Qdoba Craft Two

Qdoba Mexican Grill Marches Into The Fair Lawn Promenade

Qdoba LogoI know I might catch some flak for writing this review because it is on a chain restaurant, but as the Yolo generation says, Haters Gonna Hate! The truth of the matter is that I believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants, and as long as they are serving food that doesn’t look and taste like it fell out of an animal’s hind quarters, I am willing to pay them a visit, especially when one moves in down the street from my current homestead.

When the luxurious Fair Lawn Promenade was erected, not only did this new construction provide high end apartments located in the wonderful town of Fair Lawn, it also brought with it several dining establishments. If you follow my blog you probably noticed that I have already visited and reviewed the Habit Burger Grill which is located in the Promenade, and now I have decided to review Qdoba, in the same plaza. For all of you that are not familiar with Fair Lawn the actual address that can be placed into the googles is 23-31 Route 208, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

To clarify my aforementioned comment, I do sincerely believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants as they provide casual dining at an inexpensive price point in a quick and efficient manner. I am not talking about the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the food world, I only eat there when I have had a little bit too much to drink, and I assure you, I regret it more than most people regret their one night stands. I am speaking of franchises that still care about the quality of food they are providing to their customers, and I feel that Qdoba is truly one of those establishments.

First and foremost, what drew me into the Promenade to experience all that Qdoba had to offer actually had nothing to do with their food. If you are a Bergen County resident like me, you know that avoiding Route 4 and Route 17 is more important than eating, sleeping, and on Saturday you can add breathing to that list too. So the addition of a causal dining Mexican Grill like Qdoba moving into what is basically my backyard, thus allowing me circumventing the need to travel on those above-mentioned horrendous parking lots that Bergen County calls highways, was a gift from the Traffic Overlord ConeZilla!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Since my commute was five minutes, and I was only cut off once on my way to Qdoba, when I entered the restaurant with Kat, my foodie partner for the evening, I was much calmer than I have ever been at those Burrito shops located in the 7th ring of traffic hell known as Paramus. To add to my elation, as soon as I walked into the building, I noticed a sign that simply read, “Extras Aren’t Extra!”   Could this be true? Is this a Dream, I thought to myself. They can’t just give stuff away for free, right? Or could they?

Qdoba, Extras Aren't Extra!

If it is free, it is for me, I’ll take three!

Since Kat and I are experienced restaurant reviewers at this point, we knew to peruse the online menu prior to our arrival so we were prepared to order the perfect meal. Qdoba is set up like most of the Casual Dining Mexican Grills that are sprinkled throughout our fair land, so the actual procedure of ordering was simple. When you enter, you walk into the queue and wait for an employee to assist you in constructing your epic meal.

This is my favorite part of the experience people; you literally get to build a custom Burrito, Taco, Quesadilla, Burrito Bowl, or Taco Salad that is chock full of everything that makes you happy. I know this method of serving customers has been around for quite some time now, but every damn time I venture to an establishment that uses this system, I can’t help but smile like an infant that has just farted!

As you can see from the menu, Qdoba offers quite a few entree options that can be fully customized, but I decided to go big and order the Craft 2 which is two perfectly sized portions of Qdoba’s most popular dishes. My two choices were the Mexican Gumbo with chicken and a steak taco and a pulled pork taco, one hard and one soft. (TWSS) Kat on the other hand was trying to maintain her girlish figure and opted for the health conscious burrito bowl with shredded beef. Since we both love guacamole and Queso, we made the decision to both order chips with a side of each. We rounded out our order with two medium sodas and called it day.

Our creations were assembled by a very helpful and cheerful employee that explained each step in the process making sure we did not miss any of the delicious ingredients we could add to our dishes. I could list all of the yumminess that can be added to your meal, but it would be about as boring as watching Seabiscuit, a movie about a freaking horse that does not even talk!

Once our concoctions were finalized, we paid, filled our soda cups from the awesome Coca-Cola Freestyle machines which dispenses 146 different flavors of soda, and sat our keisters down in a nice comfy booth ready to begin our feast.

Qdoba Chips

I love Queso more than most people love their significant others!

In hindsight, we may have ordered with our eyes and not our stomachs. The amount of chips provided with a single order would have been more than enough for Kat and I to share, and we will remember that for next time. Although some establishments provide free chips with your entree, Qdoba’s chips do seem to be better than the free ones, and the Guacamole and the Queso were much better that the competition’s offerings. The Guacamole is bursting with flavor, and the hint of garlic makes it very pleasant on the palate. The Cheese Sauce is also flavorful, but unlike most Queso, there is not an abundance of salt, so when the chips come into play, it is the perfect marriage.   We had to muster up some serious willpower to stop dipping these crunchy bits of corn into these enjoyable sauces.

Qdoba Craft Two

A Mexican Food Marriage Made in heaven!

When I was finally able to force myself to stop demolishing the giant pile of chips that was in front of me, I turned my attention to my main course. The Mexican Gumbo, which is described as a unique dish that combines tortilla soup, cilantro-lime rice, beans, salsa, and cheese, intrigued me, so I tried this first. I fell in love with this cardboard cauldron of savory goodness at the moment that spoonful hit my mouth. I made Kat try this dish immediately, and she confirmed that it was rather amazing. The slight smokiness of the tortilla soup and chicken mixed with the heat from the salsa and the calming effect of the cheese and rice combined forces to create a depth of flavor that is hard to achieve.

