As I press onward through this daft adventure called life, I find my palate is slowly getting more and more discerning. I am further compounding this issue by actively endeavoring to hone it like a Shun blade in a feeble attempt to become a better foodie. Due to my hobby, turned unpaid part-time job, I feel it is my duty to be able to dissect a dish mentally, and pick out even the subtlest of flavors. This process has consumed me. With every article I write, dish I cook, beer I sip, and plate I eat I fall farther down the rabbit hole, and I have now realized that I can get out.
Like a naked picture of your grandma that you find stashed in the attic in your grandfather’s army foot locker. There are things you can’t un-see… or in my situation un-taste. Since I started this blog I have sought out the best tasting food and drink that I could find, and as an unfortunate by-product my brain, belly, and taste buds have all united against me. They not only crave this inspiring flavor, but they damn well expect it.
I no longer can rock a gas station taco and chug an Old E 64, before suiting up to play a baseball game in the hot July sun. Call it getting old, call it selling out, or call it becoming refined, I have lost my love for almost as many foods as I have found over these years.
However, there is one particular food item I will never turn back on, no matter how much foie gras and Farmhouse Ale I consume. Usually, and lovingly described as lips and ass stuffed inside the small intestine of a completely different animal. This description should, but hardly ever does, scares anyone away. I am of course speaking of the pride of American cuisine, the mother F’in HOT DOG!
With that said, when a new hot dog establishment sets up shop in my neck of the woods, I begin to salivate like one of Pavlov’s puppies. My imagination begins to run wild, pondering the possibility of finding my new favorite dog. Will they fry them, boil them, or grill them. Will the cover them with chili and cheese, or will the dog bark for itself. The prospects are seemingly endless; which leads to a fixation, that becomes a hankering, which turns into a craving, and finally manifests itself as an obsession!
Welcome To The Dog House
As if my beer soaked cerebral cortex was following the Fight Club Penguin’s wacky ass recommendation, my mania caused me to slide into a momentary lapse of Hot Dog dementia. I rode this metaphorical pork fat laden slip and slide all the way to Broadway Dog House, located at 27-03 Broadway, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
Can I take your order?
From the moment I walked into Broadway Dog House, I knew I was going to love it. Memories of all the hot dog joints that I traveled to in the past gently washed over me. The smell of the fryaltor alone was enough to conjure warm fuzzy recollections of Texas sauce, family meals, homemade relish, and long Sunday drives. In short, if Broadway Dog House was on Tinder, I would swipe to the right so hard and fast that the app itself would file a restraining order on their behalf.
As I mentioned earlier, my roots are at Rutt’s, so I tend to favor dogs that have been bathed enthusiastically in sweet-sweet glistenin’ oil, as the lord intended. Luckily for me, this is an option at Broadway Dog House. However, unlike the old school joints that tend to treat boiled and fried like the dark side and the light side of the force, Broadway Dog House is all about the compromise. Meaning, that since my heathen of a wife is not on team fried goodness, she was able to order her hot dog cooked in the more traditional, albeit wrong way.
Normally, the first time visiting and establishment like this, I would keep my order very simple because I want to taste the dog itself. If an establishment uses sub-par pups, I am out. However, as I was pondering my order, one specific menu item grabbed my attention and when it was my turn to order I opened my mouth and there was nothing I could do but speak its name… The Deep Fried Bacon Dog! Kat followed the ordinary plan and requested a basic hot dog, but opted to add Broadway Dog House’s secret sauce instead of her usual ketchup. We also ordered a Chili Cheese Dog, cooked heretic style, so Kat and I could share it.
Look at that sweet-sweet beautiful bastard!
In true Hot Dog joint form, our order was ready in no time and we were able to dive into our dogs. Listen, I fully understand I am an easy mark. I am like a wide-eyed Wisconsinite walking through downtown Paris near the Eiffel Tower, when it comes down to this particular fare. With that said, because I love this shit so much, I know a good dog when I bite into one, and this my friends is a good damn dog!
Let’s discuss why, shall we. A strong hot dog is like a solid house, it all starts with the foundation. In the Hot Dog world that means good bread equals a good start. Broadway Dog House apparently knows this decree, and have chosen the perfect bun to house their delicious meat stick. The bun cannot be too large or the purveyor risks detracting from the flavor of the dog. It can’t be too small either or the weight of the dog and the toppings could compromise the bun’s structural integrity leading to what we in the business call a dog-gone tragedy. Alright, no one calls it that, but I really love puns, so freaking deal with it!
Working from the ground up, the next stop on this Hot Dog train of knowledge, is the Hot Dog itself. NOT ALL HOT DOGS ARE CREATED EQUALLY! Depending on how the dog will be prepared and what style you are going for, the choice of the dog is some pretty important shit. Since Broadway Dog House rocks two distinct styles they had to choose their dogs wisely, and once again they excelled in this category. The dogs were packed with flavor and even the one that was not fried had a solid snap to it when bit into.
The final element that must be discussed when constructing this illustrious snack is of course, the toppings. This is where the magic happens people. Assuming that one has heeded the aforementioned caveats, we should now have the perfect canvas to create a glorious meat monument. If a structurally sound, fresh bun seamlessly snuggling a high quality, properly cooked, Hot Dog, doesn’t arouse your inner Bob Ross, you may very well be dead inside. Whether, you are a simple Ketchup or Mustard type like Kat, or a balls-out topping fiend like me, there is something quite enjoyable about the customization of this amazing treat.
I digress… My diatribe about the perfect pup may be coming to an end, but I still have a bit to say about the Dog House on Broadway. I did not confirm my suspicions and I don’t want to accused by our president for being fake news; but I believe Broadway Dog House actually uses two different brands of hot dogs in an attempt to achieve hot dog nirvana. One for frying and one for the ones that are cooked wrong.
Even when they are cooked wrong they taste right!
I, of course had to steal a bite of Kat’s before she finished it and I was glad that I did. The secret sauce is very similar to Big Mac sauce, just fresher, and I assume without the crack-cocaine that is obviously put in all the food served at McDonald’s. I will admit the hot dog itself was pretty damn tasty, I mean I am still on team Deep Fry, but I no longer despise those who are not. I don’t mean to be hyperbolic, but I think this Hot Dog might have saved our marriage! Okay, of course, I mean to be hyperbolic, I am a writer, that is what we do.
Here Chili, Chili, Chili
As for the Chili Dog, I usually don’t cheat on my true love, the Texas Dog, with its meatier more voluptuous cousin, but as they say, chunky sauces need lovin’ too. The key to a good Chili Dog is simple, respectable chili. It appears that Broadway Dog House grasps this basic concept because they did not just spoon some Hormel on top of their artfully prepared Hot Dog. It seems they are using what I believe to be homemade Chili, or at the very least a high quality knock off.
Broadway Dog House sells other things than hot dogs of course. Sliders, sandwiches, and traditional sides are a few of these items, and I am sure I will eventually eat them all. However, one thing is for damn sure, every time I walk through their door I will be ordering at least one, DEEP FRIED DOG! In my opinion, Broadway Dog House is a serious contender in the battle royal that the New Jersey Hot Dog scene is, and from my perception, always been.
I consider myself a nomadic gastronome, meaning that although I truly heart the Garden State, I will forever roam the planet in search of amazing regional fare. Not just by car either people, I have been known to base entire vacations around a particular type of food, that I could seriously have delivered to my house in 15 minutes, simply because the internets says it is better in some random state. I understand it is a sickness, but I hope they never find a cure, because my wife and I have had some amazing adventures bouncing to and fro from unheralded eateries, roadside stands, established restaurants, dive bars, and on one startling occasion a chance encounter with a gas station mini-mart that served us a hamburger that I still have wet dreams about. To paraphrase the proclaimers, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles, to chow down at some random store.
With that said, during my gastronomic walkabouts I tend to catch a craving that can only be quenched by my beloved home state. New Jersey may smell like death and cheese and have more D-bags per capita than most states in the union, but there is one thing that we do right in Dirty Jersey, and that my friends, is Breakfast. I ain’t talking about the B.S. that the fly over states call breakfast either, with their Denny’s and their IHOPs. Denny’s might be America’s Diner but that is only because they don’t’ got what we got, and it ain’t corn. Jersey is peppered with classic Diners, mom and pop pancake shops, and eclectic Cafés that serves the type of breakfast that makes you want to take a nap shortly after finishing your 12th cup of coffee.
