The Blue Collar Foodie Stops and Smells The Roses

Sometime between 1440 A.D. and 1450 A.D. Mr. Johannes Gutenberg created the moveable type printing press, which in turn basically gave birth to advertising. So in theory you can thank Mr. Gutenberg for every pop-up ad you have ever clicked that gave your computer the internet clap. Since this invention, several key marketing and advertising innovations have emerged, in the 1730’s magazines were created, followed by posters in 1839. The 1860’s are responsible for our roads being littered with accident causing punny death boards, and the roaring 1920’s were aptly named due to the radio being invented. The idiot box or as I like to call him, Theodore, my BFF, entered the scene in 1941. The seventies not only invented Disco but also telemarketing so that decade is pretty much worse than a Justin Bieber and Macklemore movie entitled, “What the fuck is a Macklemore?

Somehow, through the cloud of smoke that was the 60’s and the disaster that was the 70’s, the scientific minds of those generations were able to create mobile phones and personal computers which forever changed the marketing world of today. Damn near all of us carry more information that could ever be housed in one single structure in our pockets, and this data can be accessed 24 hours a day with the swipe of a finger. This technology is continuously evolving and allowing marketing firms to bombard you with immersive advertisements that are harder to ignore than a crying baby on an international flight. So, even though my blog relies almost exclusively on the very same annoying devices that I just flamed, I am somewhat drawn to restaurants that ignore the last twenty years of innovation and much like the honey badger simply don’t care to be a member of the internets.

I think I am attracted to these establishments because I feel like they are shrouded in a cloak of mystery and mysticism as they operate in a world that needs no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to survive like some sort of restaurant sorcerer. At first when I drive past these archaic relics of the restaurant world, I scoff, but with each pass, I begin to get just a little more curious about what is contained within those clandestine walls. My most recent ride on the crazy train went something like this:

Why don’t they need to embrace the limitless world of Social Media? Do they think they are better than the rest of us? That’s it; they are just pretentious smug jerks! But what if they are not? What if their food is so damned amazeballs that they know if they join the social media scene they would break the internets with their culinary genius? What if the Vincent Van freaking Gogh of Lebanese food has been cooking down the street from my house at Rose’s Place and I am missing it?

These rides on the insanity railroad are usually short, considering they always end the same way. That is, Kat and I visiting said restaurant to make sure I am not missing out on something simply because the googles doesn’t know about it. The most recent stop on the irrational rail line was as I mentioned in my earlier rant, Roses Place, located at 32-01 Broadway, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

Kat and I were accompanied by two of our gastrologist friends that were intrigued by Rose’s James Bond like internet existence as well. Although there are a few spots in the front of the building, if you are eating at Rose’s I highly recommend parking and entering in the rear. (TWSS) We chose this course of action, and parked in the back and walked to the back door.

Once we entered this fine establishment, we were welcomed by the friendly and warm staff that offered us our choice of table. We chose a table that had decent lighting for pictures, because my wife hates me, and we were offered menus. Rose’s is a BYOB establishment and even though we chose not to BOO, Bring Our Own, many of the other customers had.

With menus in hand, our attention was drawn to the extensive fare that Rose’s Place offers. We are not just talking your normal Hummus and Kebabs here people, we are talking snails, lamb brains, tongue, Frog’s Legs, and more slightly atypical dishes. Roses’ menu is so comprehensive that we had to ask the waiter for more time at least twice before deciding on what to share as appetizers and what to get for our entrees. For all the people that are not absolutely food crazy in the room, choosing a meal at a new restaurant for me is what I would imagine it is like for brides to choose a dress or for Lindsay Lohan to choose a new drug of choice, in other words it is not done lightly.

Rose's Pepper and Pickles

Pickle Plate

During this conversation, what I could only describe as a pickle plate was delivered to our table accompanied by a basket of pita. The pickle plate was full of vibrant colors thanks to the greens of the pickles, hot peppers, and olives, which contrasted quite well from the deep purple color of what I think was pickled horseradish root. I was happier than Katy Perry eating Kale when this arrived on the table because my Jewish roots basically define pickled anything as a food group all to itself.

After several minutes of discussion, debate, and several acts of flip-flopping, we signaled the waiter back to our table, and we rattled off a veritable laundry list of foodie fare that would make a stoned Shaggy and Scooby more jealous than they are of Colorado residents this week.

For our appetizers, we decided on the Hummus, the Falafel, the Armenian Salad for the table, and two Lentil Soups in an attempt to fend off the chill we had from dealing with the snow during the day. As far as entrees went, Steph went with the Inam Bayaldi, described as sautéed eggplant with tomato, onion, and garlic, Tara decided upon the Shawerma Platter defined as shredded beef marinated in seasoning, whereas Kat landed on the Kufta with Tahini, explained as ground lamb with tahini sauce. I however decided that I was feeling somewhat adventurous and threw caution to the wind by ordering the Frog’s Legs which were alluringly described as being sautéed in garlic & fresh cilantro.

With our gargantuan food order on its way to the kitchen, we started to discuss the interior of the restaurant since everyone at this table knew that I was going to be writing this review soon and wanted to make sure it was all inclusive. We agreed that the lighting was perfect, not offensively bright nor dive bar dark. The music that was playing not only set the Middle Eastern mood but was not loud enough to drown out our conversations but just loud enough to suppress our neighbors conversations. All in all the design of the restaurant’s interior was pleasant and conducive to eating and drinking.

When our appetizers arrived, I, of course, had to put everyone in a holding pattern while I took the compulsory pictures. I apologized to Steph and Tara, but informed Kat that she gets no apology because she married a crazy foodie, and the food pictures are exactly what the Mayor was talking about when he said for worse!

All of the food looked and smelled utterly fantastic. So much so, that I was unsure which dish to devour first. Luckily, our waiter brought several small plates to the table so we could share all the appetizers. We each shoveled portions of the dishes on our individual plates and began to try each and every one.

Rose's Falaffel

Falafel

The Falafel was beyond appetizing and was the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. When this ball of yummy was paired with the sauce that came with it, it bordered on food pornography.

Rose's Hummus

Hummus

The Hummus which I believe was house made was just the right texture and full of flavor. The addition of the colorful spices that garnished the bowl made this dish, more attractive than Mila Kunis in Black Swan. Armed with the Pita that was already on the table, this hummus appetizer was simply flawless.

Rose's Salad

Armenian Salad

As for the Armenian Salad which was described on the menu and by the waiter as spicy, I guess they had issues in the past with people not expecting, and then not enjoying a zesty salad. However, that was the very reason I ordered it and subsequently enjoyed the hell out of it! The slight spiced nature of the seasoning combined with the citrusy dressing made for a delightful treat.

Rose's Soup

Lentil soup

The Lentil soup was like a warm blanket for my belly. I did not have much of this scrumptious liquefied beantastic concoction because I am not a huge soup fan, but from the small amount I did sip, I could tell it was quality soup. Kat was a huge fan and basically ate her portion and mine without a dispute.

Rose's frog legs

Frog Legs

After the appetizer round, I was somewhat full, but that feeling did not last too long because once the entrees hit the table it was game on. Sometimes you have to look at eating the same way you should look at running, when you hit a wall, and your body says stop, pay no attention. Your body is a bigger liar than Bernie Madoff, and that is the truth!
Once again I took my photos while my cohorts drooled over the dishes that were placed in front of them. After the photos were snapped, I dexterously picked up a leg of a frog which was lightly battered and then pan fried in an aromatic garlic sauce and brought it to my mouth. I was unsure what to expect as this was my first frog leg, but after the first bite, I knew that I was in good hands at Rose’s. The delicate white meat of the frog flaked off the bone and was extremely complex in flavor. The best way I can describe the way the meat tasted was somewhere between chicken and fish, which I found to be delightful.

