The Gastronauts + The Blue Collar Foodie = Food Porn²

Gastronauts_LOGOIf you missed my first post about the epic adventure eating club known as the Gastronauts, you may not be aware that I am a super fan of this organization. However, if you have ever visited my page, you are well aware that I love food porn almost as much as Luis Suarez likes to do his best Mike Tyson impersonation while on the pitch.

Since each and every Gastronaut event contains more food porn than a sixteen year old’s Reddit feed has actual porn, I decided that it was my duty to not only take pictures of these epicurean gatherings but share them with all of you. This post will contain the last two gastronomic happenings that I attended with this epicurean society but from this point on I will make sure to post each on separately as to not overload you with foodtography.

Back in May the Gastronauts invited its members to join them at Phayul located at 37-65 74th Street in Jackson Heights for a Tibetan feast. The menu for this event was intriguing because the descriptions were very vague, unlike the other meals that I have attended. Unsure and slightly nervous, my friend and I ascended the stairs that lead to Phayul and placed ourselves at the mercy of the Chef.

A Dinner at Phayul

Churu
Tibetan cheese soup

 Chele Khatsa

Fried beef spicy tongue

 Gyuma Ngoe Ma

Fried blood sausage with onions & green chilli

 Dropa Khatsa

Tibetan style beef tripe

Fried Momos

Tibetan Dumplings

Tibetan Spices

The first thing to hit our table was a caddy that held two vessels which contained two different, slightly scary, spice concoctions that caused some minor whispering throughout our table. All of us were curious, but we were also a little apprehensive since the predominant color of these potions were bright red, and we were under the assumptions that they were going to either kill us or destroy our taste buds for the upcoming meal. Eventually, one of us dipped our fork into the evil looking spices and tasted what turned out to be an extremely pleasant sauce with a subtle yet lingering heat that was not offensive at all.

Cheesesoup

Next up in this food orgy was the Churu, or Tibetan Cheese Soup. Steph, my fellow gourmand for the evening, and I discussed this dish in particular length during the arduous ride from New Jersey during rush hour. Both of us were somewhat uneasy about eating this dish because the internets was pretty damn useless when we tried to find out what this cheese soup was all about.   It turns out that we were concerned over nothing and not only was this soup straight up amazeballs, we now crave it like Piper Chapman yearns for affection.

Beef Tongue

After conquering our first, seconds, and thirds of the Cheese Soup, Steph and I were ready for the Chele Khatsa or the fried spicy beef tongue. This dish not only looked breathtakingly beautiful, but it tasted absolutely amazing.

Beef Tongue Close

The combination of the fresh vegetables and the fried beef tongue created a sublime texture contrast and the flavor of the dish was superb. I added a small amount of the aforementioned hot sauce and savored each and every bite.

Beef Action Shot

Relax food police, before I ate the last bite, I asked my fellow table mates. I know that when eating family style there are certain rules one must follow. Unless of course you are eating with your actual family, then to hell with the rules and grab as many pieces of yummy you can before your gigantic Uncle Morty eats all the Christmas Lo Mein.

Blood Sausage

The next dish to arrive was the Gyuma Ngoe Ma or the fried blood sausage with onions & green chilies. I am pretty sure the actual translation for this Tibetan dish is THE BEST BLOOD SAUSAGE YOU WILL EVER FUCKING EAT, EVER, but since that is not politically correct, they go with the one above.

Blood Sausage Close

I am a huge fan of blood sausage, and I must say that everything that I ever knew about blood sausage was absolutely wrong and I am an idiot for every thinking it. I was under the impression that there was always a slight metallic, iron-esque flavor to blood sausage, and this was just a minor imperfection that one who eats this delectable treat had to accept and get used to.

Blood Sausage With Pepper

This blood sausage did not taste metallic at all; it had every single wonderful quality that I crave in blood sausage and none of the flaws. It seemed like witchcraft to me at the time, and now that I think of it, it still does. Furthermore, now that I wrote this paragraph, I want some right the hell now!

Spicy Tripe

Following the blood sausage was not going to be easy for any dish, but none the less the Dropa Khatsa or Tibetan style beef tripe entered the eating arena. Since the supposed death sauce was less killy than I thought it would be, I disregarded the bright red flakes and rosy glistening hue that appeared on the plate in front of us. That my friends, I can tell you, was not the best idea. Don’t get it twisted, this dish tasted amazing, but I should have taken a much smaller first bite. The heat slowly built in my mouth and set up camp on my tongue. Being a seasoned, see what I did there, professional with spicy foods; I did not go for my water or my beer and just waited the heat out as it slowly dissipated. I then of course ate more of the tripe because I can’t resist a nice kick in the taste buds.

