The Essential Epicurean Guide To NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2015

restaurant week NYC 2015For 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&WillsBurke & 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 HarlemThe 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 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.

InakayaInakaya:   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.

JunoonJunoon:  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 ShopKin 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: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 ColonialLe 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'sMiss 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'sMr. 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 SummerPark 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.

RaymiRaymi:  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.

Roots and BonesRoot 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.

smogas chef 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 BuenaYerba 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.

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Eats His Way Through Bean Town

Every once in a blue moon the neurons in my brain fire just right, and I have a good, no, great, no, fantastic idea.  This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when I found out I was going to Boston on a business trip.  I began searching the googles for the best foodie finds the city of Boston had to offer, and after about 45 minutes of dredging through one commercial advertising driven site after another, an idea popped into my head, one that was so damn prodigious that a freaking light bulb should have appeared over my head and shined brighter than Lil’ Jon’s grill.   This idea I am speaking so highly of was to forgo the internet search that is riddled with paid advertisers and subpar eateries and go to the heart of any great foodie scene, the blogosphere.  I aimed to contact the food bloggers of Boston that patrol the city night and day in search of the finest fare that THEIR city slings, and then take the time out to write poetic verses about these establishments so others will not be led astray by the likes of Bing and AOL.

With this thought in mind, I had only one problem, where the hell do I find a list of food bloggers from the Boston Area.  I once again fired up my internet browser, but this time I switched my search criteria around and was able to find that UrbanSpoon.com had just the list I was looking for.  Armed with the best of Boston Food Blogger List courtesy of UrbanSpoon, I began to contact the bloggers that seemed to match my style of epicurean adventuring.  I trusted the foodie community and the food bloggers of Boston would come through for me, and even though I did not know what to expect as far as return e-mails, I ended my research that faithful afternoon.  Shortly after sending the first message my inbox was inundated with responses from Boston’s finest foodies.  At that moment I knew just how Tim Tebow must have felt after being picked up by the New England Patriots, proud and excited to go to bean town.

Welcome To Boston

Welcome To Boston

The amazing food blogging community of Boston welcomed me with open arms and helped me compile a list of Boston’s Best, Blue Collar Foodie Approved, restaurants and watering holes. Considering I was in Boston for my actual nine to fiver, I was only able to hit up a few of the great suggestions these gracious gourmands had provided but the ones I did visit were absolutely amazing. Due to the tremendous out pour of assistance I received from the helpful blogging community of Boston, I will be doing this from now on, and I suggest you do the same. Not only will you be happy with the results, but I assure you it will make a food blogger smile when they receive your e-mail, so it is a win, win for everyone. Without further ado, buckle up gastronauts and prepare for the Blue Collar Foodie’s voyage to Boston’ belly!

Sweet Cheeks

Sweet Cheeks BBQ

The first stop on my gastro tour of Boston was a rather easy choice, as damn near every food blogger I spoke to, agreed this establishment was a must visit, and it was in walking distance of my hotel. This highly touted, often blogged about, and relatively new restaurant is none other than Sweet Cheeks BBQ in the Fenway area of Boston.  Now since it was the only BBQ joint I ventured to during my brief visit to Boston, I can’t proclaim that it is the best BBQ in the city, like most Bostonians, but I will say that anyone attempting to compete with this Texas style BBQ spot is in for quite a battle.

Sweet Cheeks Tray

Sweet Cheeks Tray

Sweet Cheeks’ offers all of the staples that you would expect a BBQ place to provide, such as Pulled Pork, Ribs, Chicken, and Brisket for the carnivore in you, and hot and cold sides featuring coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, and collard greens. They also throw in some not so standard options for the adventurous foodies like yours truly, including their Berkshire Pork Belly, and Great Northern Short Rib. Furthermore, Sweet Cheeks allows you to create a combination tray of their offerings so you can create a custom metastatic mixture that is sure to please.

Sweet Cheeks BBQ Ribs

Sweet Cheeks BBQ Ribs

What further separates Sweet Cheeks from the BBQ spots that I have visited in the past, is their extensive and impressive craft beer list that adorns the back of their menu.  Even though I fancy myself to be somewhat of a novice cicerone, Sweet Cheeks offered more than just a few beers that not only have I never tried, but some that were not even on my radar.