When I return from an extended epicurean exploration, I long for a true New Jersey breakfast like musicians yearn for a time before American Idol. Recently, I went on a Ramen bender, which lasted longer than I would like to admit, and included three states. Full of broth, salt, and embarrassment, I reentered New Jersey with breakfast on my mind. A simple diner would not fix my sodium-laden, yet bourbon driven hangover. I knew I needed something special, and then it hit me. I felt the need, the need for Missy’s!
Missy’s Main Street Café is located at 181 E. Main Street in Rockaway, New Jersey. Missy’s is the type of place that once someone declares their intentions to go there, there is no discussion. Everyone just accepts they are going and finds themselves driving in a car dreaming about the glorious food that they are about to cram into their talking holes.
Trust me, the food is amazeballs, but we will get back to that. I feel like I must first discuss the ambiance and atmosphere of Missy’s Main Street Café to explain just how remarkable this place really is. When you enter this establishment you feel like you have gone back in time, and not in the holy crap dinosaurs, kind of way, but in the warm, fuzzy kind of way. Missy’s has a home town feel that chain restaurants try to imitate but simply can never duplicate, no matter how many pieces of fake local high school memorabilia they can nail to their walls.
The Wall of Fame
The best part is, Missy’s exudes this charm, without seeming like they are trying to. From their smiling servers that never come off phony to the picture wall that portrays their regular customers, Missy’s simply is a home town café, which is why it feels like one. Not to mention that once a week they select a customer to create and name a special that will be featured at the restaurant.
Get it… Get it… Come On!
First off, Missy’s Main Street Café’s Menu is chock full of word play, which I find hilarious. Veloci-Wrap-Tor! Get it! Get it! Come On… Screw you… that is funny. Stupid Internet… Anyway, if there is one thing I like better than a good pun it is food, and this joint has that too. On this occasion I decided to get the Doc’s PB&J French Toast with a side of Bacon, Kat went with a Western Omelette paired with home fries and our friend Rory went with a breakfast wrap from the specials menu. How about, Gansta Wrap… Still nothing… I hate you guys.
While we awaited for our food we soaked in the scenery, chatted with our waitress, people watched and even though Missy’s was bumping, we relaxed and enjoyed our Sunday Morning. Something about this quaint café just allows you to forget about the chaos that is happening all around you and ponder the most important things in life, like wondering how many strips of breathtaking bacon will Missy serve me today!
When our food arrived, my train of thought was derailed by the fantastic sight that was my meal. The plate that was placed in front of me exemplified why states like Minnesota can never beat New Jersey in a Breakfast brawl. Sorry, Minneapolis, but Rockaway just pulled out a shiv made out of French toast, peanut butter, and jelly and made Saint Paul an only child.
Holy Hot Damn!!!
Look at that decadent pile of awesomeness and ask yourself why the hell you have never had this in your life. It was not as sweet as it looks, which was a surprise, but it was as tasty as it appears. The toast was toasty, the peanut was peanut buttery, and the jelly was straight up legit! All together these components teamed up to make a sandwich that was not only memorable but damn near orgasmic.
When Kat ordered her dish, I thought that it was kind of Katish, I mean with the menu this place is rockin’ an omelette is one of the last items I would choose. However, this was a serious omelette! It was a flawless combination of fluffy, flavorful, and scrumptious. Every bite was chock full of ingredients that were hand picked to not only be appealing but delivered an explosive appetizing experience with each and every forkful.
Wrap it up B!
Rory went with a special, which is the usual method to my madness so I respected his gumption and he appeared to make the right decision. Although I did not get to try taste his meal, because it would have been weird to ask, it looked amazing and he seemed to like it a lot considering there was none left by the time our breakfast was over.
And then… Then there is the bacon. Bacon so perfectly crisp and delicious that one would think there is a farm behind Missy’s. Where this salty, fatty, yummy comes from may be a mystery but I assure you that it is magical. So magical that one might think these angelic strips of crazy come not from pigs but from the last blessing of unicorns that roam this wonderful planet.
Missy’s Main Street Café serves lunch as well, which I also thoroughly enjoy, but TBH it is their breakfast that keeps me coming back, time and time again. Not to mention that visiting this fancy as fuck greasy spoon is like eating at Grandma’s house. That is, if my Grandma knew how to cook like a boss and had a shit ton of bitchin’ tattoos.
This is not a drill people, Restaurant Week is once again upon us! Despite what the haters and hipsters have to say, I, for one, am super excited to head over to the greatest city in the world and chow down on some epic eats! This year’s Restaurant “Week” runs from July 25, 2016 to August 19, 2016 (I know that is more than a week, DEAL WITH IT!) and will run you $29.00 for lunch and $42.00 for dinner. Here is a link to all the participating restaurants; NYCGO.
However, if picking a restaurant seems more daunting than hitting a Noah Syndergaard fastball, then keep reading. To make your life easier, I have compiled my essential epicurean guide to this event once again. This time, I embarked on a mission to steer clear of the ordinary haunts and attempted to find the spots that are slightly off the beaten path, gastronomically speaking.
These restaurants might scare people off on a regular Monday, due to their rather adventurous cuisine and, let’s be honest, New York City price tags. However, thanks to the beauty of Restaurant Week, we can give these eclectic establishments a whirl without the worry of buyer’s remorse. So, without further ado, let’s take a Gastronomic walkabout around the globe, simply by driving across a river. (The following list is in no particular order, so make sure to scroll to the end)
Address: 210 West 118th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue New York, NY 10026
Why You Should Go: The Cecil has basically created a culinary style that is unique to their establishment deemed Afro-Asian-American. Pair that awesome sauce with their chic décor and hip ambience and you have a recipe for a memorable night out.
What You Should Order: Collar Green Salad, Fried Chicken Fried Rice, and Triple Chocolate Cake
Why You Should Go: This unique and modern eatery flawlessly combines a traditional American Steakhouse with an authentic high end Sushi joint. Tender made my list because of its culinary range, offering everything from burgers to sushi. This restaurant is great for the group that just can’t decide on one type of cuisine.
What You Should Order: Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice, Tender Wagyu Burger, and Crème Brulee
Why You Should Go: Distilled New York is a throwback to a near forgotten era where public houses, pubs, and bars were not just full of D-Bags looking to get drunk and laid. Back in the day, these establishments were home to impromptu town hall meetings and actual political discussions, based on informed opinions as opposed to what party you are affiliated with. Distilled is trying to harness that vibe and reinvent the old school Public House. Not to mention they have a standup beer menu and their food is pretty epic.
What You Should Order: Distilled Wings, Country Fried Duck and Waffle, Night Cap
Why You Should Go: Brought to you by Food & Wine, this swanky restaurant boasts a collaborative menu from a rotating list of some of the world’s most renowned young Chefs. The Chef’s Club also offers eaters the unique experience of watching the drama of the kitchen unfold before their eyes thanks to their open kitchen, which is located in the center of the eatery.
What You Should Order: Calamari & Giardiniera Salad, Spicy Beef Ribs, and Chocolate Pretzel Whoopie Pie
Why You Should Go: First and foremost this sexy eatery has just earned itself a Michelin Star, which should be reason enough to visit. However, that is only the tip of the romaine. Blenheim is redefining the term Farm to Table, by literally growing the food that appears on their impressive menu on their own farm, located in the Catskills. Plus, they are serving this amazingly fresh fare in a beautifully inviting atmosphere. Reservations are hard to come by, but try to score one of the outdoor tables which allow you to enjoy your dinner while participating in one of my favorite NYC past times, people watching.
What You Should Order: Poached Farm Egg, Roast Chicken, and Honey Semifreddo
Why You Should Go: Smoke Jazz & Supper Club is one of NYC’s most distinguished Jazz Clubs and they just so happen to have a world renowned Chef playing her tunes in the Kitchen to boot. Let Smoke set the mood for your date night with their vintage décor, candlelit tables, soulful live jazz performances, and remarkable food. It is like the Barry White songs of restaurants, if you are picking up what I am putting down.
What You Should Order: Mousse of Foie Gras, Lobster Ravioli, S’mores Brownie
Why You Should Go: Visiting Australia has always been a dream of mine, alas the never ending plane ride has always scared me away. Thanks to Burke & Willis, I can now try traditional Southern Hemisphere food, without having to endure crying infants, stale air, and 3 inches of leg room for 21 hours twice in 2 weeks.
What You Should Order: Kangaroo Ham (+$5.00), Australian Lamb Rack (+$10.00), Affogato
Why You Should Go: Resto’s attempt to replicate the quant bistros that are all over Paris and Brussels is spot on, and the food transports you to these foodie havens as well. Furthermore, Resto offers outdoor seating to add to the already wonderful dining experience.