Veggie Momo

Just when we thought we couldn’t eat one more bite of this delightful Tibetan fare, out came the PARADE OF MOMOS! And what a parade it was!

Veggie Momo Close Up

Momos are basically Tibetan dumplings, and they come with a variety of fillings. The first one we got to eat was the vegetable Momo. These were filled with a combination of potato and diced veggies. The crispy and crunchy exterior was the perfect companion to the soft center that was bursting with flavor.

Beef Momo

Beef Momos graced our table next and, in my opinion, were the best of the Grand Momo Show! If there was a momo Oscar, these tasty bastards would win hands down, and they would not even play that music in the background during his acceptance speech to kick him off the stage.   Beef momo gets all the time he wants!

Beef Momo

Hiding in the center of these pan fried pouches of dough was a succulent and flavorful morsel of meaty goodness that I could not get enough of.

I remember a time that I was not a Gastronaut, I remember a time that I was not fortunate enough to share in the experience of eating these astonishing meals, I remember those times, and I do not like them. The Gastronauts should be commended for allowing foodies like us to eat, drink, and take a thousand pictures of food without all the normies in the world staring at us with discontent and dejection. So, join the Gastronauts and in the immortal words of the sideshow performers in the movie Freaks, become, One of us! Gooble Gobble, one of us!    

A Lebanese Dinner by Naji

Kibbeh Nayeh

Raw Goat Pate

Lamb brains and Lamb testicles

Brain Salad and Testicles Served With Hummus

Beef Tongue Fatteh

Toasted Lebanese flat breads mixed with a garlic yogurt sauce and Beef Tongue

Moughrabiyeh

Large-grain couscous, served with liver

Ashta dessert

Prepared similarly to sweetened cottage cheese, and topped with fruit and crushed pistachio.

After partaking in the awesome sauce that was the Tibetan dinner you drooled over above, I was yearning for the next Gastronaut event. I was just hoping that it would work with my hectic schedule of work, writing, and studying.   Lucky for me, and I guess in turn lucky for you, I was available on the night in question and without hesitation reserved two seats for the Lebanese Dinner at Naji located at 160 Havemeyer Street in Brooklyn, NY 11211.

I may have agreed to attend without hesitation but upon further research, like reading the entire email, I was able to find my uncertainty quite easily. I neglected to read the menu for the evening and missed the eating testicles portion of the event. I had never eaten testicles before and I was concerned about the texture, the flavor, the potentiality of liquid bursting from the center as I bit into them, and a myriad of other orb related issues.

With that said, my adventure eating partner, Steph and I embarked on our journey to Brooklyn to eat the testicles and brains of a lamb that I assure you is much less happy to be attending this dinner party than we were.

Lebanese Side Dishes

Our wonderful and exceptionally helpful waitress delivered a plate of side dishes that were to be consumed with the meal as per the instructions of the chef. Steph and I both agreed that we are always a fan of instructions when eating a cultures food that we are not familiar with, so we were happy to hear that we would be guided on when and how to eat the chef’s preparations.

The Kibbeh Nayeh

The Kibbeh Nayeh, or Lebanese Goat Tartar, is considered the national dish on Lebanon and is served at feasts and festivals throughout the year. When this dish hit the table, everyone was a little nervous about eating raw meat because we are Americans, and we all know that eating raw meat could potentially cause the outbreak of zombies thus destroying the world as we know it. Although, we decided that when in a Lebanese Restaurant in Hipster Ground zero, we should all act like a Lebanese Hipster… That does not work at all. I got it when in a… Never mind, you get the point.

Plated Goat

We ate the raw meat according to the instructions that were explained to us by the staff and guess what? No Zombies! I know, I was slightly disappointed too. To be honest though, I was way too far from my house and wife for a zombie invasion to work out well for me anyway, so I was okay with the lack of brain eating, for now anyway, according to the menu.

