Monday, October 28, 2013

You're welcome 7 year old self

When I was a little girl, I loved orphans, and if the orphans sang and danced, I was in little girl nirvana. One of my absolute favorite movies was Annie.  Our VCR got quite a workout as I watched Annie over, and over, and over again. 
I loved Annie so much, my mom developed the tactic of “playing Annie,” with me to get me to clean my room.  When I  didn’t want to clean my room, she would pretend to be Miss Hannigan and I was an orphan. The orphan me could get my room squeaky clean in no time. 

Having adoration for food pretty much starting at birth, there was one particular scene in Annie that always stuck out for me.  It was the scene when Annie first arrives at Daddy Warbuck’s home and Mrs. Pugh lists off the menu items.  Her list includes Texas grapefruit, Virginia ham, Idaho potatoes, Wisconsin cheese, Washington apples,and baked Alaska.  At the age of seven I knew what everything on that menu was, except for the baked Alaska.  The only thing I knew about Alaska at the time, was that it was cold, so baked Alaska conjured up ideas of some sort of horrific casserole made of polar bears and penguins.  It wasn’t until later that I discovered that baked Alaska was actually a yummy desert, a desert that I vowed one day to taste.

Finally that day has come.

My husband wanted to go to Butcher + Singer for his birthday. Unfortunately, it just didn't fit into our September schedule, so this year we decided to take a break from our traditional Amada anniversary dinner and we headed to Butcher + Singer instead.
(taking picture in the restaurant was challenging. The lighting is dark and it's not the kind of place where you can go all willy -nilly with the flash)
Butcher + Singer, is a fancy steakhouse located on 1500 Walnut Street, in Philadelphia.  I have to give Stephen Starr credit because he sure knows how to create atmosphere and set a mood.  The theme of the restaurant is 1940’s Hollywood and from the moment you walk through the doors you feel transported to another time.  The lights are low, there is dark wood everywhere, and the seats are made of stylish black or creamy leather. 

Since it was our anniversary and it has been a crazy interesting year, we decided to do it up. 
We started out with drinks.  We both got the Palmyra No. 9, which was a martini version of a mojito. 
Having our drinks together next to the low dim light on our table made me imagine that I could have been a movie star having secret drinks with her director or maybe a woman in peril meeting with a private eye to develop a plan to find out what happened to her husband’s fortune.  
For our first course we ordered salads.  My husband got The Butcher Salad and I got The Wedge. 
 I love a good wedge and this was one of the best I have had.  Usually the dressing is lightly drizzled over the iceberg and then a little bit of cheese and bacon is sprinkled on the top, but there was so much dressing, cheese and bacon, I couldn’t see the iceberg underneath.  It was cheesy, bacony, dressing goodness. 
Like most fancy steakhouses, the main courses at Butcher + Singer are a la carte.  We ordered the dry aged porterhouse for two, the creamed spinach and the stuffed (with cheese and Vidalia onions) hash browns.  The steak was absolutely perfect.  My husband described the filet side of the porterhouse as being, “meat candy.”  The creamed spinach was also delicious.  The hash browns weren’t bad, but they were very salty, so if we ever go back, we would probably order the mashed potatoes instead. 

After doing a fairly decent job of clearing our plates, it was time for dessert.  We didn’t even need the menu because my heart was set on the baked Alaska.
Just in case you don’t know what it is, Baked Alaska is ice cream that is covered with meringue and then heated quickly so that the meringue hardens but the ice cream remains cold.  The baked Alaska at Butcher + Singer is delightful.   The meringue was done perfectly so that it was fluffy with just the right amount of crisp. I believe it is a dessert that is difficult to get just right, which is why most restaurants do not serve baked Alaska. I was so happy that I finally was able to fulfill my seven year old heart’s dream and try baked Alaska for the very first time.
By the way, if I ever become filthy rich tons of money, I'm going to hire staff that not only know how to cook and clean, but can also put on elaborate song and dance numbers.  I often wonder what the hiring process was like at Daddy Warbuck’s house.
"So I see here you studied pastry arts in Paris, very impressive, but your resume doesn’t state if you are an alto or a soprano, and how strong are your pirouettes? 
It would make a great reality show, The Next Daddy Warbuck’s staff.  It would be a sort of mash up between America’s got Talent and Chopped. 




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ten + One

This Saturday is our 11th wedding anniversary.  Instead of musing about marriage, as I've done in the past, I thought I would share some pictures from our wedding day. 

My anniversary always makes me think of this scene.  I love the old guy with the hat.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Eating in the rain, we're eating in the rain...

The other bonus of staying at The Mainstay Inn in Cape May was the location.  It was in walking distance of the beach, the town center and lots and lots of restaurants.  We’ve eaten at many places in Cape May, so one of our goals for our mini getaway was to try two never eaten in restaurants. 
The first night we pulled out our ginormous umbrella and walked to The Blue Pig Tavern. 