What You Should Order: Country Ham, Chicken & Liege Waffles Bacon, Honey Panna Cotta
Why You Should Go: Sticking with the theme of this article, Vermillion’s culinary exploration of the intersection of Indian and Latin-American cuisine is distinctive and playful. The Restaurant Week menu was not available at the time that I published this post, which usually keeps a restaurant off my list, but I am a sucker for Indian Cuisine and their regular menu looked straight up fantastic.
What You Should Order: Your guess is as good as mine…
Why You Should Go: Why shouldn’t you go? Unless you have access to a private jet and unlimited money, I would imagine that you don’t eat traditional Hawaiian food very often. Noreetuh offers a small slice of paradise in this otherwise brick-faced world. Plus they have a decent craft beer list and an impressive wine selection to get you into that serious vacation mood.
What You Should Order: Noreetuh Salumi, Mentaiko Spaghetti, and King’s Hawaiian Bread Pudding
Why You Should Go: I pride myself on rocking every single style of food that I can literally and figuratively sink my teeth into, and I have yet to have Laotian food. So, to be honest, I am not exactly sure what I would order or if it will be at the level of some of the other spots on the list. However, I am damn sure, that it will be an experience and just a quick peek at their website will show you that although I can’t guarantee anything, I am betting on Khe-Yo punching me right in the taste buds.
What You Should Order: Maine Lobster Dumplings, Steamed Red Snapper in Banana Leaf, Vanilla Rice Pudding
Why You Should Go: It is not a secret here on the internets that I love pork more than the internets loves videos of cats. I have a rule whenever I am searching for a restaurant or bar and it is quite simple; follow the pig. While it may have been the name of this eatery that drew me in, it was the pork centric menu that landed it on my exclusive list of where you should eat. Oh, Pig And Khao, you had me at Pork Jowls.
What You Should Order: Grilled Pork Jowl, Pork Belly Adobo, Baby Back Ribs, Turon
Why You Should Go: For 80 years, the Russian Tea Room and its ornate décor has been wining and dining NYC’s elite. Much like a baseball fan walking into Wrigley Field, a foodie can feel the culinary history oozing from this legendary eatery. Not to mention they have, arguably, the best Russian Food this side of the Atlantic.
What You Should Order: Team Room Red Borscht, Boeuf à la Stroganoff, Cheesecake
Why You Should Go: Southern food is not for everyone, I respect and acknowledge that. However, I assure you, Southern food is for me and that is why Root & Bone lands firmly on my short list of must visit eateries in NYC. Root & Bone combines high end comfort food, southern hospitality, and culinary expertise to form, IMHO, one of the best true eating experiences the city has to offer.
What You Should Order: Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits, Braised Short Rib Meatloaf, and S’mores
Address: 953 2nd Avenue New York, NY 10022 / 284 Mulberry Street New York, NY 10012 / 259 West 19th Street New York, NY 10011
Why You Should Go: What is not to like about Paella? The math is sound folks! Handfuls of amazingly seasoned seafood, meat, and vegetables + perfectly prepared rice + gigantic portions = Hot Damn. Socarrat-Paella Bar brings this amazing dish to Restaurant Week in style with several variations available.
What: Pulpo a la Plancha (Grilled Octopus), Paella de Arroz Negro (Seafood Paella with squid ink), and Churros Con Chocolate.
If you are a true foodie, seeing a new and interesting restaurant open its doors in your neighborhood probably makes you about as happy as a trippin’ hippie at a Dead concert. The other day I was driving home from work and took an unexpected detour to avoid a huge accident, thanks to my navigator T-Pain on Waze, and I passed a sign I did not recognize. My foodie radar began to ping and the bleeps, sweeps, and the creeps directed me to further investigate this new eatery. As I drove past I was able to catch the name of Fair Lawn’s newest establishment, Kimchi Mama, and I knew I would be eating there in the near future.
A few days later Kat and I were tired and hungry after a long hike in the Ramapo Mountains and we decided that we needed to eat something before we continued the rest of our day. After a brief discussion it became apparent that Kimchi Mama would be the perfect restaurant to fill the void in our bellies and we were excited to give it whirl.
Welcome to Kimchi Mama
Parking is slightly rough because Kimchi Mama is located at 7-09 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn, NJ and there are several other businesses that are located on that stretch of the road. However, since we had our pups in tow and it was stupid hot that day, Kat stayed in the car with them, so I could park in the Chase parking lot, across the street.
As I entered Kimchi Mama I noticed that there was no seating in this restaurant, so plan to take your meal home with you or drive a few blocks to the park and chow down alfresco style. I was greeted immediately when I entered by, who I can only assume, is The Kimchi Mama, and she was very personable and welcoming.
Furthermore, she was extremely knowledgeable, considering there were a few things on the menu that I not only could not pronounce but I would have had to google the shit out of to find out if they were vegetable, animal, or mineral. She was very good at recognizing that although I was adventurous, I needed some assistance throughout the ordering process, and she was patient to boot.
After speaking to her for a brief period of time, I contacted Kat and like a coach devising a plan during a timeout, we quickly mapped out our meal. By the way, I want a white board with the outline of a belly on it so at a restaurant I can huddle up my friends and devise a true food play. Patent Pending, don’t steal my ideas you jerks!
We decided to rock Dukbokki, Pork KimBap, and a Vegetable Pajeon Pancake for our appetizers and a large order of Dwaeji Galbi (Korean Spare Ribs) for our main meal. Since it was our first time there we were unaware of the portion size and we had the hike hunger, so we decided to go big. Don’t judge us! Think of our gluttony as your research!
We knew we were ordering big, but we did not realize just how big. The amount of food that was handed to me from THE Kimchi Mama was unexpected and extremely appreciated. When we arrived home we began to unpack the two bags of food that were wafting a wonderful smell throughout my house. I had to fight the urge to attack the first thing out of the bag with a fork with a determination that few have ever summoned.
Doo-Dads, Whazits, and Awesome Sauce!
Not only did we receive all the things we ordered but there were several small containers of pickled doo dads and spicy awesome sauce, scattered throughout the bag. Not to mention the rice, Miso soup, and of course the Kimchi that also made an appearance. Altogether, Kimchi Mama hooked us up with quite a spread for under 40 bucks, and that is how we like to Roll!
Pancakes… Pancakes…Pancakes! The Rockland Boulders fans know what I am talking about.
We decided to take the pancake for a test drive first. If you like the Scallion Pancakes that are on the menu at your local Chinese Take-Out spot, you need to order this immediately. The texture was a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy, and the heaps of vegetables contained in the pancake added a wonderful roasty and earthy flavor. When paired with the sauce that we believed it should be dipped in, a dark soy-like liquid, all the flavors melded together to create an umami grenade of sheer delight.
Porky…Pork…Pork… I love Pork!!!
Next up, in our marathon of eating was the Pork Kimbap. Basically, this tasty treat is a pork sushi roll, but have no fear the pork was cooked. As you can see from the picture above this dish was beautiful, what you can’t tell, is just how tasty this treat was. Stupid future, get on that stuff, Edible 3-D Printing, make it happen.
As our bellies began to fill, we decided to clean our palates and take a breather from solid food before continuing this ambitious feast. We slowly sipped our Miso Soup and discussed our battle plan to destroy the rest of the food that littered our table. The soup was a wonderful intermezzo and was on par with most Miso that one could procure from a high-end Chinese Food Restaurant.
When in doubt…Try it out!!!
We moved on to the Dukbokki, and with limited knowledge on what we were about to eat, we deiced to forego the Googling and dive right in. I fell in love at first bite! On the menu this dish was described as Rice Cakes, Fish Cakes, and Onion stir fried in a sweet and spicy Korean pepper sauce. This cup of amazing, was slightly fishy, slightly spicy, and when poured on top of the rice was all sorts of awesome. Each forkful brought new flavors and interesting textures that made this dish my favorite thing we tried, thus far.
Adam would have never given up one of these ribs! #SorryEve #NoMoreHumans #MoreRibs4Adam
I had to put the stipulation of thus far in the paragraph above because we tried our main course directly after the Dukbokki, and holy hell I was impressed by these meaty bone-in tidbits of yummy. By themselves they were tasty, but when wrapped in the provided lettuce and slathered in the sauce we were instructed to pair them with, they entered a whole new level of flavor country. A region of savory that I do not believe I had ever visited before. It was as if Kat and I were Lewis and Clarke, and this dish was 100 miles west of the Mississippi River. If you venture to Kimchi Mama, and you should, make this dish your first choice and I guarantee you will return.