Qdoba Gumbo

Gumbo is not just for swamp people anymore!

The tacos were on par with the rest of the Mexican Grills that I have visited with the added bonus of the Queso Diablo sauce, which I found extremely tasty. I do recommend eating the Hard Taco relatively quickly because the juicy awesomeness that the no cost extras provide is no match for the structural integrity of the shell. In other words, eat the hard taco first or it will crumble faster than a game of Jenga being played by a T-Rex, The Incredible Hulk, and Mike Tyson.

Qdoba Burrito Bowl

YAY!!!! It is Nakey Burrito time!

Weighing in at just under 700 Calories, Kat’s Burrito bowl was not only tasty but somewhat health conscious. Is it a side salad and a fruit cup? No, but this bowl O’ burrito was also much more filling than your common diet fare and tasted delicious to boot. The fajita vegetables were the star of this dish as they appeared to be fresh cut and sauteed in house and treated with a very pleasant spice profile.

I am not going to tell you that Qdoba is the next Orale in Jersey City, but as far as Casual Dining Mexican Grills are concerned, I feel they are a strong contender for the leader of the pack. I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of choices Qdoba offered when I was creating my perfect meal. I also have to say I was very surprised that the Extras were actually not extra. I was almost sure that when I reached the cash register the receipt tape was going to start to fly as the cashier nickled and dimed my meal way up past the regular price, but they didn’t. Furthermore, the ingredients that were served to us seemed fresh and were seasoned quite well.

Qdoba Smothered Burritos

Smothered Burritos + The Blue Collar Foodie = One Happy Tummy!

If you need another reason to visit Qdoba, they just introduced their newest permanent menu item, The Smothered Burrito! These are dubbed, “Smothers,” and include one of three sauces that each offer their own unique flavor. The Tangy Verde is the Mild version, The Bold Red Chili is a robust toasted chile sauce with a dash of sweetness, and the Smoky Chipotle Cream is the hottest variety which is said to pack quite a wallop. I just missed the release of these alluring sauce covered bombshells and can’t wait to head back over to Qdoba to taste test these bad ass burritos.

Overall, I would recommend checking Qdoba out if you have not done so yet.   If you do plan to visit this location, I suggest signing up for their rewards program to earn free swag and coupons!

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

PSA

Stop Ruining Thanksgiving Hipsters: The Five Classic Dishes Every Turkey Day Spread Should Feature.

PSAStop Ruining Thanksgiving JERKS! Listen, I am all for experimental cuisine, I am a freaking Gastronaut for fuck’s sake. For real though people Thanksgiving is about tradition, so stop fucking it up with Kale and Corn Fritters, Tofurky, Kimchi Tacos, and especially anything that was FORAGED! No, Tallulah Mc. Hipsterpants, I don’t care if foraging is what the murdering Pilgrims would have done. I don’t wear a fucking hat with a buckle on it and I am not eating something you picked up off the ground at park that has 17 resident homeless people that use the slide as a toilet!

If you want whip up some Lentil Sloppy Joes with a side of Butternut Squash and Chickpea Cakes any other damn day of the year, beep me, only because it is ironic, and I will hop on my Vespa, throw on my fedora and be at your warehouse/art studio in no time. However, the last Thursday of every November is hallowed ground and should be treated with the foodie respect it deserves.

I am not saying you can’t jazz up the Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole recipe that appears on the side of their Mushroom Soup can, but I am saying that the following five items should at least make an appearance on your Thanksgiving Table.  If they do not then you are doing a disservice to every guest that you invite/guilt over to your homestead.

Turkey1.)  Turkey: We will start with an easy one folks. Thanksgiving without Turkey, is like playing poker without real money, it is a waste of everyone’s time. Sure it can be boring, bland, dry, and tasteless but instead of folding the fowl hand you have been dealt, take it as a challenge and attempt to create the best bird that any of your guests have ever eaten. This means no rabbits, ducks, squabs, quails, Cornish hens, or pheasants should be served! I am looking in your direction, scarf lady with horn-rimmed glasses.  With that said, you can choose to season, prepare, and present your bird in a multitude of elaborate, creative, and original ways to suppress your inner artist from serving people fucking Emu on Thanksgiving! Here is a link to help you plan how to prepare your bird!

Stuffing2.)  Stuffing: Here is where you can really let your Gastronomic imagination run wild! Stuffing can be full of artisan sausage, organic fruit, and spices that 98 percent of the population has never heard of.  Go nuts, let your freaky, foodie, flag fly, but use some sort of bread as the base, please. I don’t care if you call your Gluten Free Quinoa and Brussels Sprout Surprise a stuffing. The golden rule is if there ain’t Gluten laden bread cubes floating around in there somewhere it simply is not stuffing!  Here is a link for some pretty exciting stuffing and dressing recipes.       