We thought we would check it off the list since we have friends who often regale us with a humorous tale involving a date they had at The Blue Pig.
The restaurant is located in Congress Hall, a hotel that dates back to the 1800s. The original building was burnt to a crisp in a huge fire, and was then rebuilt in 1878.  The biggest positive of the restaurant is the atmosphere.  It definitely has that old historic charming feel that fit perfectly into the theme of where we were staying.  It felt special, but not too fancy or pretentious, and after a long day, it was nice to sit and have an unhurried, relaxed meal(especially one that I didn't have to cook). The rain tapping on the window, mixed with the glowing candle light, added a romantic flair.  

This photo is for Jason and Stephanie
The food at the restaurant, was a little hit and miss.  The bread, my soup, and the dessert were all quite good, but our entrees (I had the meatloaf and my husband had the veggie pot pie) and my husband’s scallop appetizer were just okay.

Since the rain hindered us from taking a romantic moonlit walk on the beach, we decided to check out the other areas of Congress Hall.  We were happily entertained by a hallway exhibiting past pictures and information regarding the hotel; we’re nerds like that.

Our absolute favorite was an old page from the local newspaper that had been framed.

One of the items on the page was an advertisement for Dr. Townsend’s sarsaparilla.  According to the advertisement, the sarsaparilla was a down right miracle drug, but our favorite claim was that, if ingested ,the sarsaparilla, “removes freckles and gives dull eyes animation and sparkle, which is of great value to unmarried ladies.” Good thing I’m already married since the sarsaparilla is no longer in production. I’m not sure if my eyes would be considered dull, but I am certainly rife with freckles.

 On our second night, we ventured out with our giant golf umbrella once again. While walking we passed a guy carrying a dinky little umbrella.  He nodded in our direction and exclaimed, “now that’s an umbrella (I wished he had said it with an Aussie accent for an added touch but maybe fake accents aren’t his thing).
410 Bank Street had been on my eating radar for at least a year or two. It’s often the little touches.  We were fascinated when we sat down because at first it looked like the plates were printed with the restaurant’s name, only to discover that the table had a layer of paper that was stamped and then the glass plates were centered over the stamp. 

I logged that idea in my noggin in the event that I ever have a fancy dinner party and own glass plates.
The food at 410 Bank Street was tasty.  I had a fantastic piece of sea bass over shrimp creole with veggies.  My husband had a steak.  The dessert was delicious.  It was key lime pie that had been kept in a freezer so that the filling was creamy and cold instead of some key lime pies where the filling is warm, soft, and mushy.  The key lime pie was also not overly tart, which I always appreciate.
During our meal, a couple was seated at the table behind us.  They appeared (due to accents and comments) to be from New York City.  They were an interesting source of entertainment for us.  They ended up not ordering anything off of the menu, but made up their own dishes that they wanted the chef to prepare.  The woman wanted a piece of swordfish, grilled.  It had to be grilled so that she could see the grill marks.  She stressed this at least 3 times while ordering, because, “I like to see grill marks on my food.” If they hadn’t been sitting so close to us, I would have joked and told the waiter that we wanted to see grill marks on our key lime pie. They had all sorts of other dietary wishes and I felt bad for the waiter, but he was nothing but polite.  After all of the complicated ordering was completed, the couple got into a tiff.  She was upset because they had recently moved, but she now regretted their choice of home because, she didn’t like that the housekeeper’s living area was in the house and now she decided she would prefer to find a new house where the housekeeper’s quarters would be on the property but not in the main house. He felt that it took them long enough to find a place and that their current house cost quite a bit, and he didn't think they could afford something with separate servant's quarters. She would not take no for an answer.  We left before ever finding out if they were able to come to a compromise.
 The next day, after checking out of the inn, we took a ride to Atlantic City to see what deals were happening at the outlets. We decided to keep things simple, so we ate at one of our favorite places, Bill's. 

Bill's is located on the boardwalk. It is open 7 days a week until 2am. If you have never been to Bill's, you should go at least just once for the experience.  Is it a complete dive? Yes.  Does Bill the owner look like Gepetto? Yes.  Is the food super yummy? Yes!

Bill's is known for being covered in...bills.
There is money everywhere,

even on the ceiling,
and the money comes from all over the world.
Sadly, Bill's no longer accepts your decorative money, but they still cook up some sweet grub. To be fair we always get the same thing, so I can't say for sure that everything on the menu is yummy, but we do love the gyro platter deluxe.

It's a build your own gyro platter with meat, pita, Greek salad, tzatziki sauce, and although you can't see, there is a big mess of fries under all of that meat. The food is always good and usually I can never finish an entire platter, even though I want to keep eating and eating.  I kind of want some right now, again.