The moral of this story is, when T-Pain tells you to make a left, you make a damn left, because you never know where the road may take you. My detour directed me to Kimchi Mama and for the foreseeable future, I will be taking this detour quite frequently. The service was wonderful, the food was amazing, and you can’t beat the price point. “In a quarter of a mile, Amaze-balls!”
Kimchi Mama’s menu can be found on their Facebook page and on GrubHub.
If you are a foodie, and I would imagine you are, you most likely have heard of the acclaimed PBS show The Mind of a Chef. If you have yet to watch this Foodographic program, you should immediately jump onto your hipster cable network, use whatever Netflix account you “borrow,” and commence what will become a serious binge watching session. This is not a Netflix and Chill show either, you are going to want to pay attention to it, so hands off, Handsy McPerv Pants, and watch, as you enter the Mind of a Chef.
Don’t sue me PBS, I am giving you free advertising!
The first season of this unique epicurean show follows, Chef David Chang, an American restaurateur, author, and promising television personality as he gallivants around the globe talking to other awe-inspiring Chefs about what goes on in their both food centric and eccentric minds. Chef Chang is known to most of us, as the brilliant mind behind the Momofuku Restaurant Group. (No I did not just call you a lover of someone else’s mother, that is an entirely different combination of the letters M and F.) After watching the complete first season of The Mind of a Chef, in a matter of few short days, I was craving Chef Chang’s ramen more than Lebron James yearns to be loved.
Luckily for me, I don’t live in one of the fly over states, sorry-not-sorry Kansas, so an epic plan was set in motion. The New York Mets happened to be in town last Friday, battling the Milwaukee Brewers and it was Free Shirt Friday to boot. So Kat, Alex, Steph, and I decided to not only visit Citi Field and root-root-root for the home team, but to hit up the Momofuku Noodle Bar afterwards for some late night Ramen with an added nightcap.
Sorry for the tangent, but I like Mets a lot, like almost as much as I like food and beer, and that my friends is saying something. Where was I, Oh yes!!! Momofuku! The Noodle Bar which opened its doors in 2004, was the first of now, many restaurants that make up the Momofuku Restaurant Group. For those of you that are keeping score, that is well before the recent ramen rage, making Chef David Chang the Ice-T or, Schoolly D for those of you in the know, of the NYC Ramen scene. You know, minus the illegal activity and mad fat beats, he is straight up OG… errrrrrrrr… OC…
Before we arrived at Momofuku, located at 171 1st Avenue, between 10th and 11th Street, New York, NY 10003, we stopped at a local bodega to grab a few pre-dinner IPAs because the wait for this awesome eatery can sometimes reach a sobering 1 hour mark. With our road sodas in hand, in paper bags of course, we are not animals, we approached this utopian Ramen Shangri-La and amongst the bustling noise of noodle slurping, kitchen clanging, and customers Instagramming, we placed our names in the queue. Luckily for our bellies the wait was only 30 minutes, which conversely was unlucky for our livers, which now had to process our, damn near 8 percent, IPAs much quicker than we anticipated.
As we sipped from our discreet vessels of hops, barley, yeast and water we perused the menu that the hostess was kind enough to provide when we checked in. Just when our bottles were empty and our bladders were full, our names were called and we took a seat at one of the shared wooden tables in the dining area.
We were greeted by our server, with a smile and menus. Three of us ordered another round of beers and one of us, the responsible one, ordered a Coke because she was driving. (Thanks by the way, because I was celebrating the Mets win and Ramen, so I was going to be in no condition to drive.) Next, we ordered our meal for the evening, and even though the menu is small, it was not an easy choice. In the end, we decided on the Beef Tartare and the Chicken Meatball Buns as appetizers, and 4 bowls of Ramen with a kicker of Kimchi for our entrees.
While we nursed our beers and conversed the anticipation of finally eating at a Chef Chang establishment slowly built. We were like a hot water heater on Mythbusters, the pressure was building with each and every minute. Fortunately, even though the place was crowded, the service was actually quite quick and our appetizers arrived in no time at all.
Meet the MEAT!
The first dish to make an appearance at our table was the Beef Tartare. For those of you that are not extremely well versed in the language of cookery, the word Tartare is usually synonymous with raw, and this was no exception. This particular dish featured finely diced high-quality raw beef, seasoned with brown butter and herbs, served with rice crackers. Alex and I are huge fans of Beef Tartare, which means that we are also pretty tough critics when it comes to eating it, but IMHO this dish was the real the deal. The beef was not overly salted, the texture was spot on, and the brown butter added just the right amount of nutty notes to the meat, without overpowering its rather delicate flavor that the raw form tends to have. Furthermore, when we added the tangy SSam sauce, which is placed on every table in the restaurant, this dish went from a 9 to a damn near 10.
That Ssam-I-Am, That Ssam-I-Am, I do indeed like that Ssam-I-Am
While we were polishing off the Tartare, the Chicken Meatball Buns arrived. ***I failed to take a picture of this dish because I was in awe of the Tartare. Sue me! No wait don’t sue me, this is America, and you would probably win. The bun was the star of this dish because it was the perfect consistency and did not fall apart, as we split them in half. As a supporting cast the Chicken Meatball and the Paprika Mayo did just fine, no Oscar nominations, but a solid performance which elevated the leading role. The meatball itself was moist, which was nice, considering Chicken dries out if you look at it the wrong way. (Suck it moist haters! I find this word descriptive and I like using it. I find your hatred of this word to be offensive and linguistically racist!)
The moment of truth was almost here. A bowl of Chef David Chang’s Ramen was on the horizon and I could not wait to dive into it like Scrooge McDuck into a building full of gold coins. Every bowl that exited the kitchen distracted me from our ongoing conversation. I was like a freaking gold fish! As I followed the wait staff around the dining room with my eyes, one waitress scooped up two bowls of brothy goodness and headed directly for our table. I was giddy, I was happy, I was excited, I was scared. What if I didn’t like it? Would I be exiled from the foodie community for not loving Chef Chang’s bowl of accolades and awards?
Behold! The Holy Grail Of Ramen!
The moment my Ramen hit the table all my anxiety disappeared like the Matt Harvey fans in 2016. (Don’t worry Matt, I still got your back! To hell with those fair weather fans!) For those non-baseball fans, they melted away like Frosty the Snowman, in the very-very short and ill-conceived film, Frosty Takes Hawaii. Just look at the gorgeous composition of that souptacular bowl of temptation. This bowl of Ramen could be the cover girl for the little known adult-themed food fetish magazine, known as Penthouse Forum: The Slutty Kitchen Edition.
I was in love at first slurp with this brilliant bowl of amazeballs. The broth was extremely flavorful with a hearty dose of pork, the slow poached egg was done to perfection, and the noodles…don’t even get me started on the noodles. I tried each element of this dish separately before going in for the kill and mixing it all together like a savage. I am not sure if that is proper Ramen etiquette but it felt like the right thing to do. The sum of all this dish’s parts coming together was tantamount to the combination of the five astronaut’s ships that created Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Just when I thought this meal could not get much better, I added a few dashes of the SSam sauce to the party and I was in Ramen Nirvana.
Chickpeas, Kale, and Scallions Oh MY! Chickpeas, Kale, and Scallions Oh MY! Chickpeas, Kale, and Scallions Oh MY! Chickpeas, Kale, and Scallions Oh MY!
Since Kat is awesome or because I gave her the sad puppy dog face, or perhaps a combination of those things, she let me give her meal a whirl. She and Steph decided on the Hozon Ramen Bowl, which incorporated Chickpeas, Kale, and Scallions. I was extremely surprised when I tasted the broth of the Hozon Ramen. It was not just the same broth that was ladled into my bowl, it was completely different, but equally as complex. Furthermore, as you can see from the picture above, it was also a stunning dish that was plated…errrrrr bowled, flawlessly.
Suck It Dunkin’ Donuts!!! Just kidding, I love you. Please don’t take my coffee away!
Even though we were well-satiated, to say it lightly, we felt obligated to try at least one dessert to share while we were at Momofuku. This was a necessity because the desserts at Momofuku are provided by the always impressive Christina Tosi, the founder of Milk. We ordered the Birthday Cake Truffles because we were told they would be easier to split and to be honest how could those not be fantastic. These little Munchkin looking bastards make Dunkin’ Donut’s Munchkins taste like cardboard covered in sawdust. They were the perfect ending to our Momofuku experience!