Sweet Cheeks Biscuit With Honey Butter

Sweet Cheeks Biscuit With Honey Butter

After eating at Sweet Cheeks I fully understand why the foodie scene in Boston is all about this local eatery. The food was fantastic, and if you find yourself in Boston, you must at least go there for a cold craft beer, an overstuffed meat sandwich, and a biscuit with honey butter. If you do not, unfriend me on Facebook immediately before you return, because I will publically shame you until you cry. Although I highly recommend grabbing a fat cheeks tray and knocking down three of their righteously smoked meats paired with two sides like I did.

Citizen Public House

Citizen Public House

With happy bellies full to the brim with meaty goodness, my partner in crime and I decided to walk to our next destination, The Citizen Public House and Oyster Bar.  According to the locals that I spoke to the food here is really good, but what they are known for is their far-reaching whiskey menu that is a must see for travelers who enjoy a good stiff drink.  Since an entire pig was resting nicely in my gut and food was out of the question, I decided to take a gander at their spirit selection, and I was impressed.  After perusing the menu for a short period of time, I was overwhelmed by the enormous selection of Bourbons, Scotches, and Whiskeys that decorated the Citizen’s menu, so much so that I had to enlist the assistance of the bartender to aid me in this daunting task.

Hirsch Whiskey

Hirsch Whiskey

This was a fantastic decision, because the bartender was like a whiskey shaman from the isle of knowledge.  After speaking to him for about five minutes not only did I know what Whiskey I wanted to order, I felt as if I could write a Wikipedia article on whiskey and simply use him as the source.  The clientele was great as well, and as I sipped my Hirsch Small Batch Bourbon, I conversed about all things sports with a few delightful local Bostonians.  Sadly, as my glass ran dry, I had to call it a night, as I had to be responsible in the morning, so I walked back to my hotel in preparation of the morrow, so I could dream of the next Boston food adventure I would embark upon.

The Tip Tap Room

The Tip Tap Room

After a long day of work, I was extremely excited to hop on the T near my hotel and make my way to the Government Center stop, where my next eatery would be found.  The Tip Tap Room was recommended to me by a few of the food writers that I contacted and described as a place that was known for exotic meats and craft beer.  Friends, you had me at exotic meats, TWSS.  The moment I arrived at this eccentric eatery, located in the center of the bustling Government Center area of Boston, I knew I was going to enjoy my stay.  Their vast tap menu was proudly displayed on the wall and due to the beautiful weather the large front windows were open allowing the pleasant breeze of the fledgling evening to whisk its way throughout the dining area.

Antelope Meatloaf

Antelope Meatloaf

It took me seconds to realize what I wanted as my meal, Antelope Meatloaf, but as for the beer list that was a horse of a different color. I had some bad luck in the beginning, as I chose two beers that had literally just tapped seconds before the waiter had taken our order. Fortunately though, our server was well versed in the art of beer drinking and selected three small samples of beer that were similar to the ones that I had ordered so I could try them before I made my final selection. This small, yet greatly appreciated service elevated my appreciation for this trendy eatery immeasurably.

Beer

Beer

I would highly recommend that everyone hit up the Tip Tap Room while they are traipsing down the Freedom Trail or visiting Faneuil or Quincy Market, which are all very close. The food divine, the service was wonderful, and the location simply can’t be beat. Furthermore, where else can you eat succulent Antelope Meatloaf, while sipping on local craft beer in the city of Boston?

Regina Pizza

Regina Pizza

Another one of Boston’s restaurants that almost every foodie that wrote me back included on their list of must eats was the original Regina Pizza located in the North End of the city.  Being from the land of great pizza, the words best and pizza in the same sentence without being combined with the phrase, “other than in New Jersey,” is like uttering the phrase the Mets stink, without adding the caveat “because of their owners.”  With that said, I was not willing to ignore the endorsement of almost a dozen food writers because of my own New Jersey centric, pizza related hubris.

When we arrived, we soon found out that Regina Pizza is not a secret in Boston, as was evident in the fact that there was a line out the door to score a table in this famous pizzeria.  While waiting for our table, I researched the menu online and decided that I was going to partake in the most sought after pie Regina’s serves, The Giambotta, which consists of pepperoni, sausage, salami, mushrooms, peppers, onions, anchovies, and Mozzarella cheese.

