Category Archives: restaurants

How to: Plan the Perfect Wedding Menu

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When I began the wedding planning process this past September, I knew there’d be a clear favorite in my do-to list of planning tasks. As a trained chef, food is my passion, and I knew that planning my wedding menu would be one of my favorite jobs as a bride to be. That being said, there are definitely challenges to planning any wedding menu, especially when you want food to be a focal point. Below are my top five tips to make your wedding menu process go smoothly, and to ensure you and your guests have the best dining experience possible on your wedding day.

View the full article on Robyn Moreno’s site.

This article includes advice and tips from our wonderful wedding planner Corina Beczner, of Vibrant Events in San Francisco. Without her guidance and support, I’m pretty sure we’d still be vacillating and spinning our wheels on all these important wedding details. Be sure to check out her website!

slurp. sip. repeat. at Ani Ramen in Montclair

Vegetarian Ramen & Spicy Miso Ramen

slurp. sip. repeat. That’s the motto at Montclair’s newest restaurant, and one you’ll certainly want to take them up on. At Ani Ramen, recently opened on Bloomfield Ave, just across the street from the Wellmont Theater, waiters deliver big bowls of steaming ramen to eager patrons who line up and down the block in anticipation.

For such a new restaurant, they’ve certainly made a big local impression. Every time I’ve visited, most of the tables have been full, and on a recent Friday night, hopeful diners gathered outside waiting. Fortunately, the crew at Ani Ramenhave their act together, and I’ve never waited long for a table or my meal. With a decidedly cool downtown vibe, you might feel as if you’ve wandered off Bloomfield Ave and found yourself in Williamsburg or the Village.

Once seated at your table, you’ll consider a short but thoughtful menu of shared small plates, salads, and of course, ramen. Standout starters include the show-stopping edamame, charred and seasoned with sea salt and chili powder, the pork buns, topped with cabbage, pickled cucumbers and spicy miso mayo, and the green salad with tangy ginger dressing and crispy tofu. For the main event, you’ll have your pick of six ramen choices, all delicious, all democratically priced at $12, and all made with handmade noodles that’ll make you forget all about those sad styrofoam tubs of “ramen” you subsisted on in college.

Edamame & Yuzu Lemonade.

Though I haven’t had the pleasure of trying all six of the ramen options, I found myself returning to and reordering both the spicy miso ramen and the vegetarian ramen. The spicy miso ramen comes with a rich pork flavored broth, complimented by big juicy slices of pork and more shredded pork tangled in with the noodles. This is definitely a hearty, filling, comforting option, and the spiciness would be great to kick a cold (or a hangover). The vegetarian ramen combines an all vegetable broth with roasted bean sprouts, spinach, mushrooms, and scallions.

As expected, the vegetarian ramen tastes lighter and less fatty than the pork-laced ramen, and the broth brings more delicate flavors to the bowl. The handmade noodles steal the show here and really shine. You can also customize your ramen bowl with a selection of add-ons, ranging from $1-3. Braised pork belly, marinated soft-boiled egg, nori, mushrooms, bamboo, and homemade seasoning oils all found their place in my ramen bowl at one meal or another. To wash it all down, you have your choice of a selection of hot and cold teas, american and Japanese sodas, and my pick, the salty and sweet yuzu lemonade. Even better, since Ani Ramen resides in Montclair, the restaurant is accommodatingly BYOB.

For the full article and photos, visit Devil Gourmet.

Montclair Food & Wine Festival: The Grand Tasting

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This past Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the grand tasting for this year’s Montclair Food & Wine Festival. Now in its second year, the grand tasting took place at the Montclair Art Museum. After walking past a small fleet of white Maserati and Lexus sports cars, guests could take photos on the red carpet before checking in and diving into the seemingly endless food and drink offerings on two floors of the museum. After checking in, I made a beeline for the Fin Raw Bar table, stacked with freshly shucked oysters and clams. At adjacent tables, Fricassee offered up silky pate on toast points, and the Ryland Inn served tiny cups of refreshing watermelon gazpacho.

Downstairs in the main atrium, revelers were greeted with fresh and punchy cocktails by Leaf Organic Vodka, before winding around the dizzying array of tables. Orange + Olive Caterers & Chef’s Table brought a new menu item for the event; a summery and light hamachi ceviche with yuzu, Brick Lane Curry House offered samosa sliders with a selection of sauces, and Tia’s Food of Love put down a spread of gorgeous bites that drew especially thick crowds around their table.

Samba dished up shrimp in a comforting and creamy butternut squash sauce, and Escape served a particularly bracing and vibrant cold asparagus soup with crab and pea shoots. Le Salbuen offered petite salmon cakes with sweet potato and micro greens that looked as beautiful as they were delicious. For a sweet finish, Little Daisy put out an impressive spread of mini confections, and Asalt & Buttery Bake Shop served up a rainbow of gorgeous macaroons that were eaten almost as quickly as they were put out. For cocktails, Upstairs’ Grown Up Lemonade stole the show, steeped with rhubarb for a pleasantly tart finish.

The silent auction, stacked with items donated by Anthropologie, Lululemon, Jersey Artisan Distillery, Samba, Thread, Watchung Booksellers, and many others, benefitted the Center for Feeding and Swallowing at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. All in all, a gorgeous event, made even lovelier when the retracting roof over the atrium was drawn back, illuminating the guests and table offerings. It’s only fitting that the culinary capital of New Jersey has an event as vibrant and celebratory as the Montclair Food & Wine Festival.

For the full post and more photos, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Asana House Juice Bar and Cafe

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Originally opened in 2008 as a yoga studio with a small juice bar in the back, Asana House Juice Bar and Cafe was juicing long before it became mainstream and cool. Debbie, still the founder and owner, says when she opened Asana House, they were one of the only juice bars around. Now, with the yoga studio next-door and the juice bar expanded to include a full menu, Asana House still leads the pack. Their menu is stacked with healthy, made to order, affordable juices and smoothies, and flavorful lunch and brunch options to satisfy both vegans and non-vegans in town.

Greg, who took over as the manager of Asana House in November, expanded the menu to include an all day brunch, seven days a week. From french toast with bananas and cinnamon, to the super popular breakfast burritos (hot sauce and avocado optional), Asana’s has all your brunch cravings covered. Their lunch specials include fresh and bright salads, wraps, and quesadillas, stacked with healthy favorites like avocado, sprouts, and house made hummus. You can even take a container of the hummus home; its deliciously garlicky and creamy, and unlike anything you can find in the supermarket. They also offer two seasonal soups of the day: one hot and one raw, made from a mix of greens, avocado, and their special spice mix. Most menu items have a yoga pose name; a nod to the studio next door.

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Even with this flavorful and curated menu, the fresh pressed juices and smoothies remain Asana House’s biggest draw. They offer ten made to order juice options, all tempting and vividly fresh. The most popular, The All Green, with kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, apple, and ginger, would be palatable even to the most green-juice adverse skeptic. The All Green and The Soho Beauty, a blend of pineapple, cucumber, celery, lemon, lime, and mint, rank at the top of my list, with the Liver Cleanse, a mix of grapefruit, grapes, lemon, orange, and beet, a close third. Considering Whole Foods charges upwards of $9 for some of their shelf stable juices, paying $6.54 per juice (they’re a good size) at Asana House for a fresh pressed juice makes so much more sense.

For those looking for a serious health boost, Asana House can make you a fresh shot of wheatgrass, or a shot of E3Live Algea with lime and ginger. You’ll have so much energy you might even consider skipping your morning coffee, though you can grab a fresh cup at Asana House if you’re so inclined. If you’re in the market for a cleanse, Asana House will outfit you with a thoughtful and sustaining 1-5 day program with juices, smoothies, and a filling soup.

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With a small staff who seems to know nearly every customer by name, Asana House instantly makes you feel like a welcomed regular. Lots of juice bars give off a pretentious, holier than thou vibe; you won’t find a stitch of that attitude at Asana House. They offer a friendly, unpretentious mix of health food and delicious food, though here you’ll find that they’re one and the same. A place that serves wheatgrass shots alongside quesadillas made with real cheese (if you’re so inclined) is a rare find indeed.

As the weather warms up, Asana House plans to expand their offerings. Their large lot in the back (where you can park for free) will soon be home to live music and outdoor seating, and possibly a smoker. Greg hopes to bring his love of BBQ to Asana House, serving up smokey, delicious dishes through the summer. Equally as exciting is the noodle bar set to open during dinner time hours. Asana House plans to close as usual at 5, then reopen at 6 with made to order ramen noodle bowls. Greg found a local purveyor to supply fresh homemade ramen noodles, which make those sad, dried out packs of ramen look like a different breed altogether.

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I was lucky enough to get a preview of the ramen noodle bowl last week. Made with a fresh miso broth, with chili paste added for heat, a tangle of the freshest ramen noodles I’ve ever had, slivers of baby bok choy, meaty soy soaked mushrooms, sprouts, bamboo shoots, scallions, and a hard-boiled egg, its safe to say the entire bowl was absolutely delicious. Well balanced and unmistakably fresh, the care and thought in each component is unmistakable. My noodle bowl was so substantial that I brought half of it home, and happily enjoyed it cold the next day- still entirely enjoyable. Greg also found a purveyor to supply them with homemade pho noodles, adding a fantastic gluten-free option to the noodle bar.  I know I’ll be first in line when the noodle bar opens in a few weeks.

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UPDATE: The noodle bar, called Slurp, is officially open! Come by Monday-Thursday nights to try out some of these fantastic ramen and pho noodle bowls.

To read the full post, visit Devil Gourmet.

Local Craft Cocktails at NJ Food & Wine Festival

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The local craft cocktail event at this years NJ food & wine festival brought together some of the Northeast’s best small batch spirits. Laird’s Apple Jack (NJ), Brooklyn Gin (NY), Bootlegger Vodka (NY) and Widow Jane Bourbon (NY) came together in creative and dangerously delicious cocktails under the expertise of mixologist Christopher James. As the mixologist and bar manager of the Ryland Inn, located in Whitehouse Station, Christopher utilizes local spirits to create unique and inspired cocktails that might just convince you to deviate from your classic G&T habit. Consider these recipes your fast track to elevated cocktails, fit to be enjoyed all spring long (whenever spring finally decides to grace us with its presence).

