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Month: March 2013

Racing to Success

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Photographs appear courtesy of Robert Elwell, Sr. and the Cape May County Historical & Genealogical Society.

In 1905 Cape May was a thriving national seashore resort. Many of the people coming to Cape May were fans of the new automobile or horseless carriages. They would take their cars on the stretch of sand from Madison Avenue to Poverty Beach for a ride.

In the spring of that year invitations went out to automobile owners in the City of Cape May inviting them to attend a meeting for the purpose of forming an automobile organization with the goal of transforming Cape May City beach into a national automobile speedway. As a result, there was an enthusiastic meeting of a large number of auto owners. A. H. Chadbourne was made temporary president. A. G. Batchelder, secretary of the Racing Board of the Automobile Club of America, who traveled all the way from New York to attend the meeting, was the guest speaker. Thus, the Cape May Automobile Club formed with Edward B. Smith of Philadelphia as its president. Jack Hiscock served as secretary. Fred Betz, III, J. N. Wilkins, and A. L. Depew formed a committee to select the vice presidents and to arrange for the details of final organization.

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The Cape May Hotel (later called the Christian Admiral)

The beach they wanted to make a speedway was a stretch between the Life Saving Station (just east of Madison Avenue) and Sewell’s Point, where the beginning of the Cold Spring Inlet is located at the Coast Guard base today. Cape May’s beach was described as the best beach in the nation. Only the famous Ormond, Florida beach was considered better for racing new machines. As a result, race dates were set for July 29, August 25, and 26. The races would be run against time.

The organization felt extremely happy with the progress they had made in the first few meetings. Their chance of landing some of the country’s top automobile racers to race on the Cape May beaches would put Cape May on the national map. The race would attract some of the best race car drivers and their automobiles in the country.

Mr. Walter Christie was invited to the Cape May Speedway by the Cape May Automobile Club to see if he could break the world’s record for both the mile and kilometer in his famous 180-horsepower (hp) car. This would be the big event that for the first time would bring thousands to Cape May to witness the attempt. Christie felt confident that he could do this by speeding over the Cape May sand. Using his famous car in the Ormond/Daytona course, he drove a mile in 40 seconds (about 90 mph). This was the fastest mile time ever in an American-built gasoline car. It was reported that since that time, he had increased the power in his car and it would be the Cape May beach where the results would be recorded.

In the early racing days there was a famous Dewar challenge cup. At first, many thought Henry Ford would receive the Dewar cup by default since Walter Ross (who won the cup at Ormond) sold his racing car. Walter Christie sent a challenge to Henry Ford to race him on the Cape May beach where the winner would take possession of this prestigious challenge trophy.

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In exchange for lending Henry Ford $400 to pay his hotel bill while staying in Cape May, Ford promised to make Daniel Focer (sitting at the wheel of the car) “the first Ford dealer in America,” and he did. Standing next to him, his partner Jay Mecray. Circa 1915.

The New York Journal reported that Louis Chevrolet would be coming to Cape May for the races in August to try to break the mile and kilometer records established on the Cape May beach in July by Christie. The Journal went on to report that, “Chevrolet will drive the 120 hp Fiat car which finished second in the recent Gordon-Bennett race in France. The car has been shipped from Italy for the Vanderbilt cup race, but is expected to be here in ample time for the Cape May race.”

Several American records were broken on Cape May sands. They were broken by America’s greatest driving experts of that time. But the race that all eyes were upon was the race on August 25, 1905 between Henry Ford, Louis Chevrolet, A. L. Campbell, and Walter Christie. Much was at stake on that summer day, namely prestige for the race car drivers.  As for the spectators, jokes flew back and forth along the boardwalk and knickered kids hollered, “Get a horse!” No one that day realized how historically important that August 25, 1905 would be in automotive history.

Prior to the Cape May Automobile Club organizing, Mr. Winton, of Winton Automobile Works of Ohio, traveled to Cape May to test the beach for a race scheduled for August. Mr. Winton’s car was claimed to hold the world’s record for speed and he brought it with him. After he inspected the beach, he claimed Cape May beach to be the finest racing beach that he had ever found.  Mr. Chadbourne of Philadelphia, who owned “a very handsome car,” was also in Cape May and made daily runs on the beach. Deeply involved in the automobile era, Chadbourne and Winton were looking to enter one of their cars in the Cape May beach races.