The Giambotta

The Giambotta

Once seated which did not take too long, our order was in and a beer was in my hand in no time, thanks to the speedy service that is provided at Regina’s. Shortly after we ordered, our Regina’s masterpieces were delivered to our table, and I was ready to try what everyone was telling me was Boston’s best pizza. Now as I said, Pizza and Jersey are like Guns and Texas, Hockey and Canadians, or Lies and Politicians, so I know pizza, and Regina makes damn good pizza. Now I am not saying that Jersey pizza is not better in some places that I have been, but if I ever had to move to Boston, I could surely get my Pizza fix within the confines of this North End staple.

Mike's Pastry

Mike’s Pastry

If you read my blog regularly you know that I am infatuated with the cannoli like Courtney Love, well, loves her some crack cocaine.  So when multiple foodies tell me that Mike’s Pastry is the place to get a cannoli in what is basically Boston’s Little Italy, I had no other choice but to venture down the street from Regina’s and give one of them a try.  This decision was almost as good as the decision I made to marry my loving and supportive wife.   Mike’s offers a myriad of cannoli, filled with everything from the traditional cream to specialty cannoli such as peanut butter or pistachio.  To add to their appeal they also serve a wide array of other Italian indulgences that would make Kirstie Alley fall off the diet wagon once again.

I chose to treat myself to a Peanut Butter Cannoli topped with powdered sugar. Judging from the looks of this pastry shop and the fact that it was crowded at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday night, I assumed this decadent, overstuffed phenomenon was going to be good, but I was not ready for the shear awesomeness that this shell full of heaven was going to deliver. With reckless abandon for my shirt and pants, I could not stop eating this bliss wrapped in a flakey shell as powdered sugar rained down on my clothes like hell fire. Afterword, I not only looked like Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan after a night at the Roxy, but I was just as happy as them as well.

Bleacher Bar

Bleacher Bar

There was only one thing left to do after treating ourselves to a wonderful evening in the North End of Boston, and that was, return to the Fenway area and drink a cold beer at the coolest bar in town. Once again my fellow foodies came through in the clutch and informed me of a place called Bleacher Bar that is located literally under the bleachers of Fenway. These Uber sports bar not only have a decent selection of draft beers, but they have something that no other bar in town can boast. This sport’s enthusiast’s mecca has an enormous window that overlooks Fenway Park on the field level. Not only do they have the greatest view of any bar in the city, check that, the country, they don’t charge a freaking cover! That is correct, you heard me right, NO COVER.

The Church Of Boston

The Church Of Boston

Considering that I am an Ordained Reverend with the Universal Life Church, when a few of my blogging cohorts suggested that I visit the Church of Boston for a pint and a meal I could not resist.  This chic Boston Eatery boasts a gourmet gastro pub menu combined with a notable selection of adult beverages.  Adding to the appeal of this epicurean sanctuary, The Church of Boston offers several choices of seating types for their patrons to enjoy, including booths, high top tables, and even couches for a relaxing place to rest your rump while imbibing a cold after work cocktail.  Boston’s holy bistro also has a separate room for live music where the area’s top local bands perform their unique hymns seven nights a week starting at 9 P.M.

Church's Noodle Bowl

Church’s Noodle Bowl

Church delivers a truly unique design premise with an accompanying relaxed ambiance that I have not yet to experience in any other bar that I have been to.  The stained glass windows that adorn one full wall of the bar are an additional luxury, which enhances the already chic interior of this amazing eatery.  To top it all off, their menu had so many delectable choices that it took me quite some time to decide what to have.  Furthermore, their drink selection is quite substantial and formidable in its own right.  When visiting Church, it would be a sin not to indulge in their specialty cocktails appropriately labeled the Four Horsemen and the Seven Deadly Sins.  If beer is what you’re after to pair with your amazing food, I suggest trying the always original and tasty Pretty Little Things Offering, which is basically whatever crazy concoction that four Massachusetts beer obsessed hop heads created that week.

