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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.

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We just downloaded the entire camera card for the first time in a while and it gave me a chance to scan all the pics in iPhoto. I found some random food stuff that I might as well share:

Salted pumpkin caramels I whipped up for Thanksgiving.

Bûche de Noël with cocoa and almond meringue “mushrooms” for Christmas dinner dessert. The cake was rolled up with a filling but i can’t quite recall what it was – buttercream with almonds maybe.

Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish Grill. My dad’s fave. Very tasty but a little greasy. We think they toss them is some mayonaissy sauce while they’re still hot.

Klein Farms had beef shanks at a really good price so I bought a bunch and made some osso buco. I then shredded it, blended in lots of Parmesan cheese and turned it into whole wheat raviolis. A couple hours of work and we had enough for a dozen meals-for-two.

I was watching Bacon Paradise on the Travel Chanel the other week and was inspired to make some bacon waffles a la Hash House a go go. Three strips of thick cooked bacon laid across the waffle iron after the batter is poured in. If I make them again, I won’t cook the bacon so crispy.

I planted heirloom Touchon carrots last year and left them in the ground over the winter. I dug them up at the beginning of March. They were never thinned out so they stayed kinda small, but it was quite a bounty of 2-4 inch carrots.

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  • sausage and potato roast with arugula
    I realize that if you want to toss some sausages and vegetables on a sheet pan on a weekday night and roast them to crispy, self-seasoned blister, there are innumerable ways to do it. I’ve fiddled around with this broccoli and chunks of sausage; I’d intended to try a version with cherry tomatoes and garlicky croutons before my tomatoes went south. You may no […]

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