The Blue Collar Foodie gets his Fro-Yo fix on Plaza Road

The summer and I have a slightly cantankerous relationship with one another.  You see, I hate the sun, the heat that comes with it, and the fact that everyone want to go DTS, or down the shore, where sand finds a way to creep into every crevasse of my body.  On the other hand though, I love backyard barbecues, swimming pools, baseball, and of course ice cream.  So I will find the shade like a twinkling vampire in Seattle, jump from air conditioner to air conditioner, and take seven showers a day to remove the sand from places on and in my body that my wife has never seen, in order to partake in my favorite epicurean summer delights.

One of the aforementioned summer treats that I swoon over once the mercury in the thermometer goes above my comfort level is Ice Cream.  There are very few of us in this world that have not been subjected the Pavlovian conditioning of the Ice Cream truck.  There is something about those bells, whistles, or children’s songs being played over the loud speaker of a rusty box truck that is filled with overpriced ice cream bars that makes even an adult squeal with joy.  Unfortunately, as a 32 year old, childless, adult if I approach said Ice Cream Truck, I will look guiltier than Aaron Hernandez being led out of his mansion in handcuffs.  Furthermore, if I intend to go DTS, I would rather not be 40 pounds overweight sporting a muffin top over the elastic band of my once slim fitting bathing suit.

WWF

Best Ice Cream EVER!

There is however an alternative to having to deal with Chris Hanson approaching you while you spill out of your bathing suit like a sleeping bag that was poorly packed while trying to order a WWF Ice Cream Bar that hasn’t been made in 20 years.  This tremendous, low-fat substitute, and much less shady looking choice is none other than the frozen yogurt shop, and Fair Lawn is home to its very own.  Yogurt Plus, located at 14-25 Plaza Rd. Fair Lawn, NJ 07410, or the clock tower plaza for all the Fair Lawnites, is serving up delicious frozen yogurt complete with all the fixings.

Yogurt Plus

Yogurt Plus

Kat and I have started a weekly pilgrimage to Yogurt Plus every Wednesday evening.  After we get done with work, exercising, and dinner we walk the ¾ of a mile down the road with our dog, Lilly, to indulge in whatever magnificent flavors of Frozen Yogurt  are being served within the wondrous walls of this establishment.  For those of you that have never been to a Frozen Yogurt joint, you need to know a few things.

Fro-Yo Machine

Fro-Yo Machine

First off, the flavors rotate sporadically so you can always try something new and exciting.  There are only a limited number of machines at Yogurt Plus, so each machine churns a different flavor, thus creating a random flavor line-up from night to night.  If you are anything like me and enjoy variety, this system creates the same anticipation as going to a craft beer bar with a rotating tap list.

Toppings!!!

Toppings!!!

Secondly, and more importantly, the best part of these Willy Wonka-esque eateries, is not the Fro-Yo itself, but the bountiful toppings that are provided to create the perfect summer sundae.  I for one love my ice cream to have more junk in its trunk than J-Lo circa 1999, so this process is perfect for me.  Every time I go, I pile on cookie dough, chocolate chips, brownie bites, waffle cone crumble, Reese’s pieces, cookie crunch, and five or six other tasty calorie filled garnishes so my once healthy treat is about as good for you as deep fried green beans.   Kat on the other hand tries to keep her summertime delight a wee bit on the fitter side and adds more fruits than candy.

This is how I roll!

This is how I roll!

The last thing a Fro-Yo neophyte should know is that you pay by the ounce when visiting these shops.  This is something you should keep in mind when you are piling the toppings on your already full bowl of yumminess.  If you are not careful when building your leaning tower of deliciousness you may very well be creating a 10 dollar sundae.  Granted, I assure you that Sundae will be well worth the money, but if you are on a budget be conscious of what you are crafting.

Kat's Cup

Kat’s Cup

 

Most people think that they can eat Frozen Yogurt every day because it is 100% healthy for them.  The reality is that it is not healthy per sea but it is much better for you than traditional ice cream.  With that said, if your diet forbids you to have something that you truly love, like the delectable, smooth, and refreshing taste of Ice Cream, than perhaps you need to find a new diet.  I for one believe that moderation and making good choices is the key to nutritional bliss.  So the next time you get a hankering for some Ice Cream, stay off the neighborhood watches radar, forego the Ice Cream Truck, and walk down to Yogurt Plus for a guilt free treat that tastes great.

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The Iron Horse Serves A Burger Unlike Any Other

As the days last longer and the sun gets warmer, my stomach forces my brain to envision wonderful afternoons spent in backyards whilst the wafting aroma of seared meats fills the air. The days of summer will soon be upon us, which means, hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken that have been flame kissed to perfection will be as easy to procure as a joint at Snoop Dogg’s house. The problem is I suffer from a little known ailment referred to as Impatient Seasonal Cravitis, so I tend to get a hankering for certain seasonal food well before they are readily available. Okay so I made that word up, but it’s true I crave certain time sensitive cuisine worse than Paris Hilton pines for attention. Sometimes, unfortunately, due to time restraints or New Jersey’s finicky weather, I can’t as Paul Hogan would say, “light up the barbie.”

Iron Horse Front Door

One of these climate related cravings that always seems to inflict me around this time of year is the good old fashioned American hamburger. But, since I am an intelligent Gastro scientist I keep an up to date foodie approved list of acceptable places to score a plump juicy summer puck inside my coconut at all times. At the very top of this directory of meaty goodness, lies an eatery that serves a hamburger so tantalizing that if the Hamburglar himself ate just one of them he would kick himself in the nards repeatedly for wasting the prime of his criminal career trying to steal the sorry excuse for a burger that the golden arches is peddling. This amazing restaurant is none other than The Iron Horse, located at 20 Washington Avenue, in Westwood, New Jersey.

