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Month: September 2012

“All Available Boats” 9/11 Exhibit at the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum

The centerpiece of this exhibit reads:  “On the morning of September 11, 2001, as the World Trade Center tragedy unfolded, thousands of men and women who were on or near the waters of New York harbor converged in any way possible.  Answering the Coast Guard’s radio call for all available boats, hundreds of vessels raced across the Hudson and East Rivers.”  Over the course of the day, they helped to evacuate over 300,000 people from Manhattan.

Visitors can view photos and actually listen to first-hand accounts of individuals who participated in the evacuation of Manhattan.  The exhibit, donated to the Aviation Museum by the Cape May Coast Guard Base, tells the story of 9/11 from a unique perspective.  The “All Available Boats” exhibit is part of NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum’s expanded area dedicated to the Coast Guard and nearby Training Center Cape May.

The museum is located at 500 Forrestal Rd. at the Cape May Airport. For more information call  (609) 886-8787  or aviationmuseum@comcast.net


Best of Cape May 2012 Results

We created the Best of Cape May to recognize local businesses who contribute to an unforgettable Cape May vacation experience. Every August, we poll our readers to determine the best Cape May has to offer in accommodations, shopping, dining, and leisure. We are happy to see a few new names on the list this year, and we were excited to have the closest Best B&B vote in the history of the survey! Without further ado, here are those you have deemed the Best of Cape May for 2012:

Thank you for voting and celebrating all that Cape May has to offer!


Martini Beach

Many people return from vacation with souvenirs for their family tucked in their bags. John Siuta, chef at Martini Beach, comes home full of ideas about foods and flavors he’s savored during his travels and how he might work them into his menu.

Chef John Siuta. Photo courtesy Exit Zero

John and his wife, Josephine, travel widely to expand their culinary horizons. In the last five years, they have scouted foods in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, France and England. Their wanderlust has put Martini Beach on the map.

“I always have food on my mind,” John says. “I’ll travel 3,000 miles and check out the local supermarket. I’m not looking for beaches when I travel. I’m looking for what people are eating and what we can bring back to Cape May.”

The Siutas spent a month in India last year, half of which John spent working at a restaurant in a small beach town. John returned to his own beach restaurant passionate about Indian cooking and has since introduced several Indian dishes.

A friend and I visited Martini Beach twice this spring, and were delighted by its variety of ethnic dishes. While India’s influence is evident, John is democratic about representing other regions such as Asia and the Mediterranean.

It is Spanish cuisine, however, that infuses Martini Beach with its personality and friendliness. While the restaurant serves full-course meals, it specializes in tapas, small appetizer-sized portions native to Spanish cuisine, which can be eaten as a snack or combined to make a meal. Tapas are fun because they encourage people to share dishes and allow them time to talk between tastings. The format is so popular that Chef John promises more tapas selections are on the way.

 Photo courtesy Exit Zero

We tried five tapas one night we visited. The Turkey Kofta Masala, essentially spaghetti and meatballs Indian-style, was the best. We also liked the Duck Samosa, a pastry with roasted duck, Indian spices and vegetables, served with onion and mint chutneys. The Roasted Beet Salad with greens, gorgonzola, white balsamic, honey, and olive oil, and the Roasted Onion Hummus with marinated red peppers and grilled pita also were very good. The only dish that was mildly disappointing was the Turkish Pizza, a flatbread topped with spiced lamb, roasted garlic, zahtar, pepper and olive oil. The flavor was a little flat.

For a town completely surrounded by water, Cape May, surprisingly, has only a handful of restaurants with full, elevated, panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Martini Beach’s upstairs porch definitely has one of the best of them. If your sights are set on enjoying it, make sure you book a table on the porch.

Great tapas and vistas aside, a restaurant that calls itself “Martini Beach” had better deliver on its signature drink. Happily, it does so brilliantly. According to longtime bartender Tim Citrino, the bar’s two most popular drinks are the Dark and Stormy, a martini made with ginger liqueur and dark rum, and the Cucumber Basil Gimlet, a martini made with cucumber vodka. Tim jokes that the latter is “like drinking a salad,” but says he sells 50 to 75 of each on busy nights in season. My favorite martini was Tim’s Lemon Drop. It is now my standard for all lemon drinks.

 Photo courtesy Exit Zero

John grew up in a Polish family where his mother made perogi, or dumplings, at home to sell. “She used to steam the wallpaper off the walls,” he remembers.

