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 Gets Lucky on River Road!

As a Fair Lawnite, I was very sad to see Sub Base’s reign at 18-50 River Road come to an unceremonious end.  I always had very fond memories of the location that Lucky’s Steak Plate has chosen to set up shop, because my Grandparents used to bring us there as a special treat when I was growing up.

One of the reasons I believe I became a foodie in the first place is because the taste and sheer smell of food can be linked to some of my strongest and happiest memories during my youth.  Just ask any individual of Italian descent to describe their Mother’s gravy or a member of the Jewish faith to discuss their Grandmother’s Matzah Ball soup, and you will hear the passion that food can instill in people, as just the thought of this comfort food transports them back to a simpler and happier time in their lives.

With that said, I was reluctant to go to Lucky’s at first because I wanted to remember Sub Base as it was lodged firmly in my psyche. Luckily, pun intended, Kat was not attached to Sub Base like I am, and she convinced me to give this spot a try.  Don’t tell Kat this, but after visiting Lucky’s Steak Plate I realized I should probably listen to her more frequently.

Kat and I entered Lucky’s and were greeted with a smile and a, “howdy” by a welcoming employee who was standing behind the counter.  This often overlooked and seemingly insignificant interaction is always appreciated by Kat and I whenever we go out, whether it is to a restaurant or even a clothing store.  I was ecstatic to see at Lucky’s, this, thought to be, dead art is strolling around searching for brains just in time for Halloween.

As for the décor, Kat and I truly thought that Lucky’s was a chain restaurant when we first walked in, and that is not the insult that it sounds like.  The color scheme, the paint, the uniforms, and even the menu are so well thought out that it seemed like they were all designed, implemented, and kept up by professionals.  I tip my hat to the proprietor of this establishment, because to be honest most newly opened restaurants look like they were decorated by a student of the Helen Keller institute of design.

I can hear my fellow foodies while I type this review, “WTF!, since when did the BCF turn into a furry Martha Stewart.”  I know this blog is about food and believe me if Lucky’s Steak Plate was just another flashy chain with  required flair this Blue Collar Foodie would not be doing a write up on them.  If you are familiar with my blog, I praise blue collar food done right, and Lucky is, well, doin’ it right.

On our first visit to Lucky’s, Kat and I were in the mood to sample a variety of the fare that Lucky’s is offering.  We decided upon the Cheese Steak Hero with Onion, Sweet Peppers, and Hot Peppers, a side order of hot wings, and a helping of the Disco Fries to round off our healthy meal all for $28.04.

After we ordered our food, the lovely waiting staff instructed us to have a seat and they would bring the food out to us when it was ready.  In the dining area there are several televisions that keep you entertained as well as a great soundtrack of American Rock and Roll, that Kat and I were convinced was someone’s I-pod with a playlist simply entitled Lucky’s. Once we were seated it was only a few minutes until the food arrived and we were able to dig in.

Kat and I are quite the wing lovers so both of us started off our entrée with one of the, “Lucky Wings.”  Lucky’s wings had the perfect ratio of crispy skin to moist meat, which is always a tricky balance to master.  The hot sauce was full of flavor but not punch you in the nuts so you can’t breathe kind of hot.  For those of you who like to lose all your taste buds for a week when munching down on some hot wings, Lucky does supply a bottle of hot sauce on the table to increase the heat.

Next we divided up the Cheese Steak Hero, which as a Chef I would be scared to serve to Kat, due to her roots in Might As Well Be Alabama South Jersey, but she seemed to like it.  I for one was a fan, if not for any other reason but the quality of the steak.  Most North Jersey eateries try to pass off store brought frozen “Steak-Um’s,” as a “Philly” Cheese Steak but not Lucky’s, they use fresh rib eye steak which is served on a fresh baked hero roll.  Furthermore, as a New York Sports fan that despises any and all Philadelphia sports fans, this includes Kat during baseball season mind you; I always love finding a proper Philly Cheese Steak in the North because then it is one less excuse Kat can use to drag me down to Philly to visit the city of brotherly hate.

