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.

Taco Santo Cricket Chips

One Small Bite for Me, One Giant Leap for My Foodie Street Cred

I am not the type of person who believes in fate. You see, I feel that the rudimentary idea of fate makes people lackadaisical and unmotivated. If I thought that no matter how hard I pushed myself I would end up in the same place in the end, I probably would not burn the candle at both ends and wake up each and every morning physically and mentally sore, ready and willing to fight the day once again. I prefer the word consequence to that of fate, kismet, or destiny. The term, consequence, has a negative connotation for many, but for me it merely means the reward or punishment for an action that you committed, thus taking back the ownership and responsibility for one’s daily decisions.

Sure, sometimes you must take accountability for the monumental fuck up that occurred seconds after you put your big boy pants on and made a choice, but conversely you also get to claim your achievements, with a big fat smile and a specific finger held high toward everyone who doubted you. This feeling of accomplishment is why I battle through each day and strive to be the best at everything I do, even if sometimes I fall flat on my face.

I am sorry for the philosophical tangent, have no fear, I did not change my blog to The Blue Collar Buddha, although… (The Blue Collar Buddha is now a registered trademark of the Blue Collar Foodie, and other such legal mumbo jumbo so no one can steal my slightly catchy and pretty damn silly idea.) As I was saying before I went on a tangent from apologizing about my tangent, this theoretical debate about destiny and consequence is one that I think about a lot. I want to be the logical, scientific, type that never, not once falls down the rabbit hole, that is believing in fate, however sometimes I can’t help but think, “Was this supposed to happen?”

I had one of these occasions back in February when I was writing an article for this very blog about a restaurant that I had visited. I love words, as you can see from my verbose posts, but I mean, I love words like Tebow adores Jesus. (Yea that was a Tebow reference, it is a throwback joke, if it is good enough for your Facebook feed on Thursdays, it is good enough for my blog, deal with it!) I ain’t talking about just the same mundane words that anyone can spew forth from their talking hole either, I want, no I crave, a diversity of linguistic linguine. Unfortunately, I spell like a baboon clutching a crayon, so I am constantly searching the googles for the proper spelling of words that I mangle so much, even the fine folks in the spelling department at Microsoft can’t decipher what the hell word I just typed. The word I was forced to hurl into the Googles on this particular day was Gastronaut, and the results that I got were foodie life altering.

Gastronauts_LOGO

I stumbled upon a website for an adventure eating club known as The Gastronauts, and they just happen to convene in the greatest city on the planet, NYC! I immediately abandoned my writing task and scoured their webpage to learn more about this group. What I found made me instantly get a food-on that lasted long enough that if it was produced by taking a small blue pill, I would have had to go to the hospital.

The Gastronauts is an eating club that was founded by Curtiss Calleo and Ben Pauker back in 2006 when they organized a small get together in Chinatown. Their vision was to allow people to gather at one location and enjoy the outlandish and authentic food that New York City has to offer.   We are not talking about disgusting food either, but rather somewhat eccentric food that is out of the normal American Cuisine comfort zone.

Curtiss and Ben’s small gatherings rapidly began to develop into something that was bigger than they expected. Soon enough they found themselves inundated with press requests and applications to join their now growing club of adventure eaters.   Today, The Gastronauts boast more than 1,300 members and are the largest club of this kind in the world.

The moment I followed the link to the Gastronauts site I knew I had a new goal in my foodie life, and that was to become a member of THE GASTRONAUTS! Lucky for me there was an application link on the homepage. Since this is a slightly exclusive club, their application process is not as easy as getting a Facebook page, one must put actual thought into applying to be a Gastronaut.

I put my writing hat back on and clicked and clacked at the keys like a chicken hopped up on Vitamin C and Cocaine. When I finished my application, I read it and reread it, edited it and reedited it. I wanted to make sure that it was perfect. I did not want to be rejected!

I was rejected… Within minutes of hitting the send button, I received a prewritten robotic message that stated that The Gastronauts exceeded their maximum limit of foodie rocketeers and were not accepting new members at this time. This news saddened me deeply, sadder than all these dogs in this video.

