Qdoba Craft Two

Qdoba Mexican Grill Marches Into The Fair Lawn Promenade

Qdoba LogoI know I might catch some flak for writing this review because it is on a chain restaurant, but as the Yolo generation says, Haters Gonna Hate! The truth of the matter is that I believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants, and as long as they are serving food that doesn’t look and taste like it fell out of an animal’s hind quarters, I am willing to pay them a visit, especially when one moves in down the street from my current homestead.

When the luxurious Fair Lawn Promenade was erected, not only did this new construction provide high end apartments located in the wonderful town of Fair Lawn, it also brought with it several dining establishments. If you follow my blog you probably noticed that I have already visited and reviewed the Habit Burger Grill which is located in the Promenade, and now I have decided to review Qdoba, in the same plaza. For all of you that are not familiar with Fair Lawn the actual address that can be placed into the googles is 23-31 Route 208, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

To clarify my aforementioned comment, I do sincerely believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants as they provide casual dining at an inexpensive price point in a quick and efficient manner. I am not talking about the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the food world, I only eat there when I have had a little bit too much to drink, and I assure you, I regret it more than most people regret their one night stands. I am speaking of franchises that still care about the quality of food they are providing to their customers, and I feel that Qdoba is truly one of those establishments.

First and foremost, what drew me into the Promenade to experience all that Qdoba had to offer actually had nothing to do with their food. If you are a Bergen County resident like me, you know that avoiding Route 4 and Route 17 is more important than eating, sleeping, and on Saturday you can add breathing to that list too. So the addition of a causal dining Mexican Grill like Qdoba moving into what is basically my backyard, thus allowing me circumventing the need to travel on those above-mentioned horrendous parking lots that Bergen County calls highways, was a gift from the Traffic Overlord ConeZilla!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Since my commute was five minutes, and I was only cut off once on my way to Qdoba, when I entered the restaurant with Kat, my foodie partner for the evening, I was much calmer than I have ever been at those Burrito shops located in the 7th ring of traffic hell known as Paramus. To add to my elation, as soon as I walked into the building, I noticed a sign that simply read, “Extras Aren’t Extra!”   Could this be true? Is this a Dream, I thought to myself. They can’t just give stuff away for free, right? Or could they?

Qdoba, Extras Aren't Extra!

If it is free, it is for me, I’ll take three!

Since Kat and I are experienced restaurant reviewers at this point, we knew to peruse the online menu prior to our arrival so we were prepared to order the perfect meal. Qdoba is set up like most of the Casual Dining Mexican Grills that are sprinkled throughout our fair land, so the actual procedure of ordering was simple. When you enter, you walk into the queue and wait for an employee to assist you in constructing your epic meal.

This is my favorite part of the experience people; you literally get to build a custom Burrito, Taco, Quesadilla, Burrito Bowl, or Taco Salad that is chock full of everything that makes you happy. I know this method of serving customers has been around for quite some time now, but every damn time I venture to an establishment that uses this system, I can’t help but smile like an infant that has just farted!

As you can see from the menu, Qdoba offers quite a few entree options that can be fully customized, but I decided to go big and order the Craft 2 which is two perfectly sized portions of Qdoba’s most popular dishes. My two choices were the Mexican Gumbo with chicken and a steak taco and a pulled pork taco, one hard and one soft. (TWSS) Kat on the other hand was trying to maintain her girlish figure and opted for the health conscious burrito bowl with shredded beef. Since we both love guacamole and Queso, we made the decision to both order chips with a side of each. We rounded out our order with two medium sodas and called it day.

Our creations were assembled by a very helpful and cheerful employee that explained each step in the process making sure we did not miss any of the delicious ingredients we could add to our dishes. I could list all of the yumminess that can be added to your meal, but it would be about as boring as watching Seabiscuit, a movie about a freaking horse that does not even talk!

Once our concoctions were finalized, we paid, filled our soda cups from the awesome Coca-Cola Freestyle machines which dispenses 146 different flavors of soda, and sat our keisters down in a nice comfy booth ready to begin our feast.