After a few bites of the Cheesesteak and another wing each, we moved onto the Disco Fries, which as the menu says truly is a Jersey thing.  The fries were cooked well and tasted great due to whatever magical oil they fill their fryer with.  They were also smothered in mozzarella cheese, which is a must for any self-respecting order of disco fries, but sadly the gravy was lacking something.  Don’t get me wrong I would still order them again, but I may ask for the gravy on the side this time.

All in all the food that we tried at Lucky’s was worthy of praise and most definitely earned Lucky’s Steak Plate a return visit, so I can eat me some steak.  Although I was sad to see Sub Base leave, after seeing what Lucky’s is all about, I truly hope they stick around for the long haul and create more than a few memories for the foodies in training that are running around Fair Lawn today.

Lucky Steak Plate on Urbanspoon

The BCF’s Top Ten Football Foods

I am well aware that the post you are about to read is not a restaurant review, but if you are anything like me, and most guys in this country, you understand that Sundays, from early September to mid-February, is no time to be gallivanting around town visiting restaurants.  By 1:00 PM any self-respecting Blue Collar Foodie should be on his/her couch, with the Television tuned to whatever Nationally televised NFL game that is on,  while the oven, smoker, grill, or slow cooker is gradually cooking some type of food that will be consumed joyously at around 6:00 P.M. by family and friends.

As I have stated in previous posts, Football Sundays at my house are damn near religious events.  Tuesday morning during football season, I begin my search for my recipes for the big day, much like the players begin their workouts.  I scour Google, Allrecipes, Food Network, and the like for something that tickles my fancy.  By Wednesday I usually have my game plan and the first shopping trip is done after work, this is where I pick up my non-perishables and proteins, anything that can keep until Sunday.   Thursday and Friday the invites go out and we find out how many people will be watching the games with us.  On Sunday, Kat and I are up early shopping, preparing, seasoning, preheating, and marinating.  The following is what I consider the BCF’s Top 10 Foodie Football Finds for any given Sunday.

Since there is usually three different times that football games are on television during the regular season, I feel that there are really two distinct eating times during the games.  I always cook appetizers for the first game, 1:00 PM, to prime everyone’s stomach for the main event which I serve at halftime of game two, 6:00 P.M, leaving the late night game for digestion and discussion.

5: Guacamole

Coming in at number five in the appetizer class is everyone’s favorite use for an avocado, Guacamole.  This dish has been around since the 16th century, and was very popular in the 1940’s and the 1960’s.  We can all thank our west coast comrades for the resurgence of this classic Mexican dip, since the Avocado has become more popular than celebrities flipping off paparazzi in California, and has since spread like wildfire throughout the country.  This tangy concoction of Avocado, garlic, cayenne pepper, and whatever the hell else the recipe tells you to throw into a bowl and mix until somewhat smooth has become a staple at my house for basically any party.  It is not only simple to make but it is an affordable replacement for the prehistoric and lackluster party basics, salsa and onion dip. The following is just one of the recipes I use, I like variety, so you can try this one, or better yet hunt down a recipe that makes your mouth water and give it a go this Sunday!

4:  Sausage

At the very respectable number four spot for the appetizer division is the ever so manly Sausage.  Some foodies will tell you that sausage is an entree, which I understand, but I am all about slicing these veritable grenades of flavor and cooking them until they are crisp on my grill top.  With an arsenal of toothpicks at the ready and an array of dipping sauces whatever sausage you buy can turn into a crowd favorite in minutes with little to no prep and cook time.  I recommend going to the Swiss Pork Store, located at 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410 to procure some of the best homemade sausages on this planet!  But, if you want to make things easier on yourself you can always pick up any of the packaged sausages from the local grocery store, I for one, like these the best.

3:  Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos

Rounding out the top three for the appetizers, is a new recipe for my household, but these spicy little devils have stolen my heart, Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos.  First and foremost, anything wrapped in Bacon is always welcome on my team, but when cheese and hot peppers were combined with the world’s best condiment, yes bacon is a condiment; a new level of love was formed.  These petite gems are not only inexpensive and stress-free to make but they are the perfect companion to whatever beer you and your guests are imbibing while shouting at the television as if the coach and players can hear you.

