How to Win Valentine’s Day! The North Jersey Edition

Before I begin this post, I feel like a disclaimer is in order.  I am tired of receiving hate mail that uses phrases that would make Tyrion Lannister blush.  I am fully aware that the name of my blog is The Blue Collar Foodie and normally I attempt to stay in the great food at a great price wheel house.  However, there are a few exceptions.  One of these exceptions is Valentine’s Day.

Most people would not guess it, but I am a hopeless romantic.  I literally, love…love.  The whimsy, the intensity, the nervousness…Oh hell, the whole damn idea of it.  Therefore, even though I am cognizant that Valentine’s Day is a B.S. Hallmark, made-up Holiday; I thoroughly enjoy going all out and trying to wow my wonderful wife each and every year.

What does this entail you ask?  Ladies and Gentleman I present to you The Blue Collar Foodie’s Guide to winning Valentine’s Day!

valentines-day-craftsStep 1:  Send Flowers to Your Loved One’s Workplace:  I know they are expensive and I know they will die in a week, but suck it up Buttercup, today is not the day to think that way.  Every other day of the year, I am all about Shoprite Tulips and Gas Station Roses, but that just won’t do on V-Day.  When you get flowers delivered, you are sending a message and that message is clear and concise.  Dear Loved One. you are worth the forethought and the expense of these dying, colorful capsules of allergy laden dust.

Step 2:  Get a gift:  I know what you are thinking.  I just spent $60 bucks on flowers, I thought that was the gift.  Wrong!  I am not saying you have to go out and get your Bae a diamond necklace or anything; I mean unless that is how you roll, then by all means you do you Baller.  I am simply saying that a small thoughtful gift with a personal touch will be appreciated and truly show you care.  I feel like these should not have to be said, but since I know my audience all too well.  NO SEX COUPONS!  Get your ass to Etsy and do some searching for a great inexpensive gift.

Step 3:  Put Pen to Paper:  I know we are not all William Shakespeare or Robert Frost but for heaven’s sake do not give your significant other a Valentine’s Day card with the stock message and some X’s and O’s.  To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, if you write it, they will come! See what I did there… I assure you, even if you write the worst poem ever, the fact that you tried will be enough to set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Step 4:  Where you eat counts:  I know I don’t have to explain this to most of you, considering you clicked this link because you were promised restaurant suggestions for Valentine’s Day.  Where you eat and what you eat will go along way to set the mood.  For Kat and I, it is the single most important decision and also the single greatest contributor to our quarrels.  So, on this day in particular after spending so much time and effort in attempting to create the perfect day for my wife, choosing our eatery is a taxing task that I do not take lightly.

As I mentioned above today is not the day to hem and haw about prices, and lord help you if you whip out a Groupon.  Valentine’s Day is all about the ambience and charm of an establishment.  The story behind the restaurant can aid in the allure almost as much as the food.  Not to mention, it is the perfect excuse to drop some money on a wonderful meal that you don’t often get to experience.  So without further ado, I present The Blue Collar Foodie’s top 12 North Jersey Restaurants for Valentine’s Day:

Ninety Acres

Ninety Acres:  2 Main Street Peapack & Gladstone, NJ 07977

You have heard of farm to table, well Ninety Acres is quite literally a table at the farm.  This palatial establishment is located on the Natirar Estate which has spent the last 100 years being a private residence, a convalescent home for women, and even the vacation home of a Moroccan King.  In true farm to table form the menu is always evolving with the seasons, but have no fear, you will never be disappointed.   The food served here is equally as beautiful as the grounds of the estate.

The Deal:  Exclusive Offering of Special four-course Prex Fixe menu with options for each course: $125 per person, $175 with wine pairings.

Photo by Cathy Miller

Photo by Cathy Miller

Café Matisse:  167 Park Avenue, Rutherford, NJ 07070

This intimate and always impressive eatery is located in a historic decommissioned horse and buggy fire house in the heart of Rutherford, NJ.  Their garden has been called enchanting in the spring and summer, but their interior dining experience is almost equally as charming.  The menu at Café Matisse is stacked with stunning dishes that have depth of flavor that is rarely seen outside of the most esteemed New York Eateries.