First and foremost, I want to explain to everyone that The Iron Horse has a rather extensive menu that is sure to please any and all guests. In fact, I have never been disappointed with anything I have ever ordered and subsequently eaten there over the almost decade that I have been a customer. With that said, if you are an Iron Horse Virgin, you must order a Cheeseburger with Rail Road Fries, Cole Slaw, and Pickles on your first visit. If you don’t plan on doing this, you might as well stop reading this article now and go back to updating your Facebook status with meaningless memes that no one cares about.

Iron Horse Burger

Now that we understand each other, let me explain why the Iron Horse’s Hamburger is something special. The Iron Horse not only serves burgers that are fantastically fresh and constructed out of 100% pure ground beef, they stuff these delicious meat muffins with scrumptious gooey cheeses of all types. I know what you’re thinking Mr. Jaded Pretentious Foodie man, everyone does that, why do I have to go to the Iron Horse when I can go to, fill-in-the blank, restaurant for a cheese stuffed burger. To that sir, I say, you can get a steak at some gas stations but wouldn’t you want to go to a steakhouse instead. The Iron Horse has been stuffing burgers since most hipsters where stuffing their pampers, so they have mastered the art of creating these orbs of yummy on a bun. If you are looking for the best stuffed cheese burger you have had in your life, you need not go to some far off land, you only need to drive to The Iron Horse, and let them blow your mind.

The restaurant itself has an amazing hometown appeal that very few places are able to create. This ora of local pride that every chain restaurant that requires their employees to wear pieces of flare is yearning for, naturally flows from The Iron Horse without any effort at all. The reason that The Iron Horse exudes this rare vibe and the T.G.I.Fridays’ of the world simply cannot is that The Iron Horse follows Yoda’s wise rule, “Do, or do not, there is no try.” The Iron Horse seems like they have hometown pride because they do, and that is something you just can’t fake.

For over 30 years they have been serving the community of Westwood and now serve over 150,000 customers a year. This charmingly rustic eatery has ample seating and damn near spans an entire block of the downtown district. Their walls are adorned with pictures that create a visual timeline of not only their history, but the history of the neighborhood as well. Furthermore, every time I visit The Iron Horse the staff is always very welcoming and extremely courteous.

Last week my wife, Kat, and I decided to have dinner at The Iron Horse before attending a friend’s birthday party. Normally it takes me forever to choose something to eat but at The Iron Horse, it is usually pretty simple. You see, they offer a Burger of the Month special, and I am a sucker for specials. I feel that a special is always better than a regular menu item because every Tom, Dick, and Harry can order a normal dish, but I, Michael, The Blue Collar Foodie, get to have something that no one else in the world might ever taste again. I know, I know, the special is usually just the stuff they could not sell yesterday in most places, but like I said I am a sucker for specials. What do you want from me? At least I can admit it.

Iron Horse Burger Selfie

On this joyous occasion, the Burger of the Month was particularly enticing because just reading the description made me want to jump into bed with it. I ordered the Old Number 7, which was described as, a burger stuffed with Boar’s Head horseradish white cheddar cheese, topped with Jack Daniels BBQ short ribs on a toasted Ciabatta roll served with their famous Railroad Tie fries, all for only $12.99. Kat decided to remain somewhat healthy and went with the Turkey Burger, which was described as a ground turkey patty served on a giant toasted English Muffin with cranberry mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and of course Railroad Tie Fries for the low, low price of $11.99.

In addition to the plethora of menu options the Iron Horse offers, they also provide a large selection of libations to pair with their appetizing entrée. Their beer selection includes all the usual suspects you would expect an old school eatery to have, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller, but The Iron Horse also provides a small but impressive list of craft beer for the beer snobs of the world. If craft beer is not your cup of tea, and you prefer a nice Chianti with your Fava Beans or a Martini shaken not stirred, have no fear, The Iron Horse has you covered as well with a full service bar.

Before our meals came to the table we were given our complimentary Cole Slaw and pickle plates which are a tradition at The Iron Horse. If you ask any of the regular customers, and there are quite a few, they will attest that this is one of the best parts of venturing to The Iron Horse. The Cole Slaw has no chemical taste to it, like so many other Cole Slaws that are an after thought at restaurants all over this country. The pickles are top notch and taste as if they came right out of a Jewish Deli located somewhere in Brooklyn. These small but satisfying appetizer is the perfect companion to any of the meals that The Iron Horse will serve you and I highly recommend getting it every time you eat there.

When my Old Number 7 came to the table, I could have sworn I heard the angelic singing of a cherub. The utter appearance of this gluttonous, cheese filled, hamburger made me happier than TMZ gets when Lil Wayne does something ridiculously stupid. The first bite of any of The Iron Horse’s burgers causes every taste bud that exists in your mouth to stand at attention like a police recruit saluting the flag. With every subsequent bite, you mourn the loss of a little more of this gift from the heavens. If you have ever tried to make a stuffed burger, or ordered one from most of the places that attempt to serve them, you know that after the first bite the structural integrity of the burger is usually compromised. This unfortunate breach of the burger’s hull sadly will allow all the cheesy goodness that was once trapped inside its meaty shell, to flow freely onto your shirt and pants before emptying the rest of this delectable treat onto your plate, as you curse Newton and his stupid gravity. I believe the Iron Horse may have made a deal with the devil because their burger does not follow the conventional rules of physics and somehow through the use of this dark magic retains all of its cheesy goodness throughout the entire meal. Just in case you were wondering, I am still having dreams, mostly dry now, of this burger, due to the addition of the short ribs that sat on top of this epicurean masterpiece.