2:  Chicken Wings

The second best appetizer for any football Sunday, in my opinion, is the ageless classic and utterly delicious chicken wing.  Whether they are hot, mild, garlic, sweet, honey, teriyaki, or plain these scrumptious pint-sized buggers just scream football.  Not only can you make them every week for less than 10 bucks, their versatility allows you to never cook the same batch twice.   Not only can you create 100’s of different flavors by combining sauces you can fry, grill, or bake them to create even more variety.  All in all, these vintage sporting event treats are a great choice for the novice chef trying to feed a small army.

1: The Bacon Explosion

The BCF’s top appetizer and truly what should be the winner in any appetizer competition from this point forward is and should always be, THE BACON EXPLOSION!  Nothing goes better with football and beer than a meat log filled with cheese and bacon, wrapped in more bacon, slathered in barbecue sauce and cooked to perfection.  This dish has been known to convert more vegetarians than the crusaders converted heathens.  Although this is a non-traditional appetizer, once you make this stunning bacon wrapped meatgasm, you will forever remember the first time you tasted it, and for that very reason since October 19, 2008 THE BACON EXPLOSION has been The Blue Collar Foodie’s Favorite Football Appetizer!

 

Once the appetizers are all gone and the chips are starting to dwindle your guests are going to become restless.  If you are doing things properly, by the beginning of the second game your entire house is going to smell glorious, and your friends are going to know that dinner is going to be just as good as the appetizers were.   Now after serving one of the aforementioned appetizers you could settle for cooking some hot dogs and hamburgers, or maybe even order some pizza, but that would be the easy way out.  I am the type of person that agrees with the old phrase, Go big or Go Home, I don’t just settle for what is acceptable, I want to crush acceptable into a fine dust and add to one of the next dishes that make up the Blue Collar Foodie’s Fantastic Football entrees.

5:  Chili

Number five on my list only finds itself that low because I have to wait until the colder months to truly enjoy it.  This mélange of ingredients that takes the entire day to truly meld into a cohesive mouthwatering meat potion is one of my favorite dishes to munch on, during a cold blustery football Sunday.   One of the many reasons I love making and eating chili is because everyone has their own recipe and method of cooking, but no matter what they all taste great.  I for one hardly ever make the same Chili recipe twice. With literally 1000’s of recipes to choose from on the internet, I feel that having the same one all the time is just meaningless.  Check out the winners of the International Chili Cook-off recipes for inspiration or be adventurous and create your own.

4:  Barbecue Chicken

Barbecue Chicken is a very simple, yet difficult to master dish, that can go from undercooked to charcoal in a matter of minutes if you are not paying attention.  Furthermore, it is very easy to end up with chicken that is burnt on the outside and pink on the inside, which not only tastes horrible but can be dangerous.  It is these problems that usually make people shy away from cooking this delicious meal, which is exactly why, you should master this art.  There are only a few people in this world that cook truly superb barbecue chicken, and if you can distinguish yourself as one of them, you will have friends lining up at your doorstep at 12:30 P.M. on Sunday begging for a seat on your couch.  Now go get started!

3:  Pork Tenderloin

In third place, and one of my most favorite cuts of swine, other than Bacon of course, is the Pork Tenderloin.   It really does not matter how you prepare this succulent cut of pure porky goodness, it will turn out to be a fan favorite.  This type of meat is so damn popular it has a website devoted to it where you can find recipes and cooking tips that is literally named PorkTenderloin.org.   I have cooked this wonderful piece of meat a dozen different ways and I have never been disappointed before, and neither have my friends.  If it was up to me Chicken would be demoted and we would start calling pork just THE WHITE MEAT!

