Thursday, August 7, 2014

Amanda Celebrates Her Birthday at Amanda's

908 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

The better half of Garden State Grubber's name is Amanda, and ever since our very first time in Hoboken, when we saw that a restaurant was named "Amanda's", she has wanted to go. Aside from it's fantastic name, the food was highly regarded by people who's opinion about food we respect. It happens to be a little pricey, so we were waiting for a special occasion to go. She loves brunch and her birthday was on a Saturday this year, so that obviously made sense; reservation made! 

We did not want to intrude on our family too much, so we only took a few pictures. To start we both ordered the Smoked Salmon with Capers & Diced Onions. The Appetizers for brunch at Amanda's had a minimal approach, but they were delicious nonetheless. The smoked salmon was light, but with rich flavor and it paired perfectly with everything it came with. It was everything you want on a Sunday morning, and did not leave you too full for the next course. 
The Eggs Benedict with Crab Hash was a special that day, and two key words when it comes to brunch for us are "Hash" and "Benedict", so the marriage of both made this a natural selection. The hollandaise sauce was lackluster, and slightly solidified on top of he egg. The egg itself was cooked very well. Overall the dish was good, but missing depth and thoughtful execution.
We also ordered the Frittata with Mozzarella, Tomatoes & Eggplant. The frittata was cooked perfectly and seasoned well. Home fries can make or break a breakfast or brunch in my opinion, and unfortunately par boiled potatoes finished on the flat top just did not cut it. Home fries deserve onions and peppers,  not to just be thrown on, alone as an afterthought. The frittata was light and fluffy, but I would have much preferred the cheese to be incorporated in the frittata instead of melted on top. 
We will be going back to try a few of the other dishes that we were debating between (the croissant french toast is one of them). The service at Amanda's was impeccable. The decor and atmosphere are so quaint. We definitely will be going back to try their dinner menu, we want to see if the creativity comes out a little more through that menu. The restaurant itself is beautiful, and we would not hesitate to recommend it, but just do not prepare yourself to be blown away. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Garden State Grubber Does Smorgasburg...Brooklyn Bridge Park Edition

Smorgasburg: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Sundays 11am - 6pm

*This post is particularly about the Dumbo event.*

We liked this event location better. The view of lower manhattan is incredible, it is spread out well, and there are so many things going on at the piers for you to walk around and explore. 

The infamous RAMEN BURGER! We got to Smorgasburg relatively early and had heard rumors about the ramen burger and the giant line you have to wait on to get this culinary masterpiece in your hands, so we went there first. We waited a few minutes, but nothing crazy. Cheese or no cheese? We chose none, maybe this was an amateur mistake. Besides being an utterly weird texture, the burger itself, we're sorry to report, was just okay. Definitely try it for the sheer novelty of trying it, but don't expect to be blown away. 
Although one of us is allergic to coconuts, the other always insists on having coconut water in our apartment. Fresh coconut? Even better. You run the risk of looking like a hipster by walking around with this, but don't worry, you're in Brooklyn, you'll fit in just fine.
Peking duck spring rolls...need we say more? These spring rolls from Lumpia Shack were so delicious. They were covered in a spicy hoisin and ginger sauce. If there's anything better than duck, its duck and hoisin. Although maybe steaming hot fried spring rolls were not the best choice for a hot summer day, we would order them again in a heart beat. Also, while some offerings are a bit overpriced, the amount of spring rolls you get is totally worth it in this case. 
Shout out to Iron Chef Mario Batali and Cronut creator Dominique Ansel who were there for a RED event judging a food offering from each vendor that day. We did not stick around to see who won, but what a great way to earn money for an important charity.
And the finale... the Goodwich from The Good Batch. The salty combined with sweet creamy ice cream and the chocolate in the cookie, it is just the perfect combination making it a completely fulfilling dessert. Go there early before they run out of a flavor you may want. There is always a line, but it seems to move quickly because they are pre-made. We unfortunately were only able to try this particular "wich" because one of us has a nut allergy and the other two choices contained almonds and pecans, but it was not disappointing in any way!
We did not take that many pictures this day, we're sorry, the heat had us out of our groove. We do suggest trying the drinks that each booth offers, all were refreshing and tasty. Because of the layout, we would recommend this location over Williamsburg.

