Heatless in New Jersey

Below freezing temperatures in the teens and single digits! No heat in our house!

Can we agree that this is a very BAD situation to be in? I’ll take that as a resounding, Yes! O.K., then. As Detective Monk used to say (and is still saying in ubiquitous reruns): Here’s what happened….

We arrived home Monday around 9:30 p.m., after having spent the weekend celebrating Michael’s birthday with a knockout dinner at EMP Sunday evening and a stellar lunch at betony Monday afternoon. Though Michael entered the house before I did, he didn’t say anything about a problem. Why he didn’t realize something was wrong is a mystery to me as I knew the moment I walked into the kitchen. I immediately checked the temperature on the thermostat which is in the hallway between the kitchen and family room. It should have shown “Hold 72.” Instead, it showed 57!! OY! Definitely a “Houston, we have a problem” moments!

We went down to the basement to check the heating unit. We have forced air gas heat. Michael was able to get the gas jets to ignite briefly, but the blower fan failed to come on. As it attempted to do so, it emitted a horrible screeching sound. I turned to Michael and quoted the immortal words of Chester A. Riley played by William Bendix in the old comedy series, The Life of Riley: “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

We have our heating system checked regularly each fall by Joe Hurley, Inc. We put in an emergency call and left a message. About 20 minutes later, we heard back. They were overwhelmed with calls and couldn’t send someone out until the morning. We would be a priority – the first call. One of their servicemen would be here between 8 and 8:30 a.m.

Time to go to a motel. The closest one is the Days Inn, 15 minutes away, on Route 9 North, in Freehold. We called. Yes, there was a room available. We took the overnight bags we bring to the city not yet unpacked, drove to the motel, and checked in. Having passed this motel a gazillion times over the years, I’d often wondered what the rooms were like. We were about to find out. We were assigned Room 110. Once inside, we discovered that the lamp between the beds was not working. We called the office. Room 111 next door was available. We walked back to the office to exchange the key cards. No problem with the lamps in 111. The room turned out to be a lot better than I expected. Pleasantly decorated, it had comfortable beds, a flat screen t.v., free wifi, and decent bathroom facilities except for the towels which were of low quality.

Since we’d had a substantial lunch, we’d decided not to have dinner in the city; instead, the plan had been to eat something light at home. Obviously, it was now on to Plan B. Usually, we steer clear of the diners in our area because they suck. However, we threw caution to the proverbial winds in favor of convenience and went to the All Seasons II Diner on 9 North, located slightly north of the motel. The last time we’d been to this diner dated back to 2001 when it had a different name and owners.

Michael ordered onion soup. I tasted some of it. Though the menu mentioned cheese, there was little evidence of it. But there were plenty of onions, and the broth had decent flavor.

Onion Soup

We then shared a burger. Neither of us likes lettuce and tomato on our burger, and I wanted onion rings instead of fries, so we opted out of the deluxe which came with all of that and went, instead, with the plain burger. While I usually like my burger topped with cheese, Michael doesn’t. So, I deferred to his preference.

Burger and Onion Rings

The burger was juicy and had very good flavor. The onion rings were excellent. Hot out of the fryer, they had a crisp coating with no hint of greasiness. Overall, it was a nice surprise that the food turned out to be acceptable.

The bags we take with us when we stay in the city don’t contain toiletries because we keep those in the apartment. So, after we finished eating, we went back to the house to pick up what we needed (toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, hair spray, etc.) Before leaving, we looked at the thermostat. It had dropped one degree to 56.

In the morning, we arrived at the house a few minutes before 8 a.m. The temperature had dropped to 51. At 8:10, Glenn, from Joe Hurley’s, arrived. It didn’t take him long to diagnose the problem. As we suspected, the blower motor was shot. He said that since ours is a common heating unit, there would be no difficulty obtaining the needed part asap. He called the information into the office so Judy, the office manager, could locate a new blower motor. The chances were good that we’d have heat again by the end of the day. He suggested that we turn on the kitchen faucet and keep the hot water at a very narrow drip which experts say helps to prevent burst pipes. We did the same in the master bathroom which is the furthest water point in the house.

Checkout time at the motel was 11 a.m. Since the repair wouldn’t be done until sometime in the afternoon, we extended our stay at the motel for another day so we could remain there until there was sufficient heat in the house. Then it was over to the diner for breakfast. We each had a glass of o.j. and shared a Nova Scotia Lox and Bagel platter. It came with Philly Cream Cheese, lettuce (useless to us), tomatoes (blech!), onions, and Kalamata olives. The quality of the smoked salmon was surprisingly good.