Iron Horse Turkey Burger

Kat was nice enough to allow me to try her Turkey Burger, and I have to say, even though it was not stuffed with anything, the cranberry mayonnaise was a phenomenal addition to, in my opinion, what is generally a mundane meal option anywhere you go. I also enjoyed the giant English Muffin that this juicy and flavorful Turkey burger called its home.

Iron Horse Fries

Both of our meals included the Iron Horse’s famous Railroad Tie Fries, which, in my opinion, are the perfect hamburger cohort. These fries are somewhere between steak fries and shoestring fries with just the right amount of potato covered in a crispy skin that adds just the right amount of texture. I always opt to dip them into a side of BBQ sauce to add a small amount of kick that brings these already outstanding fries to another level all together.

As stated before, The Iron Horse offers a wide variety of extremely tasty food, which I implore you to try… AFTER and only after you have a chance to chew on what I consider the best Hamburger in Bergen County, if not the State of New Jersey. Not only does the Iron Horse serve up remarkable food at reasonable prices, I for one, love supporting local businesses that have deep roots in the community that they serve, and that describes this establishment flawlessly.

 

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The Blue Collar Foodie Eats His Way Through Bean Town

Every once in a blue moon the neurons in my brain fire just right, and I have a good, no, great, no, fantastic idea.  This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when I found out I was going to Boston on a business trip.  I began searching the googles for the best foodie finds the city of Boston had to offer, and after about 45 minutes of dredging through one commercial advertising driven site after another, an idea popped into my head, one that was so damn prodigious that a freaking light bulb should have appeared over my head and shined brighter than Lil’ Jon’s grill.   This idea I am speaking so highly of was to forgo the internet search that is riddled with paid advertisers and subpar eateries and go to the heart of any great foodie scene, the blogosphere.  I aimed to contact the food bloggers of Boston that patrol the city night and day in search of the finest fare that THEIR city slings, and then take the time out to write poetic verses about these establishments so others will not be led astray by the likes of Bing and AOL.

With this thought in mind, I had only one problem, where the hell do I find a list of food bloggers from the Boston Area.  I once again fired up my internet browser, but this time I switched my search criteria around and was able to find that UrbanSpoon.com had just the list I was looking for.  Armed with the best of Boston Food Blogger List courtesy of UrbanSpoon, I began to contact the bloggers that seemed to match my style of epicurean adventuring.  I trusted the foodie community and the food bloggers of Boston would come through for me, and even though I did not know what to expect as far as return e-mails, I ended my research that faithful afternoon.  Shortly after sending the first message my inbox was inundated with responses from Boston’s finest foodies.  At that moment I knew just how Tim Tebow must have felt after being picked up by the New England Patriots, proud and excited to go to bean town.

Welcome To Boston

Welcome To Boston

The amazing food blogging community of Boston welcomed me with open arms and helped me compile a list of Boston’s Best, Blue Collar Foodie Approved, restaurants and watering holes. Considering I was in Boston for my actual nine to fiver, I was only able to hit up a few of the great suggestions these gracious gourmands had provided but the ones I did visit were absolutely amazing. Due to the tremendous out pour of assistance I received from the helpful blogging community of Boston, I will be doing this from now on, and I suggest you do the same. Not only will you be happy with the results, but I assure you it will make a food blogger smile when they receive your e-mail, so it is a win, win for everyone. Without further ado, buckle up gastronauts and prepare for the Blue Collar Foodie’s voyage to Boston’ belly!

Sweet Cheeks

Sweet Cheeks BBQ

The first stop on my gastro tour of Boston was a rather easy choice, as damn near every food blogger I spoke to, agreed this establishment was a must visit, and it was in walking distance of my hotel. This highly touted, often blogged about, and relatively new restaurant is none other than Sweet Cheeks BBQ in the Fenway area of Boston.  Now since it was the only BBQ joint I ventured to during my brief visit to Boston, I can’t proclaim that it is the best BBQ in the city, like most Bostonians, but I will say that anyone attempting to compete with this Texas style BBQ spot is in for quite a battle.

Sweet Cheeks Tray

Sweet Cheeks Tray

Sweet Cheeks’ offers all of the staples that you would expect a BBQ place to provide, such as Pulled Pork, Ribs, Chicken, and Brisket for the carnivore in you, and hot and cold sides featuring coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, and collard greens. They also throw in some not so standard options for the adventurous foodies like yours truly, including their Berkshire Pork Belly, and Great Northern Short Rib. Furthermore, Sweet Cheeks allows you to create a combination tray of their offerings so you can create a custom metastatic mixture that is sure to please.

Sweet Cheeks BBQ Ribs

Sweet Cheeks BBQ Ribs

What further separates Sweet Cheeks from the BBQ spots that I have visited in the past, is their extensive and impressive craft beer list that adorns the back of their menu.  Even though I fancy myself to be somewhat of a novice cicerone, Sweet Cheeks offered more than just a few beers that not only have I never tried, but some that were not even on my radar.

