Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough

Being the dutiful daughter results in a lot of waterfront pleasures.

It began with my Mom's birthday brunch at the Inn at Montross with four of my five sisters and their husbands and spawn. Sister #5 was missing in action because her husband (my friend before he ever laid eyes on her) had broken his knee cap in five places two days before the brunch.

I mean, I'd go to great lengths to avoid a family get-together, too, but not that far.

The rest of us met up for an eating orgy and non-stop talking fest (best comment: "We don't do 'shut out mouths' very well") that only nominally celebrated my mother.

Best quip from a sister: #3, who'd just returned from New Orleans. "We only went for three days. We can't do a week anymore or we come back in body bags." Tragic, but true, from two devotees of the Big Easy.

Once brunch was over, I headed to Mom and Dad's for my annual assist with preparations for her women's club St. Patrick's Day luncheon. What this involves is me making potato soup and soda bread for 70 women while my Mom watches and offers less-than-helpful advice.

Because St. Patrick's Day immediately follows Mom's birthday - March 16th - there was also the creation of  coconut cake (her fave) and dinner -Crab Imperial, chosen from a '70s Maryland Seafood Board cookbook both she and I own (original cost $1.50) - accompanied by the lovely "Love Drunk" Rose. Nothing beats seeing your Mom a little loopy on "Love Drunk."

My parents are basketball fanatics so while they stayed up to check the playoff brackets, I was more than happy to read the Washington Post and make it an early night.

Today dawned bright and early as I made a coffee cake for Mom's birthday (her request) and got started on the three loaves of raisin-studded soda bread she requires for the luncheon.

In between making the loaves (each takes 3 hours start to finish), there were walks to a house with fretwork from our own Broad Street Station and out on a lengthy pier that boasted terra cotta tubes over the posts so that during the controlled burns of the marsh, the pier wouldn't go up in flames.

Lunch was birthday-appropriate: sandwiches made from liverwurst from Metzger (I'm starting a cult of Metzger liverwurst devotees), accompanied by Fritos, a stipulation my family has always demanded with liverwurst, don't ask me why.

There is much about my family I have no explanation for. Such as why my mother, the least adventurous eater on the planet, a woman who would no more eat liver or pig's tail than dance on a bar, can love liverwurst. You know what it's made from, Mom, don't you?

Discussing my omnivore status, she says, "But you wouldn't eat brains, would you?" Would I? I have, Mom! The look of revulsion on her face alone was worth the drive.

Leaving there during the shank of the 68-degree afternoon, we headed to Belle Isle State Park, less than two miles away, and a world away in feeling. Horse trails, pavilions and a long pier that had a view of my parents' house were enough to seduce us down road after road once we entered the park.

Spotting a bald eagle stood with its feet in a massive puddle at the center of a field, I was reminded that my dad had said he'd seen a few around lately.

From there, the only logical thing to do was spend some time with a bottle of Mazzolino Brut Rose and a view of another river. Luckily for me, we have friends who happen to have a charming cottage fronting the Carotoman River mere miles from my parents' house.

Were they home? No, they're decent people at work on a Monday afternoon. Us, not so much.

Boldly setting up camp on their deck overlooking the Carotoman River, we promptly sent a photo of me, glass in hand, to the homeowner, with an email, "Trespassers! Call the police!"

The joke there is that our friend works for the county sheriff's office.  He called, laughing heartily, and lamenting that he couldn't be deck-side with us to enjoy the Rose and slow slide to sunset. Too bad because he's always terrific company and full of good stories.

But even interlopers don't want to overstay their welcome, so we tooled down the road to Merroir for dinner. It was too cool for al fresco dining, but we did take a minute to admire the new pergola and mourn the loss of the big tree that used to lord majestically over the outdoor tables.

Cozy on the porch with a view of the marina and a blue sky morphing into pink, chef Pete came out to say hello and invite us in to admire his new kitchen shelving, notable because the handsome slabs of wood had been reclaimed from an old building in Williamsburg.

His other bit of trivia was that the room we were standing in, the kitchen, had originally been the post office for the village of Lockslie during the pre-Zip code era.

Back on the porch, our cute server arrived to do our bidding. She shared her name, an unusual one, and when I inquired about her middle name, she explained that her parents gave her and her siblings middle names better suited to the opposite sex.

So hers was Ray while her brother's was Lynne, that sort of thing. Hippies, I asked? She broke into a wide grin. "Well, they're from Burlington, Vermont if that tells you anything!"

Sure does, honey, it tells me your parents sound almost as eccentric as mine.

We went straight to hog heaven with Wimmer Gruner Veltliner and a dozen Old Saltes in front of each of us while Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's "Ohio" played overhead. I couldn't have been happier.

We were eventually joined on the porch by a foursome of locals who appeared to be regulars with good attitudes. But when our server told them about the lamb neck poutine special, they were flummoxed about the neck part.

Tongue loosened by then, I leaned over and assured them of the absolute tastiness of lamb neck. And come on, over fries with gravy and cheese curds? Not only did they order it, but as they left later, one of the women stopped to thank me, saying she'd never have had the nerve to order it without my endorsement.

Who doesn't like being thanked by a stranger for offering unsolicited food advice?

While I was eating my rockfish cake and my date his halibut special, Chef Pete returned and I insisted her share the tale of refinding his true love, a story I already knew but never tire of hearing. The man glows when he talks about his wife.

The meal was capped off with pure decadence - a doughnut split in half to hold marshmallow cream and then smothered in dark chocolate sauce, incidentally my first chocolate in days - as the fading sunset finally gave way to night on the river, our third body of water for this stellar afternoon.

I'd baked, I'd trespassed, I'd slurped bivalves, if that tells you anything.

Best of all, I'd earned my good daughter badge for another year.

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