My sorrow however was only short lived, because several days later I received a follow-up email from the ‘Nauts. This time, the message contained wonderful news. Apparently, they reviewed my application, and I was accepted into the foodie cult of my dreams! Furthermore, there was an upcoming dinner in late February that I could attend thanks to my new status in the Gastronauts!   I have to say, I think I might have squeaked a little bit like these sloths when I read the news.

With my new credentials in hand, errrr, phone, I did what every 30 something year old American would do, I immediately posted about my triumph on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. I not only posted this foodtastic news to boast, although it was my primary reason, I also posted this to see if there was any interest from my friends in joining me on my first Gastronautic adventure.

You would be surprised how hard it is to find people that want to volunteer for an adventure dinner at an undisclosed location, that costs somewhere between $65.00 and $75.00 without seeing a menu, knowing that the food could potentially make them rethink the possibility of becoming vegan.   Fortunately, I have at least one friend that did not lose his testicles in the war, and he was on board with only a few questions asked. As soon as he agreed to accompany me to this experience, I bought two tickets before he could change his mind.

Taco Santo

Taco Santo here we come!

A few days before my first Gastronaut event, I received an email which contained the location, time, and price of this affair.  I have to admit, the clandestine, somewhat secret agent like aspect of this dining club only adds to their allure. The menu for this epicurean escapade was also attached to this email and it looked nothing short of Epic.

Menu line

A Dinner at Taco Santo

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje
Homemade tortillas and chips
Mashed avocados topped with roasted crickets and guaje seeds

Stewed cow stomach menudo

Tacos Surtidos:
Goat head
Cow tongue
Pig skin
Assorted organ meats

And lots and lots of:
Micheladas
Pitchers of Beer
Flight of Five Mezcals

 Menu line

On the day of the event my comrade and I embarked on our train ride from New Jersey to Brooklyn with a few road sodas in hand in preparation of the drinking and eating that was soon to commence. We traversed the rivers that separate New Jersey and Brooklyn like Lewis and Clark and arrived at Taco Santo, located at 669 Union St, Brooklyn, NY with plenty of time to spare.

Skull Lights

Skull Light, Skull Bright, First Skull I Have Seen Tonight!

As we entered the venue, I noticed the decor immediately, shortly followed by the astonishing smell that was wafting throughout the quaint eatery. The Gastronauts had procured the entire restaurant for this event so we were asked for our credentials, again I was happy to show them off, and shortly after we were seated, the evening began.

Micheladas

Micheladas, making bad beer taste wonderful since the 1940’s!

Right off the bat I could tell I was going to enjoy myself being a Gastronaut, considering the first item that came to the table was a Micheladas, which is basically a beer mixed with lime juice, assorted sauces, spices, and peppers and was served in a chili-salt-rimmed glass. My friends, there comes a time and a place that everyone must admit when they are wrong, and for me, that time was the moment I drank my first sip of this Micheladas. I always thought that beer was perfect, a diamond encrusted golden flower that simply was the pinnacle of excellence. The spice and delicious flavor of the concoction that rested in the bottom of my glass when mixed with beer that I normally stay away from because it is bland woke my taste buds up and delivered the perfect pre-meal slap in the face that one needs just before they eat a feast. This delightfully spicy, effervescent cocktail, was the perfect beginning to the food orgy that was about to go down!

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje

Since this is a dining club and our table was full of food loving strangers, I took this opportunity, while we imbibed our Micheladas, to begin conversing with our table mates.   While we were waxing poetically about foodie related topics ranging from the food we have eaten to the food we were about to, the staff was busy in the kitchen preparing our first course. Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje, which roughly translates into homemade chips, with mashed avocados topped with roasted crickets and guaje seeds, or really roughly translates into a whole big pile of awesome topped with some tasty bugs!

Taco Santo Cricket Chips

Rabbit Season! Duck Season! Rabbit Season! Bug Season?

Not only was the guacamole prepared expertly and had the perfect texture, the roasted crickets brought this already remarkable green goo to a whole other level of amaze-balls. The crunch that these bouncy bugs added harmonized nicely with the homemade chips and led to one delicious bite after another.

Mezcal

All spirits distilled from the agave plant are Mezcal, which are made in seven states throughout Mexico. Tequila, the most popular variation of Mezcal, can only be distilled from Weber blue agave.

