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And a Fine Mother’s Day Was Had By All

Ah, Mother’s Day.  The day your kids get up at the crack of dawn and destroy your kitchen to make you an inedible breakfast of burnt toast, raw eggs, and freshly squeezed orange juice, made with sweet potatoes because we don’t have any oranges, and after all, the sweet potatoes are orange, right?

No – that didn’t happen here.  I did get up at the crack of dawn, but that was to take Brighid to re-do her senior portraits, which turned out not so good.  I had asked Jim to meet me at the mall so when the sales pitch was on, I wouldn’t be tempted to purchase more portraits than we needed.  I was so proud of myself when I got the price of portraits down from $1400 to less than $400.  Jim, however, called the store later to talk them down a few more dollars by re-arranging a package or two.  But the pictures are great.  You’ll see them soon.

I came home and Jim and I went with Eilis to the supermarket.  We bought a few of the regular groceries for the week, and also purchased the Mother’s Day dinner, which consisted of a variety of veggies for roasting, corn on the cob for steaming, steak and scallops for grilling. 

And there were gifts galore!  First, my in-laws sent me a beautiful necklace in gold and diamonds that is just so sweet, very unique, and absolutely lovely!  I put it on as soon as I received the package, and have gotten quite a few compliments.  It really is a pretty necklace. 

My husband bought me chocolate!  It’s not regular chocolate, it’s ChocoPerfection – a low carb version of chocolate.  Not only did he buy me ChocoPerfection, he bought me three varieties – including the raspberry one, which I have not tried before.  It’s yum.

My husband also made a really sentimental purchase.  Each of the five of us got a gold cross.  The front of the cross has a pattern resembling princess cut diamonds – diamonds being ever so precious, and representative of our three little princesses.  And on the back of each cross, he had my birthday, his birthday, our wedding anniversary, and each of the kids’ birthdays engraved.  It’s something the girls will always have, and it’s a way for each of them, as they drift off and go to college and out into the world to find their own way, to know they are still connected to each other and to us at home.  It was a really lovely idea.

Then, the cherry on the top of the Mother’s Day Sundae, a STARBUCKS gift card!  It’s a $25 card, which keeps me in coffee for a week, but it’s totally designed by my husband to reflect me 🙂  The card even has the name of my drink on it, so if I’m ever in a terrible accident and the EMTs are looking for emergency identification information, they only need to look at my card, call STARBUCKS, and anyone there will tell them, “That’s Anna’s drink!”  I can almost get rid of my medical alert bracelet!

Jim hung out with Granuaile, and Eilis played with the granddaughter of the lady next door, and Brighid and I tackled dinner.  She roasted the veggies, which turned out awesome; and I grilled the meat and cooked the scallops. 

The only bad part of the day is that it was Sunday, so when the day was over, we had to get Jim all packed up and ready to go back to the Midwest.  As always, the worst part of the week 🙁  Thank goodness it will be Thursday before we know it!

The Lobster Trap Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

The Lobster Trap

5300 North Park Drive

Pennsauken, NJ

For three years, I have driven by the Lobster Trap Restaurant on the banks of the Cooper River in Pennsauken nearly every day.  I have parked in the parking lot they share with the playground so many times, I have lost count.  But I have never had a desire to stop in and eat there.  The outside of the restaurant is a little shack looking – like a snack bar on the beach kind of feel.  It really looks like you could walk out of Cooper River, all Creature from the Black Lagoon looking, and walk right up to the restaurant and eat.  And who wants to eat next to the Creature from the Black Lagoon? 

So we are a year away from our middle daughter’s First Holy Communion.  For the oldest daughter’s celebration of her First Holy Communion, we went to Yesterday’s, located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Well, we lived there then, and there were any number of restaurants to choose from with a waterfront view.  I was hoping we would find something just as nice here, with an interesting view, and as we were walking around Cooper River during a regatta a couple of weeks ago, we thought it might be worth looking into the Lobster Shack, um, I mean Trap after all.

Can I just say that you could have knocked me over with a feather when we walked in late last Thursday night for our dinner.  You walk across the boardwalk entry ramp into a restaurant that is bright, crisp and clean looking.  Simple but elegant in decor, I am quite surprised at how busy this place is at this hour.  It is almost 9 PM when we walk in, and there is still a pretty good dinner crowd.