El Pelon

El Pelon

 

After eating at the Church of Boston, we made our way to one of the last true Baseball Churches left standing, Fenway Park to catch a game and drink some beers.  After the game I was a little bit hungry and was in need of a midnight snack.  I checked my list of foodie approved eateries in the area and stumbled upon a place called El Pelon Taqueria.  Not only was this well-known Taqueria on our way back to the hotel, but honestly, nothing quenches a nighttime craving like a burrito.

El Guapo Burrito

El Guapo Burrito

After a quick look at the menu, I decided to go with El Guapo Burrito stuffed with pork, Mexican rice, black beans, fried plantains, Jack cheese, fire roasted Salsa, romaine lettuce and sour cream. Upon ordering this utterly tantalizing Burrito, the very cordial waitress simply uttered I hope you’re hungry. She was not kidding; the Burrito she handed me was so hefty that I could have done curls with it, and its girth would make Ron Jeremy blush. Not only was this burrito gy-freaking-normous it was bursting with such immense flavor that my taste buds decided to do the Mexican hat dance. This was the perfect ending to my culinary globetrot through Boston, and I went to bed that evening not only full but awestruck by the Boston Foodie Scene.

I have to thank all the wonderful foodies that helped steer the Gastro Express that I rode through Boston during the course of this week. Without them, my trip would have been filled with dirty water dogs and hot pockets. If you are ever thinking about going to Boston, I suggest visiting their blogs, liking them on Facebook, or following them on Twitter before you go so you too can get their expert advice on where to go in their magnificent city. The following is a list of their sites so you can find them:

A Boston Food Diary:  http://www.abostonfooddiary.com

Pig Trip:  http://www.pigtrip.net/

Blog and Tweet Boston:  https://twitter.com/BlogAndTweetBos

Peace, Love, and Food:  http://peaceloveandfood.com

Foodology (Actually from Vancouver but has visited Boston):  http://foodology.ca/

Hidden Boston:  http://hiddenboston.com/

The Economical Eater:  http://www.theeconomicaleater.com/

Chow Down Bean Town:  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/blogs/chowdown/

Just Add Cheese:  http://www.justaddcheese.com/

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Morris Tap & Grill for a Beer Paired With a Side Of Awesome

If there is one specific type of eatery that exemplifies the Blue Collar Foodie movement that I have been trying to showcase throughout my blogging career it would have to be the Gastro Pub. These establishments combine good old fashioned blue collar elements with a twist of foodie flair causing epicurean adventurers like myself to flock to them like Charlie Sheen to a dysfunctional twenty- something with daddy issues. Since this movement is catching like wild fire, it is hard to keep up with all the Gastro Pubs that are popping up faster than a New York Mets fan gives up on the season, but one specific Pub caught my interest a while back and I vowed to pay them a visit.   I am referring to none other than Morris Tap & Grill, located at 500 Route 10 West in Randolph, NJ.

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill has been on my radar since they damn near slapped me sober with foodie brilliance at the Morris Town Beer Fest. Since that day I knew I needed to make the trek down to Randolph to try the full MTG experience.   So, Kat and I made plans to meet with another Gastro Centric couple, Mr. Jabre and Ms. Berners-Lee, who are from those parts and head over to Morris Tap & Grill for a fun-filled evening of tempting vittles and libations.

When we arrived at the Morris Tap & Grill, I was surprised to hear the harmonious hums of a live band jamming out in the bar area. Much to my delight the band was playing at the perfect level as to add to the ambience of the restaurant but still allow pleasant dinner conversation at a normal speaking tone. If you are anything like my past self you may have just shot the computer screen a derision-laden glare in response to that comment, and most likely thought of me as an old fuddy duddy who does not like his music loud anymore. I assure you, I still feel there is a time and place for loud music, but while I am trying to eat dinner is not one of them, so I was very happy that the Morris Tap & Grill were savvy enough to take that into consideration.

Upon reaching our table and meeting up with our fellow foodies, we were almost immediately welcomed by our server Katrina who offered us our Menu’s and whole hearted greeting, which was appreciated immensely. I seem to be able to tell a greeting that is laced with contrived emotions, but Katrina honestly seemed like she enjoyed her job and was happy to help us, which instantly set the mood for our dining experience.

