The Blue Collar Foodie Visits Tierney’s CopperHouse in Fairfield, NJ

One of my favorite aspects of being a food blogger, or Gastronomer, is the fact that I get to chat about food all the time.  Food is something that I can talk about for hours on end and never get tired of telling tales of the perfect steak I once had in Nebraska, the greatest hot dog I ever ate in Chicago, or the time I ate nothing but meat at a Brazilian Barbecue spot in Newark for three hours straight.  These conversations usually lead to an enjoyable night of drinking and reminiscing, but they sometimes result in a wonderful payoff for this aspiring epicurean author.  In the midst of participating in these hedonistic, often embellished, tit for tat dialogues, if I am lucky one of the contributors might bring up a new restaurant that is not on my foodie radar.  When this happens, I can’t help but get excited because I have been doing this for quite some time now and finding eateries that inspire me is about as easy as combing the desert, for a princess, with an afro pick.

SpaceballsTrooper

Combing The Desert

This wonderful happenstance occurred the other night while I was out at a bar with friends.  Due to the fact that much like beautiful women and rich men, foodies tend to hang out with other foodies, our conversation soon turned to edibles, and we were immersed in a round of culinary “fish stories.”  During this sybaritic discussion, a friend of mine began talking about a Dry Aged 48 Oz Porterhouse they had heard wonderful things about that is served at a restaurant in Fairfield, NJ by the name of Tierney’s CopperHouse located at 4 Little Falls Rd. After hearing my fellow foodie friend describe this colossal slab of meat with adjectives that I have only seen on bathroom stalls of bars of ill repute, there was absolutely no way I was not going to pay the CopperHouse a visit.

Tierney's Copper House

Tierney’s Copper House

Considering, the Googles is the Watson to my Sherlock, I consulted it immediately.  While my 3G did my research for me, I found that the reason that Tierney’s CopperHouse was not on my radar was not because my radar lost its bleeps, sweeps, and creeps, but rather because Tierney’s CopperHouse just opened in April.  With that in mind, the fact that their fare was already being strewn about in epicurean blitzkriegs, like gourmet grenades, said something about this fledgling eatery.

As we approached the building, the first thing I noticed was that this was not a small establishment.  The expansive modern exterior looked quite alluring, even in the misty rain that decided to fall on us as we got out of our vehicle.  As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted at the door and escorted through the bar area, complete with a warm inviting brick fire place, into the gorgeous dining room.  Once seated, we were given our menus and we ordered our first round of drinks.  I was very pleased to see that Tierney’s CopperHouse offers a large selection of craft beers featuring some Cricket Hill selections, which are born and raised right in Fairfield, NJ.  This fact alone is worth getting off your couch and making your way to the Copperhouse, considering that Cricket Hill creates some of the finest beers in New Jersey, if not the country, and I am always overjoyed about the chance to drink a fresh draught out of a frosty mug. One great thing about fine dining in New Jersey, and just from the looks of this place I had a feeling I would be dining quite fine, is that the prices of beverages always seem to be much more reasonable than those over the river, and I don’t mean at Grandma’s house.

Warm Inviting Fire Place

Warm Inviting Fire Place

With our drink orders in, it was time we got down to the nitty-gritty, the most daunting task of any meal, ordering the main course.  I attempted to sway my partners in crime to assist me in devouring the TC Family Bedrock Steak, which weighs in at a formidable 64 Oz of meaty goodness, only because it would have been the largest steak I have ever ordered in my foodie career.  Alas, I was only able to convince one of my fellow patrons to join me on a gluttonous meaty adventure and therefore, we decided upon the aforementioned Dry Aged Porterhouse for two, which was accompanied with two sides of our choice, the grilled asparagus and Spinach Mushroom Quinoa, and rang up at $79.00.  Our better halves, that apparently did not want to eat damn near half a cow, opted for dishes that were slightly less excessive but sounded equally as appetizing, electing to order the Free Range Chicken described as an Amish free range half chicken paired with potatoes and asparagus for $19.00 and the TC Chicken Pot Pie described as free range chicken, carrots, Yukon gold potato, peas, corn, pearl onions, with puff pastry for a modest $14.00.

Tierney's Copperhouse Menu

Fancy!

The anticipation of this Fred Flintstone sized steak, which was in my mind carved from the flank of a Brachiosaurus, was causing me to salivate like a Pavlovian test subject.  Each time the kitchen door swung open, I was distracted from our polite diner conversation, in hopes that the server that exited was carrying our savory feast.  Sooner rather than later, my hopes were realized and our table was adorned by a plate that was only matched by the beauty of my wonderful wife. (10 points for me!)  Not to say that the other food that was delivered to our table did not look eye-catching, but I mean, come on people, this was a 48 Oz. Steak I was staring at; it is like comparing other girls to Marilyn Monroe, it is just not fair, not fair at all.  I could barely contain myself through the picture taking phase and almost said the hell with it, and dug in, but I was a virtuous little food blogger, and waited until all the photos were snapped before digging into the pre-cut slices of pure happiness that graced my plate.

48 Oz. Porterhouse Steak

48 Oz. Porterhouse Steak

If the price that I mentioned above frightened you away from ordering this behemoth steak, I want you to know that this steak damn near forced me to reevaluate my frugal tendencies.  Every bite I took was packed with flavor and only made me want to have another delectable morsel.  For those that are not math majors, I alone, ate 24 Oz. of this meatastic meal, and I think I could have eaten 24oz more.  Combined with the side dishes this meal was well worth the price tag and was a feast fit for a king.

The perfect porterhouse bite

The perfect Porterhouse Bite

Even though, it was hard for me to stop partaking in this succulent beef barrage, I had to force myself away to try the other dishes that were ordered.  I was lucky enough to be dining with people that support my gastro gallivanting and they had no qualms about me eating a small portion of their meals to uphold the integrity of my writing.