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  • 2 oz Dutch’s Sugar Wash Moonshine
  • .75 oz Demerara syrup
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • 1 spritz of absinthe from an atomizer
  • 1 dash of bitters (optional)
  1. Shake and strain into a child absinthe rinsed coupé. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Scobeyville Shrub

  • 2 oz Larid’s Applejack
  • 1.5 oz spiced rhubarb shrub syrup
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash Dutch’s Colonial Bitters
  1. Shake and strain into a chilled coupé, garnish with a lemon wheel.

“21″ Punch

  • 2 oz Bootlegger Vodka
  • 1.5 oz grapefruit juice
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 dashes Dutch’s Colonial Bitters
  1. Lightly muddle the mint with the grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters.
  2. Add vodka, shake and double strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Top with soda.
  3. Garnish with half-moon of grapefruit and a mint sprig.

All recipes created by Chris James- Mixologist & Bar Manager, The Ryland Inn

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Classic vs. Contemporary Napa Styles {NJ Food & Wine Festival}

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In a sea of mass-produced wines, thoughtless blends, and plastic corks, many wine connoisseurs stick with wineries they trust to adhere to the classic, tried and true style of winemaking. In this seminar at the NJ Food & Wine FestivalStag’s Leap winemaker Christopher Paubert lead a tasting of classic California varietals and back vintages, which we tasted alongside the wines of second generation winemaker Josh Phelps from his winery Taken.

What I thought would evolve into a two-sided discussion about the merits of classic vs. contemporary winemaking practices took an entirely different shape. Christopher and Josh, representing the classic and the contemporary, respectively, seemed to borrow the best and most beneficial practices from traditional and more modern winemaking, blending the old and the new as it suited their wines to bring out the best in each varietal.

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Christopher articulated,”the new trend is what it was fifty years ago,” meaning that new wineries have wised up and look to their predecessors for guidance and tradition. He also conceded that Stag’s Leap, and many more classic wineries, now blend science and technology with tradition, resulting in a more dependable crop of grapes year after year. Forty years ago, sugar and acidity were the only benchmark for making a good wine. Today, Stag’s Leap measures the tannins of the wines each day, and checks temperature and the levels of oxygen to pinpoint when the wine reaches its zenith. Today, winemaking is a more vineyard based profession, with less time spent in the cellar and more spend outside tending to and monitoring the vines as they grow.

Sustainability is another point where classic and contemporary winemaking borrow from each other to the benefit of both. Technology, used judiciously, allows for the use of less chemicals and fertilizers. Traditional farming practices, where different crops are planted and grown to enrich the soil and deter pests, also keeps chemicals to a minimum.

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As for wine styles, Josh expressed his hope that “the sweet, over the top California style is phasing out,” in favor of more balanced wines. Both wine makers also commented on the trend of fermenting wine in cement tanks. Is it a game changer? Probably not. Both Josh and Christopher ferment their wines in stainless steel tanks, before aging them in oak barrels. They both use mostly French oak, but play with small amounts of American and Hungarian oak in smaller batches, when trying to create a spicy or smokey flavor.

DSC_0952For the full post, and details on the specific wines we tasted, visit Devil Gourmet. 

 

Mac Attach Charity Contest- The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund

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Tonight from 7-10, I’ll be competing in the final round of Mac Attack’s March Madness, benefiting a variety of charities. I’m competing for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and if I win (fingers crossed!) Mac Attach will donate $1000 to the fund. It’s a cause near and dear to my heart, and if you’re in the area I’d love your support. Stop by, enjoy a bunch of free mac & cheese, and support some fantastic charities; its a win win for everyone. Anything you’d like to purchase from Mac Attach is discounted 10% with your vote. Hope to see you there!

If you’d like to know more about the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, you can visit their site. They are currently raising money to fulfill Nelson Mandela’s last wish; to build a children’s hospital in Johannesburg to serve all children of southern Africa regardless of race, socioeconomic status or ability to pay.  The Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH) will be Mr. Mandela’s legacy and live by his creed that “a society’s soul is revealed by how it treats its children.”

Mac Attack is located on Walnut Street in Montclair, NJ.

Agricola Brings Micro-Seasonal Farm-to-Table Fare to Princeton

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The word Agricola means farmer in Latin, and there couldn’t be a more perfect name for this restaurant. Driven by the micro-seasonal offerings of their local farm, Agricola brings farm fresh produce right from their organic soil onto your plate. Jim Naun as Agricola’s proprietor, Josh Thomson as its executive chef, and Steve Tomlinson as its farm manager come together to build a restaurant dream team, and the proof is on your plate. Each plate comes delicately and deliberately seasoned and sauced, with the utmost respect for the integrity of the ingredients. The light-handed touch of the kitchen allows the bright flavors and textures of the ingredients to shine, without bogging them down with unnecessary heavy sauces and overpowering spices.

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Dedicated to their community, Agricola sources its produce and livestock from Great Road Farm, just four miles from downtown Princeton. Using sustainable and organic farming methods, Great Road Farm supplies Agricola with a steady stream of top-notch ingredients to build its ever-evolving menu around. Their winter menu centers around hearty greens, robust root vegetables, earthy mushrooms, and slow-braised tender meats.

We started with drinks and the cheese plate at Agricola’s beautiful and cozy bar. Selections of top shelf name brand liquors share shelf space with small batch local distilleries and micro-breweries, with several organic liquor options among them. The Great “Dirt” Road Farm Martini, named after their farm, mixes Crop organic vodka, brine, and a judicious amount of dry vermouth, and comes garnished with Great Road Farm house pickled vegetables. They also offer house-made sodas in interesting flavor combinations like maple-rosemary-grapefruit and ginger-pomegranate. The cheese plate made a lasting impression on our table, with its fresh honeycomb, seasonal chutney, and house-made crackers to accompany a selection of local cheese.

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At my dinner, we started with the bright and barely dressed kale salad, the parsnip soup, and the goat cheese & potato terrine. The kale salad at first bite seemed lacking in dressing, but a few bites in allowed you to appreciate the delicate flavors of the roasted carrots, pickled squash, and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. The parsnip soup, served with red beet chips, tasted earthy and sharp, with a silky smooth finish. The goat cheese & potato terrine, with roasted beets, peppery micro arugula, and a sharp balsamic syrup, elevates simple ingredients into something special.

For main courses, we ordered the pappardelle pasta, the yellow fin tuna, and the pork chop. The pappardelle pasta tasted deliciously, deceptively light. Only a skilled chef can make pasta, butter, and braised meat taste delicate and light. Braised veal ossobuco, homemade pappardelle pasta, shredded kale are tossed together in a diaphanous buttery broth, and topped with a sprinkling of herbed gremolata and fresh parmesan. Easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had. The yellow fin tuna, served with leeks, freekeh, black garlic, olives, toasted coriander vinaigrette, was perfectly seared and delicately spiced. The sizable bone-in pork chop, from nearby Eden Farms, came with a pomegranate-pistachio relish, braised collard greens, and a tangy cider jus that carefully balanced the richness of the meat.

Selecting from Agricola’s menu proved a challenge, not because of its size but because everything sounded so darn delicious. I appreciated the curated and not overwhelming size of the menu, with eight first courses, seven main courses, three sizes, and three flatbreads from their wood fire oven. The butternut squash flatbread, with squash puree, kale, coach farm goat cheese, caramelized red onion, and toasted almonds is at the top of my list for my next visit.

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For dessert, we shared the citrus cheesecake and the gingerbread ice cream sandwiches. The cheesecake tasted light and bright, with a vanilla bean shortbread, grapefruit curd, and a blood orange chip. The gingerbread ice cream sandwiches are a dream come true, with butter pecan ice cream sandwiched between tender house-made gingerbread cookies, and drizzled with a maple sauce. Perfection all around.

Agricola is open for weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday, for lunch Monday-Friday, and dinner every day of the week. Its bar is open late most nights.

For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet.

The Breslin: Bringing Classic Nose-to-Tail British Food to the Flatiron

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April Bloomfield is no stranger to the NYC restaurant scene. The Spotted Pig, her original New York outpost, resides in an original West Village carriage house, and serves up British and Italian comfort food favorites, including an infamous burger that helped the spot earn a Michelin star six years in a row. The scene takes the tone of a rowdy raucous English pub, though with vastly better food and a carefully curated wine and craft beer selection. Bloomfield’s two spots in the Ace Hotel, located in the Flatiron, offer a slightly more classy vibe, though no less fun. Start your night with some oysters, small bites, and cocktails at the immaculate and lively John Dory Oyster Bar, them move your party over to the Breslin, just across the hotel lobby.

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Let’s Get Started

The Breslin serves up a meat-centric menu, so while it might not be the place to embrace your healthy new years resolutions, it’s certainly the perfect spot to treat yourself to comforting, seasonal, and artisanal nose-to-tail cuisine. The menu builds around local produce and meat from small farmers and growers, making the socially conscious feel a bit better about indulging in meat. Handmade terrines, sausages, and charcuterie populate the winter menu, abound with roasted, caramelized, creamy, salty flavors.

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The Breslin offers a full list of beers and wines, but their cocktail menu is not to be missed. The penecilina, mixed with pueblo viejo, del maguey vida mezcal, , fresh ginger, and freshly squeezed lime juice, is smokey, spicy, and dangerously drinkable. If you’re in the market for something more classic, the house g&t, made with Ford’s gin and a house prepared allspice lemongrass tonic, offers a fresh twist on an old classic.

The Lamb Burger Is Not To Be Missed

A list of small plates perfect for sharing tops the menu, but if you’re in the market for something more substantial, look no further than the lamb burger. Sweet ground lamb is char-grilled and served on a warm bun with feta cheese and cumin mayo, with a side of thrice cooked chips (fries). Juicy, super tender, and packed with flavor, it’s the ultimate splurge. For large groups, the Breslin offers a fried chicken feast, or a whole pig roast, not for the faint of heart.

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If you’re in the market for something a bit lighter, the winter vegetable salad with pecorino sardo & charred onion vinaigrette fits the bill. Bright and fresh, it’s the perfect complement to the menu’s other fatty fare. For dessert, the peanut butter mouse, with dark chocolate, banana sherbet, and coffee, offers the ideal sweet bite to round off your meal.