My first mission when I visit a Gastropub is the challenging task of picking my first beer of the evening. If you have never been to a Gastropub, you may not have ever had this issue, but once you venture down the rabbit hole that is craft beers you will find that sometimes selecting a beer can be as hard as catching the white rabbit. So, if you are an over analytical beer fanatic like me and you find yourself staring at an extensive and impressive beer list the likes of the Morris Tap & Grills, this process could take several minutes and some arduous decision making, which may cause your wife and friends to stare at you with an ominous ire as their stomachs grumble. Fortunately, Morris Tap & Grill has once again thought of this problematic situation before you even walked in the door, and are nice enough to offer what is known as a flight of beers as the solution.   For anyone that has never had a flight of beer, it is quite simply, four small beers instead of one big beer, which allows you to taste multiple beers instead of only choosing one. With the knowledgeable assistance of Katrina, I was able to piece together my beer flight and our drink orders were on their way to the bar.

Morris Tap & Grill Beer Flight

With our first undertaking considered to be success we moved onto our next imperative task of the evening, our meals.   I am not sure what is more comprehensive and grandiose, the Morris Tap & Grill’s beer menu or there dinner menu, but one thing is for certain, they both can make a Blue Collar Foodie salivate like a German Shepard at Pavlov’s B&B. Since, I knew that I was attending Morris Tap & Grill and was already their friend on Facebook, I launched a pre-emptive attack on my ever-wavering entrée contemplation, and asked the MTG what they suggest I eat to fully experience their Chef’s culinary modus operandi. Much to my surprise, Chef Eric, himself wrote me back and suggested a few dishes that he felt a Blue Collar Foodie, such as me would enjoy.   Chef Eric recommended the following dishes; the Trio of bacon, the Pork Shank, any of the Burgers, particularly the Baconeater, the Southwest, or the BBQ, The Shrimp cannelloni, the Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, and finally the Avocado “Fillet.” If you follow this blog at all you know damn well which dish I chose! Chef Eric Sir you had me at Trio of Bacon. My beautiful wife, Kat spun the gastronomy roulette wheel and it landed on the Short Ribs, which she is drawn to like a teenager to a sparkling vampire. Mr. Jabre decided to stick to the Chef’s recommendations which was also highly indorsed by Katrina and went with Twisted Chicken Pot Pie where as his lovely lady also chose off the Chef Eric approved list and decided upon the BBQ burger. We also ordered a Spinach Artichoke Dip for the table to prime our stomachs for the meals that were forthcoming.

Morris Tap & Grill Spinach Artichoke Dip

With most of the decision making behind us, we were able to absorb the overall atmosphere of the Morris Tap & Grill. I felt quite at home within the rustic yet elegant confines of this eatery and as we lost ourselves in conversation our appetizer arrived at the table. The Spinach Artichoke dish that arrived on our table carried with it such a heavenly aroma that I was barely able to take a picture of it before everyone at our table was jockeying for position to dive into it. As I dipped my first chip into this diptastic concoction, I could tell the texture was just right. Firm enough to stay on the chip, but forgiving enough to not break this conveyance vessel. This potion was not only the right consistency but the flavor was spot-on as well, let’s just say that once it landed on our table, it was not long for this world. After polishing off the Spinach Dip, we ordered another round of drinks from Katrina, and shortly after their arrival the entrees made their appearance.

Morris Tap & Grill Bacon

The Trio of Bacon consisted of Mustard & Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Bacon Baked Beans, and Grilled Pork Belly. From the shear looks of this dish, I could tell right away that I had made the proper choice. I first tried the hearty Baked Beans which had a thick palatable sauce which smothered the copious amounts of bacon that were swimming with the beans. The beans packed quite a flavor punch, and I found myself eating bite after bite, before moving on to the Pork Loin, which was expertly cooked, causing the medallions to be not only delicious but tender as well. Lastly I picked up a piece of the Grilled Pork Belly with my fork and brought it to my mouth slowly with anticipation. You see, in the healthy world we live in now, eating Pork Belly is tantamount to calling the Queen of England a, well let’s just say a word that rhymes with punt and starts with a C, shall we. Yet these tasty morsels of piggy goodness are what my stomach’s wet dreams are made of, and I cannot thank Morris Tap & Grill enough for affording me the opportunity of savoring every last bite of these perfectly cooked cholesterol loaded pork gems.