Qdoba Chips

I love Queso more than most people love their significant others!

In hindsight, we may have ordered with our eyes and not our stomachs. The amount of chips provided with a single order would have been more than enough for Kat and I to share, and we will remember that for next time. Although some establishments provide free chips with your entree, Qdoba’s chips do seem to be better than the free ones, and the Guacamole and the Queso were much better that the competition’s offerings. The Guacamole is bursting with flavor, and the hint of garlic makes it very pleasant on the palate. The Cheese Sauce is also flavorful, but unlike most Queso, there is not an abundance of salt, so when the chips come into play, it is the perfect marriage.   We had to muster up some serious willpower to stop dipping these crunchy bits of corn into these enjoyable sauces.

Qdoba Craft Two

A Mexican Food Marriage Made in heaven!

When I was finally able to force myself to stop demolishing the giant pile of chips that was in front of me, I turned my attention to my main course. The Mexican Gumbo, which is described as a unique dish that combines tortilla soup, cilantro-lime rice, beans, salsa, and cheese, intrigued me, so I tried this first. I fell in love with this cardboard cauldron of savory goodness at the moment that spoonful hit my mouth. I made Kat try this dish immediately, and she confirmed that it was rather amazing. The slight smokiness of the tortilla soup and chicken mixed with the heat from the salsa and the calming effect of the cheese and rice combined forces to create a depth of flavor that is hard to achieve.

Qdoba Gumbo

Gumbo is not just for swamp people anymore!

The tacos were on par with the rest of the Mexican Grills that I have visited with the added bonus of the Queso Diablo sauce, which I found extremely tasty. I do recommend eating the Hard Taco relatively quickly because the juicy awesomeness that the no cost extras provide is no match for the structural integrity of the shell. In other words, eat the hard taco first or it will crumble faster than a game of Jenga being played by a T-Rex, The Incredible Hulk, and Mike Tyson.

Qdoba Burrito Bowl

YAY!!!! It is Nakey Burrito time!

Weighing in at just under 700 Calories, Kat’s Burrito bowl was not only tasty but somewhat health conscious. Is it a side salad and a fruit cup? No, but this bowl O’ burrito was also much more filling than your common diet fare and tasted delicious to boot. The fajita vegetables were the star of this dish as they appeared to be fresh cut and sauteed in house and treated with a very pleasant spice profile.

I am not going to tell you that Qdoba is the next Orale in Jersey City, but as far as Casual Dining Mexican Grills are concerned, I feel they are a strong contender for the leader of the pack. I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of choices Qdoba offered when I was creating my perfect meal. I also have to say I was very surprised that the Extras were actually not extra. I was almost sure that when I reached the cash register the receipt tape was going to start to fly as the cashier nickled and dimed my meal way up past the regular price, but they didn’t. Furthermore, the ingredients that were served to us seemed fresh and were seasoned quite well.

Qdoba Smothered Burritos

Smothered Burritos + The Blue Collar Foodie = One Happy Tummy!

If you need another reason to visit Qdoba, they just introduced their newest permanent menu item, The Smothered Burrito! These are dubbed, “Smothers,” and include one of three sauces that each offer their own unique flavor. The Tangy Verde is the Mild version, The Bold Red Chili is a robust toasted chile sauce with a dash of sweetness, and the Smoky Chipotle Cream is the hottest variety which is said to pack quite a wallop. I just missed the release of these alluring sauce covered bombshells and can’t wait to head back over to Qdoba to taste test these bad ass burritos.

Overall, I would recommend checking Qdoba out if you have not done so yet.   If you do plan to visit this location, I suggest signing up for their rewards program to earn free swag and coupons!

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Taco Santo Cricket Chips

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

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

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

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

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

Gastronauts_LOGO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taco Santo

Taco Santo here we come!