         Mashed Potato 3.)  Mashed Potatoes:  Please try to reign in your adorable ADHD and muster up some concentration for at least the entirety of the two word heading for number three. That second word is very important! It says POTATOES! Not Cauliflower, Celery Root, Parsnips, or Turnips, just good old fashioned, hearty taters. Furthermore, try real hard not to go to crazy and put so much crap and seasoning in your mashed potatoes that you can no longer tell what they are. I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to my mashed potatoes but I am not saying that you have to be too. Here is a link for some Mashed Potato Recipes.

Mac and Cheese4.)  Macaroni and Cheese:  This is another dish that you can really have fun with but again remember that ultimately the final product’s main ingredients should be Pasta and Cheese. You can put bacon, truffles, rutabagas, beer, or virtually any other edible object that you can possibly think of.  Shit you can even serve it in a damn mason jar if you want, which is like the most hipster food vessel in the world. Mac & Cheese is a staple on my table and honestly the simpler the better, I even like the horrible yellow poop that comes out of the blue box and claims to be the cheesiest. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. Here is a link for a few decent Mac and Cheese recipes.

CANberry Sauce5.)  Cranberry Sauce: I know I am going to get shit for this and lose like 5 foodie points but I absolutely fucking love cranberry sauce from a can. I don’t even slice the son of a bitch before placing it on the table because I want to see the wonderfulness of the ridges while I slice off each and every luscious, disgusting, slab of processed yumminess. You can choose to make the “good” stuff by hand if you wish but I am telling you there is nothing better than a filthy .$89 can of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce paired with a nice can of craft beer!  If you must make the homemade kind because you can’t stand the thought of having a can of anything join your spread here is the link for Cranberry Sauce Recipes.

If you follow these five simple rules your Grandmother’s heart will not break and your Mother’s head will not explode because you are trying to serve them a Goat Tongue and Ramp Salad on Thanksgiving!  Thank you for reading this Public Service Announcement. Please pass it on to anyone who you believe may RUIN A THANKSGIVING!

The More You Know

Holy Hell, Habit Burger, May Be Habit Forming

I am what some people might label a food snob. Although, we prefer to be called Foodies, Epicureans, and Gastronauts, I have accepted that there are individuals that see my chosen perspective on food to be mildly pretentious. To be honest, I am sure those D-bags in Fedoras, fashion glasses, and tight jeans would rather not be called hipsters, but if the ironically worn croc fits…

As with any personality quirk that some people perceive to be annoying, once you accept it and embrace it as part of how you are, it seems to grow exponentially; hence the unequivocally maddening progression of the selfie.

My growing love affair with the foodie realm has an unfortunate price though, and that price is my increasing abhorrence for the gastronomically challenged grub that is served at almost every chain restaurant in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I know what you are thinking, “Mr. Blue Collar Foodie that does not seem like a problem at all.” It may not seem like an issue at first glance, but there are two reasons being on this epicurean soap box which is teetering on the fence of smugness is not the best place to be.

The first issue is most of your friends enjoy restaurants such as The Olive Garden, T.G.I.Fridays, Chili’s, and all the other flair wearing, slop slinging, chains that litter the highways, and therefore you tend to alienate yourself from the group by shunning these establishments. Secondly, no one likes a hypocrite, and I don’t care how much of a foodie you claim to be on your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram page, every single one of us have a weakness. It may be a Big Mac, a Whopper, a Crunchwrap Supreme, or a 7-11 Taquito, but every now and again that craving hits and until it is satisfied, that Duck Confit Cannoli tastes bland and ordinary.

My edible Achilles Heel comes in the form of an infamous fast food hamburger so gastronomically filthy that by merely writing this sentence I could be thrown out of the League of Extraordinary Eaters for life. (That club does not exist, but it does now! Hit me up to Join!)

To paraphrase A Clockwork Orange , “And the thing that always flashes into my gulliver is that I’d like to have one, right down there on the floor, the old In-N-Out, real savage.” That is right; my foodie transgression is none other than an Animal Style Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger. Unfortunately, not only is In-N-Out a chain restaurant and dining there could get me black balled from every farm-to-table this side of Pennsylvania, the closest In-N-Out is in freaking Texas! So even if I decided to give in when the hankering hits, I am shit out of luck, and my only recourse is to visit one of the many east coast clones that fail to compare to MY PRECIOUS!!!  That is until NOW!

Welcome to Habit Burger

Welcome to Habit Burger

The Habit Burger Grill, another California based burger chain, just fell from the heavens and landed smack dab in my hometown! The address for this new burger joint is 3101 Promenade Blvd. in Fair Lawn, NJ 07410. When it first arrived, I have to admit it; I believed it to be just another trend following fast food chain serving sub-par, salty meat pucks to the masses one stale bun at a time. I honestly did not give them a second thought.   That is until the buzz began. Slowly but surely like the well-deserved hatred for Ray Rice that swept over America, a phrase was being uttered in Bergen County. A phrase that once bounced off my ear drums, made this uninformed Habit Hater enter the newly constructed burger spot and literally eat my words.

What was the phrase you ask? It was very simple but insanely incendiary, “Habit may very well be better than In-N-Out.” This sentence echoed in my head, rattled around like a bouncy ball in an elevator before snuggly resting in my frontal lobe. I pass by The Habit Burger Grill twice each day, and every time I drove past this utterance reverberated once again. Until one night I made the executive decision that Kat and I would visit The Habit for dinner.