Morris Tap & Grill Rib

Kat was generous enough to allow me a small taste of her short ribs so I could experience, in her words, all their beefy magnificence. After I tasted her dish, TWSS, I completely understood why she wanted me to try it. First off, the ribs were cooked in such a way that the meat literally fell apart, as Kat gently poked them with her fork. Furthermore, the meat was so tender and the sauce so tasty that I had to eat another piece of my pork belly to stop from distracting Kat, and stealing another piece off her plate.

Morris Tap and Grill Twisted Chicken

I was also afforded the opportunity to try Mr. Jabre’s Twisted Chicken Pot Pie and Ms. Berners-Lee’s Burger. The Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, consisted of all the standard ingredients of chicken pot pie, but instead of being in a pie crust, Chef Eric stuffs those ingredients inside the chicken itself. I find normal chicken pot pie to be rather hum-drum so this inventive twist was a welcomed changed. It also helped that it tasted better than any pot pie that has ever graced my well versed spoon. As for the burger, it was perfectly cooked and chock full of flavor.

I am not one for dessert right after my meal. I would much rather allow the flavors that I just assaulted my taste buds with to loiter a while, and I feel that dessert hinders this effect. With that said, while perusing the MTG menu one particular item caught my eye, and I felt that I would be doing every one of you a disservice if I did not at least try it. Morris Tap & Grill offers something that I have never heard of before, listed as beer cocktails on the menu. I was so intrigued by this concept I simply had to order one of them.   I opted for the one that utilized Left Hand’s Nitro Chocolate Stout as its base, and rolled the proverbial dice. This drink consisted of the Stout, Espresso Vodka, Godiva Vodka, and Chambord, topped off with a Chocolate Drizzle. When this creation hit my lips I was forced to rethink everything I ever claimed to know about beer and liquor, so much so that I had to memorize a new rhyme. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear, Beer before liquor you will never be sicker, Liquor in beer and Holy shit that’s good! Alright I am still working on the Rhyme, but you get my point, order one, you will thank me.

Morris Tap & Grill Beer

I, for one enjoy the almost ironic, albeit Alanis Morissette irony not actual irony, feeling of eating proper foodie fare in a pub like environment paired with a craft beer, instead of wine. This duality is the exact reason that I love Gastro Pubs! These wonderful establishments, Morris Tap &Grill included, embody the very essence of being a Blue Collar Foodie. Sometimes I wish I was not a foodie, my life would be easier if I could stuff my craw with bland mush and tasteless chops, but then I visit places like Morris Tap & Grill and with one forkful, edible enlightenment this notion is whisked away and replaced with yet another blissful epicurean memory.

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The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Morris Tap & Grill for a Beer Paired With a Side Of Awesome

If there is one specific type of eatery that exemplifies the Blue Collar Foodie movement that I have been trying to showcase throughout my blogging career it would have to be the Gastro Pub.  These establishments combine good old fashioned blue collar elements with a twist of foodie flair causing epicurean adventurers like myself to flock to them like Charlie Sheen to a dysfunctional twenty- something with daddy issues.  Since this movement is catching like wild fire, it is hard to keep up with all the Gastro Pubs that are popping up faster than a New York Mets fan gives up on the season, but one specific Pub caught my interest a while back and I vowed to pay them a visit.   I am referring to none other than Morris Tap & Grill, located at 500 Route 10 West in Randolph, NJ.

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill has been on my radar since they damn near slapped me sober with foodie brilliance at the Morris Town Beer Fest.  Since that day I knew I needed to make the trek down to Randolph to try the full MTG experience.   So, Kat and I made plans to meet with another Gastro Centric couple, Brian and Kristen, who are from those parts and head over to Morris Tap & Grill for a fun-filled evening of tempting vittles and libations.

When we arrived at the Morris Tap & Grill, I was surprised to hear the harmonious hums of a live band jamming out in the bar area.  Much to my delight the band was playing at the perfect level as to add to the ambience of the restaurant but still allow pleasant dinner conversation at a normal speaking tone.  If you are anything like my past self you may have just shot the computer screen a derision-laden glare in response to that comment, and most likely thought of me as an old fuddy duddy who does not like his music loud anymore.  I assure you, I still feel there is a time and place for loud music, but while I am trying to eat dinner is not one of them, so I was very happy that the Morris Tap & Grill were savvy enough to take that into consideration.

