One of the things I love about having a cottage at the Jersey Shore is the ease of entertaining friends.It’s easy to meet new people in a small town and we’re lucky that some of our New York City friends also have cottages in this beautiful Shore town.
Recently we met Angela and Seth, a very cool young couple. One day we walked past the porch where they were sitting, Really! There is a fabulous Victorian a block away from our house and we walk past it on our way to the beach. We’ve always admired this house because it is so perfectly put together. So we were pretty surprised to see the For Sale sign out in front and two young people sitting on the front porch.
I have to lapse into an aside here because I believe front porches are one of the best means to meet and greet your neighbors, make new friends and visit with old friends. Porches are welcoming and beckon to passerby’s. There is a quote, actually more like a slogan that used to be published in every issue of ROADSIDE MAGAZINE that sums up an America we used to know, a place that I want to live and in fact I do when I’m in Ocean Grove. ROADSIDE refers to this slogan as a recipe for an American Renaissance: “Eat in diners, ride trains, shop on Main Street, put a porch on your house and live in a walk able community”. Sounds real good to me! And by the way, the stoops of Brooklyn and other boroughs of New York City offer the same way of life.
There was an Open House sign posted and we inquired if it was their house. No, they were housesitting and we learned that the home belonged to the owners of the Flower Shop in town. They had recently sold the flower shop and were moving to Montana. It turns out that Angela and Seth were house sitting! What a great way to spend the best part of the year 1 block from the beach. And we found out that Angela was running the fairly new bakery, Daily Bread.
Bread, for me, is more than the staff of life – I LOVE Italian bread, especially the chewy crusty kind, think Tuscany or Puglia. It didn’t take me long to express my deep regret and frustration about not finding a decent loaf of Italian bread in area so densely populated by residents of Italian Ancestry. Seriously, this area is bread-challenged. Soft crusts and airy puffy white bread! Like Wonder bread shaped into a baguette L Angela invites us to stop into her bakery and try some of her bread. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t realize the bakery had changed hands and apologize for not stopping by yet.
The next day, Peter and I go into Daily Bread and Angela packs several chunks of different breads into a bag for us and gives it to us – no charge! For next couple of days, we feast on Ciabatta bread, French bread and healthy whole grain bread. Mmmm mmm good! Bread is one of my favas, right behind pasta and ice cream.
The next weekend I bring some of Agata & Valentino’s Tuscan bread and their Cabernet loaf to Angela. Peter is afraid I will insult her, however my intention is only to share some of my City’s better breads with someone who I am sure will appreciate tasting them. A casual friendship is born.
Last night we invited Angela and Seth to join us on our front porch for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. They would get to meet Michael, our friend, who was in town and who I invited to dinner. I had run into Michael on Thursday evening at Wegman’s and promptly invited him to dinner on Saturday night. I suppose there are those who might do that in Manhattan but somehow it all seems so easy and effortless when you are at the Shore.
We had a delightful time eating and drinking for an hour or so. I served an assortment of olives, cheddar and Gouda cheeses with crackers, veggies and chips to dip into hummus and an artichoke spinach dip and some very addictive freeze-dried snap peas. I felt guilty about asking Seth and Angela to come for drinks but not dinner so I also heated up some quiche and served that too!
We yakked and drank white Sangria, beer, wine and of course you know who had a martini. And, Angela brought us a big round loaf of beautiful bread and TWO boxes of delicious baked treats from her bakery.
After they left, Michael, Peter and I moved to the backyard to eat under the stars and by candlelight. We had marinated chicken breasts, coleslaw, fresh Jersey corn and I made a Caprese salad with Jersey tomatoes, mozzarella and basil from my yard. We talked long into the night – it was warm and the citronella candles kept the mosquitos at bay, and the dessert treats and lots of wine fueled our conversation for the longest time till Michael said he really had to go because he was going to do a Boot Camp class in the morning! Did I mention that this group was from three distinctly different generations? Peter and I knew that while Angela was up early baking and Michael was doing push-ups we would be in bed watching Sunday Morning!