Mr. John Hiscock, a Philadelphia newspaperman, followed the race promoters while in Cape May and felt sure that the race would take place on the Cape May beach. D. Leroy Reeves, of the Philadelphia Ledger, also tagged along with the promoters. He claimed that Cape May beach would be the best place for the race. As word got around, eventually 25 machines (cars) came to Cape May with owners interested in the outcome of the test on Cape May beach.

Members of the Cape May Automobile Club pulled out all stops and did everything within their power to make these events a success. The leading automobiles of the Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York areas were being readied for action on the Cape May beach speedway when the racing began.

Cape May City and the committees in charge of the racing details worked feverishly with the anticipation of many prominent automobilists who would come to witness Christie’s record trial on the City’s beaches. The club decided that Mr. S. M. Butler, secretary of the Automobile Club of America, would take charge of the timing apparatus which was his usual assignment in big racing events. Mr. M. A. G. Batchelder, from the American Automobile Association (AAA), agreed to act as referee for the races. Mr. G. F. Wagner would act in the capacity as clerk of the course, which he did for all-important race meets in the country.

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Driver Barney Oldfield (seated) and Henry Ford with the Ford 999 Race Car.

The auto club, and really the entire city, was excited about the automobile time trials to be conducted on the Cape May beach speedway. These trials would eventually lead to attempts at breaking the world’s record for speed in gasoline automobiles. Many prominent racing officials came to Cape May to examine its beach to see if it was satisfactory for racing. Among the officials was Robert Lee Morrell, chairman of the racing board of the AAA, who was the leading authority in racing matters in America.

Cape May’s auto club, which arranged for the time trials and races, offered two trophy cups – one to be known as the Cape May Trophy – was valued at $1,000 and the other valued at $500. Both cups were splendid examples of silversmith’s art and designed by J. E. Caldwell of Philadelphia. The Cape May Trophy would be awarded for the best time over a straightaway beach course for one mile. The other cup ($500) called the Kilometer Cup and would obviously be awarded for the best time on the beach’s kilometer course.

The auto club arranged to have seven other events to run the mile course. Amateurs in all makes of cars would be classified as to the horsepower of their cars and they would be trying for the best timed speeds. Chauffeurs and professional drivers would be in other events to show off their talents in handling their employers’ cars. All in all it would be quite a day for Cape May and racing in America. So much excitement was generated in the Philadelphia area that special trains were run on the Pennsylvania Railroad to ensure enthusiasts would get a chance to view the racing at the Cape May Beach Speedway.

Colonel John Tracy, manager of the Lafayette Hotel, said, “The racing would be one of the greatest events in the history of Cape May. I am satisfied that we have the best mile and kilometer course in the country and possibly the world. Should these meetings be held successfully as they now promise to be, a new attraction will be added to the many superior and natural advantages we already possess.”

The race, scheduled for July 29, 1905, was rained out and held the following day.

The Cape May Automobile Club had to get special permission from the AAA to race on a Sunday as the regular rules restricted Sunday racing.

Christie was victorious in his 8 cylinder, 180 hp Blue Flyer and took his great machine over the course several times. In these heats, the times were very close to the record and in three heats his time was 25.2 seconds or 90.72 mph. Finally, as the spectators and officials looked on, he was clocked at 25 seconds flat (89.28 mph) – a new kilometer record.

Christie told a local newspaper reporter, “I am gratified of course, by the performance, but not at all surprised. I believe I can clip a little more off the record on this beach.”

“How about the mile record?” the reporter asked.

“I have always believed I can lower the mile record on the Cape May beach, but conditions must be perfect.” Christie replied.

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The Cape May Automobile Club sent out entry blanks for a two-day automobile meet and speed test to be held Friday and Saturday, August 25 and 26, under the official sanction of the AAA racing board. There would be a special prize for a free-for-all event for the mile and kilometer opened to the world. A one-mile gymkhana race; standing start; touring cars with three passengers and cars to be run three-eights of a mile. Also on the roster of events – stop car, unload all passengers who would select umbrellas from a barrel, open them before resuming their seats – car to continue as soon as all passengers were seated with umbrellas raised. First car crossing the mile finish line is the winner. If any umbrella was closed, broken, or turned inside out, the car would be disqualified.

