The girls and I made a trip recently to Wrightstown, NJ, a small town on the outskirts of McGuire Air Force Base, not far from the state capital of Trenton. We ended up in this unlikely spot because there is a fairly significant military cemetery – the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Cemetery – about 15 minutes north. Our purpose? To attend a memorial service for my dad (a WW II veteran who died in 1985) and the long-awaited placement of his remains with those of other vets.
Given that this is a food blog, details of the day, as moving as it was, would be best left for a different venue. However, we had to eat – and again, given that this is a food blog – herewith a report from the field.
As one might expect from the location – a military base – five-star beaneries were conspicuous in their absence. (When inquiring at the hotel reception about restaurant options, we were enthusiastically informed that there was a Taco Bell about a mile away.) Our first evening’s repast was enjoyed at Tara’s Tavern, about a mile (in the other direction) from our hotel. Replete with photos of fighter jets, refueling tankers, Apache helicopters and other memorabilia of America’s air wars, the joint was jumping with locals, all seemingly active or retired military personnel. (There was a noticeable pause in the conversational din when the girls walked in followed by a noticeable RISE in the decibel level as bedlam ensued once we were seated. This is not an uncommon occurrence when I travel with the girls.)
The three of us now comfortably seated (in a booth for eight), libations ordered, we settled in. We were obviously not from the neighborhood but after a couple of interactions with the staff, we felt right at home.
Appetizers arrived, most notably a cup of French onion soup for your humble correspondent the likes of which I hadn’t seen in many a year! Overflowing with Gruyere, I was anticipating the possibility that I would, by the time we walked out of this place, be looking less like the respectable middle-aged American I appeared as we walked in than a disheveled Mardi Gras reveler coming off the weekend before Fat Tuesday. However, the ominous start depicted in the accompanying photo notwithstanding, I managed to find my way through the meal while maintaining a modicum of dignity.
The high point of the evening was meeting Tara, the proprietress of Tara’s Tavern. (Like most small business owners, she was on the front line tonight, cleaning tables as the crowd began to thin.) As is their wont, by the time dessert arrived, the girls were quite animated (wine for Wanda and a strawberry daiquiri for The Bug) and as the table-cleaning lady finished the one next to us, Wanda asked, “Are you the owner?” She was. “Are you Tara?” Indeed! There followed a stream of compliments about the decor, the food, the dessert, the waiter (who was flirting with The Bug since the strawberry daiquiri) and untold other aspects of the evening that had escaped yours truly entirely. “We should get T-shirts”, I heard. And in mere moments, a couple of handsomely crafted, one-of-a-kind vestments appeared! We now had a new friend in Wrightstown and I was guaranteed to be seeing double in the morning when the girls were sure to roll out of the sack wearing the same shirt! (sigh…)
A votre santé!