Sweet Cheeks Biscuit With Honey Butter

Sweet Cheeks Biscuit With Honey Butter

After eating at Sweet Cheeks I fully understand why the foodie scene in Boston is all about this local eatery. The food was fantastic, and if you find yourself in Boston, you must at least go there for a cold craft beer, an overstuffed meat sandwich, and a biscuit with honey butter. If you do not, unfriend me on Facebook immediately before you return, because I will publically shame you until you cry. Although I highly recommend grabbing a fat cheeks tray and knocking down three of their righteously smoked meats paired with two sides like I did.

Citizen Public House

Citizen Public House

With happy bellies full to the brim with meaty goodness, my partner in crime and I decided to walk to our next destination, The Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar.  According to the locals that I spoke to the food here is really good, but what they are known for is their far-reaching whiskey menu that is a must see for travelers who enjoy a good stiff drink.  Since an entire pig was resting nicely in my gut and food was out of the question, I decided to take a gander at their spirit selection, and I was impressed.  After perusing the menu for a short period of time, I was overwhelmed by the enormous selection of Bourbons, Scotches, and Whiskeys that decorated the Citizen’s menu, so much so that I had to enlist the assistance of the bartender to aid me in this daunting task.

Hirsch Whiskey

Hirsch Whiskey

This was a fantastic decision, because the bartender was like a whiskey shaman from the isle of knowledge.  After speaking to him for about five minutes not only did I know what Whiskey I wanted to order, I felt as if I could write a Wikipedia article on whiskey and simply use him as the source.  The clientele was great as well, and as I sipped my Hirsch Small Batch Bourbon, I conversed about all things sports with a few delightful local Bostonians.  Sadly, as my glass ran dry, I had to call it a night, as I had to be responsible in the morning, so I walked back to my hotel in preparation of the morrow, so I could dream of the next Boston food adventure I would embark upon.

The Tip Tap Room

The Tip Tap Room

After a long day of work, I was extremely excited to hop on the T near my hotel and make my way to the Government Center stop, where my next eatery would be found.  The Tip Tap Room was recommended to me by a few of the food writers that I contacted and described as a place that was known for exotic meats and craft beer.  Friends, you had me at exotic meats, TWSS.  The moment I arrived at this eccentric eatery, located in the center of the bustling Government Center area of Boston, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay.  Their vast tap menu was proudly displayed on the wall and due to the beautiful weather the large front windows were open allowing the pleasant breeze of the fledgling evening to whisk its way throughout the dining area.

Antelope Meatloaf

Antelope Meatloaf

It took me seconds to realize what I wanted as my meal, Antelope Meatloaf, but as for the beer list that was a horse of a different color. I had some bad luck in the beginning, as I chose two beers that had literally just tapped seconds before the waiter had taken our order. Fortunately though, our server was well versed in the art of beer drinking and selected three small samples of beer that were similar to the ones that I had ordered so I could try them before I made my final selection. This small, yet greatly appreciated service elevated my appreciation for this trendy eatery immeasurably.

Beer

Beer

I would highly recommend that everyone hit up the Tip Tap Room while they are traipsing down the Freedom Trail or visiting Faneuil or Quincy Market, which are all very close. The food divine, the service was wonderful, and the location simply can’t be beat. Furthermore, where else can you eat succulent Antelope Meatloaf, while sipping on local craft beer in the city of Boston?

Regina Pizza

Regina Pizza

Another one of Boston’s restaurants that almost every foodie that wrote me back included on their list of must eats was the original Regina Pizza located in the North End of the city.  Being from the land of great pizza, the words best and pizza in the same sentence without being combined with the phrase, “other than in New Jersey,” is like uttering the phrase the Mets stink, without adding the caveat “because of their owners.”  With that said, I was not willing to ignore the endorsement of almost a dozen food writers because of my own New Jersey centric, pizza related hubris.

When we arrived, we soon found out that Regina Pizza is not a secret in Boston, as was evident in the fact that there was a line out the door to score a table in this famous pizzeria.  While waiting for our table, I researched the menu online and decided that I was going to partake in the most sought after pie Regina’s serves, The Giambotta, which consists of pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, peppers, onions, anchovies, and Mozzarella cheese.

The Giambotta

The Giambotta

Once seated which did not take too long, our order was in and a beer was in my hand in no time, thanks to the speedy service that is provided at Regina’s. Shortly after we ordered, our Regina’s masterpieces were delivered to our table, and I was ready to try what everyone was telling me was Boston’s best pizza. Now as I said, Pizza and Jersey are like Guns and Texas, Hockey and Canadians, or Lies and Politicians, so I know pizza, and Regina makes damn good pizza. Now I am not saying that Jersey pizza is not better in some places that I have been, but if I ever had to move to Boston, I could surely get my Pizza fix within the confines of this North End staple.

Mike's Pastry

Mike’s Pastry

If you read my blog regularly you know that I am infatuated with the cannoli like Courtney Love, well, loves her some crack cocaine.  So when multiple foodies tell me that Mike’s Pastry is the place to get a cannoli in what is basically Boston’s Little Italy, I had no other choice but to venture down the street from Regina’s and give one of them a try.  This decision was almost as good as the decision I made to marry my loving and supportive wife.   Mike’s offers a myriad of cannoli, filled with everything from the traditional cream to specialty cannoli such as peanut butter or pistachio.  To add to their appeal they also serve a wide array of other Italian indulgences that would make Kirstie Alley fall off the diet wagon once again.

I chose to treat myself to a Peanut Butter Cannoli topped with powdered sugar. Judging from the looks of this pastry shop and the fact that it was crowded at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday night, I assumed this decadent, overstuffed phenomenon was going to be good, but I was not ready for the shear awesomeness that this shell full of heaven was going to deliver. With reckless abandon for my shirt and pants, I could not stop eating this bliss wrapped in a flakey shell as powdered sugar rained down on my clothes like hell fire. Afterword, I not only looked like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan after a night at the Roxy, but I was just as happy as them as well.

