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Posts Tagged ‘Allenhurst’

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I’ve stayed home over Labor Day, relaxing, broccoli-like, on the sofa or porch.

Gone to barbecues, eaten my 74th standard-issue potato salad, and wished its maker had seasoned it.*

Gone away to Williamsburg, Virginia, which was cool.

But I’ve never yet seen a better way to celebrate than in a way I came across many years ago.

Michael and I were in our canoe on Deal Lake, a natural body of water that once flowed directly out from the ocean and which, like most natural bodies of water, weaves any which way it pleases. It has wide open areas, small,  secluded nooks, and a bunch more spots that are somewhere between here-I-am and shhh-you-don’t-see-me. (My former neighbor is in his 90s and grew up on the banks of this lake. He told me that in his youth he explored every watery inch of it in his canoe. And remember that scene from ‘Dead Poets Society’ in which Robin Williams’s character has his students stand up on his desk, one by one, and look out so they would learn always to seek out a new perspective? That’s what happens in a canoe as well—it makes you see the world from a fresh point of view.)

On this particular afternoon you could feel the effect that the summer sun had had on the place for the past three months. Everything—sky, water, trees, sandy grassy banks—was saturated with sun. Not in a sweltering way, but in a lazy soaked-up sleepy way. As we floated by, we saw two young women on the Allenhurst banks. They were in an alcove within the overgrown wild maples, cherries and sycamores. There they are above. I’m born and raised here, and I didn’t even know that spot existed; there must have been a hidden path to it that they knew about. They were stretched out in folding chairs, eating pizza out of the box from our only pizza place a block away downtown, drinking, talking, and soaking in the late-afternoon sun on the lake. Except for the splash of the water against our paddles and the warm breeze through the leaves on the trees, it was completely, deliciously silent.

We paddled closer and called out a hello to them. They told us their boyfriends had finished eating and had gone to play a little one-on-one basketball on the courts behind the trees. They were just hanging now. It was almost total seclusion, and thoroughly peaceful; unless you lived in one of the houses across the lake and were squinting, or were us, you never would have seen them. That’s what they were going for, they said. They decided to do something different this year, and purposely went off the grid. We told them they got Labor Day right. They grinned and said, ‘We know.’

Tucked away with a pal in a leafy nook of quiet with a pizza and some cold beer. And I don’t even drink beer. Okay, root. But to me this tiny, quiet Labor Day drop-kicks all the others.

I hope that spot’s not taken on Monday.

*I’m holding out for that blessed day.

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Soft shell crab sandwich, The Circus Drive In, Wall.

Been chowing some of our best-loved treats here at the Shore and wanted to share them with you.

My mom loves the fried soft shell crab sandwich at The Circus. It’s somewhat unnerving to lift the bun and see an entire crab lying there in state, but one taste—just utter sweetness—and you’ll get over it. A seasonal restaurant, The Circus’s site announces their opening day not as opening day but when ‘Flaps open’ 🙂 Here, a waitress comes out to your car and delivers your food on a tray that she hooks onto your window. Mom’s been coming here since her high school days in the 1950s. The pulled pork has a bit more kick than others I’ve tried—a welcome change.

Pulled pork sandwich, The Circus Drive In, Wall. Shot this on my lap in the car.

The best fries at the Shore are at the Windmill, and everyone here knows it. If you’re going make a point to consume a positively alarming amount of fat and carb calories, you might as well love every minute (words to live by).

Windmill french fries, Allenhurst Boardwalk, facing Asbury Park.

Okay, Freehold’s not really the Shore, but it’s only twenty minutes west and I’d be remiss to ignore this cake. Had a slice of it when visiting my friend’s restaurant. It was saturated with creaminess—cold, rich, and delicate all at the same time—and so good that I actually got emotionally involved with it. But I ate it anyway.

Tres leches cake, A Little Bit Of Cuba Dos, Freehold.

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one evening last week at high tide I took a walk on the beach. sky full-metal-jacket grey, water choked with yellow foam and unusually rough, tide you can taste before you even see it. (beach people know what I mean, right? you’re all smiling and nodding your heads.) you’d think the place would be deserted, save for an errant seagull with a death wish.

but it’s at times like this that you see fishermen in long windbreakers and waist-high boots, heading down the stone driveway and taking a place along the edge of the voracious surf. they could be home eating takeout from peking house, letting their eyes glaze in front of the game or angry birds or talking the plusses and minuses of drywall with their housemate. warm, dry…safe.

instead they’re here, at the very edge of the eastern seaboard, and on a night that feels very much like the eastern seaboard is the precarious edge of the world. always wondered what the draw was. so this time I asked.

I  approached a guy and yelled, “what are ya trying for?”

he turned around. mid-twenties. “what?”

“what are ya trying for?”

“oh! striped bass!”

now I love fish, but have never eaten a striper, let alone one fresh caught. “what do they taste like?”

I’m not kidding—his face lit up like a christmas tree. “the best!’

he pulled a wad of plant life off his hook and complained that there was too much seaweed. I told him I’d heard they call that an irish flounder. he said, “or grass bass!” I laughed and told him to break a leg.

this was at the northern end of allenhurst’s beach. on what we locals call the surfers’ beach, the scrap of sand between allenhurst and loch arbour, I came across fisherman #2, in his late fifties.

he saw me first, almost toppled over into a wave, and yelled that he must be crazy to be there. then he laughed. I asked him the same question—what are you trying for?—and he gave the same answer.

“they bite well in this tide?”

“OH yeah!”

“what do they taste like?”

again the rapturous expression. “like lobster. not fishy like bluefish. firm.”

“how do you cook it?”

“steamed–that’s the best way.”

“a little lemon?”

“yeah!”

there are arguably better places to pick up recipes than next to a natural force that keeps hinting that it wants to kill you, but then again, maybe there aren’t.

remember, these guys aren’t home eating takeout. it must be worth it.

now I have to get their names…and ask how much for their next catch.

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