What are some of your favorite places to visit at the Shore, both old and new?
Reader: Stopped at the Diving Horse in Avalon last week. I'm happy to say it was just as good as last summer.
C.L.: Yes, the Diving Horse was certainly the Restaurant of Summer '10. Glad to hear it's still rocking this season. I tend to visit the new places each year, so I'll just have to make do with what the P&K crew is cooking up in town at 20th and Lombard this summer. There are worse fates.
Reader: Any suggestions for good lobster-roll places in Philly or the burbs?
C.L.: We covered this territory pretty well last year, and I'm not sure yet if there are any new entries to rival the rolls of Sansom Street - both at the Oyster House and Happy Rooster. Down the Shore, I had a very tasty one (in a top-split toasted bun, no less!) at Harry's Oyster Bar, the new seafood spot on the boardwalk side of Bally's in AC from the family behind Docks' and the Knife & Fork.
Reader: I heard that Sean Weinberg from Alba was involved in a new restaurant near Ocean City. Did you get a chance to check it out?
C.L.: Yes, that is true. Sean was running around Baia's gigantic dining room in Somers Point like a chicken with its head cut off when I was there. The place is huge, and the crowds were relentless. By the time I called to interview him, he was already gone, except for a consulting role, which was always the plan, Weinberg says. Current chef is the same kitchen partner he began with, Ed Bonsignore, who has a small place in Florida, Samantha's, that's closed for the season while he mans the expansive Italian-inspired menu here.
Reader: I caught a meal at Quahog last weekend in Stone Harbor. Great meal (with the expected shore markup). The quality of the food makes one wonder why Hoof + Fin could not make it.
C.L.: Speaking of our previously favorite Argentines in Philly - Lucas Manteca and his kitchen compadre Carlos Barroz (co-chef and co-owner), who are now back to their respective projects at the Shore. They do a great job at Quahog's (and Lucas, I hear, is still cooking like a madman at the Ebbitt Room). I liked their efforts at Hoof + Fin, too, especially when they focused on the Argentine dishes. Hard to say what went wrong, though. Could be the location, which hasn't really soared since Gayle's early days. Perhaps there's just a lot of competition. My sense was that they didn't define themselves clearly enough.
Reader: I know you think that restaurants are offering more vegetarian and vegan choices but, if you were a vegan (as I am) and love fine dining (as we both do), I think you'd disagree. Many (indeed most) of the restaurants you review (including, it appears, Mica) offer no entree for a vegan. What about including in your discussions with the chefs before publication questions about their flexibility in that regard and what they would do for vegans (or vegetarians if there is nothing for them)? It would help a lot as many vegans control the choice of restaurant for their whole group and they do not like to go to a restaurant that appears to offer nothing more than a green salad.
C.L.: Funny you should mention it, because I dined at Mica with a vegan friend of mine. Mica actually did a really nice job handling her restrictions after a simple tableside discussion. They scared her briefly with a powdery white substance over the "potatoes" that looked like grated cheese - it was non-dairy truffle powder; and totally decadent. They handled the request so well, in fact, I pretty much forgot that it had been an issue - so I neglected to mention it in the review. My bad. I do think it would be a good idea to include mentions in future articles - and I promise I will try.