2:  Brisket

The runner up in the Entree class, Smoked Barbecue Brisket, almost took first place, and really is an amazing meal for anytime of the year, but especially during football season.   In fact, both first place and second place honors were given to meats that are smoked, low and slow, all day long.  (TWSS)  This particular cut of meat is served at almost every BBQ joint I have ever been to, and there is a damn good reason for that.  Brisket has an ideal flavor absorbing quality and due to its fibrous make-up, takes to smoking, like a cheetah takes to running.   Remember though, smoking is a skill that must be honed; one cannot just assume that the first brisket that he or she smokes will turn out as good as a true pit master’s does.  With that said, practice makes perfect and even if your brisket is not perfect, it will still taste fantastic, so I don’t mind practicing.   Try this recipe for your first one.

1:  Ribs

The winner of the entrée group and still tailgate/football party champion of the world, are the one and only, fantastically tasty, PORK RIBS!  Whether these flavor-filled racks of ridiculously good yumminess are grilled, baked, or smoked does not really matter.  There is something about Ribs that just exude football and manliness.  I for one enjoy the smoked variety slathered in my favorite barbecue sauce, surrounded by all the best barbecue sides that I can manage to squeeze on my plate.  Although, ribs, are very forgiving due to their appetizing nature, be careful when smoking and grilling them, there is nothing worse than a ruined entrée to ruin your perfect football Sunday.  For a full rundown on the proper way to prepare a rack or two of awe inspiring ribs, click here.

The most important thing to remember when hosting a football Sunday is that people are over to watch the game first and eat your food second.   Which means, if you expect people to enjoy their Sunday you must keep the game on at all times, and allow people to eat while sitting right in front of it.  If you are worried about a little barbecue sauce getting on your couches then perhaps hosting a football Sunday is not for you.   However, if you don’t mind spending your entire Sunday, cooking, drinking, and watching your favorite teams do battle on the field, then as the envelope said to the stamp,  stick with me kid and we’ll go places.

The Blue Collar Foodie Laments about the Impending Demise of Backyard Barbecues

As the end of summer draws near and the seemingly endless supply of weekend barbecue invites slowly dissipates on my Facebook page, I can’t not help but shed a hickory flavored tear.  The enticing sound, amazing smell, and astonishing taste of searing meats, which were marinated for two days in homemade sauces, cooked to perfection with flawless grill marks is enough to cause a foodgasm, and the sheer thought that soon these events will  soon disappear is enough to make this foodie blue with sadness.

Just as I was contemplating going to Costco and buying a Fred Flintstone sized rack of ribs and going into a Barbecue induced Hibernation for the cold, soul less, barbecue-lacking months that lie ahead, I received an E-mail from LivingSocial.com, an online company that delievers local deals to your inbox.  Like a warm beacon of hope this E-mail shined through the impending gloomy darkness, and invited me to try a barbecue spot called Bourbon BBQ, located at 529 Goffle Rd., Wyckoff, N.J. 07481.  Living Social had come through in the clutch and delivered not only a new Barbecue joint to test out but a half off coupon for something called the Garbage Plate, which appeared to be a barbecue sampler for two.

Upon further research I found that the Garbage Plate was in fact made for two and consisted of bourbon ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, Texas smoked sausage, coleslaw, smokehouse beans, collard greens and corn bread.  I immediately purchased this living social coupon and scheduled a date with Kat for the first available day in our calendar to try this alluring dish offered by Bourbon BBQ.  Their website also informed me that Bourbon BBQ is a BYOB establishment, which always makes this foodie smile, and I noticed that you can make reservations on their site as well.

As we entered Bourbon BBQ, the first thing I noticed was the tantalizing smell wafting about.  I could tell right off the bat that this was not a B.S. BBQ joint due to the smell of smoke lingering in the air.  Kat and I approached the counter and spoke to the hostess who allowed us to choose any table that was available.  We made our way to a table that was empty and sat down with my beer and Kat’s cider in tow.

Before our rumps could warm the seats we had just taken, our waiter appeared in front us and handed us our menus.  We explained that we had the Living Social Garbage Plate coupon and took our drink orders at this time as well.  Our waiter then left the table, and returned quickly with a bottle opener and some glasses for our adult beverages.  The prompt service was highly appreciated because we arrived to dinner close to 8 P.M. and were famished.

