A GREAT ESCAPE
Text by a plate
from New Jersey
Photos by Gayle T. Tiller
Nothin could be finer
escapin from this diner
Im goin to Carolina
waitress name of Dinah.
|There I was, slavin away in
this diner off Route 17 in northern Jersey. Greek omelettes, Western
omelettes, cheese omelettes, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs
(cook em long, says the health department), even hard-boiled
eggs in egg salad
Ive seen it all. Not to mention the hash browns,
strips of bacon, sausage patties, pancakes and French toast. And that was just
breakfast. Seen enough tuna melts in my day to make me swear off canned fish in
a permanent way.
|Waitresses snappin gum, kids bangin their forks on me,
guys with stubbled chins yellin fer more coffee. Whatta life. I
dont even want to tell you bout the brutes who washed dishes. You
know, it wasnt all bad though. There was this real nice waitress, name of
Dinah, who wore a different name tag every day. One day she was Sally, the next
she was Belle. Every once in a while, shed get all sassy
and come in as Sparkles or So-phi-a. Thats how she said it:
So-fee-ah. I liked her just fine. But so did this guy who would
come in every mornin right at 7:15. Hed always sit in Dinahs
section and say, So, whos waitin on me today? Hed
drink his cup of coffee and just smile away at Dinah.
day he came in and told Dinah that he wanted her to run away with him. To the
Outer Banks of North Carolina, he said. Dinah, who was traipsing around as Cleo
that day, said, Uh-huh. Well, I somehow talked that woman into
sneaking me outta that place, so I could have a little adventure myself. A
retirement, you might say.
tried a day or two on the beach. Didnt cut it. Im a plate
all I know is restaurants. So I went on a little tour of the local eateries.
One thing I found about the Outer Banks:
these people know all about good food.
First place I stopped
was Miriams, at Monteray Plaza in Corolla. Chef-owner Ann
Runnels plated up her famous brown sugar and mustard-marinated sliced pork
tenderloin with braised red cabbage slaw and major comfort food:
cheddar-scallion mashed potatoes.
south, here I am at Carolina Blue at The Marketplace in Southern Shores,
owned by Chip Smith and Tina Vaughan.
|Chips creation is
pan-seared, oven-roasted breast and thigh of duck, served with a duck jus
reduction and five different purees. These remarkable accompaniments are made
of rutabaga, sweet potato, pear, prune and celery root.
Next stop was Ocean
Boulevard, on the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk. Chef Chuck Arnold plied
me with his sashimi appeti-zer (below): seared tuna with a soy-honey glaze on a
bed of wasabi slaw. The chopsticks were a nice exotic touch, I think.
|Movin on down the
Beach Road, I popped in at Awful Arthurs in Kill Devil Hills,
where Chef Kenny McLean offered me surf and turf and tea for
two. Pictured below is Kennys black peppered chateaubriand, stuffed
with lobster tail and served with baked potato puree and a lobster
|Since I was celebrating
the good life, I next went to The Good Life in the Dare Center in Kill
Devil Hills. Co-owner Kris Mullins made sure that I got good and settled in
with a selection of house-made breads,
| a mound of spicy soy
sesame noodles, some outrageous desserts and, of course, a cappuccino (below).
You know, the same guys who own Blue Point and Ocean Boulevard own The Good
Life. I think theyre really trying to broaden my horizons with these
chopsticks. (I checked, and they have good ol flat-ware too.)
Barracudas executive chef, Don Morrisette, may have grumbled a bit
about my appearance, but he came through in a big way with his culinary skills.
Here I am with smoked mozzarella in a basil cream sauce, with sauteed jumbo
shrimp and lump blue crabmeat. Don even brought out a piece of his famous key
lime pie his original recipe from his years as chef at Jimmy
Buffets Margaritaville Café in Key West, Florida.
My last stop on this
little escapade was 1587, in The Tranquil House Inn on Manteos
waterfront. General Manager Donnie Just made sure that I had a window table,
and Susan Holton-Rogers, executive sous chef, prepared my meal. Pictured
on the right is cornmeal-encrusted rockfish over caramelized onion mashed
potatoes with a caper-tomato cream. This marvelous creation is topped with a
salad of garlic-enhanced prawns, portobella mushrooms and mixed baby
|And Dinah, you wonder?
Well, she and her coffee-consuming friend had a
wonderful vacation on the Outer Banks. Seems the area was a little too
small for her to go by several different names, so she took off for a place
with a larger year-round population. As for me, well dont be surprised if
you see me out at one of your favorite Outer Banks establishments.