Upon reaching our table and meeting up with our fellow foodies, we were almost immediately welcomed by our server Katrina who offered us our Menu’s and whole hearted greeting, which was appreciated immensely.  I seem to be able to tell a greeting that is laced with contrived emotions, but Katrina honestly seemed like she enjoyed her job and was happy to help us, which instantly set the mood for our dining experience.

Beer Flight

Beer Flight

My first mission when I visit a Gastropub is the challenging task of picking my first beer of the evening.  If you have never been to a Gastropub, you may not have ever had this issue, but once you venture down the rabbit hole that is craft beers you will find that sometimes selecting a beer can be as hard as catching the white rabbit.  So, if you are an over analytical beer fanatic like me and you find yourself staring at an extensive and impressive beer list the likes of the Morris Tap & Grills,  this process could take several minutes and some arduous decision making, which may cause your wife and friends to stare at you with an ominous ire as their stomachs grumble.  Fortunately, Morris Tap & Grill has once again thought of this problematic situation before you even walked in the door, and are nice enough to offer what is known as a flight of beers as the solution.   For anyone that has never had a flight of beer, it is quite simply, four small beers instead of one big beer, which allows you to taste multiple beers instead of only choosing one.  With the knowledgeable assistance of Katrina, I was able to piece together my beer flight and our drink orders were on their way to the bar.

With our first undertaking considered to be success we moved onto our next imperative task of the evening, our meals.   I am not sure what is more comprehensive and grandiose, the Morris Tap & Grill’s beer menu or there dinner menu, but one thing is for certain, they both can make a Blue Collar Foodie salivate like a German Shepard at Pavlov’s B&B.  Since, I knew that I was attending Morris Tap & Grill and was already their friend on Facebook, I launched a pre-emptive attack on my ever-wavering entrée contemplation, and asked the MTG what they suggest I eat to fully experience their Chef’s culinary modus operandi.  Much to my surprise, Chef Eric Levine, himself wrote me back and suggested a few dishes that he felt a Blue Collar Foodie, such as me would enjoy.   Chef Eric recommended the following dishes; the Trio of bacon, the Pork Shank, any of the Burgers, particularly the Baconeater, the Southwest, or the BBQ, The Shrimp cannelloni, the Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, and finally the Avocado “Fillet.”  If you follow this blog at all you know damn well which dish I chose!  Chef Eric Sir you had me at Trio of Bacon.  My beautiful wife, Kat spun the gastronomy roulette wheel and it landed on the Short Ribs, which she is drawn to like a teenager to a sparkling vampire. Brian decided to stick to the Chef’s recommendations which was also highly indorsed by Katrina and went with Twisted Chicken Pot Pie where as his lovely lady also chose off the Chef Eric approved list and decided upon the BBQ burger.  We also ordered a Spinach Artichoke Dip for the table to prime our stomachs for the meals that were forthcoming.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

With most of the decision making behind us, we were able to absorb the overall atmosphere of the Morris Tap & Grill.  I felt quite at home within the rustic yet elegant confines of this eatery and as we lost ourselves in conversation our appetizer arrived at the table.  The Spinach Artichoke dish that arrived on our table carried with it such a heavenly aroma that I was barely able to take a picture of it before everyone at our table was jockeying for position to dive into it.  As I dipped my first chip into this diptastic concoction, I could tell the texture was just right.  Firm enough to stay on the chip, but forgiving enough to not break this conveyance vessel.  This potion was not only the right consistency but the flavor was spot-on as well, let’s just say that once it landed on our table, it was not long for this world.  After polishing off the Spinach Dip, we ordered another round of drinks from Katrina, and shortly after their arrival the entrees made their appearance.

Trio of Bacon!

Trio of Bacon!