Eventhough quite a few people with appetites that I trust were talking up Habit, I still had my reservations. In my eyes, comparing a burger to my Double-Double is like comparing a common man to Jesus Christ, or a comedian to Robin Williams, you don’t do these things lightly. However, as Kat and I entered The Habit Burger Grill, the wafting smell began to seduce us. It did not smell of grease and fat. There was actually a scent of grilling meat that permeated the air. Furthermore, the set up of the restaurant had a familiar Californian feel, with an open kitchen and simplistic yet diverse menu hovering above the cashiers.

I felt it was somewhat busy for a Monday night, but that will happen when a new restaurant comes to town. Even though the line was decently long, the staff handeled it with ease and kept us moving at a brisk pace. When it was our turn to order, Kat and I decided to try what The Habit Burger Grill was most famous for, their Char Burgers. Our thought was basically if we like their original creation then we will have an excuse to come back and try their other offerings such as the BBQ Bacon Char Burger, Teriyaki Char Burger, Veggie Burger, or Fresh Albacore Tuna Sandwhich.

The fixins'

The fixins’

I ordered a Double Char Burger with a side of Onion Rings whereas Kat decided to go a little smaller. She ordered the single Char Burger with the Californian flair of avacado and a side of Tempura Green Beans. You heard that right, Fresh Cut Green Beans, lightly battered and flash fried at a Fast Food Burger Joint. While waiting for our food to be made fresh to order, we grabbed a table, filled up our drinks, and visted the Fixins bar. The Habit offers various hot peppers and numerous different dipping sauces that we helped ourselves to while we awaited our meals.

Double Char Burger

Double Char Burger

When our buzzer, well, buzzed, we approached the counter and gathered our food. It was the moment of truth for The Habit Burger Grill in this foodies’ eyes. I quickly snapped a bunch of photos to utilize for this post and then without hesitation grabbed my Double Char and chowed down. My friends, it was love at first bite. In my head, the act of chewing on this sandwhich played out like a cheesey romance movie, where the couple runs in slow motion towards each other for their first embrace. The Mayonnaise, pickle, and carmelized onions joined forces with the melty cheese and expertly prepared burger patty to create a burger that was equal, if not better than the crack-cocaine that is my In-N-Out Double Double.

Onion Rings

Onion Rings

After almost demolishing my entire Double Char before even trying the sides we ordered, I was able to gain control of myself and put the burger down for a moment. My first stop was the capital city of Onlandia, the Onion Rings. They were battered and fried quite well and came with a ranch dipping sauce that paired nicely. The best part of these fried wonders were the onions that were choosen to be used. I believe it was a sweet onion, it may have been a Vidalia, but whatever it was, it was chock full of yummy goodness.

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

As per usual, my lovely wife was extremely generous and allowed me to sample her Tempura Green Beans.   Not only are these a healthier option than the sterotypical fries and onion rings that usually accompany a fast food burger, they were extremely flavorful as well. Furthermore, they only got better when dipped into the the Ranch sauce that I mentioned earlier.

Once our meal was resting ever so nicely in our bellies awaiting its eventual digestion, Kat and I began to discuss how The Habit Burger Grill faired. We both enjoyed the hell out of the Burgers and appreciated the variety of sides that could be ordered to compliment it. The fixins bar is always a plus, because you can, as the Defecting Monarch Of Burgers says, Have it your way. We also respected the history behind The Habit, which started out as a small endeavor by two brothers with big dreams.

Single Char Burger

Single Char Burger

When everything was said and done, we left The Habit Burger Grill happy and full. As for the burger and how it compares to my clandestine long distance love affair with the Double-Double. I give the Char Burger the highest praise I can bestow on a fast food burger, it is different than yet equal to my beloved In-N-Out, and I assure you, there is not enough Michelin Stars in this world that will ever bypass that endorsement.   RESPECT THE BURGER INDEED!

Click to add a blog post for The Habit Burger Grill on Zomato

Eating Healthy this Super Bowl Without Losing Man Points. Here is an App for that!

Super Bowl XLVIII

That mean Super Bowl 48 for those of us that did not go to a wealthy school which taught fancy roman numerals.

Did you know that the number one New Year’s resolution in America for 2014 was to lose weight?  Furthermore, studies say that only 39% of people in their twenties and a mere 14% of people over 50 with accomplish their resolution.  If you decided to jump into the deep end of Resolution River without a life jacket, you are not the first and you will certainly not be the last.

In December 2012, my wife and I were sifting through pictures from the past year and saw a picture from a recent wedding where we resembled the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Miss Piggy attending a cocktail party.  To paraphrase Queen Victoria, we were not amused.  So our 2013 resolution was to lose weight, and although it was an uphill both ways in the snow without shoes or a jacket kind of arduous task, we succeeded.

In 2013, Kat and I lost a combined 75 pounds before the Holidays gave us about a 10 pound present.  I am not telling you this to boast, although I am proud of our accomplishment, I am telling you this to inform you that even if you are a foodie, you can lose weight and keep it off.  The secret to our success was not some scientific weight loss drug, newfangled exercise machine, or fad diet, it was good old fashioned vomiting, that is right bulimia is not just for teenage girls anymore!  Relax people; the real top-secret weight loss program we established was portion control, exercise, and calorie counting.