Goat With Beer

The instructions of how to eat The Kibbeh Nayeh were fairly simple and created a lovely hand held flatbread of tastiness. We were to spread the raw goat on a plate and top it with the most amazing garlic spread I have ever eaten and fresh mint leaves. Then you take the concoction, place it on a pita, and take a bite which is followed by a piece of either an onion or a scallion. Needless to say, this did not help our breaths at all, unless eating raw goat causes vampires instead of zombies, then the whole garlic breath thing might work out for us.

Brain Salad

Perhaps raw goat does turn us into zombies because all of us were pretty freaking excited to eat us some brains. Damn Center for Disease Control, being right all the damn time, what the hell? Although, it might have been the fact that the brains smelled absolutely incredible and did not look too shabby either that caused the mental salivation.  The aroma of this lamb lobe was hard to place at first until we tasted it. There was a distinct cinnamon or garam masala flavor that was tremendously enjoyable. The texture could have been a problem, considering brains tend to be as appetizing as lumpy cottage cheese in the mouth feel category, but the chef expertly prepared this dish as a salad with a slightly peppery salad greens that created a flawless union of taste, texture, and spice.

Lamb Testicles

The moment of truth was upon us. Apparently, what separates the men from the boys in the world of food happens to be balls, which is pretty accurate in the real world too. In this case though, these balls were going to be in my mouth instead of between my legs. Go ahead… Get it out… I realize that I just typed “balls” and “in my mouth” in the same sentence. I tried to get around it, but there was no way to avoid it. When you are done laughing out loud, I will see you in the next paragraph.Lamb Balls

I summoned all of my culinary testicular fortitude and stabbed a lamb testicle with my fork and placed it on my plate with a small amount of hummus, a pomegranate seed or five, and some greens and took the requisite photos. This time I did not mind the delay, I sort of needed it to psyche myself up for what was about to happen.

Balls on a Plate

With one swift motion, I brought a small piece of these rather large lamb testicles to my mouth and ate it. I should know by now that if the Gastronauts feed me something, it is going to taste stupid good, and these spheres were not the exception to this rule. Not only were these testicles not bad, they were freaking good! The texture was nothing like I thought it would be and resembled a somewhat undercooked meatball and much to my delight; no liquid of any kind was released from the center of these balls of yummy. I ate several more after cleaning this plate, and I would definitely order them again.

Beef Tounge

With a belly full of testicles…Dammit… Go ahead… The next course arrived at our table. I was impressed with the presentation of the beef tongue fatteh because the colors were spectacular. I mean seriously, this vibrant brew looked like it should be in an art museum, not in a bowl about to be consumed. I fought off my tablemates as long as I could to make sure I got the perfect photos before it was devoured.

Tongue Close Up

This dish’s praise was magnified because it contained one of my favorite “bizarre” meats, beef tongue. Not to mention the fact that the garlic yogurt broth it was swimming in tasted outstanding and was full of tasty goodness.

Couscous

If the fatteh was not enough to get your taste buds dancing like Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Chef also sent out a serving of Moughrabiyeh, which is large grain couscous. He decided to add a little liver to the dish to add a little Gastronaut style to the mix which only added to the already flavorful combination of the spices that were having a party in the bowl.

Ashta

For dessert, we were given Ashta, which was described as a dessert that has a sweet and aromatic flavor which is often compared to the atemoya fruit. This would have been a great description, if I knew what the hell an atemoya fruit was. The good news was that we were about to find out. I thoroughly enjoyed this dessert; I appreciated the subtle melon like taste combined with the small amount of crushed pistachios that were placed on top of this pudding like dessert.

I really cannot express to you how much fun it is to hop on board one of these culinary expeditions and eat your way into the stratosphere with the Gastronauts. There really are no words to describe the feeling of apprehension, realization, and relaxation that occur at these tables, it truly is something special.

The Blue Collar Foodie Embarks On A Culinary Tour Of Miami

If you read my work or know me at all you are well aware of my somewhat unhealthy obsession with all things food related. I wouldn’t say that I am a food addict but I am most definitely addicted to good food. I could see that Eli Manning like, confused yet oddly intrigued, look on your face as you read that last sentence and thought, wait, what the what, being a food addict and being addicted to good food are two different things. Let me explain. A food addict does not care what they shovel into their Honey Boo Boo sized mouth hole, because they love the sheer act of eating, I however love the act of eating good, no great, food.

