Drink, eat and be merry

To every Family Reunion there must come the Group Meal.

When the destination for the vacation is a locale where nobody in the gang resides, that adds to the inherent challenges. Who likes what type of food? What time does everybody prefer to eat? (Don’t forget to factor in the time zones everybody involved started out in before the reunion.) What place can comfortably seat all these bodies at once.

At my dear wife Karen’s first Family Reunion in Estes Park, we did well.

Off the top of my head, niece Kimi was a vegetarian, and niece Stormy was gluten intolerant. Sister Jana offered early on that Mexican was probably a good solution. Yes, two en masse dinners of that distinction were indeed done well.

Round the table at Local's.

Round the table at Local’s.

That first Thursday night, though, mere hours from landing and driving from Denver, my dear wife Karen and I met up with the families of brother Steve and sis Jana at the main drag pub/grub joint Local’s. We were drawn by the name only. It turned out to be an Italian spot. People were so happy seeing each other for the first time in many, many years that the food didn’t matter. The beer and wine went down easily. Introductions were made for daughter Elisabeth, boyfriend George Three and I. We three New Yorkers did not much like our pizza. No matter.

Click on any gallery photo for a description. Click and hold on the bottom right photo of any gallery for an enlarged slide show.

Sister Lynne texted and said they’d arrived in town and were ready to meet up. We told them of the open-air bar we’d spotted in our early afternoon walk. That’s where the family settled in for hours of beverages and conversation. The guy at the bar charged me two bucks too much for my red wine and Karen’s pilsener. Aw, heck. My just-met relatives were justly indignant on my behalf.

Drinks and family await inside.

Drinks and family await inside.

Lynne texted Karen on Friday with the news that they were waiting for us at a local brewery. She was there with her Stormy and Kimi and Jana’s Dacia and Drew while Jana hiked with Steve and his family. Hell, yeah. George had cooked us up a cottage breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. We were fortified.

The Estes Park Brewery declared it had a Beer Garden. Enticing.

Moving outside for the bigger Us.

Moving outside for the bigger Us.

They’d finished eating when we walked up, and we all decided to move the party to a table outside. The Beer Garden menu featured many locals. George went for the Stout, Karen the raspberry, and I chose the Honey Wheat. All three of us liked our beer very much. Elisabeth went for a fruity red drink instead.

Later, she and George went downstairs to taste some free samples. He said they were all good. I think my daughter, not being a beer drinker, gave her allotment to her beloved.

Jana got hold of Dacia, and Stormy took Lynne’s SUV up the road apiece to brig her into the mix. We waited to hear from Steve, Joan and Ross, who were adding niece Flynne and her husband Jordan and baby Lainie to our gang. Stormy ordered a couple of apps.

My usual case of ants-in-the-pants took hold, and I walked off the premises to investigate two neighboring attractions.

To one side sat an adventure park that featured a rope-bridge and climbing apparatus. The line of takers wore helmets. We have an indoor thing like that at WonderWorks in Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA, and I haven’t tried that, either.

Kitty-corner was a Go-Kart track. I watched the drivers race round and round the twisty and turny course. Yes, Karen and I are NASCAR fans, and have attended three different Sprint Cup tracks for live races. Sunday, in fact, the drivers are just up the road from us at Watkins Glen International, a road course like this one in a far grander scale. We’ve been. When Karen asked if I’d like to go again this year, I figured I would rather watch on TV, factoring in expenses and the fact that anywhere you sit at a road course — just like this photo above shows — you only have a view of one small segment of the race.

Steve called to make his connection, and Flynne pulled up with a rental truck behind his rented Toyota. I said that because we didn’t want to eat here — Lynne and the others had been customers since lunch and it was after 6 p.m. — we might best walk down to the parking lot to greet them before then all came up.

Searches were made on cell phones, and Joan declared that Pepper’s Mexican looked pretty good.

Fast food but delicious.

Fast food but delicious.

It had a parking lot, which I pulled into, while the others used the familiar public library spaces just down the road.

It was take-your-tray, slide-through-and-order.

George and I both ordered a combo that gave us a beef taco and huge cheesy beef enchilada as well as rice and beans.

The upstairs seating was wide open, and we took three tables for the 14 of us. Much conversation went around, and everybody loved cooing over Lainie. Everybody worked to get that in; we found out those three were staying Sunday afternoon before work responsibilities necessitated a return home to Oregon. I was amazed and everybody was quite thrilled that they took the time and effort to make it here with a baby.

Yes, please, bring us hot and delcious food.

Yes, please, bring us hot and delcious food.

Sunday night, Karen finally got the chance to hug brother Scott. They hadn’t seen each other since 1986, she figured.

The place was Casa Grande, and the setting was to me just perfect. Scott sat at one end of the table of 15 and my dear wife the other. I could feel the love everywhere. Yes, my marinated flank steak ready to roll into little fajitas filled with peppers, onions and guacamole was tasty, too. But mostly I munched, drank my plain iced tea and listened.