Garden State Grubber Does Smorgasburg...Williamsburg Edition

Smorgasburg: Williamsburg Edition

East River State Park (90 Kent Ave at N. 7 St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Saturdays 11am - 6pm

*This post is particularly about the Williamsburg event.*

We know this is a New Jersey blog, but with New York being a hop, skip, and a bus, train, or ferry ride away, we had to check out Smorgasburg. We heard so much about it, and honestly, is there anything better on a beautiful weekend during the summer than a fair that includes delicious food vendors? To us, there is not. Besides the vast array of food options, the best thing about Smorgasburg is that because it is there every weekend it does not have the extreme crowd and novelty effect that festivals that occur only once have. Do not get us wrong, it does get crowded, but never to the point where you are overwhelmed or have to wait on hour long lines. Our recommendation is go early, enjoy the food and the view of Manhattan, and then, by the time it starts to get crowded, you'll be stuffed and ready to leave anyway. 

We began with Dan and John's buffalo wings. Deep-fried and sauced right in front of you. You have the choice of different sauces, from mild to BBQ to extreme heat levels. Buffalo wings have to follow three rules to be a success, NO jumbo wings, NO breading, and a sauce that blends heat and flavor together. These wings delivered on all three levels. We would like to have these wings on a Sunday, watching an NFL game with beer to give them a fair judgement, but in the Brooklyn heat on a Saturday afternoon, they passed the test. 
One of us, is usually not a huge fan of sausages, but when we read the options that TXORIZERIA had to offer, the one convinced the other and we headed to the booth. The  buns were homemade, they were extremely flavorful, and the casing was not tough. The bread was perfect, not too soft or too dense. The sausage was full of flavor and of course it had the perfect snap to it. The chimichurri sauce was a great artisan touch that elevated the sausage immensely. 
We love a good scallion pancake, but wrap it around well-seasoned meat and crispy vegetables, and we love it even more. There was a bit of a wait for the beef roll from Outer Borough. They told us to come back in 15-20 minutes, but to us this was not a big deal. The pancakes were freshly made right there, and the toppings added immediately after. Fresh, delicious, flavorful, and easy to eat while walking around. Perfection!
The Cemita Mexican Sandwiches & Taco stand was probably the worst stand we visited all day at either of the two Smorgasburg events we attended. We do not even know where to start. We saw someone walking around with one and fell for the novelty of the item. Sometimes you can have too much stuff and completely ruin a good thing, this is the story here. The dry meat, wilted lettuce, and flavorless cheese united to make this monstrosity of an offering. It is this simple, when you are one of a handful of specialty booths that are out to make the best of one particular item, make it the best!
Remember when we said you could ruin a good thing with too much, apparently there was no good thing to begin with. The taco from the Cemita both sounded simple enough in the description, it was not. Too much cheese, too much sauce, too much lettuce, and way too much meat. Tacos should be simple and you should be able to fold them without falling apart. The meat was under seasoned and left the taco without a good base.Taco's are about two things, a quality corn tortilla and flavorful meat, those two things should not be disguised with nonsense. 
And the finale, last but most certainly not the least, the lemon poppy seed doughnut from Dough. One of us was skeptical, a doughnut on a hot summer day? That can't be a good choice. This one of us was wrong. The doughnut was extremely light and doughy on the inside, while being perfectly fried and dense. The lemon glaze was heavenly. If we did not have an hour commute back to New Jersey on subways and buses, we would have bought a box of doughnuts and ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until we were able to go back to Brooklyn and get more. Did we make our point about these doughnuts? A-maz-ing! Once in a while you take a bite of something and it just makes you stop and realize how amazing life is, how great the day is, and how truly important food is to all of us, this was one of those bites. 
We know Brooklyn is not the easiest place to get to from New Jersey, but it is worth the trek. Try something new or an old favorite, but you will not be disappointed! Try as many things as possible.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