The Deal:  Three Course (2 savory/1 dessert) – $75 per person, Four Course (3 savory/1 dessert) – $95 per person, or Five Course (4 savory/1 dessert)- $115 per person, plus tax and gratuities.

Note:  Café Matisse is BYOB

Batello

Battello:  502 Washington Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07310

If fine dining with a remarkable view is what gets your motor running, Battello is the place for you.  This epic eatery serves inspired fare with a side of a majestic view of the New York City Skyline.  ( The Best Skyline in the World)   The dining area is often described as luxurious and lofty, and exudes romance.  The food is almost as breathtaking as the view!

The Deal:  A Three-course prix-fixe menu, offered at $85 per person complemented by an optional wine pairing at $25 per person ($50 for reserve)

Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen

Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen:  110 South Street Morristown NJ 07960

This well-regarded establishment is located in the lavish Vail Mansion in Morristown, New Jersey.  The dining space itself is exquisite and makes you feel like royalty from the moment you walk in.  The fine dining area which radiates luxury and class, is a must for this special occasion.  Jockey Hollow is a haven for couples that truly love food and want to experience dining in a relaxed yet sophisticated environment.

The Deal:  Four-course prix fixe experience where guests select three savory courses and finish with one sweet course for $81 or a six-course, seasonal $108 chef’s tasting menu for the entire table for $108.

Restaurant Lorena's

Restaurant Lorena’s:  168 Maplewood Avenue Maplewood, NJ 07040

Restaurant Lorena’s is considered by many in the foodie world as the best kept secret of the North Jersey culinary scene.  Over the past ten years this quaint eatery has quietly amassed quite a few awards for their awe-inspiring dishes.  The menu is heavily influenced by French Cuisine and the Chef’s attention to detail shines in every dish.  If you and your beau are looking for an intimate and romantic night out, this very well may be your spot.

The Deal:  Three course Prix Fixe for $150.00 per person, Oysters included

Note:  Restaurant Lorena’s is BYOB

pearl-front

Pearl Restaurant:   17 S Broad St. Ridgewood, New Jersey

For those of you that have Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams but are on a budget, this wonderfully romantic local establishment is perfect for you and your sweetheart.  Don’t let the amazingly affordable price tag fool you either, Pearl offers magnificent cuisine made with the finest meats, fish, and vegetables that are selected daily.  Pearl is the best value on this list by far, as their fare is comparable to establishments where I have paid triple the price.

The Deal:  Three Course Prix Fixe Menu for only $ 26.95 per person

Note:  Pearl Restaurant is BYOB

Scalini Fedeli

Scalini Fedeli:  63 Main St, Chatham, NJ 07928

Since we are in New Jersey and it is safe to say that at least 70% of my following is probably Italian, I would be remiss to not include my absolute favorite Italian Restaurant.  Not only is the food spectacular and each dish painstakingly prepared as if it was a piece of art, this astonishing establishment is located in a refurbished 260 year old farmhouse.  The moment you walk into Scalini Fedeli you feel at home, and the service is impeccable.  I seriously love this place and I am sure you will too!  Come hungry!

The Deal:  Three Course Prix Fixe Menu $59

cafe panache

Café Panache:  130 E. Main St. Ramsey, NJ 07446

This sophisticated eatery is located in the center of downtown Ramsey, New Jersey and has been a staple of fine dining in Northern New Jersey for over 30 years.  The Chef focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients that become the star of each dish.  Café Panache is a great place for the couple that has everything in common, except the type of cuisine they love, due to their wonderfully eclectic menu.  You don’t exist in the restaurant world for 30 years unless you are doing something exceptional and that is exactly what Cafe Panache is doing.

The Deal:  Ala Cart ordering

common lot

Common Lot:  27 Main St, Millburn, NJ 07041

Common Lot’s website sums up their establishment too perfectly to paraphrase, “The surroundings are elegant but unpretentious; comfortable but handsome — an expression of our personalities and our commitment to the dining experience.”  At Common Lot they have truly created a relaxed eating environment that allows us commoners to enjoy fine dining without feeling as if we are out of place.  Not to mention their plates are full of internationally influenced cuisine that are both creative and bursting with flavor.  Common Lot is for the couple that enjoys the finer things in food, but buys their clothes off the rack.