Now that we have established that in the, “hierarchy of my love”, which by the way would have made a banging title for an 80’s love ballad, the order is as follows; my wife, my family (furry and not so furry), and my food. Fulfilling, this constant need for a foodie fare fix is about as hard as finding crack in Camden, in the Northeast, but when I am planning to go on vacation, a skinny, sad voice in the back of my head whispers scary thoughts like, “What if you eat at the wrong Taco stand.” Once this kernel of doubt is implanted in my skull, I immediately begin to panic. OMG! WTF! And several other silly ass acronyms that my older readers will have to google. What if I really do eat at the wrong Taco Stand? I will lose all sorts of Foodie Street Cred! I will no longer be able to call myself a Gastronaut or an Epicurean! As I take the brown paper bag out, that once held my Cronut, and breathe deeply into it to stop my hyperventilating, I remember that I am okay. I got a system, and that system works!

My system is foolproof guys and it not only helps you find the best food available in the area it also puts a big fat smile on the faces of food bloggers everywhere. Next time you decide to go on vacation, contact the Top 20 or so food bloggers on Urbanspoon.com for the region that you are headed. Write a very simple e-mail that includes a little bit about yourself and what type of food you are looking for, then sit back and wait. Unless you contacted the world’s worst food bloggers most of these food bards will be glad to help you in your time of need.

MCTThis system has never failed me so as Kat and I prepared to visit Miami for one night before boarding our cruise ship, I followed the BCF way. Spoiler Alert! I was not disappointed with the sage advice that was hurled at me from my fellow blogosphere citizens. Damn near every one of them that I contacted suggested a few restaurants to try, but most of them then added that if I truly wanted the Miami Food Experience of a lifetime, I should check out Miami Culinary Tours. I let my fingers do some walking and researched this foodie friendly tour before I devised my pitch to the wonderful little lady. After a few short minutes of checking out their website, my pitch was pretty much sending a link via G-Chat and writing the ever poignant comment, WE NEED TO DO THIS!!! Note the three exclamation points for added pitchiness.

For those of you who are too lazy to click the link above and read about this amazing foodie phenomenon, I will give you the basic idea. Miami Culinary Tours combines the educational experience of learning about the architecture, history, and culture of the beautiful South Beach area with the flare of the tremendous local foodie scene to create a close to three hour eating orgy that leaves you full from your belly to your brain.

After Kat perused the website for all of about two minutes and saw the scrumptious photos of some of the food that we may be able to try on this tour, it was just a matter of booking our tour. The tour itself costs $59.00 per person and at first sounds steep. But as you will soon discover this tour is well worth the price of admission.

After we booked our epicurean excursion we were informed of the clandestine meeting place where the tour would begin. Nothing for nothing but the fact that this rally point was kept secret until I purchased the tickets made me feel like I was some sort of foodie spy, and only added to the allure of this tour.

When we arrived in Miami we were so excited about the Miami Culinary Tour that we actually arrived at the rendezvous spot early. That is right, I said early, and not us early, but actual human being early, and if you know my wife and I you know that is about as commonplace as Charlie Sheen turning down nose candy.

We followed the directions in the e-mail that we received and found our tour guide, Richy Marchosky, who was extremely warm and inviting right off the bat. He checked us in swiftly, reminded us to grab a bottle of water for the tour and then gave us the very simple directions to the first stop on the tour, where we could comfortably wait for the tour to commence.

Miami Tour AnglersOur Miami Culinary expedition started outside the first venue of our tour with our guide Richy, introducing himself and having us introduce ourselves as well. Richy’s background in performing was immediately apparent; he was inviting, funny, and informative within the first sixty seconds of the tour.   This brief prologue seemed to melt away any anxiousness that was in the group and thanks to Richy’s charismatic and professional approach everyone in the group was instantly ready for a good time.

Our first stop was a charming boutique hotel from the 1930’s, The Angler’s that we were informed Earnest Hemingway frequented. Not sure what to expect on this tour, I slowly walked into the hotel half expecting a half assed blurb about the food that we were going to eat and then a napkin full of food. I was very happy to be all sorts of wrong. We were escorted into a private area where we were all offered comfy seats and then the show really started. Richy began to talk to us not only about the food that we were going to eat but about the history and architecture of Miami and this building. While we were all busy soaking up as much Miami knowledge as we could, our food arrived.