As Kat and I discussed our hectic days over a few sips of our cocktails, we eagerly awaited our meal.  Which we did not have to wait long for, and that made both of our bellies smile.  What exited the kitchen and landed on our table was a colossal pile of barbecue, and it was love at first sight.  In addition to the food itself, the server also delivered a caddie full of homemade barbecue sauces, which he described in detail to us one by one, and a roll of paper towels.   More so, before the server left he explained the Garbage Plate to us, pointing our each item of the plate, which for a first timer at Bourbon was extremely helpful.

I consider myself a sauce aficionado, so when the server explained each sauce and informed us that they were all homemade, I paid attention like a physicist listens when Stephen Hawking talks about black holes.  With that said I feel obligated to not only name these sauces but also give you my first impression of them as well, the following is the list:

  1. Kansas City:  Bourbon’s take on a Kansas City style sweet Barbecue Sauce.  This sauce was fantastic for a sweet Barbecue sauce which I tend to shy away from most of the time.   I recommend this sauce on the Pulled Pork.
  2. Carolina:  Bourbon’s vinegar based Barbecue sauce which I found simply divine.  This sauce complimented everything I put it on, instead of overwhelming the flavor of the meat.  Great on the Brisket.
  3. Delta:  This sauce blew mine and Kat’s mind.  A great combination of a spicy yet sweet Barbecue Sauce with an almost three dimensional flavor.  Our favorite sauce by far and we ate it on everything.
  4. XXX:  This is Bourbon’s spiciest sauce offered.  Although we enjoyed this sauce, we found that the Delta had a deeper flavor with just a little less spice.  I recommend this sauce on the Pulled Pork for a spicy twist.

Although the offering of specialty craft Barbecue Sauces, which you can purchase online or in house,  is all well and good, let’s face it, one goes to a Barbecue Restaurant for the meat not the sauce.  I would be remiss if I did not discuss the Garbage Plate Sampler in detail and tell my loyal audience all about Bourbon’s actual Barbecue.

Kat and I attacked this monumental mound of mouthwatering meat as if we were at war with the plate, and employed the “divide and conquer “strategy.  We started with the Pulled Pork, and shoveled a healthy helping onto our plates.  We first tried these delectable slivers of swine sans Barbecue Sauce and at that moment we knew the rest of the meal was going to be utterly remarkable.  The meat was so tender, chewing it felt like overkill, all I needed to do was let it linger in my mouth for a few seconds as it dissolved on my tongue.   Then we decided to splash on a few drops of the different types of Barbecue Sauce and the pulled pork, in the immortal words of John Candy in Spaceballs, went to plaid.  All the sauces transformed this meat into something else, something almost entirely different but equally as tasty.

Next up was the Brisket which was piled high enough to be a meal of its own.  Kat and I once again divided the portion and dug in first without sauce and then with.  This may have been the best brisket Kat and I have ever had, and that is saying something since I like Brisket like Rex Ryan from the New York Jets likes feet.  The meat was tender and succulent with just the perfect pink around the outside to remind you that it lived in a smoker for quite some time.  Once again the sauces that were offered only added complexity to the already impeccable taste.

The Texas smoked sausage reminded me of the smoked Kielbasa that I make at home.  Except for Bourbon BBQ is able to get the skin to the perfect amount of crispness that I just can’t seem to achieve.  I was unsure just which barbecue sauce to match up with these crisp morsels of smokey goodness, so I ate them naked.

The piece de resistance of all Barbecue plates and really how I ultimately judge barbecue chefs is the ever important ribs.  These behemoths were not your run of the mill miniscule baby pork ribs either, these ribs looked like they came for hogasaurus.   Bourbon’s ribs are the type of ribs that make most men feel inadequate if you know what I mean, and that is just the way I like it.  At first bite I noticed that the meat did not need much help in separating from the bone, which is a great testament to the chef with ribs this size.  I was a little underwhelmed by the flavor of the ribs during my initial bite but then I added a small amount of barbecue sauce and the rib came alive like Frankenstein’s Monster.  It appeared that Bourbon’s Ribs were only cooked with a dry rub so as to allow the customer to choose the type of sauce they want to add at the time of consumption.  The sauce complemented the rib meat effortlessly and I found myself leaving not a speck of meat left hanging on the bone.