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

Menu line

A Dinner at Taco Santo

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

Stewed cow stomach menudo

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

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

 Menu line

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

Skull Lights

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

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

Micheladas

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

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

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje

Guacamole con Chapulines y Guaje

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

Taco Santo Cricket Chips

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

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

Mezcal

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

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

Mezcal Flight

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

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

Tripe Soup

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

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

TACOS!!!!!

TACOS!!!!!

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

Another Taco Santo Taco

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

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

What is a Taco without some color!

What is a Taco without some color!

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

Pig Skin Taco

Holy UnKosher Taco Batman!

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

MORE TACOS!!!!

I really could not get enough of these things!

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

Thanks for the great time Taco Santo!

Thanks for the great time Taco Santo!

 

Taco Santo on Urbanspoon

Orale Mexican Kitchen Makes The Blue Collar Foodie Say OMG!!!

As a wandering gourmand, my passion for the epicurean spirit has led me to establishments near and far. I have always said that good food is worth traveling for, and I have been known to embark on a gastronomic voyage, simply because of a fellow foodie’s recommendation.   These adventures have brought me to places that I still dream about today and conversely these excursions have been responsible for numerous night terrors.

I thoroughly enjoy the anticipation of driving to a restaurant that I have never been to before. There is a certain Schrödinger’s cat like perception, because as I am in transit the restaurant is both bad and good. This is why I continue doing this wild and crazy hobby turned damn near full time job, that and of course, I freaking love food like Kayne West loves being a douche.

Orale SignWith that said, after hearing some great things about a relatively new restaurant located at 341 Grove Street in Jersey City called Orale Mexican Kitchen, Kat and I decided to leave our comfort zone of Bergen County and head to Hudson County to give Orale a whirl. As stated above, I will travel for food, and even though Jersey City is not far, I rarely find myself in that neck of the woods, but if the internets were not lying, Orale was a must hit eatery in the ever evolving Jersey City Foodie Scene.

Not sure what to expect as we fought our way through traffic to make our 7:30 reservation, we decided to peruse the menu. While we did the New Jersey traffic dance which consists of accelerating to 75 miles an hour, braking the instant you get to a good cruising speed, traveling at 4.5 miles an hour, honking at the idiot that is texting and changing lanes without using his signal, dropping several F-bombs, throwing up so many hand signs that everyone around you thinks you are in the bloods, and then accelerating once again to 75 miles an hour only to rinse and repeat, Kat and I realized that Orale was not your typical taco joint.

First off, Orale’s menu is based on the following principle, “It is our belief that the best meals are those that are shared. It is in the passing of plates amongst friends and the communal savoring of multiple small-bite dishes that the true spirit of our cuisine resides. All items will arrive at the table as they are prepared.”  Meaning that Orale Mexican Kitchen is all about the shared experience that food can convey to a table of friends. This pseudo communistic outlook on eating a meal is making a comeback as more and more people begin to embrace the epicurean sub-culture, because it allows everyone that is involved to experience more than just one of the chef’s culinary creations.

Orale Crispy Pork Guacamole Furthermore, as we participated in our New Jersey Highway Hoedown, we noticed that the food that Orale was offering was not your ordinary Mexican fare either. Since I enjoy living, Kat read the menu to me because if texting while driving is dangerous, menu reading while bobbing and weaving through rush hour traffic is about as safe as jumping into a car with Lindsay Lohan after a night of twerking and pill popping. Every dish that Kat verbalized made me want to commandeer a police car and head to Orale with the lights and sirens blaring. Menu items like Crispy Braised Pork Belly Guacamole, Roasted Bone Marrow Tacos, and Empanadas Made with Green Masa Filled with Shrimp, Cilantro, Chipotle and Lime were just some of the highlights of the extensive menu that Orale Mexican Kitchen offers on a regular basis.

When we arrived, Kat and I were lucky to find a parking spot within walking distance of Orale, and we headed to our dinner destination. As we entered the dining area, I fell in love with the décor. From the brick walls, to the graffiti that adorned them, the entire restaurant gave off an excellent modern vibe that was a welcomed change to the hum drum atmosphere that some restaurants create within their walls.

