grow anywhere and spreads like spilled milk in sun or shade. They are very hardy perennials and return for years and years to bloom early in May. I love to tuck them into spring prom and wedding bouquets when they are in bloom. They are one of the old fashioned tussie mussie blooms for May.

The Victorians loved fragrant plants. Many Lilacs and lilies have always graced the old gardens in Cape May County . This year the Lilacs began blooming quite early. Anyone can grow a Lilac as it is usually easy to grow and will grow in sun or part shade. Many of the Lilacs in my garden are in semi shade and do well until the shade gets too dense as large trees grow. I have lost a few that just weakened after many years in areas that became shadier and shadier. They are usually full of blooms, but the shrubs in full sun are sturdier and often have many more large heavy booms.

When adding Lilacs to the landscape, there are many considerations. You have an option with size, color, bloom time, and often fragrance. Whenever I look at the bright green of the unfurling leaves of the Lilac and the tight little grape like clusters of tiny buds, I anticipate the joy of the blooms and scent. We pick and pick them, filling vases all over the house. I always wish they bloomed for a longer time and look for the last bushes to bloom as well as the first. Thus, the reasoning for several kinds of Lilacs in the landscape.

The smallest of Lilacs are the Syringa meyeri and many other dwarf Lilacs. They bloom early in May for about 2 weeks. These plants are usually only 3-4 feet tall, but covered with flowers. Although it is fragrant, the scent is a little different from the common Lilac. This plant is also quite hardy and disease resistant. The much larger common Lilac or Syringa vulgaris is an upright shrub, often growing 8-15 feet high, with extremely fragrant flowers. These old fashion favorites are at home in a border or as a centerpiece in a lawn or garden. There are about 800 different clones or cultivars, with colors ranging from white and pink to many shades of blue, violet, lilac, purple and magenta. At least one Lilac is a must in every garden.

Lily of the Valley

Still another type of Lilac is the Japanese Tree Lilac or Syringa reticulata. This tall, 20-30 feet high plant has beautiful white flowers in early to mid-June. It has a fragrance, but it is more like privet then that of the Lilac. It is a trouble-free lilac and excellent specimen tree, according to Michael Dirr in his Manual Of Woody Landscape Plants. Another Lilac is the Syringa persica or Persian Lilac. This graceful shrub is upright with pale, somewhat delicate pale lilac flowers. These mid-May bloomers are also fragrant and among the oldest of cultivated shrubs. Still another is the Syringa villosa, a later Lilac. Tall with rosy lilac to white flowers, this one looks more like a Butterfly Bush bloom than Lilac and smells again like a privet. Late May to June blooms extend the season of color for lilac collectors. James MacFarlane is one of the most common and easiest to find of these late Lilacs.

I used to be confused about all the kinds of Lilacs, but soon found that the Michael Dirr’s Manual Of Woody Landscape Plants had the most information and explanations about the different kinds of Lilacs. Dirr tells much of what there is to know about these old-time favorites. Most colleges and horticulture schools require this book for their students and rightfully so. Dirr not only tells all about the plants, but he tells how and where to grow them! I love to read his descriptions, as well as cultural instructions. He sums up Lilac culture by saying that the best soil is one that is close to neural and supplemented with peat or leaf mold. I have also heard many old timers say that wood ashes dumped on the Lilac all winter make them bloom in spring. A good fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen also promotes good blooms. It is the middle number of phosphates that helps promote blooms. Shrubs with lush leaves and few blooms usually have too much nitrogen from lawn fertilizer. A cup or so of lime sweetens the soil in my sandy, oak environment, which is also helpful for healthy Lilacs.

Remember that trimming or picking the blooming Lilacs encourages better-shaped plants with an abundance of bloom the next season. Although an excuse is not needed to pick these fragrant beautiful blooms, this is a good reason to pick and enjoy them in your house. Remember, with all blooming shrubs, prune as the old blooms fade.

The next event at Triple Oaks, 2359 Delsea Drive,  Franklinville New Jersey is the 35th Annual Herb Weekend. Free lecture and demonstrations all day May 22 and 23. Look at web site for detailed schedule of times and events.

lorraine-kieferLorraine Kiefer has gardened all of her life. She is a garden writer, floral designer and professional horticulturist. Lorraine teaches many classes at Triple Oaks nursery and Herb Garden in Franklinville, NJ. Email for garden help or leave your questions below!

Off the Hook

Click, click, click, zzzzzzzz…ah music to my ears after such a long winter. It’s time to talk about my favorite type of fishing and one that I’m regarded as an expert at: Shark fishing. Cape May has some of the finest shark fishing on the east coast. Cape May is home to three tournaments that attract anglers from all over the east coast. One reason Cape May has such great Shark fishing is the number of wrecks and lumps along the 20 and 30 fathom line. Wrecks and lumps create “structure,” which is ideal for holding bait such as Mackerel and Sea Bass, which Bluefish feed on in early spring. Another reason the waters off Cape May are home to many species of sharks is that areas along the 20 fathom line and the Delaware Bay are nursing grounds where sharks lay their pup.

