Posts Tagged ‘Joe’

Oh Memorial Day Weekend!; Much anticipated, longed for as a respite from the daily grind and laced with hopes of warm sunshine and that exhilaration that comes from sticking your feet in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time of the new season.  It’s a weekend filled with…


If ever there were ever a town that was labeled All American, it would be Ocean Grove, New Jersey.  When we bought our cottage there, Peter and I both remarked on the proliferation of flags waving “welcome home”  from so..oooo many houses.   There were big flags, little flags and bunting in full array.  Flags unfurling  from porch banisters, mini flags dotting front yard gardens, large flags hanging on second story homes, bunting draped over front porch railings. It was just red, white and blue all over the place.  This year, of course, was no exception.  I saw a lot of mini flags outlining front yards and not quite as much bunting as usual.  Our flag has a rip in it and we know we have to replace it and with the wind we had on Friday made it worse and the flag actually managed to twist itself through the rip and presently is a bit tangled. I definitely will replace it upon my return.  I’m a big flag person so I put 3 small flags in the ground around the house and I hung a red, silver and blue sparkly star thing on the shed and laced a curly que wire covered with silver patriotic stars all around Peter’s objet d’art on the wall of the shed.  Since we didn’t have a large group over for a cook-out, I opted out of using my star-shaped  dishes and my red and blue bowls (much to Peter’s delight).  


By Memorial Day, most of what is going to bloom has either done so or is about to;  The Daffodils are long gone as well as the Grape Hyacinths, however, the Peonies are popping and Lillies of the Valley are ringing their little white bells on the side of the house.  This is the weekend that the Ladies auxiliary sells flowering plants and I usually buy my Geraniums from them, but this year I was working on Saturday.  I was determined that before the weekend ended I was going to get some flowering plants for my porch window box and some Geraniums for the back yard table.  I love these Hello Summer rituals;  I plant some Basil (you can just taste those tomato-basil-olive oil salads), try to corral the Peppermint plants and surround them with clam shells.  By Monday, I was anxious to get going with my planting so Sarajane and I set off to Matt’s, a super fruit, vegetable and plant stand. I’m a regular customer during the growing season, picking up the BEST Jersey tomatoes and the sweetest Jersey corn.  It’s still early so the pick of vegetables is sparse but oh did they ever have flowers!  The geraniums were robust and lush so I picked out some pink and white ones for the front porch box and mixed in a leggy leafed purple flower and a cascading pink flowering plant, whose names I can’t remember.  Hurricane Sandy killed all of the flowering plants that had been growing on my front yard  stone wall.  It was with great sadness that I pulled out the dead salt-burnt foliage, I hope I can find something to replace it that will take hold before summer ends.  I did buy a variegated sea grass and planted out front where the salt water had killed one of my   Coral Bells.  It’s going to be a colorful year after all – even though I practically decimated the Butterfly Bush and the Morning Glories are coming up but look a little thin.  Well, we’ll see.


What was the best part of this weekend?  Why the friends of course.  Sarajane arrived on Sunday morning just in time for an outdoor brunch.  We hadn’t eaten breakfast outside yet and with the warm sunshine and clear sky, it seemed like the perfect place to eat.  After all, if you have a backyard patio, if you don’t use it in the early summer, you probably won’t use it much later on.  Last 4th of July turned out to be so hot, my guests implored me to move the party indoors where the blessed air conditioning was on.  Fruit salad, fried eggs, turkey bacon and scones; Mmmmm good.  

And more friends….Joe and Michael and Lisa and Kelly and Marcia.  Drinks on their patio Sunday evening in the shadow of the melting iceberg.  We made a lively group as the wine flowed easily and Peter had his gin martini.  It had been a year since we saw Kelly and Lisa, but we just picked up where we left off, everyone is so at ease with each other.  Last time Peter and I were with Michael and Joe, we said it was like being with family and that only proves something Peter has often said, “Our friends are our family of the present” – So True.  We  met Marcia that night and instantly liked her; perhaps we will see her in The City.

Having house guests can by trying and tiring but Sarajane was a great help in the kitchen and good company. Come back soon!