According to Carrie Daly’s diary, August 25th, the first day of automobile racing, was fair all morning with rain starting about 11:30. She wrote that it rained very hard all afternoon. As track conditions were spongy from the rain, some of the racers put off racing until the next day.

An estimated 20,000 spectators viewed the first races. The boardwalk was lined for two miles.

Results of the races of August 25th were: Cedrino, in his 20 hp Fiat won the first event; Kelsey, in his Maxwell, made a good show for the second prize. In the second event, open to women, Mrs. C. C. Fitler, in her Packard with 28 hp, won in 56 seconds.

Events 5, 6, and 9 between the great racing experts were postponed, owing to unfavorable conditions. Henry Ford did not put in an appearance. Christie’s machine was not in perfect condition. Louis Chevrolet’s car was out of kilter.

Only Campbell, with his 80 hp Darracq (Red Devil) was in shape to race. Campbell, to please the crowd, went the kilometer distance in 25.8 seconds (86.51 mph) and 25.2 seconds (88.57 mph) His last trial was only one-fifth of a second behind Christie’s American record. However, had he beaten Christie’s record, it would not have counted officially. Christie, who was a favorite of the spectators, went the distance in 26.8 seconds (83.28 mph) and 26 seconds flat  (85.85 mph) with a disabled car.

Cape May was proud of the officials of the Cape May Automobile Club who showed they were capable of handling the biggest events that had ever come to Cape May. According to reports “there were no problems throughout the city except for the rain that fell yesterday afternoon which prevented the breaking of the established speed records of the mile and kilometer.” All persons interested in automobiles said Cape May was destined to be the established home of the sport because the stretch of beach on which the trials was held was the finest in the country.

Due to the sponginess of the track on August 25, the $1,000 Cape May trophy was not offered, but would be up for grabs the next day. Just prior to the races on the 26th, Chadbourne went over the stretch of beach accompanied by a representative of the Daily Wave. It was apparent that the heavy rains also caused “many inequalities to appear,” but those involved in the race decided not to risk disappointing the great crowd assembled.

Campbell, with his Darracq machine, may have proved to have had a slight advantage in the heavy sand. His was said to be the best mud machine and would go best under these conditions. When Campbell’s remarkable time of 38 seconds was announced, a wave of approval swept along the two miles or more of boardwalk that was crowded with spectators.

Later in the race Henry Ford with his Six Cylinder Wonder was going at a terrific pace. Campbell, who pressed him for the lead, had a narrow escape from an accident that might have cost him his life. As the story goes, both were in the stretch of the second heat. Campbell intended to pass Ford on the ocean side. About this time his wheels slipped in water and the machine ran on one set of wheels momentarily, leading many to believe he would flip over. The crowd held its breath, but Campbell skillfully recovered control of his racer. As soon as it was obvious that Campbell was out of danger, racing enthusiasts lining the boardwalk gave him a hearty applause as he returned to the starting point.

In speed trials before Saturday’s race, repeated efforts by Christie and Ford met with disappointment, when they failed to break the time record for the mile. Louis Chevrolet made one effort in his 120 hp Fiat, but his car was disabled in the first heat in which his time was 40.6 seconds.

A Philadelphia newspaper man praised Henry Ford, “This man is a student of speed as well as a demonstrator. He has involved a racing car that has every appearance of having much greater speed than it showed yesterday (August 25, 1905).  It takes a car some time to get tuned up. His new machine just fresh from the factory, had been run over the beach less than a half a dozen times before it was called upon to go against the time. When it gets to working right/well autoists expect great things of it.”

As Henry Ford had promised, he gave Dan Focer who most in Cape May called “Uncle Dan” the nation’s first Ford agency in 1908.  Focer took J. Mecray as a partner who later opened a Ford Agency in Ocean City and one in Cape May Court House. Alec Lyle was told these facts by Dan Focer when he went to work as a car salesman in October of 1921.

In 1908 Ford produced the famous Model T and five years later it became the first car to be mass produced by the moving assembly line system of manufacture.