Now I could ramble on about how we accomplished this three pronged attack on our floppy bodies but this is a food blog not fatties anonymous, so I will simply say the hardest thing to do while on a diet is to make the correct choices while eating out or at a party.  This problem is only compounded for men that are trying to lose weight because there is nothing less masculine than the phrase, “I can’t eat that!  Do you know how many calories are in (fill in the delicious food here)?”

With this in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 healthy yet still somewhat manly appetizers you can bring, serve, and eat at a Super Bowl party without losing dozens of man points per carrot dipped in broccamole that you force yourself to eat.  Note:  I don’t care that the word “Bro” is in the word Broccamole, it is the least manly thing you could ever eat, and that includes Activia yogurt that is specifically designed to make women regular.  (Click the titles of the food to follow the link to these fantastic recipes.)

Buffalo Balls

Buffalo Balls

You might wanna change the name but you will not want to change the taste!
Photo Credit: I Breathe…I’m Hungry…

Buffalo Wings and Football games go together like Kayne West and Douchebaggery, so a Super Bowl spread without some form of chicken wings would be like A-Rod without steroids.  Unfortunately, Chicken wings are about as healthy as a deep fried Twinkie wrapped in bacon, unless you follow this easy low carb, gluten free recipe.

Individual Seven Layer Dip:

Mini Seven Layer Dip

Size doesn’t always matter! Right… Right?

These delicious little cups of yummy pack the same great flavor that your mother’s seven layer dip offered with two outstanding improvements.  First off, they have built in portion control so you can keep track of how much of this wonderful stuff you are eating. Secondly, if you have germophobic tendencies, like I do, and the mere thought of a double dipper causes you to cringe worse than Freddie Krueger scratching a chalk board, the individual servings keep your dip safe and sanitary.

Lightened Up Mac & Cheese Bites:

Lightened Up Mac & Cheese

Mac and Cheese that will not make your personal trainer weep!
Photo Credit: 3 Pastries A Day

I think we can all agree, if you do not like Mac & Cheese you are un-American.  I don’t know why Reagan did not just use this as a test to find all the communist spies that infiltrated our country in the seventies.  Instead of all the surveillance, interrogating, and torturing, all he needed to do was put a plate of herring and a plate of Mac & Cheese in their hotel rooms and wait to see which one they picked.  Since we no longer need Mac & Cheese to protect our country, I suggest you use this recipe to pair America’s favorite food with America’s favorite sport.

De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket:

De-Pudged Pigs in a Blanket

Not all pigs are fat! That is fatism!
Photo Credit: Lisa Lillian, Hungry Girl

As far as appetizers go, pigs in a blanket have weathered the test of time better than Vanna White, which by the way is not easy considering she is 56 and still is in the GSHILF category.  I will wait for you to get that one and if you don’t e-mail me and I will explain.  These little buggers are perfect for any party and by using reduced fat all beef franks and low reduced calorie crescent rolls they can be quite healthy.  Another bonus to these tried and true apps, they are so damn easy to make even Lunch Lady Doris couldn’t screw them up.  For a slight change of pace try this recipe, Mini Corndog Muffins.

Chuck’s Crab Cakes:

Crab Cakes

Crab People, Crab People, look like cakes tastes like crab!
Photo Credit: Chuck Hughes

If you have been dieting longer than a day and are at least slightly smarter than anyone of these celebritarts, you already know that, for the most part, seafood is pretty healthy.  As long as it is not bathed in butter or deep fried, when you are out and about, seafood is a pretty safe bet to keep your calorie count lower than the NY Mets payroll.  These simple yet tasty crab cakes are not only low in calories but also allow you to keep your mantastic foodie street cred.

Paleo Pizza Bites:

Paleo Pizza Bites

Paleo Pizza Bites GOOOOODDDDDD, Inner Aisles BAAAAAAAADDDD!
Photo Credit: Health Bent

This dish is for all the cavemen who read this blog.  For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, I am referring to my followers that prescribe to the Paleolithic diet.  The basic rule of this diet is if a caveman could not eat it, neither can you.  If this is the diet that you chose to hitch your fat ass to, more power to you, here is an app just for you.  These pizza bites remove the dough, lessen the cheese, but still allow you to visit the most wonderful place on earth, no not Disney Land you jerk, Pizza Town!

Deviled Eggs:

Deviled Eggs

These Healthier Deviled Eggs Should Be Called Angel Eggs.
Photo Credit: Molly Burke

Relax, remove your hand from the mouse, keep reading, I will explain everything.  Some of you who have not eaten in a while just got really Hangry, part hungry, part angry, all vicious, with me for even suggesting that you can eat deviled eggs on a diet.  I am here to inform you, that you can.  Maybe not your grandmother’s 300 calorie lard filled egg o’tasty goodness, but you can have these healthy dressed up deviled eggs without feeling guilty.  These recipes all use reduced fat mayonnaise to create a deviled egg that is ready for the big game.