In summation, get your arse to The Momofuku Noodle Bar immediately! No check that, faster than immediately! Go steal THE friggin’ DeLorean right now from Doc Brown and go yesterday. Don’t wait for a special occasion, make Momofuku THE special occasion and then hang out in the city until you can’t hang no more. Believe me this restaurant is worth the astronomical bridge and tunnel fares and the Kal-if-fee that will ensue while you attempt to find parking.
Ask any gallivanting gastronome to recommend a spot to eat in his or her neighborhood and you will find yourself in an hour long culinary conference discussing the innumerable options that are available. You will be inundated with countless suggestions including, but not limited to, several steak slingers, a handful of hamburger hawkers, the rare ramen retailers, a surplus of sushi sellers, and a plethora of peddlers of Parisian fare. Foodies are as passionate about their local eateries as that guy, from work, that corners you near the water cooler to talk about his 16 fantasy football leagues, just a little less annoying.
During these delectable debates, a true fanatical foodie will often offer several recommendations for each type of fare that is discussed. However, there is one category of restaurant that an epicurean usually only has one suggestion for because a truly superb one is extremely rare. This unicorn of the gastronomic galaxy is none other than the five-star seafood joint, and this foodie’s recommendation is the ever impressive Brigantine Seafood, now located at 312 Lafayette Avenue in Hawthorne, NJ.
The relationship between a food lover and his or her Seafood Restaurant is a special bond that is about as stable as Gary Busey on a week-long bender teeming with crack-cocaine and hookers. Seafood, in general, is one of the hardest foods to consistently deliver to a customer base at a high quality, for a good price, because of its delicate flavor and perishability. These factors create a unique and daunting task for a Chef attempting to be creative in the kitchen without tossing all of his/her profits in the dumpster. Furthermore, it only takes one or two disappointing dishes to spook the feral foodie causing him or her to seek out a new fish monger.
There are several reasons that Brigantine Seafood and I are still BFF’s after several years. First off, the Owner and Chef, Alfred Ianniello, is as enthusiastic about the fish that he serves to his customers as his customers are about eating it. Chef Al proves this zeal each and every day by traveling to the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, where he personally selects only the finest seafood. Secondly, Chef Al does not skimp on the portions that are served at his restaurant, like some other spots that I have visited, and as you know, I can eat, so I appreciate this fact immensely. Lastly, Brigantine Seafood has never scorned me, meaning that every time I eat there I not only leave satiated but satisfied as well.
Click the picture to see my last review on this epic eatery!
If you read my blog regularly you are probably having a slight case of Déjà vu. Relax, you are not crazy. I did in fact write a review on Brigantine Seafood once before, but they recently moved to a new, much larger, location in Hawthorne and I thought they could use the love of the interwebs. The new digs are beautiful and add a wonderful touch of elegance that goes hand in hand with the fantastic food that is served at this eatery. Plus, as stated above, I freaking love their food, so any excuse to visit Chef Al, is a win in my book. Now, without further ado, I present to you the amazing food porn of Brigantine Seafood.
Since I am a fan of social outings that include booze, food, and friends, Kat and I invited our foodie friends Alex and Steph to join us for our most recent trip to Brigantine. With us, we brought an eight pack of assorted craft beers, because Brigantine Seafood not only provides some of the best Seafood in the Tri-state area, they are also BYOB! FTW!
Each time I go to Brigantine Seafood, I never know what I am going to eat, except of course for an order of Oysters, which are always out of this world. I am sure the regular items on the menu are all great, however, a true Brigantine junkie knows it is all about the specials, and since Chef Al picks out the seafood daily, you just never know what you are going to get until the waitress rattles them off. Brace yourselves too, because there are a crap load of specials, and each one sounds better than the last.
House of Carbs!
Other than the requisite oysters, we ordered the Grilled Octopus with White Bean Salad and a Mixed Green Salad with Crispy Fried Goat Cheese for our appetizers, while we pondered our main course. While discussing the most important decision of the evening we helped ourselves to some of fresh baked bread, olive oil, and opened our first beer.
Kat is not a fan of seafood, and at some Seafood Restaurants that could pose a problem, luckily Brigantine is not a one trick pony, and creates a few dishes for those who suffer from ichthyophobia. On this occasion, she chose the Pasta Primavera in a Vodka Sauce, but she wanted me to stress that her favorite dish is the Chicken Scarpariello, which she adores. However, we were told by Chef Al, that he is adding aged steaks to the menu shortly and that might give that Chicken dish a solid run for its money. Alex decided to go with the scallop dish, and Steph and I are suckers for whole fish, so we both decided on the Whole Bronzino.
If you don’t order Oysters when you visit Brigantine Seafood we can no longer be friends.
The oysters hit the table first and we were ecstatic. As always they were scrumptious and ever so fresh. The subtle, yet complex flavor of the oyster combined with the vinegar and horseradish sauces create a flavor that is both unique and memorable. If you have yet to try raw oysters, I highly recommend ordering a sixer of these slippery wonders of the sea when you visit Brigantine. You will not be disappointed!
I love Octopus, but not quite as much as those Manga weirdos.
While we were demolishing the Oyster plate, our Grilled Octopus was delivered, and it looked and smelled magnificent. Most chefs will tell you that Octopus is a tough dish to prepare. The fragile flavor of the meat is unassertive, creating an extremely fine margin of error when seasoning the dish. Furthermore, under cooked octopus has a distinct rubbery texture, whereas if it is overcooked it will be dry and tasteless. Due to these reasons, I only order Octopus at restaurants where I trust the Chef and his supply. Luckily for us and now for you, this ain’t Chef Al’s first tentacle filled rodeo and this dish was stupendous! The shy flesh of the octopus was the star of the dish, without being bland and it was grilled to perfection giving it the perfect mouthfeel.
Sorry Bessy, Goat Cheese is the number one salad cheese!
As stated above, Kat is not a seafood fan, like the rest of us normal people, so while we were eating our treasures from the sea, she was partaking in this beautiful bed of greens paired with a warm, crispy, and creamy goat cheese croquette. Even though I always order too much food when we visit Brigantine, Kat loves me, so she shares her exquisite croquette with me. She is well aware that the map to my heart not only runs through my stomach but spends the weekend there.
Hello friends, meet these life altering scallops.
After we finished our appetizers and the table was cleared our entrees began to arrive. Much like the many octopi dishes I have had in the past, Scallop dishes are always a gamble. UNLESS you are at Brigantine, where Chef Al makes you wonder if you have ever actually eaten a scallop in your long and food filled life. Alex allowed me to sample these delightful treats, and they so soft and buttery that I had food envy for a minute or two, as I savored this bite of brilliance. Not to mention that when they were paired with the provided sauce I damn near mugged Alex for his remaining morsels of amazeballs.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan stop reading this caption! It will only offend you…. You have been warned… I LOVE EATING AN ENTIRE ORGANISM!
My affliction of food envy was cured in a matters of moments when I took another bite of my meal. There is something about the presentation and ritual of eating a whole fish, I absolutely love. It also helped that the fish itself was delicious. I have had Bronzino that is overly salted and seasoned which ruins the gentle flavor of this European delicacy. This fish however was seasoned expertly and cooked properly creating a balanced and flavorful dish without stomping on the fish’s widely celebrated flavor.
Hasta La Pasta. Get In My Belly!
As far as Kat’s dish; sans fish, it was a solid pasta. The sauce was on point, which is of course the back bone to any pasta dish, and the pasta itself was cooked as it should be, Al dente. The addition of the fresh zucchini and mushrooms that were sharing space with the pasta added to the overall success of this dish. I believe this would be the perfect option for a vegetarian if they were to find themselves as your dinner guests at Brigantine.
It is okay to say no to drugs and war, but it is a travesty when you say no to pie!
This time around we decided not to get dessert because we were extremely full from our gluttonous meal, however if you are a dessert person do not miss out on their daily dessert specials. Ask your server and she will discuss the mouthwatering options that were made fresh that day.
As a bonus, since Brigantine moved into a space that is double if not triple the size of their old spot, Chef Al now has room to host events. This new venture allows you to eat all the amazing seafood that Brigantine offers, while celebrating that upcoming baby shower, bridal shower, birthday, or engagement party. It is okay, I won’t tell the person who you are celebrating that you are happier to be eating at Brigantine, than to be celebrating their special day. It will be our little secret.
