The Blue Collar Foodie Adds Brigantine Seafood To His Restaurant Rotation!

As a Blue Collar Foodie always looking for a bargain there are certain types of food that my normal restaurant rotation lacks. There are some varieties of food that you just don’t trust from a value menu or a street cart. For example, an Ozzie Dog, which is a hot dog in a potato roll, topped with cheez whiz, beef chili, hot sauce, and potato sticks, which you can score outside Yankee Stadium is acceptable coming from a cart from 1975 that has been sitting in the sun all day. However, I would not feel the same level of comfort about ordering and consuming a Fillet of Fugu with a side of Sushi from Mr. Ozzie and his sun soaked wagon.

There is a level where frugality becomes stupidity and by saving a few bucks you end up wasting a day or two in the restroom or even worse the hospital. So pay attention to the words that are coming out of my mouth young BCF Padawans. At 3:00 A.M. there is no gas station that serves, “Epic Salmon,” no matter what Doug says and that Sword Fish Steak at that deli in the village for a “buck 99”, is as safe as sharing a toothbrush with the Hobo that lives outside that very same bodega.   However, there are places in our area that will serve you fantastic seafood dishes, for a moderate price, at a decent hour. Brigantine Seafood Eatery & Market , located at 112 Lincoln Avenue in Hawthorne, NJ, is one of these establishments and I highly recommend paying them a visit.

Quality Seafood at a fair price is not something you should take for granted in this area. Sure if you live in Maryland it is easier to get crabs than it is when you lived in your college residence hall, and as for Maine, I have had a $5.00 lobster from Shoprite that would make most New York Lobsters hang their tails in shame. So how does Brigantine do it you ask? Every morning, the owner and Chef Alfred Ianniello travels to the famous Fulton Fish Market located in The Bronx and personally selects the finest seafood for his customers. These customers include some of the top restaurants in the Bergen/Passaic county region and odds are if you have enjoyed a seafood dish in one of these counties you have already seen what Chef Ianniello can deliver to your table.

Brigantine offers a standard menu that can be found online that is chock full of flavorful and inventive dishes, but if you ask me, and you did because you are literally reading the words that my brain is spewing forth, the specials are worth both the price tag and the time and energy it will take to listen and comprehend all their awesomeness. When you decide to visit this seafood Shangri-La you will thank me that you asked the wonderfully helpful wait staff what the specials of the evening are.

Before I begin describing the astonishing meal Kat and I shared with a fellow foodie couple a few weeks back, I feel like I should place a disclaimer here. If you are looking for a romantic modern seafood boutique this is not the place for you. Brigantine Seafood resembles a Diner like establishment from years past, which I find to be immensely charming and adds to the je ne sais quoi that is teeming off of Brigantine like steam from a large bowl of Clam Chowder. Furthermore, I will guarantee that the seafood being served by this local gem is twice as good as the hipster dipped mussel balls being served in your bougie fish lounge.

Since this was not our first rodeo at this eatery, we knew the drill. We stopped off at a liquor store on the way and grabbed some cold beers and a bottle of wine, since like all of the Blue Collar Foodie’s top joints, Brigantine is BYOB. When we arrived we parked in the parking lot in the rear of the restaurant and walked in the back door (TWSS). Chef Alfred was on hand to welcome us to his restaurant and as always the staff was all smiles and ready to assist us.   We had a reservation so we were seated within minutes and our menus were in our hands shortly thereafter.

As I stated above you can order off the menu but the real reason to visit Brigantine is to allow the Kitchen to punch you in the belly with flavor and innovation by haphazardly picking a special that sounds intriguing. This is exactly what I did and I was not disappointed.

Fish is a dish best served cold!

Fish is a dish best served cold!

As an appetizer we ordered the seafood tower because Brigantine boasts a plethora of Oysters from various coasts and countries, and the Tower is a great way to sample a few of these salty treats.   In addition to the oysters this fortress of shellfish included shrimp, clams, and a Lobster Tail. If you are looking for an economical appetizer this one may not be for you, as the price point is rather high at $30.00, but if you are treating yourself, as we were, this is the only way to go. Each item was fresh, delicious, and unique. In other words, these are not wedding buffet oysters and clams, these are the real deal and if you are a connoisseur they are a must!