TC Chicken Pot Pie

TC’s Chicken Pot Pie

I tasted the TC Chicken Pot Pie first and it was delightful.   In my opinion, Chicken Pot Pie is an extremely tough dish to make because it must be perfectly seasoned and have the proper texture in order to really be a respectable dish when surrounded by other high end meals.  Executive Chef Jeff J. Orel has found that balance between comfortable and innovative, which is quite difficult mind you, and served us an amazing Pot Pie.

Tierney's Free Range Chicken

Tierney’s Free Range Chicken

Next up was the Free Range Chicken that was served in its natural au jus.  This dish was not dry, yet still had a crispy flavorful skin.  I have a hard time accomplishing this task cooking one chicken for two people, so the fact that the Chef was able to pull this off while cooking 20 other meals and balancing a whole kitchen staff is a complement to his skill and professionalism.

TC's Cheesecake

TC’s Cheesecake

It may have been the alcohol talking or I could have been a bit meat drunk, but even though I had just eaten two days’ worth of calories in one sitting, I had a hankering for desert.  My tablemates agreed that a nice sweet ending to our dinner would be appreciated, and we decided to share two plates between the four of us.  The dessert we decided upon was a slice of cheesecake that literally melted in our mouths and a chocolate Ganache cake that was so decadent that sugar itself is jealous of it.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Tierney’s CopperHouse is a must visit eatery for any foodie in the area that is looking for a cold craft beer paired with a phenomenal meal in a faultless setting.  For those of you that were scared off by the prices of these meals, if you check the menu out on the CopperHouses’ website I assure you, you can find something that is in your price range that will be just as amazing.  There are some restaurants that I eat at that are forgettable, this is not one of those places, after one meal at Tierney’s, I could sense that they are passionate about food, and I will be returning again and again, although next time I plan on conquering the 64 Oz. Bedrock, whether my companions consent or not!

Tierney’s CopperHouse

Address:
4 Little Falls Road, Fairfield, NJ 07004

Hours:

Mon. – Fri. 12:00PM – 12:00AM
Sat. 4:00PM – 12:00AM
Sun. 4:00PM – 10:00PM

Tierney's Copperhouse on Urbanspoon

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

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

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill

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

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

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

Beer Flight

Beer Flight

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

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

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

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

Trio of Bacon!

Trio of Bacon!

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

PORK BELLY

PORK BELLY

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

Short Ribs

Short Ribs

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

Twisted Chicken

Twisted Chicken

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

Chocolate Beer Concoction

Chocolate Beer Concoction

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

Morris Tap and Grill on Urbanspoon

Muscle Maker Grill Is A Welcomed Change To The Often Mundane and Unhealthy Fast Food Culture

 Your Health In Mind

     For some foodies the rudimentary idea of calorie counting, dieting, and eating healthy is an unfathomable notion.  These words and phrases in the foodie community can be met with the ire of a grandmother that just heard their innocent little angel drop the C-word, and you all know what C-word, I am talking about, THE ONE AND ONLY C-WORD!  The thought that any meal that is good for you, simply could not taste even half-way decent, is extremely widespread throughout the foodie community.  So, as I got older, and my pants got tighter, I thought my days of being a foodie were over.  I grieved longer that Artie Lange did, when he found out that Hostess Cakes went out of business, thinking I would have to eat turnip salads with okra nuggets for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, I learned through necessity that this notion is and always was completely untrue.  Not only can healthy food be just as delicious as unwholesome food, but one can splurge every now and again on bacon wrapped bacon bites, as long as it is not every day.

RIP TWINKIE

Rest In Peace, Indeed

For those of you who still are under the impression that nutritious food can’t tantalize your palate I suggest that you make a voyage to Muscle Maker Grill and check out their healthy yet scrumptious offerings.   I will pause for a moment to allow the grumpy cat fan club grumble and murmur about chain restaurants, and how they destroy the very fabric of foodie culture, and blah, blah, pretentious know-it-all gibberish, blah.  Are you good now haters?  You got that out of your system?  Can we move on?  Sure, Muscle Maker is a chain restaurant, but my problem with franchises has nothing to do with the idea of them ruining some silly pompous notion of the epicurean elite, I have always found that they tend to scrimp on ingredients, forget about freshness, and serve calorie laden unimaginative meals, once they turn to the dark side of the gastro-force.  Thankfully, this is not the case with Muscle Maker Grill.  The Muscle Maker Grill that I chose to visit for the purpose of this review is located at 14-29 River Road, in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that is the beauty of franchises, you can search to find one closer to you.

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

Before ordering from Muscle Maker, Kat and I went for a rather vigorous two hour hike and neither of us was in any mood to cook, so we decided to get take-out, before we started Googleing recipes that involved cooking and eating our dogs and cats.  (Relax PETA people, I am joking, I love my pets like family.  Furthermore, why are you reading a foodie blog? Go eat some kale that is dressed with your salty tears because you are crying about how the pesticides that treated your organic shrubbery that you are eating most likely killed a dozen bugs.)  Kat and I inspected the menu and found that the selection at Muscle Maker was much larger than we expected, and to add to the robust selection, when ordering most of the menu items, you can choose the type of protein you would like to have in your meal.  In addition, every menu item lists the caloric intake for the entire world to see, unlike many other “fast food,” restaurants that conceal the nutritional information of their food, as if they were protecting Carmen San Diego.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

Carmen San Diego

Kat and I both chose the El Mexicana, which is described as fajita grilled chicken breast or steak, sizzling onions and peppers, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and salsa over brown rice and beans, garnished with tomatoes and scallions for $9.99.  Kat decided on the chicken breast, while I chose to upgrade my order, and went with the shrimp.  As I was on my way to pick up the order, I began to have orders’ remorse,  I was very nervous that healthy merely meant small portions that are designed to fill up a dainty bird like lady, not a large land mammal such as myself.  I fretted and worried the entire drive over to the establishment, and then even more while I fidgeted with my phone at the counter while my food was placed into bags.  With our Muscle Maker Grill in hand, I raced back to the house, filled with apprehension and foodie anxiety.