I can’t stress enough that Brigantine is an amazing eatery and holds a special place in the center of my foodie heart. I implore you all to give this magical seafood haven a whirl, and remember to bring your appetites because you will not leave hungry. One last tip before you take your trip to Brigantine Seafood’s new location, 312 Lafayette Avenue, Hawthorne, NJ, to visit Chef Al and sample his outstanding creations. Make sure to make a reservation, because nothing is worse than having to smell all the awesome, while you are waiting on the sidelines for a table.
As a foodie and a Certified Cicerone the opening of a new Gastropub gets me about as giddy as a sci-fi geek hearing that Joss Whedon is working on a new show. However, since these craft beer slinging, epic eateries are popping up faster than a Lindsay Lohan relapse, I tend to be slightly apprehensive about getting too excited before visiting these potential honey holes.
In the last year or so, within my immediate review radius, there have been several new taverns, pubs, lounges, saloons, and bars that opened their doors promising true craft beer with epicurean eats, only to leave this Blue Collar Foodie, wanting and melancholy. Some of them fell short on delivering genuine craft beer, offering a plethora of Anheuser-Busch InBev owned brands masquerading as bona fide craft, while others advertised high-end pub fare, but instead offered dishes that were basically frozen chicken fingers with a side of Sriracha mayonnaise. Then there were one or two that hit the food and drink notes like a trained vocalist yet failed to stick the dismount, due to their décor, customer service, and douchey clientele. If I believed in bad reviews, I would insert the names of theses asshat asylums, but I don’t, so I won’t, but you will know them as soon as you walk through the door.
I know what some of you are thinking. WTF, man, you are being uncharacteristically critical, and leaving douche droppings all over the internets. You must understand, that my high expectations for a gastropub stems from the fact that I live within 3 miles of one of the best craft beer and food emporiums in the North Jersey region, and therefore, I hold all establishments to the standard that is The Twisted Elm, in Elmwood Park.
Enter, the new kid on the block, and I am not talking about Donny and Joey, I am talking about the Garden State Ale House, located at 340 Paterson Ave., in East Rutherford, NJ. When I say new, I don’t mean opened two months ago either, I mean like opened on December 28th, new.
As a rule, I normally don’t visit an establishment during their first month of operation, because I have worked in the restaurant industry before, and I completely understand it takes a while to work out the kinks. With that said, this joint is within walking distance of my friend’s apartment and we decided to break my tenet and check it out on opening day.
I was not going to write this review to be honest, because I expected a general shit-show, which is to be expected from a restaurant that is literally minutes old. However, The Garden State Ale House, spoiler alert, fucking nailed it so hard, I felt I was doing my readers a disservice by not spewing these glowing words all over the interwebs.
Look, it is all shiny and new.
As we entered, a smiling hostess greeted us, and seated us almost immediately, even though the dining room was quite crowded. The excellent customer service continued, when Christian arrived at our table with the food, beer, wine, and cocktail menus. Since, they just opened their doors and it was obvious that we had not been to Garden State Ale House in the past, Christian took the time to explain each menu, and informed us that if we had any questions to flag him down.
The beer menu was solid, offering a wide selection of not only exceptional brands, but varied styles as well. Of course, the menu was IPA heavy, but that is to be expected, because ‘merica. However, Stouts, Porters, and Saisons could be found as well, which is always a bonus. For those of you that have friends or fathers that feel that hops, barley, water, and yeast should taste like, well, water, they got you covered too, with a few not so craft beers that will wet their whistle.
Welcome to the Garden State Ale House.
We ordered our beers and began to peruse the food menu. Although, I like my gastropubs to push the epicurean envelope and deliver a diverse menu, full of an assortment of cuisines, I actually judge them first on their burger. I feel that this item embodies what a gastropub should be, and is the perfect vessel to express the chef’s creativity and flavor. Therefore, I immediately flipped to the burger section, and began the decision making process.
Normally, it takes quite a bit of time for me to choose the perfect burger to test the wherewithal of the cooking staff, but not on this occasion. The Garden State Ale House literally must have been thinking of me, and my kin, when they created the prodigious Das Burger. Described as an 8oz, 100% certified Angus Beef burger, topped with fried Gouda, fried egg, bacon, Taylor ham, a jumbo onion ring, and chipotle mayonnaise. Holy hell, I could feel my arteries constricting, and I fucking loved it.
My comrades also made their choices rather quickly and we flagged down Christian to place our order. Kat went with the Pickle & Horseradish Steak wrap, Buro decided to join me on my burger adventure with the Blazin’ Cajun Burger, Steph rocked the Adult Grilled Cheese, and Alex chose the Guinness Stew. Since we were all damn near starving we also ordered the Taste of Thanksgiving and the Smokin’ Calamari for the table.
The appetizers arrived shortly after we ordered them, and they not only smelled fantastic but they also looked appealing, which is a testament to the kitchen staff’s attention to detail. The Smokin’ Calamari was described as lightly battered fried calamari, sauteed with hot peppers, served with a citrus aioli and marinara sauce. The calamari itself was prepared extraordinarily well, and the spicy flavor of the hot peppers was present, but not overbearing. My only critique of this dish was it was missing the citrus aioli, but the marinara was flavorful enough to make up for this minor infraction.
The Definition of Amazeballs.
Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and the food that is served on this highest of holy days, is in my opinion, foodgasmic, I am cautious when ordering menu items that attempt to summon their essence. But, when dining with a crowd, democracy rules, so I went with it. All hail democracy friends! These fried spheres of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes were nothing short of amazeballs. I mean it; they were literally balls of amaze! When you bring your ass to this spot, and after reading this article, why wouldn’t you, do yourself a favor and put these in your food hole.
You can’t go wrong with Beer Stew.
Before, I wax poetic about my legendary burger, I will touch on the entrees that my cohorts chose. Firstly, Alex’s Guinness Stew, which was described as a hearty stew with generous chunks of tenderloin steak, slowly cooked in Guinness, finished with Jameson Irish Whiskey, served over mashed potatoes. This dish was rich and hearty as advertised, complete with an excellent robust flavor. The gravy, was the star of this meal, and I could not help but dip a nice chunk of bread in the ooey, gooey deliciousness when Alex tapped out, and I was not disappointed at all. The portion size of the entree was concerning at first, but each item that comprised this meal was so sturdy that it was more than enough to feed an average eater.
Fire Goooood!!! Napster Baaaaad!!!
As a spice fiend, when restaurants describe things as “Spicy,” “Ultra Hot,” or in this case “Blazin’,” I expect a weak, half-assed, attempt at tantalizing my taste buds. I almost always have to add hot sauce just to get the dish to an acceptable level of heat. This was not the case at The Garden State Ale House. After the first bite, Buro began to sweat, and with a smile on his face he housed the whole burger. This burger was not all about heat though, it was the perfect melody of burgery deliciousness, bready awesomeness, and jalapeño fierceness. If you are a fan of flavor, this could very well be your go to order when you visit.
The Blue Collar Baby Maker approves this sandwich.
We all grew up eating Grilled Cheese, at least we should have. If you didn’t, I call your parent’s parenting into question, but that is a topic for some other blog, maybe called TheBlueCollarBabyMaker.Com. This grilled cheese, however, was not your grandma’s Wonder Bread and processed cheese sandwich. This son of a bitch is two slices of Texas toast crammed with cheddar, pepper-jack, and smoked gouda, served with house chips and tomato fondue. I am all for nostalgia, but you can’t tell me that this sandwich doesn’t crap all over your G-ma’s bullshit ass Grilled Oil on GMOS! I was impressed with the melding of the three cheeses and this dish was exactly what I would want an adult grilled cheese to taste like. Unfortunately, it was delivered to the table without the tomato fondue, which would have brought this meal to whole other level. We chocked this faux pas up to an opening day oops and I will order this again to see how the tomato soup adds to this already impressive sandwich.
Steakey…Steakey…Steak…I love Steak!
Since it was a Monday, Kat was trying to be somewhat healthy, so she went with the Pickle Horseradish Steak Wrap with a side of Cole slaw. This wrap was full of chopped steak, smoked Gouda, hot cherry peppers, hot pepper brined pickles, baby arugula, sliced tomatoes, red onion, and horseradish honey mustard. Although there appears to be a surplus of ingredients joining the party within this wrap, they all play very nicely with each other. No one piece of the puzzle overshadowed the other and thus complemented one another quite well. For a healthier option, I feel like this dish was a resounding success, and Kat seemed to be happy with her selection.
Untimely death be damned, I fucking love this burger!
