Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Maryland Get Away, The Kimber Effect And Sweet, Sweet Memories

Over the life of Dinner Plan-it, I've given you little insights into various adventures I've enjoyed there with friends and/or family in the great and beautiful state of Maryland. (Okay, sometimes MORE than a little, you know I LOVE the state!) Never has time spent in Maryland NOT been memorable!

Generally, you get snippets of Maryland adventures like last year's vacation in Ocean City and the food and drinks at Hooked or more lengthy tales like a Food With Friends get together in Annapolis or Kimber's and my visits to Fells Point in Baltimore. This time I thought we'd take you along on our long weekend to Ocean City to experience (vicariously) the foods, the sights, the smells, the oddities, the simple pleasure of being at the beach. Are you packed? Let's go!

We start out early, after the dawn but before the morning rush, heading for the turnpike. Eastbound, our first observation is we should have packed more gluten-free foods unless I want to gorge on a selection of salty, oily potato chips from multiple metal racks at the Oakmont rest stop. Fresh GF food? Forget it. Lesson learned. 

Back in the car, we cruise straight to Bob Evans in Breezewood to simply fill the holes in our bellies. That we did, then back on the road with images of glistening waves, squawking  seagulls and glittering sand luring us on. The beach is our quest.

As we drive, we talk about Ocean City beach trips of the past and the many interesting weather events we've encountered over the decades. Hurricanes and Nor'easters are no strangers to our OC beach vacations. In fact, we realized that when Kimber is along, storms are the norm! We simply face the fact that Kimber is a magnet for - well, let's just call it less than satisfactory beach weather. 

There was one particularly memorable storm - I think it was Hurricane Emily - when Kimber was in high school that winds whipped up the seas into giant mounds of seafoam against the dunes and sand felt like it was shot from a sandblaster against our faces. Our windbreakers sounded like a platoon of helicopters landing! Why were we out there (along with one of her friends) in that kind of weather? Why wouldn't we be?! Type A tendencies, you know.

Making great time, we are! We crossed the beautiful Bay Bridge, dazzled by the ships and boats and familiar crab pots bobbing in the bay and we drew closer to OC with the temp at 81 and glorious skies all around.  Into farming country, we make note of the multitudinous farmstands on the westbound side of Rte. 50 to make our last-of-the-season produce purchases more efficient on the way home. Good plan.

And then, in the distance, we see the familiar signs and businesses that welcome us to our happiest place. (I've been going here since I was 5 years old with parents, grandparents, uncles and many, many friends. Many, many sweet, sweet memories.) 

Yeah, we could have gone that fast way that takes us north of downtown Ocean City, but that sucks the life out of all the years of recollections - that first smell of the ocean that wafts through the open windows and sunroof as we cross the drawbridge, the perennial line of placid seagulls grabbing for dear life to the roofline of M. R. Ducks on the righthand side, looking for (and saying hello to) the Boardwalk, the spot where the real yellow Volkswagon VW Bug used to be perched high on a pole above the Paddock (Eek! It's a country/western bar now.), Fish Tales (hello!), Macky's (hiya!), Seacrets (guilty pleasure still at my age). 

I forgot something in all my excitement. As we approached the bridge, the clouds gathered, the temperature dropped from 81 to 74 and the winds kicked up. Significantly. Yep, The Kimber Effect still holds. Comforting to know there are constants in life. We always prepare for the not so positive ones and enjoy the moments we're given as they're given. So our first stop was Hooked for lunch and a well-crafted cocktail. We earned it. The Kimber Effect worked to our advantage this time!

Nice and spicy with a house pickled jalapeno and pickled tomato to boot!

While we sat at the bar, ate a wonderful crabby lunch and chatted up the staff, the rain came, the rain cleared, the sun came out and we were on our way to check into the hotel. 

Mmmhmmm...the first of many crab dishes to ensue. Real Maryland crab dip and fresh made chips at Hooked.
(Hooked participates in the Maryland True Blue Crab program

You KNOW its real!)

As if we needed evidence that the Kimber Effect had cleared, we checked in only to be queried whether we might be interested in exchanging our King Suite room with the pull out sofa (only room available when we made the res - SunFest weekend, you know) for a room with 2 queens? Oh, and the 2nd night would be free. BOOM! The Kimber Effect dissipated in grand style before our very eyes. Done. Deal.

View from our balcony towards the Big Assawoman Bay - Kimber Effect on the way out.

View from our balcony towards the Atlantic - Kimber Effect banished!!!

First thing on tap? A walk on the beach! This is, of course, the reason we drove 7 hours to begin with.

So maybe the windy part of the Kimber Effect remained. The beautiful part!

Not yet ready for dinner - since we'd packed in such a late lunch - we decided to head north to Delaware. On a booze quest. Always fun to peruse the shelves of distant states to see what interesting rums, bourbons, liqueurs and unknowns might be lurking in unfamiliar territory. 

Our first stop was Lighthouse Liquors in Fenwick - nice selection in a relatively small store! Here we picked up Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum. Yes. THAT Dogfish Head. We also found Abuelo 12 Year, a Panamanian rum I'd been searching for since we sampled its delights at Porco Tiki Lounge in Cleveland almost a year ago. Grabbed that one, too! Although they didn't carry some of the items on our list, they were kind enough to tell us about this place up in the outlet mall! Be still my heart.

Scores at Lighthouse Liquors in Fenwick.