From Food Truck to Creperie, Kraverie Satiates All Kravings


24 Mercer Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

We are big fans of Korean BBQ and have tried the new fusion idea of Korean BBQ and Mexican food at a NYC food truck. It is fantastic! Although we have never tried the Krave food trucks in NJ, we read about the Kraverie and knew it was worth a trip to Jersey City. We ordered a lot of food to share and asked our waiter for it to all come as it was ready.
 The Korean Tacos are served with a kimchi puree, onion-cilantro relish, and sour cream sauce. They come in orders of three so we picked one Galbi Short Rib, one Spicy Pork, and one Bulgogi Ribeye. The toppings were extremely fresh and tasty, but did not overpower the meat. All of the meats were tender and seasoned perfectly. We could have made a meal of just these tacos and left extremely happy. 
The Burrito is filled with choice of meat, we got spicy pork, sticky rice, shredded romaine, monterrey jack cheese, caramelized kimchi, and sour cream sauce. It also comes with a house salad on the side. The caramelized kimchi and sticky rice made the burrito, it added a flavor profile to the burrito that was superb. Although the burrito was exceptional, the tacos were probably a better option for someone who wanted to taste all of the meat options that Kraverie offers. 
Bibimbap is a Korean rice bowl served with sauteed vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots, bean sprouts, spinach, shredded romaine, covered in a Korean sweet chili sauce, and a fried egg. We added sesame chicken because it was the one meat we hadn't tried. We have had hot stone bibimbap many times at different restaurants, and this was not exactly what we were expecting. The hot stone allows the egg to cook and the rice to get crispy. This was a very fresh twist on that. The sesame chicken was our least favorite of the meats, but if you won't eat pork or beef it is still good.
Last, but most certainly not least, the Korean Wings coated in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce. The hot pepper glaze was absolutely mouth-wateringly good. The fried chicken wing is cooked to perfection. The meat is juicy, the skin extra crispy, and the sauce the perfect consistency and amount not to overwhelm the wing. We will be dreaming about these wings for all the days to come.
Our bill was very reasonable in our opinion, especially considering how much food we ordered, and the fact that we had leftovers for later (which were not as good as first served, but still delicious none the less). Try this place and be adventurous! Everything we tried was great and we are sure anything you order here will not disappoint.

Crowded Local Italian Joint: Great Pizza, Lackluster Entrees

Trattoria La Sorrentina

7831 Bergenline Avenue
North Bergen, NJ 07047

If you have ever driven down Bergenline Avenue in North Bergen on a Friday or Saturday night, you will see people waiting outside of Trattoria La Sorrentina. We had ordered pizza as take out from here before and it was very good! Thin crust and great toppings. Seeing the line outside, how could we resist?

We gave our names and were told about a 20 minute wait. We noticed returning customers seemed to get special treatment, which we think is a very nice way to treat returning customers, however we could see other patrons becoming irritated. When we were eventually seated we were quickly given menus, bread, and water. A waiter soon came over to ask what we would like to drink.

To start, we ordered the La Caprese salad, which consisted of homemade mozzarella with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and a little basil. The mozzarella was extremely creamy. The tomatoes and basil were fresh and sweet. Simple and divine.
For another appetizer we ordered Agiolata E Gamberi, a white bean salad with grilled shrimp and olive oil. This appetizer was very oily, but the flavor in the shrimp was good and together the white bean and shrimp were a great pairing. 
For our main courses we ordered Penne Belvedere, penne with proscuitto and onion in a vodka sauce. The pasta was cooked well, but the sauce was a bit too much on the tomato side and not enough creamy vodka goodness. 
For our other main course we ordered Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina, a homemade gnocchi with fresh tomato and mozzarella. The gnocchi were big and fluffy and the sauce was well seasoned, but there was a little too much of it.The gnocchi was much better then the sauce that came with it. 
We will definitely order pizza from here again, however we will not wait for a table again here. The appetizers and entree's were not on the same level as the pizza and there are simply too many other extraordinary Italian restaurants in northern New Jersey to revisit here again. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

I do so like them, Sam-A.M.