You would have to be a Master Baiter to catch a Bass this big!

You would have to be a Master Baiter to catch a Bass this big!

Shortly after we destroyed the seafood tower, our meals arrived at the table. After a rather lengthy deliberation and compelling the uber patient waitress to read me the specials three times, Kevin and I decided on the Sea Bass paired with Mussels and Clams in a marinara sauce. The portion size was incredible and the piece of fish was larger than any Sea Bass I have had the pleasure to eat in recent memory. However, the most impressive element in this dish was the marriage of flavor between the shellfish, the Bass, and the sauce. Each bite delivered a depth of flavor that is unfortunately rare for fish dishes in this area, because, to be honest, fish in the hands of a poorly trained chef tends to be boring and lack any culinary panache. To the contrary, this dish had panache coming out of it gills, and I loved every last bite of it!

he Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both.

The Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both.

Our friend Kim decided to try the Breaded Arctic Char served with Capers and a Citrus Gastrique. I am not going to lie; when this dish hit the table I had a slight case of food envy. The presentation of this dish was absolutely beautiful due to the breading being cooked to perfection, which created a deep brown hue across the filet in perfect contrast with the white plate and green garnish. Furthermore, the aroma of this dish wafted across the table and assaulted my olfactory senses with all its awesome sauce, begging the ever important question, “Did I order the right dish?”

No, it is not Chicken of The Sea!

No, it is not Chicken of The Sea!

Before I write this next sentence I ask that you please do not flame, troll, or otherwise harass Kat for the following gastronomic flaw. With that said, I will forward all hate mail directly to her inbox until she realizes the folly of her ways. Here goes nothing; Kat does not like seafood. Relax…I know… But to be fair I knew of this defect when I married her and if I can get over it, you guys should be willing to except her as well.

The reason I bring this foodie fail up is not to convert my lovely wife into a born again Pescetarian, but to explain just how remarkably accommodating Brigantine Seafood actually is. Even though a chicken dish was not on the menu that evening, Chef Alfred hooked Kat up with his famous, yet clandestine, Chicken Scarpariello. Kat craves this dish and thoroughly enjoys each and every morsel that is chock full of pieces of chicken combined with mushrooms and herbs swimming in a luscious white wine sauce.

And the award for best supporting role in a serious dinner goes to...

And the award for best supporting role in a serious dinner goes to…

In addition to the generous portion size of our meals we were also provided with a side of rice and seasonal vegetables for the table. I appreciated that these sides were not overly seasoned and flamboyant as to take away from the main dish that is the star of the show. Like a good supporting actor in a movie, these side dishes lifted the star to another level while preforming admirably on their own.

After we plowed through our entrées one yummy forkful at a time we were asked about dessert. Now, by no means did we need dessert, as we were all pretty fat, but we decided that we should treat ourselves to the homemade desserts that Brigantine’s Culinary Team creates daily.

Now wonder all the damn Amish return to village after Rumspringa!

Now wonder all the damn Amish return to village after Rumspringa!

Kat ordered the apple pie which was baked Amish Style, which includes Sour Cream. We had never heard of this type of pie before but after tasting this slice of ecstasy, we will sure be on the lookout for this method again. The sour cream increases the creaminess of the filling and calms the cloying sweetness that plagues most commercial apple pies.

However you say it doesn't matter as long as you eat it!

However you say it doesn’t matter as long as you eat it!

Weather you pronounce this fantastic pie like the true North Easterner you are and call it “Pee-can” or you embrace the southerner in you and rock the proper pronunciation “pee-KAHN,” there is one thing we can all agree on… HOLY HELL THIS PIE IS GOOD!!! I love Pecan Pie from a box that came from a factory so when I can get homemade Pecan Pie from a spot like this, you bet your sweet nuts I am going to order it! Furthermore, no you cannot have a piece. It is mine! You get your own damn pie!!! P.S., if you go to Brigantine and this is on the menu that night, and you fail to order it, you also fail at life.

Cheese + Cake = Happiness

Cheese + Cake = Happiness

Kevin landed on the Cheesecake as he spun the wheel of indecision in his brain. He was not upset either, as the Cheesecake was fluffy, smooth, and deliciously decadent. The addition of the strawberry drizzle added a delightful dash of attractiveness to the already handsome dish.