Red Cherries, Blue Curacao and White Cream of Coconut - A REAL Patriotic Drink

Red Cherries, Blue Curacao and White Cream of Coconut – A REAL Patriotic Drink

Speaking of our house guest and food being the topic, we were treated to Bananas Foster and grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream.  The bananas complemented my pancakes – that was another outdoor breakfast and again a beautiful day to eat outside.  Monday evening we decided to cook out;  Marinated chicken breasts on the grill (and thanks to Sarajane, they remained moist and were cooked perfectly), Jersey tomatoes with basil (from my new little plant) and mustard potato salad with fresh dill. A really lovely meal capping a lovely weekend.  But let me rewind a little because I can’t finish this blog without going into some detail about dinner on Sunday night.

After a significant quantity of wine at Joe’s we all headed to Asbury Park to go to Old Man Rafferty’s.  The young’uns decided to walk there and I opted for the comfort of my car.  We did beat them there even though Joe was sure they would get there first – I wonder if he used a whip or a cattle prod lol.  Anyway, I walked into the restaurant, announced that we were here for the Lugo reservation.  The host inquired if we were a party of 8 and I said yes.  He then stated that when the entire party was there, he would seat us. I friggin’ hate that!  And I asked him if he were planning to turn the table in the time before the rest arrived!  Oh my, did I mention that the wine had been flowing easily at Joe’s?  Thank God, they arrived within 2 minutes and we all sat down.  Now NJ restaurants are big, and certainly much bigger than 99% of New York city restaurants, however, even in this large restaurant  our group stood out or should I say were heard out.  Well you know how hard it is for 8 people to have multiple conversations especially when the table is not a round one.  I noticed that the couple sitting next to us were disturbed to say the least with our decibel level and the fact that they left after just having soup was probably the most convincing point. Oh well…. Joe likes to tease us about being Grandpa and Grandma, oh actually he said Great-Grandpa;  Yes well we are older than the rest of them BUT it wasn’t us who was ordering Tiki drinks, throwback to the 50’s!  And speaking of throwback, you should have seen a certain someone throw back those Blue Hawaiians!  Not one, not two but THREE! Yup, THREE! Whoooheee, did we have fun!

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English: "V" icon as as symbol for v...

English: “V” icon as as symbol for vegetarianism/veganism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not a Vegan or a Vegetarian however sometimes I make an entire meal from garden-fresh vegetables!  This weekend turned out to be one of those inspirational meal-making events.  I found a vegan recipe for Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Carmalized Onions.  Sounded intriguing and decided it would be a great side dish.  After all it had a green vegetable and also chick peas which provided the carb factor.  Of course if we were real vegans that would have been the main dish, maybe the only dish and I would be a thinner person!  But I know my husband and he might say something like “is this the whole meal” ?  So I made him two salmon burgers and myself two veggie burgers.  Not vegan and in most eyes, not even vegetarian – it was those salmon burgers that did us in….

Saturday night turned into a different kind of culinary adventure.  We were at the shore battening down the hatches so to speak as were our friends, Joe and Michael.  Hurricane Sandy was on her way to the Jersey Shore and Governor Christie declared a State of Emergency that morning so we had a lot of work to do putting furniture away, tying down covers, securing everything and anything that might become a missile!  Joe called and offered to help us in any way, good neighbor and friend.  I suggested we might meet up for breakfast on Sunday morning.  Joe said how about a pasta dinner since he had a lot of gravy.  He’s Italian and I’m Italian and if you’re Italian you know what we’re talking about.  Sounded like a plan to me BUT I had my own ideas about the kind of pasta I was going to make.

I mentioned that I thought I would make a Pancetta and Fennel Pasta, a very delicious and elegant dish.  There was a notable silence at the other end of the phone and then I heard the words, ” I don’t like pancetta, what is fennel”?  REALLY?  After a bit of back and forth and some input from Michael in the background, it was agreed that I would make the pasta, they would bring some wine and dessert!  I still wasn’t sure that Joe would like this dish and he did mention Classico sauce SO I decided to make two pasta dishes; my own Pancetta and Fennel and also a bowl of penne and pomodoro sauce.  Add an arugula, grape tomato and red onion salad and a loaf of semolina bread and we were in business.  Turns out that Joe really was kinda, sorta kidding about the Classico sauce (he claims he doesn’t really  like it).  Well, he dug right into the Pancetta and Fennel and after a couple of  helpings, he  said it was delicious!  See I told you it was good!