A local newspaper reported in 1908 that Dr. Emlen Physick sold his 400 acre farm just north of Schellenger’s Landing to Henry Ford of Detroit, Michigan. At the time Ford thought of having a branch manufactory of automobiles. Later he sold the farm to the United States government where Camp Wissahickon was built in 1917 as a Naval Training Station during World War I. This location would be around milepost “0” of the Parkway.

As you walk the promenade on a summer night and if you should happen to be near Madison Avenue it might not be unusual to hear, over the sound of the breaking waves, the ghostly shouts of the crowds egging on the racers driving their new machines – the apparitions might be the likes of J. Walter Christie, A. L. Campbell, Henry Ford, and Louis Chevrolet. historic-endmark

 


The Wetlands Institute

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When spring blows in, I start itching for the outdoors. Let’s face it, winter is a bit trying on its own. But throw kids into the mix and it’s downright frightening. There are only so many times you can lose to your four-year-old at Candy Land, make brownies, or color a Team Umi Zoomi picture.

Thankfully there are tons of places to go within a short drive of Cape May, so I was super excited to see where my next Day Tripper column would take me. That is until I realized my assignment was to go to the Wetlands Institute.

Hmm, now this is interesting. Or not.

The Wetlands Institute stands like a beacon of nature and relaxing calm in the truly gorgeous and expansive back bay marshes of Stone Harbor. My children stand as beacons of crazy energy, ready to scream, run, and jump as long as possible, and believe me, that’s a long time. How will I merge these two opposite worlds?

I did what any mom would do, I called in backup. Her name is Mom-Mom.

So with Mom-Mom, her husband Michael, Sam and Finn in tow, we hit the road for the short drive north and quickly realized that sometimes all it takes is a few miles to feel like you’ve gone someplace really different. We left Crazyhecticville and in 15 minutes arrived
in the land of house finches, snowy egrets and great blue herons.

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The Wetlands Institute sits about a 100 feet back off the causeway leading to Stone Harbor in the salt marshes of the Cape May Peninsula. It’s hard to miss, in part because there aren’t too many buildings on the long, narrow causeway, but mostly because it’s a large, cedar-sided building with colorful grounds and a look-out cupola atop.

As we strolled towards the front entrance, we were impressed by the lush landscape marking the paved path. Marion’s Gardens are award winning and attract birds and butterflies with native plants. Right through the door we were greeted with a smile and given a quick rundown of the place. Our first stop? Marshview Hall for a movie and a talk about birds.

Oh boy, er, boys. Lecture halls generally mean sitting quietly while someone else talks. Mom-Mom, don’t fail me now.

The Wetlands Institute gets this. Clearly, I’m not the first mom with two kinetic boys to walk through the doors. Set up on the opposite side of the room is a television screen, a large sculpture of an osprey holding a fish in its claws (cool), and two telescopes pointing at the osprey nest nearby in the marsh. Sam and Finn ran to the wall of windows and started peeking through the kid-size telescope. That day we saw a baby osprey alone in the nest. Each year the osprey family leaves the nest in late fall and returns in the spring.

 

When it was time to watch the movie, it was a Mom-Mom sandwich as Sam and Finn each sat beside her on folding chairs. There was a bit of grumbling, but nothing a well-packed zip of Cheerios couldn’t resolve. After the movie we headed through the gift shop and out onto the large two-story deck overlooking the marshes and the salt marsh trail, our next destination.

Now it’s one thing to view the expansive marshes from the Institute’s deck, where you are completely safe from, say, accidentally falling into the muddy waters. It’s quite another to hit the trail smack in the marsh, even with the help of our very capable docent, Tom.

Very Capable Docent Tom, meet Sam and Finn Godfrey.

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As you walk (or run as it were) along the crushed shell path that begins right off the parking lot (where you’ll find picnic tables) and extends past the Institute quite far into the bay, you are no longer on your turf. You are in shore bird and marsh wildlife territory. Our first inhabitant sighting? A lone white egret walking in the distant marsh.

On any given day you can spot mockingbirds, warblers, sparrows, gulls, hawks, robins, and of course, the resident osprey.

We walked along the shrub-lined path, careful not to touch poison ivy, until we came to a perpendicular bridge that took us, literally, out over the bay.