As for the sides, the Baked Beans actually have what appeared to be pulled pork in them, which made them even better than I expected.  The Cole Slaw seemed fresh and did not have that store bought chemical taste to it that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  The Collard Greens tasted fantastic, as they were not too vinegary, which tends to happen in the north.   The corn bread was exactly as I like it, sweet enough to be a side, but not sweet enough to be dessert.  Kat on the other hand was hoping for dessert corn bread, but she was pleased with the other sides.

Not only was the food marvelous but during our dinner our server came over several times to check on us, which is always under appreciated.  Furthermore, throughout our time at this restaurant who I believed to be the General Manager walked around to every table, including our own, to speak to the customers.  One by one he approached every table and made sure that everything was cooked to their liking and just made some small talk.  Kat and I love small businesses and this added special touch made us feel like Bourbon BBQ truly cared about us, as individuals and not as just another customer.

Bourbon BBQ’s menu is quite extensive and if our first visit is any indication of how all the other items are going to taste, I can see this foodie squandering many an hour at this establishment.  Kat and I both felt that Bourbon’s amazing sampler dish can compete with any and all Barbecue joints that we have frequented in our decade together.   This combined with the fact that they are right next door in Wyckoff and their prices are truly affordable, very well may have placed them number one on our BBQ list.  So when the snow begins to fall and you place your cover on your grill for the last time this season, make sure to stop by Bourbon BBQ when you get the hankering for some good old fashioned BBQ.

 

Judgment:

Overall:                                4 out of 5

Taste:                                   5 out of 5

Presentation:                      3 out of 5

Value:                                   4 out of 5

Bourbon BBQ Hickory Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Celebrating America in true Foodie Fashion at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Newark

When I was five years old, and everyone was running around pretending to be cops, astronauts, or firemen, I was digging in the dirt, training to be a paleontologist.  A word that I could barely say, but I knew that it meant digging for Dinosaurs so I committed it to memory and for the next 10 years repeated it every time anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Even though, I am all grown up and a paleontologist I am not, I still have an affinity for our gigantic fossilized ancestors.  Therefore a few years ago when my good friend introduced us to a BBQ joint named Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem, I have to say I was smitten.

10914268-large

My friend is a native of the North, as in the true upstate New York, not Rockland County like all of us Bergenites, believe to be upstate, and way up there in damn near Canada, the first Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was born, in Syracuse, New York.  Since 1988, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has been kicking ass and taking names in the BBQ world and slowly traveling south to our neck of the woods bringing its biker and blues outlook with it.  In 2004, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que set up shop in Harlem, and instantly became my favorite BBQ spot in the area, even though I had to travel into the city just to taste some of their delicious cuisine.  In April 2012, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que made this foodie happier than a hippie in a hackie sack circle, when they opened the doors to their newest location in good old Newark, New Jersey.

nwk_dino_001-440x413

Since July 4th is right around the corner and we are supposed to be celebrating America, I thought that a review of a BBQ joint was necessary considering that BBQ is about as American as Apple Pie and Capitalism.   We arrived at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is located at 224 Market St. Newark, NJ 07102, at approximately 7:30 P.M. on a Saturday and although parking was quite tricky, we did not have to wait for a seat which was a welcomed change from the Harlem Venue, which is always packed.  As we approached our table, we noticed that the same biker/blues inspired theme could be seen in this location as the Harlem one.  Pigs of all sizes adorn the walls made out of a variety of textiles, while movie posters from the back in the day fill in the gaps.  Behind our table, a wonderful hand painted mural of Market Street complete with the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que mascot, the green Tyrannosaurus Rex like Dinosaur from the logo, crossing the street decorated the far wall.