Healthified Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl:

Healthified Spinach Dip In a Bread Bowl

So good you will wanna dip your bread in it! You thought I was going to say something else that starts will a B and is round didn’t you?
Photo Credit: Living Better America

I can hear some of you now.  What do you mean healthified spinach dip?  Spinach is one of those green things; therefore any dip that has spinach in it must be good for you.  If you believe this, I have a sweet bridge in Brooklyn I would love to sell you.  Think of all those hipsters you can charge a toll to just to cross your bridge to get to their warehouse parties and scarf shops.  This Spinach Dip adds more spinach and uses low-fat sour cream to start down the healthy path and then replaces the calorie rich cream cheese that is normally found in this dish with Greek Yogurt!  Mental Note People, Greek Yogurt was sent to earth from the heavens to replace fatty calorie laden ingredients in recipes without sacrificing the creaminess.

Oven “Fried” Pickles with Skinny Ranch Dip:

Oven Fried Pickeles.

Oy! These Pickles Are Good!
Photo Credit: Skinny Taste

If you have not accepted the amazing pickle as your diet savior you are a blasphemer.  Excuse me a minute while I testify about the sanctity of the almighty pickle.  These salty and garlicky explosions of flavor weigh in at a measly 5 calories a serving and are a great way to curb your appetite in between meals.  These oven fried pickles are of course a little heavier on the calories but still pack immense flavor in each tasty morsel and it does not get much manlier than breaded pickles.

Healthy Cookie Dough Dip

Cookie Dough Dip

Want to win some bets this year at your Super Bowl Party? Have everyone taste this dip and bet them they can’t guess the secret ingredient.
Photo Credit: Chocolate Covered Katie

A Super Bowl party is just not over until you have stuffed your face with sweet, sweet, fat filled dessert right?  What if I told you that you could have your sweets and not completely ruin your diet at the same time?  Put me down, crazy person, I am not a witch.  I am referring to this Healthy Cookie Dough Dip that uses a surprising ingredient to keep it low in fat and carbs, Chick Peas.  I know what you are thinking, “I don’t care if you are not a witch, I want to burn you at the stake anyway for this heresy.  Chick Peas are not a dessert you douche!”  I dare you to make this and have only one bite!  Go ahead, that is a challenge!

There you have it!  The top 10 Blue Collar Foodie approved healthy yet manly apps for the Super Bowl. Remember, one bad day will not ruin your health, just like one good day cannot make you healthy, so if you decide to cheat on Super Sunday, make sure you get back on track during Move Your Ass Monday.  Save this page to your favorites and when you need to make a dish for a party that won’t make you feel less masculine than buying Maxi-Pads for your wife during the Super Bowl, remember, there is an App (itizer) for that!

Barcelona's Pizza

Big Portions, Great Prices, and A Forkful Of Nostalgia Can Be Had By All At Barcelona’s In Garfield, NJ

Like most food bloggers I love to scour the internets and discover the shiny new restaurant in the area so I can post about them before anyone else. But even though the thrill of the hunt is half the fun of this hobby turned damn near full time job, I try my hardest to follow the advice of one of my favorite punk bands of all time, H2O, “don’t forget your roots!”

My foodie roots firmly established themselves when I was quite young, and my father and I would watch Yan Can Cook , The Frugal Gourmet, or Julia Child, the OG’s, Original Gourmets, of Food Television before he entered the kitchen to create a random concoction that none of us had ever, or would ever eat again.  I still to this day carry on that tradition when I cook by throwing caution to the wind and mixing flavors together based off an idea not a recipe.

It was not only these pre-pubescent culinary kitchen escapades that lured me into the sordid realm of the epicurean, it was also the local eateries that my family would journey to when my parents could scape together enough spare cash.  Since saving money was always a concern, we never ventured to places that would be considered gourmet by the one-percenters, but through the rose colored glasses of a child, the places we went were enchanted.

Barcelona's Restaurant and Bar

Barcelona’s Restaurant and Bar

Still to this day I am drawn to establishments that harness that old world, blue collar charm that I covet, like Twitter followers are flocking to Sir Patrick Stewarts amazing tweets .  Places like Dp’s in GarfieldPub 199 in Mount Arlington and of course Barcelona’s Restaurant and Bar located at 38 Harrison Ave, in Garfield, NJ, have a certain, “je ne sais quoi” that people that would normally punch people for saying things like, je ne sais quoi, absolutely love.

When you pull up to a restaurant such as Barcelona’s, you may feel as if you just exited a police call box that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside  with a Doctor that shares a name with a famous first baseman.    In other words, restaurants like these are a blast from the past, before decorators were hired to build business, television shows praised dives, and social media marketing firms spread your name, these mom and pop shops survived on word of mouth advertising, quality food at a fair price, and a wait staff that made you feel as if you were home.

Barcelona's Garfield

Welcome to Barcelona’s

As you enter Barcelona’s, you will be greeted by one of the welcoming employees that will seat you in the dining area or point you to the bar.  Once you are seated in your region of choice, you will be given their famous and extensive menu, that if you are anything like me will take you quite some time to peruse.  Fortunately for us, who make food decisions slower than a 14.4k modem was able to download a naughty picture, Barcelona’s offers a full wine, beer, and cocktail menu in order to assist you in passing the decision making time.