Even though our bellies were filled with tzatziki sauce and meat, we wanted to have one more treat before hitting the road to go home.  Maybe it was more about extending our trip just another hour or so, but we stopped and got some gelato. 

We ate our gelato under the giant statue of Cesar, while discussing whether or not Cesar would care that he had a giant statue in a casino.

Finally it was time to get in our chariot and drive home.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Novel Sleep-The Mainstay Inn

   "It's like I'm in a novel," I said for about the twenty-fifth time.  My poor, poor husband.  I was giddy, so very giddy, while staying at the Mainstay Inn in Cape May.

I have stared at the poster for many years.  Part of a visit New Jersey tourist campaign, the poster was given to our office for free and was hung in our main conference room as art.  During countless trainings and staff meetings, I have stared at the poster of the Mainstay Inn in Cape May and wished that I was sitting on its inviting porch, rocking in one of the hunter green rocking chairs, reading a good book. 

With audits over at the office for one more year (and I spent a massive amount of time in that conference room) my husband and I decided a few days of r and r were in order, and there seemed to be no better place to go than to The Mainstay Inn.

From the moment we walked through the front door, I was giddy with excitement.  The inside made me feel like I was stepping into a novel, 

the type of novels that I read in high school that filled my head with fantasies of becoming a governess so I could relocate to Europe to work for a wealthy brooding widower who would eventually fall in love with me.  Or the novels and movies that I ingested as a kid that made me ask my parents more than once if they would please, please, please send me to boarding school.  The Mainstay Inn made me feel like I was living those stories. 

We slept in the Henry Clay room, located on the second floor of the inn.
At first I found the bed a bit intimidating.  It reminded me of the type of bed you would be sleeping in when visited by a ghost or a vampire. Thankfully the inn was ghost and vampire free.

Not only was the bed beautiful, it was incredibly comfy and made for some great snuggling as the unending rain beat continuously on the roof.

The inn even ensured historical accuracy underneath the bed.
Fortunately, there was modern plumbing and an impeccably clean bathroom.

Our room had a spectacular, promising wardrobe.  I was at least 50% sure it would lead to Narnia. Sadly, it did not.
There were all sorts of lovely little touches that made the room feel special.  I just love a good, beautiful, wash basin.

Exactly the kind of basin you would use to wash up prior to having dinner with a Count.
On a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of the ocean from the Henry Clay room (we did not have a clear day).
As a final touch, the room had a picture of Henry Clay, and a letter that he had written.
Their substitution for a do not disturb sign made us laugh.  Especially since we have a cat who is always very eager to be served breakfast in the morning.

Of course, The Mainstay Inn is a bed and breakfast, so after enjoying our bed, we were looking forward to enjoying some breakfast.

The breakfast menu was posted in the entrance everyday.

There was coffee, tea,
and juice. They served light fare like, cereal, breads, fruit and English muffins, with some of the best blueberry jam I have ever had.
After sitting down and getting situated, we were served our main breakfast dish.

Breakfast was delicious both days, (if you didn't like the day's offerings, staff were more than happy to make you eggs) and everything, from the dishes, to the silverware, to the music playing, made us feel extra fancy special.

Since it down poured during our entire stay, I never got to read on the porch, in a rocking chair.
I did however get to sit and read in front of the cozy fire in the absolutely beautiful sitting room.

My husband whiled away the time by working on a puzzle that had been left out on one of the tables.
I would take breaks from reading to help a bit on the puzzle, but then I would return to my book.
At night the grandfather clock in the sitting room had a deliciously eerie glow.  We had a grandfather clock when I was growing up and I forgot how much I missed hearing a clock's musical chiming.
Guests at the inn are welcome to check out the widow's walk.  Oh how I always wanted to climb up a widow's walk.
I was elated with delight.  It was just like being in a novel. Thankfully, my husband was safe and sound and not lost at sea.

At one point we decided to venture to the center of town. We visited a few stores and bought soap at our favorite soap place.
 After our soaking walk, it was nice to return and spend some time drying out over afternoon tea (one of the best bonuses of staying at The Mainstay Inn).
We had to work hard in order to not spoil our dinner with all of the tasty treats.

I especially liked the tipping teapots.
Of course if you needed a snack outside of breakfast or tea, there were homemade chocolate chip cookies and pretzels available all day and night in the main entrance hall.
There was also coffee available all day next door at the Mainstay's cottage.
Because of all of the rain and wind, I could not have imagined staying anywhere else. When we planned our little trip we thought we'd be spending most of our time taking relaxing strolls around Cape May.  The rain was too continuous and driving to enjoy extended strolling, but we were still able to relax and have an enjoyable time reading, doing puzzles, having breakfast and tea, admiring our beautiful surroundings, and at least for me, pretending to be inside of a novel.