The Breslin doesn’t take reservations, but if you go and put your name down, you can head next door to the John Dory and enjoy some oysters and drinks while you wait. Or you can wait at the Ace Hotel lobby bar, complete with a massive vintage American flag draped behind the bar. The people watching in the lobby is not to be missed. If you’re nice to the hostess, she might seat you in one of the coveted back booths, which feel like you’re riding along in an old vintage train car, all to yourself.

Great Friends, Great Food, Great Times – It’s At The Breslin

For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Orange & Olive Caterers & Chef’s Table

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Jersey City is now home to Orange & Olive Caterers & Chef’s Table. Founded by childhood friends Sam Fertik and Aaron Nemani, Orange and Olive seeks to bring an elevated, seasonal, and gourmet dining experience to its patrons. They structured their restaurant like a theater or broadway performance. You make your reservation and pay the flat fee in advance, allowing you to enjoy your meal and leave without any muss or fuss at the end. You can book your ten course tasting menu for yourself and up to twelve other guests, or rent out the place for a private dining experience for twenty, or a cocktail party for sixty. Tastings start at 6pm or 8:30, and last approximately 2 and a half hours.

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At $110 per tasting per person (plus a 20% service charge), Orange and Olive isn’t a for the budget conscious. But if you consider the tasting menu as both your meal and your entertainment for the night, the price tag isn’t quite as hard to fathom. The large wooden slab tasting table, which the staff at Orange and Olive built themselves, sits right in front of the open kitchen ranges, allowing for a full view of the kitchen orchestration.

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The chefs, inspired in part by Thomas Keller’s mastery at famed NYC restaurant Per Se, incorporate molecular gastronomy into their techniques. At their opening party, we tasted sous vide Berkshire pork wrapped in bacon that was meltingly tender, short rib pho with kaffir lime, yuzu scallop ceviche, roasted maple carrots with goat cheese and pink peppercorns, and unique shooter glasses filled with freshly foamed ice cream floats.

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Though they don’t have a liquor license yet, Orange and Olive  has a build in bar that crafts creative and seasonal mocktails, which can easily be spiked with a BYO beverage of your choice. Olive and Orange seeks to incorporate only the best local and seasonal produce, with ingredients sourced carefully from a curated selection of purveyors. I took a peek into their walk in fridge and freezer, and I found no ingredients to the contrary. The space, hand lined with rustic wooden panels, feel warm and intimate. A few racks line the walls up front, offering select condiments and ingredients for sale. Though the neighborhood isn’t the most lovely, once you park and step off the street, you’re immediately enveloped in warm candlelight.

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Orange and Olive offers bespoke catering services, and they’ll help provide a venue or meet you wherever your event takes place, all up and down the east coast. They seek to take the mediocrity out of catering. You won’t find any lukewarm plates slopped with sauce over powdery potato purée here. They also offer cooking and mixology classes right in their first class kitchen. Orange and Olive is open daily for two evening seatings, and by request for parties and events.

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Orange & Olive Caterers & Chef’s Table

For more photos and the full review, visit Devil Gourmet.

Dhoom: A Joyous Uproar & Commotion in Secaucus

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Colorful and bright Bollywood film photos paper the walls at the newly opened Dhoom restaurant in Secaucus, NJ.  To the tune of Indian pop music, servers bring out plates and platters stacked with richly spiced Indian dishes, prepared by chefs visible through a glass window showcasing the kitchen.

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At the press event I recently attended, guests enjoyed a sampling selected by the restaurant, showcasing their signature dishes. Colorful cocktails flowed freely from the bar as we waited for our meal, and we all dug into our plates eagerly after what seemed like a very long delay. Our wait was rewarded with tender lamb, chicken, both falling off the bone, and flaky and flavorful fish. Every dish was delicately and judiciously spiced, the curries deliciously rich and warming, and the naan bread tender and warm.

For the full review, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma.

Photo Credit: Williams Sonoma.

As the weather cools off, cravings for richer, more complex flavors supplant summer’s light and simple tastes. Smoke brings both complexity and depth of flavor to whatever ingredient it touches, and without a lot of fuss or extra fat. Consider culinary smoking the healthiest smoking you’ll ever take part in. Smoking food fast tracks the flavors and brings an intensity hard to duplicate with any other method or ingredient. All these culinary achievements don’t have to come with extensive effort or a heavy price tag. You can easily (though for a pretty penny- usually around $300 for a cheaper model) purchase a home smoker that will do most of the work for you, but there are ways around this expense. You can purchase the Camerons Products Stovetop Smoker for around $55, and imbue everything from salmon to pork shoulder to zucchini with that sought after authentic smokey flavor. It doubles as both a hot smoker and a steamer.

Another less involved option is a smoking gun. Not nearly as nefarious as you’d imagine, Williams Sonoma’s smoking gun puts the power of a smoker into a hand-held device about the size of a blow dryer, and for just under $100. You can customize the flavor of your wood chips (they’ve got a pack of applewood, cherrywood, hickory, and mesquite for $30), matching them to whatever dish you have at hand. The device comes with a long, thin hose attached, to direct the smoke exactly where you want it. Aim in into a tinfoil-tented container of roasted chicken, some caramelized onions for burgers, or even at your cheese plate or cocktail. The smoking gun omits no heat, so you can blast your Manchego or your gin & tonic without fear of a meltdown.

You can draw culinary inspiration from the growing league of chefs employing smoke in their cooking repertoires.The venerable Chef Dan Barber, of Blue Hill (both in the city and in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.), cooks on a custom 12-foot-wide grill set on the restaurant’s patio, using smoke in innovative and creative ways, on a full range of unexpected ingredients. He chars some ingredients past the point of recognition, only to peel away the blackened layers, revealing a gorgeously flavored, smokey and tender interior. He even makes coals out of the carcasses he butchers from, multiplying and amplifying the flavors in the process. Herbs, grape vines, and hay mix in with the charcoal, wood, and bones, creating a custom smoke for each ingredient at hand.

Ideas for Using Smoke in Your Own Kitchen

  • Smoke your cheese plate: Just tent it with foil and use your smoking gun to add another layer of flavor. This works especially deliciously on nutty cheeses like Manchego, and creamy, mild cheeses like Brie or Camenbert.
  • Smoke your cocktails: Smoke adds an unexpected twist on classic cocktails. Try a smokey version of a gin & tonic or old-fashioned. You can smoke individual components of the drink, or the finished cocktail.
  • Smoke your pork shoulder. Fire up your grill and smoke your pork shoulder, using the indirect heat of your charcoal, topped with wood chips, to render that meltingly delicious, smokey pulled pork. Perfect for tailgating recipes.
  • Smoke your vegetables: Add sturdy herbs to your wood chips (try thyme, rosemary, or sage) to give a more floral element to your smokey vegetables. Dress them simply with olive oil and garlic to highlight the flavors of your smoke.
  • Smoke your olive oil: Add a whole new level of flavor to your grilled romaine salad with a smoked olive oil. Just use the hose of your smoking gun to direct the smoke into your container.
  • Smoke your salmon: make this favorite easily at home with any of the methods suggested above. For a cold smoke, use the smoking gun.

For more ideas and the full post, visit Devil Gourmet.

Summer May Be Over, But Fall Has Plenty to Offer {and a Spiced Pumpkin Popper Recipe}

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Though summer sadly has come and gone, in all its sun-soaked, farmer’s market produce laden glory, fall does offer some culinary gems of its own to help ease your post-Labor Day pain. Pumpkin usually ushers in the new season, and once you’ve gotten your fix of pumpkin spice lattes, give these other pumpkin flavored treats a try. They’re sure to take the edge off your end of summer malaise and get you excited for everything fall has to offer. Colorful leaves, football, mulled cider, sweaters, tailgating, and pumpkin spiced poppers? It won’t be so bad- promise!

If you’re in NYC and looking for a pumpkin fix, try one of these delicious options.

  1. Fat Witch’s Pumpkin Brownie: Though their regular brownies already pack a serious punch, the addition of a layer of  pumpkin and cinnamon flavored cakey goodness on top of the chocolate layer makes these treats all the more irresistible. These are so rich, they’ll make you thankful it’s not bikini season anymore.
  2. Spiga’s Pumpkin Ravioli: Savory, creamy, subtly sweet, and pillowy, these delicate ravioli taste like autumn on a plate. Parmesan cheese and a balsamic drizzle balance the sweetness of the pumpkin perfectly.
  3. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain’s The Great Pumpkin: Find someone who likes to share, and order up this massive sunday of creamy and lightly spiced pumpkin ice cream, topped with a deluge of maple syrup soaked walnuts, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a dollop of whipped cream.
  4. Boulud Sud’s Ras el hanout Pumpkin Soup: With a spicy Moroccan flair and a creamy texture from Greek yogurt, this innovative twist on classic pumpkin soup will leave you feeling warm and toasty regardless of the windchill outside.

If you’re in the mood to work some pumpkin magic in your own kitchen, try these Pumpkin Spiced Poppers. They’re like mini doughnut holes, without the hassle of heating up a big pot of spattering oil. As they bake, they’ll wrap your kitchen in cinnamon and pumpkin laced wafts of deliciousness. Feel free to swap out the butter for coconut oil, the egg for an equal portion of Vegenaise, and the milk for almond milk to make these vegan friendly.

For the recipe, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Lobster Rolls: A Summertime Classic

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It wouldn’t be summer without lobster. Those curious looking crustaceans, once pawned off to prisoners in 18th century England, have become a hallmark of a classic New England summer, with lobster rolls being the favorite vehicle. There’s really no reason lobster rolls can’t be eaten year round (the actual lobster season is August through November), but for some reason they always scream summertime; something about fresh seafood and easy outdoor cooking and eating. While they have a reputation for their upscale price tag, you can enjoy lobster rolls at home for a fraction of the cost.