Rose's Schwarma

Shawarma Platter

Slowly but surely, I walked my fork around the table, with permission of course, and tasted each of my fellow epicurean adventurer’s dishes. I started with Tara’s Shawerma Platter which was seasoned better than any Shawerma I have had in quite some time. The flavor was so impeccable that I did not even want to dip the yumminess into the sauce that was provided, and I am a sauce fiend.

Eggplant

Eggplant Plate

Steph’s Inam Bayaldi was also quite good. The best part about this dish was the texture. I find that eggplant has a tendency to become a mushy pile of tasteless goo in the wrong hands, but the Chef at Rose’s was able to keep the eggplant somewhat firm, without under cooking it. The flavors married well and when mixed with the rice that was provided with each of our entrees it was a very balanced meal.

Rose's Kufta

Kufta with Tahini

Finally, Kat’s Kufta with Tahini was nothing short of delicious. The Lamb was not gamey at all speaking to the profound skill of the Chef and his crew. Furthermore, the Tahini sauce was not overbearing, which I was concerned of, but complemented this dish faultlessly.

Rose's Beef Bite

A bite of Kufta

Rose’s Place was a great experience and I will return very shortly to try the Lamb Brains that were calling to me on this visit. Everything I ate was not only tasted wonderfully but contrary to other reviews that I read online. The portions were very reasonable when factoring in the price of the individual dishes. I still can’t believe the lack of their internet presence and could only imagine what a good public relations firm could do for their business, but I now understand how Rose’s exists in our post dial-up world. The answer is not that they are smug; it is that their food is the real deal!

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Noodle Chu + Dim Sum = One Happy Blue Collar Foodie

Webster’s dictionary describes Dim Sum as, “traditional Chinese food consisting of a variety of items (as steamed or fried dumplings, pieces of cooked chicken, and rice balls) served in small portions. Whereas, The Blue Collar Foodie describes Dim Sum as, “a magical buffet of enigmatic food offerings that makes my foodie soul happier than Grumpy Cat on Prozac.” (Sorry about starting this blog post off the same way horrible wedding speeches usually commence on bootleg sitcoms, but I thought it worked.)

If you have never experienced Dim Sum before, the epicurean in me cries for you and if you have and claim to not enjoy it, then you are crazier than Paul “Bear” Vasquez appears to be in his famous viral video Double Rainbow!   Dim Sum is not only about the food that is offered, it is also about the unique way this fare is served. Traditionally, these mini meals are carted around the dining area while the customers choose as many different varieties as they wish to become part of their smorgasbord for all to enjoy. This distinctive style of service is what makes Dim Sum not only a meal but a fun interactive way to dine with friends. Furthermore, when visiting a Dim Sum eatery, you should channel your inner Peter Griffin and be happy that at Dim Sum, the Buffet comes to you!

Noodle Chu Sign

Recently one of my foodie friends recommended a restaurant named Noodle Chu which is located at 770 US Hwy 46 in Parsippany New Jersey that transforms into a Dim Sum establishment every Sunday. Normally, Sundays are reserved for cooking, drinking, and watching football for this Blue Collar Foodie, but I just could not resist a brunch time Dim Sum extravaganza.

When you approach Noodle Chu, the slightly dilapidated sign that hangs outside does not scream, “this is the restaurant you want to visit!” But I have fallen into the judging a book by its cover trap more times than I would like to admit, so I listened to Admiral Ackbar’s voice as it bounced around my brain and entered Noodle Chu with an open mind and an empty belly.

Once inside, Noodle Chu, I could tell I had come to the right place for Dim Sum in New Jersey. From the outside it looks like a small establishment that could hold at best 50 people, but much like the Tardis, Noodle Chu is bigger on the inside and is comprised of two dining areas instead of just the one that we could see from the parking lot. Furthermore, at 10:45 in the morning, which I might add is not a traditionally normal time for Dim Sum, there was already a substantial amount of people seated and eating their way through brunch. Even more impressive, was the amount of Asian families that were partaking in Noodle Chu’s festivities which is always a good sign for how authentic the food truly is.

As we were seated, the cart operators moved towards our location like a hoard of Zombies that just caught a whiff of fresh meat. They circled our table and began to offer us dozens of different dishes from their appetizing carts o’plenty. The golden rule of Dim Sum, that is more important than any of the eight rules of Fight Club, is be selective when ordering.   Many Dim Sum virgins allow the servers to continue to pile dishes upon dishes of food within the first 10 minutes of their arrival and become over stuffed before they even see what it on all the carts. The main thing to remember is to pace yourself, Dim Sum is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and in order to finish it, you must follow the sage tortoise’s advice, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Another important thing to remember is that it is okay to say no to the servers. You must understand that it is their job to sell you as many items as they can in a short period of time, thus raising your bill and clearing the table quicker. Furthermore, some of them are pushier than Ben Roethlisberger on a Viagra and Cialis cocktail during a homecoming celebration, so you will have to be firm when declining a dish. Honestly though this ordering dance is all part of the fun of the Dim Sum experience.

Dim Sum

Full Lazy Susan

With the Dim Sum directive in mind, we began to choose the most appealing dishes from the carts that were passing by. Slowly but surely the giant lazy Susan in the middle of our table was filling with steamer bowls, dishes, and bowls all chock full of awesomeness until we decided that our first round was complete. Once this decision was made it was time for my favorite part of any meal with friends, our first collective bite. In my opinion, this naturally occurring, simultaneous taste of the ensuing banquet is better than any shot that I could ever participate in at a bar. With the first bite down, the First Annual Blue Collar Foodie Dim Sum Invitational began, and it was epic!

Dim Sum Close Up

Dim Sum Close Up

Normally, this is the part of my article where I explain the food that I ate in detail and try to give you a case of food envy, so you will feel obligated to venture to the spot I am reviewing. I would love to say that I could do that, but as I stated earlier in my definition, part of the fun of Dim Sum is that for the most part you have no idea what you are eating. Even if you swallow your pride and ask what the dish you are selecting off the cart is comprised of, most of the time a combination of a language barrier, the ambient noise of the restaurant, and the soft speaking voice of the server leaves you with little to no information about what you are about to eat. The good news is every dish we ate at Noodle Chu was mouthwateringly foodie approved and after the first bite even an untrained palate can usually ascertain the basic ingredients what was ordered.

Fried Pork

Fried Pork!

A word of caution though, if you have friends that have food allergies, are Gluten Free, vegan, vegetarian, or keep Kosher, I suggest you leave them home while you enjoy your epicurean adventure at Noodle Chu. Not that they would not be able to find something to eat, but each time they take a bite of something new, they would be rolling the dice with their dietary concerns. Dim Sum does not lend itself to picky, finicky, or squeamish eaters either, considering that you may never find out what you just ingested, and one must be okay with that concept when partaking in this exploratory cuisine.

Mystery Dumplings

Mystery Dumplings

Don’t be afraid, most of the dishes that you will be served will consist of the basic building blocks of normal Chinese Food. You will find pork, beef, seafood, and tofu as the main components of most of the dishes that you will be offered. If you are however feeling frisky, and want to try some of the more adventurous options, you should be able to sample tripe, chicken feet, squid, and other assorted strangeness, so keep your eyes peeled as the carts go whizzing by.

Holy Shrimp

Holy Shrimp!!!