Two little boys with crazy, unstoppable energy and a four-foot-wide (if that!) path several feet above water? Luckily the tide was low during our visit.

The trip out over the bay was awesome. We spotted tons of Fiddler crabs walking along the bottom sand. Fiddler crabs have one giant claw and one normal size claw – it’s a scene, man. They look like cartoons, sort of like a one arm crab version of Popeye.  Blow me down indeed. We didn’t spot any terrapins that time, but they are out there too, along with many other species of wildlife.

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At the end of the clam shell path there are kayaks for taking tours through the marshes, one of the best ways to mingle with the birds, crabs, fish and terrapins.

When we returned to the main building, and said our goodbyes to Tom, we headed up stairs onto the cupola to see the marsh from a real birds eye view.

The steps up are plenty, but there is a detailed mural of sea life painted all over the stairwell walls to distract you. At the top, the wind wasn’t too gusty and we were able to see a panoramic of the green marshes. There is a well-placed white birdhouse up there too for some good bird watching.

telescopeThe Wetlands Institute along with Stockton College conducts a Diamondback terrapin conservation project. Each summer college students from across the US come to assist the animals who fall victim to the commercial crabbing industry and coastal development. From the Institute’s first level deck, you can head into Terrapin Station, where you’ll find a big tank with loads of active Diamondback terrapins you can check out up close, something that’s not so easy when you see terrapins in the wild – they usually hide from onlookers. Sam and Finn had a blast watching the terrapins swim in the tank and step on each other. Mom-Mom gave them a few dollars to “feed” the terrapin sculpture – a donation that goes directly to the Institute.

One of the best things about the Wetlands Institute? They have a room set back off the main path that’s set up with kid-friendly tables and chairs. On the tables are rub ons of various fish and sea life, crayons, scissors and paper.

Mom-Mom, Mike, Sam, Finn, and I all sat down at the end of our visit and made souvenirs to take home. It was a fun, calm end to a very cool day.

Like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. Anyhoo, I’m big on truth, so I’ll admit that after hearing we were going to The Wetlands Institute, I immediately thought B.O.R.I.N.G. Of course, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Wetlands Institute is filled with super-fun activities for all ages and in three hours, my family took advantage of almost everything offered the day of our visit and we’re ready to come back for more.  historic-endmark


Lucky Bones Backwater Grille

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In their more intimate moments, male horseshoe crabs hang onto their mates with hook-like claws attached to their front legs. Back in Cape May’s whaling days, superstitious watermen considered the claws good luck charms, and often took them to sea for protection. They called them “lucky bones.”

The Craig family, long-time restaurateurs in Cape May, invoked the luck of the claw when it opened its newest restaurant, Lucky Bones Backwater Grille, in 2006.  They infused a new spirit into Cape May’s increasingly sophisticated restaurant scene.  In a town full of fine-dining establishments, outdoor eateries and landmark bars, Lucky Bones carved out a culinary niche by serving gourmet fare in a fun, casual setting.

You know that when a restaurant is two-thirds full on a cold Tuesday night in February, it’s doing something right. Obviously, Lucky Bones has charmed Cape May’s year-round residents.

That night, my meal began with steaming-hot Butternut Squash Soup that was creamy and satisfying. My main course was Grilled Cuban-Spiced Rubbed Pork Chop, a specialty of the house that was lean, tender, and tantalizingly Caribbean. It was served with whipped sweet potatoes and red wine jus.  My friend started with the Rocket Salad, a mix of fresh arugula, olives, brick-oven roasted vegetables, shaved fennel, and fresh mozzarella, tossed in a green vinaigrette. Next she ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna, which she described as “scrumptious” and “cooked to perfection – not too rare and not too well done.” Steamed vegetables and lightly seasoned couscous accompanied the fish.

I also paid a visit to Lucky Bones last summer. Typically, there’s a wait for tables in summer, so I sat at the bar instead. Lucky Bones is at its most laid-back in the bar, particularly if there’s live entertainment.  While the bar and restaurant share the same menu, Lucky Bones’ comfort foods, which like the rest of its menu are made from scratch, taste particularly good when eaten at the bar.