On my last visit to this nostalgic land of foodie goodness, I brought my parents out, along with my wife to celebrate my Father’s birthday.  We won’t say how old he is, but we will say that when he was born the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn, the Lakers in Minneapolis, and Harry S. Truman was eating Cornmeal Dumplings with Turnip Greens in the White House.  At Barcelona’s it is not uncommon to see several generations of families huddled around a table pontificating and politicking while breaking bread together, as if it was the old days and we were no different on this occasion.

Pitcher of Beer

Nothing washes down great food like a cheap pitcher o’ beer.

As we sipped our cocktails, we meticulously read the menu as if the perfect item was going to leap off the page at our taste buds.  To be honest though, I have never had anything that was sub-par at Barcelona’s, so I could technically close my eyes and play pin the fork on the menu game and be satisfied, but where is the fun in that.

Since my mother and my wife were giving me the same death stare which regardless of the translation made every single hair on the back of my neck stand at attention, I decided that my time with the menu had come to an end, and it was time to make my final decision.  As always, I deferred to ordering last to give me that last 30 seconds to make up my mind.  While I was scanning the menu faster than Dr. Sheldon Cooper can read a comic, my mother ordered the Spinach Ravioli, Kat ordered Chicken “Italian Style,” and my father ordered an Antipasto Salad, a small Sausage Pizza, and an order of mussels… and you wondered where I get my appetite from.  With reckless abandon, I spewed forth my order, which consisted of a plate of mussels and Spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce.

Antipasto Salad

Nothing like taking a healthy salad and topping it with everything that is unhealthy and tasty in the kitchen

As we discussed the world outside Barcelona’s from the friendly confines of this welcomed time warp, we all felt at ease.  Kat was not even playing Candy Crush at the dinner table, perhaps due to some sort of anti-technology force field that Barcelona’s emits from their kitchen, but it was a nice change of pace.

While we were all immersed in conversation, our food began to arrive at our table.  The portion size compared to the price was all sorts of preposterous, and that is just how I like it.  As we partook in what always tastes like a home cooked meal at Barcelona’s, we all just smiled and chewed.

Barcelona's Pizza

Not liking this pizza is downright UnAmerican!

If you are a Barcelona’s virgin, I highly recommend at least sampling the thin crust pizza that has become somewhat famous in the area.  The sauce is downright delightful, the cheese is of the utmost quality, and the home made dough is the perfect texture.  I also always recommend trying one of the many pasta dishes that Barcelona’s has to offer, as they are an Italian restaurant at heart, and every pasta dish I have ever tried has been simply delicious.  My pasta with Anchovy Sauce was not the exception to this rule either, the expertly cooked, Al dente, pasta paired with the salty goodness, TWSS, of the sauce was flawless.  To add to the wonderfulness of my meal, the mussels that I ordered were larger than most and extremely tender.

Pasta with Anchovy Sauce

Barcelona’s knows Pasta like Bo knows well everything!

The décor and the sentimentality of Barcelona’s is not the only thing that is circa 1970’s dining, the prices are as well.  This family owned and operated eatery is still a place that an entire household can come to and find something to eat at an affordable and fair price.  For over 74 years Barcelona’s of Garfield has been serving North Jersey families as if they were part of their own. Every time I have entered this legendary blue collar eatery, I have not only been satisfied with the meal, but my wallet has left a lot heavier than it would have if we ate at any of the newfangled restaurants that pride themselves on razz ma tazz instead of tradition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some razz ma tazz as much as every employer that has ever watched Barney Stinson’s video resume, but sometimes all I want is large quantities of magnificent food served at a reasonable price, sans the flair, and that is why I love dining at places like Barcelona’s.

Note:  Barcelona’s technology defeating force field apparently works on credit card machines as well, so when you venture to this all American old school Italian joint make sure to bring your Benjamins.  Although, they were nice enough to find an ATM that is equipped with an anti-technology nullifier for your convenience, which is located on site.

Italian Style Chicken

The Italian Style Chicken Is Quite Photogenic

Barcelona's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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’s Top 5 New Year’ s Eve Coup Quashing Appetizers

New Years Eve in Timesquare

Happy New Year!

So you have secured the privilege to host the largest event in most people’s social calendars all year and you want to hold on to this honor for years to come.  This is not an easy task my friend!  At least half of your friends and family that are attending your New Year’s Eve party this year have thoughts of forcing a coup d’état, that would make Napoleon Bonaparte blush, leaving your house empty on this festive occasion.   The best way to quell this treacherous scheming is to fill your visitors’ bellies with delicious foodie fare that will have them craving your apps like Charlie Sheen desires seven gram rocks.  The following is The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Coup Quashing Appetizers.

1:  Candied Bacon with Mixed Nuts

If you read this blog you are well aware of my love of, alright obsession for, bacon, so it should be no surprise that the first appetizer on my list is full of salty smoked swine.  I created this recipe for Christmas this year because I had some left over slab bacon that I did not want to go to waste.  It was a huge hit, so even though there is no official recipe yet, it is not very difficult to make.  Please note that when I made this delightfully spontaneous dish I did not measure the spices so feel free to tweak the recipe to fit your tastes.

