Two Wicked Good Seafood Burgahs

by Diana Worden Karmin

In Plymouth, Massachusetts, after admiring the famous rock (that may or may not have been stepped on by the Pilgrims as they disembarked from the Mayflower – honestly, that’s what the tour guide said), we were on the search for some good eats.

cabby shack

The Cabby Shack was recommended by the Tourist Center and it was only a short walk from said rock. That must have been lucky for the Pilgrims, too. They had to have been famished after that long voyage. So, in the spirit of the first settlers, and eager for lobster roll, we strolled on over.

Overlooking Plymouth Harbor, The Cabby Shack offers outdoor on-deck seating or an indoor dining room. Since the wait for an outside table was over 45 minutes when we arrived, we opted for the dining room. Although next to the bar area, the dining room seemed nice and fairly quiet, with standard 80’s soft rock playing overhead at a reasonable volume. But – within minutes -a live band outside on the deck started competing with the radio inside in the dining room – and the cacophony of dueling tunes quickly became maddening.

Low blood sugar makes us cranky. Very, very cranky.

Dear Cabby Shack management: Please, for the love of humanity, turn off the damned piped-in radio inside when you have live music playing outside. Your patrons will be grateful…and far less ornery.

Unfortunately for us, we were also disappointed when the waitress told us (loudly – so we could hear her) that their lobster roll was pre-made and therefore not available without mayonnaise (Okay, she probably didn’t say “therefore,” but who could tell over the din?). We prefer our lobster roll straight, á la Abbott’s in Noank, Connecticut or Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery, Maine. And, although she offered to ask if the kitchen staff would be able to make a lobster roll without the mayo, she didn’t appear hopeful. We declined…being far too hungry at that point to wait for someone to go out and catch a fresh lobster.

What? Was the alternative to wipe off the mayo from the pre-made lobster roll???

We ultimately decided to go with the Wicked Tuna and the Ginger Salmon-sation burgers with plans to each share half and they turned out to be excellent choices!

The Wicked Tuna burger was topped with cucumber wasabi and wakame (seaweed salad) and was cooked perfectly medium-well. The Ginger Salmon-sation burger, with ginger, cilantro, and green onions was just that…absolutely sensational. The accompanying sweet potato fries were average as far as sweet potato fries go.

You know what we would like to see? Sweet potato fry wedges offered on a menu instead of the usual stringy, greasy orange spuds. Don’t great, big sweet potato wedges, sprinkled with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt on top sound absolutely delicious? How about getting on that after you turn down the music, Cabby Shack? Just remember whose idea it was. We’ll be back, you know.

Make plans to visit The Cabby Shack to enjoy their wicked good seafood burgahs, or their famous lobster roll if you are a mayo-fan. Don’t forget to bring earplugs.

And, send us a picture of your face in the giant lobster, will ya? Just don’t bother to send us pictures of the rock. Once you’ve seen one weather-beaten slab that may or may not have been a part of American history, you’ve seen them all.

We Have Become Comfortably Full at Comfi

by Diana Worden Karmin

Comfi in Old Bridge, New Jersey, with its interestingly eclectic décor, is a small restaurant with a big menu and even bigger portions. When you go to Comfi, get ready to “eat yourself full” as the old Pennsylvania Dutch saying goes.

Feeling famished…and brave? How about an oversized stack of deliciously killer pancakes that hang over the edge of your plate? Need more? Here come the best home-fried potatoes this side of Idaho, with the skins still on! Belly still not bursting? Bring on a heaping plate of farm-fresh eggs. Don’t even get us started about the caramel apple French toast. Mainly because it’s impolite to talk with our mouths stuffed full.

comfi pancakes

Okay. We’ve finally had enough. The food was absolutely fabulous, but we’ll have to take the rest to go. And next time, we vow to try the famous pierogis…if we could only tear ourselves away from the breakfast menu.

Comfi is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. A good dining plan would be to skip eating on Monday and go to Comfi on Tuesday to eat yourself full.