After the Bluefish show up and the water temperature hits the 60s it’s time to start Shark’n.

Sharks are perhaps the most perfectly evolved animals on earth as well as one of the oldest. Sharks are prehistoric, rarely ever get cancer, and they are the apex predators. Some species of Shark can smell a drop of blood in the water over a mile away. Sharks such as Makos are capable of swimming at speeds of over 45 miles per hour and jumping out of the water more than 15 feet. Thus, they are regarded by many anglers as one of the top game fish in the world. Thresher and Mako Shark also taste great.

Shark fishing requires certain “tools of the trade,” many of which can be purchased at tackle shops as well as hardware stores.

Mako Shark

The chum bucket is for – you guessed it – holding a bucket of chum. A milk crate works best with foam floats on each side to keep it from scuffing the hull of the boat. Rig half-inch line through the corners and leave enough line to tie to the cleat of the boat.

Use wireman’s dikes to cut the wire leader near the hook to release the Shark. Bring at least three pair, as they may fall overboard during a release.

A pair of cowhide gloves are needed for leadering the shark, as well as a 12-guage bang stick, available at tackle shops, or a 20-guage shotgun to shoot the shark. A tall rope with cable, which most tackle shops have, is used to control the shark at boat side.

Choosing the right tackle for Sharking is key…if targeting Makos, Threshers, Blues, Tiger, and other large Sharks 150 lbs. and up, then 6 foot 50-100 lb. rods with 50 and 80 class reels are the ticket. Spool reels with 80 lb. line. Attach a shark float with rubber bands to the line above a 400 lb. snap swivel. You will need a rig for each rod. You can buy Shark rigs or make your own. Make sure to bring extra rigs. You will also need at least two 5’-6’ gaffs with 4″-6″ hooks. Use a flyer gaff at your own risk! Last but not least, “put on a skirt”…on one of your fishing lines or two. Bright colors such as yellow, orange, red, or pink work best.

Mako shark

Bait that works best for Makos, Threshers, and most Sharks, is Bluefish, Mackerel, and False Albacore, Skipjack and, of course, fresh Tuna. For chum, I like to use Bunker and Mackerel. I fish three lines for Threshers. The first rod I set out 75 yards from the boat, and 6-15 feet down with fresh filets. Set the second rod 40 yards from the boat, 25-40 feet down with a Butterflied Mackerel or small Bluefish. The third rod is fished 8-16 cranks off the bottom with filets. I fish this line 15-20 feet from the boat.

When fishing for Makos, I fish four lines. I set the first rod with a skirt and Bluefish or Skip Jack. I set this line out 100-125 yards and 6-15 feet down. The second rod is set up with Mackerel filets, set out 50-70 yards, 30 feet down. Set the third rod out with a Butterflied Bluefish or live Bluefish. This line is set out 40-50 feet from the boat, 30-50 feet down. The fourth rod is fished at the transom of the boat with a skirt and filets. I set this line down till I barely see the skirt. Shark floats with rubber bands are used to control your depth and set your lines out. Make sure to set the clicker on the reel in free spool.

Thresher shark

A day with 10-15 mph winds and 64-71 degree water temperature is ideal for Sharking in the spring. Drifting is preferred for Makos and Threshers, so “setting your drift” over a structure is very important. First, set out your chum to establish your slick, then set out your lines and wait. When a Shark hits, let him run, count 8-20 seconds, set the drag to strike. Quickly reel the line up until it gets tight. Set the hook two or three times to get a solid hook set and “let the game begin!”

Getting the Shark in the boat requires “team work.” Boat side is where a lot of people lose their Sharks, get hurt or worse, get killed. The first rule: “when the Shark is ready, be ready.” When the shark is at the boat, the angler backs off the drag to quarter-strike. The leaderman grabs the leader. Then the shooter with a clear shot shoots the Shark on top of the head four inches behind the eyes. The shooter puts the tail rope on the fish and ties it to the cleat of the boat. The leaderman gaffs the Shark in by the gills. If the Shark is dead, put him in the boat. Tie the fish up and “head to the barn!”

Sharking is great fun but it requires both safety and skill. Things can happen so fast. The best way to learn how to shark fish is “hands on.” Charter a boat, go out with someone who knows how to shark, or ask the people who work at the local tackle shops.

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

The World Series of Birding Takes Flight

Photo by Derek Lovitch

It’s been this way throughout human history. Humans approach. Birds fly away.

Humans come up with a better strategy. Birds fly farther, or stay hidden, or more often don’t show up.

On May 15, human ingenuity and bird-evasive skills go head to head on birding in the world’s greatest natural treasure hunt.

For twenty-seven years, New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding has brought an international spotlight to bear on New Jersey’s natural treasures and raised millions of dollars for bird conservation throughout the world.

