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THE FRONT BURNER

FLS reporter Katie Thisdell serves up news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.

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Dissecting the chicken finger, and other beach eating

I’m just back from a week at the beach with my family, and I had my first experience ordering off the kids’ menu for my almost-toddler daughter. We went with the ubiquitous chicken finger. It seemed like the most innocuous thing on the menu.

A kids’ meal will feed a really small child for more than one meal, so the day after our trip to the restaurant, I pulled the leftovers out for lunch. I didn’t really want to give my daughter all the fried, salty crust–you know, the good part–for another meal, because she’s not used to that much salt, and it just didn’t seem that nutritious.

So I set about finding the actual chicken in the chicken fingers. A few minutes and a messy countertop later, I found myself pulling fried crust away from fried crust to find a thin, translucent layer of something whitish-yellow and very stringy inside.

Was it chicken? Maybe, but it could just as easily have been a deteriorating sliver of one of those rubber chickens they sell in novelty stores.

Next time I order chicken fingers, I plan to ask if there’s any chicken in them.

On a happier beach eating note, we reaped the benefits of getting a little bit off the beaten path. If you’re ever in Cape May, N.J., take a break from the boardwalk and the busy pedestrian mall and check out a place called Panico’s Bistro. It’s a brick-oven pizza and Italian restaurant that operates out of a repurposed old church building (Reminded us of Eileen’s downtown.). It’s always a good sign when a restaurant has bunches of fresh herbs growing in an inconspicuous spot near the back of the building, and we were not disappointed with this place.

Inside we found a very kid-friendly atmosphere, a lively crowd and…very good food.

From the garlic bread set on the table to start, to the homemade tomato vinaigrette on our fresh garden salad (must find a recipe for tomato vinaigrette) to the crispy-chewy pizzas we enjoyed and then took home for lunch the next day, this place was a treat, and a total break from the no-chicken-chicken-finger-making-factories closer to the beach.

Alcohol was BYO, and they didn’t even charge a corkage fee. We were toward the end of our beach trip, so bringing our own wine was a welcome way for us to use up some of our overly ambitious beverage stock. As we left our early-bird-with-baby mealtime, we saw a lot of locals streaming in with their wine in paper bags.

All in all, a great experience. Now it’s back to local food, and to find a way to re-create that tomato vinaigrette.

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/frontburner/2011/07/26/865/