As we scanned the menu, our waiter arrived to take our drink order. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, understands that although the food they serve is extremely important, one cannot overlook the magnitude of a truly prodigious beer menu at a BBQ establishment.   Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s beer list reads like a who’s who of the craft beer realm.  From the old standards like Pabst and Budweiser to the craft beer locals like Brooklyn and Ramstein, anyone can find something to wet their whistle at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  Kat was particularly happy that she was able to procure her new favorite vice, Angry Orchard hard cider, which pairs with BBQ much better than wine.

imag1507

Our guest foodie, Rory, and I ordered a pitcher of Ramstein while Kat ordered her cider and then it was back to the insanely difficult task of choosing just one of the tantalizing offerings off the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Menu.  Rory and I decided to go with the four meat BBQ combination platter for $24.95.  I ordered the ¼ chicken, St. Louis Ribs, BBQ Brisket, and Pulled Pork, whereas Rory substituted the ¼ chicken for a homemade sausage link.  As for sides, I chose Gumbo and Turkey Neck Greens, while Rory went with the Gumbo and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s world famous Mac and Cheese.  Kat decided on the 10 oz. center cut Skirt Steak, BBQ spiced & grilled, served with a Red Chimichurri Steak Sauce for $20.95 with a side Black Eyed Pea Salad and of course the Mac and Cheese, which is why I did not need to order it because I knew I was going to steal some of hers.   We also decided to order an appetizer to hold us over until our entrees arrived, which we decided would be Fried Green Tomatoes with a Smoke Shrimp Remoulade for $8.95.

With our food order in and our glasses full, we then began to wax poetically about the nonsensical things that were occurring in our lives.  Our dinner conversation lingered while our libations were consumed, attempting to deal with the most horrific waiting period that befalls modern man, the time frame between the ordering of the food, you can smell permeating through the restaurant, and the moment it is delivered.  No matter if it is 5 minutes or 50 minutes, it always seems like an eternity to me.

Our Fried Green Tomatoes arrived at our table complete with a pile of Smoked Shrimp, that impressed both Rory and I.  I was expecting ground up shrimp for flavor or small salad shrimp to be a part of this dish, but I was appreciatively surprised when I saw the heaping portion of moderately sized shrimp mixed with the remoulade, or tartar sauce like concoction.  Since Kat does not eat shrimp, her dipping sauce was the standard sauce for these Fried morsels of yumminess, a Cayenne Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.  The Green Tomatoes were deep fried flawlessly and were crispy on the outside while not too mushy on the inside.  The addition of the Shrimp Remoulade which even Kat tried, with some coercion, added just a bit of smoke and spice that catapulted this dish to new heights.

Image

Shortly after eating our 1990’s movie appetizer, our entrees arrived as Rory poured us another beer from the pitcher.  Our food was placed in front of us and each one of us began to inspect the fine fare that was just presented.  Some foodies believe that BBQ is an ugly dish, a plate that cannot be elegantly displayed and therefore not a true foodie find.  To that I say, insert however you spell the sound that a raspberry makes here.  I believe that it is simply un-American to not find a plate piled high with dead animal, unquestionably gorgeous.

Image

I attacked my four meat combo with the strategy of a five star general.  First I poured out a small dollop of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s own Sensuous Slathering Sauce,  a squirt of Wango Tango Habanero hot BBQ sauce, and a dab of Devil’s Duel Pepper Sauce onto my plate so I would be prepared for dipping.  I decided to take on each meat separately, using a divide and conquer technique and then partake in the side dishes throughout the meal to cleanse my palate.

p5160296

With the sauces ready for battle and my strategy intact, I approached the front line, the chicken which consisted of a leg and a thigh.  There is something quite special about Bar-B-Que’d dark meat chicken, which cannot properly be described using the English Language.  The skin was crispy and just the right amount of burned, while the inside was juicy and flavorful.