By the time John was 10, he was making cheese, rolling dough, and growing mushrooms under his family’s front porch. After studying at the French Culinary Institute in New York, John went on to work for noted chef Daniel Boulud as well as The Food Network. In 1997, he moved his family to Cape May, where his parents had had a home. After coordinating the county’s Meals on Wheels program, John was offered a job as daytime chef at Martini Beach. He took over in 2006.

The Siutas are planning their next trip for later this year to Machu Picchu in Peru. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Martini Beach wasn’t serving Ceviche Tapas by this time next year.

– Dina  


Biking the Island

Biking the Avenue

Distance: 4.4 miles
Time: 8:30 a.m.

I would rank Beach Avenue as the easiest bike ride for visitors. For one thing, you can roll out of bed and, without having to do too much thinking about where you are going, enjoy a nice morning bike ride.

My cycling partner Macy and I arrive at my old friend Dennis Flynn’s Village Bicycle Shop on Lafayette Street around 8:30 a.m. to rent our bikes. Our ride, therefore, begins at Ocean and Lafayette streets, continuing down to Beach Avenue where we turn left and sail on without incident until we reach the end of the avenue, at what locals smilingly refer to as, Poverty Beach. Yeah smilingly, because it is so not impoverished. Anything but, really.

It is a beautiful August morning and the heat of the day has not yet taken hold. As we make our way back up the avenue toward the Cove, at Second and Beach, we realize that we are awfully hungry and can’t help noting the abundance of choices for breakfast along the way, which of course makes us all the hungrier. Starting with Pier House at Beach and Pittsburgh avenues, anyone looking for breakfast with a view will not be disappointed. Other choices include the Harry’s Ocean Bar and Grill, McGlade’s, George’s and Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (both at Perry Street and Beach), Ocean View Restaurant and last, but certainly not least, the Cove Restaurant.

It’s been a while since either Macy (who is 20 something) or I (considerably older than 20 something), have been biking and we are thrilled to have navigated our way through traffic without endangering ourselves or any innocent drivers, pedestrians or fellow cyclists right up to moment we cross over Beach Avenue and bike onto the Promenade.

Biking on the Promenade is permitted from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. and let me just say, it’s a good thing we both had our sea legs by the time we set our course down that path, because by 9 a.m. it is painfully clear that we’re not the only ones with the brilliant idea of getting some exercise with a view of the beach and the ocean to inspire us along the way.

It takes some skill to maneuver among groups of six, to whom the concept of single file, or even two by two, is lost in their enthusiasm to converse. Or to avoid a collision course with the quintessential biking family – mother, father, older brother or sister and baby biker, whose trike or two-wheeler with training wheels, all too often zigzags across the pavement in a pattern hard to predict for the person trying to pass and get out of harm’s way. I dare not even venture to look behind me to see how Macy is faring, but she apparently manages because we make it to Sunset Pavilion and are pleased as punch with ourselves. So pleased, that after sitting for a spell and watching the other bikers make their way to the end of the “road,” we cannot resist rewarding ourselves with breakfast from The Cove Restaurant. Hmm. There is nothing like French toast covered with maple syrup or eggs over easy to quell the shock of suddenly doing physical exercise.

It’s time to get back to work. Yes, this biking is on company time. Hey! It’s a tough assignment, but someone has to do it. Emboldened with success and food, we bravely bike into traffic and proceed straight up Beach Avenue to return our bikes. Except for beach goers crossing the street, we breeze along and make it back to the Village Bike Shop in no time. Total trip including breakfast and gawking at the ocean was about an hour and 15 minutes. A word to the wise, always be on the lookout for the car door that can suddenly pop open and clock you as you obliviously try to speed on by.

Biking at Sunset: Sunset Boulevard, the scenic route

Distance: 6.9 miles
Time: 6 p.m.

Now this is what I’m talkin’ about. A little more difficulty, far fewer people, gorgeous scenery and great scents.

We pick up our bikes at the Village Bicycle Shop around 6 p.m. Denny encourages us not to bike along Lafayette to Perry to Sunset Boulevard, but to instead take the scenic route. Who are we to question the bike man? And so Macy and I set off along Elmira Street. We only get as far as Cape May Creek when Macy and I stop to look at the beautiful white heron in the creek. We cross Park Boulevard to Leaming Street. We are now in West Cape May, what used to be, and still is, just not as much so – the agricultural part of the island. What a pretty street Leaming is. It seems each house has a doll house-like quality with a pretty garden in front. Now for the brave part of this exhibition – crossing Broadway. No problem. We find ourselves twisting around until we are on Sixth Avenue with a large open field on our right, very few cars, and the quiet of twilight beginning to descend and the rich smell of nature all about us.