Making lobster rolls actually stretches the lobster meat quite a bit, so instead of buying six lobsters for six people, you can get away with only three lobsters for the same group. Rather than buying the lobster meat pre-cooked and shelled, buy a few lobsters and cook them up yourself. You can even take a shortcut and just buy lobster tails, throw them on the grill with a little olive oil brushed on, and cook until opaque. Once you’ve got your lobster meet cooked, shelled, and broken into bite sized pieces, just mix it with a few simple ingredients, toast up a split top roll with lots of butter, and you’re in business. Here’s my favorite recipe:

Ingredients
•3 lobsters, cooked, shelled, and meat broken up into bite size pieces and reserved
•1 celery stalk, finely diced
•2 tablespoons lemon juice
•2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise (homemade, low-fat, Vegenaise, whatever you like)
•2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
•1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
•Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
•6 Split-top New England style hotdog buns (If you can’t find these, just trim the edges off the sides of regular hotdog buns to allow for better toasting)
•2 tablespoons butter
Instructions
1.In a large bowl, combine the lobster meat, celery, lemon juice, mayonnaise, chives, parsley, salt and pepper and stir everything together. Set aside.
2.Spread the butter evenly over the soft sides of each bun, and toast over a grill or in a sauté pan until golden.
3.Fill each roll generously with the lobster salad- enjoy!
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If ordering up a ready-made lobster roll is more your style, make your way to one of Red Hook Lobster Pound’s many food trucks, or visit their flagship store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Voted the best lobster roll by the New York Post (not always credible, but in this case spot on!), RHLP serves up lobster rolls just as they should be- quality Maine lobster meat, pure, simple ingredients, toasty split-top buns, and not too much muss and fuss. Why tamper with perfection? You can catch their truck at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg and Dumbo in Brooklyn on the weekends, and all over the city during the rest of the week. Follow their twitter for up to the minute location updates.

For the full post, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Oysters 101: How to Eat & Enjoy Oysters on the Half Shell

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Recently I visited the John Dory Oyster Bar in NYC for an oyster tasting. If you’d asked me to attend such an event two years ago, I would have laughed and vehemently rebuked the invitation. I used to find raw oysters repulsive; the one culinary chapter I couldn’t subscribe to. I just couldn’t see the appeal of knocking back a raw sea creature whole.

I reluctantly tried one in college, and couldn’t bring myself to try again until culinary school, when we had to eat them.  Slowly, through a steady process of bucking up and making myself try them, and a little trial and error, I started to love them, and now I feel compelled to order them whenever they appear on a menu. If you’ve never tried raw oysters, or have and disliked them, I urge you to try again, implementing the tips below. It’ll be well worth your while.

In spite of my oyster enthusiasm, I knew very little about how to order them. Aside from knowing that I prefer small oysters (the bigger ones still give me pause) with lots of lemon on the side, I didn’t really know much about how to order my oysters or how to distinguish from the numerous varieties.

  1. First, if you’re squeamish, start small. West Coast Kumamoto oysters from Oregon (my personal favorite) serve as the perfect jumping off point for oyster novices. Beausoleil from New Brunswick on the East Coast of Canada, also have a mild, meaty flavor and small size perfect for starters. Save the bigger Blue Points for the more experienced diner. Size is a good place to start when you order and you’re not familiar with the varieties offered.
  2. Pick a side: East Coast or West Coast? Or both? Each coast offers a different flavor profile and texture range, so you need to try a few to decide what you prefer. East Coast tends to taste saltier, with a more briny, fresh from the sea flavor. They have smooth-edged, rounded shells, and tend to be flatter and slightly less plump. West Coast tends to taste sweeter, more buttery, with a firmer, plumper texture, and a scalloped shell with beveled edges. Variances exist within these generalizations, but these are standard guidelines to follow.
  3. Whatever kind of oysters you decide on, they should smell fresh, salty like the sea, and look opaque, not clear. It should fill the shell, have plenty of liquor (the liquid accompanying the oyster) and not appear dried out.
  4. Pick your oyster accompaniments carefully. Purists eat oysters just as they are, in their natural liquor. I need a little lemon and possibly some mignonette or cocktail sauce to get by. A glass of champagne or a gin martini pair perfectly.

For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Taqueria Autentica- Homegrown & Authentic Mexican in Bloomfield

An Assortment of Amazing Tacos.

An Assortment of Amazing Tacos.

When most people think of Mexican food, they think of heavy, cheesy, greasy food that leaves you looking for the nearest couch to take a nap. Taqueria Autentica offers the antithesis of that type of food, bringing the freshest, responsibly and locally sourced traditional Mexican food to Bloomfield. Every dish cooked up at Taqueria boasts the freshest seasonal ingredients from quality local purveyors, many of them friends of chef and owner Mike Natiello. Every item on Taqueria’s menu is crafted with care and a keen awareness for quality. Their rules are simple: “use fresh, premium, and preferably local ingredients; know where your food is coming from; keep the food simple; and try to be as authentic to Mexican food traditions as possible.” This awareness and care results in satisfying, delicious food with clean, fresh flavors. You’ll definitely leave Taqueria full, but you’ll also feel like you’ve eaten something quality and nutritious.

Housemade Chips with Guacamole, Smokes Cashew Salsa & Ancho Chili Sauce.

Housemade Chips with Guacamole, Smokes Cashew Salsa & Ancho Chili Sauce.

Last week when I had dinner at Taqueria, Mike had prepared a special with some super fresh and flavorful Jersey summer tomatoes. He sliced them thickly and dressed them simply with some spicy pickled jalapenos, creamy shredded mozzarella, and some zingy red wine vinegar- deceptively simple and outrageously delicious.

We also enjoyed a plate of house made chips and guacamole, accompanied with smoked cashew salsa and ancho chili sauce. Mike smokes the cashews himself, resulting in a spicy, smoky, creamy purée that pairs perfectly with the lime-y guacamole. Next came a variety of super fresh and flavorful tacos. Highlights for the tacos are the carnitas- slow cooked pork with caramelized orange peel, 
salsa verde, and the Hongos – a vegan option with mushrooms sautéed with herbs and spice and salsa 
verde. The torta is another standout, and easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. A torta is a Mexican sandwich served on warm toasty bread with black bean paste, 
pickled jalapeno peppers, queso fresco, chopped white onion, 
salsa and avocado, and whatever filling you like. I usually opt for the carnitas, but I’m sure any option would taste equally amazing.

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For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Fried Chicken: How to Make it & Where to Eat it

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Last Saturday was National Fried Chicken Day. While I commemorated the holiday with a delicious plate from Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn, you can celebrate any day with your own recipe made at home, or from one of the dozens of fantastic restaurants in the city that purvey it. Fried chicken might just be the perfect summer food. It’s picnic portable, you can eat it with your hands, and it’s equally delicious hot out of the fryer or cold the next day. And once you get your recipe and technique down, you can whip up a batch in the same amount of time required to fire up your grill.

How To Make It:

My favorite fried chicken recipe comes from the Blue Ribbon Cookbook. They kindly published the method to get their crave-worthy fried chicken, which they serve up at Blue Ribbon Brasserie in NYC. Below, I’ve detailed my slight interpretation on their recipe. Give it a try, and I swear it’s the best fried chicken you’ll ever have. The matzo meal gives the chicken an incredible crunch, and the honey served alongside is irresistible for dipping and drizzling. They serve theirs with a heap of mashed potatoes and gravy, and a side of garlicky collard greens, but I’d be content to eat this with just about any accompaniment.

Ingredients

  • Buttermilk: (3 cups)
  • Canola oil (or Crisco if you must) for frying
  • 1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and dried parsley
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces (have your butcher do this if you’re squeamish, or buy one of the ready-made “fryer packs” at the supermarket)
  • Plenty of kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Honey for serving

Directions:

  1. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken pieces, and allow to marinate for as long as you’ve got, hopefully an hour, up to overnight. This tenderizes the chicken and gives it flavor.
  2. Pour canola oil into a large dutch oven to about 3 inches deep, and heat over medium until it reaches 375 degrees. Heat it slowly or it will catch on fire- I learned the hard way!
  3. Combine your spices in a bowl and set aside. Combine your flour, matzo, baking powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper in another bowl.
  4. Drain the buttermilk off the chicken, then dip each piece into the beaten eggs, then into the matzo mixture, pressing the chicken to coat. Shake off the excess and set on a baking sheet while you finish the batch.
  5. Working in two or three batches, fry the chicken for 12-15 minutes, turning once during cooking, until golden brown, and cooked through.
  6. While the chicken is still warm, toss it with your spice mixture to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve warm with honey on the side.

Notes: If you’d like your fried chicken to have a more sweet & spicy Korean flair, you can toss it while its still warm with some sweet chili sauce.

Lightened Up Oven Fried Chicken
For a lighter spin on classic fried chicken, try oven “frying” your chicken. None of the mess and fat, and all of the flavor and satisfaction of the original.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup Vegenaise or low fat mayonnaise (See note)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain gluten-free bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 chicken tenders (these crisp up best)
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil (not your best extra virgin oil)
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the Vegenaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice.
  3. In another bowl, whish together the bread crumbs or panko, the Old Bay Seasoning, and the salt and pepper.
  4. Dry your chicken tenders with a paper towel to help your coating stick. Working one by one, coat each tender first in the mustard mixture and then in the crumb mixture, making sure to coat all sides evenly. Lay the finished tenders on your bakng sheets, leaving some room between them. Drizzle each tender lightly with your olive oil.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes, then flip the tenders over and broil for 2 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.
  6. Serve immediately with crispy sweet potato fries and homemade honey mustard sauce (recipe below).

Honey Mustard Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Vegenaise or low fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 lemon

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together Vegenaise or low fat mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, honey, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: If you can’t find Vegenaise (a vegan and healthy version of mayonnaise), you can make it at home with this easy recipe: http://elizabethpalmerkitchen.com/homemade-vegenaise/.

Where to Eat It:

If you like your chicken served up with a side of waffles, head to Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn. They serve up their tender, crispy chicken with a side of cheddar waffles and a side of their  homemade tangy pickles. Heaven on earth. You can also find Buttermilk Channel at Smorgasburg Saturdays (Williamsburg) and Sundays (Dumbo) in Brooklyn. Definitely worth the trip, and the lines.

David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar also serves up an incredible plate of fried chicken. If you’ve got a part of 4-8 people, make a reservation for the fried chicken dinner. You’ll get a feast of two whole chickens, one served sweet, spicy and saucy Korean style, the other with a more traditional Southern flair tinged with Old Bay Seasoning.