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Lucky Bones’ Oven-Roasted Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip, which comes with generous slices of home-made pita, is a great dish for breaking bread with friends. The Hand-Cut French Fries are sliced daily from Silver Creek Idaho potatoes, and are served hot and crispy. The Lucky Bones Burger is molded by hand from a half pound of USDA Choice ground beef; grilled and topped with bacon, mushrooms, and onions.

It’s Lucky Bones’ Margherita Pizza, however, that steals the show.  The tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella pie rivals pizza at many of South Jersey’s dedicated pizzerias. On a busy summer day, the restaurant’s brick oven regularly turns out more than 120 Margherita pizzas.

Patrons should consider washing down their pizza with one of the 14 beers Lucky Bones has on tap. The restaurant added a popular new beer last summer, Honey Porter, made from clover and wildflower honey collected from beehives in Cape May County.  Lucky Bones is one of the very few restaurants to serve this specialty beer produced by Cape May Brewery. It sells out every week.

The vibe at Lucky Bones is fun, casual, and easy-going. However, there’s nothing casual about how the staff is trained to deliver quality service. Taryn, our waitress on our winter visit, epitomizes the staff’s professionalism, and elevated a great meal to a fabulous dining experience.

Lucky Bones’ staff and owners work hard to keep the restaurant fresh, a mindset that led to the introduction of an extensive gluten-free menu in June, 2010.  The gluten-free menu is nearly as large as the restaurant’s regular menu, and even includes two gluten-free beers.

Lucky Bones is also considering starting its day earlier. While a final decision hasn’t been made, the restaurant is contemplating adding breakfast service this summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

With new and old ways to enjoy Lucky Bones’ charms, the restaurant is gaining a loyal and growing following, which includes 5,000 members in its Lucky Loyalty Card Program.  Cardholders receive one point for every dollar spent on food and beverages, which can be redeemed for meals and prizes. One lucky loyalist accumulated 50,000 points  – the equivalent of buying 5,714 Margherita pizzas – which won him a trip to California’s wine country.

Clearly, the “lucky bones” revered by Cape May whalers have not only brought good fortune to their namesake restaurant but also to Cape May’s residents and visitors.


Good Sense?

9781616200459This month’s Good Read: Comet’s Tale by Steven D. Wolf. This tale is about two beings who meet, bond, and help each other to overcome personal difficulties and problems in order for each to have a remarkable comeback and recovery – one that couldn’t have happened for either, without the other. One is a greyhound, Comet, an abused greyhound racing dog ditched by her owner. The other is Steven Wolf, ditched by partners in the company he founded. Their remarkable bond and their faith in each other make them both winners again. This tale is powerfully and emotionally told. Christine Dorchak, President of GREY2K, USA said, “A powerful tale about life, family, and personal healing that reminds us all that greyhounds are love!”

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Good sense, and using senses well, are part of Comet’s Tale so a good lead into this month’s article. Dogs, or rather canine, senses are all very similar to human senses and, at the same time, very different! When we understand the similarities and, especially, the differences we understand our dogs better and our communication with them is improved through that understanding.

Dogs, like us, have sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell as senses. They use these senses, like we do, as a way of gathering information from their environment in order to be able to move, respond, react, interpret and communicate. Human or dog, if you walk past a restaurant and pick up the smell of bacon or beef grilling, your mouth starts to water – information in and reaction in response. Human or dog, if you feel a sting or burn, you pull away – information in and reaction in response.

A dog’s sense of sight is not the same as ours. Most, but not all, dogs have a wider field of vision, giving them better peripheral vision due to the fact that their eyes are more on the sides of their heads. For dogs with rounder heads (like pugs) their peripheral vision is closer to ours since their eyes are more toward the front of their heads. Due to this wider view, dogs are able to spot movement both in front of them, as well as to either side. I sure that’s why my own dogs, who are sight hounds, see the movement of that squirrel long before I do, which means I often end up in a land based “Nantucket sleigh ride” type situation being pulled through yards and nearly up trees! But dogs do not see color as brightly and distinctly as we do. Dogs are not color blind but they see colors differently than we do. For example, dogs will more easily see a blue toy in the grass than a green or orange one, since they see colors in more muted tones and they don’t recognize as many colors. They will, however, see a moving toy of any color more readily than a stationary one. A dog’s vision is usually best at dawn and dusk. Dogs have a layer on the eye which reflects light back to the receptor cells, so their night and low light vision is better than ours. Because of all of this, dogs rely more on contrast and movement rather than color and light.

