Monday, October 13, 2008
A RIVERSIDE DINER
by E Stelling, Chef/Owner, CookAppeal, LLC
The horoscope for Gemini in October claims that they are busy on all fronts. They want to play, flirt, pursue creative projects, sports, and all fun stuff. If this includes walking, hiking, kayaking, biking, or maybe a canoe trip out on the river with plenty of fishing gear and desire; then there is bound to be a twin out there that is ready for an autumn riverside dining experience.
(If you live in the Garden State and picked up this Octobers issue of NJ Monthly; then you know about all the wonderful foliage and the many outdoor activities to do in the months to come. This is just an adventure they do not give much information and its one of this gemini chef’s favorite pastimes since her father used to take her out in his boat, or fish off the waters edge.)
Mid-October weather starts to cool down on a more consistent basis and is worth the day or weekend trip to one of NJ many rivers or lakes. The NJ Parks and Wildlife Services stocks a thousand pound of trout in various locations around the state this time of the year, because these fish like the cold waters. There are also walleyes, hybrid striped bass and channel catfish as well. Muskellunge, northern pike and lake trout come in trophy proportions, and many are traveling up stream. Go on there official website for more information, nj.gov.org.
The Morris Canal Greenway and rivers of Morris County is a good place to start. As you drive up Route 206 you start to notice there is a more intense change of color in the foliage. The morning sun coming through the trees is definitely a beautiful site to behold as you are driving. You will take the exit off Route 206 that points you towards Waterloo Village; then follow all along Waterloo Road. Saxton Falls were many locals would recommend, but there was Stephens State Park, and many little stops you will see trucks and cars stopped along the way.
Bring plenty of fishing gear, canoe or kayak (did not see rentals), waders, cooking equipment, food supplies, hand sanitizer, newspaper for cleaning fish, trash bags, because they have a take in- take out policy in all of the areas. (Head the bear warnings in the picnic areas) Oh, and do not forget your confirmation number for the hotel you are staying at, unless you are camping out, and you have to get permission for that.
There is a great picnic area just a quarter mile south from Saxton Falls, and pay attention to the white painted bridge you will cross over on the left. You will find suitable and clean restrooms, play ground for young children, private and group picnic tables, pedestal grills for cooking (they do not allow ground fires anywhere), and all along the river. The sound of the flowing water is a wonderful touch to this ominous natural dining experience. Now slip into your waders, bait the hook, or get your fly fishing poles ready and go catch something for your day’s meal.
For those of you who do not want to spend more than a few hours playing in the water, or this is just not your cup of tea; then Waterloo Village has a Canal Day every Saturday from 10 AM till 5 PM; until the end of October. The Village has been fully restored and dates back to the Canal in 1831 and full of rich history and culture. Fishing in the canal while you visit is allowed. There are other area things to do including a visit further down to Route 46 in the town of Hacketown. Antique stores dot the main street; many small cafes are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. One place to eat is worth a mention, and it is called Tu Tierra. This is a small place just off the main street as you make that right hand turn from Waterloo Road. The food is Columbian and Costa Rican food and is freshly made each day. You will find the menu also include many things a picky eater would like; rice, beans, plantains, pork, beef, chicken, and fish choices. Try the Ceviche Shrimp, one of the soups, Green Plantain with beef, chicken, and shrimp. This last dish is very tradition of Costa Rican food. The cooked toppings come out on traditional flattened and fried plantains.
Spend the beautiful day exploring the different river locations they mention on the NJ website and you will find alternative bridges, falls and easy access river stops along the way for fishing. By the time you travel west down Route 46 you will reach one good stop by the Pequest Fish Hatchery. You can ask the fisherman what kind of luck they had or stand on the bridge and look down into the river. You will see big trout that have no interest in taking the bait, but it is fun trying. Well, if you find yourselves with no big fish stories; then head out to Salt, Gastropub off Route 206 (saltgastropub.com) and cook one up at the bar. They host a large list of beer to choose from, and a menu full of interesting items to eat.
Do not be too hard or yourself or give up, because many seasoned sportsman will tell you that it’s the tranquility, surrounded by the sights, nature’s sounds, and the aroma of autumn that draws them back to this riverside diner weekend after weekend.
UPDATE: We did return to this area this past weekend, and I caught two beautiful Rainbow Trout, and my husband caught two of his own. We just fished with spin lures and just before dark when they are ready to eat dinner themselves. They went on some ice, and being the cook in this house, I got the fun job of cleaning and preparing them for the smoker. I mixed some alder with a hint of mesquite and smoked them for about half an hour with potato, onion, and tomato slices layered in my cast iron stove top smoker. The neighbors were knocking our door down from the smell, or could it have been the smoke???
(Authors Note: I had already titled this piece and could not have imagined that just a few miles short of Route 31 heading back home I would stumble upon an old restaurant called The Riverside. This barn yard red building just sat there all deserted, and covered in an overgrowth of bushes and falling leaves. The Mobile Oil Company dining car that sticks out of the left side still looks as if it is waiting for its dinner guest to arrive. Curtains outline tables still set with silk flowers in their white vases with the spectacular view of the beautiful woods and river backdrop. If I had a few million laying around I would buy up this property and turn it into my dream weekend getaway, all set with a unique dining experience for my guests. View pictures at http://www.myspace.com/cookappeal )