Yes folks, raised stage, LIVE beach music AND outlet-priced discount liquors! Outlet store nirvana.
Well, you see the picture above. You can just image our reaction. Oh, and did we shop! Pusser's, Appleton Estate V/X and Wray & Nephew rums; my no-longer-carried-in-PA and long-lamented 360 Double Chocolate vodka - TWO bottles; Dolin's vermouth - both dry and sweet, nicely priced (relatively) Grand Marnier, and even some rhubarb and cranberry bitters thrown in for good measure filled our cart. A most successful trip already, yes? I'm already making a list for our next trip to Outlet Discount Liquors in Rehoboth!

After a thwarted attempt for dinner at Dogfish Head, we meandered back down Coastal Highway just in time for a prime spot at the Crab Bag. Yes, the second crab meal of the day.

Fat. Hot. Heavy. Just the way they should be.

The rest of the evening saw lots of shopping (LOTS!), leather jackets at end-of-the-season prices, Dolle's candies, frozen yogurt, stops in all of the surf shops - some more than once - and especially at our favorite open-late shop, Endless Summer where I picked up this little tiki number...for the bar, of course.

This little tiki surfer dude obviously catches only the fiercest of waves! 

Yawn. This was a long, productive day starting in PA this morning, to MD, DE and back to our room. Nitey nite. Another awesome day ahead!

Hmmm...what's with all the clouds?

First peak from the balcony. It will burn off!

So off to breakfast we go. Bloodies and Benedicts, please.

The brand new Barn 34 (where the Christmas shoppe used to be) is serving up some kickass food! The GF (no muffin) Benedict with fresh spinach, FRESH crab(!!), Canadian bacon, poached egg and homemade hollandaise was simply amazing. Pretty decent Bloody Mary, too!

Still cloudy. Let's head to the inlet before the crowds get there for SunFest. Nice time to stroll the beach, reflect on the past year and think about how much Mark would have loved this trip. Except for the shopping. He would have taken a little salt water taffy to the beach to enjoy with his beer while we hit the stores!


Time to hit the beach for REAL! will burn off.

Okaaaayyyy...sunning(ish) in the sand with a favorite beverage will brighten things up!

And it did.
(Sailor Jerry and ginger for Kimber (L) and Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, lime and Diet Coke for me (R). Don't judge. It was vacation.

And the clouds and wind rolled in again. No problem! We'd been wanting to check out Ocean City Brewing Company!

A light lunch, picklebacks and a flight of some pretty amazing beers at OCBC were just what the weatherman ordered! (So did we.)

More shopping, a late dinner and an early turn in were in order. Busy 2 days! Seems like more, doesn't it?

Sunday. Time to get up and check the skies to see whether we're sticking around to enjoy one last (crab) breakfast or hitting the road.

This view certainly made the decision easier.

This confirmed it.

And so, we bid adieu to the rain, drove back down Coastal Highway for one last time while saying our silent farewells. It was sweet. It was just what we needed to relax and refresh until next year. Reservations are already being made for August 2015!

Across the drawbridge, the rain eventually clears, we stop for pumpkins and apples and late tomatoes at one of the stands we'd reconnoitered just a few days earlier. Not interested in breakfast, we crossed back over the Bay Bridge watching the Eastern Shore fade into our rearview mirror. Until next year, you great big beautiful bridge!

While driving, we decided we'd stop at Wegman's (my standard fix when in Maryland!) for MD crabmeat by the pound and lunch at Brian Voltaggio's Family Meal. We stopped, spent hours in the Wegman's aisles - and the money to prove it - and then hit Family Meal. 

Our timing was spot on. Two prime spots right at the end of the counter opened up and we sailed past families and parties of 3 or more to our comfy perch. Knowing us by now, you also know we struck up a conversation with the men to our left and, of course, the staff. I think we convinced our countermates to visit Pittsburgh after telling them about the dining, cocktail and brewery scenes in town!

So lunch. The menu is classic diner and comfort food interpreted to the nines. But casual, friendly, family like and NO pretensions. The no pretensions thing at Volt was what I appreciated so much the times we've dined there.  

I started with cool, creamy perfectly seasoned deviled eggs generously dusted with crumbles of crisp bacon and I followed that with a bowl of cauliflower soup drizzled with basil oil and topped with a Parmesan crisp. Kimber and I shared duck fat fries with truffle oil, surrounded with 3 dipping sauces. Hands down our favorite was the onion dip one! Brought back memories of the 50's sitting around the black and white RCA, munching Ruffles with Lipton's California onion dip. Only in spades. 

Kimber chose the classic Reuben - so jealous I couldn't taste it and she crushed it before I got a pic!

Foreground - cauliflower soup, middle - deviled eggs, rear - duck fat fries with the magnificent onion dip!

For dessert - yes, we indulged - I chose the Banana Pudding with caramel and whipped cream, while lucky Kimber went the traditional MD route with a Smith Island Roll. Heaven

Sweet endings.
 Did I say endings? Not quite. A good cuppa Joe took that honor.
Having left Family Meal, we jumped back on Rte. 70, hit the Turnpike and were home in no time with nothing but sweet dreams of our all too short long weekend firmly planted in our brains. Well, that and the can of Fisher's Caramel Corn to make those remembrances even sweeter!

Ahhhh...home sweet - caramel-y sweet - home!
Thanks for joining us on our too short vacation. Hope you weren't bored! In my book, a Maryland visit is just what the doctor ordered. Anytime. I'm thinking a return to Fell's Point might just be the prescription next time!

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