After our table devoured the bowl of Guacamole, I guess that the fine staff at Taco Santo along with The Gastronaut administration were under the assumption that we may have become to sober while eating the delightfully fried chips, and once again went to the well to add more social lubricant to the party. This time however, they were not messing around! They dropped an inhibition destroying bomb, in the form of a Flight of Five Mezcals.

Mezcal Flight

Goodnight room, goodnight moon, goodnight cow jumping over the moon, goodnight light and the red balloon, goodnight bears, goodnight chairs, goodnight kittens, goodnight mittens,
goodnight clocks and goodnight socks, goodnight little house and goodnight mouse,
goodnight comb and goodnight brush, goodnight nobody, goodnight mush, and goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”,goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.

Now, Tequila and I get along about as well as me and Mezcal, which is to say that we like each other about as much as Itchy loves Scratchy, but you know what they say, when in Rome…errr… Mexico … err… Brooklyn. Even though I am not usually a huge fan of these intoxicating spirits, the flight went down somewhat smoothly, and I could tell this was not Jose Cuervo I was drinking.

Tripe Soup

This Menudo is so much better than the boy band from the 70’s!

Next up in the procession was Stewed Cow Stomach Menudo, A.K.A. Tripe Soup. Most people shy away from tripe because, well they know what it is and where it came from, but to that I say, Lobster! If you only ate things that looked and sounded appetizing, your meals would consist of the same 7 ingredients over and over again. I finished every last drop of this wonderfully aromatic meat gum stew, and I am proud to say that I would do it again.

TACOS!!!!!

TACOS!!!!!

After we polished off the tripe, it was time for the Main event, the moment all of us foodies were waiting for, the TACOS!!! By this time, I have to admit, my judgment may have been slightly impaired by the flight of Mezcal, but according to my notes, “Holy Hot Damn, these bitches were straight up fanfuckingtastic.”

Another Taco Santo Taco

These Tacos bring all the Gringos to Brooklyn
And they’re like, it’s better than ours!

The Goat Head surprised me and was not only chock full of flavor but amazingly tender. However, the fact that I loved the Cow Tongue Taco was no shock at all, considering my heritage, and the fact that I feel everything tastes better when wrapped in a shell. Furthermore, each and every one of these pouches of tacoey goodness acted as a canvas to the variety of sauces Taco Santo provided, and of course, I had to try them all.

What is a Taco without some color!

What is a Taco without some color!

Just when I thought that the caliber of this meal could not get any higher, Taco Santo took me to a place that only Cheech, Chong, Shaggy, and Scooby have ever been before. I rode to this whole new level of foodie enlightenment on rocket ship while holding a Pig Skin Taco in each hand thanks to my new foodie family The Gastronauts.

Pig Skin Taco

Holy UnKosher Taco Batman!

While all of us at our table began to hit the food wall that eaters and runners know all too well, we began to slow down our masticating and began to talk to each other once more. While we were discussing the finer points of the foodie culture and finishing up our cocktails, the last plate of Tacos arrived, and I was not about to let them go to waste. A few of us, “took one for the team,” and consumed the last few Tacos which were just as good as the first.

MORE TACOS!!!!

I really could not get enough of these things!

Even though I don’t believe in fate, destiny, or kismet, I do believe I was meant to be in that room surrounded by foodies just like me, all looking to not only taste food but to experience it. Groups like The Gastronauts and visionaries like Curtiss and Ben make events like this possible and should be applauded. I highly recommend putting in your application to become a Gastronaut, and if you know me personally, let me know when you want to go, as this will most definitely not be the last event I attend! If you do plan to attend a Gastronaut event you will need to know the ‘nauts golden rule, you have to at least try to try everything they serve you. I hope to see you all in the foodie stratosphere soon!

Thanks for the great time Taco Santo!

Thanks for the great time Taco Santo!

 

Taco Santo on Urbanspoon

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

Old San Juan Makes The Blue Collar Foodie Say ¡Wepa!