A Revamped Classic: The Gin & Tonic {Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature}

A Revamped Classic: The Gin & Tonic

A Revamped Classic: The Gin & Tonic

I come from a long line of gin and tonic drinkers. “T & T” or Tanqueray and Tonic, is the standard cocktail order in my family, occasionally supplanted with Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire, lots of ice, extra lime. I’ve had some sub-par gin and tonics in my college days (bad gin, flat tonic, no ice), but it wasn’t until recently that I looked more closely at the components in my favorite cocktail and sought to make them, and the ensuing cocktail, better. It’s a simple cocktail right? Three ingredients, minimal muss and fuss; but you’d be amazed at the difference a few quality ingredients can make.

An Impromptu Bar: Gin & Tonics on our Safari Range Rover in Africa.

An Impromptu Bar: Gin & Tonics on our Safari Range Rover in Africa.

When I was on safari in Africa, we drank a lot of gin and tonics. We didn’t need any convincing, but real tonic water actually contains quinine, which the British used in their battle against malaria. Real tonic is actually a murky brown color, due to the quinine bark its made from. Known as a natural medicinal muscle relaxant, people have used quinine for centuries to mellow out. The Schweppes in our gin and tonics in Africa differed vastly from the Schweppes we buy in America. Made with real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) and real quinine, it tasted cleaner, purer, all around better. If you visit Ninety Acres in Peapack, NJ and order a gin and tonic, it will be served with their house-made tonic. That real quinine bark gives the drink a sort of dirty overcast, but also gives it stellar flavor. Tonic makes a huge impact on how your cocktail tastes. Why use a high quality gin if you’re going to drown it out with crappy tonic? As for gin, I used to be a Tanqueray devotee, but have recently converted to Henderick’s. Voted the best gin in the world by the Wall Street Journal  in 2003, Henderick’s has a subtle rose flavor and a cool cucumber flavor that offset the usual herbal and juniper laden gin flavorings.

Homemade Tonic Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce/20 grams) cinchona bark, powdered (a coffee grinder does this well)
  • 3-4 cups rich simple syrup (by volume, two parts sugar to one of boiling water, stirred to dissolve)
  • Zest of 3 limes, cut into strips
  • Zest of 3 lemons, cut into strips
  • Zest of 2 grapefruits, cut into strips
  • 1 cup chopped lemongrass (3-4 stalks)
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 2 whole cardamom pods
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup citric acid (lemon salt)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine the water with all the other ingredients except the citric acid and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Off the heat, add the citric acid, and pass through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth or a towel. Allow this mixture to rest for 30 minutes, then pour off the resulting clear liquid, leaving behind the sediment that remains on the bottom.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Add a tablespoon at a time to your club soda until you reach your desired flavor and sweetness.
  3. Add more lime, lemon, grapefruit, even herbs like lavender to the syrup mixture depending on your taste and preference.
Gin & Tonics at Cata on NYC’s Lower East Side.

Gin & Tonics at Cata on NYC’s Lower East Side.

GIN & TONICS IN NYC

Heaven on earth for gin and tonic lovers takes shape at Cata in NYC. Specializing in tapas and 22 varieties of gin and tonics, Cata on the Lower East Side brings two perfect and complementary components together in happy harmony. Served with your bottle of tonic on the side and plenty of ice in your glass, one gin and tonic at Cata will keep you happy for a while. The endless flavor, gin, and tonic combinations will make your head spin, but I doubt you can really go wrong. When I visited we tried a tangy grapefruit and lemongrass variety and another with spicy red chili peppers spiked with lime.  Both excellent, and both perfect with our accompanying tapas.

Another gin and tonic haven in NYC is Gin Palace. You’d expect a place with that name to get it right, and they do. Located in the East Village, Gin Palace offers 64 varieties of gin. They also carry an impressive array of tonic options, all free of high fructose corn syrup.

Read the full post on Devil Gourmet. 

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} Game Meats

South African Springbok at Aubergine in Cape Town.

South African Springbok at Aubergine in Cape Town.

“It tastes gamey” doesn’t have to be synonymous with “it tastes bad.” Game meats offer a wider flavor profile than your run of the mill beef and chicken, and can prove a welcome change from your usual cooking and grilling routine this summer. Recently while in South Africa, I couldn’t help but notice all the different meat options at every restaurant we visited. Not only the more upscale restaurants, but the local burger stands and farmers markets too. While we have slightly more of a stigma against game meats here in America, and definitely fewer options to choose from, discerning chefs and home cooks can still embrace cooking with game meat and enjoy the benefits.

South African Ostrich Carpaccio at Neethlingshof Wine Estate, Stellenbosch.

South African Ostrich Carpaccio at Neethlingshof Wine Estate, Stellenbosch.

Usually the product of an active lifestyle, game meats provide lean, high quality protein that’s lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than beef, and also boasts more protein and iron. Game meats also tend to have more omega-3 fatty acids than domestic varieties, making them a heart healthy choice. From a culinary standpoint, game meat tends to taste like the best, most flavorful steak you’ve ever had. If its prepared well, a reindeer tenderloin will not taste gamey or tough, but will melt with tenderness and bold, meaty flavor. All the usual beef flavors are kicked up a notch, in a good way.

South African Kudu at Aubergine in Cape Town.

South African Kudu at Aubergine in Cape Town.

From a consciousness standpoint, game meats usually come from more local, sustainable, organic, and free-range farms. Because of this however, procuring game meets can prove challenging. Two of the best online resources for game meats are D’Artagnan and Ultimate Foods. Both offer responsibly sourced, hormone and antibiotic free game meats that can be delivered right to your door.

The best burgers in Cape Town, at the Old Biscuit Mill food market.

The best burgers in Cape Town, at the Old Biscuit Mill food market.

Bison Burgers

Switch up your usual BBQ fare this summer and grill up these delicious Bison Burgers. Your guests will be thrilled.

Serves 4

  • 1.5 lbs. ground bison
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, minced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • hamburger buns, toasted
  • Sriracha mayo (mix 1 tablespoon Sriracha with 3/4 cup mayo for a delicious spicy burger topping)

Mix together the ground bison, garlic, onion, and a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Form into four patties, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Preheat your grill to medium high heat. Press a groove into the top of each burger, and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, and serve with the toasted buns and spicy mayo, and whatever other burger toppings you like.

For my full article, including do’s and dont’s of cooking game meats and more recipes, visit Devil Gourmet. 

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} On Restaurant Menus, Vegetables are Taking Over

Spring Pea Soup with Creme Fraiche & Field Mint- at The Glen Ellen Star.

Spring Pea Soup with Creme Fraiche & Field Mint- at The Glen Ellen Star.

VEGETABLES? REALLY?

While steak and bacon will forever have a place on a restaurant menu, lately the tide is turning towards a greener, fresher inclination. In many of the top restaurants in NYC, vegetables are taking center stage, and slowly but surely edging out the normally predominant meat dishes. Even in the entrée section of menus, usually fully occupied by the four-legged variety save for one vegetarian option at the bottom, chefs skillfully finesse vegetables into dishes that would satisfy even the most devout carnivore.

Fava Beans with Sheep’s Milk Feta & Lemon Oil, and Wood Fired Artichokes with Parmesan & Arugula- at The Glen Ellen Star.

Fava Beans with Sheep’s Milk Feta & Lemon Oil, and Wood Fired Artichokes with Parmesan & Arugula- at The Glen Ellen Star.

The Glen Ellen Star – Sonoma, CA

A few weeks ago during a trip to Sonoma, California, I had dinner at the newly minted Glen Ellen Star. Chef and owner Ari Weiswasserworked at some of the top restaurants in NYC, including DanielCorton, and Picholine, as well as a long stint at Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry, before opening his own restaurant in Sonoma. The Glen Ellen Star’s menu reads like a who’s who of spring vegetables, all grown locally and prepared with obvious thought and care.

We ordered up vegetable starters, all cooked in cast iron dishes in the Glen Ellen wood oven. The fava beans came topped with sheep’s milk feta cheese and a drizzle of lemon oil, the spring pea soup arrived with a dollop of crème fraiche and field mint, and the whole roasted cauliflower was served with house made salsa verde.  Even the vehement meat lovers at the table devoured the flavorful and complex dishes, and all the cast irons returned to the kitchen empty. While our table still opted for a wood fire pizza topped with guanciale, and some flat iron steak and lamb meatballs for entries, the vegetable focused menu was a welcomed and refreshing change. It’s not about eating strictly vegetarian, but about eating more a more balanced, seasonal, and bright meal.

View the full post, including NYC restaurant recommendations, on Devil Gourmet.

With Chef & Owner Ari Weiswasser at The Glen Ellen Star.

With Chef & Owner Ari Weiswasser at The Glen Ellen Star.

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle} Kimchi

Photo Credit: http://milkimchi.foodoro.com/

Photo Credit: http://milkimchi.foodoro.com/

What Is It?

Kimchi, the condiment ubiquitous in Korean cooking, has made its way into cuisines as disparate as Southern BBQ and Mexican. Distinguished by its vinegary, chili and garlic laden bite, kimchi is a fermented food, and possesses that signature sour flavor you’d expect from yogurt or sauerkraut. Kimchi offers the ideal counterpoint for any dish with rich flavors in need of balancing. It provides the necessary vinegary, garlicky, spicy kick to keep fatty, rich flavors in check.

Where To Eat It

Recently, I ate kimchi on a BBQ pulled pork slider sandwich at Smorgasburg. The tangy kimchi perfectly balanced the rich, saucy pork, striking the necessary flavor contrast. Crunchy, bright, and spicy, it served as the perfect counterpoint. I also recently dined on kimchi at April Bloomfield’s new restaurant, Salvation Taco. Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin fame) pairs kimchi with thick strips of fatty pork belly- a match made in heaven. If you need to get your kimchi fix on the run, the Kimchi Taco Truck fits the bill. They serve a whole mess of Korean fusion tacos, most of which come topped with a healthy scoop of homemade kimchi. The Krispy Fish Taco, served with a sweet potato flour batter, chipotle aioli, mango salsa, and kimchi slaw is the standout item in my book.

Why Should I Eat It?