Bleacher Bar

Bleacher Bar

There was only one thing left to do after treating ourselves to a wonderful evening in the North End of Boston, and that was, return to the Fenway area and drink a cold beer at the coolest bar in town. Once again my fellow foodies came through in the clutch and informed me of a place called Bleacher Bar that is located literally under the bleachers of Fenway. These Uber sports bar not only have a decent selection of draft beers, but they have something that no other bar in town can boast. This sport’s enthusiast’s mecca has an enormous window that overlooks Fenway Park on the field level. Not only do they have the greatest view of any bar in the city, check that, the country, they don’t charge a freaking cover! That is correct, you heard me right, NO COVER.

The Church Of Boston

The Church Of Boston

Considering that I am an Ordained Reverend with the Universal Life Church, when a few of my blogging cohorts suggested that I visit the Church of Boston for a pint and a meal I could not resist.  This chic Boston Eatery boasts a gourmet gastro pub menu combined with a notable selection of adult beverages.  Adding to the appeal of this epicurean sanctuary, The Church of Boston offers several choices of seating types for their patrons to enjoy, including booths, high top tables, and even couches for a relaxing place to rest your rump while imbibing a cold after work cocktail.  Boston’s holy bistro also has a separate room for live music where the area’s top local bands perform their unique hymns seven nights a week starting at 9 P.M.

Church's Noodle Bowl

Church’s Noodle Bowl

Church delivers a truly unique design premise with an accompanying relaxed ambiance that I have not yet to experience in any other bar that I have been to.  The stained glass windows that adorn one full wall of the bar are an additional luxury, which enhances the already chic interior of this amazing eatery.  To top it all off, their menu had so many delectable choices that it took me quite some time to decide what to have.  Furthermore, their drink selection is quite substantial and formidable in its own right.  When visiting Church, it would be a sin not to indulge in their specialty cocktails appropriately labeled the Four Horsemen and the Seven Deadly Sins.  If beer is what you’re after to pair with your amazing food, I suggest trying the always original and tasty Pretty Little Things Offering, which is basically whatever crazy concoction that four Massachusetts beer obsessed hop heads created that week.

El Pelon

El Pelon

 

After eating at the Church of Boston, we made our way to one of the last true Baseball Churches left standing, Fenway Park to catch a game and drink some beers.  After the game I was a little bit hungry and was in need of a midnight snack.  I checked my list of foodie approved eateries in the area and stumbled upon a place called El Pelon Taqueria.  Not only was this well-known Taqueria on our way back to the hotel, but honestly, nothing quenches a nighttime craving like a burrito.

El Guapo Burrito

El Guapo Burrito

After a quick look at the menu, I decided to go with El Guapo Burrito stuffed with pork, Mexican rice, black beans, fried plantains, Jack cheese, fire roasted Salsa, romaine lettuce and sour cream. Upon ordering this utterly tantalizing Burrito, the very cordial waitress simply uttered I hope you’re hungry. She was not kidding; the Burrito she handed me was so hefty that I could have done curls with it, and its girth would make Ron Jeremy blush. Not only was this burrito gy-freaking-normous it was bursting with such immense flavor that my taste buds decided to do the Mexican hat dance. This was the perfect ending to my culinary globetrot through Boston, and I went to bed that evening not only full but awestruck by the Boston Foodie Scene.

I have to thank all the wonderful foodies that helped steer the Gastro Express that I rode through Boston during the course of this week. Without them, my trip would have been filled with dirty water dogs and hot pockets. If you are ever thinking about going to Boston, I suggest visiting their blogs, liking them on Facebook, or following them on Twitter before you go so you too can get their expert advice on where to go in their magnificent city. The following is a list of their sites so you can find them:

A Boston Food Diary:  http://www.abostonfooddiary.com

Pig Trip:  http://www.pigtrip.net/

Blog and Tweet Boston:  https://twitter.com/BlogAndTweetBos

Peace, Love, and Food:  http://peaceloveandfood.com

Foodology (Actually from Vancouver but has visited Boston):  http://foodology.ca/

Hidden Boston:  http://hiddenboston.com/

The Economical Eater:  http://www.theeconomicaleater.com/

Chow Down Bean Town:  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/blogs/chowdown/

Just Add Cheese:  http://www.justaddcheese.com/

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Morris Tap & Grill for a Beer Paired With a Side Of Awesome

If there is one specific type of eatery that exemplifies the Blue Collar Foodie movement that I have been trying to showcase throughout my blogging career it would have to be the Gastro Pub. These establishments combine good old fashioned blue collar elements with a twist of foodie flair causing epicurean adventurers like myself to flock to them like Charlie Sheen to a dysfunctional twenty- something with daddy issues. Since this movement is catching like wild fire, it is hard to keep up with all the Gastro Pubs that are popping up faster than a New York Mets fan gives up on the season, but one specific Pub caught my interest a while back and I vowed to pay them a visit.   I am referring to none other than Morris Tap & Grill, located at 500 Route 10 West in Randolph, NJ.

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill has been on my radar since they damn near slapped me sober with foodie brilliance at the Morris Town Beer Fest. Since that day I knew I needed to make the trek down to Randolph to try the full MTG experience.   So, Kat and I made plans to meet with another Gastro Centric couple, Mr. Jabre and Ms. Berners-Lee, who are from those parts and head over to Morris Tap & Grill for a fun-filled evening of tempting vittles and libations.