The Trio of Bacon consisted of Mustard & Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Bacon Baked Beans, and Grilled Pork Belly.  From the shear looks of this dish, I could tell right away that I had made the proper choice.  I first tried the hearty Baked Beans which had a thick palatable sauce which smothered the copious amounts of bacon that were swimming with the beans.  The beans packed quite a flavor punch, and I found myself eating bite after bite, before moving on to the Pork Loin, which was expertly cooked, causing the medallions to be not only delicious but tender as well.  Lastly I picked up a piece of the Grilled Pork Belly with my fork and brought it to my mouth slowly with anticipation.  You see, in the healthy world we live in now, eating Pork Belly is tantamount to calling the Queen of England a, well let’s just say a word that rhymes with punt and starts with a C, shall we.  Yet these tasty morsels of piggy goodness are what my stomach’s wet dreams are made of, and I cannot thank Morris Tap & Grill enough for affording me the opportunity of savoring every last bite of these perfectly cooked cholesterol loaded pork gems.

PORK BELLY

PORK BELLY

Kat was generous enough to allow me a small taste of her short ribs so I could experience, in her words, all their beefy magnificence.  After I tasted her dish, TWSS, I completely understood why she wanted me to try it.  First off, the ribs were cooked in such a way that the meat literally fell apart, as Kat gently poked them with her fork.  Furthermore, the meat was so tender and the sauce so tasty that I had to eat another piece of my pork belly to stop from distracting Kat, and stealing another piece off her plate.

Short Ribs

Short Ribs

I was also afforded the opportunity to try Brian’s Twisted Chicken Pot Pie and Kristen’s Burger.  The Twisted Chicken Pot Pie, consisted of all the standard ingredients of chicken pot pie, but instead of being in a pie crust, Chef Eric stuffs those ingredients inside the chicken itself.  I find normal chicken pot pie to be rather hum-drum so this inventive twist was a welcomed changed.  It also helped that it tasted better than any pot pie that has ever graced my well versed spoon.  As for the burger, it was perfectly cooked and chock full of flavor.

Twisted Chicken

Twisted Chicken

I am not one for dessert right after my meal.  I would much rather allow the flavors that I just assaulted my taste buds with to loiter a while, and I feel that dessert hinders this effect.  With that said, while perusing the MTG menu one particular item caught my eye, and I felt that I would be doing every one of you a disservice if I did not at least try it.  Morris Tap & Grill offers something that I have never heard of before, listed as beer cocktails on the menu.  I was so intrigued by this concept I simply had to order one of them.   I opted for the one that utilized Left Hand’s Nitro Chocolate Stout as its base, and rolled the proverbial dice. This drink consisted of the Stout, Espresso Vodka, Godiva Vodka, and Chambord, topped off with a Chocolate Drizzle. When this creation hit my lips I was forced to rethink everything I ever claimed to know about beer and liquor, so much so that I had to memorize a new rhyme.  Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear, Beer before liquor you will never be sicker, Liquor in beer and Holy shit that’s good!  Alright I am still working on the Rhyme, but you get my point, order one, you will thank me.

Chocolate Beer Concoction

Chocolate Beer Concoction

I, for one enjoy the almost ironic, albeit Alanis Morissette irony not actual irony, feeling of eating proper foodie fare in a pub like environment paired with a craft beer, instead of wine.  This duality is the exact reason that I love Gastro Pubs!  These wonderful establishments, Morris Tap &Grill included, embody the very essence of being a Blue Collar Foodie.  Sometimes I wish I was not a foodie, my life would be easier if I could stuff my craw with bland mush and tasteless chops, but then I visit places like Morris Tap & Grill and with one forkful, edible enlightenment this notion is whisked away and replaced with yet another blissful epicurean memory.

Morris Tap and Grill on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 New Year’ s Eve Coup Quashing Appetizers

New Years Eve in Timesquare

Happy New Year!

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

1:  Candied Bacon with Mixed Nuts

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

Slab Bacon

Slab Bacon

First you will need to acquire the following ingredients:

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

1 Table spoon Cinnamon

Maple Syrup (Enough to coat bacon)

2 Jars of Emeralds Sweet and Salty Cinnamon Sugar Mixed Nuts

2 Table spoons of Brown Sugar

Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon

Preparation:

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

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

2:  Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

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

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

3:  Double Bruschetta

 

Double Bruschetta

Double Bruschetta

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

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

4:  Crunchy Swiss Cheese and Ham

 

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

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

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

5:  Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

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

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

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

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