As with every restaurant I review, I am always concerned about price and trying to figure out the pricing of Dim Sum is about as easy as learning how to play craps, while reading The Silmarillion, and listening to Death Metal. In other words, good luck with that. Just to explain how ridiculously difficult it is to keep track of the bill, of the eight people that were eating at our table, two of them were accountants and three of them teach at the University Level, and we were still as lost as Hurley, Kate, Mr. Eko, Sawyer, and Jack.

05FullLazy

No worries, my fellow frugal foodies, after 29 spectacular dishes, the total per person tally including tip and tax was a paltry $16.00.   That is right, you read that correctly! I could not believe it either, I thought there must be a mistake, but even after a recount the bill remained the same. I was in awe, I was dumbfounded, I was in love with Noodle Chu!!!

The general theme of this blog post, in case you missed it, is that Dim Sum and The Blue Collar Foodie are BFFs, and Noodle Chu is our new rendezvous point. I used to have to travel all the way to New York City for high quality, inexpensive, Dim Sum, but that is not the case anymore, thanks to Noodle Chu!

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The Blue Collar Foodie Celebrates Small Business Saturday

Since November 30, 2013 was Shop Small Saturday, I being a foodie took that as a cue to not only visit my favorite local shops but also to support the local eateries around town.   For breakfast Kat and I stopped off at our favorite bagel shop, Modern Bagel, located at 23-59 Fair Lawn Avenue in Fair Lawn.  I know, I just inadvertently started Bagel Wars on the internets by claiming that Modern Bagel was our favorite, but that is not what this article is about so please refrain from threatening my first born son, lovely wife, and/or cute dog, because you feel that there are other bagel shops in the area that are better.  I respect your opinion, even though it is wrong, Sick Burn, so you should follow what theChive.com says, Keep Calm and Carry On.

Once our bellies were full, Kat and I decided to venture down the road a bit and visit our favorite and damn near the last true comic book store in the world, The Joker’s Child, located at 12-23 River Road in Fair Lawn.  If you have any Big Bang Theory types on your Christmas list this is the only place to go to fill their stockings chock full of nerdy goodness!

Help make every Saturday Small Business Saturday

Help make every Saturday Small Business Saturday!

While Kat and I were browsing everything from Archie to Zombies, we were discussing our dinner.  I know what you are thinking blog reader man, “dude you just ate breakfast, and you are already thinking about dinner!”   To that I say, don’t judge us, Kat and I like food, like the Grinch loves misery, like Frosty hates global warming, and like Justin Beiber (There should be a link here for the Beebs, but I refuse to perpetuate his fame and therefore, no Wiki link for him!) likes selfies, so thinking about dinner before lunch makes perfect sense, Jerk!

Kat and I are very serious about dining out.  You see, there are many pros to being The Blue Collar Foodie, but there are some Cons.  One such Con is that we don’t get to frequent the same place very often because I am always on the hunt for a new and exciting place to write about, so a lot of thought normally goes into to where we should dine.  However, this decision was somewhat simple, thanks to one of my Facebook friends Carolina P., who informed me about a new Fair Lawn eatery that moved into the Picnic’s old digs.  So, before leaving The Joker’s Child, with a handful of gifts for our friends, Kat and I decided that The Istanbul Café & Grill, located at 1425 Plaza Road North in Fair Lawn, NJ, is where our Small Business Saturday Smorgasbord would be.  I dare you to try to say the name of this Restaurant without singing this song in your head.  Go.

Istanbul

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night

With that decided, Kat and I could enjoy the rest of our Saturday pontificating, dreaming, and salivating, patiently waiting for dinner time to arrive.  Since we seem to never have a spare moment in our lives, the day went by relatively fast and soon enough we were pulling up to The Istanbul Café & Grill packing a camera and our normal hearty appetites ready to devour some delicious Turkish food.

Upon entering The Istanbul Café & Grill, we were immediately greeted by not only a friendly member of the wait staff, but also the fantastic aroma that can only be attained by the low and slow cooking of fresh quality ingredients.   Since Istanbul Café & Grill is a BYOB establishment, we brought a bottle of middle of the road white wine to accompany our meal, and our helpful waitress showed us to our table before whisking the bottle away to be opened post haste.  Once seated we realized that this restaurant was perfect for not only couples but could easily accommodate the two large families that were in attendance.  Although, I do suggest a reservation for larger parties, as the dining room was mostly full when we arrived.

Our waitress soon returned with our now uncorked bottle of wine and our reading material for the evening, the menus.  To be honest, as much as I love a good book now and again, I will honestly take the menu from a respectable restaurant over a Dostoyevsky any day of the week.   We filled our glasses with wine, toasted to a rare date night, and perused the menu with the logical profoundness of Mr. Spock.  As we carefully weighed our options, as to not make the wrong decision and be destined to have plate envy for the entire evening, we decided that there simply were too many options to choose just one and sharing was in order.

Once we made the decision to go all Karl Marx on our dinner, the decision was much easier, considering we were guaranteed to have at least half of each other’s food, thus negating plate envy altogether.  Now we only had to worry about eater’s remorse.  We soon decided on the Eggplant Salad for an appetizer, combined with the Mixed Grill and Stuffed Cabbage as out main courses.

With our order complete, we were then able to sit back, relax, and sip our wine as we absorbed the ambience of The Istanbul Café & Grill.  The first thing I noticed is that Istanbul Café & Grill is bucking the trend that seems to be in many new foodie approved eateries across the land, and that is a dark and dimly lit dining area with dub step blaring over hipster speakers.  The Istanbul Café & Grill was well lit with soft light and had quiet, modern, culturally influenced music as the soundtrack for our meal.  I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of The Istanbul Café & Grill which allowed me to both see my lovely wife and enjoy a conversation with her without using more hand gestures than a sign language interpreter would use during an old school Micro Machine Commercial.

Warm Doughy Goodness!

Warm Doughy Goodness!

While Kat and I were relishing in our peaceful conversation, which was most likely about either food or Grumpy Cat our waitress delivered a basket of warm fresh bread paired with a bowl of olive oil complete with a few olives and house seasoning.   Warm bread makes me happier than an Elf eating candy wrapped Schnapps cake on December 26, 2013, so I immediately grabbed a hunk of this deliciousness and dipped it into the olive oil.  I savored each bite of this toasty, doughy, and somewhat crispy slice of awesome and only halted my delight when our appetizer arrived.

Whoa the colors man, the colors!

Whoa the colors man, the colors!

The color of our dish was so vibrant it looked like an Andy Warhol painting that should be on the wall rather than in a bowl.  After the requisite photo session, Kat and I attacked this aromatic dish with the tenacity of a honey badger.   Being a purist, I ignored my instinct to grab another hunk of the warm bread and dip it into this eggplant laden concoction, and instead guided a forkful towards my awaiting taste buds.  The flavor of this dish was elegant and delicate, yet so complex that it lingered long after I had swallowed it.  Nothing about it was overbearing which allowed all of the tastes to marry together flawlessly.  After tasting it by itself, I was unable to resist the urge to create a bread and eggplant conglomerate, and so I did.  The warm bread danced with the cold eggplant salad and created a wonderful juxtaposition that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Meet the Meat!

Meet Istanbul’s Meat!

Shortly after Kat and I finished our appetizer our main courses arrived at the table.  The first thing I noticed upon its delivery was that the portion sizes at The Istanbul Café & Grill seemed to be very generous.  The Mixed Grill, described as a combination of Chicken Shish, Adana Kebab, and Chicken Adana was paired with a substantial amount of rice pilaf and a garnish that we found to be perfect for cleansing our palates in between the different types of meat.  Each of these appetizing morsels of meaty goodness were fork tender and teeming with flavor.  As we were consuming each style it seemed as if the one we had just eaten was our favorite; that is until we tried the next one.  I would highly recommend this dish to the Istanbul Café & Grill virgin, as it gives you the opportunity to try a few varieties of the awesomeness that is being grilled in the kitchen.