As soon as we were seated, we were met at our table by Christian, our server who discussed the extensive cocktail and food menu with us. Christian’s knowledge of what Orale served was extremely helpful and he guided us as we perused the menu. Thanks to his expert suggestions, I decided to go with a classic yet always refreshing Margarita while Kat set her sights on the White Wine Sangria.

Once our beverage order was in, Kat and I turned our attention to the food menu which we had already engaged in some serious foodie foreplay with in the car. Thanks to our traffic induced tryst with this drool inducing carte du jour, we already had a vague idea of what we wanted to sample at our first visit to Orale Mexican Kitchen. With a few more glances at the menu, we had made up our minds and as soon as our drinks arrived, we were able to place our food order.

Guacamole TrioFor our appetizer, we decided on the Trio of Guacamole which allowed us to choose three different guacamoles to sample. We chose the Casa, or house, the Chipotle, and the Crispy Pork Belly. As for our entrees, Kat being a taco fanatic decided to try the Chicken Tacos that were described as Shredded Chicken Tinga Topped with Soy Pickled Serrano Chiles & Yellow Tomato Pico, whereas I chose the Bone in Lamb Ribs with a Tamarind Chili Glaze paired with a Jicama Slaw and Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash.

Orale DrinksAfter ordering our food, it was time to taste the beautiful cocktails that were brought to our table. Kat’s white sangria was topped with fresh fruit and tasted remarkable. The flavor of the fruit was apparent but not overbearing allowing the wine to still be the star of the drink. My Elite Margarita was appropriately named as it was one of the best margaritas I had tasted in quite some time. It walked a fine line between refreshing and strong while delivering a tremendous flavor.

It was not long after we ordered our meals that our trio of Guacamole arrived at our table.   As I took picture after picture of this culinary masterpiece, I could feel Kat’s glare, burning a hole in my forehead. Kat is normally a very patient person when it comes to my overzealous food photography but standing in between Kat and fresh Guacamole is tantamount to stealing a polar bear’s baby and then taunting the mother by making the new born cub do the Cha-Cha Slide instead of running for your life.

After all the photographs were taken, we dipped a chip into each of the guacamoles before we discussed any of them. We then compared and contrasted these delicious concoctions like Bill Belicheck dissects film on a Monday morning. What we came up with is that each of the varieties we chose was good in its own right. The house guacamole had the perfect texture and for the traditionalist, it was the perfect guac. The chipotle was basically the house guacamole with just the right amount of kick that would satisfy the spice seeking guacamole lover. Then there was the extremely impressive Crispy Pork Belly guacamole that literally made me sound like a porn star upon first bite, due to the unintentional moan that I released. The salty crunch of the pork belly combined with the subtle yet flavorful guacamole achieved in my opinion guacamole Nirvana.

Eye of Orale To top it off, the Trio of guacamole was served with house made sauces that took these wonderful creations to a whole other level of scrumptiousness. These sauces were once again described by the knowledgeable Christian, and we began to experiment with them. All three of the sauces were fantastic when paired with the guacamole singularly, but as if I were Bill Nye the Foodie Guy, I did not stop there. We continued this hedonistic food experiment by mixing the sauces together.  After we tasted two of the sauces together, we decided we were going to be forced to move to Utah and become sauce polygamists, that is until we tried all three combined with the guacamole on a chip, and realized that we were actually going to have to move to Texas and create a sauce cult.

While we finished off our amazing appetizer, we did what every couple that is out to dinner does, discuss the finer points of our crappy day and how much the food we were eating was doing to make it better. During our conversation, we noticed something spectacular about Orale. There was enough music to drowned out the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant but not too much to stifle conversations. I have been to way to many “hip” eateries that pump in music at an obnoxious level forcing their patrons to yell at each other like Howard Wolowitz and his Mother, and I was extremely happy with Orale’s decision to not give into this annoying trend.