Cannoli is Italian for Yummy!

Cannoli is Italian for Yummy!

The final dessert that was ordered was the Cannoli. I know the secret to a slamming cannoli because I grew up in North Jersey, which contrary to popular belief is the real Little Italy. Apparently, Brigantine’s culinary team also knows this secret and so their cannoli was pretty freaking tasty. What is the secret you ask? It is simple; Fill Your Cannoli to Order so the shell stays crispy and the filling stays light.

If you did not read the post above and just drooled over the food porn, the gist of this article was; if you are looking for some serious seafood at a reasonable price look no further than Brigantine Seafood, in Hawthorne, NJ. The waitresses are helpful, patient, and pleasant and the Kitchen Staff prepares creative and gratifying dishes that both taste great and look lovely. The next time you are looking to try a new local eatery, please do yourself a favor and head over to Brigantine Seafood and see what Chef Al is concocting in his kitchen of wonders.

A Foodie Approved Date Night!

Every once in a while this Blue Collar Foodie decides to attempt to impress his Blue Collar Wifey with a date night de jour. For most people this entails a dinner and night out on the town, but for Kat and I, who run around like Usain Bolt on amphetamines every day, this involves eating at a new restaurant and pulling up some couch with our mammals. No that is not a euphemism, I literally mean sitting on the couch with my lovely wife and our furry children and watching whatever programs are scattered across our DVR. I know this sounds dull and perhaps even slightly unromantic, but I assure you that if you looked at the anarchy that is our calendar, which resembles a Jackson Pollock painting most of the time, you would agree that a relaxing evening would be utter bliss.

As a food writer I tend to turn towards the internets quite often to locate local restaurants that I should be eating at, and I suggest you do the same. As I was planning our date night, I came across a restaurant called Pearl Restaurant,which is located at 17 South Broad Street in Ridgewood, NJ. After reading some of the reviews that were scattered across the great plains of the interwebs, I made the executive decision to have our date night at Pearl Restaurant.

Pearl Restaurant Since Pearl is designed to be an intimate setting that is perfect for the couple experience, I recommend making a reservation before your arrival. Not only will you be guaranteed a table, but it will appear classier to your partner who you are trying to charm. When making said reservation keep in mind that Pearl Restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, and if you are a people watcher like me, the streets of Ridgewood are absolutely perfect for this voyeuristic hobby. Since we had a reservation, even on a busy Friday night, Kat and I were seated within minutes of our arrival in the dining area.

The interior of Pearl is simply enchanting and should make any female foodie swoon, making you look like a prodigious partner. The muted lighting is soft and pleasing as is the modern yet subtle music that is played throughout the restaurant. Furthermore the addition of a small candle on every table adds to the already romantic composition of this eatery.

Within seconds of our rumps resting in the seats, we were cordially received by our waiter who furnished us with the menu of today’s fare. One of the reasons that Pearl Restaurant was extremely appealing to me was the fact that their menu changes daily, based on the availability of the highest quality meats and fish that were found at the market earlier that morning.   Additionally, Pearl does not have a freezer or a microwave on the premises, so everything that you will be served at this epicurean honey hole is fresh and cooked to order.

By the way to add to the appeal of Pearl, it is a BYOB establishment which always makes this frugal foodie happier than TMZ when a rapper gets arrested. With our bottle of white uncorked, poured, and placed in a bucket by the once again extremely helpful wait staff, we turned our focus on tackling the serious menu that was placed in front of us. With the precision of a Bill Belichick defense, get used to a myriad of football references in the coming months I am not only a foodie but a hardcore sports fan, we sorted through the menu and found what we considered to be the perfect dishes to embody the philosophy of Pearl.

I decided on the Goffle Farm Raised Crispy Pearl Duckling that was served with an Orange- Lavender Honey Gastrique, with a side of Seasonal Vegetables and Starch Du Jour. My delightful dining companion went with the Goffle Farm Raised Hen that was also paired with Seasonal Vegetables and Starch Du Jour.   Considering that we are both trying to remain someone healthy while still participating in as many gastronomic adventures as our wallets will allow, we also ordered a Pearl House Salad to accompany our enticing entrees.