Kimchi is a veritable powerhouse of nutrients. It packs a potent punch of vitamins A, B, C, iron, carotene, fiber, calcium, and a whole slew of healthy bacteria. That bacteria aids digestion and boosts immunity, and might even hinder cancer growth. So, you should definitely be eating this stuff!

How Should I Eat It?

Straight out of the jar, or with one of the accompaniments below, though the list is endless, so get creative!

  • Mix kimchi with butter and roll into a compound butter; slice and serve over steak.
  • Mixed into fried rice or a stir fry.
  • On top of a hotdog or burger (salmon burgers pair especially well).
  • On a pulled pork sandwich.
  • Served alongside a fried egg and some bacon.
  • Wrapped into a burrito or inside a cheese quesadilla.
  • Sandwiched into a grilled cheese.
  • Mixed in with grits for a Southern/Korean twist on shrimp and grits.

For the full post, including a quick kimchi recipe you can make at home and tips on where to buy it, visit Devil Gourmet. 

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} Brooklyn Bound: Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg

Every Saturday and Sunday from April through October, food lovers flock to Brooklyn for the ultimate gourmet food festival: Smorgasburg. Rain or shine, upwards of 100 curated vendors gather to purvey everything from Korean BBQ sandwiches, homemade doughnuts, ramen, gourmet jerky, and even fresh French macaroons.  Many of the vendors hail from Brooklyn, but you’ll also spot some NYC favorites like Luke’s Lobster and La Esquina.

Korean BBQ Sandwich with Kimchi

Korean BBQ Sandwich with Kimchi

It’s basically a foodie paradise, so come hungry and bring a wallet full of cash. Most vendors only take cash, and nearly everything there will run you between 6 and 8 bucks a pop. Prepare yourself for some lines (the one for chicken and waffles runs at least 15 people deep) and brace yourself for a bit of a crowd. The best way to deal is to get one or two items and make your way to a grassy spot by the water to eat and enjoy in peace.

View the full post on Devil Gourmet. 

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} Gourmet Mayonnaise

Photo Credit: Empire Mayonnaise, Co.

Photo Credit: Empire Mayonnaise, Co.

Really? The New Bacon

Not just for tuna salad anymore, this humble condiment is having a moment in the culinary spotlight. Mayonnaise, normally relegated to sandwiches and potato salad, might just be the new bacon as far as food trends go. Its campy, lowbrow, a little white trash, but delicious on a seemingly inexhaustible number of foods. Notice the similarities? Mayo and bacon all comprise parts of the larger culinary trend of upscale-lowbrow food items. Our taste for better ingredients and quality may have changed, but our cravings for the nostalgic foods we grew up with remains intact. Amidst molecular gastronomy and other deceptive foods that look one way and taste another, people want some familiarity, but their palates have been elevated. Hence gourmet mayo, heritage slab bacon, truffle mac & cheese, and foie gras burgers.

Where To Find It:

White Truffle – Photo Credit: Empire Mayonnaise, Co.

White Truffle – Photo Credit: Empire Mayonnaise, Co.

Enter Empire Mayonnaise Co. – the Brooklyn based storefront that sells one thing and one thing only: mayonnaise. They sell upwards of 850 jars of the stuff each week, at $6 a pop, no less. Founded in 2011 by Sam Mason (formerly of NYC’s WD-50), Empire Mayo sets itself apart through quality. They use non-GMO oil and organic, pasture raised eggs, and local, seasonal flavors in their specialty varieties. Each jar is produced by hand, and sold either in their small Brooklyn shop, online, or through one of their retail distributors, including Dean and DeLuca, West Elm, Smorgasburg. It’s also served up at several local NYC hotels. People can scoff and satirize Empire Mayo all they want, but they sure can’t argue with their sales achievements. You can laugh, but people are snapping this stuff up.

For the full article, including recipes for your own gourmet mayo and tips to use it in fresh new ways, view the page here on Devil Gourmet. 

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} The New Nordic

Smörgås with Sour Cream, New Potatoes, Herring, and Chives.

Smörgås with Sour Cream, New Potatoes, Herring, and Chives.

If your understanding of Scandinavian food consists of memories of the Swedish Chef on The Muppet Show, and/or the food served at IKEA (including those unfortunate horsemeat headlines), I urge you to take another look.  New Nordic cuisine has earned its place of prominence right alongside classic French, Italian, and Spanish cooking in some of the most acclaimed kitchens around the world.

The world’s best restaurant three years running is not here in New York, but in Copenhagen. Chefs Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer started the restaurant Noma with this New Nordic philosophy in 2004, and in the years since, the movement has become the toast of the culinary world.

Smörgås with Horseradish Cream, Gravlax, Butter Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Cucumbers.

Smörgås with Horseradish Cream, Gravlax, Butter Lettuce, Tomatoes, and Cucumbers.

While a trip to Noma might not be in the cards, New York City is stacked with ample New Nordic restaurants. Aquavit is the obvious choice, and the food there is perfection, but at a hefty cost. For a fantastic meal that won’t break the bank, Smörgås fits the bill. They have three locations in the city (Wall Street, West Village, and the Scandinavia House) and source their produce from their own eco farm upstate, Blenheim Hill Farm. Another smart pick is ACME, featuring locally sourced, seasonal produce with a Nordic flair.

How To Cook It

You can create some of your own New Nordic classics at home,  Let’s break out of Swedish meatball box! Scandinavian food usually doesn’t require many special ingredients, tools, or culinary prowess; the food is simple and speaks for itself.

Homemade Gravlax: Get a portion (about 1 lb.) of really fresh quality salmon from your fish monger and place it in a shallow pan. Cover it on both sides with a mixture of 3 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon pepper, 4 tablespoons fresh minced dill, and 2 tablespoons Aquavit. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and weigh the salmon down with a heavy can. Leave in the fridge for 3-4 days, turning the salmon over once per day. When its done, rinse under cold water, slice thinly, and serve with sour cream, dark bread, and fresh dill.

Open-Faced Smörgås: You can layer all manner of things on this classic Scandinavian sandwich. Use a hearty, darker bread as your base layer. Start with a horseradish cream (grated horseradish mixed with sour cream) and layer with sliced cucumbers, gravlax or smoked salmon, caviar, hard boiled eggs, shrimp, herring (if you’re brave), get creative!

 

Read the full article on Devil Gourmet.

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} Small Plates: Big Flavors

Small Plates

Small Plates at The Stanton Social {NYC}

The concept of ordering a bunch of appetizers to make a meal has given way to the trend of small plates.  Like tapas, antipasto and smorgasbord, small plates offer diners the opportunity to try a wider array of flavors, and to try dishes they’d never order full size. Don’t want a massive serving of French onion soup dumplings? Order the small plate at the Stanton Social, and you’ll get one, or two, perfect bites to satisfy your craving!

Oysters on the Half Shell at the Peacock Inn {Princeton}

Oysters on the Half Shell at the Peacock Inn {Princeton}

New York City is full of restaurants touting small plates in all culinary genres. On my not to be missed list are the steamed pork buns at David Chang’s Momofuku, the tomato soup dumplings at Chris Santos’ Beauty & Essex, the fried oysters on deviled eggs at Cata, the sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi at April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig, and the mini chicken and waffles at Chris Santos’ Stanton Social. This list barely cracks the surface, but serves as a good starting point to get your feet wet with this trend.

For the full article, visit this link on Devil Gourmet.

City Pizza Overnight {Review}

Overnight Pizza

Last Thursday I placed my order for pizza delivery from City Pizza Overnight– and Friday afternoon, as promised, I came home to a huge, brown box at my doorstep.  City Pizza Overnight is a Chicago-based company that specializes in NYC-style pizza delivered overnight. It comes to you cooled and packed in ice, ready to crisp up in your oven and eat in 6-7 minutes. The ordering process is simple and straightforward, and their FedEx shipping process is seamless. They send you a confirmation and tracking number so you know exactly where your order is and when it arrives. Definitely easy and definitely convenient.

Overnight Pizza

For my pizzas, I tried a regular plain pizza, a gluten-free plain pizza, and a gluten-free pizza topped with onions, and peppers. Once out of the box, all you have to do in unwrap each pie and put them right on the rack in your pre-heated oven. The pizzas made my kitchen smell fantastic; a nice perk you don’t usually get to enjoy when you order pizza. I found it helpful to keep the cardboard circles from under the pizza- that way you can just pull them right out of the oven onto those and serve.

Overnight Pizza

How did they taste? The gluten-free options are a real accomplishment. They have a tender and crispy crust like you’d expect from a regular pizza, the sauce and cheese are in good proportion, and the vegetable toppings on one gave it a welcomed boost of flavor. For anyone with a gluten allergy who’s craving a pizza fix- this would surely hit the spot. The regular plain pizza for me tasted a little plain, for lack of a better word. It didn’t have the cheesy, crusty, unctuousness I’ve come to expect from plain pizza. But if you live in a part of the country where good pizza is far and few between, this might be right up your alley. And as I said before, the gluten-free options are a smart and delicious option even for those without a gluten allergy. You can even order up a bunch of pizzas and keep them in your freezer, ready to heat and eat at a moments notice.

Read the full post on Small Chick Big Deals.

Luce {Eclectic Italian in Caldwell}

While this area has no shortage of Italian restaurants, picking out the ones worth your time can be a challenge. Luce definitely rises to the top of this list, distinguishing itself with a creative menu and attentive kitchen and staff. A fixture on the Caldwell restaurant scene since 2001, Luce revamped its image and menu in 2011. They brought in Executive Chef Steve Saragnese (formerly of Babbo in NYC and Vetri in Philadelphia) to shake up their traditional Italian fare. Saragnese now serves an eclectic twist on Italian classics, showcasing a keen appreciation for flavor combinations and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Luce

When I had dinner at Luce last week, I was impressed with the number of specials tacked on to their regular menu. The favorite that stood out was the butternut squash ravioli. Pillowy and light, filled with silky butternut squash purée and swathed in a nutty brown butter sauce, and topped with parmesan and crispy sage, it’s the perfect cold-weather pasta dish. The flatbread we tried was also a special, and hit all the right notes with creamy fontina cheese, peppery arugula, and crispy bacon. The flatbread was sprinkled judiciously with truffle oil, such that it didn’t overpower but elevated the whole dish. The Toasted bread with provolone cheese and roasted red pepper purée also delivered a serious flavor punch. What it lacked in beauty it made up for in taste; the sharp provolone and the tangy red pepper purée balanced perfectly, and the bread had a nice crunch. The eggplant caponata that comes with warm bread at the start of your meal is also a real standout, setting the tone for a flavor-packed meal.

