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We emerged from the house Sunday morning to confront the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. A leaning nectarine tree was the worst we suffered. We were going a little stir crazy and decided to grab a movie down at the Promenade. Their website had listings so we assumed the theater was operating. Bad assumption. In fact, the entire Promenade was shut down. Car after car was entering the parking lot looking for dinner or a movie so at least we didn’t feel alone in our disappointment. We guessed that Promenade management had planned for a Sunday afternoon with something worse than cloudy skies and a steady breeze. They lost out on a lot of business though.

My first thought was to stop by the casino for a burger at Emeril’s. There was no way the casino would shut down for anything! One problem – my wife hadn’t brought her purse and ID. But surely we could get a burger, right? There are kids in the casino and restaurants so there can’t be an absolute age cutoff. Turns out it’s a bit more complicated. Even with my wife’s very youthful appearance, she’s clearly not a kid so she absolutely had to be ID’d before entering. But there’s a solution! We could get a security escort to and from the restaurant. OK. That’s awkward. But we’re hungry. Let’s do it. Enter buzzkill escort guard to explain that she can only take us to the Irish pub or Emeril’s Chop House. Huh?! There are ostensibly no differences between those places and Emeril’s burger joint – each serves alcohol and opens to the casino floor. Whatever.

Onto Plan C – a swing through Bethlehem to find food. We climbed Main St. looking for an open restaurant and noticed an Italian place on the right and the Brew Works on the left. Good enough. We circled the block and found a spot off Main St. As we walked up Main toward the Brew Works, we passed the Italian place we’d spotted but I dismissed it partly based on the name, Mama Nina’s Foccacheria. The focaccia emphasis gave me the impression they offered mostly sandwiches. Plus the place looked packed to the gills. A guy standing by the door in casual clothes told us we had to try this place. “It’s awesome!,” he exclaimed and gestured to some seats all the way at the back of the restaurant. Wow, what an enthusiastic endorsement from a guy who clearly eats here a lot. OK, let’s try it. Then the guy grabs two menus and leads us to the table! So we got snookered. This had better be “awesome” or this whole afternoon would be a bust.

Well, we loved it. We were immediately served a big dish of fresh baked rolls smothered in olive oil and fresh garlic, plus 2 complimentary glasses of wine. My wife chose one of the specials – Maryland blue crab ravioli. And I went for the “Tour of Mama Nina”– chicken parm, a meatball, sausage, and eggplant rollatini on spaghetti – to try a variety of menu items. We hadn’t brought the camera as we weren’t planning on dining out, but everything looked great. Home style piled-high portions and great flavor. The atmosphere was energetic and comfortable even though the place was pretty tightly packed. (I’m not sure if this is typical or due to the few number of operating restaurants thanks to Irene.) The prices are good – though some of the specials were pricey esp. if they included seafood.

We finished up and, hauling substantial leftovers, emerged onto beautifully sunlit Main St. Bethlehem. Thank you, Mama Nina, for a great end to a cloudy weekend.

We had a really good gardening year despite the heatwave that gave some people a lot of trouble. Tomatoes, eggplant, cukes, beets, beans, rhubarb, herbs – all great. Not as much success with onions as last year, and the fennel bulbs failed to materialize. Most of it is finished due to the cold nights, though the hot peppers and carrots are still going strong. I may try overwintering the carrots and some onions I planted late. Here are a few pics:

2 cherry tomato plants from Lowe’s and a Yellow Pear heirloom plant produced easily over a thousand pieces of fruit.

Our heirlooms and fresh mozzarella – a combo we enjoyed at least 3 days a week all summer.

Brandywines, Black Krim and Black Beauty eggplant – all heirlooms so I’ll be planting those seeds in the spring.

Frankentomato – a Brandywine that split and healed a dozen times.

A tenant in our tomatoes for a few weeks this summer.

Another inhabitant. Found a couple of these guys on the tomatoes and parsley.

My wife insisted on planting a store-bought redskin potato in a coffee can in February against my advice. The vine was 2 feet long by the time i got it in the ground. We ended up with maybe 20 medium to small potatoes in a few months. Glad she didn’t listen to me.

The final big haul last week. The bell peppers had only just started turning red but the plant was dying from the cold. I pickled the green tomatoes. We’ll see how they turned out in a few weeks.

 

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