The recipe for the Pancetta and Fennel dish can be found in a previous blog: https://pbenjay.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/pancetta-and-fennel-pasta/

Before I give you the Sicilian Escarole recipe, I have to tell you about the bonanza of desserts.  In true Jersey fashion, we had a dozen of Dunkin’ Donuts, many festively decorated for Halloween.  I will admit to eating a Boston Creme and at least half of a jelly doughnut.  AND then we had apple cake from Freedman’s Bakery in Belmar which was SOoooo good.  Thanks guys!

Sicilian Chickpeas with Escarole and Carmalized Onions

1  large escarole (1 1/2  lbs) I used a large bag chopped escarole

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium onions halved and sliced thinly. I used 1  large Vidalia onion thinly sliced.

2 tsp sugar –  I used 1 tsp.

1/4 cup dark raisins

3 cups drained chickpeas – reserve 1/3 cup bean liquid

Heat oil over medium heat in large  saute pan.  Add onions and stir often till golden – about 15 minutes.  Add sugar and cook another 5 minutes till dark golden brown.

Add raisins and escarole.  Stir occasionally till leaves are tender, about 6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper

Add chickpeas and their liquid.  Simmer till flavors have blended, about 3 minutes.  Adjust seasonings.


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It was Sunday afternoon and Peter and I finally headed to the Jersey Shore.  After opening up the cottage and letting some ocean breezes fill the house with fresh air, we set about doing the things you just gotta do when you’ve been gone over a week.  Read Peter you have to mow the lawn, fill the bird feeders, wash the sidewalk and and and…. I put away food, clean linens and laundry, unpacked bags and then decided to open up my computer and there was a Happy Memorial Day post from Joe!  WITH an invitation to stop by for a drink if we were in town. What a delightful idea!

I called Joe to say we would love to stop over, have a drink and take another look at the magnificent renovation/construction that had been done on his house over the winter.  Joe said he and Michael had a couple of friends staying with them and they were going to barbeque and we were certainly welcome to join them.

NOW, you see this is what I think makes a holiday memorable.  Friends are woven into the  fabric of your life.  We didn’t have any plans for the evening and then along comes a delightful invitation as a complete surprise from our friends, Joe and Michael.  What I love about them besides the fact that they are the  most perfect Yin and Yang couple is their generosity  of spirit.  They had house guests, close friends visiting from out of state and without  a moment’s hesitation, they included us in their party! 

I offered to bring dessert and with specific instructions about the importance of chocolate I went shopping.  I happened to be going to Costco and for some reason, this day, the bakery area was a bit shy in the chocolate department.  They had Black and White cookies but those only have some chocolate frosting and that’s only on one half;  The bakery also had shortbread cookies which are to die for but again only half the cookie has some chocolate coating.  Finally I spotted some Red Velvet Chocolate cupcakes.  They were huge and looked good, however, for good measure as the saying goes, I  tossed a bag of dark-chocolate-covered acai blueberries.  I don’t think you can ever have enough chocolate on hand, especially if it’s dark chocolate.

A barbeque at Joe’s is an event!  First of all, there were the guests;  we met Kelly who lives in LA and Austin and is a freelance commercial producer.  She spends considerable time on East Coast in NYC also and as of today is on her way to Prague to produce a Dove commercial.    And Lisa, who lives in Oakland and also works in advertising and has been Michael’s friend for years.  I had the opportunity to sit next to Lisa for part of the evening and really enjoyed talking to her.  Monica who is a neighbor was there and it was good to see her again.  She is a lively soul and has a very cute Yorkie who visits Madison regularly.  Monica, Christine and Rich had dinner plans elsewhere so I’m glad we got there early enough to connect with them all before they left for Taka.