Miami CevicheOur first dish could not have been more beautiful, we were served a gorgeous plate of Sea Bass Ceviche served with Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk. This Peruvian concoction contains lime juice, sliced onion, chiles, salt, pepper, and just a bit of fish juice. Leche De Tigre is believed to not only cure a hangover, which in Miami, the party capital of the world, is a necessity, it is also said to be an aphrodisiac. I am pretty sure the medicinal claims of this fare are not F.D.A. approved but as for the taste I assure you it is B.C.F. approved. The best part was as we ate each bite of yummy, Richy continued to serve us mini morsels of Miami factoids.

Once our plates were clean, we were out the door and on the street in no time and on our way to our next foodie approved establishment. On the way Richy continued to point our famous buildings, celebrity hot spots, and the wonderful architecture that has become symbolic of the Miami area. We soon arrived our destination and entered into Bolivar, a modern lounge like eatery that was described as Colombian-Peruvian-Venezuelan gastronomical fusion; try to say that 10 times fast.

Beer Miami Once again we were whisked inside where place settings were already prepared for us and a cocktail was waiting. The refreshing cocktail that was awaiting our arrival was none other than a traditional Colombian Refajo, or beer mixed with soda. After walking in the still humid and hot Miami November, this mélange hit the spot flawlessly. While Miami cultural facts were flung around the room, our group began to loosen up, partially thanks to Richy’s personality and somewhat thanks to beer that was being sipped as our next sampling arrived.

Miami EmpanadaThe smell of this dish was as intoxicating as the beverage that was being served. The Patacones, Fried Green Plantain Chips, were crispity, crunchity, and delicious. Sharing a plate with the banana’s sexier Latin cousin was an empanada that could literally put Pfizer out of business. The Columbian Chicken and Potato empanada was more stimulating than Sofía Vergara doing the Tango by itself, but when combined with the spicy savory sauce that it was served with there is not a blue pill in the world that is more potent.

Richy once again expertly gathered us all together, and ushered to the next establishment spouting tidbits of information all the way to our next stop. As we passed some of the most famous sights of the South Beach area I realized that I must truly be a foodie because instead of being excited that I just walked past a building that was filmed in Scar Face, I was anticipating our next nosh.

Meat Twinkie After enjoying the scenery of South Beach and walking off a few of the calories we just ingested we arrived at David’s Cafe, a South Beach institution which has been serving delicious authentic Cuban Food for over 35 years. David’s Café offered a walk up take out window for those in a rush, or a quite familiar diner like sit down area if you prefer to stay a while.  David’s Café presented us a fried stuffed Yucca dish that I can only describe as a Meat Twinkie, which of course I do with the utmost compliments to David’s Café, considering that I love meat, TWSS, and my love for Twinkies makes Tallahassee’s obsession look like a summer fling. If these gorgeous deep fried log of tastiness was not enough, David Café’ and Miami Culinary Tours had one more thing in store for us, Columbian Freaking Coffee. The combination of walking and eating had depleted most of our batteries by this point, but as if Richy was Jesus and this nectar of the gods was communion, we partook and we were revitalized.

Miami CoffeeChock full of nuts, TWSS, and buzzing down the street all hopped up on Meat Twinkies and caffeine we were on our way to yet another stop, Charlotte’s Bakery.   When we arrived, I can’t lie I was somewhat sad that we were going to eat another empanada, considering we had just eaten one at Bolivar. I soon learned that A., there can never be too many Empanadas, and B., no two empanadas are the same. Thanks to Miami Culinary Tours, I was about to eat my very first Argentinian Empanada and by the aroma that was wafting throughout this fine establishment I had a feeling I was going to like it. At first glance you can easily see that this was not your grandmother’s empanada, well at least not the grandmother of the owner of Empanada Mania, who usually cooks my empanadas, you get my point, it was different people, work with me. The dough appeared to be a pastry type dough and the green sauce that was served with it was unlike any empanada dipping sauce I had ever seen. As I took my first bite, I could almost hear the Argentine National Anthem playing in my brain, as every taste bud in my mouth stood at attention saluting their flag with honor and integrity. Okay so I had google the Anthem, but you catch my drift, this fried doughy masterpiece was remarkable!