One of the phenomenal luxuries of living in Bergen County New Jersey is the never ending list of culinary quests that one can embark on, within mere minutes of their residence.  There are very few cuisines that a simple Google search cannot turn up five or more restaurants within a reasonable proximity.  So, when I do have the opportunity to visit a restaurant that is sharing a scarce delicacy that I normally have to venture into New York City for, I get rather excited, especially when I score a Groupon for said indulgence.   The style of gastronomy that I am referring to is none other than Puerto Rican food, and the establishment that is delivering this tantalizing fare to the Bergen County area is Old San Juan, located at 165 Route 46 West in Saddle Brook, NJ.

From the outside, this restaurant seems quite unassuming, mainly due to ear defiling noise and the unpleasant eye contamination that occurs when your next door neighbor is a bustling freeway.   Thankfully, once you enter Old San Juan you are whisked away from this suburban netherworld and brought to a veritable wonderland of peace and tranquility, complete with the heavenly aroma that only accompanies the wonderful cuisine of the islands.  When Kat and I entered the restaurant we were instantly greeted by a smiling face and escorted to our table promptly, which is always appreciated.  Furthermore, the modern, fresh, and clean interior design seemed to comfort Kat and I, almost immediately.

Old San Juan

Old San Juan Exterior

Once we were seated we were given menus from our waitress and she took our drink order as well.   Old San Juan, like most non-chain restaurants in New Jersey does not have a liquor license but they do allow you to bring your own bottles of wine or beer.  In addition Old San Juan offers an added bonus of B.Y.O.B Sangria, which allows you to supply the wine which they will serve with their own blends of fruits, creating an island inspired cocktail that pairs perfectly with Puerto Rican Food.   Kat and I perused the menu and after some serious deliberation we made our selections and signaled the waitress to join us once again.

If you have ever used a Groupon before you are well aware that there are specific guidelines to follow for each and every Groupon that you purchase and in order to take advantage of the substantial discounts, these rules must be followed.   I always present my Groupon to the server before I begin the ordering process.  The reason I do this, is because some of the regulations can be somewhat convoluted and the wait staff will be able to guide you down the path that allows you to use your Groupon at the end of the night.  There is nothing worse than attempting to pay for a bill with a Groupon and finding out there is an issue with using the deal, because of something you ordered.  Our Groupon stipulated that we could order 1 appetizer and 2 entrees, so we chose the Tostones Rellenos de Pernil , Stuffed Plantain with Pork, for $10.95.  Kat then ordered Churrasco, Skirt Steak, for the reasonable price of $21.95, while I decided upon the Pargo Rojo Entero, Whole Red Snapper, in a garlic sauce, for a sensible $23.95.  Each of our meals came with a choice of rice and beans, plantains, or a salad as a side dish, but considering that going to a Puerto Rican restaurant and opting to not try the rice and beans is tantamount to giving a purple nurple to a UFC fighter, we wisely chose the rice and beans to accompany our meal.

Roast Pork stuffed Plantain

Roast Pork Stuffed Plantain

When our appetizer arrived, I knew we were in for a treat.  Not only was the presentation of this traditional Puerto Rican dish exquisite, it smelled so damn good I almost divorced Kat on the spot so I could marry the chef, regardless of his or her sexual orientation.  Kat and I each took a forkful of the mountain of roast pork that was erupting out of the crispy fried plantain, which soon joined the pork on our fork, and took our first bite in unison.  The noises that we made after that first bite are usually heard in sleazy hotel rooms located on highways, not restaurants, but we did not care, because it was that good.  The textures married perfectly with each bite while the flavors hopped, skipped, and jumped across our taste buds.   When our waitress delivered our appetizer she pointed out that our table was equipped with homemade hot sauce that she warned was very hot.  Kat and I might as well be the co-presidents of the Hot Sauce Fan Club, so we did not heed the waitresses warning at first and added a little bit too much hot sauce to one forkful of yummy which started a five alarm fire on our tongues that was not easily quenched.  After our battle, we experimented with different amounts of this forceful yet flavorful sauce and found just the right quantity to use, which added tremendous taste without scorching the earth.