Cabbage Stuffed Chock Full of Wonderfulness!

Cabbage Stuffed Chock Full of Wonderfulness!

After trying a few pieces of the delectable meat that formed the Mixed Grill, we moved on to the Stuffed Cabbage that was described as cabbage leaves stuffed with ground lamb and rice served with yogurt.  To be honest, I am usually not a huge fan of Stuffed Cabbage, but Kat loves the stuff.  I really wanted to try the yogurt sauce, so I acquiesced to the ordering of this dish.  I should remember moments like these when I question listening to my wife because she was absolutely spot on about this entrée.  Not only was this easily the best Stuffed Cabbage Rolls I have ever tasted, but the yogurt sauce was damn near perfect.  This simple, smooth, and creamy sauce not only was an impeccable companion to the Stuffed Cabbage dish, but it also went quite well with all the meat from the Mixed Grill.

Not only was everything that we ate at the Istanbul Café & Grill tasty and wonderfully prepared but the bill was just right too.  Don’t get it twisted, this establishment is not cheap, but you most definitely get your money’s worth.  It is apparent that this eatery serves high quality, fresh food that is cooked with love, on site, by an expert.  If you are in the Fair Lawn area, and you are in the mood for a meal with Turkish Flair, I highly suggest you make your way down to the Istanbul Café & Grill and try a few of their subtle yet flavorful dishes.

Istanbul Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Embarks On A Culinary Tour Of Miami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blue Collar Foodie Praises His Hometown’s Dish Eatery

Dish's Broiled Trout

Dish’s Broiled Trout

As Elton John once sang, “It’s the Circle of Life and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path unwinding, in the circle, the circle of life.”  This strangely deep and poignant verse from a song that was created for a Disney movie not only describes the circle of life for living creatures but explains the development, growth, and eventual demise of eateries as well.  As Simba learns through the Lion King, mourning cannot be perpetual and a time comes when one must end the lamentation phase and move on to the acceptance stage.

When a restaurant closes its doors for the last time, it is always a time full of melancholy and sorrow, but as many a Disney movie has taught us, that gloomy period will eventually give birth to a ray of hope, because as one chapter ends another one is sure to follow.  The Brunch Club Café in Fair Lawn was a staple on Fair Lawn Avenue for as long as I can remember, so when the doors were closed for the last time, I, like most Fair Lawnites, were sad to see them go.  Soon after though, as I drove, walked, or ran past, I noticed the resurrection had begun and after several weeks from the ashes of the Brunch Club rose the Dish Eatery located at 19-01 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn, N.J. 07410.

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Dish Eatery on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Praises His Hometown’s Dish Eatery

As Elton John once sang, “It’s the Circle of Life and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place on the path unwinding, in the circle, the circle of life.” This strangely deep and poignant verse from a song that was created for a Disney movie not only describes the circle of life for living creatures but explains the development, growth, and eventual demise of eateries as well. As Simba learns through the Lion King, mourning cannot be perpetual and a time comes when one must end the lamentation phase and move on to the acceptance stage.

Dish Eatery

When a restaurant closes its doors for the last time, it is always a time full of melancholy and sorrow, but as many a Disney movie has taught us, that gloomy period will eventually give birth to a ray of hope, because as one chapter ends another one is sure to follow. The Brunch Club Café in Fair Lawn was a staple on Fair Lawn Avenue for as long as I can remember, so when the doors were closed for the last time, I, like most Fair Lawnites, were sad to see them go. Soon after though, as I drove, walked, or ran past, I noticed the resurrection had begun and after several weeks from the ashes of the Brunch Club rose the Dish Eatery located at 19-01 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn, N.J. 07410.

Kat and I watched this transformation while passing by a few times a week, waiting patiently for the open sign in the window to act as our Bat-Signal, calling out to us to join them for a meal. Once we saw that they were open for business, Kat opened her magical date book, yes she still uses a datebook and not a Google Calendar, and yes I have tried to modernize this process, but I am pretty sure that it would be easier to teach Chris Brown that punching people is bad than to pry this book of many dates from her cold dead hands.  Unfortunately our date book reads like The Silmarillion and is about as thick as well so we were unable to plan an outing to this establishment until October 29th in celebration of my Mother’s Birthday. I won’t tell you what milestone birthday she was celebrating because she reads this and would not be amused if I blurted her age from the internet’s rooftops, but let’s just say it starts with an S and rap rhymes with pixie.

Dish Radish

I broke one of my foodie rules for this restaurant because it is located in my hometown, and I wanted to try it very badly. Normally I would never stage a celebration meal at an eatery that I have yet to taste test first, but the Googles had nothing bad to say about Dish Eatery, so I figured the risk would be worth the reward. As we entered the newly remodeled eatery, I was enormously impressed by the transformation that had occurred with the confines of this establishment. As many former Brunch Club patrons would tell you, although they enjoyed the restaurant while it was opened, it always felt somewhat cramped when you were inside it. The Dish Eatery however, had a very open and spacious feel to it. Furthermore, the contemporary scheme that Dish Eatery decided to use as their interior design gives off a welcoming and fresh vibe.

Inside Dish

Once we were seated at our table, our server, Mike, asked if we wanted our bottle of wine to be opened, that is right, Dish Eatery is B.Y.O.B. which as you all know, this Blue Collar Foodie loves more than Richard Simmons loves exercise. With our wine opened, glasses full, and our menus in hand, we began to discuss the most important decision of the night, the food that would grace our table. Since this was my first voyage to Dish Eatery and it was a celebration, I figured that an appetizer for the table was in order, and with the help of our knowledgeable server, we decided upon the Mediterranean Platter which includes Hummus, Eggplant Caviar, and Shepard Salad served with warm fresh flatbread.

After ordering the appetizer, our focus once again turned towards the task at hand. While attempting to decide what we wanted to consume, our server brought over a basket of pita and a complementary dipping sauce. Since we were all somewhat starving, we tried this cream cheese like concoction while making our final decisions, and I was very impressed by it. The spices were subtle, yet flavorful and the consistency was perfect for spreading on the warm pita bread creating a perfect palate enhancing amuse bouche. With a few slices of pita down, we signaled Mike that we were ready to order our meals. My mother decided upon the Luleh Kabob on Flatbread, which was described as ground sirloin with a blend of spices, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber on a flatbread with a side of yogurt cucumber dressing, Kat decided on the Grilled Chicken Skewers with Roast vegetables, and my father and I both chose to try the Broiled Trout, that was paired with diced tomatoes, Cucumbers, Capers, Black Olives, and Basil topped with a lime dressing. I also ordered enough Sour Cherry Rice for four serving to act as a side dish to our now ordered entrees.

Dish Mediterranean Platter

Shortly after ordering our entrees, the Mediterranean Platter arrived at our table and it looked and smelled enticingly beautiful. Armed with a new basket of bread, I tore a piece of pita off and dipped tried each potion separately. My first victim was the hummus, which I have become quite a connoisseur of since Kat and I embarked on our health food mission, and I was very impressed. I find that some establishments that construct homemade hummus add entirely too much Tahini and fail to get the perfect consistency, but I can assure you that Dish Eatery does not fall into these conventional culinary snares. The hummus that Dish is churning out has an impeccable balance of spices and calmness that pairs flawlessly with the pita and leaves you wanting more and more.

