30 June 2013

Photos from an Historic Trip to Fort Miles

Category: Genealogy,Life,Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1913

HECP TowerTwo years ago while in Lewes, DE visiting a family friend, we took a ride to Cape Henlopen State Park because there was an event going on at Fort Miles. I knew that my grandfather was stationed somewhere in the Lewes area during World War 2, but didn’t know much more than he was stationed on some sort of signal tower. During a tour of Battery 519, the guide was talking about how there had been a Navy unit stationed at the base and as he explained their function, monitoring and challenging ships coming into into the bay, it became apparent this was what my grandfather did. I commented on this fact when I posted the photos I took that day to my website. (You can view them here.)

Over a year later, I got an e-mail from someone from the Fort Miles Historical Society asking if I had any photos taken during my grandfather’s time there. As it turns out, my grandfather has an album that documents his entire time in the Navy. Some of the photos of the base in my grandfather’s album included some never before seen views. After sharing the photos and talking to several others including a historian, I helped my grandfather record some narrations and answer some questions. Before we knew it we were heading to Fort Miles so he could be interviewed.

A few weeks ago we went down there with my grandfather to meet the guys from Fort Miles, tour the base and discuss his memories of his time there. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help preserve the history of the base, a history that my grandfather was a part of. It was just as rewarding to be able to walk around with him at a place that he hadn’t been back to for nearly 70 years and likely thought he’d never return to. I’m sure that the 22 year old Navy Signalman 2nd Class (SN2) who stood watch on that tower would never believe he’d someday return with his daughter and grandson, both adults, to be interviewed about his everyday activities of 70 years prior.

You can view the photos here.

29 June 2013

Hometown Farmers Market Disappointment

Category: Randomness — Posted by Michael at 1825

For the past 2 months I’ve been going to different local towns’ farmers markets because our town, Gloucester Township’s market (called Blackwood Farmers Market after the neighborhood it’s held in) doesn’t start until the end of June.

Yesterday morning I went to the opening day excited to be able to shop close to home while still being able to support local farmers. What a disappointment! There were only 2 farmers there. (Luckily one was my favorite, Sorbello Girls.)

While there was a honey stand, bakery and a winery, most of the other vendors did not belong at a farmers market. No one wants to see a chiropractor, buy jewelry or buy other junk at this sort of event.

We did get there just in time for the local politicians to give speeches. :-/

Here’s hoping it improves immensely as the season progresses.

28 June 2013

Review: Ponzios Diner – Cherry Hill NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 2257

Diners are a New Jersey staple. You can find a one on almost every corner. Ponzio’s, however, stands out. Yes, you can order breakfast all day and you order all sorts of sandwiches and other diner fare. But Ponzio’s in Cherry Hill, NJ is reminiscent of what diners were in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. This huge diner is a place where I’d be confident ordering any meal on the menu. Actually, I’d highly recommend their seafood. Their crab cakes are as good as you’re ever going to have at a diner and better than some seafood places.

The amazing cheese rolls, cinnamon bread and other breads that grace the table before your meal are just a small sampling of the amazing baked goods that Ponzio’s bakery turns out. You’ll have a hard time resisting the urge to press your face against the massive bakery display cases. No matter what you choose you’ll be happy with your selection. Personally, I’m partial to their cakes such as red velvet.

Just recently I recommended Ponzio’s to someone who was staying nearby for a few days. They were not disappointed and even took some baked goods back to Virginia with them.

One other somewhat random thing worth mentioning is that their wi-fi is one of the fastest internet connections I’ve ever seen anywhere. That was an unexpected surprise.

Review: Homespun – Jim Thorpe PA

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 2242

This small gift shop carries all types of knickknacks, decorations, gift items and gourmet food gifts with a rustic country flare. The best part is the HUGE selection of handmade candles and soaps. You can find every type and scent imaginable from a variety of small vendors. While we were visiting we got into a conversation with the owner, Deb, who happens to be from the Philadelphia area. Besides being a friendly shopkeeper who makes every customer feel welcome in her shop, she also can tell you off the top of her head where each item comes from and the story behind each vendor.

There are lots of cool little shops in Jim Thorpe, but Homespun is a one you shouldn’t miss.