Sam A.M.
112 Morris Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

We had originally planned on going to Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory in Jersey City. Driving up to the diner, we noticed the large line and decided it would probably be worth it. We parked and gave them our name for a wait that the hostess said would be about 30-40 minutes. We stood around staring at each other, hunger growing by the minute, and finally said what we had both been thinking; we've been in this position before and it was all too familiar. Standing at the Country Pancake House in Ridgewood, NJ, we waited and waited and when we were finally served our food, to our surprise, it was mediocre, simply huge portions. (Go there if you want over sized pancakes and omelets that fall off of your plate, but may we recommend Raymond's or Daily Treat as better options). Learning from past experience we decided to leave. We headed to our second choice, Sam A.M. As soon as we walked up, we were elated with our decision!

Sam A.M. is a small cafe style restaurant in a really quaint area of Jersey City. You can walk up and order coffee to go, fresh baked donuts and pastries, or sit down and enjoy some delicious farm-to-table style options from their menu. The menu is small, but from what we saw, everything was executed perfectly. They definitely have the right idea! We started with two cappuccinos. They had Stumptown coffee bags for sale, so we assumed they use this brand. They have great coffee and espresso! We also ordered an orange juice and a grapefruit juice. They were fresh squeezed right behind the bar, absolutely delicious!
For our meals we ordered the Omelet du Jour, which that day was cream of spinach, and the Veggie Scramble. They were both accompanied by toast and the omelet came with home fries as well. Both dishes were fantastic! Extremely flavorful and the perfect sized portions. The vegetables were fresh and the eggs cooked to perfection. The toast was thin and crispy, just how we like it! 
We originally ordered a biscuit, but they unfortunately ran out of them because this day they were serving biscuits and gravy. Instead we asked for a donut to share, they had mascarpone and dulce de leche that day, we asked for mascarpone. Unfortunately for us, they also ran out of those, but our waiter gave us the last dulce de leche donut on the house. This was very generous, and the donut was exceptional. 
If you are interested in great food made by people who appreciate the ingredients for what they are, we recommend you try Sam A.M. They take the time to create a menu that lets the ingredients speak for themselves. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Italian Gem Becomes Part of the Family

Tutto A Modo Mio
482 Bergen Boulevard
Ridgefield, NJ 07657

Everyone in New Jersey has an Italian gem that is their favorite place to go when they are craving this comforting, family-like meal. For the most part, people go to the same restaurant, know the owner and waiters/waitresses, know the other patrons, bring the same bottle of wine, even may have a specific table they sit at. We are not any different. So we know suggesting that you venture outside of your box to try a place that we recently found and like a lot is a little crazy, but we can't help it.

As appetizers, we ordered two of our favorites; a stuffed artichoke and eggplant rollatini. The artichoke is steamed and stuffed with herbs, bread crumbs, and cheese. It is perfectly tender, the stuffing and brother is extremely flavorful. It is not necessarily a "first date" dish, it's a little messy, but definitely worth it. The eggplant is sliced thin and rolled with a task mixture of cheese and herbs. The marinara sauce is tangy yet sweet, a great sauce (or gravy as some say)! 
For our main courses we ordered two of the specials of the evening: fettucini with shrimp, langoustines, and lobster in a pink sauce; and pappardella with braised short ribs. The short rib meat was extremely tender, the sauce was seasoned perfectly, and the homemade pasta was cooked flawlessly. A comforting dish that makes you feel warm on the inside. The homemade fettucini was al dente and the pink sauce complimented the seafood perfectly. Although they may not have these dishes when you try this place out, we are positive anything you order you will not be disappointed. 
For dessert, we ordered a cannoli and limoncello cake. Cannoli's are never the same wherever you order them. The shell and cream are always different and sometimes not in a good way. Tutto A Modo Mio makes a great cannoli! The shell is crispy and not bland. The filling is creamy and sweet. The limoncello cake is a great option for patrons looking for the nontraditional dessert, and who crave more tang than sweet. The cake was light and the lemon flavor was robust throughout. Both desserts were perfect endings to a superb meal. 
If you do not already have your own neighborhood Italian restaurant, are looking for a new one, or want to venture out and try a different one, we highly recommend Tutto A Modo Mio. We have eaten here a few times now, tried different dishes each time, and have never been disappointed. The staff is amazing and they make you feel as though you are a part of their family. Pick up your favorite bottle of wine and drive over to Ridgefield. We do recommend that you make a reservation, as there has been a wait almost every time we have gone. There are a few spots in the lot, otherwise park on the street. Buon appetite!