Hawthorne Hotel in Salem Makes Money Magically Disappear

by Alan Karmin

The Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts happens to be one of the nicest hotels with old New England charm but with some very questionable check-in policies that can leave you with a huge problem in your bank account.

hawthorne hotel 2

Upon checking in, the front desk person welcomed us, and then asked how we would be paying for our room. When I handed her my debit card, she then informed me that, in addition to charging the card the full amount ($628) for our stay right away, I was also going to be charged an additional $628 for a security deposit, “just in case something happens.” Now understand that, when using a debit card, debits hit up in the bank account immediately and the funds are removed from the account, whereas when an establishment issues you a credit, those funds are not likely to be available for at least 72 hours. Obviously a banking policy that is quite unfair in any realm. So when I told the clerk that, although I have always had my card “run” upon check-in, it had never been “charged” until check-out, and I certainly had NEVER been charged a security deposit, let alone charged DOUBLE “just in case” something happened, she curtly told me that I could give $100 in cash for the security deposit. She “educated” me about hotel policies around the world. “Sir…every hotel does it!” Really? We have travelled quite a bit and I have NEVER encountered anything of the sort. Is it New England? Puzzled, I just stood there frozen. So I guess she thought I was too stupid to effectively ascertain the situation and said, again curtly, “There’s an ATM right behind you if you are short on cash.”

We were not short on cash but we were getting quite short on patience at this point. While one of us was ready to leave (and I won’t say which one), we decided to stay and make the best of it. I handed the clerk $100 for the ridiculous security deposit. And then…the clerk handed me the invoice. Instead of $628, she charged my card $928…overcharging me by $300. I calmly (really)…I WAS still calm at this point – pointed out the mistake. She sheepishly apologized and handed me back my $100 in cash and told me I no longer needed to leave a security deposit. WELL? What about my $300? She said she was going to refund it. Yeah…and I wouldn’t see that for at least three days. “Oh…you will see it back in your account in three to five business days sir.” That means – given the holiday weekend, I would not get it back for at least a week. That did it. I wanted my money back – ALL of my money back…ALL $928 OF MY MONEY BACK and we are leaving. But not until I get the money back. The clerk ran the refund immediately. But would not give me a receipt documenting the refund. No matter what establishment you might go to…if you are credited anything back to your charge card…you are ALWAYS given a receipt. This is the point that things began deteriorating – the attitude, the ridiculous policies, the mistake (which was probably an honest mistake of just hitting the wrong key of 9 rather than 6), the poor attitude (again) after the mistake, the money being taken from my account and not available to me.

 The clerk asked if I would like to see the manager. Of course I would! The manager took me into her office and proceeded to tell me why I should not be upset. Why the hell not? You have $928 of my money. You TELL me it was refunded. However, you REFUSE to give me ANY documentation that the charge was, in fact, reversed. And I am supposed to be happy about this? I repeatedly attempted to explain why this was unfair and I just kept getting pushback and asked to calm down. So I asked her, “If you were on vacation…and you had a finite amount of money in your bank account to cover your expenses…and you had most of it taken from you…and you weren’t going to get it back for a week…what would YOU do?” The manager stood there…looked at me…and just said, “Let me see about getting you a print out of the refund.” OK…I’ll wait. We were outside in front of the hotel seething…and after 10 minutes we still hadn’t heard anything. So I went back inside and approached the front desk only to hear the clerks giggling on the other side of the front desk. I kept my cool and asked to see the manager again. She came out…looked at me…and told me that she could not get me any documentation.

OK…THAT was it! Now…I am USUALLY not the one with the hot temper. I usually step aside when it comes to the tempers flying and allow someone else (wink) to set the house ablaze. But I am OUT OF MONEY (at least for a period of time) and I have NO PROOF that a refund was issued. I told her, “I am not leaving here without any proof that that refund was issued!” I was furious!

Suddenly, we found out that the general manager just happened to be working that evening. He brought us to his office. I repeated the circumstances and it was clear that he just wanted to diffuse the situation. So somehow by a miracle, or perhaps it was that Salem Witchcraft, he was able to produce a printout of both the charge AND the refund of $928. However, I KNEW that the money would not be back in the account for a while. The general manager graciously offered that, if we still wanted to stay at the hotel, he would give us one night free and provided us with a $50 gift certificate to their restaurant. It seemed like a nice gesture and, hey, the hotel WAS really nice. So we did accept the offer and kept to our plans. However, I did have to be charged for the room again, because the first charge was fully refunded. But this time, I gave the card for my business account and it was charged $417…and NO security deposit!

The room was great. It was very nicely appointed, very clean, and provided for very peaceful nights. We were even treated to a spirit or two. Salem, remember?

The restaurants were nice, with some great dishes for breakfast. We really enjoyed the continental buffet and the service was excellent.


Oh yeah…the money. Well…every day I checked to see if the money – the $928 – had been made available to us. One day, two days, three days, I KNEW it! My account was short the $928. What if we NEEDED that money? What if we were AWAY and needed that money? It was inconvenient, it was unfair. SIX DAYS AND COUNTING…I finally called my bank to inquire about the charge and the now missing credit. The bank informed me that hotels, in general, have a working agreement with the banks and that there is a “hold” that is in their contract, thereby holding the funds for specified period of time unless a specific authorization of release of funds is submitted by the merchant. The bank official informed me that the Hotel Hawthorne had an agreement whereby funds are automatically “held” for nine (9) days before that hold “expires” and the funds are released. And although the hotel had, in fact, issued a “refund”…a “release of funds” was never executed.