Homespun SignHomespun

16 June 2013

A bright spot on Father’s Day

Category: Genealogy — Posted by Michael at 2232

I work in the technology industry and am very aware of the global reach of anything I put on the internet. However, I’m still overwhelmed sometimes by the people who find my website and get in touch with me.

Today was one such day. Father’s Day is always a little rough, and I suppose it always will be. This year’s was brightened a bit by a random contact from one of my dad’s childhood friends via the site I created shortly after my dad died, emilgatti.com.

One reason I study genealogy and history is that I feel like you can connect to people who are gone by learning the details of their life. Being contacted by a random person who knew my father when he was 13 and having her share a few memories from that era makes me feel like I connected with my dad in some small way.

You can view what she wrote at emilgatti.com/memories. It’s the last entry at the bottom.

05 June 2013

Review: The Country Crock – Williamstown NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 2047

The Country Crock is located inside the Stoltzfus Amish Farmer’s Market which means it’s only open Thursday morning through Saturday afternoon. When you think of a Mennonite or Amish) restaurant, the first thing that comes to mind is plain and simple. Eating here feels less like sitting in a restaurant and more like being in someone’s kitchen eating homemade food. Plastic plates, vinyl table cloths and walls adorned with photos of the owners and their family set the stage for comfort food prepared and presented simply.

Even though food is nothing fancy, it’s delicious and clearly prepared by hand with care. Their BBQ pork sandwich is delicious as is their meatloaf sandwich. (This is the only place where I’ve ever even considered ordering a meatloaf sandwich!) Their corn fritters are one of my favorites and if you ask the server, they’ll let you substitute them for the fries that would normally come with a sandwich.

I don’t often order dessert when I eat out, but The Country Crock’s desserts, which vary week to week, are always tempting. Sometimes it will be a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dessert like cracker pudding. I’d never had cracker pudding before, but it was good. It tasted somewhat similar to rice pudding. Other times it’s something more “English” like Boston cream pie. Their Boston cream pie was one of the best I’ve ever had. I’m hoping to be around one day when they have shoo-fly pie!

Another nice touch is that they conveniently have a calendar on every table that tell you what specials are coming up in the weeks to come so you can plan your visits.

Update: This restaurant has changed hands and is now called the Village Grille. I’ve been there once and it is NOT what it used to be. None of the food appeared to be homemade. You can read my review of the new place here.

04 June 2013

Review: Woodbury Station Cafe – Woodbury NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1847

Looking at the good side first, the atmosphere and decor of this restaurant is fun. It’s an old train station and they’ve embraced their history not only in the name of the place but with the decor as well. The theme of the restaurant combines train memorabilia with a New Orleans theme. Personally, I immediately noticed the Community Coffee sign on the wall, one of my favorite coffee companies. The train theme is cool because who doesn’t like trains. One of the waiters was making sure the little boy at the table by the window was seated facing the right way to see the train when it passed by on the still active tracks.

The food, however, wasn’t so great. We tried the bengiets and they weren’t bad. You don’t see them much around here so i dobt have much experiencw for conparison. However, our meal was disappointing. I ordered an omelet and it was quite overcooked. It was dry and mostly brown on the outside. The “railroad potatoes” were unfortunately also overcooked and bland.

While I wanted to like this place because of the cool concept, I don’t think I’ll be back.

03 June 2013

Review: Kuzina by Sofia – Cherry Hill NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 0745

I’m a sucker for Greek food. Finding a really authentic Greek restaurant in South Jersey is tough. (not counting Greek diners that have some great Greek items but not a full Greek menu) I don’t know how I never tried Kuzina by Sofia In Cherry Hill before now. The food was as authentic as it gets. It was hard not to order more than we could possibly eat in one sitting because everything on the five page menu sounded so good. We finally settled on the spanakopitakia and saghanaki appetizers which were both delicious. The Greek style steak and moussaka were both fantastic and were accompanied by potatoes roasted in lemon, olive oil garlic and herbs.