Joe and Michael are among the MOST GRACIOUS hosts.  I want to call it Effortless Entertaining BUT I know it takes a lot of effort to plan and prepare an evening meal with many components.  They work seamlessly together;  one is cooking, the other is filling bowls, one is making drinks, the other is placing dishes and silverware out.  Really it is amazing to observe this culinary choreography!

We drank, we snacked, we drank some more, we ate, we drank a bit more and ate dessert.  Hours had gone by, I couldn’t believe the clock when I looked at the time!  We had to go but hey we were the altacockers anyway!!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how perfectly private the patio is now that Joe has redone the landscaping (again).  We were secluded behind beautiful greenery. 

Joel Lugo, Memorial day, Ocean Grove

A Good Host Takes Time To Listen Too!

Lisa, Kelly and Michael

First corn of the season, juicy tomatoes your choice of several kinds of grilled meats. Yummmmm

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This is the saga of


Brian, the son of Susan and Jim, friends of mine, moved from New York City to Los Angeles where he and his wife went to further pursue their acting careers.  He needed a sub-let tenant for their co-op for about 6 months, not always an easy thing to do.  BUT, he found an actor who needed to be in New York for about 6 months.  Problem solved – actors stick together.

Soon after settling in L.A. , Brian decides to purchase a Mac laptop and offers his Dell laptop to his mother.  But how to get it from Los Angeles to New York City??  Enter stage right, another actor; Sam.  Sam is a longtime friend of Sharon, Brian’s wife.  It seems that Sam is headed for New York where he has a role waiting for him that should last a few months and he won’t have a computer when he  is there.   Actors stick together-problem solved. Sam can take the Dell with him to New York and use it for the time he is there.  When he is about to return to Los Angeles, Susan and Jim will pick it up on one of their trips to the City.  A time line is loosely in place.

The job in New York is extended, Sam is not about to return to L.A. and the trip to Manhattan by Susan and Jim came and went.  MMMmmmmm …well no big deal because Susan doesn’t need the computer imminently anyway.   Nobody knows exactly how long the job has been extended  and there is no immediate future trip to the City planned.  However, Susan has a back-up plan;  When Sam knows he is going to return to L.A. , Susan will ask Joe to help her out.  Joe, our mutual friend lives in Manhattan, has an office downtown and comes to the Jersey Shore on weekends.  Sam is staying farther downtown and so Joe’s office might be a convenient drop-off point.   NOT. Joe walks to work and back home and it is quite a distance to carry a laptop.  Problem solved-Joe lives in Midtown and if the computer makes it to his building, he will get it and bring it down to Ocean Grove.  Friends stick together.

A reasonable plan all around except for the fact that Sam got very short notice that he had to hastily return to L.A.  No time to get this computer uptown!  Besides he would need a visa to get beyond 14th Street.

Three thousand miles away, Brian is not acting, – he’s too busy being the production manager for the laptop’s return to the East Coast.  What to do, what to do?  Sam is about to leave New York and the computer is way downtown.  Problem solved: Brian calls one his groomsmen, Milo Bernstein, who owns a few designer consignment stores in Manhattan; INA, one of them being downtown.  He (Brian) asks his friend, Milo if it would be all right for Sam to drop the Dell laptop off with him (Milo) at his downtown store.   Problem solved – friends stick together. If Brian can arrange to get the laptop with Milo, then he can get it uptown so Plan C can be implemented.

Plan C: this is where Peter and I come in.  Milo has the laptop AND he lives fairly close to where  we live uptown.  At this point, Brian reluctantly agrees to have his mother impose on us to pick up the computer and bring it down to the shore on our next trip and deliver to it to her.    There weren’t any alternatives;  Milo could not keep the computer indefinitely and Susan and Jim did not have a trip to NYC planned in the near future.  Problem solved-friends stick together.

Next step was to have Peter arrange a pick-up time with Milo.  I left this detail to Peter since I was already jammed up with trying to make appointments to show some apartments on Thursday.

Happy Ending: Peter got the computer; we picked it up at Milo’s building on our way to the Shore and delivered it personally to Susan.  Brian could finally stop playing Chess Master, moving his pieces all around the board, the Queen Mother got the computer and all lived happily ever after.

chess master, Queen Mother, pawns


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