On Day 7 of “Funds being Held Hostage” I contacted the general manager’s office and left a voice message. I got a return call that day from his assistant who told me that he was the one who dealt with the banks with these situations but denied that the hotel was “knowingly holding onto the funds.” Well, my friend, if you are the one who deals directly with the banks and you are so well-versed with the contracts, then how can you deny that you know of the “9-day hold” policy that your hotel has with the banks? And how could you NOT know that you had to issue a “release of funds” in order to allow us to have access to our money before the nine days expired?

The bottom line is that the Hawthorne Hotel is actually a wonderful place in the heart of Salem…but it seems like there is a lot of unethical and unfair financial practices brewing in some black cauldron that pop up as their check-in policies. If you can get past that black magic, you can really enjoy a nice stay.

‪#‎HawthorneHotel‬, ‪#‎Salem‬, ‪#‎Witchcraft‬, ‪#‎NewEngland‬, ‪#‎WheresMyMoney

More than Just the Icing

by Diana Worden Karmin

What could be more fun than a display case full of drool-worthy cupcakes in every flavor/combination you can think of? A tray full of “frosting shots,” that’s what!

When you walk into Cupcake Charlie’s in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the choices can be dizzying. The Orange Dreamsicle has an orange fruit slice delectably peeking out of the orange buttercream frosting that tops the orange zest cupcake. The Chocolate Raspberry Surprise is just that…a dreamy dollop of raspberry frosting, decorated with two miniature chocolate flutes. And don’t even get us started on the Flavor of the Day, which was S’mores on our lucky day. Any cupcake that surrounds a mound of marshmallow with another mound of perfectly chocolatey frosting and adds a Hershey’s square with a graham cracker wedge gets our vote. Would it be rude to eat more than one? Two? Could you reinforce our chairs, please?

Our only complaint was that they beat us to one of our most brilliant ideas. We often fancied opening a chain of specialty shops called, Just the Icing, where we would offer only “the icing on the cake.” Cupcake Charlie’s does just that and calls it “frosting shots.” The shots are in small, lidded cups and contain a variety of buttercream frosting flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate chip buttercream. They will even make you a “shot” of your favorite flavor. We’ll belly up to that bar! And we’ll have another cupcake for a chaser.

Cupcake Charlie’s has locations in Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Stop and try one. Or two. Or three. And get a shot to go.

By the way, what do you think about Just the Icing? We expect to see you at our grand opening.

‪#‎CupcakeCharlies‬ ‪#‎Plymouth‬ ‪#‎cupcakes‬ ‪#‎JusttheIcing‬ ‪#‎NewEngland‬


Monstrously Gooood Lobster

by Diana Worden Karmin

During a recent trip to New England, The Karmin Kuisine Tour took a leisurely ride along the coast from Salem, Massachusetts to Kittery, Maine.  The scenery, especially along the New Hampshire coastline, was breathtaking. And appetite-whetting. We were looking forward to a fabulous lobster dinner at Robert’s Maine Grill in southern Maine after reading several glowing reviews. They did not disappoint.

Always sticklers for good service, we were impressed with the attentiveness of our waitress from the onset. She initially brought out a cream-cheese-based dip for noshing while we poured over the menu and upon learning that one of us (the pickier one) did not care for cream cheese, she immediately (and happily) switched out the offering with fresh carrot and celery sticks.

Then we tried the kale soup. Yes, we are quite aware that kale soup is getting over-played everywhere, but theirs was nothing short of fantastic. Chocked full of leafy kale and white beans, swimming in a light tomato base. Perfect for the vegetarian or pescetarian in your dining party (and the picky eater).

We might be picky (one of us), but we are never cowards – we went straight for the Jumbo Lobster Roll. Opting to leave out the mayo and the butter in order to enjoy our Maine Lobster as purely as possible, we only used a bit of their tangy cocktail sauce for added flavor. As the title (and our Franken-lobster meme) suggests, it was monstrously gooood!

A great big thanks to Robert’s Maine Grill for the fast and friendly service, incredibly good food, and being the inspiration for: Maine. Lobster. Gooood.

If anyone is interested in Franken-lobster t-shirts, mugs, magnets, key chains, foam fingers, or tattoos - contact the Karmin Kuisine Tour. Operators are standing by.