After two trips to the hummus fountain, I turned my attention to my second prey, the Eggplant Caviar. I assumed that after tasting the hummus, the rest of this platter was going to pale in comparison.   Hello wrong, nice to me you again, I don’t know if you remember me but I am The Blue Collar Foodie, and my wife simply loves when we meet up. The caviar, which contains no fish eggs but utilizes the word caviar loosely, was divine. Dish Eatery once again found the faultless symmetry between flavor bomb and subtle texture to create a bowl full of yummy that harmonized with the Pita almost better than Peanut Butter does with Jelly.

Last up in the Mediterranean Platter was the Shepard’s Salad which was a wonderful palate cleanser that prepared us for the meal that was imminent. The freshness and quality of the produce was evident with each forkful of this vibrant and bright salad. The light and airy dressing added to the almost thirst quenching element of this delightful mixture.

After our appetizer delivered several blows of “wake the hell up” to our taste buds, we started to get the idea that Dish Eatery was not a light weight in the realm of gastronomic fight club and waited eagerly to taste our main courses. We did not have to wait long, before our meals were delivered and if the smell was any indication, we were in for one hell of a round two.

Dish Broiled Trout

After taking the compulsory snap shots for your reading enjoyment, I compiled the perfect bite of fish and garnish on my fork which I slowly conveyed to my mouth.   One bite after another, I found myself in flavor country. Even though the preparation of this dish seemed fairly simplistic, the flavor was extremely complex and deep. As I striped my trout to nothing more than a skeleton and a head, I savored each and every morsel while I peppered a bite of sour cherry rice in the mix to shake it up a bit.

Sour Cherry Rice

The rice was ordered as an afterthought honestly, just something as a placeholder to represent a starch to create a healthy balanced meal, but I am exceptionally pleased that I ordered it. It was the first time I have ever tried Sour Cherry Rice, but it most certainly won’t be the last. The rice itself was flavored and cooked to the standard I now expected from Dish Eatery, but I fell in love with the Cherries that were mixed in the rice something fierce.

Chicken Kebob

As for my tablemates, I can only guess that they loved their meals as much as I did because, Kat who seriously never forgets to let me try her meal was too busy enjoying it to save me some. As for my mother and father, they were singing the praises of this new eatery throughout the meal and both seemed extremely pleased with their dinners.

Dish Steak

Since we were celebrating my Mother’s birthday, after we finished eating our main courses, we decided that dessert was simply a must. Mike, our server, cleared our table and delivered the dessert menus with a caveat. He informed us that all the ice cream that is served at Dish Eatery was homemade and tonight’s was Saffron Pistachio. I immediately was intrigued by the thought of homemade ice cream and made a motion for the chocolate brownie with the aforementioned ice cream, a point which was acknowledged and seconded by my mother. Kat and my father however were enticed by with the Fresh Sugar Donut Bites served with a trio of dipping sauces. Unlike the United States Government, we were able to come to a compromise and decided to get both desserts and share them amongst the four of us.

Dish Donuts

This was the best decision I had made since I said I do and married my wonderful wife. I was torn between which of the two desserts I, as a sixteen year old girl would say, hearted more, but I assure you I could not have lived without either one. The ice cream had the consistency that only homemade ice cream can deliver, and it was just the right amount of sweetness to compliment the brownie instead of over power it. As for the light and fluffy donut bites, I loved the playfulness of the several dipping sauces that were provided allowing us to create our own flavor amalgamation.

As I stated way back when you started reading this review turned novel, it is always depressing when a restaurant closes its doors, but it makes it much easier, when a foodie hot spot such as The Dish Eatery is born from the vestiges. I implore every foodie that lives in the vicinity of Fair Lawn, NJ to pilgrimage to this shiny new epicurean delight as soon as your date book will allow it. Dish Eatery must have consulted some sort of mad Gastronomic Algebra Professor before opening their doors because they have achieved the perfect foodie formula; A relaxed modern atmosphere + Superior Service *Food that is so fresh it would get slapped by its own mother/Flavor explosions larger than those in a Michael Bay Movie = Dish Eatery.

Click to add a blog post for Dish Eatery on Zomato

Barcelona's Pizza

Big Portions, Great Prices, and A Forkful Of Nostalgia Can Be Had By All At Barcelona’s In Garfield, NJ

Like most food bloggers I love to scour the internets and discover the shiny new restaurant in the area so I can post about them before anyone else. But even though the thrill of the hunt is half the fun of this hobby turned damn near full time job, I try my hardest to follow the advice of one of my favorite punk bands of all time, H2O, “don’t forget your roots!”

My foodie roots firmly established themselves when I was quite young, and my father and I would watch Yan Can Cook , The Frugal Gourmet, or Julia Child, the OG’s, Original Gourmets, of Food Television before he entered the kitchen to create a random concoction that none of us had ever, or would ever eat again.  I still to this day carry on that tradition when I cook by throwing caution to the wind and mixing flavors together based off an idea not a recipe.

It was not only these pre-pubescent culinary kitchen escapades that lured me into the sordid realm of the epicurean, it was also the local eateries that my family would journey to when my parents could scape together enough spare cash.  Since saving money was always a concern, we never ventured to places that would be considered gourmet by the one-percenters, but through the rose colored glasses of a child, the places we went were enchanted.

Barcelona's Restaurant and Bar

Barcelona’s Restaurant and Bar

Still to this day I am drawn to establishments that harness that old world, blue collar charm that I covet, like Twitter followers are flocking to Sir Patrick Stewarts amazing tweets .  Places like Dp’s in GarfieldPub 199 in Mount Arlington and of course Barcelona’s Restaurant and Bar located at 38 Harrison Ave, in Garfield, NJ, have a certain, “je ne sais quoi” that people that would normally punch people for saying things like, je ne sais quoi, absolutely love.

When you pull up to a restaurant such as Barcelona’s, you may feel as if you just exited a police call box that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside  with a Doctor that shares a name with a famous first baseman.    In other words, restaurants like these are a blast from the past, before decorators were hired to build business, television shows praised dives, and social media marketing firms spread your name, these mom and pop shops survived on word of mouth advertising, quality food at a fair price, and a wait staff that made you feel as if you were home.

Barcelona's Garfield

Welcome to Barcelona’s

As you enter Barcelona’s, you will be greeted by one of the welcoming employees that will seat you in the dining area or point you to the bar.  Once you are seated in your region of choice, you will be given their famous and extensive menu, that if you are anything like me will take you quite some time to peruse.  Fortunately for us, who make food decisions slower than a 14.4k modem was able to download a naughty picture, Barcelona’s offers a full wine, beer, and cocktail menu in order to assist you in passing the decision making time.

On my last visit to this nostalgic land of foodie goodness, I brought my parents out, along with my wife to celebrate my Father’s birthday.  We won’t say how old he is, but we will say that when he was born the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn, the Lakers in Minneapolis, and Harry S. Truman was eating Cornmeal Dumplings with Turnip Greens in the White House.  At Barcelona’s it is not uncommon to see several generations of families huddled around a table pontificating and politicking while breaking bread together, as if it was the old days and we were no different on this occasion.

Pitcher of Beer

Nothing washes down great food like a cheap pitcher o’ beer.

As we sipped our cocktails, we meticulously read the menu as if the perfect item was going to leap off the page at our taste buds.  To be honest though, I have never had anything that was sub-par at Barcelona’s, so I could technically close my eyes and play pin the fork on the menu game and be satisfied, but where is the fun in that.

Since my mother and my wife were giving me the same death stare which regardless of the translation made every single hair on the back of my neck stand at attention, I decided that my time with the menu had come to an end, and it was time to make my final decision.  As always, I deferred to ordering last to give me that last 30 seconds to make up my mind.  While I was scanning the menu faster than Dr. Sheldon Cooper can read a comic, my mother ordered the Spinach Ravioli, Kat ordered Chicken “Italian Style,” and my father ordered an Antipasto Salad, a small Sausage Pizza, and an order of mussels… and you wondered where I get my appetite from.  With reckless abandon, I spewed forth my order, which consisted of a plate of mussels and Spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce.

Antipasto Salad

Nothing like taking a healthy salad and topping it with everything that is unhealthy and tasty in the kitchen

As we discussed the world outside Barcelona’s from the friendly confines of this welcomed time warp, we all felt at ease.  Kat was not even playing Candy Crush at the dinner table, perhaps due to some sort of anti-technology force field that Barcelona’s emits from their kitchen, but it was a nice change of pace.

While we were all immersed in conversation, our food began to arrive at our table.  The portion size compared to the price was all sorts of preposterous, and that is just how I like it.  As we partook in what always tastes like a home cooked meal at Barcelona’s, we all just smiled and chewed.

Barcelona's Pizza

Not liking this pizza is downright UnAmerican!

If you are a Barcelona’s virgin, I highly recommend at least sampling the thin crust pizza that has become somewhat famous in the area.  The sauce is downright delightful, the cheese is of the utmost quality, and the home made dough is the perfect texture.  I also always recommend trying one of the many pasta dishes that Barcelona’s has to offer, as they are an Italian restaurant at heart, and every pasta dish I have ever tried has been simply delicious.  My pasta with Anchovy Sauce was not the exception to this rule either, the expertly cooked, Al dente, pasta paired with the salty goodness, TWSS, of the sauce was flawless.  To add to the wonderfulness of my meal, the mussels that I ordered were larger than most and extremely tender.

Pasta with Anchovy Sauce

Barcelona’s knows Pasta like Bo knows well everything!

The décor and the sentimentality of Barcelona’s is not the only thing that is circa 1970’s dining, the prices are as well.  This family owned and operated eatery is still a place that an entire household can come to and find something to eat at an affordable and fair price.  For over 74 years Barcelona’s of Garfield has been serving North Jersey families as if they were part of their own. Every time I have entered this legendary blue collar eatery, I have not only been satisfied with the meal, but my wallet has left a lot heavier than it would have if we ate at any of the newfangled restaurants that pride themselves on razz ma tazz instead of tradition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some razz ma tazz as much as every employer that has ever watched Barney Stinson’s video resume, but sometimes all I want is large quantities of magnificent food served at a reasonable price, sans the flair, and that is why I love dining at places like Barcelona’s.

Note:  Barcelona’s technology defeating force field apparently works on credit card machines as well, so when you venture to this all American old school Italian joint make sure to bring your Benjamins.  Although, they were nice enough to find an ATM that is equipped with an anti-technology nullifier for your convenience, which is located on site.

Italian Style Chicken

The Italian Style Chicken Is Quite Photogenic

Barcelona's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

The Big Brew Beer Festival Version 2.0

There are not many things in this universe that get me more excited than Tommy Chong at 4:19 P.M. on April 20th in Amsterdam, but a Beer Festival happens to be one them.   For those of you that have never heard of this amazing phenomenon, here is a brief description that should make you feel worse than Homer Simpson after he eats his soul donut, for not knowing about these events sooner.  A beer festival is comparable to Comic Con, except instead of all the comics and fan boys dressed in tights, there is a shit ton of beer.

In other words these events attempt to showcase the best craft beer our wonderful planet has to offer, and for a reasonable fee, you get to taste all the hops and barley your belly and brain can handle.  Furthermore, most of these events pair their adult sodas with other mantastic goodies, including but not limited to food, spirits, party paraphernalia, and many more products that make men swoon like fashionistas smack dab in the middle of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

Big Brew Beer Fest Ballon Mug

Welcome to The Big Brew Beer Festival!

On September 28, 2013 The Big Brew Beer Festival took over The Morristown Armory and dropped a proverbial beer bomb barrage on Morris County that will from this point on be known as the Belch that was heard around the world.  After taking some lumps after last year’s event, to say The Big Brew Beer Festival improved slightly, is like saying that Breaking Bad was kind of a good show.  It was apparent that the head honchos of the Big Brew Beer Festival not only took every complaint from last year seriously, they took this year as a challenge to make The Big Brew Beer Festival into what they envisioned it could become from the very beginning.  Their hard work and dedication created a Craft Beer event that New Jersians could be proud of.  Which is no simple accomplishment considering that Grumpy Cat ain’t got nothing on us Jersey folk.  We can hate on literally anything!

New Jersey Vs. Grumpy Cat

The Battle For The Hating Championship Of The World Begins Now!!!

There were three ticket options for the two sessions of hoppy shenanigans at The Big Brew Beer Festival.  One could purchase a V.I.P. ticket for $75.00, a general admission ticket for $45.00, or a designated driver ticket for a measly $10.00, which happened to come with 1,000 Karma Points for making sure your inebriated friends got home safely.  The V.I.P tickets granted you access to the event one hour earlier than the general public, entrance to the V.I.P. beer area, and free food from the Morris Tap & Grill V.I.P. spread.

Now it is the time that I stand on my soapbox that is obviously filled with beer bottles, and preach to my congregation.  My fellow foodies and craft beer geeks, I ask you one very simple question?  Was there really ever a choice of what ticket we had to purchase?  I mean honestly, if you consider yourself even a half-ass Cicerone or Gourmand the list of beers and food that the V.I.P. ticket offered was worth well more than the $30.00 dollars extra you paid, not to mention the one-hour head start.  If you screwed up and purchased the general admission ticket this time around, I will let it slide and not report you to your respective guilds, but remember for next time, and there will be a next time, you can scrimp and save on health care, car insurance, and your significant others but never, not ever, on food and drink!

Let The Games Begin!

Let The Games Begin!

What was that? Do we have some non-believers in the crowd?  Let me drop some hop –knowledge on you in the form of the V.I.P. beer list:

Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Holly Beach Pumpkin Ale
Ommegang – Game of Thrones “Take the Black”
Duvel – Tripel Hop
Captain Lawrence – Xtra Gold
Brooklyn – Silver Anniversary
Starr Hill Brewery – Smoke Out (Limited Release)
Ramstein – Barrel aged, dry hopped Oktoberfest
Victory Brewing – Ranch DIPA Double Simcoe, 4 Hop Bock
Boulder Beer Co. – Honey-of-a-Saison
Epic – Brainless On Cherries
Flying Dog – Gonzo
Great Divide – Wolfgang Doppelbock
Neshaminy Creek – Highwater Hefeweizen
Oskar Blues – G’night Imperial Red
Sly Fox – Black Raspberry Reserve
Smuttynose – Homunculus
Stone – 17th Anniversary
Weyerbacher – Blasphemy
Yards – Cicada Indigenous Ale
Slumbrew – Attic & Eave Toasted Brown Ale
LakeFront Brewery – 25th Anniversary Brandy Barrel Imperial Pumpkin
3 Beards Beer Company – Bearded Lady Rye & Raspberry Belgian Pale Ale
Big Muddy Brewing – 17th St. Smoked Amber Ale 

Boom!  As long as you did not just jump onto the Craft Beer bandwagon to impress your mates or shag a scrummy girly, that list should have made you randier than Austin Powers on ten Viagra pills at the Bunny Ranch!

Still not convinced eh?  Alright maybe I have to appeal to the carnivore within you, to persuade you to purchase the right ticket on February 15, 2014, when the Big Brew Beer Festival comes back to town.  The following is the jaw dropping, palate appeasing, foodie approved V.I.P. menu that was brought to you by the culinary mastermind Chef Eric LeVine and his prodigious crew from The Morris Tap & Grill:

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Cole Slaw

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Cole Slaw:  These sliders may have been like Tyrion Lannister in stature, but their flavor reminded me of his on screen presence, large and in charge.  The subtle smokiness of the brisket paired exquisitely with the tangy slaw to create an impeccable bite of awesomeness.

Beer Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Mashed Potato

You Cheeky Bastard!

Beer Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Mashed Potatoes:  Some people are turned off by pork cheeks, and to them I say, “good, more for me.”  The cheek is a fantastically tender muscle that when served right, and it was prepared by Morris Tap & Grill so you already know it was, in my opinion can be the best part of the pig.  That is except for, of course, the belly, which is where Bacon Town is located and is more sacred than the Pope, Jesus, and the Vatican combined.

Chicken Carnitas with Beer Pickles

Mmmmm Beer Pickles!

Chicken Carnitas with Beer Pickles:  The chicken that stuffed these carnitas was not only bursting with flavor but was so moist and juicy the taco shell almost could not contain all the spicy goodness that it was charged to protect.   The addition of the beer pickles was a stroke of genius and created an expertly balanced dish.

White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse

A spoonful of happiness

White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse:  After demolishing all the savory food that the Morris Tap & Grill was offering the V.I.P. guests, there was only one dish left to sample.  This light and airy mousse was the perfect ending to the flawless lunch that was provided by the MTG staff.  Not only did it taste like a spoonful of heaven with a drizzle of OMG, it was not overtly heavy which left enough space to tackle the tremendous amount of beers that The Big Brew Beer Festival still had to offer.

I know this is a blog so you can see that I just dropped the microphone on the ground and walked off the stage.  If the beer list and the food pictures did not make you drool like a politician during lobbyist season, then I think you may be reading the wrong blog.  Perhaps this blog is more your speed, Dr. Dull Mc. Boringstien.

After enjoying all the thirst quenching bucket list beers that the V.I.P. area had to offer and chowing down on the amazing concoctions that the Morris Tap & Grill provided, it was time to venture to the 100 plus tables that littered the gigantic convention center.  The Following is a list of these wonderful purveyors of the sudtastic and intoxicating:

This small mug packs a lot of flavor!

The Vessel To Flavor Country!

3 Beards Brewing – Lumberjack Black Lager, CowPuncher IPA
Ace Cider – Pumpkin, Perry, Apple
Abita – Turbo Dog, Purple Haze
Anchor Brewing – Big Leaf Maple Red, California Lager, Liberty IPA
Alchemy & Science – Curious Traveler, Just IPA
Big Muddy Brewing – Galaxy IPA, Vanilla Stout
Blue Point – White IPA, RastafaRye
B Nektar Meadery – Evil Genius, Black Fang, Necromangdon
Bolero Snort Brewery – Blackhorn American Black Lager, Ragin’ Bull Amber Lager, There’s No Rye-ing in Basebull Rye Beer
Boulder – Mojo IPA, Hazed and Infused, Sweaty Betty, Kinda Blue
Breckenridge – Regal Pils, Vanilla Porter
Brooklyn – Oktoberfest, Blast!
Butternuts Brewing – Porkslap Pale Ale
Captain Lawrence – Pumpkin Ale, Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA
Carton Brewing Company – Boat Beer, Pumpkin Cream Ale, Carton of Milk Stout
Climax Brewing – Oktoberfest, ESB
Crabbies – Ginger Ale
Cricket Hill -Fall Festivus, East Coast Lager, Hopnotic IPA
Doc’s Cider – Pumpkin Cider, Apple Cider
Duvel – Duvel Single, Maredsous Brune
East Coast Brewing Co. – BeachHaus Cruiser IPA, Winter Rental, BeachHaus Pils
Epic – Smoke and Oak, Barley Wine
Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack, Double Jack, Reserve
Flying Dog – Snake Dog, Dogtoberfest
Flying Fish Brewing Company – Oktoberfish, Exit 4, ESB – only on draft
Fort Collins Brewing – Major Toms American Wheat
Full Sail – Existential Ale, IPA
Goose Island Beer Company – Pere Jacques, 312, Oktoberfest
Great Divide – Rumble IPA, Claymore Wee Heavy
Great Lakes Brewing Co.– Oktoberfest, Dortmunder Gold Lager
Gritty’s – Maine IPA, Black Fly Stout, Pub Ale
Harpoon – Octoberfest, Saison Various
Horny Goat Brewing – Hopped Up N Horny IPA
Ithaca Beer Company – Flower Power, Apricot Wheat, White Gold, Cascazilla
Keegan Ales – KD’s Triple, Longest Day IPA, Mother’s Milk Stout
Kuka Andean Brewing Company – Pumpkin Porter, Imperial Rye IPA, Belgian Triple, Belgian Golden Ale
LakeFront Brewing – Fixed Gear, Pumpkin Lager
Lancaster Brewing Company – Milk Stout, Strawberry Wheat
Latis – Estaminet, Palm, Steenbrugge Tripel
Left Hand Brewing Company
Magic Hat – Seance, Elder Betty
Moa – Imperial Stout, Breakfast Ale
Moonlight – Kurt’s Apple Pie, Sensual
Neshaminy Creek – Dunkel Weizen, Trauger Pils
Newcastle – Newcastle Brown and Werewolf
Old Dominion – Double D IPA, Oak Barrel Stout
Ommegang – Abbey, Scythe & Sickle
Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub
Otter Creek Brewing Company – Hopsession Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Lager
Pyramid – Oktoberfest
Ramstein Beer – Oktoberfest, Double Platinum, Gold
River Horse – Hippo Lantern, Special Ale
Sam Adams – Boston Lager, Oktoberfest, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Sea Dog – Blueberry
Shed Brewery – IPA, Mountain Ale
Shiner – Oktoberfest, Black Lager
Shipyard Brewing Company – Smashed Pumpkin, Monkey Fist IPA
Sierra Nevada – Kellerweis, Flipside Red IPA
Sixpoint – Crisp Pils, Righteous Rye
Slumbrew – Flagraiser IPA, Happy Sol, Porter Square Porter, Trekker Trippel
Sly Fox – Rt 113 IPA, Pikeland Pils
Smuttynose – IPA, Pumpkin
Southampton Public House – Pumpkin Ale, Double White, IPA
Speakeasy – Tallulah Pale Ale, Prohibition Ale
St. Ambroise Brewery – Pumpkin Ale, Apricot Wheat Ale
Starr Hill Brewing Company – Boxcar Pumpkin Porter, Whiter Shade of Pale, Double Platinum, Smoke Out
Stone Brewing Co. – Ruination, Cali-belgique
Stoudts Brewery – Heifer in Wheat, Oktoberfest, Pilsner
Strongbow Cider
Summit – Extra Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Porter, Pilsener
Tommyknocker Brewery – Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Pick Axe IPA, Maple
Troegs – Perpetual IPA, Javahead Stout
Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Dennis Creek Pale Ale, Steelmantown Porter
Unibroue – Chambly Noir, Blanche De Chambly, Trois Pistoles
Victory Brewing Company – Hop Wallop Double IPA, Headwaters Pale Ale, V12, Hop Devil
Weihenstephan – Kristal Weisse, Vitus, Oktoberfest
Weyerbacher – Double Simcoe IPA, Imperial Pumpkin
William’s Bros. – Fraoch Heather Ale, Kelpie Seaweed Ale, Midnight Sun
Wolaver’s Organic Brewery – IPA, Pumpkin, Oatmeal Stout
Wychwood Brewery – Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale, Ginger Beard English Beer, Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale, Ginger Beard English Beer
Yards – Pynk, Brawler
Tenth & Blake – Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin, Crispin Cider

After wandering around this beer maze for a few hours, if you were not smiling from ear to ear, something is wrong with you.  You are broken, and there is no amount of cow bell that will fix you.  Unless, perhaps it is not more cow bell that you need but some ridiculously good Cheese Curds from  The Cow and The Curd truck that happened to be parked in the venue.  Not a cheese fan, yet you still needed some sobering food to assist you in your journey, The Big Brew Beer Fest thought of that too, featuring food from The Office Beer Bar & Grill, 40 North, and Nicole’s Ten strategically located throughout the event.

Cheese Curds

How Could You Go Wrong With Fried Cheese

So let’s discuss what we have learned today shall we?  The Big Brew Beer Fest not only addressed but exceeded the concerns that were expressed after the first year of this event, which by the way I still loved.  Secondly, the beers that were offered at this event would make our founding fathers, whom by the way loved themselves some hooch, cry like a disgraced English man after the revolutionary war.  Furthermore, the food that was served at the Big Brew Beer Festival is the kind of food that is slightly more addictive than nicotine and three times tastier than anything your grandmother ever made, and that is a promise.  Finally and seriously most importantly is the fact that this astounding, intriguing, brilliant, and insert obligatory adjective here, event is coming back to the Morristown Armory on February 15, 2014, and if you are not in the house, you have no excuse!  See you there!

Pretzel Necklace

Never Underestimate the Power of a Pretzel Necklace!

TC’s Little Taste of Saigon Teaches the Blue Collar Foodie a Valuable Life Lesson

Every day most of us drive down the same roads to and from our nine to fives, sipping coffee and listening to mind numbing talk radio, paying no attention to our surroundings. I try my damnedest to not fall into this monotonous trap by taking different routes at times to liven up my commute, but alas, after a certain number of years every path becomes mundane. This frequently welcomed autopilot mode, could cause the not so attentive urban foodie to miss out on some wonderful eateries that are often overlooked on the roads so frequently traveled.

I fell victim to this sad happenstance recently, and I feel that I should inform my readers that sometimes it is a good idea to act like man’s best friend and stick your head out the window from time to time. Perhaps even try not updating your 13 social media pages, while driving with your knee, and eating your fried green tomato, bacon, remoulade, and egg brioche sandwich while on the way to work. If I was not guilty of DWZ, Driving While Zombified, I would have noticed that there was an authentic Vietnamese Noodle House on my way to work. Furthermore, my foodie street cred would not have been worse off than Mike Myers’ career after The Love Guru, because I would not have had to be informed of this off the hook establishment by a Brooklyn Foodie. (Relax Brooklyn, I love you guys, but even you know that some of your comrades can be quite ostentatious and downright douchetastic!)

TC's Little Taste of Saigon

The restaurant that I am referring to is a quaint joint by the name of TC’s Little Taste of Saigon, located at 419 Goffle Rd. Ridgewood, NJ.   Don’t be distraught if you too drive past it each and every day without giving it a second thought, because this eatery is located within a house in a mostly residential neighborhood. I almost drove right past it, and I knew what I was looking for.

TC's Little Taste of Saigon Inside

When you enter TC’s you get the feeling that you are walking into a friend’s family member’s house for dinner, not a restaurant. Some people may be put off by this, but I was all sorts of excited. Visions of truly authentic Vietnamese food danced in my head, the type of food that one used to be able to get in the city before the hipsters took over and created fusion.   As we, Kat, Rory, and I entered this magical worm hole that dropped us off somewhere in the P.H., Pre-Hipster, era of the foodie scene, we were greeted by one of the proprietors and seated in the living room, errrrrr, dining room.

Once seated, we were offered our surprisingly hefty menus and empty glasses for our bottles of beer that we brought from home. With our glasses now full of high-end craft beer, our attention was focused on the task of choosing our food for the evening.

As stated above, the menu was much larger than one would expect from such an intimate restaurant, so the charge of picking our meals was one that was not as easy as we first suspected.   After doing some table side research on the googles, I found that all my fellow foodies were raving about the Rice Paper Spring Rolls, so we decided to give them a whirl for our appetizer. We each also ordered a Pho dish, a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, a few herbs, and the protein of our liking. Since TC’s smelled more enticing than patchouli to a hippy, we added the Spicy Beef Stew to our smorgasbord of goodies.

Rice Paper Spring Rolls

A little more table side smart phone exploring yielded some very interesting information about TC’s. Apparently, this restaurant is run by two sisters that perform the job of waitress, hostess, chef, and general manager. This intel further added to the thought that we were dining at someone’s house, and the anticipation to try these assiduous siblings’ fare was perpetually building with every minute of small talk.

Just then our Rice Paper Spring Rolls arrived at our table. Without hesitation each of us removed a roll from the plate, dipped it in the house sauce, and took our first bite. Each of us chewed that bite for quite some time and said nothing to each other until we swallowed. The first words that came out of each of our mouths were the best compliments that any Jersey Foodie could possibly give, although I don’t remember the quotes exactly, I assure you that those phrases could not be uttered on network television. These spring rolls were the perfect combination of crisp and fresh, and when combined with the homemade sauce that was served with it, created a depth of flavor that sent my taste buds into traction.

TC's Pho

After we completed these tasty rolls of savory goodness, our main courses arrived, and they looked and smelled remarkable. The portion size was much larger than we anticipated, and all three of us began to ponder if we had ordered with our eyes instead of our stomachs, but the prices were so reasonable. The Pho even came with a side dish of fresh herbs and bean sprouts that was a great addition to these already beautifully presented meals. By fresh herbs, I mean literally garden fresh herbs that grow just outside the kitchen in flower pots that line the parking lot.

TC's Garden

Using the chop sticks that were provided, I scooped out a generous portion of my Seafood Pho and allowed it to cool down to an edible temperature. I then took my first bite of this Pho and fell in love all over again. The broth was delicate, yet flavorful, and had just the right amount of kick to compliment the noodles and fresh seafood. I am usually the type of person that will put sauce on just about anything that I am served, but this dish needed nothing, it was utterly perfect, and each bite only echoed that thought.

TCs Spicy Beef Stew

After forcing myself to stop eating the astounding Pho that TC’s had prepared for me, I took my first bite of the Spicy Beef Stew that we ordered to share. When we ordered it, we were warned that spicy actually means spicy at TC’s but decided to forgo this forewarning and embrace the zesty cultural food that is synonymous with Saigon.   We, being spice freaks, were not disappointed, however if you are not a spicy food connoisseur, I would suggest always heeding these types of warnings when eating at ethnic food spots.   Besides the invigorating heat that this dish provided, it had other subtle flavors that made their way through as well.

As our food consumption slowed down, we were struck with the sad realization that our adventure at TC’s was almost at its end. Even though we were completely satiated, we found ourselves continuing to eat our food, we even at one point made mention to how gluttonous we were being but then just kept on going. After all the bowls were clean, our waitress/souse chef/hostess came to our table and simply stated that we can stay as long as we would like because they enjoy the company.

Some people think that I am overly obsessed with food, but it is life lessons like this one that make my epicurean adventures worth it. TC’s Taste of Saigon is one of those truly extraordinary restaurants that unfortunately could blend into the background of your ordinary journey if you are not careful. Do yourself and all of your friends a favor and head out to TC’s, just let me know when you are going because their parking lot is kind of small.

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A Foodie Approved Date Night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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