The Blue Collar Foodie Keeps It Classy At The WineMaker’s Cellar

For the most part, my definition of refined is drinking a craft beer with my pants on. In other words, for me, sitting at a gastro pub imbibing a beverage with my pinky out and discussing the finer points of Fantasy Baseball, without cursing every third word, is generally, as classy as I want to be. Now everyone knows that every rule has to have at least one exception in order to prove said rule, right. So, every now and again, I don a shirt with at least 2 buttons, slacks instead of jeans, and even take off my baseball hat to enter the wonderful world of wine.   Although quite foreign to me at first, I have become somewhat of a novice scholar of wine, and it is all thanks to wine tastings and food pairings like the one I attended at The WineMakers Cellar, located at 1050 Goffle Road, in Hawthorne, NJ recently due to a Living Social Coupon that I stumbled upon.

Welcome To The WineMaker's Cellar

Welcome To The WineMaker’s Cellar

The first thing to note about the WineMakers Cellar is that they are not a restaurant, nor are they a liquor store; they are actually a full-fledged wine making facility. With that said, they offer something that other vineyards, wineries, restaurants, and liquor stores simply cannot, the option to create your own wine from scratch. This process involves crushing the grapes, pressing the grapes, racking the wine and of course everyone’s favorite, bottling, and the knowledgeable professionals at The WineMakers Cellar will walk you through each process, imparting some of their wisdom to you along the way.

The event that my wife and I attended was described as an evening of educational entertainment that will help the attendees diversify their palates in a relaxed and comfortable environment, whilst learning about wine and the wine making process.   With a description such as this, I probably would have been more than slightly interested, but then the gracious hosts at The WineMakers Cellar also included two glasses of wine per person, live music, gourmet cheeses, crackers, hot hors d’ oeuvres, a dinner catered from Justin’s Ristorante in Hawthorne, NJ, and two bottles of complimentary wine to take home at the end of the evening.   Considering everything that this deal encompassed, Zoe and I could not say no, and we bought our tickets immediately, unfortunately so did half of Bergen County so it took quite some time to acquire a table to one of these exclusive events.

Not knowing what to expect on our first adventure to the WineMakers Cellar, Kat and I drove to Goffle Road in Hawthorne, NJ. Since this establishment is on my way to work, and I pass the sign every day, I knew that the actual site of the WineMakers Cellar is somewhat clandestine, so if you plan on attending one of these events keep your eyes open as soon as you exit the highway for the small sign that will point you in the right direction. After turning into the parking lot, driving down a slightly narrow one lane, yet two-way road, we found ourselves in the parking lot of an industrial park which is the home of The Winemakers Cellar. To be honest, Kat and I caught the nervous giggles for a second or two as we arrived. But, we have learned to not judge a book by its cover more times than I would like to admit, so we did not let this establishment’s shabby exterior taint our evening’s promise.

While we slowly walked to the front door of the facility, we noticed a quote on the sign that hung above the entrance which read, “Enter as strangers…Leave as friends,” which seemed to sooth our uneasiness for the moment. As we entered the building, the small amount of apprehension that still existed in us, melted away, due to the delightful interior décor of the WineMakers Cellar. The first section of the large warehouse like structure was sectioned off from the rest of the building and decorated as a small bistro complete with its very own bar, which Kat and I headed straight for.   With a glass of Red in our hands we decided to explore the expansive structure that is The WineMakers Cellar.

Say Cheese!

Our first stop was the appetizer tables where we helped ourselves to artisanal cheeses, gourmet crackers, and assorted Hors doeuvres that were each better than the last one we tried. We then took our glasses of wine and plates full of food to the area of the building that was set up with tables. There was no assigned seating, and we chose a table at random to call ours for the evening. The room we were in was full of barrels of all different sizes, presumably full of wine that had been created by inexperienced folk such as ourselves under the watchful eye of The WineMakers Cellar Staff. As Kat and I talked amongst each other and the other individuals that had arbitrarily selected our table we were serenaded by the wonderful eclectic stylings of Jeff & Karen, which was a delightful addition to the ambiance of this event.

Cheers

Cheers

After finishing off our first glass of The WineMakers Cellar house blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc which was damn near celestial, Kat and I procured another glass of red before the presentation commenced. With our learning juice in hand, we were ready and willing to be educated. One of the experienced owners of the WineMakers Cellar approached the front of the room and began to speak to us about wine. To tell you the truth, Kat and I were expecting the hard sell approach about what The WineMakers Cellar offers but that was not the case. The presentation complete with a fancy Power Point slide show, consisted of the history of wine, the terminology that wine aficionados use, the different types of wine, the actual wine making process, and a quick and easy wine tasting lesson.   I was pleasantly surprised that this educational lecture felt more like a community college course than a time share offer.

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

After the learning was done, our glasses were empty, which was perfect because the wine tasting was up next. We all had the opportunity to utilize the information that we had just absorbed and taste four different wines that were made on site, at the WineMakers Cellar. As we sniffed, sipped and swallowed the wines that we were given, we discussed the complex flavors of each of the tasty potions.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Just when we thought that this enjoyable and informative evening could not get any better, dinner was served.   I have been to Justin’s Ristorante a few times before, and I was really excited when I heard that they would be catering this event. I was not disappointed by the tremendous spread of Italian food that was supplied by this often under rated local eatery. The offerings included Chicken Parmesan, Meatballs, Eggplant Rollatini, Penne in Vodka Sauce, and a hearty salad all served buffet style. As we ate this truly fantastic Italian smorgasbord, we continued to discuss the wine we had tasted throughout the evening with our table mates as if the 15 minute lesson that we had just been privileged to sit through made us wine experts.