Luce

Luce offers an ample entrée menu, complete with standouts like Berkshire pork chop, filet mignon, gingered tuna, and wild Scottish salmon.  For our dinner, we tried the grouper, accompanied by whipped potatoes and garlic spinach. The fish was flaky and tender, and  served with just the right amount of creamy, garlicky sauce. We also tried the shrimp, served over a risotto with garlic spinach. Everything was cooked and seasoned beautifully no complaints from out table! For dessert we had Luce’s homemade brownie served with espresso chip ice cream and an espresso chocolate reduction. Rich, dark, and chocolaty- it hit the spot.

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Everyone at Luce, from the owners to the kitchen to the staff are warm, friendly, and helpful. Prices are reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients and the attention to detail. Though they don’t have a liquor license, Luce provides a wine list and will place an order for prompt delivery to your table. If you haven’t tried Luce, or haven’t been in years, give it a try- you’ll be impressed!

Waterside Restaurant and Catering {Review}

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Waterside Restaurant and Catering sits literally steps from the Hudson River, in North Bergen. Just up the river from Hoboken and Jersey City, the restaurant offers unparalleled  views of the New York City skyline. You can’t get much closer than this. The restaurant itself looks inauspicious from the outside, but opens up into an impressive bar with two restaurant areas, all enclosed with a floor to ceiling wrap around windows, maximizing the skyline view. The lucky tables around the restaurant perimeter certainly take in the best view, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Valet parking and an accommodating staff make the whole operation run smoothly.

Everyone I met at Waterside was polite and prompt; happy to help and accommodate. Our waiter was knowledgeable and friendly, helpful but not pushy. Their wine list offers a broad selection of options  both by the glass and by the bottle, and a good champagne list for celebratory dinners. They also have a full bar and cocktail list, and lots of patrons who come to Waterside just for the bar. A DJ plays music from an elevated booth, making the whole scene a bit clubby, even in the dinner sections. This might not be the place to take your grandma (unless she likes house music), but its great for a more lively dinner out.

The menu expresses a Mediterranean bent, with an impressive raw bar and broad selection of seafood. The menu also features some delicious sounding steaks, including an over-the-top 45 oz. Porter House. The gentleman next to us ordered the Porter House, and  it was one of the biggest steaks I’ve ever seen served, taking up the entire dinner plate. We chose the slightly lighter route, and started with the avocado, roasted pepper and corn salad and the seared sea scallops. The corn salad brought me right back to summer; it came in a tangy, bright citrus dressing, with big strips of corn cut right off the cob. The avocado was ripe and buttery, and the whole dish had a nice balance of flavors and textures. The scallops came served over a crispy sweet corn polenta cake in a saffron and corn sauce. The scallops had a good sear on them, and the saffron sauce and polenta cake all worked harmoniously together.

For entrees, we had the roasted prawns and the seared tuna au poivre. The prawns came over a bed of sweet corn, fava beans, baby bok choy, and candied lemon. The prawns were nothing short of impressive; huge and grilled whole, they had a nice smokey flavor from the grill. But the dish as a whole suffered from a lack of texture. All the components were soft, and something with a little freshness and crunch would have elevated the whole dish.

The tuna came with a sauce of black and green peppercorns with cognac, and french fries on the side. The tuna had a good sear on it and strong, pronounced flavors from the peppercorns and the cognac. I just found the french fries a bit of an odd accompaniment to such an elegant piece of fish. French fries are a weakness of mine, and they were delicious, but I would have opted for a different side with the tuna, or maybe a more refined way of serving them alongside it.

For dessert we shared the warm apple crisp, which came filled with almond pastry cream and vanilla ice cream on the side. I also had a specialty coffee with Frangelico and Baileys, a delicious way to end the meal. They also offer a wide selection of after dinner cordials. Overall I’d say Waterside is worth the trip just for the fantastic view. In the summer it would be incredible to eat outside on their patio or have a drink and sit in the gazebo overlooking the city.

Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

Roasted Carrot & Avocado Salad

Recently I had dinner at Beauty & Essex in NYC. It’s a fantastic restaurant, featuring big flavors on small tasting plates. They served a really stand-out salad that was so good I had to try and recreate it at home. Roasting your humble everyday carrots gives them a sweet, caramelized flavor that pairs perfectly with the creamy avocado. If you think salads are boring, give this one a try- you’ll be surprised! This recipe serves four.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise, then in 1/2
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 cup roasted cashews
  • 4 handfuls butter or baby romaine lettuce
  • Juice from 1/2 orange
  • Lemon & olive oil, salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400. In a roasting pan, toss the carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, and thyme leaves. Spread evenly in the pan and roast in the oven, tossing every 15 minutes, for 45 minutes to an hour, until the carrots are tender and turning golden brown at their ends. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the minced garlic and toss to combine. Remove the carrots from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  • In a shallow pan, toast the cashews over medium low heat until golden brown and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Halve and peel the avocados, and cut into strips lengthwise. Squeeze some lemon over the avocado to prevent them from browning.
  • In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, carrots, avocado, and 1/2 the cashews. Squeeze over the orange juice, lemon juice, and olive oil to taste, starting slowly and adding more as needed. Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything to combine.
  • Plate the salad into four shallow bowls, and top each serving with the remaining cashews.
  • To make this a meal, add some toasted crusty bread and some grilled shrimp or chicken.

Recipe inspired by Beauty & Essex.

View the full recipe on Bachelor Kitchen.

Montclair Art Museum Hosts Smokin’ Hot Barbeque Event

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MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM CELEBRATES GEORGIA O’KEEFFE IN NEW MEXICO EXHIBIT DURING SMOKIN’ HOT BARBEQUE EVENT

MONTCLAIR, NJ, December 5, 2012— Montclair Art Museum (MAM) hosted a Smokin’ Hot Barbequefriend/fundraiser event celebrating the exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land  in the Museum’s Leir Hall.

Guests of the Smokin’ Hot Barbeque were transported from Montclair to the southwest for an exciting evening showcasing New Mexico through the art of Georgia O’Keeffe. The highlighted exhibition features 15 paintings and drawings of Katsina dolls (representations of Katsinam, or Hopi spirit beings) and over 30 paintings and works on paper of New Mexico landscapes and architecture.

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Guests were greeted with colorful bandanas in lieu of tickets- and many guests dressed to the nines in their own western fare. Cowboy boots and hats abounded!

 The southwestern theme displayed itself through a fabulous silent auction and delicious savory fare provided by Ruthie’s BBQ & Pizza. Pulled pork, spicy mac & cheese, and ribs kept everyone happy. Margaritas and cocktails were conjured by Egan & Sons while DJs Russ Boris and Darren DeVivo from WFUV (90.7 FM) played O’Keeffe-inspired soundtracks.

This event was offered in partnership with Ruthie’s BBQ & Pizza, Egan & Sons, WFUV, and Elements Therapeutic Massage. All ticket proceeds benefited the Montclair Art Museum.

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Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land

September 28, 2012 – January 20, 2013- This exhibition, originated by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, will reveal the little-known breadth of Georgia O’Keeffe’s interest in northern New Mexico and will more particularly illuminate her keen sensitivity and deep respect for the Native American and Hispano cultures of the region. From 1931 to 1945, O’Keeffe created numerous drawings, watercolors, and paintings of Kachina dolls (or Katsinam), carved representations of Hopi spirit beings. The exhibition will include 15 of these depictions, together with actual Kachina dolls and over 30 paintings and works on paper ofNew Mexico landscapes and architecture.

 

World’s Hottest Curry at Brick Lane {this one’s no joke!}

World’s Hottest Curry at Brick Lane

Watch Melody Kettle of Hot From The Kettle and myself try and eat the world’s hottest curry! I’m all for spicy food, but this curry, made with ghost peppers, veers into pink cheeked, watery eyed, sweaty palmed, bee-stung lip territory. We only made it a few bites! Click the link above for the full video, and click here for Melody’s curry challenge!

restaurant review: mes reves

Step off of busy Broad Street in Bloomfield and into Mes Reves, and feel immediately transported to an elegant, softly lit restaurant, which would fit seamlessly in both New York City and Paris. Mes Reves means my dream in French, and that’s just what this place embodies. Everything, from the décor to the menu to the food is flawlessly executed, and will leave you wondering how this place has managed to stay relatively under the radar since it’s opening this past February. Quang Tran, the executive chef and co-owner of Mes Reves with his wife, was born in Vietnam but moved to the U.S. at a young age. He then attended the French Culinary Institute in Soho.

As a current student at the French Culinary Institute, I can personally attest to the high standards it upholds. Such a level of precision and perfection has been quite a shock to this formerly cocky home cook! Tran is the perfect testament to this high culinary standard- and his food speaks for itself. Everything is served perfectly cooked, balanced, and sauced, nothing heavy-handed or overly complicated in sight.

Read the full review on Hot From The Kettle 

New Jersey Food & Wine Festival 2012

Decadence and indulgence ruled at this year’s fourth annual New Jersey Food & Wine Festival at the Crystal Springs Resort. Held this past weekend at the Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs, the festival kicked off with a Dom Perignon reception with Chef Thomas Keller, who headlined the weekend’s events. You may recognize Keller as the owner of NYC restaurant Per Se, or as the star of the new American Express commercials, but he is also a founder of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, a holder of multiple three Michelin Star restaurant ratings, and the author of numerous cookbooks, including The French Laundry, andAd Hoc.

Chef Keller stood in good company, working alongside renowned and venerated chefs from all over the Tri-State area at the weekend’s events. I was lucky enough to attend the Grand Tasting on Saturday night, which as the signature event of the weekend included more food and wine than even the most ambitious foodie could consume. With more than twenty-five top chefs from NJ and NYC cooking alongside forerunning wineries and distilleries from around the world, it was hard to know which way to turn in the two full levels of tables.