Tomorrow: Travelin’ Show

Monday: Sock it to me and take it home

What style food would you choose for your Family Reunion meal, and why? What drinks would be the favorite at your Family Reunion, and why? What photo is your favorite, and why?

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79 thoughts on “Drink, eat and be merry

  1. A meaningful time. I hope to have such in early Sept when father and me host my son, daughter and grandchildren. Will go to Sears for that family portrait. You never know if it will be that last time to preserve the memory.

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    • I wish you a wonderful Family Reunion next month, Carl. And the idea for a professional family portrait is a really good one. I don’t think all of us at this bash could fit in one frame at Sears. πŸ™‚

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  2. If we had a a family reunion, I guess we’d have to find a place that serves a good variety–we have vegetarians and meat eaters; people who like exotic food, and others who are pickier. Right now any place that we go with my mom has to be accessible–not too many stairs or too crowded. It seems like you and your dear wife Karen had a great time with family–and food and drink.

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  3. I’m with Benson on this one Mark. That iphone takes amazing quality photos regardless of lighting conditions or distance or weather or whatever. It has been delightful meeting your relatives and seeing the sights with you and Karen.

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  4. Well, the pizza place looked cute anyway. I heard it was something about the water levels that made good bagels and pizza nearly impossible to find outside of NY. My apologies if we’ve commiserated over this one before!

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  5. That would be difficult trying to find a place to cater to everyone’s specific dietary requirements. We have a hard enough time agreeing on food in our family – with just 4 of us. Looks like the meal went well. Do they still have that huge rainbow colored slide over there by the Go-Karts? I actually have a picture of my son and husband going down that when he was about 2 years old.
    Oh – and there is no such thing as good pizza on this side of country. Only in Chicago (oh-and maybe New York).

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  6. Yep…no one who has experienced NY pizza is happy anywhere else. It must be the water, or the crust, cheese or temperature of those ovens. Boardwalk pizza on the Jersey shore comes closest, I think.

    Our family reunions have almost always involved BBQ or crab/shrimp feasts at someone’s home. If we had to go to a restaurant…not sure. Might be a challenge. Almost everywhere now, you can find vegetarian, even gluten-free options. ☺

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  7. Mark, I smiled at your ants-in-the-pants condition – I get that too and often separate from a group for a period of time!

    What kind of food would I choose for a large group? I’m loving Greek and Mediterranean food at the moment, but I guess a safe bet would be to go to a place that has a bit of everything… ❀
    Diana xo

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  8. So happy for Karen to finally see her brother after all those years. Mark I have 4 brothers all within 45 minutes of the entire extended family. I can not imagine not seeing them on a regularly basis. We are very blessed! Everyone looked content, eat, drink, be merry! NY pizza is the BEST! Its the h2o man. NJ Shore closest. My homemade is pretty tasty too on Friday nights! Great pic’s Terp. The Gatorette.

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  9. Hi Mark,
    You and I know many of the same bloggers–Colleen, Masgauten, Tony Burgess….
    My husband and I have small families, so we’ve never had to decide what to serve at a big family reunion. I guess that would take some considerations.
    Thank you for coming to my site Mostly Blogging today. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you.
    Janice

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    • Thanks for stopping by, Janice. I think we’ll have a nice give-and-take.
      You and your hubby should get everybody together and pick a restaurant. It’s a character builder. πŸ™‚

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  10. Love Mexican food bro Mark. The best Mex Restaurant in town is just across the parking lot from me. I can do without the refried beans though. Love the taste, but they look like, well, I won’t say because it would spoil your appetite for them forever. I usually just make my own pot of beans, go in for take-out, and leave the beans off the order.

    Family reunions have always been fun for our family, but I doubt we’ll ever have another. A cousin has one every year, but since I don’t drive I don’t have a way to get there. They did bring me a plate last year, but if plans go the way they say, I’ll be moving down the hall the day of the reunion this year. That actually would make a plate of barbecue twice as welcome and even more delicious, now that I think about it. Might even put them to wor—–that wouldn’t be very nice of me though.

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      • By the time they are finished my move will have to be finished also. I’m wondering if that will be the date though bro Mark. They haven’t been working in this building all last week, but have moved over to the sister building. Nothing over here is finished, and they have started over there where nothing will be finished either. Not sure whether to laugh or cry, so I’ll probably just laugh my head off at it all. Village Idiots strike again.

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      • Well, maybe they have certain craftspeople that have to get that specific task done in both buildings while they are on site … I dunno, sis Angie, maybe they are just village idiots, as you have been saying.

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  11. Food? We just had ours yesterday and the food was amazing. Stuffed pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade mac and cheese, etc….. chocolate cake and carrot cake made from scratch-full powered stuff: made with “butta” , lard, etc…. Daggone good stuff.

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  12. it is a big challenge, the bigger your group is, the more difficult it is to please everyone. at some point, someone has to make the executive decision and just hope for the best. looks like you did very well in this department )

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  13. If I had family that I cared to see, I’d definitely schedule a blow out reunion like Karen’s. That looks a lot more fun that what my people do… which is gather for a potluck picnic for 3 hours in a boring little town during the hottest part of the year.

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