When we arrived at the Morris Tap & Grill, I was surprised to hear the harmonious hums of a live band jamming out in the bar area. Much to my delight the band was playing at the perfect level as to add to the ambience of the restaurant but still allow pleasant dinner conversation at a normal speaking tone. If you are anything like my past self you may have just shot the computer screen a derision-laden glare in response to that comment, and most likely thought of me as an old fuddy duddy who does not like his music loud anymore. I assure you, I still feel there is a time and place for loud music, but while I am trying to eat dinner is not one of them, so I was very happy that the Morris Tap & Grill were savvy enough to take that into consideration.

Upon reaching our table and meeting up with our fellow foodies, we were almost immediately welcomed by our server Katrina who offered us our Menu’s and whole hearted greeting, which was appreciated immensely. I seem to be able to tell a greeting that is laced with contrived emotions, but Katrina honestly seemed like she enjoyed her job and was happy to help us, which instantly set the mood for our dining experience.

My first mission when I visit a Gastropub is the challenging task of picking my first beer of the evening. If you have never been to a Gastropub, you may not have ever had this issue, but once you venture down the rabbit hole that is craft beers you will find that sometimes selecting a beer can be as hard as catching the white rabbit. So, if you are an over analytical beer fanatic like me and you find yourself staring at an extensive and impressive beer list the likes of the Morris Tap & Grills, this process could take several minutes and some arduous decision making, which may cause your wife and friends to stare at you with an ominous ire as their stomachs grumble. Fortunately, Morris Tap & Grill has once again thought of this problematic situation before you even walked in the door, and are nice enough to offer what is known as a flight of beers as the solution.   For anyone that has never had a flight of beer, it is quite simply, four small beers instead of one big beer, which allows you to taste multiple beers instead of only choosing one. With the knowledgeable assistance of Katrina, I was able to piece together my beer flight and our drink orders were on their way to the bar.

Morris Tap & Grill Beer Flight

With our first undertaking considered to be success we moved onto our next imperative task of the evening, our meals.   I am not sure what is more comprehensive and grandiose, the Morris Tap & Grill’s beer menu or there dinner menu, but one thing is for certain, they both can make a Blue Collar Foodie salivate like a German Shepard at Pavlov’s B&B. Since, I knew that I was attending Morris Tap & Grill and was already their friend on Facebook, I launched a pre-emptive attack on my ever-wavering entrée contemplation, and asked the MTG what they suggest I eat to fully experience their Chef’s culinary modus operandi. Much to my surprise, Chef Eric, himself wrote me back and suggested a few dishes that he felt a Blue Collar Foodie, such as me would enjoy.   Chef Eric recommended the following dishes; the Trio of bacon, the Pork Shank, any of the Burgers, particularly the Baconeater, the Southwest, or the BBQ, The Shrimp cannelloni, the Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, and finally the Avocado “Fillet.” If you follow this blog at all you know damn well which dish I chose! Chef Eric Sir you had me at Trio of Bacon. My beautiful wife, Kat spun the gastronomy roulette wheel and it landed on the Short Ribs, which she is drawn to like a teenager to a sparkling vampire. Mr. Jabre decided to stick to the Chef’s recommendations which was also highly indorsed by Katrina and went with Twisted Chicken Pot Pie where as his lovely lady also chose off the Chef Eric approved list and decided upon the BBQ burger. We also ordered a Spinach Artichoke Dip for the table to prime our stomachs for the meals that were forthcoming.

Morris Tap & Grill Spinach Artichoke Dip

With most of the decision making behind us, we were able to absorb the overall atmosphere of the Morris Tap & Grill. I felt quite at home within the rustic yet elegant confines of this eatery and as we lost ourselves in conversation our appetizer arrived at the table. The Spinach Artichoke dish that arrived on our table carried with it such a heavenly aroma that I was barely able to take a picture of it before everyone at our table was jockeying for position to dive into it. As I dipped my first chip into this diptastic concoction, I could tell the texture was just right. Firm enough to stay on the chip, but forgiving enough to not break this conveyance vessel. This potion was not only the right consistency but the flavor was spot-on as well, let’s just say that once it landed on our table, it was not long for this world. After polishing off the Spinach Dip, we ordered another round of drinks from Katrina, and shortly after their arrival the entrees made their appearance.

Morris Tap & Grill Bacon

The Trio of Bacon consisted of Mustard & Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Bacon Baked Beans, and Grilled Pork Belly. From the shear looks of this dish, I could tell right away that I had made the proper choice. I first tried the hearty Baked Beans which had a thick palatable sauce which smothered the copious amounts of bacon that were swimming with the beans. The beans packed quite a flavor punch, and I found myself eating bite after bite, before moving on to the Pork Loin, which was expertly cooked, causing the medallions to be not only delicious but tender as well. Lastly I picked up a piece of the Grilled Pork Belly with my fork and brought it to my mouth slowly with anticipation. You see, in the healthy world we live in now, eating Pork Belly is tantamount to calling the Queen of England a, well let’s just say a word that rhymes with punt and starts with a C, shall we. Yet these tasty morsels of piggy goodness are what my stomach’s wet dreams are made of, and I cannot thank Morris Tap & Grill enough for affording me the opportunity of savoring every last bite of these perfectly cooked cholesterol loaded pork gems.