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Many breeds which are sight hounds – like mine – are really attracted to movement and some breeds can chase prey for long distances as long as the prey keeps moving. All of these sight factors make for great retrieving, guarding, guiding, and hunting.

My dogs will eat almost anything they can get to – including on one occasion, an old cigarette butt! Yuck! Though dogs can taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, most dogs aren’t very fussy about what they eat, probably because they do not have a strong sense of taste and rely more on their strong sense of smell. Most of the dog’s taste buds are on the tip of the tongue, which in our dogs’ cases doesn’t get much use since they can eat their food faster than I can get it ready for them. Between prep and clean up, I spend more time with their meals than they do! Sometimes I think it’s more the words – treat! – dinner! – that excite them.

Nest time we’ll talk about some of the other senses, which for dogs are more important, more specialized, and in some instances, stronger than ours. But to stick with a theme…..you should start “looking” for your place to stay with your dog while you visit Cape May and get a real “taste” of the town. Looking forward to seeing you this summer!!


The Crab Cake Doctrine

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The Pacific Northwest has their salmon. New England has their lobster. In the Mid-Atlantic States we tend to be a little crabby. For the truly crabby, only Blue Claw Crabs will do. Don’t waste your breath talking Dungeness, King or Stone. In these parts we know what we want and it is Blue Claw Crabs. Steamed and tossed on a picnic table garnished with cases of beer and sweet corn, swimming in cream and vegetables in a soup or methodically manipulated into a patty, we enjoy our Blue Crabs. The last variation may be the most popular. Making a great crab cake is a badge of honor that chefs and cooks wear proudly. Sadly, many crab cakes miss the boat on achieving greatness. What makes a superior crab cake?

In my, not so humble, opinion, the key to success is honoring the main ingredient. Too many chefs contaminate their cakes with ingredients that mask the delicate flavor of crabmeat rather than enhance. Green and red peppers are an abomination. Green peppers add a bitterness that disrupts the palate. Red peppers can be used in a sauce or relish with the crab cake, but need to be put in their place. They are a supporting player not the star. Scallions and chopped parsley are okay adding contrast without overpowering. Mince or chop secondary ingredients finely, the only large chunks you want in a crab cake are the sweet nuggets of jumbo lump crabmeat. That leads to the next key to success, mixing.

When buying crabmeat – the bigger the lumps of crab, the bigger the flavor and the bigger the hit to your wallet. The most common and unforgivable crustacean crime is turning jumbo lumps into crab sawdust. Fold your binding ingredients GENTLY into the crabmeat. Use your hands carefully turning the crab into the liquid mixture as you pour. The binding ingredient should be added next. This ingredient has only one function: to hold the jewels of crab in place. Many chefs over think this step and try to add a kitschy item like pretzels or potato chips as a binder. Keep it simple. I prefer panko bread crumbs for their neutral flavor. Crustless bread cubes will also do the job and blend into the background leaving the crab flavor at center stage. Mix your binder into the liquid ingredients and let sit for a few minutes for the best results. When adding seasonings, remember less is more. Some crab cakes have sent me into an old bay induced coma. This spice mixture should be used sparingly.

I prefer to griddle or pan fry my crab cakes since they aren’t cloaked in breadcrumbs as opposed to deep frying.

Good chefs know when to let the ingredients speak for themselves. Creativity in crab cakes is best saved for sauces and accompaniments. With crabmeat costing close to $25 a pound, I want my crab cakes to taste like sweet east coast Blue Claw Crab.

Enjoy my award-winning crab cake recipe and video (not award winning, but helpful and informative all the same) Until next month, Bon Appétitcape may dog friendly beaches

Persnickety Chef’s Award-winning Crab Cake Recipe

  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab
  • 1 bunch scallions, minced
  • 2 Tbsp minced parsley
  • 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  1. Mix all ingredients gently.
  2. Let mixture rest 30 minutes.
  3. Pan fry by heating sauté pan. Add oil to lightly coat pan. Cook 4-5 minutes per side.

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