As I removed our meals from their plastic confines, I was relieved to see that my trepidation was all for not.   The food not only smelled and looked fantastic, which is a feat in amongst itself while be housed in take-out containers, but the portion size was extremely generous.  I began to eat my entrée and observed that the ingredients all fused together flawlessly to create a tremendous amalgamation of zesty flavor.  There was no one ingredient that overpowered the dish, and half way through eating it I completely forgot that this flavorsome meal was low in calories and chock full of nutritious morsels.  I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the menu, that each of these entrees is large enough for two servings, but I was definitely full when I was done with my meal.

El Mexicana from Muscle Maker Grill

Our Meal

All in all, Muscle Maker Grill provides healthy food at the speed of most fast food joints, and the prices are sensible to boot.  As the heartless cold nights of winter give way to the warm embracing days of spring, even foodies have to begin to think about shedding some of the winter weight their hibernation has welcomed.  So, next time you are too tired to cook, don’t grab a Big Mac or some Lo Mein; give Muscle Maker Grill a whirl, your belt and pants will thank you.

Muscle Maker Grill Fair Lawn on Urbanspoon

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

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

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

Old San Juan

Old San Juan Exterior

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

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

Roast Pork stuffed Plantain

Roast Pork Stuffed Plantain

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

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri Sauce

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

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

Red Snapper With Garlic Sauce

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

 

Puerto Rico

Even the Fish Loves Puerto Rico

Old San Juan on Urbanspoon

 

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

Restaurant Week 2013

Restaurant Week 2013

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

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

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

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

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

 

Food Map

Gastronomic Map

American New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

American Traditional

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

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

 

Asian Fusion        

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

 

Barbecue

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

 

Chinese

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

 

Continental

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

 

French

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

 

Greek

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

 

Indian

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

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

 

Italian

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

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

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

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

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

 

Japanese

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

 

Korean

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

 

Mediterranean

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

 

Mexican

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

 

Pan/Latin

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

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

 

Seafood

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

 

Southwestern

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

 

Spanish

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

 

Steakhouse

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

 

Thai

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

 

Vietnamese

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

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Foodie Gifts under $30

Top 5 Foodie Gifts

‘Tis the season of yule tide cheer fueled by Spiked Eggnog, lighting the menorah, hopefully this one, and decorating your house and Christmas tree like a Griswold, in an attempt to be the first house to be seen from outer space. Unfortunately this time of year also signifies the dreaded anxiety disorder that is caused by the commercialization of the holiday season, known as giftphobia. The symptoms of this common ailment include procrastination, stagnation, agitation and overall aggravation.

Lucky for you, I am here to help!  If you have a foodie in your life that you need to purchase a gift for this year for Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa, have no fear, the Blue Collar Foodie is here.  The following in no particular order are my Top 5 Foodie Gifts under $30 bucks for this holiday season!

#5:Cast Iron Skillet

Cast Iron Pan

Cast Iron Pan

Most of you are thinking, “A pan? Really? That is about as exciting as a lecture on the French Revolution taught by a one armed mime,” which by the way is equal to monotone in the speaking world. I would have agreed with you five years ago, that is until I received this supernatural gift from a foodie friend of mine and it changed my culinary prowess.

This remarkable cast iron cooking device, which has been used for hundreds of years, is not just a pan, but it is a paradigm shifting scientific instrument that will forever change the way your friend cooks protein. Instead of frying a steak leaving it oily and tasteless or cooking it on a sheet pan leaving it dried and stringy, now your friend will be cooking their steak using the same method as countless high end steak houses. This pan is so important it was the star of Season 1 Episode 1 of Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. You can ask Kat, it cooks the steaks to a perfect succulent medium every time with a seared outer layer that locks in the flavor.

Steak Cooked In Cast Iron

Steak Cooked In Cast Iron

One thing to remember though is that not only is cast iron different from all other pots and pans in the way it cooks; it is also different in how it is maintained. It is not hard to take care of cast iron but I suggest forwarding the following links to your friend as part of his/her present, to ensure his/her new pan lasts for generations.

First and foremost the cast iron pan must be seasoned before using it, most companies state that the pan is pre-seasoned, but I don’t cook on anything until I wash it and once you wash it you have ruined the seasoning. Secondly, the pan has a specific cooking method that is somewhat counter intuitive and downright incredible. Finally, the pan is not cleaned with soap but salt, which most people would never think of. If your friend follows these steps he/she will be cooking steaks and chops using this method for years to come, and I bet you get a few tasty steaks out of the deal as well.

#4:Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen

Gear for your kitchen

Doc Brown’s Book

If you have read this blog before you know damn well that I am all about Dr. Alton Brown, and yes I did just give him an Honorary doctorate because if Mike, “I eat ears” Tyson has one, Mr. Brown should have one too! For my younger readers, the gift I just mentioned above is a book, I know you have only probably seen them in a book museum, or library, as us old folks call them, but back in the day these archaic artifacts made of paper and ink were given as presents all the time.

I understand that cookbooks are antiquated and generally useless since any and all recipes your friend could potentially want/need are easily found on the Googles. This book, however, is not full of boring old recipes but of inspiring foodie science. Alton Brown discusses not only what gear you should have in your kitchen, but in true Alton Brown fashion, why you should have these items. There is also an entire section of the book devoted to getting rid of needless kitchen items, which is great for us that have a rather small kitchen.

Kitchen Clutter

Kitchen Clutter

I recommend this book for the gadget oriented foodie who buys every new cooking device that hits the market. It is difficult to buy something for this type of person because you never know what they have hiding in their drawers and cupboards. Dr. Brown explains every aspect of cooking in detail in this well written book complete with hundreds of illustrations, that, if I could, I would go back in time at 88mph and would read it much sooner than I did.  (If you got that joke you are reading the right blog.)

#3:Digital In-Oven Thermometer

Digital Cooking Thermometer

Digital Cooking Thermometer

If you have ever served under cooked meals, by accident of course, to any of your houseguests, you will fully understand the necessity of this kitchen gadget. This thermometer is literally the gift that keeps on giving every time you insert the probe into any type of meat. (That’s what she said.)

Armed with this device your now well-equipped foodie friend will be able to follow the mantra of late night infomercial lore, set it and forget it!  Once the probe is inserted into the protein, this magical little object will allow you to keep your oven closed while your meal is cooked to the perfect temperature every time, leaving you free to cook the rest of your meal and drink a beer or two with your guests.

Cooked Steak

This Steak Is Done Man

Although the standalone Meat Thermometer is an great addition to any kitchen, if you really want to spoil your foodie friend, get him/her a Thermometer with a remote receiver that allows the chef to roam around the house while being able to check the temperature of his/her concoction which is wirelessly transmitted throughout the house to the remote device.  This is the one that I have, and I now I could never live without it.

#2:Cookie Cooling Rack

Cooling Racks for Bacon

Cooling Racks for Bacon

Wait! Wait! Wait! Come back, at least let me explain. I know that a cooling rack for cookies does not sound like it would make anyone sing out Fa La La La La, but what if I told you it was not cookies at all, but it was for bacon!  Not only is it for bacon, but it is for crispy, perfectly cooked, uncurled, porkgasm inducing strips of yummy delicious salty goodness, unlike any other bacon he/she has ever cooked before.

This gift like others in this list, and of course the Transformers, is more than meets the eye. You are not only buying your foodie friend a cooling rack, you are buying them the gift of properly cooked bacon. Once you see the method to this madness you will join the oven cooked bacon cult and most likely purchase yourself a drying cooling rack immediately. Watch this video that explains the cooking method and you will realize that this gift is a necessity for anyone who believes that swine is simply divine.

Bacon Cooked Properly

Mmmmmmmm. BACON!

Since the racks are only $10, might I suggest going to your local butcher shop or pork store and procuring (see what I did there) a pound of bacon to accompany this thoughtful foodie gift. Then make sure you invite yourself over for brunch one day and sample the perfectly cooked bacon that was all because of your gift. Remember friends don’t let friends improperly cook bacon.

#1:Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand

Belkin Kitchen Stand

Belkin Kitchen Stand

If your foodie friend happens to be a bit of a geek like me, a gift that combines their affinity towards technology and their love for all things food couldn’t be more perfect. Enter, the Belkin Kitchen Stand and Wand for Tablets. This kitchen gadget allows the tech savvy foodie to utilize their tablet/iPad in the kitchen without smearing salmonella all over the screen.  This simple device is designed to hold your friend’s recipe wielding tablet upright so he/she can read it while he/she works in the kitchen, without pausing every 12 seconds to wash up. Furthermore the wand, which in the muggle world is called a stylus, is washable so it can be handled with their gooey hands without spreading mad cow disease to their entire family, thus causing the Zombie Apocalypse that we all know is coming.

This gift is not only on my Christmas list but I will be giving a few to my foodie friends this year as well.  As of right now my tablet stand is named Kat and the stylus she uses is the same finger that is usually pointed in my direction after I bellow from across the house to get her to assist me in the kitchen.

BONUS: Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

Whiskey Stones

After a long day in the kitchen fighting with the aforementioned gadgets and gizmos, it is always nice to sit down after a long meal with my remote control and a glass of Single Malt Scotch. I don’t think I am alone in thinking this, so if you can’t decide what to buy your foodie friend or he/she has everything that is listed above, I suggest a package of whiskey stones and nice scotch glass.

These stones are usually hand crafted out of 100% soap stone and are designed to slightly cool your adult beverage to below room temperature to allow the flavors to open up in the glass.  Ice tends to water down good Scotch and a watered down good Scotch is bad! If your foodie friend seems to be a connoisseur of fine Whiskey, Scotch, or Bourbon then this may be just the right present for him/her.  If your friend drinks Georgia Moon Corn Whisky Moonshine from the Jar, I don’t think they will appreciate these.

Moonshine

Granny approved moonshine

If you followed the links that I provided for each item you may have recognized a common thread, Amazon.com. Although, once upon a time, I was a Mall Rat, I cannot stand the malls during the holiday season. As Kat would say, “It makes me want to punch babies.” Kat and I either shop on Amazon.com to take advantage of their super cool free shipping, which all the items above are eligible for by the way, or we shop locally.  However you decide to shop, I hope this little gift giving guide helped make your holiday season a little easier.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my subscribers, readers, followers, and Facebook friends for stopping by and reading my blog. I enjoy writing this article immensely and every time I see a comment or a new Facebook like it makes me smile. I want to truly wish you and your family all a happy and safe holiday season and may all your foodie dreams come true.

Happy Holidays from Dog

Happy Holidays from Dog and I

The Blue Collar Foodie Goes Round For Round With The Duke at Charlie Blood’s

Occasionally the fact that I have a food blog comes up in conversations and when it does I typically get mixed reviews, pun intended.   Some people respond to this statement as if I just told them that I kick dogs for fun, while others reply as if I had told them I write for the New Yorker.  Although, I tend to enjoy the latter as opposed to the former reaction, by far my favorite response is also the most common; “That is, (Insert Favorable Adjective Here), you should really check out, (Insert Restaurant’s Name Here).”

This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago while I was at my local watering hole, The Twisted Elm, and ran into a few old friends.  One of them was unaware that I write this blog and as soon as I mentioned it she instantly began throwing names of restaurants out faster than I could digest them.  As I fervently tapped on my phone with my giant clumsy thumbs, trying to capture all the potential Blue Collar eateries that were being hurled in my direction, one seemed to stand out amongst the crowd, Charlie Blood’s Restaurant.  Not only was the name appealing but the way she described this joint lead me to believe that it was right up my alley.  She may or may not have used the phrase Dive Bar a few times.

Charlie Bloods

Charlie Blood’s Restaurant

The following night Kat, our friend Rory, and I embarked on our culinary quest to Charlie Blood’s, which is located at 147 Frederick St., in Garfield, NJ.  As we pulled up to what I assumed was the front of the building, more on this later, I could feel the blue collar vibe emanating from this establishment.   The yellow brick of the building illuminated by the welcoming glow of the neon beer sign in the window attracted Rory and I like a tween to sparkly vampires.

Upon entering Charlie Blood’s Restaurant we were whisked away to a wondrous world of wood paneling and draught beer, that I lovingly call DiveBaria.  This extraordinary land is a lot like Narnia from the acclaimed novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, except that the Wardrobe is a bar, the Lion is food, and instead of a witch there is beer.  Come to think of it, there are really not any similarities between these places, except of course, they are both magical.  Once inside, we grabbed a table adjacent to the bar, ordered a round of drinks, and asked for a few menus.

Inside Charlie Bloods

Inside Charlie Blood’s

While we swigged our first round, we discussed the menu and conversed about the astonishing selection of food that this seemingly unimposing tavern has to offer.   Even though Charlie Blood’s offers a wide variety of Italian American fare, my mind was made up the second I picked up the menu and saw “The Duke’s” face staring back at me.  The Duke is Charlie Blood’s Famous 24oz Ribeye Steak and I felt obligated to my readers to conquer it, especially since it was only $17.95.  Kat opted to attempt to keep her girlish figure, which this blog does not help at all, and ordered the 12oz steak for $11.95, while Rory went with the Seafood platter, which is described as Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels, and Baked Clams for $14.95.  To add to the affordability of this spot, all of our meals came with a house salad and fries as well.

After the hardest part of the evening was over and our food ordered, we took our beverages in hand and drank in all that this restaurant has to offer.  The walls of Charlie Blood’s restaurant are covered from floor to ceiling with local sports memorabilia and hometown heroes.   I am not talking about the kind of crap that is draped all over the walls at your local Applebee’s, that was clearly professionally framed and placed there by a decorator either, I am talking about  the genuine article.  A large poster of this establishment’s namesake, Charlie “Blood” Benanti, hangs in the bar alongside this memorabilia.

Charlie Blood's Logo

Charlie Blood’s Logo

According to the Googles, “Charlie gained his nickname “Charlie Blood” at a young age from his reputation as a street tough fighter during his school days. He began professional boxing at the age of 16 to aid his family in the pre-depression years. Many of his fights were held in Garfield, Jersey City, and Paterson.  He gained the New Jersey Lightweight crown in 1928. With a winning record of 65-5, he retired in 1931. In 1940, Charlie took over a tavern in Garfield from his father-in-law and is now owned and run by his son Sal Benanti, and his family.”

Our salads arrived and I have to say I was impressed by the portion size.  That is not to say that the salads were over sized but they were not overtly petite either.  To paraphrase a famous blond girl who broke into a bears house, it was not too big or too small, but just the right size.  The actual contents of the salad appeared to be fresh and as far as a dinner salad goes, it did its job flawlessly.

The Duke

Charlie Blood’s Famous 24 oz. Ribeye Steak

With my appetite intact and properly primed, I was ready to go round for round with The Duke.  As this 24oz beast of a steak came to our table the theme song from Rocky was playing in my head.  I have never met a steak I could not finish and I was determined to make sure that the Duke was not the first.  So far Charlie Blood’s Restaurant was not disappointing this blue collar foodie, but as the first forkful of steak was slowly approaching my craw, I knew that the moment of truth was upon us.  For, a cheap bill is not the only requirement for a restaurant to be Blue Collar Foodie approved.   But alas Charlie Blood’s Restaurant did not dissatisfy, it was love at first bite.

The Duke

The Duke’s Close-Up

This colossal slab of cow was perfectly cooked, medium rare, and seasoned just enough to enhance the natural flavor of the meat.  This was one of the best steaks I have had in a long time, and I could not believe that I was having it at a place like Charlie Blood’s Restaurant.  Kat and Rory seemed to be enjoying their meals too, considering the conversation that we were having when the food arrived had not only stopped but was only a distant memory.  As I finished my steak, I found myself sopping up the juices with my French fries so I would not waste any of the deliciousness.

Seafood Melody

Seafood Melody

All in all, Charlie Blood’s Restaurant is the perfect two punch combination, it is affordable and the food is terrific.  This is yet another establishment that makes you hear your wise mother’s voice urging you not to judge a book by its cover, in that motherly tone that we all love to hate.  These hyper local Blue Collar foodie havens are difficult to find and get harder and harder as the years drag on.  There is something extremely comforting about Charlie Blood’s, a Cheers’esque’ quality, that is sadly endangered nowadays.

There are a few notes about Charlie Blood’s Restaurant that I wish I knew before we visited that I will now share with you.  This blue collar foodie find, much like many others, only takes cash.  They do have an ATM on site, but if you want to save the fees stop at the bank before you head over.  Furthermore, if you are not into eating at the bar, I have been told that there is a full service restaurant side to Charlie Blood’s Restaurant that I will be checking out on our next visit.  The entrance to the restaurant is apparently around the corner from the door we used to get in.

Judgment:

Overall:                          4 out of 5

Taste:                             4 out of 5

Presentation:                3 out of 5

Value:                             5 out of 5

Charlie Bloods on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie Gets Lucky on River Road!

As a Fair Lawnite, I was very sad to see Sub Base’s reign at 18-50 River Road come to an unceremonious end.  I always had very fond memories of the location that Lucky’s Steak Plate has chosen to set up shop, because my Grandparents used to bring us there as a special treat when I was growing up.

One of the reasons I believe I became a foodie in the first place is because the taste and sheer smell of food can be linked to some of my strongest and happiest memories during my youth.  Just ask any individual of Italian descent to describe their Mother’s gravy or a member of the Jewish faith to discuss their Grandmother’s Matzah Ball soup, and you will hear the passion that food can instill in people, as just the thought of this comfort food transports them back to a simpler and happier time in their lives.

With that said, I was reluctant to go to Lucky’s at first because I wanted to remember Sub Base as it was lodged firmly in my psyche. Luckily, pun intended, Kat was not attached to Sub Base like I am, and she convinced me to give this spot a try.  Don’t tell Kat this, but after visiting Lucky’s Steak Plate I realized I should probably listen to her more frequently.

Kat and I entered Lucky’s and were greeted with a smile and a, “howdy” by a welcoming employee who was standing behind the counter.  This often overlooked and seemingly insignificant interaction is always appreciated by Kat and I whenever we go out, whether it is to a restaurant or even a clothing store.  I was ecstatic to see at Lucky’s, this, thought to be, dead art is strolling around searching for brains just in time for Halloween.

As for the décor, Kat and I truly thought that Lucky’s was a chain restaurant when we first walked in, and that is not the insult that it sounds like.  The color scheme, the paint, the uniforms, and even the menu are so well thought out that it seemed like they were all designed, implemented, and kept up by professionals.  I tip my hat to the proprietor of this establishment, because to be honest most newly opened restaurants look like they were decorated by a student of the Helen Keller institute of design.

I can hear my fellow foodies while I type this review, “WTF!, since when did the BCF turn into a furry Martha Stewart.”  I know this blog is about food and believe me if Lucky’s Steak Plate was just another flashy chain with  required flair this Blue Collar Foodie would not be doing a write up on them.  If you are familiar with my blog, I praise blue collar food done right, and Lucky is, well, doin’ it right.

On our first visit to Lucky’s, Kat and I were in the mood to sample a variety of the fare that Lucky’s is offering.  We decided upon the Cheese Steak Hero with Onion, Sweet Peppers, and Hot Peppers, a side order of hot wings, and a helping of the Disco Fries to round off our healthy meal all for $28.04.

After we ordered our food, the lovely waiting staff instructed us to have a seat and they would bring the food out to us when it was ready.  In the dining area there are several televisions that keep you entertained as well as a great soundtrack of American Rock and Roll, that Kat and I were convinced was someone’s I-pod with a playlist simply entitled Lucky’s. Once we were seated it was only a few minutes until the food arrived and we were able to dig in.

Kat and I are quite the wing lovers so both of us started off our entrée with one of the, “Lucky Wings.”  Lucky’s wings had the perfect ratio of crispy skin to moist meat, which is always a tricky balance to master.  The hot sauce was full of flavor but not punch you in the nuts so you can’t breathe kind of hot.  For those of you who like to lose all your taste buds for a week when munching down on some hot wings, Lucky does supply a bottle of hot sauce on the table to increase the heat.

Next we divided up the Cheese Steak Hero, which as a Chef I would be scared to serve to Kat, due to her roots in Might As Well Be Alabama South Jersey, but she seemed to like it.  I for one was a fan, if not for any other reason but the quality of the steak.  Most North Jersey eateries try to pass off store brought frozen “Steak-Um’s,” as a “Philly” Cheese Steak but not Lucky’s, they use fresh rib eye steak which is served on a fresh baked hero roll.  Furthermore, as a New York Sports fan that despises any and all Philadelphia sports fans, this includes Kat during baseball season mind you; I always love finding a proper Philly Cheese Steak in the North because then it is one less excuse Kat can use to drag me down to Philly to visit the city of brotherly hate.

After a few bites of the Cheesesteak and another wing each, we moved onto the Disco Fries, which as the menu says truly is a Jersey thing.  The fries were cooked well and tasted great due to whatever magical oil they fill their fryer with.  They were also smothered in mozzarella cheese, which is a must for any self-respecting order of disco fries, but sadly the gravy was lacking something.  Don’t get me wrong I would still order them again, but I may ask for the gravy on the side this time.

All in all the food that we tried at Lucky’s was worthy of praise and most definitely earned Lucky’s Steak Plate a return visit, so I can eat me some steak.  Although I was sad to see Sub Base leave, after seeing what Lucky’s is all about, I truly hope they stick around for the long haul and create more than a few memories for the foodies in training that are running around Fair Lawn today.

Lucky Steak Plate on Urbanspoon

Before The Impending Porkcalypse, Follow The Blue Collar Foodie to The Swiss Pork Store For Oktoberfest

     As a self-proclaimed foodie and bacon aficionado it is about time that I bring up a place that is very near and dear to me.  Not only is this shop located minutes away from my house in Fair Lawn, but the mere smell of this brilliant store makes me smile. The boutique that makes this Blue Collar Foodie enter a dream world tantamount to Willy Wonka’s factory, only instead of chocolate it is full of wondrous meaty goodness, is none other than The Swiss Pork Store, located at 24-10 Fair Lawn Avenue, Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

The Swiss Pork store is what Disneyland is to children for carnivorous foodies all across Bergen County and beyond. Their motto, which is extremely apropos, is, “We’re Not Just Pork,” and they are not kidding. Their packaged goods menu reads like a who’s who of foods that one needs to try before they die. They are a one stop shop for all things meat and then some.

Some of the best homemade sausages in the state, if not the planet, can be found at the Swiss Pork Store, and just in time for your very own Oktoberfest. You can buy Bratwurst, Weisswurst, Bockwurst, Bauernwurst, Knockwurst and pretty much any other damn wurst that is known to man. On top of that they offer frankfurters with or without skin for anyone who feels somewhat inadequate when eating a large sausage, TWSS. You also never know what type of specialty sausages the mad men at the Swiss Pork Store are going to concoct on any given day, so I suggest stopping by and taking a peek before making up your mind, you might end up leaving with a Jalapeno and Cheddar Wurst that would make Oscar Mayer cry himself to sleep.

The Swiss Pork Store also doubles as a full-fledged butcher as well. Although their fresh prime meats are rather expensive, ask before you buy, they are well worth the price. You can acquire chop meat that is unlike no other in the beef, veal, pork, or lamb varieties to create awe-inspiring meatballs or hamburgers. The steaks they offer compare to any of the steaks that I have paid triple for at a high end steak house in New York City, and you can choose between any cut, including porterhouse, shell, skirt, and NY strip.  If you are feeling one of the white meats they can also carve your choice of Chicken and Pork in a variety of different cuts.  If you are feeling a little frisky though, you can choose something a little more obscure to don your dinner table and go with their veal or lamb. Whatever you choose I assure you, you will not be disappointed, or at least I have never been.

     Not sold yet?  Well, I am about to make the boldest statement that this Blue Collar Foodie has ever put in print, and if this statement does not make you get into your car and drive to the Swiss Pork Store immediately, I am not sure we can be Facebook Friends anymore. Ready?  You might want to sit down.  Are you sitting?  THE SWISS PORK STORE SELLS THE BEST BACON YOU WILL EVER TASTE! There, I said it, and I mean it. I have somewhat of a Bacon addiction as any of my followers know from previous posts, and I must tell you, with 100 percent certainty, this bacon could seriously create peace in the Middle East and it could make North Koreans and South Koreans hug it out. In fact, I have it on good authority that Roger Goodell and the Referees for the NFL, sat down and ate this Bacon on Wednesday night just before they settled the lockout. Alright maybe none of that is true, but I am serious, this is really good bacon!
     If everything you have just read did not convert you into a Swiss Pork Store customer, which does not bode well for our friendship status I might add, I present to you the following. Not only can you procure some of the finest uncooked goods in the land, you can also find remarkable homemade cold cuts for purchase by the pound or, unbeknownst to most, on a fresh made sandwich, that can only be described as simply divine. I suggest trying the Veal Loaf, which is scrumptious, but you can stay within your comfort zone as well and try the smoked in-house ham, salami, and turkey, or you can go completely off the rails and sink your teeth into their famous head cheese, blood & tongue loaf, or liverwurst.  Creating a sandwich at the Swiss Pork Store is always an adventure and the best part is there is always a happy ending, get your mind out of the gutter people; I am talking about a full stomach.  Furthermore, instead of the horribly unhealthy fries that any run of the mill burger joint will pair up your lunch with, the Swiss Pork Store has a huge selection of cold salads which Kat fiends for like a pregnant lady craves ice cream and pickles.

Whether you are looking for packaged goods, including imported candy and European Groceries as well, to take home to feed your family or a sandwich on the go to feed your face, The Swiss Pork has it all.  From the second I walked into this place and was greeted with a smile and slice of veal loaf, I fell in love.  The people that work the counter here are always extremely helpful and have tremendous knowledge about the magnificent product that they sell. So don’t be shy when you give the Swiss Pork Store a whirl, and ask some questions, they will be happy to answer them and steer you in the right direction!

 

Celebrating America in true Foodie Fashion at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Newark

When I was five years old, and everyone was running around pretending to be cops, astronauts, or firemen, I was digging in the dirt, training to be a paleontologist.  A word that I could barely say, but I knew that it meant digging for Dinosaurs so I committed it to memory and for the next 10 years repeated it every time anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Even though, I am all grown up and a paleontologist I am not, I still have an affinity for our gigantic fossilized ancestors.  Therefore a few years ago when my good friend introduced us to a BBQ joint named Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem, I have to say I was smitten.

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My friend is a native of the North, as in the true upstate New York, not Rockland County like all of us Bergenites, believe to be upstate, and way up there in damn near Canada, the first Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was born, in Syracuse, New York.  Since 1988, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que has been kicking ass and taking names in the BBQ world and slowly traveling south to our neck of the woods bringing its biker and blues outlook with it.  In 2004, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que set up shop in Harlem, and instantly became my favorite BBQ spot in the area, even though I had to travel into the city just to taste some of their delicious cuisine.  In April 2012, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que made this foodie happier than a hippie in a hackie sack circle, when they opened the doors to their newest location in good old Newark, New Jersey.

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Since July 4th is right around the corner and we are supposed to be celebrating America, I thought that a review of a BBQ joint was necessary considering that BBQ is about as American as Apple Pie and Capitalism.   We arrived at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is located at 224 Market St. Newark, NJ 07102, at approximately 7:30 P.M. on a Saturday and although parking was quite tricky, we did not have to wait for a seat which was a welcomed change from the Harlem Venue, which is always packed.  As we approached our table, we noticed that the same biker/blues inspired theme could be seen in this location as the Harlem one.  Pigs of all sizes adorn the walls made out of a variety of textiles, while movie posters from the back in the day fill in the gaps.  Behind our table, a wonderful hand painted mural of Market Street complete with the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que mascot, the green Tyrannosaurus Rex like Dinosaur from the logo, crossing the street decorated the far wall.

As we scanned the menu, our waiter arrived to take our drink order. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, understands that although the food they serve is extremely important, one cannot overlook the magnitude of a truly prodigious beer menu at a BBQ establishment.   Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s beer list reads like a who’s who of the craft beer realm.  From the old standards like Pabst and Budweiser to the craft beer locals like Brooklyn and Ramstein, anyone can find something to wet their whistle at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.  Kat was particularly happy that she was able to procure her new favorite vice, Angry Orchard hard cider, which pairs with BBQ much better than wine.

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Our guest foodie, Rory, and I ordered a pitcher of Ramstein while Kat ordered her cider and then it was back to the insanely difficult task of choosing just one of the tantalizing offerings off the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Menu.  Rory and I decided to go with the four meat BBQ combination platter for $24.95.  I ordered the ¼ chicken, St. Louis Ribs, BBQ Brisket, and Pulled Pork, whereas Rory substituted the ¼ chicken for a homemade sausage link.  As for sides, I chose Gumbo and Turkey Neck Greens, while Rory went with the Gumbo and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s world famous Mac and Cheese.  Kat decided on the 10 oz. center cut Skirt Steak, BBQ spiced & grilled, served with a Red Chimichurri Steak Sauce for $20.95 with a side Black Eyed Pea Salad and of course the Mac and Cheese, which is why I did not need to order it because I knew I was going to steal some of hers.   We also decided to order an appetizer to hold us over until our entrees arrived, which we decided would be Fried Green Tomatoes with a Smoke Shrimp Remoulade for $8.95.

With our food order in and our glasses full, we then began to wax poetically about the nonsensical things that were occurring in our lives.  Our dinner conversation lingered while our libations were consumed, attempting to deal with the most horrific waiting period that befalls modern man, the time frame between the ordering of the food, you can smell permeating through the restaurant, and the moment it is delivered.  No matter if it is 5 minutes or 50 minutes, it always seems like an eternity to me.

Our Fried Green Tomatoes arrived at our table complete with a pile of Smoked Shrimp, that impressed both Rory and I.  I was expecting ground up shrimp for flavor or small salad shrimp to be a part of this dish, but I was appreciatively surprised when I saw the heaping portion of moderately sized shrimp mixed with the remoulade, or tartar sauce like concoction.  Since Kat does not eat shrimp, her dipping sauce was the standard sauce for these Fried morsels of yumminess, a Cayenne Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.  The Green Tomatoes were deep fried flawlessly and were crispy on the outside while not too mushy on the inside.  The addition of the Shrimp Remoulade which even Kat tried, with some coercion, added just a bit of smoke and spice that catapulted this dish to new heights.

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Shortly after eating our 1990’s movie appetizer, our entrees arrived as Rory poured us another beer from the pitcher.  Our food was placed in front of us and each one of us began to inspect the fine fare that was just presented.  Some foodies believe that BBQ is an ugly dish, a plate that cannot be elegantly displayed and therefore not a true foodie find.  To that I say, insert however you spell the sound that a raspberry makes here.  I believe that it is simply un-American to not find a plate piled high with dead animal, unquestionably gorgeous.

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I attacked my four meat combo with the strategy of a five star general.  First I poured out a small dollop of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s own Sensuous Slathering Sauce,  a squirt of Wango Tango Habanero hot BBQ sauce, and a dab of Devil’s Duel Pepper Sauce onto my plate so I would be prepared for dipping.  I decided to take on each meat separately, using a divide and conquer technique and then partake in the side dishes throughout the meal to cleanse my palate.

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With the sauces ready for battle and my strategy intact, I approached the front line, the chicken which consisted of a leg and a thigh.  There is something quite special about Bar-B-Que’d dark meat chicken, which cannot properly be described using the English Language.  The skin was crispy and just the right amount of burned, while the inside was juicy and flavorful.

Dinosaur’s Gumbo was more or less a Chili-like blend that combined a Tex-Mex flavor with a New Orleans attitude.  The base for the Gumbo had definite Upstate Chili roots but then the combination of the Chorizo sausage, Smoked Chicken, and Okra that complements the broth creates an explosion on flavor in each bite.  A very good side dish, which they also serve as a small plate meal with rice and corn bread for $6.95.

After defeating the Chicken, I set my sights on the St. Louis Style ribs; which are making my mouth water, as I think of how to impress upon you their awesomeness.  People throw around the words fall off the bone or finger licking good all too often when recounting their experiences with ribs.  Well, in this case, these ribs are smack your mother in the face good, which if you don’t know, is far better than fall off the bone according to the foodie colloquialism handbook.  Seriously though, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s ribs are outstanding and if you have not tried them yet, you need to drive, take the bus, bike, hike, or skateboard tonight to Newark, New Jersey and strap on a feed bag.

The Turkey Neck Greens reminded me of some of the greens that I have had at my favorite soul food restaurants in Passaic or Paterson, New Jersey.   The bold flavor of the collard greens mixes well with the onions and spices that Dinosaur has added to create this side dish.  Meanwhile, the essence of the Smoked Turkey Neck enhances these probably unhealthy but wonderfully tasty vegetables.

With two ribs down and one saved for later, I pressed on towards the BBQ pulled pork. I once again reached for the Sensuous Slathering Sauce and applied it liberally to this small mound of meat that graced my plate.  With each forkful I realized why I could never truly follow the Jewish or Muslim faith.  Dinosaur’s pulled pork has just the right smoke flavor without being too much, and combined with their Bar-B-Que sauce it is simply divine.

After I devoured the final bite of the pulled pork, I focused my efforts towards the 14 hour smoked, hand sliced Bar-B-Cue Brisket.  Brisket is by far the hardest of the Bar-B-Qued meats to cook in my opinion due to the tendency for it to get tough when cooked for long periods of time.  Dinosaur’s Brisket does have a slight bite to it, which is to be expected from Brisket, but it is juicy and utterly delicious.  With the addition of a small amount of Wango Tango Sauce and the house cured pickled jalapenos it is served with, it is a delightful treat.

I was lucky enough to be dining with friends that understand my passion for food, and Kat and Rory offered to allow me to sample the delicacies that decorated their plates that I had yet to try.  Rory gave me a bit of the Hot Link he had ordered instead of the Chicken, and I accepted it thankfully.  The sausage itself was bursting with immense flavor, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it was housed in a crispy skin.  Kat allowed me to try both her Skirt Steak, which was expertly cooked and when dipped in the Chimichurri Steak Sauce brought me to flavor county, and Dinosaur’s Mac and Cheese.  As stated before, I love the Macaroni and Cheese that is served at Dinosaur so, I was grateful for this small addition to my meal.

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Since I was almost full to the brim, I returned my focus to my plate and finished off my last rib, which I saved for last because I love them so much.  After savoring my last rib, I placed the bone in the graveyard that my plate had become, and reached for the built in dessert that is added to each and every Dinosaur Bar-B-Que dish, the Honey Corn Bread.  I am a huge fan of corn bread, while Kat would rather have any other type of bread in the history of bread, so I rarely get to eat it while we are at home.  But at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que I get two, and that makes this little foodie very happy.

The amount of love I have for Bar-B-Que and for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que cannot be summed up in one article or blog.  The true admiration I have for both this style of cooking and this restaurant cannot really be discussed, for I fear that this blog would forever have an NC-17 rating.  Let’s just say that if you have not been to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and you are a fan of Bar-B-Que cooking you are doing yourself a grave disservice.  The parking may stink at both the Harlem and the Newark locations, but any mild inconvenience is worth experiencing this amazing American tradition.  Also keep in mind that this restaurant is literally around the corner from the Prudential Center, where the New Jersey Devils play so check the schedule before you get stuck in a hellish amount of traffic.

Judgment:

Overall:             4 out of 5

Taste:               5 out of 5

Presentation:     4 out of 5

Value:               3 out of 5

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