Morris Tap & Grill Rib

Kat was generous enough to allow me a small taste of her short ribs so I could experience, in her words, all their beefy magnificence. After I tasted her dish, TWSS, I completely understood why she wanted me to try it. First off, the ribs were cooked in such a way that the meat literally fell apart, as Kat gently poked them with her fork. Furthermore, the meat was so tender and the sauce so tasty that I had to eat another piece of my pork belly to stop from distracting Kat, and stealing another piece off her plate.

Morris Tap and Grill Twisted Chicken

I was also afforded the opportunity to try Mr. Jabre’s Twisted Chicken Pot Pie and Ms. Berners-Lee’s Burger. The Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, consisted of all the standard ingredients of chicken pot pie, but instead of being in a pie crust, Chef Eric stuffs those ingredients inside the chicken itself. I find normal chicken pot pie to be rather hum-drum so this inventive twist was a welcomed changed. It also helped that it tasted better than any pot pie that has ever graced my well versed spoon. As for the burger, it was perfectly cooked and chock full of flavor.

I am not one for dessert right after my meal. I would much rather allow the flavors that I just assaulted my taste buds with to loiter a while, and I feel that dessert hinders this effect. With that said, while perusing the MTG menu one particular item caught my eye, and I felt that I would be doing every one of you a disservice if I did not at least try it. Morris Tap & Grill offers something that I have never heard of before, listed as beer cocktails on the menu. I was so intrigued by this concept I simply had to order one of them.   I opted for the one that utilized Left Hand’s Nitro Chocolate Stout as its base, and rolled the proverbial dice. This drink consisted of the Stout, Espresso Vodka, Godiva Vodka, and Chambord, topped off with a Chocolate Drizzle. When this creation hit my lips I was forced to rethink everything I ever claimed to know about beer and liquor, so much so that I had to memorize a new rhyme. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear, Beer before liquor you will never be sicker, Liquor in beer and Holy shit that’s good! Alright I am still working on the Rhyme, but you get my point, order one, you will thank me.

Morris Tap & Grill Beer

I, for one enjoy the almost ironic, albeit Alanis Morissette irony not actual irony, feeling of eating proper foodie fare in a pub like environment paired with a craft beer, instead of wine. This duality is the exact reason that I love Gastro Pubs! These wonderful establishments, Morris Tap &Grill included, embody the very essence of being a Blue Collar Foodie. Sometimes I wish I was not a foodie, my life would be easier if I could stuff my craw with bland mush and tasteless chops, but then I visit places like Morris Tap & Grill and with one forkful, edible enlightenment this notion is whisked away and replaced with yet another blissful epicurean memory.

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Central Kitchen Opens In Englewood Cliffs

When a local eatery shuts its doors for the last time and decides to close up shop, most people think nothing of it. In fact, a fair amount of these individuals might not even notice that a restaurant has vanished from the local foodie scene. Fortunately for all of us in the Gastronomy Guild, Mr. Joseph Sansotta, owner of several successful food establishments in Westchester, New York, is not your average passerby. So when the Royal Cliffs Restaurant located at, 717 E. Palisade Avenue in Englewood Cliffs served its last hamburger, Mr. Sansotta seized the opportunity to open the restaurant that he had been conceptualizing for quite some time, thus Central Kitchen was born.

Welcome to Central Kitchen

Welcome to Central Kitchen

Those from the area that are familiar with this iconic corner in Englewood Cliffs might notice that Mr. Sansotta did not just buy the building and change the signage. Central Kitchen was essentially redesigned from the ground up to reflect the image that was dancing in Mr. Sansotta’s head all these years. Although this building has the very same footprint of the diner that once held this address, that is where the similarities end, and the beauty of Central Kitchen begins. The exterior of the building looks particularly contemporary due to the flat roof, brick red siding, gray brick accents, and fieldstone foundation. In addition this skillfully designed structure features not one but two large patios for alfresco dining when the persnickety New Jersey weather cooperates.

The interior adds to the modern ambience that oozes from Central Kitchen, due to the dark wood flooring, chic color scheme, and gigantic windows that allow the sunlight to accent the design features. Some of the key elements of the interior décor that I instantly noticed was the glass fronted open wood burning brick pizza oven, the thick granite bar top, and the large flat screen televisions that were tuned into the Yankees game when I visited.   Another fabulous addition to the interior of Central Kitchen is the large renditions of Sansotta family recipes that adorn the walls throughout the restaurant, some of which even appear on the Central Kitchen’s Menu.

Central Kitchen Interior

Central Kitchen Interior

Even though the grand opening event for this establishment is not scheduled until June 7, 2013, they are in, what the restaurant business calls, the soft opening phase. For those that are not in the know, a soft opening gives business owners a chance to identify and repair any glitches they might have with their general operations without having to deal with the pressure that usually accompanies a grand opening.   I must say, I have been to quite a few restaurants that are in this purgatory like stage, somewhere between open and closed, and this past week when I visited Central Kitchen, they did not seem to have any of the issues that I have experienced with these other restaurants. The fluidity of the overall experience and the knowledge of the seemingly cohesive staff lead me to believe that Central Kitchen was already an established restaurant. I don’t know if this overtly apparent stability is due to the fact that this is not Mr. Sansotta’s first rodeo or that his General Manager, Mr. Abdou Belmaachi, has been working in the food service industry for over 20 years, but I do know that whatever their secret is, it is working, because Central Kitchen is running like a finely tuned machine.

Central Kitchen was nice enough to invite me to explore there innovative twist on American Comfort food prior to the Grand Opening event, and after conducting some high tech research, which consisted of a Google search, I found that Central Kitchen was perfect for this Blue Collar Foodie. Central Kitchen features food that is seasonally inspired and created with many ingredients that are acquired from local purveyors.   Furthermore, it appeared that their prices seemed both fair and reasonable, as well.