We didn’t intend to have dessert, but is there a person alive who can resist baklava? Theirs wasn’t the very best I’ve had, but it was still quite good. We also had an almond roll that was even better than the baclava. (I wish I could remember the name of it, but I’m terrible with Greek names!) and a cup of Greek coffee. As we ate our dessert, we were already planning our next visit to Kuzina!

02 June 2013

Review: The Pub – Pennsauken NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1146

The Pub is far and away my favorite restaurant. It’s unique in every way. It’s beena round since long before I was born (since 1950). It’s survived burning to the ground and once going out of business. Through all of that nothing much has changed at all. One of the first unique things about The Pub is the HUGE dining room. The slightly medeival themed room seats over 500 people at a time yet it’s still quiet. I’ve never heard anything above a low murmur and there is always plenty of room to move around as you go to one of the two salad bars.

Speaking of the salad bars, they are fantastic. They include blocks of cheese from which you can cut off slices, various kinds of cake breads (in case the delicious crusty bread on your table isn’t enough for you) fruit, applesauce, along with a wide variety of salads and salad ingredients. However, I usually skip past most of this stuff and head right to the giant bowl of Caesar salad and pile my plate high. The Pub’s Caesar salad is one of the best I’ve had. The always fresh salad is made especially delicious by the plentiful anchovies scattered throughout.

The focal point of the dining room is the row of six coal fired ovens where chefs in big white hats turn out fantastic steaks. The pub has a fair number of entees ranging from seafood to chicken, to all sorts of steaks. I, however, typically stick to the best filet mignon I’ve had at any restaurant. It’s served wth massive onion rings and a potato. I recommend the twice baked stuffed potato. I also recomend taht you ask for some of their browned onions to go with your steak. They’re free, but you have to ask for them. In another unique touch, your steak will arrive at your table on a cart to be taken from a heated tray and plated right at the table.

If you want something a little more unique, try my father’s favorite, the capetbagger. It’s a filet spread with crabmeat and hollandaise sauce.

The only negative is the location. Although, it’s certainly never stopped me from going. The Pub is located at the maze of an intersection that used to be Airport Circle.It might take you a few tries to get in the correct lane. Of course, this should be no problem for a practiced New Jersey driver.

The Pub Chefs

The Pub Filet Mignon

01 June 2013

Review: What If… of Hershey – Hershey PA

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1620

We stumbled upon What If… of Hershey while looking for a place to stop and eat while passing through central PA. I found it on Yelp and immediately noticed that many of the reviews started out by saying that you shouldn’t let the fact that it’s in the basement of a Howard Johnson scare you off. My first thought was that I should continue my search, but after reading a few rave reviews, I was convinced we should try it. Now, here I am writing one more review that tells you not to let the fact that it’s in the basement of a HoJo scare you away.

Everything at this place was great. It was all made fresh. We even had to wait a bit for our tiramisu for dessert because they were making it fresh. Also, who wouldn’t love a place that has a polenta of the day?! (The polenta was delicious, by the way.) It’s all served in a modern atmosphere that is in stark contrast to the HoJo lobby that you pass through on your way in. The presentation of their fresh delicious food is as modern as the atmosphere.

Posting reviews on my site

Category: Life,Randomness,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1603

After stopping at a restaurant in Hershey, PA almost entirely because of its reviews on Yelp and UrbanSpoon and being pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how accurate the reviews were, I decided that I should write a review of my own. Of course, since I never do things halfway, I figured that if I’m going to take time to write a review then I might as well post it to a few sites. The sites I chose were Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Google+ Local & TripAdvisor. Once I spent a little time creating accounts on each site, I started to think I should write more than just one review. So, I plan to occassionally write reviews (primarily of restaurants.)

There will be no reviews of mass market chain restaurants, just local places that deserve some free publicity and will hopefully benefit from it. That’s not to say that I won’t post a negative review when warranted. There’s no reason not to warn people away from enduring the same bad food or service I suffered through.

As part of my ongoing attempt to include any content I write for other sites on my own site, I plan to put copies of the reviews in blog entries. They’ll have their own category and will be labeled with an indicator that it’s a review. I know I don’t need more random junk thrown in to my blog stream, but you’ll be seeing some big changes to the site as a whole soon (I hope!) Don’t worry the change is not that I’m converting my site to a restaurant review site.

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