Now for the pièce de résistance, the magnum opus, the crowning achievement of the evening. THE DAS BURGER! First off, I ordered this beast at Medium Rare, and it arrived expertly cooked. I was slightly nervous that I would not be able to fit this monstrous slab of yummy in my mouth, but with a little squishing, and cutting it in half, I was able to take the perfect first bite. As, angelic music was playing in my head, I chewed that first bite, savoring each and every second this amalgamation of salty, spicy, and meaty was frolicking with my taste buds. Lucky for me, after swallowing that first lovely mouthful, TWSS, there was so much more burger to be had, not to mention the pile of BACON, RANCH, CHEESE FRIES!
Look at that beautiful pile of cholesterol and death!
You know there is no way I couldn’t mention the Bacon, Fucking, Ranch, Fucking, Cheese Fries. I mean come on dude, look at that beautiful pile of cholesterol and death! As good as the fries were, the superstar of this plate was definitely the burger. It was juicy to the last bite, the bun held up, and I have to confess it was the first burger, in a long time, that almost defeated me. I had to force the last flavorful tidbit of super tasty burger in my mouth, but it was a labor of love people.
Every element of the Garden State Ale House seemed like it was painstakingly taken into consideration. The décor, the placement of the televisions, and even the tables themselves seemed like an interior designer was hired to construct the prefect atmosphere to enjoy the food and drink they serve. Furthermore, the beer selection was on point, delivering the perfect blend of high-end Cicerone approved rarity and approachable brews for general consumption. All in all, The Garden State Ale House, was extremely well received by the motley crew that I rolled in with and that is high praise, especially on their first night open. In the immortal words of the Terminator, “I’ll be back!”
As a local restaurant slowly becomes your go to spot, it is comparable to a blossoming friendship. At first you stick to the basics, small talk is tantamount to the rudimentary menu items, but as the relationship continues, a sense of trust develops and gradually, this new friend, errrrrr… eatery can do no wrong. In other words you have rocked every item on the menu and have never been disappointed.
Sadly, much like some of your most memorable BFF’s, these local haunts relocate without notice. No matter the reason, taxes, rent, or the necessity for more space, at first you feel optimistic. What is a thirty minute drive among friends after all? Unfortunately, as many a bumper sticker from the 1980’s communicated, “Shit Happens,” and as we all know Life Happens as well. Your visits become less frequent and excuses are flung around like excrement at a monkey preserve.
Most of the time, this is where the story ends, however recently, I was able to rekindle a foodie friendship with an amazing Chef that happened to move right back into my hometown. The restaurant I am referring to is Green Dragon and the amazing culinary mind behind there cuisine is Chef Huarong Chen A.K.A. Ken. This kids is the story of How I Met Your Sushi Chef. Ba Bum Bum Bum Bum Ba Ba Ba Baaaaaaa…
One of the first places I reviewed as The Blue Collar Foodie was the amazing Six Happiness that was located on Morlot Avenue, in Fair Lawn New Jersey. One of the reasons I fell in love with this seemingly ordinary, yet extraordinary, Chinese Take-Out joint, was the addition of Chef Ken, who was churning out some of the most intriguing and remarkable Sushi I have ever eaten. We are talking NYC good people!
Ye Olde Six Happiness
Sadly, Six Happiness went through some changes and the original staff moved to Lodi under the name of Taste of Asian, located at 122 Essex Street in Lodi, and the food at the Fair Lawn location was never the same. To add insult to injury, Chef Ken disappeared from my life for quite some time and I was forced to eat sub-par sushi like a common street vagrant. I know… I know… First world problems, but still a problem none the less.
Thinking I had tasted Chef Ken’s epic oceanic goodness for the last time, I tried to put it out of my mind. That is until I walked into Green Dragon for the first time! In my head, Chef Ken jumped over the counter in slow motion and ran towards me, Bay Watch style, as I threw chairs and tables out of my way as I ran to him even slower. As we met in the middle of the restaurant we embraced in the greatest man hug of all time, the man hug between the foodie and the long lost Chef. In all reality, we saw each other from across the restaurant, and gave each other the obligatory standard manly greeting, the nod of acknowledgement, but that doesn’t seem like a good ending to this anecdote at all, so we will just say the first version happened and forget about the boring truth.
Green Dragon recently opened its doors at 19-01 Fair Lawn Avenue in Fair Lawn New Jersey in place of Dish Eatery. Even though it is always unfortunate to see a new-ish restaurant like Dish close its doors, I was extremely happy to see that a Sushi and Chinese Restaurant was moving back to Fair Lawn. This happiness turned to unbridled jubilation when I saw that it was Chef Ken at the helm.
I Heart Dragons of any color.
This establishment ain’t your normal Chinese Food take-out spot though, this is a sit-down restaurant with a fair amount of tables and a pretty extensive menu. They of course have the elementary Chinese food fare that we all crave from time to time, but they also offer specialties like Duck Fried Rice, a Bento Box, and the aforementioned Sushi.
Welcome to Green Dragon, your table to waiting.
The first time I visited Green Dragon I phoned in an order for normal, everyday Chinese Food and picked it up because that is what Kat and I were craving. However, after seeing Chef Ken behind the Sushi counter I knew we were coming back. A few short days later, Kat and I returned to Green Dragon to experience a sit down meal at this somewhat new eatery and… Spoiler alert, we were not disappointed.
When we were seated our delightful waitress brought us a couple of glasses of water as well as a portion of Crispy Chinese Noodles complete with a side of duck sauce. *Note, I scoured the internets to find what these scrumptious little fried crunchy strips of amazeballs are actually called and came up with the utterly unimaginative designation you see above.* However, whatever you call them, they are always welcome on my table and never unappreciated.
Crispy Fried Strips Of Amazeballs
Kat and I then began the constantly slothful and arduous task of ordering something from a menu that is new to us. With only a small amount of hemming and hawing Kat and I were able to come up with what we thought was a solid selection. I ordered the Shrimp Teriyaki Bento Box which comes with a garden salad, shrimp shumai, haru maki, rice, and normally a California Roll, which I paid extra to bench, and replaced it with a spicy tuna. Kat decided on the Fried Tofu and invited a Peanut Avocado Roll to the party as its plus one.
The only reason I order a salad at a Chinese Restaurant is the heavenly ginger dressing that tops the roughage. With an almost paste like consistency, this dressing is what really separates this salad from that of an ordinary pizzeria salad. Simple and fresh components make up the body of this garden salad and the ginger dressing adds a much needed flair to make it worth the nod, instead of any soup on the menu.
If they bottled this stuff I would eat it for days.
After our salads were devoured our entrees hit the table and Kat’s looked magical. The crispy outside of the fried tofu was the perfect complement of the warm silky inside, and when paired with the tangy sauce, this dish was spot on. Not to mention the vegetables that were served with it were fresh and had a distinct bite to them, which is always a bonus when dealing with steamed vegetables.
As for my Bento Box, it what everything I wanted and more. For one thing the reason why I love Bento Boxes is not only the glutenous amount of food that is provided, but the variety as well. This box was no magnificent! (TWSS) Each element that graced this dish was undeniably tastier than the last… Until of course I took a bite of something else. The only problem I had with this wonderful meal was which bite would be my last… It was the Sushi… I freaking love that stuff. In fact, as I write this I am now realizing that I have to have more tonight. *Edit: I did in fact go to green dragon after writing this, and it was glorious.*
Anything with the word box in it still makes me chuckle.
Speaking of Sushi, Kat’s was not half bad either, I mean for being fake Sushi and not containing any seafood at all. The presentation though was beautiful and the sushi rice was cooked expertly. Take that California, we know how to eat Avocado too and we have four seasons! HA! NEW JERSEY 1 – CALIFORNIA 0
Even Fake Sushi is better than no Sushi.
In case you just looked at the Food Porn and failed to read any of the words that seeped out of my brain and landed firmly on the interwebs, I highly recommend hitting up Green Dragon. Not only is it my new Sushi spot, but it is also my new Chinese Restaurant too.
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.
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.
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!
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: 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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/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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
Cheese Cloth: Enough to cover each of your baskets.
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.
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.
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 Maori people by adding as many fresh herbs and spices we could get our hand on.
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.
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!
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.
Seats: What are you going to do? Stand up for 12 hours?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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: 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!
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.
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.
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 GO: Time is of the essence!
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.
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.
Throw the chunks of wood on top and around your stones.
Put the baskets on top.
Place the Cheese Cloth on top of the baskets.
Throw some dirt on the sides of the pit to protect your stones from touching the layer of burlap that will go on top.
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.
Add some more dirt to the pit and fill it up about half way.
Add the second layer of burlap.