Brick Oven Margarita Pizza

Brick Oven Margarita Pizza

On my visit to Central Kitchen I was afforded the opportunity to sample a variety of dishes that Mr. Sansotta envisioned and Executive Chef Adolfo Silverio bought to life with exquisite execution.  My first stop on this gourmand exploration of Central Kitchen’s gastronomic chops was a tag team of appetizers that would beat the silly costumes off of The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. First off, I could not help but dive into the Brick Oven Margarita Pizza that was delivered to our table considering I fancy myself somewhat of a Pizza connoisseur. Most places choose to serve this style of pizza because it seems simple and easy, when in reality it is its simplicity that makes the Margarita Pizza an arduous task for the Chef that prepares it. However, Central Kitchen nailed the philosophy behind the Margarita Pizza flawlessly, by combining fresh ingredients with crispy dough to create a light palate pleasing appetite stimulator that prepares the diner for the rest of the meal, instead of ruining his or her appetite.

Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese Appetizer

Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese Appetizer

In addition to this enjoyable pie, a Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese appetizer was provided. This beautifully presented dish was as tasty as it was vibrant and the addition of the balsamic reduction only added to its appeal. The freshness of the tomatoes were not only obvious but extremely welcomed in this must try appetizer, that is simply perfect for any summer day while enjoying Central Kitchen’s patio.

Central Kitchen’s rendition of Chicken Satay

Central Kitchen’s rendition of Chicken Satay

The next dish that graced our table was the Central Kitchen’s rendition of Chicken Satay. I believe that when a Chef steps out of his comfort zone and “covers” a dish that is not technically in their culinary wheelhouse, they should approach it as a band covering a famous song, and add a little bit of themselves to the dish to make it their own. This is exactly what Chef Silverio accomplished with this skillfully prepared starter. The chicken was grilled to perfection leaving the outside slightly crispy with the inside moist and meaty, and the sauce was remarkable with the perfect texture and a hint of spice.

Lobster Ravioli

Lobster Ravioli

As I basked in the glory that was the dishes that I had already sampled, I was introduced to the next dish that Central Kitchen had in store for me, the Lobster Ravioli, and we became instant friends. These large doughy delights were swimming in a fragrant vodka sauce calling me like a siren from Greek Mythology. So much so that I almost forgot to take a picture before I dug in. As I took my first bite of these delectable spheres, my taste buds were overjoyed by the flavor and I was elated by the amount of Lobster these ravioli had to offer. Too often I order Lobster Ravioli that should be aptly named Lobster flavored Ravioli, this just was not the case at Central Kitchen, and my belly was happy.

Lamb Shank cradled by pearled cous cous, topped with a sherry wine reduction sauce

Lamb Shank cradled by pearled cous cous, topped with a sherry wine reduction sauce

Just when I thought this eating orgy was winding down our final savory dish was delivered to the table, in the form of a stunningly presented Lamb Shank cradled by pearled cous cous, topped with a sherry wine reduction sauce. The lamb fell off the bone with a gentle caress of my fork and when paired with the cous cous and the delicate sauce, it was absolutely divine. The gaminess of the lamb was toned down perfectly by the Chef, leaving just enough to remind me that I was eating lamb, but not enough to overpower the dish.   To add to this entrée’s charm, the portion was gigantic and paired with an appetizer could be a great meal for two.

Central Kitchen’s signature chocolate covered cannoli

Central Kitchen’s signature chocolate covered cannoli

I had a fleeting thought that I could not eat another bite, but just then, dessert was brought to our table, and as soon as it arrived, I knew I could not resist. Before us was placed Central Kitchen’s signature chocolate covered cannoli and an alluring Tiramisu served in a glass. Unbeknownst to the staff at Central Kitchen, one must be very careful serving me a cannoli, considering that I take the ruination of this most exalted tasty treat to be a direct insult to me and my entire house. Lucky for everyone, Central Kitchen followed the golden rules of cannoli making, start with quality shells and filling and fill it when I order it and not a moment sooner, to ensure the structural integrity of this yummy cream filled vessel. Not only were the shells crispy and the filling delicious, the combination of the two was heavenly.

Tiramisu Served in a Glass

Tiramisu Served in a Glass

The Tiramisu was slightly different than most of the Tiramisus that I have eaten and that is why I loved it. I find that in most Tiramisu, the creamy substance that is the basis for this dessert is usually too liquefied and therefore if not eaten immediately turns the entire dish into some form of lumpy pudding.   Central Kitchen solved this problem by using a cream with a pudding texture as the base thus creating in my opinion a revolutionary Tiramisu.

Cheers From Central Kitchen

Cheers From Central Kitchen

If reading this article has not made you want to check out this fantastic new foodie find, I will up the ante a bit. Central Kitchen also has a fully stocked and quite affordable bar. They offer a wine list that is not only impressive but reasonably priced, a seasonally rotating craft beer selection, and some very fancy specialty cocktails that are utterly perfect for a hot summer’s day on the patio.

All in all, thanks to Joe Sansotta’s imagination, Chef Adolfo Silverio’s execution, and Abdou Belmaachi’s expert guidance, Central Kitchen is on the verge of becoming a true contender in the heavily populated foodie scene of Bergen County. The community of Englewood Cliffs should be proud to claim Central Kitchen as its own, and support this fledging restaurant as it blossoms into the culinary powerhouse that it has the potential to become.