We are offered a table in the dining room or out on the deck, and even though it’s too dark to really see or appreciate the view of the river during our meal, Jim asks for a deck table.  We have our middle daughter with us, and even though the deck has heavy plastic “walls” keeping the cool evening breeze out, she is cold from the ceiling fans.  The deck itself is adorable, if a little kitzchy.  The wooden frame is adorned with white twinkle lights, and decorated heavily with silk plants.  There is plenty of room out here for a party of our size (we are estimating anywhere from 25 – 40 people), and the manager tells us that he can keep an area separate for a larger party, even while he still seats other diners out here.

I am a little taken aback by the prices listed on the menu.  Having recently eaten at the more upscale McCormick & Schmick’s, the Lobster Trap prices seem a little steep even compared with the fresh menu from McCormick & Schmick’s.  We see a range of prices that go from $20 for chicken and shrimp or chicken stuffed with crab to $45 for King crab and lobster tail.  I’m on a scallop kick, so I order the grilled sea scallops ($22.50).  That’s when I find out that you also get a soup or salad, a potato, and a vegetable with the meal, so it really makes it seem much more reasonably priced than it did a minute ago.  I order mine with salad, as the only soup offering is New England clam chowder, which can be a bit tough to eat after gastric bypass surgery.  I opt for the baked potato and grilled vegetables.  Eilis selects the flounder, which is broiled with lemon and butter for $18.50.  She also chose the salad and had french fries and apple sauce as her side dishes.  Jim had the special of the night, which was a Chilean sea bass, and ordered the clam chowder, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  We start the meal with one of Eilis’ favorites – fried calamari.  At $10.50, the platter was piled high with lightly breaded rings of calamari and a delicious marinara sauce.  Some of the calamari was a little tough to chew, which is more of an issue for me post operatively than it is for anyone else at the table, but we manage to scarf down the appetizer in short order. 

Our super friendly waitress brings a warm loaf of soft, delicious bread that Eilis and Jim both enjoy enough to want to bring the leftovers home with them, if there are any leftovers!  Jim only drinks water with his meals, and the waitress is very quick to refill his glass, which is a big plus in his book.

Eilis flounder is delivered, and looks and smells delicious.  She digs right in and enjoys the broiled to perfection fish so much that she all but ignores the big mountain of fries on the plate next to her.  The fish is perfectly seasoned, and the portion is pretty generous, but the fries are DELICIOUS!  I know, I know, you’re saying “What the heck is she doing eating fries after gastric bypass surgery?  What a fat ass!”  Get over yourself.  It’s not like I gobbled down the whole plate.  I merely sampled the fries, which were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and boasted just the right amount of salt.  No ketchup needed to hide the taste of these fries!  The apple sauce didn’t get eaten, except a quick bite for Eilis to determine it tasted funny.

Jim’s Chilean sea bass is beautifully presented alongside a heaping portion of the garlic mashed potatoes.  This is a wonderful piece of fish.  Thick and delicately flavored, this is easily the highlight of the table.  He eyes my baked potato and suddenly does not remember ordering garlic mashed potatoes, but he says they are good and gets through a good amount of them before getting too full. 

My scallops arrive in what looks like a spun sugar bowl – except it’s more of a string potato type thing.  It’s very pretty, but I don’t taste it because I know I’m not going to have room as it is for the good sized portion of scallops.  I am a little disappointed that the flavor of the scallops doesn’t quite match the two fish dishes.  They are a little bland, and I add my own salt, but the potato is steaming hot and light and fluffy; while the grilled vegetables are a nicely seasoned assortment that are really enjoyable.

By the time we finish with our meal, Eilis is cold and we are all stuffed.  We grab the info on the banquet menu, and we are warned that because our event is a year away, with the way prices are going up, there is a good likelihood that the prices on the current menu will not be honored next year at this time. 

We enjoyed the meal overall, and the interior of the location was a very pleasant surprise.  On a scale of 1-5, I would say the Lobster Trap is a solid 3, with some things (french fries) definitely scoring higher.  The service was pleasant, the atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, and this is definitely on the list for the First Holy Communion party.

McCormick & Schmick’s Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

McCormick & Schmick’s

941 Haddonfield Road

Cherry Hill, NJ 

Ya gotta love the new Garden State Park shopping area in Cherry Hill.  It has brought to the area a group of restaurants that you always hear about in other markets, such as the Cheesecake Factory, Brio, and McCormick & Schmick’s.  We were determined to try them all, so when we found McCormick & Schmick’s open recently on our way to Brio (one of our new favorites), we decided to head in and try the place out.

If you are cruising online, hoping to check out a menu from McCormick & Schmick’s to get an idea if you’ll find anything there you want to eat, don’t sell yourself on any particular dish.  This restaurant boasts the freshest seafood from various parts of the world, and the daily menu tells you which fish are fresh from what country or state.  For example, on our visit on April 10th, They had Massachusetts Bay Scallops; Kona, Hawaii Yellowfin Tuna; and New Zealand Cockles.  They use the fresh catches in the meals for the day’s menu, which is heavy on the seafood.