Argentinian Empanda At this point you could see some of the newbie gastronomers hitting the wall, so Richy explained to them that they could get a doggie bag if need be because the next few stops were just as important as the first few. After a short walk we found ourselves in front of a Pizzeria and Deli named Blocks. What is so special about a Pizzeria you ask, well that is a great question. The answer is simple, Blocks is Home to The Mother Dough. The process for the Mother Dough was started 300 years ago, and is continued to this day in this small Pizza Shop in Miami. The yeast for the dough is kept alive by adding water and flour on a daily basis, never missing a single day. This process was lost during the industrial era because this process took too much time and effort, but Blocks is attempting to bring it back one square block of pizza at a time.

PIzza Blocks We were given the opportunity to try the Sun Dried Hippie, which consisted of Sun Dried Tomatoes, Feta, baby spinach, basil pesto, and kalamato olives all in a pocket of Mother Dough. I can see why 300 years ago people were kind of into this dough, it was scrumptious. Not to mention the fresh ingredients that were combined within it, married perfectly to create a wonderful and not to be forgotten sandwich.

RugalaEven though I am a glutton, I have to admit I was slowly reaching my limit, but Richy assured us that the last two stops on this culinary carousel were desserts, and as everyone knows there is always room for dessert. As we approached our destination my internal New Yorker, that all Tri-Staters have, smiled from within and I could hear him whisper, which is louder than most other states inner voices scream, “forgetaboutit.” We arrived at Jerry’s Famous Deli, which appeared to be a traditional Jewish Deli with a little Miami Flare and as Richy spoke about this Miami staple, he passed out Raspberry Rugala. This Rugala would have made my Grandmother sob longer and harder than she did when my Grandfather finally got home from Korea. In fact, if you know her don’t mention that I boasted about having amazing Rugala, because I will be guilted into going back to Miami just to get her some. Wait, on second thought tell her immediately, not even my wife can stand up to the power of Jewish Guilt, and that means I can take this tour again.

GelatoLast but not least we made our way to Milani Gelateria where we were offered a sample of Gelato which honestly tasted like it was flown to Miami in the Pope’s personal Pope Jet. The texture was smooth yet creamy and the flavor selection was better than most Gelato places I found in Italy. This was the perfect ending to this amazing tour considering that after all the food we just consumed and all the blocks we walked in the Miami heat, nothing could have tasted better than a little Gelato.

A quote from the founder of this food centric tour Grace Della can be found on the website and I feel that it embodies the passion and objective of the Miami Culinary Tour quite well, “We offer a different perspective on Miami because we are food people, we like to experience other cultures and learn about new places through food, we find comfort in such.”  This philosophy is exactly what drew me to this tour and ultimately is why I would recommend this tour to any foodie that finds themselves in Miami.

The restaurants, eateries, and cafés that Kat and I visited on this tour were absolutely amazing and we would have never found them without Richy and Miami Culinary Tours. If you are serious about food and want to find out what Miami has to offer, this tour is a must to find out how full of awesome sauce that Miami Culinary scene truly is.

The Blue Collar Foodie Takes Some “Sage” Advice From a Fellow Fair Lawn Foodie

As a foodie, I am always looking for new and alluring places to fill my craw with tempting culinary treats, and therefore I am continuously taking advice from other epicurean adventurers about restaurants that I “must try.”  This time around, this sage advice, you will soon see why that pun was horrendous but I could not help myself, came from one of my friends on Yelp.com named Mark C.  Mark suggested that I bring my stomach, and my wife, to Sage, see I told you that pun was bad, located at 17-15 Broadway, in Fair Lawn, NJ for as Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say, “A real Italian treat.”   It took me a while but I heeded this advice as Rihanna should have in regards to her punch drunk beau Chris Brown, and visited Sage last Sunday.

Welcome to Sage

From the outside this restaurant is slightly unassuming, due to the fact that is highway adjacent and the facade of the building itself if somewhat old and shabby looking.  Please do not let these shortcomings taint your overall impression of this establishment; because once you cross the threshold of Sage’s doorway, you are transported away from this meek and dated ornamentation, into a contemporary land of fresh clean paint and modern furnishings.

The first thing I noticed after the décor was the ample and plush seating that filled the rather spacious dining area.  If you know me, you know that I like confined spaces like Jim Jones likes shoveling his sidewalk, in order to understand this joke you may have to read this Patch.com article that was mentioned nationally on TMZ.    So when Kat and I were offered the choice between a table and a pimpalicious, my words not the servers, booth, we immediately opted for the booth which was damn near cavernous and uber comfy.