“Wait! What’s that, Macy? Are those pigs?” For full disclosure I should share with you the fact that Macy and I are not the most agile, graceful cyclists you’ve ever seen. It takes us each at least four push offs to get going. And stopping? Hmm. Sometimes, when excited, we just jump off without braking, tangling ourselves about the bikes like a contortionist without a sense of direction. Perhaps we can invest in bumper stickers for the back of the bikes, something like: We brake for piglets. And we did.

Apparently it’s dinnertime for Momma and her baby piglets, plus there seems to be an overprotective aunt looming about as well. How very cool is this? Thrilled with our find, we continue on down Sixth, make a quick left onto Bayshore Road and a quick right onto Stevens Street. We are now truly in the heartland of Cape May’s agriculture scene. Rea’s Farm is dead ahead and dominates the landscape along Bayshore and Stevens, but just a little further up the road and we are in farm country. Beach Plum Farm and Willow Creek Winery are located along Stevens Street. There is not a car in sight, except those in the driveways as we approach a more residential area of the street, and it is so quiet you can hear the crickets in the distance telling us night will be upon us soon. The end of Stevens Street is also home to Cape May Carriage Company and that brings us to Sunset Boulevard. We check the time and it is not even 7 o’clock. So, we adjust our trip to include the Cape May Lighthouse. Crossing Sunset Boulevard we again opt for the scenic route and take Sea Grove Avenue to Lighthouse Road.

Sea Grove Avenue is my FAVORITE road and I do forgive it for being in Lower Township not Cape May, West Cape May or Cape May Point. A sense of peace comes over me as we turn the corner and smell the honeysuckle. It’s just me and Macy and the sound of birds getting ready to turn in, but the moment doesn’t last long enough and before we know it, we are on Lighthouse Road heading to this wonderful monument to the past. I love this area and especially love looking at the Lighthouse keeper’s house, wondering what life out here in this desolate area must have been like for him and his family.

Macy doesn’t let me wonder too long, however, because it’s time to make our way to Sunset Beach for the Evening Flag Ceremony. The lowering of the American flag is a 43-year-old tradition and Marvin Hume has been at the mast for 35 of those years. The 86-year-old Hume owns the property at Sunset Beach which includes a couple of gift shops, a clothing boutique and Sunset Beach Grill, where Macy and I break to have a light dinner (well Fish and Chips, not so light, but awfully good) while watching the setting sun and the many travelers who begin to arrive by car, by foot, and by bike to witness this miracle of nature and partake in a little slice of patriotism, the Cape May way.

A few minutes before sunset a loudspeaker goes on and someone, sometimes Marvin Hume, sometimes someone else, explains the ceremony and introduces the family who will help lower the flag that night. All the flags flown at the mast are veterans’ casket flags donated by the families of the deceased. There are always, as there is on this night, representatives of the deceased veteran. Mr. Hume asks which of the children feel they are most able to help lower the flag, and afterwards he shows the family how to properly fold it. Kate Smith can be heard over the loudspeaker singing God Bless America and that is followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Gentlemen are asked to remove their hats. Most stand with hands over hearts. The flag, the sunset and the honored. Is there any better way to end your day here in our little slice of Paradise?

Because it has been a long day and it is now a little after 8 o’clock, Macy and I bike straight down Sunset Boulevard into Cape May and lock our bikes at Denny’s shop.

Biking to Higbee Beach

Distance: 7 miles
Time: 7:30 a.m.

Although Denny is at the helm, Macy and I have our locks for the bikes we used the night before. Again, it is a lovely morning and the heat and humidity which will make the afternoon sticky and stifling are absent. We make our way back down Elmira to Park and wind our way around to Broadway turning left onto Stimpson Lane. We are so lucky because there is virtually no traffic on the roads and in no time we turn right onto Bayshore Road, again in front of Rea’s Farm and buzz on down to New England Road. Macy and I cannot get over the rich smells of the country and sea air and as we get closer and closer to Higbee Beach, a quiet comes over the countryside, broken only by the delightful (I never use this word, so when I say delightful, I mean it) sounds of song birds. I feel like I’ve just stepped into a scene from Snow White. Soon I will be dancing with the birds and they’ll be helping me to make a dress for the ball.