Pearl BreadKat and I sipped our wine and caught up on each other’s recent undertakings, accomplishments, and tribulations while enjoying the ambiance of Pearl. While pontificating and politicking fresh warm bread was brought to our table that was joined by a bowl of high end olive oil and a mysterious orange paste. Since both Kat and I are intrigued by new and uncommon foods, we of course immediately halted our conversation and almost in unison, with the grace of an Olympic synchronized swimming team, broke a piece off of the bread and dipped it directly into this cream of curiosity. Our lack of food related anxiety paid off, as this hummus like concoction made our taste buds sing louder than this demonic six year old on America’s got talent. The texture was somewhat velvety and the flavor was not overpowering which made it the perfect accomplice for the flakey warm bread that was served. We later asked our waiter what this magical mixture was and we were informed that it is basically a white bean hummus.

Pearl Restaurant Salad After annihilating the bread and most of the dip, our house salads arrived. I was tremendously impressed with not only the size of this salver of greens but also the quality of the produce. Normally when you order a house salad at an elegant restaurant it is smaller than Kate Hudson’s waistband and overdressed more than Elton John circa 1977. This just was not the case when it came to Pearl’s salad. The light vinaigrette allowed the fresh and crisp garden greens to show off their delightful flavor creating a perfect introduction to the amazing meal that we were about to partake in.

Pearl Chicken With our appetites properly teased, we were appropriately prepared for our main dishes. Without delay, they were delivered to our table and both dishes were visually stunning. It was obvious that whoever plated these meals was painstakingly attentive to every iota of eatable that graced our plates. On top of the fact that the food in front of us looked as if it should grace the cover of Bon Appetit magazine, the aroma that was wafting off our plates was damn near intoxicating. I almost had to go fifty shades of grey all up on Kat in order to restrain her from attacking her meal like a honey badger attacks a snake before I could get the sufficient amount of pictures.

Pearl Chicken 2With the photographs taken, it was time to taste the artwork that was sitting in front of me. I slowly cut into my duck with the meticulousness of a surgeon and lifted the first bite of my duck towards my mouth. The instant this savory, crispy, citrusy, deliciousness I fully understood why Elmer Fudd relentlessly hunted Daffy. The skin of the duck was expertly cooked to a crunchy perfection while the flesh of the duck was moist yet surprisingly not greasy at all. To add to the overall excellence of this dish, the orange lavender gastrique brought this flawlessly prepared poultry to a whole other level of divinity. I have had quite a bit of duck in my day, being that it is my favorite fowl dish, and this was by far the best I have eaten in my foodie career. I had to force myself to stop eating the duck and at least try the vegetables and mashed potato that accompanied my delightful duck, and I was happy I did. The green beans were exquisitely cooked with just the right texture and the potatoes were bursting with flavor.

Perfect Bite of DuckKat being the wonderful wife that she is, cut a piece of her hen dipped it into the sauce that accompanied it, and fed me the forkful. I am never prepared for the difference between store bought poultry and farm bought poultry, and this was no exception. As I masticated, it means chewing people get your mind out of the gutter, on this heavenly chicken, I pondered why any restaurant would purchase frozen food when locally sourced farm raised fare is available literally one town over. I then realized that the answer is simple, some people just don’t have the same passion for food as the proprietor of restaurants like Pearl.

Pearl Chocolate MousseOne of the notations about Pearl that I read on the internet was that most of their desserts are prepared table side. I always enjoy a little showmanship when out to eat, so Kat and I decided to throw caution to the wind, break our diets and order something sweet to finish off our already pleasant night. After careful consideration, because dessert ordering is not to be taken lightly, we decided on the Chocolate Mousse with a Peanut Butter and Graham Cracker Crumble, topped with a raspberry marshmallow fluff that was toasted table side with a torch. Yes it was as good as it sounds, in fact, I would venture to say that it was better than it sounds! This is the type of dessert that could cause you to fall off the diet wagon and descend deep into the self-loathing hate spiral that is diet failure, but it was well worth the risk.

The Pearl Restaurant was as advertised, a restaurant that is unique as a Pearl. Their quixotic ambiance, exceptionally helpful and gracious wait staff, and their remarkable food make this establishment one of Bergen Counties must try eateries. I strongly suggest that the next time you are trying to dazzle your significant other, you allow Pearl in Ridgewood to assist you in making your night a memorable and scrumptious evening.

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