Orange Juice

Nova Scotia Lox & Bagel Platter

After a couple of hours in our motel room, we called Judy to get a progress report. She told us she’d located the part, and a serviceman would be at our house between 1 and 3 p.m. Not wanting to take a chance that we’d miss him, at 12:30 p.m., we decided to drive back to the house and sit in the car on the driveway until he arrived. To keep the car toasty, we ran the motor 5 minutes at a time. We have wifi inside and outside the house. So, to pass the time, we kept ourselves entertained by watching t/.v. on one of our iPads. Modern technology really is grand!

At 3 p.m., a different serviceman, Chris, showed up. He told us that he’d had to go down to Lakewood to pick up the new fan motor. At this point, the temperature in the house was 51. It had only dropped 6 degrees, which was amazing considering that the temperature overnight had been in the single digits and during the day had only risen into the mid-teens. Because we hadn’t been at home, we had no way of knowing exactly when the heat stopped working. However, I guessed that it was probably sometime Monday. The temperatures on Saturday and Sunday had been frigid while on Monday, it had been in the relatively milder upper 30’s. It seemed to me that if the heat had gone out during the weekend, the temperature in the house would have dropped much lower than the 50’s. Also, the fact that it only dropped 6 degrees since the night before seemed to indicate that our house is fairly well-insulated.

It took a little over an hour for Chris to remove the shot motor and install the new one. We thought at that point we were all set. However, he discovered another minor problem that required a minor adjustment. Then, it was all systems go! He fired her up! And what a joy to put our hands in front of the vents and feel that warm air shooting out! Fifteen minutes later, the temperature was 53 degrees. At that rate, it would be only a few hours before it would be back to normal.

We paid the bill and Chris left. We hadn’t had lunch. We’d finished breakfast around 9 a.m., it was now 4:30 p.m., and we were starving. Where to go for dinner at that hour? We’d had it with the diner. Normally, our choice would have been Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, our favorite NJ restaurant. But I hadn’t slept well, was exhausted, and didn’t feel like driving 25 minutes to Keyport. I wanted someplace very local. Not easy since there’s not much that’s decent nearby. But suddenly, I thought of SamVera, an Italian restaurant located 5 minutes away which we hadn’t been to in ages. There was a time when we went there with some regularity. It was the only Italian in the immediate vicinity where the food was solid and in that way superior to the sub-par stuff served at the myriad other Italians in the area. It would be interesting to see if it was holding up. We called to check on their hours. When we were told that they start serving dinner at 4 p.m., we went right over.

SamVera

After receiving a warm welcome, we were ushered into the dining room which was pleasantly toasty. We had the place to ourselves. It was nice and quiet, which suited us perfectly though later they turned on the music – a bit of Italian, a bit of Sinatra.

SamVera

The bread basket arrived promptly, and we assuaged our hunger with good Italian bread and grissini as we perused the menu which was the same as it had always been. Included was a printed sheet with the daily specials.

Bread Basket

Since SamVera is one of the few restaurants in the area that has a liquor license (there is a spacious bar room across the way from the dining room), Michael ordered a glass of Pinot Noir and a second one during the meal.

We were both hankering for some hearty soup, so we both ordered the Pasta Fagioli. I remembered it being a very good version, and it didn’t disappoint. Choc-a-bloc with cannellini beans and ditalini pasta, the soup’s tomato-based broth was very flavorful with a hint of spiciness. The waiter came by to sprinkle on grated Parmesan cheese. (Note: Photo is pre-cheese.)

Pasta e Fagioli

For the main course, Michael chose the Costata di Agnello Arreganata, Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Touch of Dijon Mustard and Italian Bread Crumbs Served with Artichokes, Roasted Potatoes, and a Red Wine and Rosemary Jus. He was very satisfied with everything on the plate. However, he didn’t want to overdo, so he ate one half rack along with all the vegetable and took the other half rack home.

Costata di Agnello Arreganata

While there is shrimp on the menu, I requested an off menu preparation: Gamberi Française, Shrimp Dipped in Egg Wash and Sautéed in a White Wine Sauce with Lemon and Butter. (They list flounder prepared this way.) Perfectly prepared, the shrimp were served with a delicious Potato Croquette and buttery Green Beans. I took two shrimp and some of the beans home which made for a tasty lunch the next day.

Gamberi Française

We shared a very good Tiramisu, and Michael had a double espresso.

Tiramisu

Espresso

Nice to find that the food at SamVera is still solid.

When we got back to the house around 6:30 p.m., the temperature was 67 degrees, comfortable enough for us to stay. We had brought our overnight bags with us in the afternoon, and since the motel bill had already been taken care of, no need to return.

By the time we went to bed a few hours later, the temperature was at the usual “Hold 72.” Ah, truly a mechaieh!!*

*A Yiddish word meaning bliss.

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