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Shortly after we finished our appetizer our main courses arrived.  As our dishes were delivered, we noticed that once again the presentation was lovely and the portions were generous to say the least. Kat’s skirt steak was at least 12 ounces and my Red Snapper probably weighed in at 2 pounds.  Kat and I began to eat our entrees and all semblance of conversation ceased for at least 5 minutes.  We were mesmerized by the food that was brought to our table.   My fork tender, juicy, Snapper was swimming in a butter garlic sauce that heightened the snapper’s natural flavor tenfold.   Kat’s expertly prepared, tender steak was served with a Chimichurri sauce that was delicate yet delicious, not overpowering like so many others I have tasted.  As for the rice and beans, it would not be a complete Puerto Rican meal without them; they were the perfect side dish to an amazing meal.

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

If you are like me and you are looking to explore the world one plateful at a time, I highly recommend Old San Juan.  Everything we tried was terrific and prepared exactly how we asked for it.  In addition, even without the Groupon, the prices are reasonable and the service was fantastic.   In the lovely words of the land that inspired this beautiful meal, ¡Wepa!

 

Puerto Rico

Even the Fish Loves Puerto Rico

Old San Juan on Urbanspoon

 

The Blue Collar Foodie Helps You Decide! Restaurant Week 2013 Edition

Restaurant Week 2013

Restaurant Week 2013

It is that time of year again folks! New York City Restaurant Week is about to commence and this year 317 restaurants will be serving up some of the finest food New York City has to offer, from January 14th until February 8th.  Each and every year more restaurants jump on the proverbial chuck wagon and attempt to compete for your business during the most hectic two weeks in the New York City restaurant business and the hardest part is choosing which restaurant to visit.  If you are as bad at making a decision as Notre Dame was at playing football this week, The Blue Collar Foodie has got you covered!  I have reviewed, inspected, and studied the New York City eateries participating in restaurant week this year and handpicked a few of my favorites to make your decision making process go a wee bit easier.

Before I get to the restaurants that made this exclusive list I first want to explain how these establishments were selected.  I evaluated each restaurant using the following criteria; the restaurant’s history, the building the restaurant is housed in, the menu offered, and of course the food they serve.  I then used a complex algorithm, not really but this sounded way too awesome not to write, and selected restaurants that not only serve remarkable food but also provide an amazing eating experience for the customer.

Considering I only get to visit these prestigious restaurants twice a year during restaurant week, due to budget restraints, my restaurant selection has to be more than just about food.  I want to visit famous buildings, have the chance to rub elbows with celebrities, dine where history actually happened, and do it all for 38 bucks plus tax and gratuity.  If you are looking for the best food this immense list has to offer this is not the review for you, but if you are looking for a once in a lifetime New York City experience keep reading!

It should be noted that I have not visited all of the restaurants that are on my list, so most of my research was done using the interwebs.  So if the restaurant that you choose is not as amazing as I say it is, please forward all your hate mail to dealwithit@Doyourowndamnresearch.com

To make your life even easier, I have broken down my selections to match the “by cuisine,” categories that are used on the NYC GO website, which lists all the restaurants that are participating.  I have also decided to follow Twitter’s lead and only use 140 characters to capture the essence of each eatery, I call them TweeViews.  If you like what you see in the Tweeview please visit the restaurant’s website to see more about the venue, by clicking the establishment’s name.  Furthermore, these selections are in Alphabetic order by cuisine type then restaurant name.  If you use this list to pick a restaurant out, I would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below, so please post.  Remember an outing into the City is really what you make of it, so as Barney from How I Met Your Mother would say, “Suit Up, and have a Legend, wait for it, Dary evening!”

 

Food Map

Gastronomic Map

American New

Butter:  A unique interior design inspired by nature paired with an eclectic menu featuring uncommon dishes make Butter a force to be reckoned with.

Hospoda:  Czech inspired fare paired with fresh pilsner instead of the normal wine creates a fresh take on fine dining at this upscale eatery.

The Lambs Club:  A famous chef and a building on the National Register of Historic Places that was home to one of America’s oldest theatrical organizations.

Leyla:  Boasting one of the finest menus on the restaurant week circuit, what it lacks in history it more than makes up for in culinary creativity.

Kutshers:  A modern Jewish American bistro, with roots in the Catskills, which offers Grandma’s favorites with a contemporary twist.

Park Avenue Winter:  A rustic American restaurant offering seasonal fare and a corresponding design that is only open until the end of winter begets spring.