They offer a selection of light entrees and sandwiches, which are really well priced for a late evening snack or late lunch.  Starting at just $7.95 for a Classic Reuben sandwich, the lighter fare goes up to $13.95 for a crabcake sandwich.  Each sandwich comes with fries, and there are a few salads on the light menu as well.

The appetizer section of the menu is really the first place you’ll come to that features the freshly caught seafood.  We ordered the Fried Point Judith Calamari, which was lightly battered and served with three dipping sauces.  The sauces were fair – nothing special about them, and this particular dish just lends itself well to a good, fresh marinara sauce, so the other sauces were really unnecessary.  The appetizer was $10.95, and there were plenty of crispy calamari rings to justify the price.  Just beneath the appetizers on the menu was the “on the half shell” collection of shell fish, and for $12.95, Jim got a sampling of 6 different oysters, but the waiter went over the variety so quickly, it was hard to know which one Jim actually liked the best.  Included in the sampler were Imperial Eagle Oysters, Wianno Oysters, Sarah’s Creek Oysters, Cape May Salt Oysters, Duck Island Oysters, and Ship Point Oysters.  All were deemed tasty, but by the time he finished the dish, he couldn’t remember the names of any of them, nor had he put aside the shells he favored most highly.  They also have a larger sampler of oysters, featuring 2 each of their top 6 oyster varieties.

The soups tonight are not ones I generally order since my gastric bypass surgery, and the salads are nothing we haven’t seen before elsewhere, so I’m not tempted to let one ruin my dinner.  The first selection of entrees on the menu is the meat and shellfish section, featuring filet mignon, sirloin steak, and a New York strip, along with upscale shellfish dishes like live Maine lobsters ($21.95 per pound) and King Crab Legs ($29.95 per pound).  Also on the menu are traditional seafood offerings like cedar plank salmon, crab cakes, and fish and chips.  I opted for grilled sea scallops, advertised with sauteed spinach and a risotto cake.  Jim went with one of McCormick & Schmick’s specialties, which was a Mahi Mahi grilled over sweet potato crab hash and BBQ butter sauce. 

My scallops arrived piping hot and perfectly cooked, but a little light on seasoning.  The risotto cake is an odd creation.  Part of the thing about cooking risotto is to make it creamy and not sticky, but the risotto cake is just sticky rice that tastes like risotto.  I don’t dislike it, but I find the whole risotto cake to be a bit of an oxymoron.  The sauteed spinach is tasty, and helps boost the flavor of the scallops. 

Jim’s fish is really good, but the rest of the dish is a bit of an odd combination of flavors.  I didn’t care at all for the sweet potato crab hash, although he didn’t think it was as bad as I did.  This was dices of sweet potato with some lump crabmeat and a BBQ butter sauce.  The combination of the potato and BBQ sauce made the dish way too sweet, and when you threw in the butter, it became way too rich.  There were good sized lumps of crabmeat in the hash, but the delicate flavor of the crab was way overpowered by the sickeningly sweet combination of the potatoes and BBQ sauce.  Jim finished most of the fish, and we brought the potato side dish home to eat with the left over scallops, but the flavors didn’t fare any better given time to settle in with each other. 

As far as gastric bypass patients are concerned, there is an abundance of healthy proteins on the menu here.  The seafood is fresh and cooked to order, and there is very little fried fish on the menu, so you will get your fish broiled, grilled, or, in the case of the tuna, seared.  Most of the fish comes with some sort of butter sauce – rum butter; lemon butter; bacon and sherry butter…  You can ask for them not to include the butter on the dish if you are sensitive to the extra fat.  There is a chicken dish – but on the night we were there, there was only one chicken dish besides the buffalo chicken salad.  Ask the waiter if you are not familiar with the fish.  On the night we were there, there was a fish called a Bronzini on the menu.  We would have ordered it, but after discussing with our waiter, we learned that the fish comes out whole, and I am more cautious about fish bones since my surgery.

The prices on the menu are not outrageous, but you will easily spend upwards of $20 – $24 dollars for your entree.  When you compare the meal you get here to the meal you might get at Red Lobster for less money, you can certainly see where the difference in price is, but it’s hard to justify the difference.

We wanted to be blown away by the meal here, and the bottom line is we were not.  For the amount of money we spent, blown away would have been better.  This is a nice only once in a while for an occasion type restaurant.  My kids will probably keep eating at Red Lobster.