Orale Lamb RibsOnce we were done hating on our day like Grumpy Cat hates on this Smiley Cat Compilation, our entrees arrived.   Both plates appeared to be two parts food and one part art, thanks to the dutiful and noticeable attention the chef paid to presentation. With a small sense of guilt as if I was drawing on the Mona Lisa with a crayon, I cut into my Lamb Ribs, and I was amazed at how tender the meat really was. My knife fell through the meat, as if it was a Honey Badger’s claws ripping through, well let’s be honest anything that is not a honey badger.

These Lamb Ribs were not only tender and juicy, but they tasted incredible. I was slightly nervous when I ordered this dish that the gaminess of the Lamb would be too strong but that was not the case. I was informed that they marinade these fantastic bone-in ribs in yogurt in order to extract most of the gaminess before applying the tamarind sauce that paired perfectly with the lambey goodness.

Orale Butternut SquashAfter tasting the lamb ribs, I was under the impression that the side dishes of this meal would be nothing more than an afterthought, but I was dead wrong.   The sweet & spicy butternut squash was the most remarkable seasonal side dish I have ever had, and I am a huge fall food fan. The duality of this dish was expertly created by the chef, and I could have eaten a bucket full of this brilliant vegetable side.

After tasting each portion of my meal, I assure you that I was skeptical to share even one morsel of it with Kat, but when in Rome right. I followed the Orale Mexican Kitchen’s guide to karmatic communal food sharing, and I was met with a welcomed dose of instant karma, of the rare good variety. Upon taking my first bite, I could not hold back a smile. These mini-tacos may have been small in size but they packed a mighty flavor punch.   Not to mention Kat decided to follow the Boy Scout motto and saved some of the guacamole to pair with her tacos which only added to the awesome sauce that these tacos were pouring all over me. (TWSS)   Furthermore, Kat’s chicken taco dish was designed for sharing as it came with six mini taco shells stuffed with yummy goodness.

Orale Chicken TacoAs we finished our meal, we made the fatal mistake of glancing at the dessert menu, and even though we were absolutely full, we simply could not pass up the opportunity to try the Helados Domingo described as Vanilla & Chocolate Ice Cream, Cajeta, Chocolate Sauce, Crumbled Cookies, and Caramelized Bananas. If an alcoholic, nicotine addict first tasted this dessert and was then given the option to give up booze and cancer sticks or the Helados Domingo for the rest of their life, 99 out of 100 of them would choose to give up the former as opposed to the latter. Yea, it is that kind of good. Don’t believe me, I guess you will have to bring your ass to Jersey City and try it yourself; careful though, just like cigarettes and heroin, it is habit forming.

Orale Helados DomingoI know this review was rather verbose and if you made it this far, you deserve a Helados Domingo, but when I walk into a restaurant that gets it like Orale gets it; I can’t help but sing its praises. But believe me, you do not want to hear me sing, I sound like an auto tuned cat in heat participating in a duet with Justin Beiber, so instead of singing, I will use the clickity clack of my keyboard and the vastness of the world wide web to get my message out. After reading this review that message should be clear, Orale Mexican Kitchen is a must try establishment for anyone that fancies themselves to be a food connoisseur.

Click to add a blog post for Orale Mexican Kitchen on Zomato

The Big Brew Beer Festival Version 2.0

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

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

Big Brew Beer Fest Ballon Mug

Welcome to The Big Brew Beer Festival!

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

New Jersey Vs. Grumpy Cat

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

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

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

Let The Games Begin!

Let The Games Begin!

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

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

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

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

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Cole Slaw

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders

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

Beer Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Mashed Potato

You Cheeky Bastard!

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

Chicken Carnitas with Beer Pickles

Mmmmm Beer Pickles!

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

White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse

A spoonful of happiness

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

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

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

This small mug packs a lot of flavor!

The Vessel To Flavor Country!

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

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

Cheese Curds

How Could You Go Wrong With Fried Cheese

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

Pretzel Necklace

Never Underestimate the Power of a Pretzel Necklace!