As the night winded down and dessert was served, I thought back to the sign above the entrance of The WineMakers Cellar, and I understood why it was placed at the hearth of this establishment. All of us entered the building as strangers but in a few short hours we found ourselves saying good bye and honestly wishing our tablemates a good evening. There are only a few things in this world that can create a bond amongst strangers such as sprits and food, and The WineMakers Cellar completely comprehend this. On our way out the door, we were presented our two bottles of wine for the road and exited the building with full bellies and smiling faces. After attending this event, I do believe a Blue Collar Foodie wine may be an option all thanks to the fine folks at The WineMakers Cellar.

 

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Muscle Maker Grill Is A Welcomed Change To The Often Mundane and Unhealthy Fast Food Culture

 Your Health In Mind

     For some foodies the rudimentary idea of calorie counting, dieting, and eating healthy is an unfathomable notion.  These words and phrases in the foodie community can be met with the ire of a grandmother that just heard their innocent little angel drop the C-word, and you all know what C-word, I am talking about, THE ONE AND ONLY C-WORD!  The thought that any meal that is good for you, simply could not taste even half-way decent, is extremely widespread throughout the foodie community.  So, as I got older, and my pants got tighter, I thought my days of being a foodie were over.  I grieved longer that Artie Lange did, when he found out that Hostess Cakes went out of business, thinking I would have to eat turnip salads with okra nuggets for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, I learned through necessity that this notion is and always was completely untrue.  Not only can healthy food be just as delicious as unwholesome food, but one can splurge every now and again on bacon wrapped bacon bites, as long as it is not every day.

RIP TWINKIE

Rest In Peace, Indeed

For those of you who still are under the impression that nutritious food can’t tantalize your palate I suggest that you make a voyage to Muscle Maker Grill and check out their healthy yet scrumptious offerings.   I will pause for a moment to allow the grumpy cat fan club grumble and murmur about chain restaurants, and how they destroy the very fabric of foodie culture, and blah, blah, pretentious know-it-all gibberish, blah.  Are you good now haters?  You got that out of your system?  Can we move on?  Sure, Muscle Maker is a chain restaurant, but my problem with franchises has nothing to do with the idea of them ruining some silly pompous notion of the epicurean elite, I have always found that they tend to scrimp on ingredients, forget about freshness, and serve calorie laden unimaginative meals, once they turn to the dark side of the gastro-force.  Thankfully, this is not the case with Muscle Maker Grill.  The Muscle Maker Grill that I chose to visit for the purpose of this review is located at 14-29 River Road, in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that is the beauty of franchises, you can search to find one closer to you.

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

Before ordering from Muscle Maker, Kat and I went for a rather vigorous two hour hike and neither of us was in any mood to cook, so we decided to get take-out, before we started Googleing recipes that involved cooking and eating our dogs and cats.  (Relax PETA people, I am joking, I love my pets like family.  Furthermore, why are you reading a foodie blog? Go eat some kale that is dressed with your salty tears because you are crying about how the pesticides that treated your organic shrubbery that you are eating most likely killed a dozen bugs.)  Kat and I inspected the menu and found that the selection at Muscle Maker was much larger than we expected, and to add to the robust selection, when ordering most of the menu items, you can choose the type of protein you would like to have in your meal.  In addition, every menu item lists the caloric intake for the entire world to see, unlike many other “fast food,” restaurants that conceal the nutritional information of their food, as if they were protecting Carmen San Diego.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

Carmen San Diego

Kat and I both chose the El Mexicana, which is described as fajita grilled chicken breast or steak, sizzling onions and peppers, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and salsa over brown rice and beans, garnished with tomatoes and scallions for $9.99.  Kat decided on the chicken breast, while I chose to upgrade my order, and went with the shrimp.  As I was on my way to pick up the order, I began to have orders’ remorse,  I was very nervous that healthy merely meant small portions that are designed to fill up a dainty bird like lady, not a large land mammal such as myself.  I fretted and worried the entire drive over to the establishment, and then even more while I fidgeted with my phone at the counter while my food was placed into bags.  With our Muscle Maker Grill in hand, I raced back to the house, filled with apprehension and foodie anxiety.

As I removed our meals from their plastic confines, I was relieved to see that my trepidation was all for not.   The food not only smelled and looked fantastic, which is a feat in amongst itself while be housed in take-out containers, but the portion size was extremely generous.  I began to eat my entrée and observed that the ingredients all fused together flawlessly to create a tremendous amalgamation of zesty flavor.  There was no one ingredient that overpowered the dish, and half way through eating it I completely forgot that this flavorsome meal was low in calories and chock full of nutritious morsels.  I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the menu, that each of these entrees is large enough for two servings, but I was definitely full when I was done with my meal.

El Mexicana from Muscle Maker Grill

Our Meal

All in all, Muscle Maker Grill provides healthy food at the speed of most fast food joints, and the prices are sensible to boot.  As the heartless cold nights of winter give way to the warm embracing days of spring, even foodies have to begin to think about shedding some of the winter weight their hibernation has welcomed.  So, next time you are too tired to cook, don’t grab a Big Mac or some Lo Mein; give Muscle Maker Grill a whirl, your belt and pants will thank you.

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