We park our bikes and make our way down one of the paths which ends at the beach. I never get over that. You are walking through what I perceive to be the woods, and then there is a clearing over a little crest of a hill and the beach, the ocean and sky greet you like long lost friends. It was my intention to have a picnic breakfast on the beach, but something went wrong with that idea – like the fact that I didn’t get up early enough. What a wonderful way to start the work day, or any day for that matter.

Now, we ARE plagued with saddle sores on the trip back, but it’s our own fault for doing nothing for weeks on end and then trying to vie for Olympic biking champ status three days running.

I urge all of you – be you locals or visitors – to get on that bicycle and explore the island and parts nearby. Cape May is perfect. It is relatively flat and incredibly beautiful and diverse, plus you’ll save on gas and get the blood to the arteries. Anyway you look at it, it’s a good thing.


A Foodie’s First Love

Photo Credit: Miami Dade College Archives

First loves are never forgotten. They tend to ignite a passion and open your eyes and soul to what you truly desire. This is definitely true for me. She was an older woman and she enticed me with wine and food. I discovered her on a rainy afternoon on a PBS station out of Boston. Much fanfare has surrounded Julia Child lately on the occasion of her centennial and she still inspires a deep passion for food in cooks and chefs of all differing abilities.

That was and is one of Julia’s enduring legacies the passion for food. She wasn’t the best technical chef. She would drop and burn things and even cut herself. Still, she persevered in the quest to create meals that nourished both body and soul. Julia preached that food was an event for the senses not just fuel for the human machine. The whole process of cooking was to be savored not just the dishes that ended up on the dinner table. Buying food is not a chore, but the starting point of creation that is as important as properly sautéing or braising. Finding a perfectly ripe tomato or the perfect cut of meat should bring the cook as much joy as tasting the final product. Enjoy every part of cooking and life to the fullest is one of the many lessons Julia taught me.

Julia Child’s Kitchen on display at the National Museum of American History. Photo credit: RadioFan via Wikipedia

Mistakes don’t matter. Get over it and move on. There is much still to enjoy. Your soufflé looks like a flat tire? Start over. When you finally get it right, it will taste that much better. Perseverance was her hallmark. Just pour another glass of wine and soldier on. These memories of Julia have sustained me when dishes were total disasters. To a chef, the acronym WWJD means What Would, Julia Do. She taught me that the food and the process were larger than me. She taught that it was better to learn from our failures than to dwell on them. Crack a joke, then get back to the task at hand.

Any reminiscing about Julia would be incomplete without mentioning the world of food she exposed to us. I am often asked what my favorite Julia Child dish is. Without thinking, the words Coq au Vin pour smoothly out of my mouth like Bordeaux going from the bottle to the glass. For me transformed to chicken from boring to majestic. This has become my go to feel good dish it never fails to rejuvenate or inspire me much like the woman who first taught me how to make it. From there I learned the joys of boeuf Bourgogne, salmon en croute, oeufs a la neige (floating island) and many more dishes. I learned to appreciate their history and the skills and patience required to produce this magnificent legacy of cuisine.

Julia appeared at a time when Swanson’s and McDonald’s had co-opted our food heritage. She showed us the food legacy of the French. She taught us not only how to prepare food but how to enjoy it as well. This month, fill a glass with Cote du Rhone or Riesling and make these dishes that evolved from the ones I learned from the woman who taught me to love and appreciate food. Until next month, Bon Appétit and Save the liver. 

Salad Niçoise

  • 1 hard cooked egg per person
  • 6 olives per person
  • ½ tomato per person
  • 1 red potato per person, cooked sliced
  • 6-8 blanched green beans per person
  • Mesclun greens
  • Anchovies

Vinaigrette

(Serves 1½ cups)

  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Whisk all ingredients.
  2. Chill one hour.
  3. Shake vigorously before serving

Olive Oil Poached Tuna

Traditionally, this salad is served with canned tuna, usually oil packed. Since fresh tuna is readily available around the Jersey shore, here is a way to prepare tuna for this salad.

  • 1 lb tuna
  • 3 cups olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  1. Heat oil with herbs and garlic.
  2. Cut tuna in chunks. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Let rest 1 hour.
  3. Poach tuna on medium heat 15-20 minutes until well done.
  4. Chill in oil or serve warm over niçoise salad set up.