Midnight to Midnight

Starting at the stroke of midnight on Saturday, May 15, teams of birders drawn from all across North America will begin a search that will take them the length and breadth of the Garden State.

“They won’t be bird watching,” says Pete Dunne, the event founder. “No time for that. “They’ll be scooping up birds ‘tied down’ as a result of weeks of planning and scouting.”

Pete Dunne & Don Freiday. Photo by Katherine Karnow

Routes that are GPS calibrated; timing that is down to the precise minute along routes that may exceed 500 miles.

“Teams don’t even have to see the bird to count it,” Dunne says. “An identifiable snatch of song, even a single, distinguishing chip note, is all that is needed for confirmation. Among top teams, about half the birds tallied will be “heard only.”

Some teams will have 30-40 species counted before dawn.

This isn’t just birding. It’s world class birding. And some of the world’s finest field birders will be competing.

Twenty-four hours later, the weary teams will cross the finish line in Cape May, NJ. To crown this year’s winners. Celebrate the birding opportunities of New Jersey.

And count up their earnings.

From Bird-a-thon to World Series

Photo by y Marleen Murgitroyde

The World Series grew out of New Jersey Audubon’s bird-a-thon, a fund raising event, pioneered by Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada. Supporters pledge a certain amount of money for each species seen. Teams do their best to record as many species as possible within twenty-four hours.

In that inaugural World Series year in 1984, thirteen teams competed. This year, approximately 100 teams will enter the contest, sponsored by conservation organizations or environmentally conscious companies and individuals.

They include PECO, Wakefern Foods (ShopRite), Nikon, WildBird Magazine, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Zeiss, Swarovski Optik, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency, and more.

“Even in these tough fiscal times, companies have tried to hold their place in the roster,” says Dunne. “Good conservation mindedness is good business.”

Blue Jay. Photo by Clay Taylor, SONA

Support through individual pledges also seems unfazed by the recession.

“Pledges are ahead of last year,” says Dunne of his own team, sponsored by Zeiss Optics. “Our members know how much we rely upon this event to support our research, conservation and education initiatives.

Dunne anticipates that come May 14, his team will have over $100 pledged per species. But the fund raising champions, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, will have over $1,000 per species.

“Not a bad day’s work,” say Dunne. “Even with a work day that’s twenty-four hours long.”

Cheating for a Good Cause

Black-throated Blue Warbler. Photo by Robert Lego

But how do people know that birders are not just making up their sightings?

“Birders are notoriously honest,” says Dunne. “A birder’s reputation for honest sightings is his or her social collateral.”

“Also,” Dunne adds, “nobody fudges because if they did, they’d get caught.”

“The people who compete know what kind of day it was; what birds were or were not around, and where they were found. There’s also a lot of sharing regarding the whereabouts of rare birds before the event so there are few surprises.”

Any teams that turns in a checklist that is “out of spec” would be pretty obvious. And there are also rules that make it almost impossible for teams to cheat. Rules that require that 95% of all species on a team’s list must be identified by all team members. Rules that state that a team is allowed only one species not recorded by another team.

Maybe so. But team totals certainly seem impossible.

End of the Day

Baltimore Oriole. Photo by Clay Taylor, SONA

Winning teams will record about 230 species; all in New Jersey; all in a single day. That is about 1/3 of all the bird species that breed in North America. The total number of species recorded by all teams will approach or exceed 270 species. Only in Texas and California have more species been recorded in a single day (considering their size factor to that of New Jersey, it’s quite impressive).

Teams can also limit their routes to a single county, or just south of the Cape May Canal, or even a 17 foot circle. The single county record is 201 species tallied in Cape May County. The “Big Stay” record is 143 species (also tallied in Cape May County, in fact south of the Cape May Canal). There are youth categories, senior categories, even a “Carbon Footprint” category where teams can walk, run, bike, kayak, skateboard but are forbidden to use fuel driven vehicles.

“It never occurred to us that the event would get so big,” said Dunne. “But it’s a great tribute to the state that hosts it and the organization that organizes it.

New Jersey Audubon

Youth team "Skuas." Photo by Derek Lovitch

New Jersey Audubon, the event’s organizer, is an independent state Audubon with over 110 years of conservation leadership behind it. It has ten staffed centers scattered throughout the state and its conservation efforts are reflected in such success as the ban on DDT, the Pine Barrens National Preserve, the Freshwater Wetlands Act and most recently, the effort to ban the harvest of horseshoe crabs whose eggs are critical to migrating shorebirds.

“The World Series is a game,” Dunne summarizes. “The work of New Jersey Audubon is anything but.”

The official World Series Finish Line is the West Cape May Volunteer Fire Hall. An Awards Brunch is held at the Grand Hotel in Cape May on May 16.

What then?

“Some teams go right out and start scouting for next year,” says Dunne. “Me? I go home and sleep.”

For more information on the annual World Series of Birding®, contact Sheila Lego, Marketing Director at 609.884.2736 or e-mail