Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend at the sea

Old Barney
Image by WildVanilla (Rob) via Flickr
The lighthouse at Barnegat Light.

Our weekend at the sea was also a seafood weekend.

We drove down to Barnegat Light, a New Jersey fishing port at the northern end of Long Beach Island, and stayed at a B&B called Minerva's By The Sea. At the end of the street was Kubel's, which opened in 1927, and we had dinner there Friday and lunch Saturday. Unfortunately, Off the Hook, a takeout place for great prepared seafood, and many other places we have enjoyed in years past, had not opened for the season.

But fresh fish and shellfish is one of the reasons we return to the Jersey Shore year after year, and we weren't disappointed. Friday night, we had a great piece of halibut with small shrimp in a light tomato sauce, served on a bed of sauteed spinach; steamed clams and Alaskan king crab legs. We had flounder and crab cake sandwiches for lunch the next day, along with steamed clams and clams on the half shell.

In search of lobster Saturday night, we had dinner at the Engleside Inn in Beach Haven, one of the most popular towns on Long Beach Island. But the restaurant had no whole lobsters, only South African lobster tails. We ordered those, panko-covered scallops from Barnegat Light and a yellowtail tuna sushi roll. Only the too-thick lobster bisque was disappointing.

Our best seafood meal awaited us on the road back to North Jersey. A small building with some peeling paint on the exterior and the word "Fishery" on Route 35 in Sayreville (732-721-9100) had closed in the year or so since we had been there and had been reopened by a man from Greece about a month ago. He kept the menu, prices and recipes, adding distinctly Greek touches.

We started with small bowls of a light lobster bisque that tasted of sherry and Maine lobster, clam and corn chowder. Great. The steamed clams were outstanding, surpassing the ones we had at the shore. They came with a small cup of butter plus another cup with clam broth, garlic, herbs and white wine. Wow!

We also ordered the grilled whole bronzini from Greece on the specials list ($21.95). The fish, which we had seen nestled in ice in The Fishery's seafood display, came topped with a white wine sauce that contained whole garlic cloves, and was accompanied with rice and sauteed fresh spinach. It looked to be about 14 inches long. My son took the tail portion, my wife took the head and all of us shared the delicious white flesh in the middle. We only had room for a little of our second entree, perfectly fried whiting, which we took home.

There had been signs of an auspicious weekend. At the Whole Foods Market opening Thursday (see earlier post), I saw a whole monkfish with a sign that it had come from Barnegat Light, where Scandinavian fishermen settled in the 1920s. Then we learned that Minerva's, the B&B where we stayed, is in a building that once housed a fish wholesaler. The top-floor kitchen, where we had breakfast Saturday and Sunday, was where the wholesaler prepared fish for customers from Europe, Japan, China and elsewhere, said our host, Emma.
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