Saturday, August 22, 2009

aaaand we're back! Block Island Reviews!

Okay, sports fans. After this summer's hiatus, I am excited (SO EXCITED)to bring you updates galore! Okay, so the new recipes are actually coming on Monday, but man are they going to be good!

I officially said sayonara to my summer the way I have been for years, which is by spending a few days in Block Island with my family, some friends, and a Jim, on the Black Rock Yacht Club 'Anti-Cruise'. It's always a laid-back and relaxing time, where the biggest stresses are: "Am I going to tackle the hill on my bike to get to Mohegan Bluffs", and "who has the best lobster roll?" Well, before we start, the answers are "Yes" and "try 'em all".

This year something special happened. On Tuesday morning, three chartered fishing boats went out to sea with family and friends in the wee hours of the foggy morning. At 0830 hours the first boat returned full of happy men: 75 POUNDS OF STRIPED BASS CAUGHT! While preparing for my breakfast and coffee, we received good tidings from the second boat in: ANOTHER 75 POUNDS OF FISH! Stripes and Blues! By noon, all three boats were in, resulting in over 200 POUNDS of fish which yielded about 60 pounds of striped bass and bluefish fillet. HOLY COW MACKEREL!

So what's a food enthusiast to do? Last night we had a last hurrah with our Block Island crew to say so-long to summer and bask in all of our fishy glory. I'll save the details for Monday, when I'll be updating with Grilled Striped Bass with a Mango Puree, and Poached Striped Bass with Lemon and Dill recipes! Sound fun? Well it was.

Now that we're hungry, let's talk restaurants. Every vacation is a like a test. We go to different places to eat; we see what we like and what we don't; and we separate the good deals from the rip-offs.

Let's start with Champlain's Marina - This place advertises itself as a "resort", but we've been avoiding it like the plague since I was a ten-year-old. They have a movie theater, a restaurant, "bumper boats" (aka inner-tubes with dingy engines), and a small arcade. It's also the most crowded, noisiest place on the island, and not worth the effort. We ate at the Dockside Restaurant for lunch one day. The food was average, and after spending $13 Dollars on Fried Calamari w/Mango Coulis that tasted like rubber and honey-mustard, I found myself requiring a second lunch a few hours later.

If you're looking for a decent sit-down lunch, your best bets are the Tap and Grille at the National Hotel, or the Harborside Inn's Harbor Grill, both of which give you a diverse menu, generous portions, a reasonable price, and great views of the water.

If you are looking for a place to dock or moore your boat, I'd always recommend Payne's Dock in New Harbor. It's a friendly place that feels like home. It is less noisy/crowded than Champlain's, they have a bar, "Burger Bar" that serves lunch and dinner, and a snack bar that makes great clam cakes, lobster rolls, and by far the best homemade donuts I've ever eaten. There are also fishing charters, bike rentals, and kayak rentals near by. It's also a close walk to...

The Oar! The Oar is always crowded, but a good experience that everyone should do once. If you don't feel like waiting for a table for dinner, make sure you hit the bar for one of their famous Mudslides. Hang out in an adirondack chair overlooking the harbor, life doesn't get much better than that! They have great fish and they are reasonably priced.

We did dinner one night at Ballard's Inn ... lobster dinner to be exact. Located almost literally on the beach, we sat outside and watched a great sunset. They offered a fantastic spicy calamari dish, a very well done baked scrod, and the lobsters were cooked to perfection. Not to mention a raw bar with local shellfish. Prices were good. Not to mention, with 30+ people in our party, they were accommodating enough to make separate checks, and they got every order right. It was like Christmas.

As far as night life goes, it isn't a trip to the Block without a visit to the Yellow Kittens. A local bar with live music regularly and a good crowd. They have great beer on tap, too. I did get made fun of once for ordering a dark-n-stormy, but I won't hold it against anyone. I hear they have the best New Years party on the east coast, and I tend to believe it.

We played our mini-vacation fairly low-key. We dined casually, not venturing very far outside of tee-shirt friendly zones. The fish on the island is so fresh. If you're looking for a really special night, I'd encourage you to visit the restaurant at the Hotel Manises, which is a five star meal and accommodation from wherever you stand.

The best part is that Block Island is a great place to go in the last days of August and the beginning of September. First of all, the crowd coming off of the ferry isn't as big, so the island isn't as crowded. It's still warm enough to walk around, even in the fall. Most of the stores and restaurants are still open, and the rates are lower.

I personally wish someone could lend me a cool $3 million so I could build a house. I know those cheesy commercials advertise it as the "Bermuda of the North", but take it from someone who's been to Bermuda -- it's a good place to spend some time!

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