On Vacation, the Kids take over the menu

By Frank Whitman

Marsha and I try to eat right – lots of fruit and vegetables, plenty of fish and chicken, not too much bread or red meat and always a salad for lunch.  A once-a-day tea-time sweet keeps us from feeling deprived. It’s a routine that we’re comfortable with.  

But when the grandchildren come, the game changes.  The dimly-remembered realm of family-pleasing kid food takes over.  

We’re in the Hudson Valley at a family home for a couple of weeks with a 12, 7, and 5 year old and their parents.  All of a sudden, meals that are a rare extravagance for us at home become everyday fare. 

Pizza is always a hit. We brought two from Wave Hill Breads for our first night here. Par-baked then frozen, these Italian-style pizzas have a chewy crust and authentic toppings.  A margarita satisfied the junior set, while the grownups feasted on sausage and peppers. 

That meal was the thin edge of the caloric wedge. 

The week continued with delicious tacos, hamburgers on the grill, free choice at the local kid-friendly stand, and wound up with more pizza. 

Kid friendly menu

I try to put on a pair of belted shorts every day. A few days with just an elastic waist could lead to an unplanned change in size – easy to get, hard to lose.

The Valley bounty is just coming into peak season.  Early sweet corn is stacked high, and the tomatoes get better every day. Local blueberries are hitting their stride, and there are still a few baskets of strawberries on offer. Cherries are plentiful and local peaches take just a few days to ripen. 

I can’t resist buying more than I can eat of these flavorful local fruits. Breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert – I’m doing my best to eat it up.  The kids, however, aren’t as entranced. A more standard array of supermarket snacks is where they’re at. But I know that one day they too will find local fruit in season irresistible.

Ice Cream Flavors

We’re on our second box of Klondike bars and have yet to visit the two (or three) mandatory summer ice cream stops. Time is running out, so these indulgences – not to be missed – may collide in a string of days that could cause a brief shortage of frozen desserts in the Catskills.  Everyone has their favorite. I like the chocolate with peanut butter at one stop and the rich, dark coffee at another. Sometimes I have to have a messy, dip cone (vanilla in chocolate) that drips everywhere. Once a year scratches that itch. 

It’s time to come clean. It’s not all the kids’ fault. I look forward to these vacation comfort foods both for the flavors and the memories. It’s easy to blame the kids, but I’m really a co-conspirator. 

In fact, I’m making an Ice Cream Pie this weekend. A long-time menu favorite at the Silvermine Tavern, it’s spectacular to look at and fun to eat. There isn’t a lot of cooking involved until the end, just a careful schedule of assembly. 

Store-bought ready-to-bake frozen pie shells are filled with two layers of contrasting colored ice cream.  Scooped from the tub, the bottom layer is packed into the crust and allowed to chill. Fill it with the second flavor up to the top and freeze overnight. 

The pie is crowned with a six-inch high tower of meringue.  I have a recipe that works for me, but practice makes perfect.  Pile a mountain of meringue on the chilled ice cream and give it a conical shape with a flat top and a slightly rough surface with some peaks. 

Bake it in the oven (yes, ice cream in the oven) at 500 until lightly browned, then quickly return it to the freezer.

While it’s chilling, make a chocolate ganache sauce to drizzle over the top. Cut into eight wedges with a hot knife, drip on a bit of ganache and serve.  

Everyone is out today so I’m on my own for lunch. Salad? I don’t think so. I’m putting together a BLT with local tomatoes and lettuce on wild-yeast-sourdough white-bread from See & Be Kitchen. Please don’t tell.