Coq au Vin

(Serves 4)

This dish requires some extensive preparation, but is worth the work. Pour a glass of red wine for enjoyment as you cook – Julia would!

  • Lardons 8 oz slab bacon, cut in 1 x 1/4” strips,
  • 3 lb. old rooster or stewing hen, alas in modern times we must settle for a fryer cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 16 each pearl onions, browned and braised in butter
  • 12 each small mushroom caps, sautéed in butter, reserved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 4 cups Zinfandel or Syrah young good table wine
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  1. Blanch lardons for five minutes in water, rinsed & patted dry. Then pan fry in sauce preparation.
  2. Season chicken and brown in same pan with pork fat, 4 minutes per side. Good color will yield a better looking sauce. Add a little oil if necessary.
  3. Add garlic and brown lightly.
  4. Deglaze with wine scraping pan with wooden spoon & add stock, thyme and bay leaf.
  5. Cover & cook in 300 degree oven and cook 35 minutes until tender.
  6. To make sauce, and this dish is all about the sauce, remove chicken to warm serving platter and top with warmed lardons, onions and mushrooms.
  7. Degrease braising liquid & reduce by a third.
  8. Mix 2 tsp softened butter with 2 tsp flour mix to form beurre manie.
  9. Whisk beurre manie into sauce.
  10. Add chicken and garnish into sauce to baste.
  11. Serve with chopped parsley, crusty bread and a couple of glasses of red wine!

Research + Planning = Doggy Success!

Anyone reading this article is probably a dog lover. I am a dog lover! I have always had bigger dogs. However, running a dog-friendly inn has proven that I am truly a dog lover! No matter the size, no matter the breed or mix, no matter the color, I love dogs! Some of the most endearing qualities of dogs are that they are so very giving, loving, caring, and empathic. Dogs want so much to please and love us, and they ask for so little in return. And yet, whether you are getting a pure breed or mix, a puppy or an older dog, have children, other pets, getting a dog requires commitment, work, and planning to do it right for both you and the dog. You want your dog to be part of the family. You want to love them, and you want the dog to be happy and content. So, do your homework and planning!

First of all, DO NOT GO TO A PET STORE, where you may be getting a puppy-mill dog and may be getting a dog with health issues that even the store owner is unaware of. Secondly, research the breed/mix rather than listen to rumor and innuendo. Know what the breed was bred to do – dig to hunt down rodents, kill snakes, herd, guard, pull or carry, etc. Unless you want your children, other pets, and friends to be herded – don’t get a herding breed. If you don’t want holes in your back yard, don’t get a digger breed/mix. If you are a couch potato, don’t get a dog that needs lots of activity. If you are an active, outdoor person, don’t get a dog that is a sofa ornament. And, remember, if you are rescuing a dog, whether a pure breed or mix, you are also saving a life. Whenever you adopt/rescue, be aware of any issues and problems you may have to work with.

If you want a loving, well behaved dog – plan, work, and reward! To avoid any number of problems, learn how to train your new dog in a positive, rewarding way. My father always used to say, “You can catch more bees with honey then vinegar!” Your dog will learn more, faster, if you train with understanding and a positive, loving approach. Reward the behaviors you want so as to encourage those behaviors. Remember, when you bring your new dog home, it’s all new for you and for the dog. Start right away, so your dog wants to be there with you and so you will want your dog to be there with you. Often people will say, “Dogs are a reflection of their owners.” Trained and treated with love, your dog will be a lover.

When you decide to get a dog – or any pet – you take on a responsibility to care for that pet properly. Don’t say, “Well, it’s just a dog,” because that dog will not only love you no matter what, but that dog is trusting you with its life.

The following was written by an unknown Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

Just A Dog!!

From the Therapy Dog Inc. News Magazine (C.F.P. 11/10/07):

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or, “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog,” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. “Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person. Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks, and look longingly to the future.

So, for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog,” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. “Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the living being that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a man or woman.”

So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile, because they “just don’t understand!”

This month’s GOOD READ will be a surprise; at least it was for me. A surprise, because I thought I knew about the information presented in the book and I learned I did not know as much as I thought.

And a surprise because of what I learned and how deeply it affected me. This month’s Good Read is truly a Must Read: The Lost Dogs – Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant.