Yo! Sushi Schools The Blue Collar Foodie

As I get older there are more and more things that I miss from my youth.  Besides the fact that a hangover that used to last 2 hours, now lasts two days, and in the morning, my bones and my cereal sound like they are having a conversation as they both snap, crackle, and pop.  One such component of my youth that I never thought I would miss is oddly enough school.

I am now almost certain that time travel will not be invented during my life time, because as I just wrote that sentence, a 6 year old with a scraggly bowl cut and a 15 year old rocking JNCOs and a chain wallet didn’t just appear in a DeLorean and take turns kicking my shins.

It is not actually school that I miss, but the learning that accompanied it, because let’s be honest only like 42 people in the history of mankind actually liked high school when they were there.  This perpetual thirst for knowledge is very similar to my thirst for beer on a Thursday night, as in, it is very hard to quell.  Shut up, maybe you have a problem!

Since I still haven’t truly decided what I want to be when I “grow up”, I have yet to choose a Master’s program that I can truly torture my brain with, and so I seek education in unconventional places.  Not to mention, my current chosen path to knowledge is a hell of a lot cheaper than going to grad school.

This time around, my never ending quest for knowledge steered me in the direction of another thing I miss from my youth, The Mall!  That is right, I grew up in Northern New Jersey in the 1990’s, which means that I was a Mall Rat.  Not just any Mall Rat mind you, but a Garden State Plaza Mall Rat; GSP Represent!  Back in my day, the mall you called your home was important and any other rat from any other mall wasn’t even welcome in your hack circle.

01yosushi

Sorry, I veered off course there for a minute.  Anyway, back to my journey.  The interwebs informed me that at my former stomping ground, an eatery that I have written about once before, Yo! Sushi, was now offering a two-hour comprehensive Sushi School.  I was interested, I was intrigued, I was… concerned about the cost.  I subdued my excitement, while I clicked some links and skimmed some sites, all the while worrying that this class might be out of my price range.  Then I saw it.

Our work station for the night.

Our work station for the night.

How much is Yo! Sushi charging for this class you ask?  $30 for a single student and $49 for a pair of pupils.  This is not my first time dabbling in the dark arts of back alley cooking classes, so I know what some of them cost.  I once took a wine class in the city and even with a Groupon it cost me $45 bucks a person, and I left more sober than a 15 year old trying to buy booze with a fake ID that was made with MS Paint and an Ink Jet printer.  The how and why Yo! Sushi is pulling off this price point matters not, I only know they are, and I was in!

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy!

Here is how this class works.  Each Sushi master in training is provided their own rolling mat, gloves, recipe cards and ingredients, and a YO! Sushi head chef will walk you through the process of creating all different types of Sushi.  The syllabus includes, making sushi rice; cutting fresh fish; and mastering the best techniques for rolling maki, mini iso and hand rolls.  As the late great Billy Mays used to say, “But wait there is more!” once all dishes are completed, students will leave with their rolls, along with a recipe book, a certificate, and a special discount voucher for their next visit.  Not to mention if you are as my wife lovingly puts it, a competitive jerk, after you learn your new skills you can put them to the test against the rest of the class by participating in the Yo! Sushi Rolling Challenge.  The winner gets a $10 gift card, a spot on the in-store leader board, a shout-out on the Yo! Sushi Instagram page, and best all BRAGGIN’ RIGHTS!

Go Fish!

Go Fish!

Sounds great, right?!  I am not going to lie, I was skeptical too.  Even more so when our Sushi Chef came out to the table and introduced himself to us.  His name was Stuart, and he was definitely not from Japan.  He was actually from Scotland as we learned once he began to speak to us.  However, after about three minutes into the class we realized it was not the nationality of the chef that mattered, but the passion that he brings to the cutting board.

Say hello to Stuart internets!

Stuart; Internets   …   Internets; Stuart

Stuart not only knew his stuff, but to use an often uttered 90’s colloquialism, he had the mad phat skills to pay the bills.  As he waxed poetic about the history of not only Yo! Sushi but Sushi in general, he demonstrated an array of knife skills that would make a samurai weep.  He went on to explain how to choose the fish you use, how to prepare it, and he also shared the secrets to the most important element of any great Sushi, the mystical rice.  Within the first 15 minutes of the course, Stuart’s extensive knowledge, skills, charisma, and overall teaching method had quelled my hesitation about the class, and I was excited to get my hands dirty.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Albert Einstein

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” -Albert Einstein

As if Stuart read my mind, he began doling out the ingredients for our first roll. Stuart guided the class through each and every step of the process, making sure that our Sushi somewhat resembled the masterpieces that he was creating.  This was no easy task, because my hands were meant for catching footballs and carrying heavy things, not for Sushi making, but somehow he made it work.

Hands off my Sushi! Get it... Cause it is a Hand Roll... Come on, everyone appreciates a Dad Joke!

Hands off my Sushi! Get it… Cause it is a Hand Roll… Come on, everyone appreciates a good Dad Joke!

Each and every type of Sushi that we created not only came with instructions but also a brief history lesson or anecdote that made the class that much more enjoyable.  Throughout the class, you could tell Stuart was not using a script from a corporate Power Point, he was simply talking to us, while he was teaching us.  He even added some war stories from the Kitchen which are always fun to hear.

Rollin' with my Homies!

Rollin’ with my Homies!

As we were jumping from Sushi type to Sushi type, Stuart stressed that this class was not simply about learning how to make the Sushi that we were preparing today but gaining a skill set that will allows us to use our imagination in the kitchen.  After the completion of this course, you could follow the recipes on the cards that Yo! Sushi provides, or you can use any ingredients you can think of to make whatever concoction your heart desires.  Once you “perfect” the art of slicin’, dicin’, and rollin’, the world of Sushi is yours to explore.

Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning! – Yoda

Much to learn you still have…my old padawan. … This is just the beginning! – Yoda

As we made our last roll, Stuart collected all of our creations and began to cut them.    As he went through the cutting procedure for each style he described the theory behind each cut.  I am not going to lie, while he was doing this, I got a serious case of knife envy.  I don’t have crappy knives mind you, but compared to the hardware Stuart was wielding, I might as well be brandishing a shiv that I fashioned out of a toothbrush.

Now that is a doggie bag!

As promised, our extremely fresh and somewhat amateurishly made Sushi was cut, boxed, and ready to go at the end of the class, thanks to Yo! Sushi and Head Chef Stuart Foster.  As we prepared to leave, we discussed the implantation of this new found culinary skill.  Imagine instead of pigs in a blanket and pizza bagels decorating your dining room table at your next gathering, an assortment of freshly made Sushi.  The best part is, you don’t have to be a master Sushi Chef to pull this off, the effort alone is going to get you plastered on every Instagram, Facebook, and Snap Chat in the house.

That is some fine ass fish!

That is some fine ass fish!

When all was said and done, Kat and I left Yo! Sushi with head full of knowledge and a bag full of Sushi, ready to put our newly acquired skills to good use.  If you are a foodie who enjoys putzing around the kitchen, this is a great way to bolster your culinary aptitude, while not spending a gill and a fin.  Furthermore, if you have someone special in your life who shares your passion for all things palatable, you would be hard pressed to find a better date night that would offer more bang for your buck.

Netflix and Grill

Summer is hurdling at us faster than hipsters flocking to a vintage flannel sale in Williamsburg, which means the time to prepare is nigh.  No longer can you get away with making a Lasagna, a Sunday Sauce, or a Chili for your friends when they visit.  The time for one pot meals is behind us and we are staring directly into the heart of the most epic and somewhat daunting cooking season there is.  That is right people, this is not a drill!  It is time to buy way to much food, invite a shit-ton of people over, drink heavily (But Responsibly…Stupid Lawyers!), light inappropriately large (But Manageable…I H8 Lawyers) fires in your suburban back yards, and grill, damn you, grill, until all of your guests tap out like the late great Kimbo Slice in rear naked choke.

For those of you that saw the title of this post and thought it was going to be about which movies are the best to watch while you Netflix and Chill, I apologize.  For those of you that don’t exactly know what Netflix and Chill means and just clicked the link above to find out, I am looking at you Mom, have no fear, there is no porn here.

This post is about the Top 5 titles on Netflix to Binge Watch prior to the start of summer to get your creative juices flowing and assist you in formulating a plan for each and every backyard get together that is in your future.  There will always be a place on my grill for burgers and dogs, but to supplement those staples, I like to go off-book and the following shows get me “in the mood”, so without further ado let’s Netflix and Grill!

5:  Chef (2014)  

ChefFilm

This feature length film is for everyone that hates documentary style movies and television shows.  I for one can watch a Chef wield a knife, talk about the perfect turnip, and pontificate about the need for 300 varieties of rice for hours on end, but I understand that those types of shows are not for everyone.  This 2014 Dramedy is about a prominent Chef that loses his job and decides to open a food truck to reclaim his culinary passion and spend some quality time with his son.  The cast is a recipe for awesomesauce as Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo add a cup of comedy, Sofia Vergara throws in a bunch of Tablespoons of Sexy, and Emjay Anthony steals the show with more than a pinch of epic acting.  After watching Chef, if you don’t know why you started cooking, hang up your tongs, turn off the gas, and get the fuck away from the grill.

4:  Cooked (2016)

Cooked Netflix

Quite the opposite of my first selection, Cooked is the epitome of Documentaries, but that is exactly why I freaking love it.  This four episode mini-series is based on Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, by the same name, and discusses how varying cooking techniques impacted mankind and transformed the world as we know it.  Each episode is named after one of the four basic elements of nature; Fire, Water, Air, and Earth to further drive home the deep connection between our evolution and the food of our ancestors, predecessors, and ourselves.   After watching the Fire episode, Episode 1, you will want to kick your Grill’s tires, let some fires, and sear something that was recently slaughtered, but if you are anything like me you will have to binge watch the rest of the episodes first.

3:  Good Eats (1999-2012)

Good Eats

The host of this oldie but goodie, Alton Brown, is a combination of Julia Child, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mr. Rogers, and Pee Wee Herman.  Good Eats, at times maybe funny, satirical, and nostalgic, but it is always informative and educational.  Whenever I am cooking something for the first time I turn to Mr. Brown, because he does not just give you a recipe like all the other Chef’s kicking around your cable box, he explains why and how the given ingredients in that recipe work.  Good Eats doesn’t focus on what you cook, it concentrates on teaching you how to cook, and that is why is the perfect show to watch before manning your meat maker.  As of right now the only episodes that are available on Netflix Streaming is a selection of 25 episodes called the Good Eats Collection, but that should be enough to give you some solid ideas for your future backyard Soirees.

2:  Mind of a Chef (2012-    )       

Mind of a Chef

Thanks to Executive Producer/Culinary Cowboy/Narrator Anthony Bourdain and PBS, Mind of a Chef entered our lives in 2012.  Wait…Wait…Wait… come back, PBS is so much more than Opera and Pledge Drives.  This revolutionary show feels as if the producers gave some of the most innovative Chefs in the world a camera crew, a kitchen, and a Black AMEX and said, “show us why you became a foodie.”  What came from this magnificent concept is a show that truly allows you enter the mindset of Chefs that are changing the very culture of cooking, one dish at a time.  You begin to identify with the Chefs that are showcased as well as see how their influences, hardships, cultural backgrounds, and relationships shaped them into the culinary juggernauts that they are today.  “Enter the Mind Of A Chef.”

1:  Chef’s Table (2015-    )  

  Chef's Table

If inspiration is what you are after, look no further than this gastronomic Netflix Original Series.  Each episode introduces you to one of the world’s most renowned Chefs and invites you into their unique culinary world.   The show includes an in-depth tour of the world’s best restaurants, stunning food porn; detailing the remarkable food these establishments serve, and of course a glimpse into the Chef’s inspiration, passion, and life experiences.  After watching this awe-inspiring documentary one cannot help but be motivated to create food that not only tastes good, but looks as beautiful as any piece of art hanging in the Louvre.  *Warning*  By watching this show, you will add several restaurants to your Dine Before Death list and none of them are inexpensive.

There you have it folks.  The Blue Collar Foodie’s Netflix and Grill list.  Now get to binge watching because a backyard barbecue without creativeness is as enjoyable as drinking a non-alcoholic beer on a Saturday Night while you Netflix and Chill sans partner.

Bacon Fest 2015

Once a year, on International Bacon Day, instead of attending food or beer festivals, I host one. Not just any old fiesta either, a tiny subversive underground shindig one can only attend if invited by me or mine. This event is entitled Bacon Fest and this year we celebrated our fifth anniversary in style.

Peace Love And Bacon
Bacon Fest is comprised of 13 amateur chefs preparing their favorite bacon concoctions and presenting them, pot luck style, to be judged by our guests. The competition is fierce, and the prize, simple bragging rights. Well, that and the coveted Cup of St. Anthony, who happens to be the patron Saint of Bacon. This Trophy, much like the Stanley Cup, is only borrowed for the year, because the following year, the winner must bring it back and present it to the next Bacon Fest Champion.

This event features some of the most whacked out, innovative, and straight up fucking delicious bacon dishes I have ever sunk my teeth into; and that is saying something friends because I like bacon, like Jared likes jailbait. However, that is not the only reason we throw this salty soiree. Each year we donate not 10%, not 50%, but 100% of the proceeds of this cured meat jamboree to a charity of our choosing.

Since you have all obviously clicked this link to see the filthy food porn and read descriptions of bacon preparations that would make Ron Jeremy blush, without further ado I bring to you this year’s Bacon Fest entries. We will get back to the trivial details a little later:

A – “The Bloody Wilbur”
How could one conceivably improve on the quintessential brunch cocktail, The Bloody Mary, you ask? Add Bacon and Guinness of course! This invigorating concoction unites the traditional essence of the Bloody Mary with the velvety goodness of Guinness and the smoky flair of Bacon Infused Vodka. This “boarish” libation should be imbibed utilizing the provided handcrafted candied bacon straw.

Brunch served in a glass!

Brunch served in a glass!

2 – “Fall Fest”
Baked sweet potatoes topped with sautéed apples and bacon, reminding you of your grandmother’s apple pie…but with bacony goodness! Swallow down with a mouth full of delicious, cold Oktoberfest!

Apples, Bacon, and BEER! OH MY!

Apples, Bacon, and BEER! OH MY!

3 – “Three Drunken Pigs”
Imagine three pigs from three different nations sat down with a bottle of bourbon then finished with a nice rich breakfast gravy.

This gravy would make a southern girl swoon!

This gravy would make a southern girl swoon!

4 – “Chicken Ba-Bombs”
Jalapenos filled with cheese, stuffed in chicken, and wrapped lovingly in bacon. These delicious Ba-Bombs are exploding with all sorts of cheesy, salty, and meaty flavor.

ChickenBaBombs

Like the Turducken of Bacon Fest!

5 – “S’more Bacon Please!”
Your favorite campfire delight, but with bacon! This is a bacon s’mores no-bake cheesecake with bacon bits mixed into the graham. Complete with a marshmallow, cool whip, and cream cheese layer plus a bacon chocolate layer on top. This delight has an added layer of bacon bits topped with a roasted marshmallow on a stick. This is the best way to end the summer!

SmoresBacon

Who needs camping when you have this delightful treats!

6 – “Xun Rou Bao (Bacon Buns)”
Inspired by the delectable dim sum treat, these dense, soft buns are filled with a sweet & savory BBQ bacon filling. If these were on the dim sum cart, the old ladies would never have to resort to the hard sale.

Xun Rou Bao

MMMMMmmmmmmmmm Dim Sum!

7 – “Breakfast for Dessert”
Espresso Chocolate Mousse with bacon fat and bourbon, caramelized bananas, fresh vanilla bean whipped cream and bacon sprinkles in a flaky crust. Bacon sprinkles are for winners and that is what this dish is.

You had me at Bacon Fat and Bourbon!

You had me at Bacon Fat and Bourbon!

8 – “Did someone say Tots?”
This Cheesy Tater Tot breakfast bake combines all your morning faves! Sausage, tots, cheese, eggs, and of course BACON! So, stick your fork in it and take a bite… cause it’s 5 A.M. somewhere.

This was better than if you replace the O with an I...

This was better than if you replace the O with an I…

9 – “Scuttlebutt Bites “
This Ebelskiver or traditional Danish pancake is prepared with fruit butter and Applewood smoked bacon before being topped off with a bacon glaze for good measure. Everyone will be talking about these tasty treats!

Even though I can't pronounce them, I sure as hell with eat them!

Even though I can’t pronounce them, I sure as hell with eat them!

10 – “Backels”
As the leaves change colors and fall from the sky certain edibles are simply irresistible. This is one of those wonderful treats, only these caramel apples are bite sized and chock full of bacon, chocolate, and nuts.

Caramel Apples with Bacon? Damn Straight!

Caramel Apples with Bacon? Damn Straight!

J – “All American Poppers”
Beer battered and fried, these balls of freedom are part homemade mashed red skin potatoes, part cheddar cheese, and part bacon, but I assure you they are 100 percent ‘merica!

'Merica, FUCK YEA!

‘Merica, FUCK YEA!

Q – “Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Pork Roulettes”
Nothing goes better with bacon than a nice pork cutlet. Especially, when it is pounded thin, layered with stuffing, rolled up and then wrapped in the salty temptress.

Pig Wrapped in Pig PEOPLE!!!

Pig Wrapped in Pig PEOPLE!!!

K – “Ice Cream for Breakfast?”
Maple flavored ice cream with candied bacon and Amaretto liqueur, served on a homemade chocolate chip waffle. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and now it includes bacon, booze, and ice cream!

Fifty Scoops Of Awesome!

Fifty Scoops Of Awesome!

You may have noticed that in front of each of the food descriptions above, there is a number or a letter. If you are slightly smarter than the hog that was transformed into the bacon that is celebrated on this most joyous occasion, you may have put two and two together and got something that resembled a four. This inkling would be correct, those symbols reassemble the ones in a deck of cards. There is a reason for that, in order to level the playing field, each Bacon Fest judge receives five playing cards that correspond with the dishes that are being served and judge only them, without knowing who prepared them. After about an hour, all the votes are in and the leftovers are devoured by the hoard of bacon lovers.

Bacon, Bacon, and more Bacon is not the only thing that is consumed during Bacon Fest! We of course have to provide something to wash that bacon down with, and I will give you all just one guess as to what that fine fucking liquid would be… Did someone say, Craft Beer? You are correct sir! This year we delivered libations fit for a king, Founders All Day IPA and Troegs Sunshine Pilsner. Not to mention a sweet ass souvenir cup complete with the Bacon Fest Slogan, “Peace, Love, and Bacon.”

baconfestcups

When all the votes were tallied and our Stomachs were chock-full of Bacon, Barley, Hops, and Happy, Kat delivered unto me the final standings. A hush fell over the crowd as I delivered the standings:

Third Place: “Chicken Ba-Bombs”
Second Place: S’more Bacon Please!
First Place: Scuttlebutt Bites

Before I close this ode to Bacon Fest out, I would like to genuinely thank everyone that attended, especially the Chefs because without them this bacon bash would not be possible, and not only would our taste buds suffer but the selected charities would too. If you have ever planned a wedding you understand how annoying the details are, yet how rewarding and magical the outcome is. Now imagine planning a union between Bacon and Beer, every year… That my friends is the fairy-tale of Bacon Fest!

Bacon Pimp!

Sir Bacon of Pimptown!

We Love Hangi! A.K.A. So You Want to Put Your Meat In a Hole

Once a year, in the backwoods of Sussex County, an invite-only Pig Roast occurs that is so fucking epic it is known throughout the State as “The Pig Roast.” This soiree is an underground four-day foodie fiasco that includes bands, pot luck style dining, drinks of all kinds, a gigantic Pig roasted on a spit, and experimental food preparation.

THE PIG ROAST

THE PIG ROAST

I have had the distinct and greatly appreciated privilege to attend this event for the past two years. This year, however, my connection to the gathering wanted to prepare something special for the party and asked me if I wanted to assist him in this endeavor. Attending this affair is one thing, but cooking, on a large scale, is a whole other level of crazy. You see, some of the best and most eclectic amateur and professional chefs in the area ascend the mountains of New Jersey to concoct dishes that are not only tremendously appetizing but also prepared in exotic and daunting techniques, so when my cohort dropped the bomb that we might cook, I was wondering what the hell he was smoking.

Three Days of Pigs, Love, and Music.

Three Days of Pigs, Love, and Music

With a smile on his face, he asked me bluntly, “What do you know about Hangi?”

Thinking my friend was in trouble, I immediately asked him if he smelled burnt toast. He retorted that he was not having a stroke, and that Hangi was the New Zealand method of cooking in an Earth Oven.

I was intrigued, fascinated, damn near titillated about this unique cooking method, and I immediately signed onto the google machine to find out more.   Sure as shit, Hangi is a traditional New Zealand Māori (Indigenous New Zealanders) method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a damn hole in the ground.

From that moment on, we began to hash this plan out over the course of the next month. It seemed like every time we had a pint in our hands the conversation would switch to Hangi. We read articles, watched Youtube clips, scoured the internets, and even asked Reddit for help in the form of a post on R/NewZealand. It appears the old adage, “the best ideas are imagined in the minds of the sober, but it takes some lubrication to implement them,” is correct.

What started as half a joke, had now consumed us. We were going to put down a Hangi at The Pig Roast, and we were going to do it fucking right!

Don't sue me!

Don’t sue me!

Listen closely as this is as close as I get to a disclaimer. I am a fucking American, so this is in no way a definitive guide to Hangi. Furthermore, if any of you try this at home, please use common sense considering not only are you playing with fire, but you are playing with fire, next to a hole full of 1200 degree bricks! With that said, I hope this illustrated guide will give you a general idea of what cooking with an Earth Oven is all about. A huge thanks to the many Reddit users that assisted me in this endeavor, especially MurrayMcScurrilous.

The following is a list of the materials you will need for this endeavor, and I will explain each one in detail so you don’t fuck shit up! Pay attention, some of the details will make the difference between meat that gives you an orgasm and meat that gives you an organism. Don’t worry after the list of shit you need, I will explain how the whole thing comes to together.

Meat me at the Hangi pit

Meat Me at The Hangi Pit

Meat: There are a few things to consider here. How much meat you will need will of course depend on how many freeloading friends you have invited to your shindig, and whether or not they eat like birds or Joey Chestnut sitting outside a Nathans.

Another very important element is the type of meat that you choose to bury in your pit of awesome sauce. We did two Pork Shoulders, two Beef Rump Roasts, and two Whole Chickens. Honestly, you can throw what the fuck you want in the hole, but I would stick to boneless meats that contain a lot of collagen.

*Note (Even though we tried the Chicken, and it wasn’t half bad, it was not the best and was slightly under cooked, requiring us to cook it further on a grill. Since the whole idea of you reading this fucking thing is to learn from our stupidity, do yourself a favor and replace the chicken with Boneless Lamb, you and your guests will be happier.)

Why did the potatoes argue? Because they could never see eye to eye.

Why did the potatoes argue? Because they could never see eye to eye.

Vegetables: To be honest, no one walked past our table that night and said, “Oh shit look at those vegetables” or “Dude, I want to dip my balls in those carrots.” However, it is tradition in New Zealand to cook vegetables with the meat when putting down a Hangi, so if you want to experience the whole shebang, you should use the likes of potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. Stay away from anything that would disintegrate in say a stew or a chili.

Clean Cabbage Is The Best Cabbage.

Clean Cabbage Is The Best Cabbage

Cabbage: This is used in place of the traditional banana leaves because it is what we can find in the states. You will use it to wrap the meat and to line the baskets so buy enough to do both jobs. Shit, buy some extra fucking cabbage it is $0.59 cents a pound, you cheap fuck.

Wrap it up be!

Wrap it up be!

Aluminum Foil: My Comrade and I had delusions of grandeur of rocking the Hangi ol’ school until we talked to some real life Kiwis. They told us that we would be dumber than a sheep in heat, if we did not use Aluminum Foil to wrap our meat rather than the traditional plant leaves and mutton cloth. Neither of us were 100% sure on the meaning of this insult, but we understood the context clues in the sentence enough to know that we would be wrapping all of our food in this food science wunderkind and so should you.

Warning!  Dropping a Hangi can make you a Basket Case.

Warning! Dropping a Hangi can make you a Basket Case.

Baskets: Considering if you are reading this you are from the States, you will most likely have the same issues as we had in acquiring Hangi Baskets. Apparently in New Zealand, you can run to the corner store and buy these fucking integral apparatuses, but here in America, you will have to be industrious and build your own. These baskets will have to hold all the meat and vegetables and will have to withstand a tremendous amount of heat so don’t skimp. We fashioned ours out of Chafing Dish Frames and NON-GALVANIZED Chicken Wire.

*Note (Notice the CAPITAL LETTERS IN THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE. For all of you that are internet disabled, that means I was yelling those fucking words. Galvanized metal will make people sick, and you don’t want to kill any of your friends, so don’t be a douche and buy the right chicken wire.)

Hole in one!

Hole in one!

Hole/Pit/Earth Oven:   Most people think the first step to laying a Hangi is crafting the hole that will act as your Earth Oven. HEY YOU! STOP! COME BACK HERE! Damn A.D.D. generation. Don’t just grab a shovel and rip up your Wives’ begonias… that right there is how divorces happen. In this case, much like penises, SIZE MATTERS!

Your Hangi hole size should be directly proportionate to the size of your baskets, the amount of food you are making, and the size of your stones. The larger the Ho’ the harder it will be to heat it. According to my extremely helpful New Zealand Hangi brethren, a solid hole should be deep enough to fit the Hangi Paraphernalia listed above, as wide as the bottom of the baskets and slightly flair out to the sides, similar to a wok.

Much like real estate the key to Hangi is, Location, Location, Location!

Much like real estate the key to Hangi is, Location, Location, Location!

Location: The pit should be on flat ground for the safety of both the meat and yourselves. Remember, you are going to be maneuvering/running around it carrying scolding hot bricks and eventually reaching into it to retrieve heavy stuff.   Pay attention to the wind in the area of your pit too, rain is tolerable, but wind is the enemy of your Hangi.

Pick a tool, any tool!

Pick a tool, any tool!

Shovel: I suggest at least three of these bitches, unless you want to do all the heavy lifting yourself. You will need this ever important tool for digging the hole, carrying the stones, burying the meat, and unearthing your buried meat treasure.

USE THE RIGHT STONES!!!

USE THE RIGHT STONES!!!

Fire Bricks: THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!! You will be heating these sons of a bitches to well over 1000 degrees, and if you do not pick the right stones, they will explode sending white hot shards of stone in every direction if you don’t want a money shot full of lava, pay the fuck attention!

One is supposed to lay down a Hangi using volcanic rocks and in New Zealand finding these is like finding a douche at the Jersey Shore. Unfortunately, we have douches a plenty, but we lack volcanic rocks. Once again we had to improvise. We decided to use fireplace bricks which are designed to endure a massive amount of heat without making us all look like JPP’s mangled hand stump.

In the immortal words of Beavis... FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

In the immortal words of Beavis… FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

Fire: I am not talking about a tiny little city fire either! I am talking about a ragin’, big ol’, country fire. This fire will have to fit all of your stones and burn for about 3-5 hours.

Hangi gives me wood!

Hangi gives me wood!

Wood: You are going to need more wood than Ron Jeremy on a four day binge of snorting Cialis and Viagra so act like a Boy Scout, and Be Fucking Prepared!  

Burlap sections

Burlap sections

Burlap: You can find spools of this material at Walmart or Home Depot. It is used to separate the layers of the Hangi and to add moisture to the mix.

Insert Cheesy Joke Here!

Insert Cheesy Joke Here!

Cheese Cloth: Enough to cover each of your baskets.

Let's Do This!

Let’s Do This!

Bucket: You will need at least one bucket to soak the burlap sheets in which will allow the burlap not to burn and add extra moisture to the process.

Yous a hose!

Yous a hose!

Garden Hose: This is optional, but you will need to moisten the Hangi hole one way or another, and a source of water is never a bad thing to have handy when you are playing with fire.

Some say Summer is the best season, I say the best season is Hangi season!

Some say Summer is the best season, I say the best season is Hangi season!

Seasoning: Since you found this page, you have no doubt been bouncing around the interwebs in search of guidance on how to season the meat that you are about to bury in the earth. I was surprised to find that most websites simply don’t talk about this element of the process. However, upon speaking to many people that have participated in Hangi before I soon found out why. New Zealand has some weird ass herbs and spices that you or I have never fucking heard of. For example, Piko Piko, Piri Piri, Kawa Kawa, and Horopito.

Furthermore, we found that most Hangi meat is simply seasoned with a little bit of canola oil, salt and pepper. We decided to add a little ‘Merica into this bitch, and concoct seasoning rubs for each of our meats that we felt would not only taste fantastic but give a slight nod to the Mauri people by adding as many fresh herbs and spices we could get our hand on.

A-Roid would like this part

A-Roid would like this part

Marinades: We toiled and labored over the keyboard to find the perfect marinades for our meat, only to find out that wet marinades are horrible for Hangi, which makes sense since we are essentially cooking with steam. However, not to be deterred, we decided to use injectable marinades instead, which we did the night before, and let the juices sink into the lovely meat overnight while chillin’ out maxin’ and relaxin’ in the fridge.

Cheers to good times and good friends

Cheers to good times and good friends

Friends: In New Zealand they are called Mates, in America we call them friends, and you are going to need a lot of them. Putting a Hangi down is a social\team event from start to finish, and believe me, the more the merrier!

Who you choose might be your down fall!

Who you choose might be your down fall!

Foreman: Most likely if you are reading this, you have already assumed this role, but this is a must for a successful Hangi. This does not give you the license to be a dick, but as I will explain the last step, putting down a Hangi is intense and time sensitive. Decisions will have to be made that will affect the outcome of the food, and these decisions should not be questioned because those questions will eat away precious seconds.

Sit, Ubu, Sit.  Good Dog.

Sit, Ubu, Sit. Good Dog.

Seats: What are you going to do? Stand up for 12 hours?

Be Responsible You Jerks!

Be Responsible You Jerks!

Beer: Every single guide I read and person I talked to clearly stated that beer in some quantity or style was an absolute must when you are laying down a Hangi. Be responsible though, you are playing with insanely hot shit and the fate of the food lies solely on your shoulders.

Protection is important!

Protection is important!

Gloves: Holy Fuck the fire pit gets hot, and you are going to need some gloves. Not gardening gloves either you wanker. Get yourself some diesel BBQ gloves or even better Fireman gloves!

Saucey... Sauce... Sauce... I Love Sauce!

Saucey… Sauce… Sauce… I Love Sauce!

Sauce: I love sauce like Ron Burgundy loves Scotch, so I put sauce on EVERYTHING. If you are looking for a traditional sauce, I will include an amazing recipe at the very end of this tutorial; however, you can use any sauce that you think will taste good with the meat you selected.

Dirt Holder

Dirt Holder

Wheel Barrel: This will hold the dirt that you remove from the ground, so you can dump that shit back in the hole when the time comes. Remember time is of the essence, so this will come in handy later.

Pick a wood!  Any wood!

Pick a wood! Any wood!

Mesquite or Hickory Wood Chunks: These pieces of wood will be added to the whole after the bricks to add a bit of good ol’ fashioned smoke flavor.

Don't sleep on the Hangi

Don’t sleep on the Hangi

Step 1

The Meetup: Wake up really fucking early and meet up with your Hangi Homies. Make sure you have all your gear, a box of Joe, a cooler full of solid craft beer, and set up your seats.

Building a big ol' fire

Building a big ol’ fire

Step 2

The Fire: This ain’t Naked and Afraid, and the fire needs to be hotter than Ronda Rousey and bigger than Chris Christie so use as many fire starters as you need. To paraphrase Jim Morrison, come on baby light your fire.

Just keep digging, just keep digging!

Just keep digging, just keep digging!

Step 3

Can You Dig It: While a few of your mates tend the fire, grab a few others and start digging. By now I hope you have already scoped out the location of the pit and planned the dimensions, so this should be as simple as scooping the dirt out of the ground and into the wheel barrel.

In the immortal words of Beavis... FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

Use your Tetris skills here!

Step 4

Burn Those Bricks: Strategically place your bricks or stones into your now hopefully roaring fire. Your friends always said that all those years of playing Tetris instead of banging chicks and getting drunk were a waste of time, but now is your chance to show off your skills. BE CAREFUL!!! Use gloves and tools if necessary to stack the bricks in the fire. Now that your bricks have been placed in the hell fire you created, drink some beers, and take a breather. You need to get the bricks stupid hot, so they will sit in the fire for between 4 to 6 hours depending on the stones and the size of your fire. Just remember to tend the fire and make sure your bricks don’t fall out.

We can build it, we can make it stronger.

We can build it, we can make it stronger.

Step 5

Basket Weaving 101: Now that your hole is all holey and your bricks are on the barbi, it is time to turn your attention to your meat holders. If you found something that will work without any tweaking, more power to you, but if you need to build the DIY version, now is the time. All you have to do is wrap the chicken wire around the Chafing Dish trays and connect the two of them by folding the end of the wire over the frame. *NOTE* You might want to use gloves during this step too, Chicken Wire is sharper than your douchey cats nails, and you will poke yourself a lot.

It's Peelin' Time

It’s Peelin’ Time

Step 6

Peel Out: When you have about an hour left of cooking time on your bricks, you should start peeling and cutting your veggies. Before you start peeling them though, remove your meat from the fridge and place it to the side. Peel everything and cut the vegetables into large chunks, not too small so they fall apart, but small enough to allow them to cook. I know that is pretty fucking vague but stop your whining, I told you this shit ain’t scientific, you are cooking in a hole for fucks sake.

Rub your meat!  Rub it real good!

Rub your meat! Rub it real good!

Step 7

Rub Your Meat: Unwrap your meat and rub it down like a 16 year old that just found porn hub. Make sure to cover every square inch of your fleshy dead animal.

Wrap it up!

Wrap it up!

Step 8

Wrap it up: Pretend you are about to score with a Las Vegas hooker and triple bag your meat and Veggies. Wrap it first in your cabbage leaves and then in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Don’t be a fucktard and use some bull shit off brand aluminum foil either! Remember the foil will protect your food from the pile of earth you will throw on it in about 15 minutes so don’t be cheap!

The wetter the better!

The wetter the better!

Step 9

Soak Your Sacks and Wood: Throw your large burlap cuts, your cheese cloth, and your wood chunks into a big pot of water and let them soak for approximately one beer.

Stacks on Stacks!

Stacks on Stacks!

Step 10:

Meat and Veggie Jenga: Place your meat on the bottom of the baskets and the veggies on top. Make sure that everything is stable because you will have to maneuverer these bitches in the hole and then out again.

The Calm Before The Storm!

The Calm Before The Storm!

Step 11:

Final Preparation: This shit is about to get real and now is the time to go over your plan one more time with your team and bring everything over to your Hangi hole. This is your last chance to make everything just right before you take the first stone out of the fire and the clock starts ticking, so don’t fuck shit up.

GO TEAM HANGI!!!

GO TEAM HANGI!!!

Step 12:

GO TEAM GO: Time is of the essence!

  1. Use a hose or a bucket to wet the hole slightly. Don’t make a puddle, you are not making soup, just add enough to dampen the dirt.
  2. Transfer all the bricks into the pit faster than an eight ball disappears during a bachelor party. Use your shovel and your gloves because those stones are going to be hot as fuck, and don’t just throw them in all willy-nilly either, you are going to need a flat surface to place your baskets on.
  3. Throw the chunks of wood on top and around your stones.
  4. Put the baskets on top.
  5. Place the Cheese Cloth on top of the baskets.
  6. Throw some dirt on the sides of the pit to protect your stones from touching the layer of burlap that will go on top.
  7. Place a layer of wet burlap on top of the baskets. Don’t let the burlap touch the stones or it will burn and ruin the flavor of your Hangi.
  8. Add some more dirt to the pit and fill it up about half way.
  9. Add the second layer of burlap.
  10. Pile the dirt into the hole and seal it up tight. The rule here is, NO STEAM CAN ESCAPE! Keep adding dirt until you no longer see any steam wafting from your Hangi Pit.
  11. Place the last burlap sheet on top of the hole and exchange several high fives.
Hang on Hangi we are almost done!

Hang on Hangi we are almost done!

Step 13

Mind the Gap: Now that your food is in the pit, the craziness is over. Stay close though because as your food cooks you may need to tend to the Hangi Hole. As the magic happens, the dirt in the hole may shift, and some steam may try to escape. If this happens, immediately cover that spot with more dirt.

Boom!

Boom!

Step 14

Low and Slow: As I stated earlier, I am just a stupid American, and I have only done this once so as far as cooking time goes, your guess is as good as mine. I let mine cook for about five hours, and it came out awesome, I checked each cut with a thermometer, and I suggest you do the same. Best case scenario, everything comes out epic. Worst case scenario, you have to throw your Hangi in the oven for a few to complete the cooking, but at least everyone will be alive at the end of this experience.

I did not get a picture of us making the sauce.  Fucking Deal With It!

I did not get a picture of us making the sauce. Fucking Deal With It!

Step 15

Make the Sauce: If you are making the sauce I mentioned earlier, and you fucking should because it is pretty damn amazing, now is the time. Follow the directions and improvise as you see fit.

X marks the spot!

X marks the spot!

Step 16

Dig up Your Buried Treasure: The nice thing about the burlap cuts is that you can slowly lift them out of your hole to remove layers of the dirt that you threw on top of your baskets. Be careful stabbing your shovels into the ground as you don’t want to hit your meat. Ruin your Hangi at this stage would be a catastrophe. Once you hit pay dirt, use your gloves to remove the baskets from the hole and bring them to your carving station.

THAT IS FUCKING PORK!!!

Hangi Ninjas

Step 17

The Moment Of Truth: Unwrap your first cut of meat and stab that bitch with a thermometer. If you are rocking a Hangi I assume you are not a novice chef, so make sure your meat is cooked to a safe temp and then start carving. Carve and plate all the meat and the vegetables.

Our first Hangi!

Our first Hangi!

Step 18

Sit your ass down to a true New Zealand Mauri FEAST!!! You are fucking welcome!

Hangi WIN!!!!

Hangi WIN!!!!

Our Hangi Slideshow

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 Our Hangi Video

The Maori Sauce Recipe

2 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Onion

1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

1 Cup Chili Sauce

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 ½ Teaspoons Garlic Powder

½ Teaspoon White Pepper

¼ Cup Pineapple Juice

1 Small Bay Leaf

¾ Cup honey

1 Cup Tomato Sauce

½ Teaspoon Salt

2 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 ½ Teaspoon Chili Powder

1 Tablespoon BBQ Spice

1 ½ Teaspoon Liquid Smoke

1 Tablespoon White Vinegar

 

Sauté onion in vegetable oil until golden brown. Combine with remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about an hour. Makes three cups.

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

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!

The Blue Collar Foodie Celebrates Small Business Saturday

Since November 30, 2013 was Shop Small Saturday, I being a foodie took that as a cue to not only visit my favorite local shops but also to support the local eateries around town.   For breakfast Kat and I stopped off at our favorite bagel shop, Modern Bagel, located at 23-59 Fair Lawn Avenue in Fair Lawn.  I know, I just inadvertently started Bagel Wars on the internets by claiming that Modern Bagel was our favorite, but that is not what this article is about so please refrain from threatening my first born son, lovely wife, and/or cute dog, because you feel that there are other bagel shops in the area that are better.  I respect your opinion, even though it is wrong, Sick Burn, so you should follow what theChive.com says, Keep Calm and Carry On.

Once our bellies were full, Kat and I decided to venture down the road a bit and visit our favorite and damn near the last true comic book store in the world, The Joker’s Child, located at 12-23 River Road in Fair Lawn.  If you have any Big Bang Theory types on your Christmas list this is the only place to go to fill their stockings chock full of nerdy goodness!

Help make every Saturday Small Business Saturday

Help make every Saturday Small Business Saturday!

While Kat and I were browsing everything from Archie to Zombies, we were discussing our dinner.  I know what you are thinking blog reader man, “dude you just ate breakfast, and you are already thinking about dinner!”   To that I say, don’t judge us, Kat and I like food, like the Grinch loves misery, like Frosty hates global warming, and like Justin Beiber (There should be a link here for the Beebs, but I refuse to perpetuate his fame and therefore, no Wiki link for him!) likes selfies, so thinking about dinner before lunch makes perfect sense, Jerk!

Kat and I are very serious about dining out.  You see, there are many pros to being The Blue Collar Foodie, but there are some Cons.  One such Con is that we don’t get to frequent the same place very often because I am always on the hunt for a new and exciting place to write about, so a lot of thought normally goes into to where we should dine.  However, this decision was somewhat simple, thanks to one of my Facebook friends Carolina P., who informed me about a new Fair Lawn eatery that moved into the Picnic’s old digs.  So, before leaving The Joker’s Child, with a handful of gifts for our friends, Kat and I decided that The Istanbul Café & Grill, located at 1425 Plaza Road North in Fair Lawn, NJ, is where our Small Business Saturday Smorgasbord would be.  I dare you to try to say the name of this Restaurant without singing this song in your head.  Go.

Istanbul

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night

With that decided, Kat and I could enjoy the rest of our Saturday pontificating, dreaming, and salivating, patiently waiting for dinner time to arrive.  Since we seem to never have a spare moment in our lives, the day went by relatively fast and soon enough we were pulling up to The Istanbul Café & Grill packing a camera and our normal hearty appetites ready to devour some delicious Turkish food.

Upon entering The Istanbul Café & Grill, we were immediately greeted by not only a friendly member of the wait staff, but also the fantastic aroma that can only be attained by the low and slow cooking of fresh quality ingredients.   Since Istanbul Café & Grill is a BYOB establishment, we brought a bottle of middle of the road white wine to accompany our meal, and our helpful waitress showed us to our table before whisking the bottle away to be opened post haste.  Once seated we realized that this restaurant was perfect for not only couples but could easily accommodate the two large families that were in attendance.  Although, I do suggest a reservation for larger parties, as the dining room was mostly full when we arrived.

Our waitress soon returned with our now uncorked bottle of wine and our reading material for the evening, the menus.  To be honest, as much as I love a good book now and again, I will honestly take the menu from a respectable restaurant over a Dostoyevsky any day of the week.   We filled our glasses with wine, toasted to a rare date night, and perused the menu with the logical profoundness of Mr. Spock.  As we carefully weighed our options, as to not make the wrong decision and be destined to have plate envy for the entire evening, we decided that there simply were too many options to choose just one and sharing was in order.

Once we made the decision to go all Karl Marx on our dinner, the decision was much easier, considering we were guaranteed to have at least half of each other’s food, thus negating plate envy altogether.  Now we only had to worry about eater’s remorse.  We soon decided on the Eggplant Salad for an appetizer, combined with the Mixed Grill and Stuffed Cabbage as out main courses.

With our order complete, we were then able to sit back, relax, and sip our wine as we absorbed the ambience of The Istanbul Café & Grill.  The first thing I noticed is that Istanbul Café & Grill is bucking the trend that seems to be in many new foodie approved eateries across the land, and that is a dark and dimly lit dining area with dub step blaring over hipster speakers.  The Istanbul Café & Grill was well lit with soft light and had quiet, modern, culturally influenced music as the soundtrack for our meal.  I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of The Istanbul Café & Grill which allowed me to both see my lovely wife and enjoy a conversation with her without using more hand gestures than a sign language interpreter would use during an old school Micro Machine Commercial.

Warm Doughy Goodness!

Warm Doughy Goodness!

While Kat and I were relishing in our peaceful conversation, which was most likely about either food or Grumpy Cat our waitress delivered a basket of warm fresh bread paired with a bowl of olive oil complete with a few olives and house seasoning.   Warm bread makes me happier than an Elf eating candy wrapped Schnapps cake on December 26, 2013, so I immediately grabbed a hunk of this deliciousness and dipped it into the olive oil.  I savored each bite of this toasty, doughy, and somewhat crispy slice of awesome and only halted my delight when our appetizer arrived.

Whoa the colors man, the colors!

Whoa the colors man, the colors!

The color of our dish was so vibrant it looked like an Andy Warhol painting that should be on the wall rather than in a bowl.  After the requisite photo session, Kat and I attacked this aromatic dish with the tenacity of a honey badger.   Being a purist, I ignored my instinct to grab another hunk of the warm bread and dip it into this eggplant laden concoction, and instead guided a forkful towards my awaiting taste buds.  The flavor of this dish was elegant and delicate, yet so complex that it lingered long after I had swallowed it.  Nothing about it was overbearing which allowed all of the tastes to marry together flawlessly.  After tasting it by itself, I was unable to resist the urge to create a bread and eggplant conglomerate, and so I did.  The warm bread danced with the cold eggplant salad and created a wonderful juxtaposition that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Meet the Meat!

Meet Istanbul’s Meat!

Shortly after Kat and I finished our appetizer our main courses arrived at the table.  The first thing I noticed upon its delivery was that the portion sizes at The Istanbul Café & Grill seemed to be very generous.  The Mixed Grill, described as a combination of Chicken Shish, Adana Kebab, and Chicken Adana was paired with a substantial amount of rice pilaf and a garnish that we found to be perfect for cleansing our palates in between the different types of meat.  Each of these appetizing morsels of meaty goodness were fork tender and teeming with flavor.  As we were consuming each style it seemed as if the one we had just eaten was our favorite; that is until we tried the next one.  I would highly recommend this dish to the Istanbul Café & Grill virgin, as it gives you the opportunity to try a few varieties of the awesomeness that is being grilled in the kitchen.

Cabbage Stuffed Chock Full of Wonderfulness!

Cabbage Stuffed Chock Full of Wonderfulness!

After trying a few pieces of the delectable meat that formed the Mixed Grill, we moved on to the Stuffed Cabbage that was described as cabbage leaves stuffed with ground lamb and rice served with yogurt.  To be honest, I am usually not a huge fan of Stuffed Cabbage, but Kat loves the stuff.  I really wanted to try the yogurt sauce, so I acquiesced to the ordering of this dish.  I should remember moments like these when I question listening to my wife because she was absolutely spot on about this entrée.  Not only was this easily the best Stuffed Cabbage Rolls I have ever tasted, but the yogurt sauce was damn near perfect.  This simple, smooth, and creamy sauce not only was an impeccable companion to the Stuffed Cabbage dish, but it also went quite well with all the meat from the Mixed Grill.

Not only was everything that we ate at the Istanbul Café & Grill tasty and wonderfully prepared but the bill was just right too.  Don’t get it twisted, this establishment is not cheap, but you most definitely get your money’s worth.  It is apparent that this eatery serves high quality, fresh food that is cooked with love, on site, by an expert.  If you are in the Fair Lawn area, and you are in the mood for a meal with Turkish Flair, I highly suggest you make your way down to the Istanbul Café & Grill and try a few of their subtle yet flavorful dishes.

Istanbul Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon

Belly Up Roll

Bacon Fest 2013

If there was a town called Baconville, I would be the Mayor; if there was a Baconland, I would be the ambassador; and if there was a Bacon Church, I would be the fracking Pope O’Pork. What I am trying to say is that I like; no, love bacon, like the interwebs loves cats, the Kardashians love attention, and Jim Jones apparently loves Julius Caesar. It is this obsession for all things salty and cured that gave birth to my annual Bacon Fest Celebration, which Kat and I host for all of our friends who are swine inclined.

Jim Jones' Giant Julius Caesar Head!

Jim Jones’ Giant Julius Caesar Head!

Bacon Fest is one part food competition and two parts all out, bacon celebration. Each year we gather between 13 and 16 foodies who love to cook and ask them to let their imaginations run wild, the only rule is that the star of their dish must be Bacon! This once small gathering has been growing each and every year and this year. This year it became obvious that I could no longer host it at my house, so we decided to upgrade to a hall.

The Creed Of Bacon Fest

The Creed Of Bacon Fest

After calling around to several local halls for rent, we found that it was quite difficult to acquire a hall that would allow you to utilize their kitchen. That is until we stumbled upon the Ridgewood Elks Club, located at 111, North Maple Ave., in Ridgewood, NJ. The Ridgewood Elks club had everything our bacon soirée could possibly need, a large main room, tables, chairs, a deluxe industrial kitchen, and a very reasonable price tag. They also had a cash bar so our guests could wet their whistle in between courses, named the Jolly Cork.

Ridgewood Elks Club

The Ridgewood Elks Club

Once the hall was booked and the invites went out, my next challenge was to decide what I would concoct as my entry to this year’s contest. The competition for Bacon Fest has been increasing exponentially with each iteration. What began at first as a friendly rivalry has evolved into a passionate tournament that would make Tyler Durden proud.

I originally created an entry in my head that I was generally content with, but I knew I could do better. I racked my brain, spending damn-near every waking hour thinking about how I could improve my dish for what has become the Academy Awards of salty meat. That is until one fateful night when I got a little tipsy and passed out while visions of bacon fairies still danced in my head. I only slept for about an hour that night, because I was awoken from my restless slumber after tasting the most amazing baconey goodness that had ever crossed the threshold of my lips.

Counting Pigs Instead of Sheep!

Counting Pigs Instead of Sheep!

Still groggy and now all worked up on dream bacon, I grabbed my smart phone and began researching, like I had never researched before. My thumbs were moving a mile a minute, it was as if St. Anthony, the patron saint of bacon and the namesake of the Bacon Fest Cup, himself had possessed my fingers and they were doing his bidding. After an hour of zealous obsession, my bacon fantasy had come to fruition. I returned to my slumber counting pigs one by one that evening, knowing that I was well prepared for this year’s pork laden prizefight.

Me As The Bacon Pope!

Me As The Bacon Pope!

On the day of the event, each cook was issued a number designation and a time slot when they would present their dish to the judges. Each dish would be explained to the lucky people that were chosen at random and then judged based on Taste, Presentation, and Originality. As time ticked by the anticipation of the salty and savory war that was about to be waged on the culinary battlefield began to increase. Slowly but surely you could feel the tension in the kitchen as the cooks were doing their final preparations.

The following was the artery-clogging lineup that rocked Bacon Fest 2013, in the order that they were presented:

Sweet Potato And Bacon Lettuce Wrap

Sweet Potato And Bacon Lettuce Wrap with Yogurt Dill Sauce Presented by Stephanie Bates.

Sueyy-shi

Sueyy-shi: Loaded mashed potatoes wrapped in bacon, dressed with BBQ sauce, and bacon skillet spread. Presented by Dave Michaels and Allie Maurer.

Bacon Maple Popcorn

Bacon Maple Popcorn Presented by Jennifer Sellers

Apple-Bacon Empanada

Apple-Bacon Empanada with dried cherries, mascarpone, and Apple-Bacon Caramel Presented by Keith Shatsoff and Bryan Barnhart.

Bacon Cassoulet

Bacon Cassoulet: Medley of bacon, beans, and pancetta prepared in a traditional cassoulet in bacon cups. Presented by Tyler Hutchinson and Sara Toth

Bracon Bad:

Bracon Bad: Bacon Confit Brulee with Fring’s Blue. Presented by Tyler and Jessica Ochs.

The Heaven Hog

The Heaven Hog: Mozzarella, Spinach, and Bacon Pork Tenderloin. Presented by Timothy Hurwitz and Michael Pindilli.

Belly Up Roll

Belly Up Roll: Braised Pork Belly and Avocado Sushi Roll with a bacon maple chutney. Presented by Michael and Katherine Arp

Candy Bacon Chocolate Brownie

Candy Bacon Chocolate Brownie with Jameson Caramel Sauce topped with candy bacon. Presented by Kevin and Kimberly Feehan.

Dude Food Magic Bars

Dude Food Magic Bars: Dessert Bar with pretzels, potato chips, chocolate, peanut butter and Bacon Presented by Brian Massey and Kristen Dyak.

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Bacon Mac and Cheese with Spiced Bacon Twists presented by Chris Buro.

Pork Star Ice Cream Cake

Pork Star Ice Cream Cake Presented by Matthew Arp and Emily Holmgren.

Pancetta Meatballs

Pancetta Meatballs in Joan’s homemade sauce Presented by Joan Perreca.

Clearly even though this was a competition and there was a winner declared, the judges were the actual victors in this epicurean struggle because they got to eat the above mentioned food. Granted the cooks were also judges, so I guess we all won, but this ain’t some new age hippy dippie coed baseball league where there is no score kept, and everyone wins ribbons for participation. This is Bacon Wars!

The Cup of St. Anthony

The Cup of St. Anthony

The reason all the cooks wake up at 6:00 A.M. on the morning of Bacon Fest and shovel their own money into their dish, is to the have the honor of taking home the Cup of Saint Anthony! The Cup of St. Anthony is similar to Lord Stanley’s Cup, only it is better, because people actually care who wins this cup. (Hockey Burn!) Whoever takes first place in Bacon Fest is granted the righteous reward of placing their name on the cup and displaying it at their house for an entire year.

In this culinary death match that lasted 2 hours and featured more bacon than most regular folks eat in a year, only one dish reigned supreme. Alas, it was not my dish this year, although I did take third place, with the Pork Star Ice Cream Cake taking second, and all of the dishes bowed down to the Apple-Bacon Empanada which made most people let out a louder moan of satisfaction than they do in their own bedrooms.

Bacon Empanda Inside

The Winner Dissected!

While baconey goodness followed baconey goodness in this divine swine parade, our guests were placing money in the donation jars that were being passed around and tickets in the raffle prize baskets. All the proceeds of Bacon Fest 2013 were donated to Eleventh Hour Rescue, a local animal rescue agency, which saved our own dog from a kill shelter and delivered her to our hearts.

Tickets

Charity is fun!

All the raffle prizes were generously donated by some of the fantastic businesses that this Blue Collar Foodie frequents on a regular basis. I would like to take this time to give a shout out and some electronic love to these wonderful businesses that did not think twice to support this remarkable rescue agency through our event. These benevolent establishments and every single person that donated their hard earned money at our event have helped this rescue agency not only save the lives of animals but also connect them with their forever family.

Lilly Likes Bacon

Lilly Loves You For Supporting Eleventh Hour Rescue Almost As Much As She Loves Bacon!!!

These are not your standard, everyone be damned but me corporations; these are honest companies that are aware of their societal footprint and want to help their community. Please help me say thank you to these exceptional establishments by supporting them as they supported us.

Meatball Obsession: At Meatball Obsession®, it’s all about the meatball. That’s why we call it an obsession. We use the original, all-natural old-world Mancini family recipe and slow-cook it in pots. At Meatball Obsession we serve grandma’s beef, turkey and sausage meatballs in her Sunday Sauce. Our food is meant for people on the go so you can enjoy your meatballs in a cup with dipping bread or stuffed in a custom-made Italian pocket bread. We deliver too. – 1 Garden State Plaza, Paramus NJ 201-843-3888.

Twisted Elm: Twisted Elm is a gastropub in Northern NJ. We are a casual, pub-style restaurant with an award-winning chef in the kitchen and a fun, relaxed atmosphere at the bar. Our creative menu is prepared using the finest local and seasonal ingredients, and we proudly serve delicious, naturally-made wines. We have hand-tossed brick oven pizzas – even for our gluten-free guests! Bringing the craft beer scene to Bergen County, we offer a rotating selection of the finest American and imported brews. – 435 River Dr. Elmwood Park, NJ 07407 (201) 791-3705

Baconery: Two ingredients that make everything taste like heaven in your mouth. Apart, these ingredients represent a delicious cornucopia of different tastes, but together they create an explosive flavor that is seldom rivaled in the food world. Everyone has talked about it. People have dreamed about it. Most were afraid to put them together. It’s a secret, twisted fantasy that everyone hides their love for. And now it’s a reality. Available Online and at their Brick and Mortar location at 911 Columbus Avenue, New York, New York (104 & 105th)

J&D’s: We’re Justin and Dave, and this is our improbable bacon-flavored story. Who are we? We’re just two regular guys who love grilling and football on Sunday afternoons, eating until we can’t get off the couch and of course, the taste of great bacon. And it’s our dream to make everything taste like bacon. Whether you’re a regular griller or a gourmet chef, are counting calories or are a vegetarian who craves mouth-watering bacon taste without the bacon guilt, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

The Swiss Pork Store: It’s a throwback, a dinosaur, a trip to the old country. In the same location since 1950, time has moved forward only on the other side of the door. Even the customers will tell you how long they’ve been coming here to shop.

A local legend of the original owners is that one of the two men who opened the place in 1950 was German, the other was Swiss. They were concerned about anti-German sentiment just after WWII, so they named the shop the Swiss Pork Store, with a wink and a smile. 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410

Breaking Bad Bacon

For those of you who did get the Breaking Bad Reference.

Photo Credit and many thanks to Evan Bindelglass!

The Q-Crew BBQ Catering Company Rocks Out With Thier Hog Out!

So, you want to throw a backyard Barbecue that will make one of Andrew Jackson’s epic White House parties seem like a lame Jack and Jill shower, but even though Yan Can Cook, You Can Not.  You may think that you have no options and sheepishly accept your fate as merely a party attendee and not the host with the most, but you would be wrong.  Perhaps you can cook with the best of them, but you are lazier than a freshman in college after partaking in your first all night weed and fast food festival. Not that I condone that sort of thing, I mean fast food is horrible for you.  Maybe you are not lazy or gastronomically challenged but just want to be able to enjoy the legendary soirée that you are planning without having to man, or woman, the grill all night while your friends enjoy the giant bouncy castle and life size wrestling Ring full of Jell-o shots that you rented for this event.  If you fall into any of the aforementioned categories you need to request the Q-Crew to come to your next event!

Andrew Jackson sure did love to party!

Andrew Jackson sure did love to party!

Recently, I had the honor of officiating the wedding of two of my friends, one whom happens to be a fellow blogger. (Check out his humorous child rearing blog by clicking here.)   You read that right, I not only have a 9-5 job and write about some of the best Blue Collar Food I can find, but I also happen to be an ordained Reverend!  I thoroughly enjoy performing marriage ceremonies, and I have a blast at every wedding that I get the chance to preside over, although, this wedding had something that made this member of the cloth salivate like never before.  Instead of a pretentious indoor, five course meal, offering the same menu that has been served at receptions for 35 years, this couple made the executive decision to call in the Q-Crew to cater their special day.

Whole Pig Roast

Here Piggy Piggy Piggy

The Q-Crew is not your stereotypical catering company.  Instead of chasing stuffy white gloved waiters throughout a banquet hall, creating a live action Pac-Man like game that ends in you eating three shrimp and one pizza bite that you had to wrestle from your Great Aunt Bertha, you get to watch the Q-Crew in action as you mingle with the other guests during the cocktail hour.  Q-Crew does offer many different packages for any event that you could imagine, but by far their most impressive is the roasted whole pig complete with Pre-dinner photo ops.

Grilling

The Q-Crew hard at work!

This particular event not only featured the whole roasted pig, but the privileged guests of this amazingly meaty shindig got a one way ticket to flavor country courtesy of the Bride and Groom, via the Q-Crew express.  The menu for this grand affair consisted of St. Louis Style Ribs, Pulled Pork, Barbecue Chicken, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Grilled Vegetables, and a plethora of fixings that paired perfectly with this meatgasmic offering.  Although the Bride was beautiful, the Q-Crew spread gave her a run for her money as the most stunning attendant of this fine affair, but since she was the one who brought this eating orgy to my world, I will say she beat the pig by a snout.

So much meat! TWSS

So much meat! TWSS

Once the food was ready, I was like Alex Rodriguez in a Performance Enhancing Drug store; I did not know which wonderful concoction to try first.  Since there was only limited plate space and I am a carnivore at heart, I decided to fill my first plate to capacity with the tantalization flesh of my most favorite farm animal, the pig!  As I was scooping the hearty portions of this fantastic meat onto my plate, the wafting aroma overwhelmed me with so much joy and happiness; I could barely make it back to my table before shoveling copious amounts of this picturesque BBQ into my drooling mouth.  Before I damn near ran to my table, I hit up the sauce bar to dress my swine properly before eating the hell out of this masterpiece that I created.  Not knowing which sauce was going to be the best on the pork I added a small amount of each type strategically so they did not comingle and contaminate each other.

Plate of Pig

Meat my plate of pig! See what I did there?

My first plateful consisted of two ribs, a generous helping of the roast pig, some pulled pork, a piece of corn bread, and a few pickles.  Considering I had been peering at Wilbur throughout the afternoon much like a 12 year old boy studies the first playboy he finds hidden in his father’s garage, I decided that it was the most logical starting point for my adventure down BBQ lane.  As I took my first bite, all I could think is if I were Zach Braff in Scrubs, my favorite pork memories would be playing in my head in slow motion with a horrible 80’s ballad added in for good measure.  Alas, I am not Zach Braff, although I think Kat would not be opposed to it.

Divine Swine

Divine Swine

Even though there was no divine swine montage, the pig was uber tasty.  It was moist, yet firm, with the proper bite that should be associated with good, wait check that, great barbecue.  The smoke flavor was not overbearing but still created that slight wood cooked twang that barbecue aficionados search near and far for.  I also loved the fact that the meat was not over seasoned or over sauced. The Q-Crew allowed the meat to speak for itself and not only did it talk but it sang!

Ribs of plenty

Ribs of plenty

After demolishing the pile of roast pig I had liberated from the buffet table, I moved onto the ribs.  When most people discuss ribs they rave about the meat falling off the bone but not I and much to my euphoric joy not the Q-Crew either.  In my opinion, ribs should have a slight firmness that requires a small amount of effort to remove the succulent meat from the bone, which perpetuates the primal sensation one gets when eating a bone-in cut of meat. The Q-Crew’s rib was not only expertly prepared in this fashion, but it also had a flawless smoke ring that added to its esthetic appeal.   As for the taste, the sweet smoke flavor paired perfectly with the tanginess of the barbecue sauce and spices creating a cacophony of flavor that made me want to create a Facebook page for these ribs simply so I could become friends with this rib for real because we all know you ain’t really friends with someone until you are friends on Facebook!