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.
Place the last burlap sheet on top of the hole and exchange several high fives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sit your ass down to a true New Zealand Maori FEAST!!! You are fucking welcome!
Our Hangi Slideshow
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.
For numerous years I have been an avid fan and participant of the NYC Restaurant Week movement. I know there are hundreds of haters that disagree with the savings, despise the menus, and talk shit about the service, but I am not one of them. If you are, kindly piss off and save your hate mail for some other blogger. However, if you are trying to choose an interesting restaurant to venture to this year please continue reading.
If you are like me and this is not your first time rocking Restaurant Week you are tired of the regular RW haunts. If you are a virgin to the Restaurant Week game this post is really not for you. Please go to the NYC GO website and do some research, I assure you it is totally worth it! However, if you are tired of eating where Frank Sinatra punched Elvis in the junk, where Edgar Allen Poe wrote some words on a napkin that he blew his nose in, or at a spot that used to be hostel for starving artists that you have never heard of, this is the post for you!
This year my top 15 really has nothing to do with history, decor, or prominence. My methodology was simple. I scoured the menus that were available for every restaurant on the RW list and picked out the ones that gave me a food boner. Feast your eyes and get ready to hide your erection because without further ado, here are my selections for the summer session of the 2015 Restaurant Week!
Burke & Wills: This Australian eatery ain’t the fucking Outback! It is the real deal and they serve actual Australian Cuisine. Their menu for this RW session offers the likes of Kangaroo, Octopus, Lamb, Veal Sweetbreads, and Prawns. In other words, if you are looking for a little down under strange, this is the place to visit!
The Cecil: In the immortal words of Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” The Cecil is described as New York’s first Afro-Asian-American brasserie and it serves some exceptional dishes. The highlights from their Restaurant Week Menu include Crispy Squash Blossoms served with Shrimp and for a ten dollar supplement you can sink your teeth into a Grilled Lamb Saddle topped with a Spicy Tomato Peanut Sauce. Make sure you also sample a beer direct from Africa if you stop by the Cecil!
DBGB Kitchen and Bar: This downtown hot spot is what you get when a French brasserie meets an American tavern, has one too many and slips one past the goalie. Normally, I would not recommend a burger during Restaurant Week but one look at their menu and I was dreaming of The Frenchie Burger, which is described as a 7 oz beef patty topped with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and morbier cheese all served on a peppered brioche bun. Not to mention DBGB offers 25 taps and 75 bottles of beer to wash down that behemoth burger.
Inakaya: It is true that not all sushi is created equal but for the most part great sushi is all pretty comparable. Inakaya not only boasts remarkable sushi, which you can find on their RW Menu, but they also provide a show while you eat. Inakaya uses the traditional method of Robata-Yaki, or Grilling Around a Sunken Hearth. In other words the Chefs play to the crowd while they grill each dish in their open kitchen, using only the freshest ingredients they can find.
Junoon: I am a sucker for Indian food, so I knew at least one of them would end up on this list. The aroma, the depth of flavor, and the occasional heat not only intrigues me, but entices me like a bag o’ blow speaks to Charlie Sheen. Junoon won me over the second I viewed their menu and saw the Bhut Jolokia which is described as a Ghost Chili Yogurt served with honey and 65% Chocolate. Sure they have several great appetizers and entrees as well, but who cares… GHOST CHILI YOGURT!!!
Kin Shop: Kin is the Thai word for eat, and at this casual yet hip establishment that is exactly what you will want to do. In a sea of Thai restaurants that are popping up faster than pimples on a teenager, Kin Shop really is one of the Stand Outs. What caught my eye of this menu was the Steamed Bouchot Mussels that are served in a Siamese Curry Sauce and the Braised Hampshire Pork served in a Panang Curry. Deal with it, I am a curry whore!
L’Ecole, The Restaurant Of The International Culinary Center: Ever wonder where tomorrows top chefs hone their skills? Question no more, L’Ecole is the culinary world’s Minor Leagues and some of these powerhouses are ready to be called up to the Bigs. I am a storyteller, as you can tell, so the chance to eat a dish prepared by a Chef that potentially could be the next James Beard is just too good to pass up. Not to mention, their menu is quite extensive! If my ass lands in one of their seats I will be dining on the Country Pate with Truffles, Pistachios, and Cornichons and The Roasted Duck Leg served with House Made Pappardelle. I don’t care what Daffy says, for me it is always Duck Season.
Le Colonial: Both the decor and the menu serve as a “tip of the hat,” to a forgotten time when Southeast Asia was colonized by France. The fare is generally traditional Vietnamese but possesses a French flair that adds a subtle, yet wonderful uniqueness to each and every one of their dishes. If you choose this spot I recommend the Suon Nuong: Grilled Baby Back Ribs served with Lemongrass and a Sweet Soy Sauce paired with The Trio: Grilled Prawns, Beef Brochettes, and Cha Gio Herbed Vermicelli Salad.
Miss Lily’s: My Boxador, half Boxer and half Labrador, is named Lilly, so I immediately checked this restaurant’s menu out when I saw it was participating in Restaurant Week. Furthermore, ever since I got back from the Caribbean I have been craving Jerk, just about anything. Enter Miss Lily’s, bringing Jerk BBQ Ribs, Jerk Grilled Corn, and Jerk Chicken to the RW world. To top it all off their is a Curried Goat dish that needs to be in my belly immediately!
Mr. Chow’s: This ain’t your corner Chinese Restaurant! The menu is not delivered to your door, nor is it depicted by 1970’s photos on a giant back lit rectangle that hangs above the counter. The menu at Mr. Chow’s is comprised of a combination of old Beijing cuisine and original recipes that have been delighting New York’s fashion and music elite for damn near 30 years. The name of the game here is Family Style Dining, so bring people that like to share, and don’t miss the Famous Mr. Chow Noodles.
Park Avenue Summer: Talk about trendy! This epic eatery not only seasonally changes their menu but they change the entire decor as well. P.A.S. makes my top 15 due to the amount of choices they offer on their Restaurant Week Menu. Most places offer a very limited selection but Park Avenue Summer is offering 6 different options for both the appetizer and the entree portion of the meal. If you are looking to hit up RW with a semi-large group, I assure you that everyone will be able to find something that tickles their fancy. However, if someone doesn’t order the Dr. Pepper Baby Back Ribs you have failed Restaurant Week and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Raymi: Raymi is an upscale Peruvian Restaurant that blends the flavors and culinary traditions of Spain, Japan, Chinese and Peru itself. The star of Raymi’s Menu is the Ceviche that captures the savory yet elegant taste that only this delicacy can deliver. Not only can you score some of this amazing seafood but you can pair it with some Carapulcra, or Roasted Pork Belly. If you are not into Ceviche, I suggest you rock the Pulpo Meloso, or Charred Octopus, which I might suggest Kat gets when we go, so I can try both.
Root and Bone: No food sticks to your bones like Soul Food, and even though it is summer time I simply can’t say no to this Uber comfort food. If you enter this restaurant and don’t order the Award Winning, Fried Chicken and Waffles you are no longer allowed to read my blog, so lucky for both of us it is on the RW menu! I am sure the other items are solid but FRIED CHICKEN AND WAFFLES!!! As a bonus, if you are ginger and eat here enough, you might acquire a soul… I kid, I kid, there is no way for gingers to get a soul.
Smorgas Chef: Raise your hand if you knew a Scandinavian Restaurant resided in the Big Apple. Keep it up if you can tell me what the hell Scandinavians eat. Unless your name is Thor or Dag I doubt you are well versed in the viking way of life. Well one night out of this establishment and you can school all your friends about this obscure cuisine. I highly recommend The Classic Smorgasbord from the menu simply because I can’t pronounce half the items that are on it and that is how I roll! Furthermore, I am like 80% sure it will taste as good as most Scandinavian ladies look.
Yerba Buena: Yerba may be somewhat small compared to other restaurants in NYC, but their flavors are gigantic. Not to mention their menu had me drooling all over my keyboard. They are dishing out Duck Confit Empanadas and Suckling Pig Carnitas during this session of Restaurant Week and if that doesn’t make you wanna jump on the Subway right the fuck now, I feel like I don’t know you anymore.
That is my list ladies and gentleman! Remember, Restaurant Week is all about exploring the greatest city in the world and sampling the amazing culinary treats it has to offer. The summer session is running from July 21, 2015 until August 15, 2015 and I highly recommend not only stepping out of your comfort zone while dining at these establishments but leaving it so far behind you that you never think about stepping into it again.