Perilla:  With only 18, it is hard to score a table at this neighborhood restaurant, turned foodie mecca that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Sprig:  Located in the Lipstick Building this posh eatery offers artistically prepared seasonal fare inspired by Northern California cuisine.

 

American Traditional

‘21’ Club:  A former New York City speak easy, still frequented by many celebrities, expertly serving awarding winning food with high class flare.

The Darby:  This former legendary Jazz and Blues Club turned chic eatery serves up creative cuisine with a side of swag in the form of live music.            

 

Asian Fusion        

Ajna Bar:  Beautiful interior design, renowned DJ’s, and a collision between French and Asian cuisine make Ajna Bar an appealing spot for 2013.

 

Barbecue

Hill Country BBQ:  New York’s own piece of Texas, serving up huge portions of fresh Barbecue for all of us with a city addresses but country souls.     

 

Chinese

Hakkasan:  This ain’t your local Chinese takeout joint; this is refined Chinese fare which is combined with a sophisticated and stylish dining area.

 

Continental

The Russian Tea Room:   A New York City Icon that was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet and is frequented by the worlds’ most fastidious foodies.

 

French

L’ecole:  The ground floor of Fine Dining, located in the Int. Culinary Center; students from everywhere collaborate to create awe inspiring dishes.

 

Greek

Kellari:  A warm and inviting atmosphere that sets the tone for a Grecian inspired meal that the Chef lovingly prepares to celebrate his homeland.       

 

Indian

Junoon:  An extensive selection of interesting and delicious Indian dishes that offers the restaurant week veteran a wonderful escape from monotony.

Tamarind:  This trendy eatery is one of the most popular Indian restaurants in NYC, and one look at the décor coupled with the menu should explain why.

 

Italian

Asellina:  Sleek, posh, and chic describe this hip establishment where authentic Italian food collides with the modern day reality starlet scene.   

Barbetta:  Known as one of the most romantic restaurants in New York City, this is a great place for a couple to fall in love all over again.

Cipriani Dolci:  Located inside the majestic landmark that is Grand Central Terminal, Cipriani offers something to the architecture lover that others cannot.  

Pó:  An intimate space and fresh ingredients delivered daily by foot or bike by the surrounding markets, serving Italian food as it should be.     

The Leopard at des Artistes:  First time diners come for the buildings historical significance and the impressive art collection, but they come back for the food.

 

Japanese

Megu:  This establishment transports you to the Far East like no other restaurant I have ever been to, from design to dish, Megu is a phenomenal.

 

Korean

Bann:  A fantastic place to experience a variety of tantalizing Korean food while being surrounded by stunning authentic Korean décor.

 

Mediterranean

Ilili:  Ilili combines Lebanese cuisine with a Mediterranean flare, an epicurean delight perfect for the foodie looking to expand their palate.

 

Mexican

Maya:  Traditional Mexican cuisine meets modern culinary expertise at this contemporary eatery that promises warm Latin hospitality.

 

Pan/Latin

Raymi:  Billed as the best Peruvian restaurant in New York City with a menu and dining area that appears to back up that claim.

Rayuela:  A truly innovative and beautiful restaurant that created its own culinary genre known as estilo libre Latino or freestyle Latino.

 

Seafood

FishTag:  Mediterranean inspired seafood dishes expertly paired with wine from the imaginative culinary mind of world renowned chef Michael Psilakis.   

 

Southwestern

Mesa Grill:  Bobby Flay combines his passion for Southwestern cuisine and his love for grilling which leads to a marriage made in foodie heaven.

 

Spanish

Andanada 141:  A restaurant week menu truly built for adventurous foodies combined with a bull fighting theme makes this a great spot for thrill seekers.

 

Steakhouse

The Capital Grille Chrysler Center:  Located inside the Chrysler Center’s Trylon Towers, this highly rated chain steakhouse is an architecture aficionado’s dream.

 

Thai

Kittichai:  An exquisite design that lends itself to a romantic dinner for two with a menu that offers an inventive take on traditional Thai dishes.

 

Vietnamese

Le Colonial:  This one of a kind eatery transports you to a forgotten world known as French Indochina and serves French inspired Vietnamese cuisine.