For my full account of this over-the-top event, see my article on Hot From The Kettle

VB3 – Jersey City’s latest culinary offering

Located on the bottom floor of a luxury rental building on Washington Boulevard in Jersey City, the newly opened restaurant VB3 offers revamped Italian classics with a decidedly local flair.

The menu, composed of a selection of small plates perfect for mixing and sharing, changes often to highlight the local produce offerings of the seasons. With prices ranging from eight to twenty-five dollars, you can compose a complete meal for a reasonable price. The staff, chefs, and owners were all beyond wonderful, and proud of what they had to offer.

For my full review, see the complete article on Hot From The Kettle 

summit food & wine festival {2011}

This weekend, the third annual Summit Wine and Food Festival took place at the Grand Hotel in Summit, which hosted dozens of impressive chefs, sommeliers, and guest speakers.

On Friday night, the festival kicked off with the Gala Tasting, where restaurants, chefs, and winemakers set up tables to showcase their signature dishes and most celebrated wines. Guests could wander around the Grand Ballroom and sample to their heart’s content, eating and drinking their fill. I myself made it my mission to try something from each table, and ended up doubling back to some of my favorites.

The hallway adjacent to the ballroom housed several cocktail stations where guests could watch drinks like cherry tomato mojitos made to order, and a chocolate table stacked with delicious flavors like pistachio, caramel and sea salt. This event provided the perfect platform to get up close and personal with the chefs and sommeliers of the weekend, and to talk with them about the food and wine they’re passionate about.

 For more details on this event, see my full article on Hot From The Kettle, and be sure to get your tickets to the 2012 festival!

Summertime cocktails at Halcyon

Nothing says springtime quite like a bright fruity cocktail. I sat down at Halcyon’s marble bar with Sharon Eagan and tested out some of the new cocktails they plan on serving to celebrate the sunnier, warmer days of spring.

The cornerstone of these spring cocktails is a collection of in-house infused fruit liquors currently working their magic in big glass jars under the bar. Fruits like pineapple, watermelon, peach, and orange are married with liquors like vodka, rum, and tequila. After a few weeks, the flavors meld and create the perfect foundation for a cocktail.

For my full article, plus two dangerously delicious cocktail recipes, visit Hot From The Kettle 

the “death seat burger” at the old canal inn

Melody Kettle of Hot From The Kettle convinced my to try the infamous Death Seat Burger at the Old Canal Inn. Read below for details, and click the link to see the full video- but be fore warned, its not too pretty!

“The urban legend is true!  The Death Seat Burger does exist! And it takes lives – young, beautiful, food-blogging lives! What are you talking about, Mrs. Kettle?  Well, back in April, John Lee visited Mark Conca co-owner and managing partner at the Old Canal Inn (OCI), and learned all about legend and lure of the Death Seat Burger. I was intrigued by the story and had to see how this behemoth of burger is actually made. So, last week the Hot From The Kettle crew sojourned to the OCI.” -Melody Kettle

Head over to Hot From The Kettle to see the full article and the video– not to be missed!

restaurant review: luce

Montclair offers a seemingly endless selection of restaurants, Italian ones in particular; after a while they all sort of blend together into an indistinguishable mélange of marinara sauce and meatballs. But when your palate craves something fresh and different, set your sights on Luce Italian Restaurant in Caldwell for a welcome change of pace.

An established mainstay on the Caldwell dining scene, Luce opened in 2001 by owners Joseph Capasso and Dino Vitagliano, who sought to bring the polished, contemporary dining experience of New York City to Luce.

Featuring an Italian-inspired menu, Luce serves up classic favorites with an eclectic spin. But don’t write them off as a staid bastion out of touch with other culinary inspirations.  In 2011, Luce brought a new chef to their kitchen, searching high and low for the best candidate to revamp and improve their menu and image.  They found the perfect fit in executive chef Steve Sarangese. Formerly of Babbo in New York City, and Vetri in Philadelphia, Sarangese brings an elevated and finely tuned style to the menu at Luce.

For my full review, see my article on Hot From The Kettle 

french restaurant vocabulary {cheat sheet!}

Crash Course: French Restaurant Vocabulary
Taking your girl out for dinner is a mainstay activity in the dating game. It shows you’re willing to shell out some cash to impress her, that you want to talk to her for an extended period of time, and that you’re proud be seen with her in public. If you’re really trying to lay on the romance, take a page out of the romance languages book and bring her to a French restaurant. Dim lighting, candles, and dreamy French food definitely set the mood. And don’t let your lack of French finesse deter you from ordering.  I’ve got your French restaurant cheat sheet right here.
I’ve compiled a list of essential French restaurant vocabulary to bring you through the ordering process with your dignity and masculinity intact.  I’ve also included the phonetic pronunciation so you don’t make a fool of yourself when you place your order.  Let the waiter snicker at the table next to you struggling to order “foy grass,” not at you and your date.
Consider this your crash-course to French restaurant vocabulary. Its like those vocabulary lists you had in middle school- but instead of earning high marks with your stogy old teacher, mastering this vocabulary will impress your charming date.
For my vocabulary cheat sheet, see my full article on Bachelor Kitchen

aozoro restaurant review {disclaimer- its my favorite restaurant in town!}

If you haven’t noticed, Montclair is absolutely fit to burst with sushi restaurants. Diners have their pick of ten or twelve places at any given time, making it difficult for restaurants to distinguish themselves from the pack. Aozora manages to accomplish just that, and sets itself apart with high quality, elegant food served with a European bent. You could describe Aozora as a sort of Asian-European fusion, though they execute traditional Japanese classics with equal flair and precision.

For my dinner there, I started with the spicy miso soup, which was neither overly salty nor overly spicy, and had a clean balance of flavors. The seasonally appropriate pumpkin soup with coconut milk and baby shrimp is Duck Spring Rollanother tempting option as far as soups go.  For salads, I tried the Zen salad; a blend of greens in a crispy sort of wonton bowl topped with delicious ginger dressing. The dressing was a refreshing change from the overly sweet, neon orange dressings in so many places around here. More along the European lines is the Arugula salad, served with warm goat cheese and broth tomato confit and shallot confit- classic ingredients I’ve been seeing quite a lot since I started at the French Culinary Institute.  I also sampled the duck spring rolls, served up crispy but not greasy, stuffed with duck confit and shitake mushrooms, with a yummy plum sauce for dipping.

For my full review and run-down of all the delicious food at Aozoro, view my article on Hot From The Kettle 

leone’s – a gordon ramsey overhaul

People in Montclair are particular about their Italian food. Everyone has their favorite place, absolutely convinced of its superiority up against countless competitors. Personally, I’m partial to Mr. Dino’s, since that’s what I grew up eating, always hesitant to veer away from my old favorite. Though Giotto and Fascino certainly occupy the upper echelon of Italian restaurants in the area, sometimes a little less pretension is in order for dinner.

Leone’s, a Montclair mainstay, recently underwent an overhaul renovation courtesy of celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey. On Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsey stripped Leone’s down to its bare bones and built it up fresh, including a revamped menu, refurbished decor and design, and a refreshed image overall.

For the full article and review, see my article on Hot From The Kettle 

most decadent truffle dinner ever- at above

Above restaurant, located almost on top of the South Orange train station, has recently undergone some big changes. In March they hired Mark Sokolofsky as their new head chef, and overhauled their wait staff and menu. I recently attended an amazing truffle dinner hosted at Above, which incorporated truffles in some capacity into each dish, and paired each course with a different type of wine.  Given all the recent hype about truffles in the news, I was eager to try truffles incorporated in fresh and inventive flavor combinations.

The amuse to start the meal was grilled hickory smoked bacon, served alongside jicama cantaloupe slaw and topped with a citrus truffle foam. The crispy bacon paired well with the tangy flavors in the slaw, and the truffle foam added an interesting depth of flavor to the whole dish. The bright and sparkling Freixenet Blanc served to go with the dish balanced the flavors nicely. The snapper consume which followed the amuse was a favorite, and included a vegetable chick pea fritter served with red snapper mousseline and garnished with fresh micro greens and a shaving of truffles. The clean flavors of the consume were enriched by the hearty fritter, and the rich mousseline and truffles brought the whole dish together. The SeaGlass Chardonnay accompaniment also had very clean flavors, complimenting the consume.

View my full review on Hot From The Kettle

spiced summer shredded chicken wraps with hummus and tahini

I met all sorts of amazing people at the French Culinary Institute. Eighteen year olds fresh out of high school, former lawyers looking for a career change, even two retired pharmacists. My good friend Omer Ben Horin served in the Israeli army for three years, but always felt drawn to cooking. He grew up cooking at home with his Moroccan mother, and during high school he helped her cooked for her catering company.  After serving in the Army, while attending culinary school in Israel, Omer worked in top restaurants, constantly drawing inspiration from everyone he worked with. Omer then set his sights on New York, and attended The French Culinary Institute.  As if he weren’t enough of an over achiever, he then interned at the Two Michelin star restaurant, Corton.

After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, Omer decided to pursue his own restaurant. The restaurant revolves around a chicken concept, taking on classic American dishes, rotisserie, and Tex-Mex but all with an Israeli twist. With an impeccable knack for combining flavors and inspirations spanning the globe, I’m sure diners will snap up his eclectic plates. With his restaurant opening in late August in Oceanside, New York, Omer shared a preview recipe from his menu that’s perfect for a hot summer afternoon. Its quick, fresh, and super satisfying.
For Omer’s beyond delicious recipe, see my article on Bachelor Kitchen 
In the photo above, that’s Omer on the right on our graduation day from The French Culinary Institute.

world’s hottest curry- this one’s no joke!

Melody Kettle & Elizabeth Starnes try the hottest curry at Brick Lane Curry House!

World’s Hottest Curry at Brick Lane Curry House in Montclair, NJ: Watch the ever-so-daring Melody Kettle of Hot From The Kettle and myself try to tackle the world’s hottest curry. Its made with Ghost Peppers, and packs a serious punch! I’m all for spicy food, but this dish is absolutely over the top, tears in your eyes, flushed cheeks hot. Watch the video and see for yourself.

P.S. don’t let this one malicious dish deter you from visiting Brick Lane- its hands down my favorite Indian restaurant in the area.