The Deal:  Four-Course Meal for $90 a person

Frog and The Peach

The Frog and The Peach:  29 Dennis Street New Brunswick, NJ 08901

This restaurant occupies an old industrial building, circa 1876, and the historical splendor of this establishment glimmers in every room.  The Frog and The Peach offers several areas to dine in and each exhibits their own charm and uniqueness.  Their menu offers American Cuisine with a refined flare created with only the best locally sourced ingredients.

The Deal:  A special prix fixe menu for the annual Feast of Love Three Courses $85

laurel and sage

Laurel and Sage:  33 Walnut St. Montclair, NJ, 07042

The Chef at Laurel and Sage has had quite a few gigs in restaurants during his illustrious career.  These restaurants specialized in Farm to Table, Asian, Mediterranean, and American fare to name a few.  His experience is on display at this delightful neighborhood restaurant, in each dish that he creates in his kitchen.  You never know what you might find at this eclectic eatery and that is why I love it.  Couples that can never decide where they want to eat will do well at Laurel and Sage.

 

The Deal:  4-course menu with options for $65 per person

Saddle River Inn

Saddle River Inn:  2 Barnstable Court Saddle River, NJ 07458

Before fine dining was hip, hell before hipsters existed, The Saddle River Inn was churning out some of the best food North Jersey had to offer.  Since 1981 this rustic, yet romantic establishment has been located on the William Packard Estate along the Saddle River.  Although the original owners of this long established eatery have recently called it quits, the new owners seem to have hit the ground running and are still creating wonderful French dishes.

The Deal:  Chef’s Season Tasting Menu described as a culinary journey including height of the season ingredients.  Four course $80, Five Course $90, and 6 Course $100

 

 

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How to Win Valentine’s Day!

Well folks, it is that time of year again. February 14th is around the corner and we all know this facacta holiday brings undue stress to our already taxing existences. For all the single men and women that populate the internets, I know that Valentine’s Day sucks harder than Carson Palmer’s NFC Championship Game Performance. It is just another reminder of your seemingly endless search for the perfect companion, much like romantic comedies and annoyingly loud public displays of affection.

Damn, he sucked!

Damn, he sucked!

However, not many people take the plight of the coupled into consideration on this “joyous” occasion. Single people might feel lonely or depressed on the 14th, but they can just go out to the bar on the 15th and bump uglies with a stranger and their Valentine’s Day woes are in the rear view mirror. Those lucky enough to have found their Valentine, know, or at least should know, one wrong move on the 14th, could land you in the dog house for the foreseeable future.

If you bought this gift, go to directly to gift-jail, do not pass the bedroom, do not collect your holiday whoopie.

If you bought this gift, go to directly to gift-jail, do not pass the bedroom, do not collect your holiday whoopie.

Gift giving on Valentine’s Day is not something that one should take lightly. There is a science to it, a formula if you will. There are many factors that must be considered. How long have you been with this person, are you married, do you plan on marrying said person, and the presence of children or lack thereof, are just a few of the important elements of V-Day gifting. Unfortunately, normally the formula for gift giving is highly specific to the people involved, every single relationship has its own equation and only those in said relationship could figure the figures.

What's on your white board?

What’s on your white board?

That is until now. I, The Blue Collar Foodie, have derived a universal formula that will allow you to win Valentine’s Day. The formula is actually quite simple. X= F + (O * E). Most gifts include one, maybe, two of these elements, but that just ain’t gonna cut it during the month of love. Let me break this lovely equation down for you, John Madden style:
X: This integer stands for “For the Win,” or FTW as the kids say. It is what we are trying to accomplish.

F: The F stands for Forethought. Sure you can buy your love a diamond ring, 4 dozen roses, and a puppy, but unless those gifts have meaning backing them up, your gift will earn you nothing but a passing tweet or Instagram post. Forethought shows that you did not just stop at a gas station on the way home on the 14th, but you actually planned this gift, and put some thought into it. A delivered gift ensures this component.