‪#‎Maine‬ ‪#‎Lobster‬ ‪#‎Kittery‬ ‪#‎RobertsMaineGrill‬ ‪#‎Frankenstein‬ ‪#‎DontStealDianasIdea‬

Stop by for a Spell

by Diana Worden Karmin

If you are serious about your metaphysical shops (and who isn’t?), then The Coven’s Cottage is the place to visit in Salem, Massachusetts.

Absent are the usual witchy-kitschy t-shirts and bumper stickers and present is an array of herbs, candles, stones, books, jewelry, incense, and notions for potions – all beautifully and invitingly displayed.

Stroll around, take in the intoxicating blend of smells from their incense and their candles, and then get ready for a reading with Demetrius. And I do mean get ready. I would think that most of my readers may be on the skeptical side when it comes to psychic readings, tarot cards, or mediums. Good. Bring that skepticism with you and then prepare for an awe-inspiring experience. Demetrius, soft-spoken and ethereal, will speak to you of your past, your present, and give glimpses in to your future.

My sole disappointment was his assertion that I will be enlisted to write a fictional piece for a charitable (read: unpaid) organization this coming fall. Fine, I guess. I have had an Arthurian Legend story rattling around in my head for many years. But, of course, this also means that I must travel to the British Isles for research. Wait! He told me that I would be taking a trip to a foreign land across water…and it would not be tropical. Now either he is a plant for Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines or this man is truly gifted.

I’m going with gifted.

And I’m accepting book offers.

Get thee to The Coven’s Cottage at 190 Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts, and tell them that Random Thoughts and Occasional Outbursts sent you.

Never mind. Demetrius already knows.

‪#‎Salem‬ ‪#‎TheCovensCottage‬ ‪#‎Massachusetts‬ ‪#‎ArthurianLegend‬ ‪#‎Psychic‬ ‪#‎TarotCards‬ ‪#‎Medium‬ ‪#‎Metaphysical

A Bird-in-Hand is Worth a Good Time

By Diana Worden Karmin

 The Bird-in-Hand Family Inn is a large yet quaint complex nestled within the heart of Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pa. Surrounded by farmland, this family-style resort is the perfect place to stay and relax while exploring all that the Pennsylvania Dutch area has to offer.

Bird In Hand Sign

By the way, for those of us that are sticklers for detail, Pennsylvania “Dutch” is actually a corruption (sounds sinister, doesn’t it?) of the word Deutsch, which means German. The Amish originated from Germany and a comprehensive history of their culture can be found at the Lancaster County website:

For now, we’re just going to concentrate on the food and fun.

To cover the fun part, the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn has three pools – two indoor and one outdoor – and a huge hot tub spa. The pool facilities are always neat, clean, and inviting. A small game room annexes the pool area with a few rather outdated games, but the kids nevertheless seem happy to dump in several quarters and stay occupied while the adults relax in the spa.

Bird In Hand Family Inn

Next to the game room is tiny gym, housing two treadmills and an elliptical. A ping pong table completes the indoor recreation facilities. (We avoid ping pong because only ONE of us can actually connect with that stupid little ball, while the other one runs around chasing it as it bounces off the table.)The outdoor grounds offer an updated playground, tennis and basketball courts, a walking trail, and a miniature golf course.

Located at the corner of the property is the restaurant and bakery. Believe us, their breakfast smorgasbord is the best part of wakin’ up at Bird-in-Hand Family Inn. The smorgasbord is open from 7:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. and features scrambled eggs, baked oatmeal, casseroles, bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes, waffles, potatoes, sausage gravy, French toast, a fruit and pastry bar and plenty more. We strongly suggest arriving no later than 9 a.m. – before all the best eats are gone. We’ve already had the sad experience of picking through the bottom of the scrambled eggs and wondering what goodies were held in the other empty warming trays because we made the mistake of sleeping in. “Oh well, whatever was there, the remnants at least looked like it was good,” we grumble to ourselves as we shuffle away, shoulders drooped, heads hanging. Lesson learned, and the alarm clock has been set on our subsequent visits.

Amish Buggy

When you visit PA Dutch County, you and your family will enjoy an active and delicious stay at the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn. To make the most of your trip, explore our Lancaster County section.


Ruby Foo’s – Phooey!

by Diana Worden Karmin

If you find yourself in the Times Square area – wait – hold that thought. Why in heaven’s name would you be in the Times Square area? With all the splendor that New York City has to offer, why would you waste a minute of your time in that cacophony of noise, lights, and shuffling- bumping-pushing humanity? You like the stores? They’re at any mall in New Jersey. What? You need something unique? Do you honestly think “the folks back home” want a Statue of Liberty t-shirt? Surprise. That statue is actually in New Jersey, too. Oh… it’s that behemoth M&M store that’s so appealing? If it’s candy you seek, then get yourself to Dylan’s Candy Bar on 60th Street and 3rd Avenue for the ultimate candy experience. After you have the delight of exploring three floors of candy, gifts, and nostalgia, you can head on over to browse through Bloomingdale’s, which is diagonally across the street from Dylan’s. Sure, both stores can be over-crowded… but IT’S STILL NOT TIMES SQUARE!