Pulled Pork

Pork that is pulled makes me happy!

The pulled pork, which had been waiting patiently as I fell in love with the pig and then cheated on her with the angelic ribs, was finally ready to be devoured.  I created a sandwich with the pulled pork and topped it with a liberal slathering of BBQ sauce, because that is how I roll.  See what I did there, sandwich, roll, get it, get it… Oh to hell with you, that was funny.  Once again this pulled pork was not drowned in sauce but instead the Q-Crew let the natural flavors of the porky goodness be the star of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, this pulled pork had some righteous flavor, but the predominant taste was good ol’ fashion pig and that is just how pulled pork should be.

Hamburgers

Just in case you’re a traditionalist.

I would be remiss as a card carrying member of the foodie community if I did not try everything the Q-Crew had to offer, so as I explained to Kat, it was my civic duty to say to hell with our diet and rock some seconds. On this trip up to the buffet line, I had to try some of the Q-Crew’s chicken because I had yet to sink my teeth into that BBQ favorite, but I simply could not pass up the opportunity to grab some more pig, pulled pork, and ribs.  Once again, there just was not any room for sides or the hamburgers and hotdogs, but I was told by other guests that they were mighty good.

Corn Bread

Mmmmmmm Corn Bread!

As for the chicken, at this point if you expected anything lower than stellar marks for anything that graced the Q-Crew’s grill, you have not been paying attention to this review very closely.  The flavor profile on the chicken was simple yet palatable, and it was cooked impeccably.  Chicken can be tougher than Howard Wolowitz’s Mother’s brisket, to cook properly on an open flame in large quantities, but the Q-Crew’s professional staff made it look about as easy as finding a celebrity who has a drug problem.

If you are looking to be the envy of the entire Social Media community that was not invited to your next backyard bash, you need to contact The Q-Crew BBQ Catering Company at 908-256-1198.  I warn you though, whoever can’t make it to the event due to a prior engagement will have to be put on suicide watch after they read all your friends’ status updates.  Furthermore, if I was you, I would warn my neighbors that the Q-Crew will be cooking at your function so they don’t think that you rented your house to a purveyor of cinematic filth when they hear the sounds of pure ecstasy escaping from your guests’ mouths after they take their first bite of the serious barbecue that the Q-Crew will deliver.  The Q-Crew slogan pretty much sums up the awesomeness of hiring these BBQ connoisseurs to bring their epicurean treats to your next jamboree and that is, “You Chill…We Grill.”

Grilled Veggies

BTW, Their Grilled Veggies were pretty good too!

The Blue Collar Foodie’s New Meatball Obsession!

For some people the mere utterance of the word meatball can conjure amorous memories of Sundays gone by.  These reminiscences most likely depict Grandma, all 5’2” furious inches of her, hard at work in the kitchen, while the entire extended family waited in anticipation for the meal that created such an aroma throughout the house that lingered until damn near Wednesday.  Most likely if you grew up in a family like this, you send a malcontented glare in the direction of anyone that suggests the idea of ordering a meatball from at a restaurant knowing that it can never be close to these angelic savory balls of meat that are on a pedestal in your mind, and so if I proposed the notion of buying one from a kiosk in the mall, you would probably want to punch me in the face.  Well, get your fists ready friend, because I am willing to take a punch if it means that you will give Meatball Obsession, a brand new meatball centric foodie cart located in the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus New Jersey, a whirl.

Meatball Obsession Logo

The Logo

Meatball Obsession technically started in 2008 in New York City, but its true origins date back to when Dan Mancini’s, the founder of Meatball Obsession, assisted his Grandmother in a Brooklyn, New York kitchen while she prepared authentic recipes from Bari, Italy.   These cooking sessions ignited a passion for cooking within him that could not be extinguished.  So much so that even though he worked in the apparel industry for 25 years, he decided to abandon that profession in order to dive into the often unrelenting world of food service.   Lucky for us, over the years Dan kept his Grandmother’s recipes alive and well in his own kitchen, and therefore we now get to experience the greatest meatball that Dan has ever tasted.

I have to admit, as my wife, Kat, and I were on our way to Meatball Obsession I was slightly apprehensive.  I am The Blue Collar Foodie and all, but purchasing meatballs from a kiosk is as unsettling as buying American made electronics.  As we approached the cart, which is located near the Cinnabon (See Map Below), the fragrant smell of the simmering sauce guided me towards our destination and with each step my worrying seemed to dissipate.  Even though my olfactory senses were being bombarded by every other malodorous mall scent, I could still make out the marvelous aroma of Meatball Obsession’s Sunday Sauce, and that made me feel much better about the meal we were about to partake in.

The Treasure Map

The Treasure Map

When we arrived at the Meatball obsession Cart we were greeted by a welcoming staff that seemed genuinely excited to be a part of this newfangled foodie movement.  Furthermore, since it was the grand opening we were also received by the owners of Meatball Obsession and I got to speak to both of them for a little while about their new endeavor.  Just from speaking to them for a short period of time, it was obvious to tell that they are passionate about the food that they serve and the business that they run, which is an often overlooked integral part of a successful food establishment.

Meatball Obsession Kiosk

Meatball Obsession Kiosk

Meatball Obsession specializes in, wait for it, Meatballs, and therefore even though they serve a few other items, the menu mainly consists of their Meatballs and Meatball related accoutrement.   Additionally, Meatball Obsession is not your ordinary Italian Restaurant and therefore the ordering process is somewhat different than what you may be used to.  You don’t just order meatballs at this establishment, you create custom made meatball sundaes tailored to your specifications. This ordering process is broken down into three fun and easy steps that the extremely helpful staff will guide you through if you are a rookie, as I was:

Meatball Cup

Ordering is only half the fun!

Step One:  Indulge Your Obsession:   In other words choose which type of meatball(s) you would like to tantalize your taste buds with.  They offer Beef, Turkey, Chicken, or Pork Sausage which can be mixed and matched any way you would like.

Step Two:  Choose Your Culinary Vessel and how large     you want it to be:  The tasty meat morsels that Meatball Obsession serve can be served in a cup or in an “Original Pocket Sandwich.”  Both options are served with their special Sunday Sauce and the amount of meatballs that you ask for.

Step Three:  The toppings!  This is by far my favorite part of the ordering process, and in my opinion what makes the Meatball Obsession experience unforgettable.  Meatball Obsession offers a wide variety of toppings that you can pair with their already flavorful meatballs to create your very own Meat Sundae.

Kat and I stumbled and bumbled our way through this process, changing our minds not once but three times, until we were finally satisfied with our order.   I decided to get three different meatballs, 1 Beef, 1 Turkey, and 1 Pork Sausage in a cup topped with Ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, Mozzarella Pearls, and Basil Olive Oil for $11.00 and Kat decided on one turkey and one beef meatball topped with 24 month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and gnocchi for $9.50.  While our concoctions were being assembled, we were informed that even though the idea behind Meatball Obsession’s containers, whether you chose the cup or the sandwich, were meant for people on the move, they are also going to provide seating for individuals that want to enjoy their meals sitting as opposed to walking.

Meatball Obsession Close Up

Cup of Yummy!

After receiving our cups full of yummy, Kat and I took our first forkful of Meatball Obsession together and it was magical.  If we were in a movie, as we chewed that first bite a melodic tune would have played over a slow moving montage of all the disappointing meatballs that I have eaten in my life, culminating in the triumphant rise of the music as I ate this very meatball.   A meatball, with so many layers of flavor, the perfect consistency, and that was swimming in a hearty marinara sauce that is literally so good that I would give up bacon for a year, just to get a peek at the recipe.   If this was not enough, the toppings paired flawlessly with the meatballs and sauce and brought the meal to whole other level.  After we were done devouring our meatballs, we then used the included side bread to sop up as much sauce as we could, and when our bread supply was depleted we just settled on spooning the sauce into our mouths until every last drop was gone.

Cup of Yummy 2:  The Rise of the Gnocchi.

Cup of Yummy 2: Rise of the Gnocchi.

Meatball Obsession also offers a variety of beverages to wash down your tasty creation with.  For the unadventurous, one can order Coca-Cola or Bottled Water.  If you are feeling somewhat frisky, you can go with a San Pellegrino Soda or even better a Manhattan Special Soda in a variety of flavors.  For the true Old World New York experience however I highly recommend a traditional egg cream, created with seltzer and U-Bet Chocolate Syrup.   They also offer a fresh made cannoli that is not filled until you order it, which are imported from Brooklyn, if you are in a decadent mood.

Egg Cream

Egg Cream!

I understand that YOUR Grandma, Nonna,  Bubbie, MomMom, or whatever the heck you call her makes the best meatballs on the planet, with YOUR Mother coming in a close second, but if you are interested in trying the third greatest meatball that you will ever taste, you should make your way over to Meatball Obsession.  I warn you though, once you taste these remarkable spheres of meaty goodness, you may have to lie to your Grandmother on a regular basis, when you say her meatballs are still the best.  You have been warned!