Dinosaur’s Gumbo was more or less a Chili-like blend that combined a Tex-Mex flavor with a New Orleans attitude.  The base for the Gumbo had definite Upstate Chili roots but then the combination of the Chorizo sausage, Smoked Chicken, and Okra that complements the broth creates an explosion on flavor in each bite.  A very good side dish, which they also serve as a small plate meal with rice and corn bread for $6.95.

After defeating the Chicken, I set my sights on the St. Louis Style ribs; which are making my mouth water, as I think of how to impress upon you their awesomeness.  People throw around the words fall off the bone or finger licking good all too often when recounting their experiences with ribs.  Well, in this case, these ribs are smack your mother in the face good, which if you don’t know, is far better than fall off the bone according to the foodie colloquialism handbook.  Seriously though, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s ribs are outstanding and if you have not tried them yet, you need to drive, take the bus, bike, hike, or skateboard tonight to Newark, New Jersey and strap on a feed bag.

The Turkey Neck Greens reminded me of some of the greens that I have had at my favorite soul food restaurants in Passaic or Paterson, New Jersey.   The bold flavor of the collard greens mixes well with the onions and spices that Dinosaur has added to create this side dish.  Meanwhile, the essence of the Smoked Turkey Neck enhances these probably unhealthy but wonderfully tasty vegetables.

With two ribs down and one saved for later, I pressed on towards the BBQ pulled pork. I once again reached for the Sensuous Slathering Sauce and applied it liberally to this small mound of meat that graced my plate.  With each forkful I realized why I could never truly follow the Jewish or Muslim faith.  Dinosaur’s pulled pork has just the right smoke flavor without being too much, and combined with their Bar-B-Que sauce it is simply divine.

After I devoured the final bite of the pulled pork, I focused my efforts towards the 14 hour smoked, hand sliced Bar-B-Cue Brisket.  Brisket is by far the hardest of the Bar-B-Qued meats to cook in my opinion due to the tendency for it to get tough when cooked for long periods of time.  Dinosaur’s Brisket does have a slight bite to it, which is to be expected from Brisket, but it is juicy and utterly delicious.  With the addition of a small amount of Wango Tango Sauce and the house cured pickled jalapenos it is served with, it is a delightful treat.

I was lucky enough to be dining with friends that understand my passion for food, and Kat and Rory offered to allow me to sample the delicacies that decorated their plates that I had yet to try.  Rory gave me a bit of the Hot Link he had ordered instead of the Chicken, and I accepted it thankfully.  The sausage itself was bursting with immense flavor, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it was housed in a crispy skin.  Kat allowed me to try both her Skirt Steak, which was expertly cooked and when dipped in the Chimichurri Steak Sauce brought me to flavor county, and Dinosaur’s Mac and Cheese.  As stated before, I love the Macaroni and Cheese that is served at Dinosaur so, I was grateful for this small addition to my meal.

Image

Since I was almost full to the brim, I returned my focus to my plate and finished off my last rib, which I saved for last because I love them so much.  After savoring my last rib, I placed the bone in the graveyard that my plate had become, and reached for the built in dessert that is added to each and every Dinosaur Bar-B-Que dish, the Honey Corn Bread.  I am a huge fan of corn bread, while Kat would rather have any other type of bread in the history of bread, so I rarely get to eat it while we are at home.  But at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que I get two, and that makes this little foodie very happy.

The amount of love I have for Bar-B-Que and for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que cannot be summed up in one article or blog.  The true admiration I have for both this style of cooking and this restaurant cannot really be discussed, for I fear that this blog would forever have an NC-17 rating.  Let’s just say that if you have not been to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and you are a fan of Bar-B-Que cooking you are doing yourself a grave disservice.  The parking may stink at both the Harlem and the Newark locations, but any mild inconvenience is worth experiencing this amazing American tradition.  Also keep in mind that this restaurant is literally around the corner from the Prudential Center, where the New Jersey Devils play so check the schedule before you get stuck in a hellish amount of traffic.

Judgment:

Overall:             4 out of 5

Taste:               5 out of 5

Presentation:     4 out of 5

Value:               3 out of 5

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon