The Blue Collar Foodie Adds Brigantine Seafood To His Restaurant Rotation!

As a Blue Collar Foodie always looking for a bargain there are certain types of food that my normal restaurant rotation lacks. There are some varieties of food that you just don’t trust from a value menu or a street cart. For example, an Ozzie Dog, which is a hot dog in a potato roll, topped with cheez whiz, beef chili, hot sauce, and potato sticks, which you can score outside Yankee Stadium is acceptable coming from a cart from 1975 that has been sitting in the sun all day. However, I would not feel the same level of comfort about ordering and consuming a Fillet of Fugu with a side of Sushi from Mr. Ozzie and his sun soaked wagon.

There is a level where frugality becomes stupidity and by saving a few bucks you end up wasting a day or two in the restroom or even worse the hospital. So pay attention to the words that are coming out of my mouth young BCF Padawans. At 3:00 A.M. there is no gas station that serves, “Epic Salmon,” no matter what Doug says and that Sword Fish Steak at that deli in the village for a “buck 99”, is as safe as sharing a toothbrush with the Hobo that lives outside that very same bodega.   However, there are places in our area that will serve you fantastic seafood dishes, for a moderate price, at a decent hour. Brigantine Seafood Eatery & Market , located at 112 Lincoln Avenue in Hawthorne, NJ, is one of these establishments and I highly recommend paying them a visit.

Quality Seafood at a fair price is not something you should take for granted in this area. Sure if you live in Maryland it is easier to get crabs than it is when you lived in your college residence hall, and as for Maine, I have had a $5.00 lobster from Shoprite that would make most New York Lobsters hang their tails in shame. So how does Brigantine do it you ask? Every morning, the owner and Chef Alfred Ianniello travels to the famous Fulton Fish Market located in The Bronx and personally selects the finest seafood for his customers. These customers include some of the top restaurants in the Bergen/Passaic county region and odds are if you have enjoyed a seafood dish in one of these counties you have already seen what Chef Ianniello can deliver to your table.

Brigantine offers a standard menu that can be found online that is chock full of flavorful and inventive dishes, but if you ask me, and you did because you are literally reading the words that my brain is spewing forth, the specials are worth both the price tag and the time and energy it will take to listen and comprehend all their awesomeness. When you decide to visit this seafood Shangri-La you will thank me that you asked the wonderfully helpful wait staff what the specials of the evening are.

Before I begin describing the astonishing meal Kat and I shared with a fellow foodie couple a few weeks back, I feel like I should place a disclaimer here. If you are looking for a romantic modern seafood boutique this is not the place for you. Brigantine Seafood resembles a Diner like establishment from years past, which I find to be immensely charming and adds to the je ne sais quoi that is teeming off of Brigantine like steam from a large bowl of Clam Chowder. Furthermore, I will guarantee that the seafood being served by this local gem is twice as good as the hipster dipped mussel balls being served in your bougie fish lounge.

Since this was not our first rodeo at this eatery, we knew the drill. We stopped off at a liquor store on the way and grabbed some cold beers and a bottle of wine, since like all of the Blue Collar Foodie’s top joints, Brigantine is BYOB. When we arrived we parked in the parking lot in the rear of the restaurant and walked in the back door (TWSS). Chef Alfred was on hand to welcome us to his restaurant and as always the staff was all smiles and ready to assist us.   We had a reservation so we were seated within minutes and our menus were in our hands shortly thereafter.

As I stated above you can order off the menu but the real reason to visit Brigantine is to allow the Kitchen to punch you in the belly with flavor and innovation by haphazardly picking a special that sounds intriguing. This is exactly what I did and I was not disappointed.

Fish is a dish best served cold!

Fish is a dish best served cold!

As an appetizer we ordered the seafood tower because Brigantine boasts a plethora of Oysters from various coasts and countries, and the Tower is a great way to sample a few of these salty treats.   In addition to the oysters this fortress of shellfish included shrimp, clams, and a Lobster Tail. If you are looking for an economical appetizer this one may not be for you, as the price point is rather high at $30.00, but if you are treating yourself, as we were, this is the only way to go. Each item was fresh, delicious, and unique. In other words, these are not wedding buffet oysters and clams, these are the real deal and if you are a connoisseur they are a must!

You would have to be a Master Baiter to catch a Bass this big!

You would have to be a Master Baiter to catch a Bass this big!

Shortly after we destroyed the seafood tower, our meals arrived at the table. After a rather lengthy deliberation and compelling the uber patient waitress to read me the specials three times, Kevin and I decided on the Sea Bass paired with Mussels and Clams in a marinara sauce. The portion size was incredible and the piece of fish was larger than any Sea Bass I have had the pleasure to eat in recent memory. However, the most impressive element in this dish was the marriage of flavor between the shellfish, the Bass, and the sauce. Each bite delivered a depth of flavor that is unfortunately rare for fish dishes in this area, because, to be honest, fish in the hands of a poorly trained chef tends to be boring and lack any culinary panache. To the contrary, this dish had panache coming out of it gills, and I loved every last bite of it!

he Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both.

The Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both.

Our friend Kim decided to try the Breaded Arctic Char served with Capers and a Citrus Gastrique. I am not going to lie; when this dish hit the table I had a slight case of food envy. The presentation of this dish was absolutely beautiful due to the breading being cooked to perfection, which created a deep brown hue across the filet in perfect contrast with the white plate and green garnish. Furthermore, the aroma of this dish wafted across the table and assaulted my olfactory senses with all its awesome sauce, begging the ever important question, “Did I order the right dish?”

No, it is not Chicken of The Sea!

No, it is not Chicken of The Sea!

Before I write this next sentence I ask that you please do not flame, troll, or otherwise harass Kat for the following gastronomic flaw. With that said, I will forward all hate mail directly to her inbox until she realizes the folly of her ways. Here goes nothing; Kat does not like seafood. Relax…I know… But to be fair I knew of this defect when I married her and if I can get over it, you guys should be willing to except her as well.

The reason I bring this foodie fail up is not to convert my lovely wife into a born again Pescetarian, but to explain just how remarkably accommodating Brigantine Seafood actually is. Even though a chicken dish was not on the menu that evening, Chef Alfred hooked Kat up with his famous, yet clandestine, Chicken Scarpariello. Kat craves this dish and thoroughly enjoys each and every morsel that is chock full of pieces of chicken combined with mushrooms and herbs swimming in a luscious white wine sauce.

And the award for best supporting role in a serious dinner goes to...

And the award for best supporting role in a serious dinner goes to…

In addition to the generous portion size of our meals we were also provided with a side of rice and seasonal vegetables for the table. I appreciated that these sides were not overly seasoned and flamboyant as to take away from the main dish that is the star of the show. Like a good supporting actor in a movie, these side dishes lifted the star to another level while preforming admirably on their own.

After we plowed through our entrées one yummy forkful at a time we were asked about dessert. Now, by no means did we need dessert, as we were all pretty fat, but we decided that we should treat ourselves to the homemade desserts that Brigantine’s Culinary Team creates daily.

Now wonder all the damn Amish return to village after Rumspringa!

Now wonder all the damn Amish return to village after Rumspringa!

Kat ordered the apple pie which was baked Amish Style, which includes Sour Cream. We had never heard of this type of pie before but after tasting this slice of ecstasy, we will sure be on the lookout for this method again. The sour cream increases the creaminess of the filling and calms the cloying sweetness that plagues most commercial apple pies.

However you say it doesn't matter as long as you eat it!

However you say it doesn’t matter as long as you eat it!

Weather you pronounce this fantastic pie like the true North Easterner you are and call it “Pee-can” or you embrace the southerner in you and rock the proper pronunciation “pee-KAHN,” there is one thing we can all agree on… HOLY HELL THIS PIE IS GOOD!!! I love Pecan Pie from a box that came from a factory so when I can get homemade Pecan Pie from a spot like this, you bet your sweet nuts I am going to order it! Furthermore, no you cannot have a piece. It is mine! You get your own damn pie!!! P.S., if you go to Brigantine and this is on the menu that night, and you fail to order it, you also fail at life.

Cheese + Cake = Happiness

Cheese + Cake = Happiness

Kevin landed on the Cheesecake as he spun the wheel of indecision in his brain. He was not upset either, as the Cheesecake was fluffy, smooth, and deliciously decadent. The addition of the strawberry drizzle added a delightful dash of attractiveness to the already handsome dish.

Cannoli is Italian for Yummy!

Cannoli is Italian for Yummy!

The final dessert that was ordered was the Cannoli. I know the secret to a slamming cannoli because I grew up in North Jersey, which contrary to popular belief is the real Little Italy. Apparently, Brigantine’s culinary team also knows this secret and so their cannoli was pretty freaking tasty. What is the secret you ask? It is simple; Fill Your Cannoli to Order so the shell stays crispy and the filling stays light.

If you did not read the post above and just drooled over the food porn, the gist of this article was; if you are looking for some serious seafood at a reasonable price look no further than Brigantine Seafood, in Hawthorne, NJ. The waitresses are helpful, patient, and pleasant and the Kitchen Staff prepares creative and gratifying dishes that both taste great and look lovely. The next time you are looking to try a new local eatery, please do yourself a favor and head over to Brigantine Seafood and see what Chef Al is concocting in his kitchen of wonders.

Crepes, Baseball, and Puns Oh MY! The Blue Collar Foodie visits the Field Of Creams Cafe’

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I recently caught wind of an establishment called Field of Creams Cafe, located at 550 Ramapo Valley Rd. Mahwah, N.J., inside Continental Soldiers Park, that seemed right up my alley.   Field of Creams Cafe is a converted concession stand in the middle of a park that serves up normal concession fare like burgers, hot dogs, and fries but adds a foodie flare with a full complement of Crepes and something called Bubble Tea, more on this strange little drink later.  Not only did Field of Creams entice me with their crepe selection that includes both the savory and sweet varieties but I am a huge baseball fan that thoroughly enjoys puns, so I was attracted to the name like a hipster to black rimmed eye glasses.  Furthermore, while perusing their website, I noticed that every Tuesday there is a vintage car show that occurs in their parking lot.  Baseball Puns, Crepes, and Classic Cars OH MY, my inner monologue repeated in the classic Wizard of Oz voice as I made arrangements to get my foodie on at the Field of Creams Café on the next available Tuesday.

As Kat and I approach the Field of Creams Café with our dog Lilly, the first non-human guest foodie that has joined us on our food expeditions, I was whisked back to my childhood on the Baseball Field.  Field of Creams Café is quite literally a concession stand, much like the one that I used to buy Big League Chew and sunflower seeds from during my days as a little leaguer.  As Kat and I discussed what to order we realized this was no ordinary concession stand.  Hamburgers for $2.50, Hotdogs for $2.00, Philly Cheesesteaks for $4.00, Baby spinach, chicken & cheese crepe for $6.50, Bubble Tea for $3.00 and Nutella covered French Fries for $4.00 are just some of the highlights of the offerings at this blast from the past.

We approached the counter to order after a lengthy discussion and we were met by a smiling clerk that seemed genuinely happy to assist us, which in this day and age is hard to come by.  We decided to order a small sampling of what Fields of Creams Cafe has to offer and split it knowing full well we had to save room for desert.  We ordered one Cheeseburger for $2.75, one Hot Dog for $2.00, a Chicken & Cheese Crepe with a side of Pesto Sauce for $6.00, and a Banana bubble tea for $3.00.  After ordering they took our name and we took a seat at the nearby Picnic Tables and awaited our order.

The ample seating allowed us to sit down and take in the activities that Continental Soldiers Park has to offer.   A few feet from the Café itself was a rather large, fenced in, play structure perfect for children to build an appetite while their dinner is being prepared.  Across the parking lot in the distance we could see a fully functional skate park for your teenage to blow off some of their built up angst before telling you the Hamburger you are about to eat is murder and chowing down on the Veggie Burger for $2.50, they ordered with a smug look on their face.  Meanwhile, the Fields adjacent to Fields of Creams Café were bustling with the sounds and sights of a soft ball game and a soccer practice and the parking lot was littered with cars that were made of steel and guzzled gas by the barrel.  Before we knew it, the clerk behind the counter was calling my name and handing me my very first bubble tea.

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Bubble tea, also known as pearl (milk) tea or boba (milk) tea, is a Taiwanese tea drink that originated from tea shops in Taichung, Taiwan during the 1980s. Bubble tea contains small chewy tapioca balls (fenyuan), commonly called “pearls” (zhenzhu).   Additionally, there does not seem to be people who are in the middle of the road when it comes to Bubble Tea, according to the research I did before ordering it, you either LOVE it or you HATE it.   I took my first sip of bubble tea from the abnormally large straw that is served with this foreign concoction and was surprised by the consistently of the Peals or bubbles.  There is no real way to describe the texture that these tiny treasures bring to the table other than slightly gummy, but that does not really sound appetizing now does it.  Kat and I fall into the LOVE category for this drink, but I do believe that it is a treat as opposed to a drink with a meal.  The Banana flavored juice was excellent and with the addition of the petite flavorful orbs creates quite a fun drink that I will be ordering again in the near future.

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After we were done being both mesmerized and confused by the Bubble Tea our food order was ready and Kat retrieved it from the window.  We cut each item in half and allowed the hot dog to bat in the lead off position.  The dog was a standard hot dog, nothing more, nothing less.   Which, when and if you have children you will be pleased to know.   Even though foodies love accompaniments and frills, kids love plain and simple.  The hot dog gets a single in my book, which if you know baseball, ain’t nothing to thumb your nose at.  The Cheeseburger falls into the same category as the hotdog, a simple, straight forward, concession necessity for people that tend to shy away from the out of the ordinary menu items that this foodie loves and seeks out.  The Cheeseburger, gets another single here, meaning there is a man at first and second for the number three hitter, THE SAVORY CREPE.

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We went with the Chicken and Cheese Crepe but because Kat is not a huge fan of Spinach, we added tomato instead.  This crepe was a very respectable portion considering what we paid and it was chock full of chicken, cheese and tomato.  We tried this crepe without the assistance of the Pesto sauce first and we felt that it was worthy of praise but was missing something.  We then dipped the crepe into the side of Pesto sauce and we watched the Chicken Crepe hit a solid triple off the wall.  The fresh made Pesto sauce sent this crepe into a League of its Own, and in both of our opinions completed the dish.

After the Savory Crepe hit a triple I was very excited about partaking in the desert offerings that Field of Creams is really known for.  Considering that ever since I came back from France I crave Banana Nutella Crepes like a dog craves peanut butter, I ordered one of those and Kat ordered a cone full of, the almost impossible to find, Hershey’s Birthday Cake Ice Cream.  The Hershey’s Ice Cream cone delivered a pretty solid double, due to the large amount of ice cream crammed inside and the overall quality of the Ice Cream itself.  I had never tried Hershey’s Ice Cream before so I was not sure where it would fit in the ever-growing list of Ice Cream makers.  I was very impressed by this Ice Cream, it was bursting with birthday cake pieces and the actual ice cream was very creamy and packed with flavor.
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Next up at the plate was the Banana Nutella crepe.  As stated before, Kat and I went to France last year and fell in love with Crepes, especially the ones of the sweet persuasion.  With that said, I am quite particular about my crepes now and tend to be a rather harsh judge when they don’t come through in the clutch.  Field of Creams Café’s Banana Nutella Crepe got up in the bottom of the 9th with two outs in a tied ball game and crushed the first pitch out the park for the walk off win.  This sweet crepe brought me and Kat back to the streets of Paris bite after bite as we ate this amazingly decadent desert.  This crepe not only tasted incredible but also looked absolutely scrumptious, from the dollop of whipped cream to the drizzle of Nutella on top.  When we were finished there was not a dollop of Nutella left on the plate as we fought over the last bite.
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In summation Field of Creams Café is not your everyday concession stand, although they do serve up some of the standards, like burgers, dogs, and chicken nuggets, for the less adventurous eaters in your clan. I suggest that if you have finicky friends or children let them stick to the conventional menu items while you unleash the foodie in you when ordering your food.  Some people might not enjoy the fact that there is no indoor seating but I for one think that this aspect only adds to the charm, and I was able to bring my pooch with me, which I always enjoy.  I also love their motto, which is a play off the quote from the movie Field Of Dreams, “If you serve it, they will come.”  As for the park atmosphere, you can’t ask for much more if you have a family, a park for the kids, a skate park for the teens, and classic cars for the parents, all for free I might add.  As a reminder, Field of Creams Cafe’ is a cash only establishment.   Furthermore, Continental Soldiers Park is about a mile from Lily’s favorite hiking spot, Ramapo Reservation, so we decided to walk off some of the desert we just ate which was the perfect ending to a wonderful night.

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Judgment:

Overall:                         3.5 out of 5

Taste:                           4 out of 5

Presentation:               3 out of 5

Value:                           4 out of 5

Hours:  7 Days a week 12PM-8PM