“But I have theater tickets!” you protest. Trust us, it is entirely possible to enjoy any Broadway show without ever stepping foot in the heart of Times Square… even if you have to hoof it a couple of blocks to go around.

Let’s get back to the beginning, shall we? IF you find yourself in the vicinity of Times Square and you’re hungry: Grab a pretzel from one of the carts, (DO NOT let them charge you more than three dollars!  Don’t Mess With The Karmin Kuisine Tour), treat yourself to fine dining on Restaurant Row, or eat in Little Italy before heading uptown ( 110 Years of Tradition in Little Italy).

Whatever you do, don’t eat at Ruby Foo’s.

Ruby Foos

Ruby Foo’s is on the corner of Broadway and 49th Street and their idea of Asian-fusion is a limited menu with delectable-sounding offerings like Spicy Eggplant Lettuce Wraps with Lime Yogurt, or Lobster and Scallop Pot Stickers with Pea Tendrils and Truffles. Yummy, right? Sure. Until you find that the “Spicy Eggplant” predominately contains hard, dry chick peas with just a hint of eggplant (at least we thought it was eggplant), and the Pot Stickers are bland, mushy, and tasteless. We won’t even bother to bore our readers with the remainder of our Dim Sum choices. We especially don’t want to relive the painful memory of the mystery-filling spring rolls.

Truthfully, any of the food we sampled can be found in the frozen food aisle in any supermarket. As a matter of fact, we didn’t notice any food aromas at all. Probably because the smell was contained in some sort of industrial microwave. We envisioned a row of big microwave ovens in the “kitchen” where the pre-packaged “Asian-fusion” entrees were heated.

You know what’s really good? Lean Cuisine Asian-Style Pot Stickers. We wish we ate them before going to see a fun revival of On The Town at the Lyric Theater.

Lean Cuisine

Not to fret though, dear readers. All wasn’t lost for our tummies as we thoroughly enjoyed a Starbucks chai latte and a warm pretzel après theater. And while we were waiting for our car in the parking garage, we witnessed a loud altercation between two women regarding one’s husband smoking near the other one’s child. Both women eventually agreed the other one – and their spouses – were assholes and furiously drove off, still each audibly bitching about the other.

So the evening wound up with some good food after all AND with some more entertainment… while Ruby Foo’s Phony Food became a fading distant memory.

#Broadway #NewYorkCity #RubyFoos #KarminKuisineTour #Starbucks #LeanCuisine #TimesSquare #OntheTown #LyricTheater See More

Buon Appetito at Buona

by Diana Worden Karmin

You can get pizza anywhere. You can get it delivered by the cardboard box people. You can stop by your nearest neighborhood pizzeria. Or you can get it frozen at the supermarket (ice crystals optional). It’s probably all passable. Some crust. Some sauce. And some grated (usually way too much) cheese to cover up the overall mediocrity. Go ahead, toss on a couple of toppings in an attempt to make things interesting… or, at the very least, palatable.

When you’ve had enough of barely edible or just plain boring pizza and if you’re within driving distance of Westfield, New Jersey – and by driving distance, we mean within two hours. What? WE drive three hours for lobster roll – YOU can travel a bit for outstanding pizza, can’t you? Anyway, get in the car or hop on a train because we’ve found the perfect Jersey pie at Buona Pizza.

Buona Pizza
The dough base is a harmonious blend of softness under the sauce and cheese and the right amount of crunch at the crust. And the sauce… oh that sauce. We suspect someone’s Nonna from the Old Country is in the back, stirring all day. Ask for a cup of sauce on the side for dipping prior to each delightful bite. And Buona isn’t just pizza… they have a full traditional Italian cuisine menu (Nonna is busy) and the smells coming from the kitchen are downright intoxicating. We often plan to sample fare other than their pizza when we go, but the pizza is sitting right there as you walk in the door, and once we see it and smell it, we gotta have it. Maybe next time we’ll be strong… and get the pizza to-go for later.

Well? Are you drooling yet? You should be – and the only cure for perfect pizza cravings is at Buona Pizza on South Avenue in Westfield. Buon appetito!

#pizza #Westfield #BuonaPizza #KarminKuisineTour