Slab Bacon

Slab Bacon

First you will need to acquire the following ingredients:

1 Pound of Slab Bacon (preferably from your favorite Pork Store)

1 Table spoon Cinnamon

Maple Syrup (Enough to coat bacon)

2 Jars of Emeralds Sweet and Salty Cinnamon Sugar Mixed Nuts

2 Table spoons of Brown Sugar

Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon

Preparation:

  1. Cut the Bacon into ¼ inch bite sized pieces making to cut against the grain as to preserve the integrity of the fat to meat ratio of the slab bacon.
  2. Place a ½ pound of the cut bacon into a skillet set to medium high heat.
  3. Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of cinnamon on Bacon once a layer of grease forms on the bottom of the pan.  Mix Well
  4. Cook bacon until very close to being done and then drizzle maple syrup into the pan coating the bacon evenly.
  5. Cook Bacon until it is crisp.
  6. Remove Bacon from pan and place on plate and allow it to cool for approximately 10 minutes.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the other ½ pound of bacon.
  8. Fill two serving dishes (I use holiday tins to be festive) with the Emerald’s mixed nuts and top with Candied Bacon.
  9. Dust with Brown sugar and mix well to incorporate the bacon into the nuts.

This dish is easy to create and even easier to serve to your guests.  Simply prepare this crunchy, salty, sweet concoction the night before and set it out shortly before your guests arrive.  I assure you this hodgepodge of awesomeness will make at least a few of your guests Tweet the praises of your shindig, like a 14 year old girl who just received her first kiss.

2:  Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

New Year’s Eve Parties are hard to cook for because people are constantly on the move.    Furthermore, everyone is dressed up to ring in the New Year, so unfortunately the gold standard in appetizers, The Chicken Wing, is absolutely out of the question.  Right?  Wrong!  This tangy Buffalo Chicken Dip is the perfect solution to this sticky fingered dilemma.

This is another dish that can easily be made the night before and reheated just prior to your guest’s arrival.  Paired with a strong tortilla chip like Tostitos Scoops this magical potion will make your Grandma’s Onion Dip feel like Latoya Jackson at a family reunion.

3:  Double Bruschetta

 

Double Bruschetta

Double Bruschetta

As most of you already know, I am from the Armpit of our fine country, New Jersey!  New Jersey is known for a few things; the Mob, thanks to the Sopranos, the New Jersey Turnpike, thanks to the smell of cheese and death that emanates from it, Snookie, thanks to Ulster County, New York, and Jersey Fresh Produce, thanks to being the Garden State.  As the Facts of Life theme song once said, “You take the good, you take the bad,” (I just lost a man point there) and that pretty much sums up my love hate relationship with New Jersey.  I could do without being associated with the horrid odor of the Turnpike and Snookie invading my shore line like an overweight, orange skinned, vodka laced Godzilla, but then I would have to do without the mouthwatering taste of fresh Jersey Tomatoes and I can’t have that!

In celebration of the only good thing to be associated with New Jersey since the first game of Baseball was played on June 19, 1846, I present to you this jaw dropping bruschetta recipe that will make your guests proud to be from THE GARDEN STATE.  Unlike ordinary Bruschetta recipes, this one throws sun dried tomatoes into the mix, and then prompts you to melt cheese on pre-made toast squares.   What you end up with is an appetizer that is not only healthy but is also a true crowd pleaser.  These crispy slices of heaven will make your guests completely forget that Chris Christie is our governor and their car insurance is higher than most people’s mortgages.

4:  Crunchy Swiss Cheese and Ham

 

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

If you are anything like me you always have some left over Christmas Ham that you are not quite sure what to do with.  Sure you can have Ham and Cheese sandwiches for lunch for a month, or you could make some fantastic Split Pea Soup, but why not share the wealth, in the form of a crunchy tasty treat.   These crunchy Swiss cheese and Ham patties are a great way to recycle that Holiday Ham in a fun and scrumptious way.

The home style appeal of these flavorful morsels transport me back to a simpler time when instead of Panko or Tempura batter, cornflakes would do just fine as a crunchy coating.  I like to serve these delicious nuggets with a variety of mustards, such as Dijon, Spicy Brown, and Yellow.

5:  Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for any kind of entertaining.  Fried Green Beans can be served to a small dinner party with a refined palette or to a group of booze laden football fans on any given Sunday.  Either way these crispy fried tidbits are always a hit.

Kat and I found this recipe when we first got our Deep Fryer and went on frying binge that almost caused a zombified John Candy to rise from his grave and join us.  We literally fried everything, French Fries, Tator Tots, Hot Dogs, Twinkies (R.I.P.), Oreos, Snickers, and when we ran out of the normal things to fry, we went rouge and started tossing veggies into the hot oil.  After we gained 10 pounds in a month and our cholesterol was twenty points higher we had to retire the fryer for a while but this recipe always remained a staple.

Weather you use all or none of the recipes above, I hope that reading this article inspired you to create some amazing appetizers for your guests.  Remember your friends and family came to your house to celebrate the New Year, it is up to your spread to keep them coming back for more.  I hope your New Year’s Eve Party will be a complete success and no usurpers are victorious.  As Cersei Lannister said, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.”

Happy New Years to you all and thanks for a wonderful 2012!