STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The old-school “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” took on a somber tone this year, given the COVID-imposed limitations.

Just last year at this time, we vacationed in Ocean Grove, N.J. And five years ago around this time, I took my boys to the Four Seasons for Children’s Day, a program to train little ones how to “dine” in a fancy restaurant. But during this sad time, the Jersey Shore trip was cancelled and that classic, linen-cloth midtown eatery closed for good last year. Plus, there is no “dining,” per se, in the traditional, pre-pandemic, indoor sense.

Baseball – that’s what I did on my summer vacation. It wasn’t exactly what was in the works when I filed for the time one year ago. But things work out for the best. With 11-and 12-year-olds on five teams between the two of them, I took on a full-time commitment in the last two weeks. It was a wonderful break and I officially became a Staten Island Baseball Mom.

Baseball

Little League in the pandemic (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)

Thanks to our frequent travels and sometimes two (once three) games a day, the children’s palates have been introduced to fast food, for better or worse. McDonald’s is no longer taboo for them, a verboten place in a former lifetime acceptable only for emergency diaper changes or highway potty breaks. The boys know know the ins-and outs of a Dunkin’ menu and how to graciously consume Shake Shack in the back seat of a Honda sedan outfitted with the unfortunate choice of a light gray, cloth upholstery.

At the Hy Turkin field in Dongan Hills, James, our little guy, discovered that square burgers come from Wendy’s. It was a teachable moment to seize for food service progenitor. So we had that “talk”– about the patty. Isn’t it a stroke of industrial genius that Dave Thomas created such a thing? So efficient to cook and flip on a rectangular griddle.

“Brilliant, right?” I marveled to our nonplussed Little Leaguer. But the burger was memorable as was the baseball experience. We won the game that day.

Playing catcher

James playing catcher for his Dick’s Sporting Goods team at Snug.

We win. We lose. We get hit by the ball. We get back up again. It’s a lot like writing about restaurants these days.

With so much idle time, the opportunity came along to organize photos into albums and, shall we say, “restaurant reflect.” I found a menu from Le Bernadin, a simple white booklet filled with pithy descriptions of Eric Ripert’s carefully-plated dishes. As I write this, the restaurant remains closed over pandemic concerns.

Will we ever again see such plush eateries like this, with an army of servers and sommeliers on the floor? It’s a style of service that requires much handling of hardware — proper cutlery marked on the table prior to each course, change-outs of glassware, folding and refolding of napkins — and the attention to detail that complements a great chef’s creations. Hopefully we don’t lose this level of dining with our new perspective on germs and crowds.

But over the vacation, like every summer, our garden kept growing. And as a right of passage in New York City to the month of August we had not one but two power outages. So I guess it’s business as usual.

It’s good to be back.

Tomato

A juicy tomato from a friend’s garden. (Staten Island Advance/Pamela Silvestri)

Keep in touch.

Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

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