O: The O stands for Originality and that shit is key. A poem comes to mind; Roses are Red, Violets are blue, Flowers are Lame, and So Are You! It is not enough to just send flowers to your sweetheart on the highest of holy days of love, because everyone gets them. Save the flowers for your mom, or your grandma when she breaks her hip.  Remember if your gift has the big O, you are sure to have one too.

E: The E stands for Envy. Every girl that is reading this post is silently saying to themselves, “That is Bullshit! I don’t care what anyone else thinks!” I don’t need Maury Povich’s lie detector to confirm or deny this claim. I am not saying every female is a psycho hose beast that feeds off the jealously of their peers, but I am saying that on Valentine’s Day, shit is different, shit is real! Believe me, your girl wants every single lady, whether friend or foe, in the room not only to notice the gift you bought her, but resent her, and in turn, you, for winning Valentine’s Day.

Knowing is half the battle!

Knowing is half the battle!

That formula once again is, WIN=Forethought + (Originality * Envy). You can ask my wife, Kat, I have delivered quite a few gifts that follow this formula, not only FTW mind you, but because I am a closet romantic. Some of the more memorable ones have been, A Barber Shop Quartet delivered to her job, our animal’s DNA made into a necklace, a mix tape complete with 42 Haikus, A bouquet of flowers paired with a book of poetry describing why I chose each particular flower, and a Children’s Book about our life together. Each and every one of those gifts combined the three essential parts that were mentioned above in detail, and she loved them because of it.

For those of you that are less artsy fartsy and more about making shit happen, I have found the perfect gift for your dearest love. Not only does it follow the formula, which is the damn point of this exercise, but it won’t break the bank…too much.  My suggestion is a fantastically beautiful edible bouquet from the wonderful folks at Gardenia’s Fire , located in Teaneck, NJ.

GF LOGO

What is so special about this gift? I am glad you asked, understandably speculative blog reader. You see the formula is sound, and this gift follows it to a tee, therefore using the law of transitive properties, this gift fucking rocks.  Still don’t’ believe me… Fine, I will show my work.  First off, you must order it ahead of time, so it shows Forethought. I can guarantee that most of the people in your loved one’s office have never seen an edible bouquet like this one before, which covers the O and leads straight to the Mother F-Ing E. Boom! Gifted!

Boom!  Gifted!

Boom! Gifted!

I hear you haters, barking and moaning about Edible Arrangements and the fact that edible bouquets are about as original as Brady throwing to Gronkowski on 4th and whatever, but calm your rage. Edible Arrangements are made of fruit, people, FRUIT. Who the hell has ever been envious of fruit! This epic bouquets brought to you by Gardenia’s Fire are constructed with a heavenly variety of Cake, Chocolate, Macaroons, and other sweet-sweet yumminess.

Damn that is pretty!

Damn that is pretty!

Not only are these artisanal pastry/cupcake bouquets of awesomeness made of the stuff your lovely lady dreams of, they also look absolutely gorgeous. Just look at the specimen above that I sent Kat, seriously look at it! Damn near every person who walked past her work space asked her about it, which lead to the story behind it, which just kept racking up gift points for me. Not to mention she brought a little home for me to sample, and it was straight-up Amazeballs!

GF kept promises

Cupcake flowers throttle actual flowers!

If you really want to sweep your lady friend off her feet you can add supplemental gifts to this wonderful present, that you can give to her when you are alone. This gift can stand by itself, but a handwritten poem or a piece of jewelry handed to her at dinner couldn’t hurt.  Don’t worry about your poem writing prowess here, you could scrawl the worst poem ever written in crayon, and your love drunk partner would weep like a baby.

Maybe Red Is Not Her Color!

Maybe Red Is Not Her Color!

Whether you hit up Gardenia’s Fire or not, which I suggest you do, follow the formula all the way to the Win!  Your friends may despise you for making them look bad, but your Valentine will be ecstatic.  Be careful though, once you walk down this path, you will have to continue to plod along the trail of love for as long as your lady will have you. There is no going back or there will be hell to pay.