Once seated our server Jason approached our table and handed us our menus and informed us of the specials for the evening, before taking our drink orders and leaving us to peruse the bill of fare.  Since Kat and I are fat kids at heart, we had already scoured the interwebs for reviews and the menu for Sage’s dinner offerings, so we had a decent idea of what we would be ordering.  Once we placed our closed menus on our table, which is of course the international signal telling our server that we were ready to order, Jason was there faster than you can say Unique New York three times fast, go ahead give it a whirl, I will wait.  Okay, that was just for my enjoyment, that phrase is really hard to say and you probably did it at your desk at work and now everyone knows you are crazy, so let’s just say Jason was good at what he does and move on from this embarrassing moment in your professional life shall we.

Sage's Olive Bread

Olive Bread

I ordered the Veal Luigi which is described as veal topped with spinach, mozzarella and a sun-dried tomato sherry wine sauce for $23.00, and Kat decided on Tortelloni Bolognese special described as cheese tortelloni topped with homemade meat sauce and fresh grated Parmesan cheese for $20.00.  Each of our meals came with a house salad which of course came with our choice of dressing.  Furthermore, my meal was supposed to come with a side of potatoes but being that I knew I was going to write this article I had to upgrade my side dish to a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce, because seriously a food critic that goes to an Italian place and does not try the house gravy is about as trustworthy as a skinny chef!

After our orders hit the kitchen Jason returned to our table and delivered a basket of bread that at first glance seemed to be quite ordinary.  Before leaving, he lit a candle and placed it on our table, recognizing that Kat and I were on a “date,” which was extremely appreciated and enhanced the ambiance of this establishment even more.   With the guidance of the romance inducing flicker of the candlelight I lifted the napkin that was covering the superficially conventional bread and I realized why Jason added the candle to our table.  The soft light the candle provided had little to do with my wife and more to do with the loaf of homemade olive bread that I just uncovered.   As I reached for this stunning temptress, I could have sworn I heard the pleasant sounds of a harp playing a melody, while my hand slowly extended towards my prize.  This 1980’s movie cliché was completely necessary because words cannot express the explosion of flavor that this bread packed per slice.  Sage already had a hold of me and the entrée had not even touched the oven yet.

Sage's House Salad

House Salad

While savoring my second piece of the simply divine olive bread, our salads arrived and Kat and I were offered fresh ground pepper which we gladly accepted.  The salads were not robust but a decent size for a side salad.  The house dressing was expertly made and the salad was dressed to perfection with just the right amount of this flavorful concoction.   Kat and I made short work of the greens and I of course needed to splurge and have one more sliver of the olive bread before awaiting our main course.

When the main course arrived I could tell just from the aroma wafting off the plate that Sage was going to complete its almost flawless performance in style.  Both entrées looked and smelled remarkable, and appeared to be fairly large portions which this foodie loves to see.  Jason offered, Kat and I fresh grated Parmesan cheese, which we graciously accepted.  When our dishes were garnished Italian style, we only had one option, and that was to dig in.  My veal was tender and succulent and seasoned to perfection, topped with a sauce that most likely cascaded like a waterfall from heaven into the kitchen of Sage.  Kat’s tortelloni tasted amazing as well, thanks to the skillfully prepared Bolognese sauce that had just the right consistency.

Veal Luigi

Veal Luigi

In addition to the wonderfully attentive wait staff, the soothing ambiance, and the delicious food, while we were eating our main course, not only did the owner come by our table to check on us, but the Chef himself made his rounds just to make sure our food was prepared to our liking.  After our meal was complete, we opted to decline desert because we did not want the essence of the meal we had just consumed to be washed away so quickly.  With the check in our hand we paid our bill, a modest $50.00 might I add, and left Sage with full bellies and happy souls.

Tortelloni Bolognese

Tortelloni Bolognese

I implore all the foodies in the Bergen County area to visit Sage not once, but often.  This area is littered with mediocre eateries that linger far past their expiration date, yet we are constantly losing incredible restaurants due to apathy.  Sage is not only quite inexpensive for the quality of food they are serving, but they, like most New Jersey eateries, are a bring your own bottle establishment, which saves you even more money.   So, in the immortal words of Billy Joel, grab “A bottle of red, a bottle of white.  It all depends upon your appetite.  I’ll meet you any time you want, in our Italian Restaurant. “

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