Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hidden Cuban Gem on River Road

Rebecca's

http://rebeccascubanrestaurant.com
236 Old River Rd
Edgewater, NJ 07020

River Road passes through many small cities along the Hudson River and contains a lot of great restaurants. When in the area, it can be difficult to pick one. We love Cuban food and had heard from a few people to check out Rebecca's. Having driven in the area quite a few times, it did not ring a bell. Nonetheless, when we hear from more than one person that we need to eat at a restaurant, we usually make a point to go. When we made our reservation, the woman reminded us that they are BYO, which was nice because there is no liquor store walking distance of the restaurant if you forget. It is a bit difficult to find parking on Old River Road, but if you are patient, leave enough time, and are capable of parallel parking, it is a nonissue. 

When we arrived we were promptly welcomed, asked our names, and seated. The dining area is quant, while being very chic as well. The lighting is dim and romantic, making it a very date appropriate restaurant. We were pleasantly surprised by the ambience. Soon after being seated, our waiter greeted us, opened our wine, and brought us waters and bread. As we perused the menu, we found ourselves having a difficult time choosing. We tried to remember the recommendations on those who suggested the restaurant, and pictures we had seen online. 

We decided to start with one of our favorite staple items, guacamole with crispy plantains. There is nothing better than a good guacamole, and plantain chips are a delicious vehicle for enjoying it. The guacamole was cool and immensely flavorful,  while the chips were a sweet and salty addition. We also ordered Jamaican jerk chicken skewers. They were tender, a bit spicy, and accompanied by a creamy sauce to dip. 
The first entree that caught our eye was the ropa vieja, shredded flank steak, peppers, and onions in a red wine sauce. The sauce was immensely flavorful; tangy, perfectly seasoned, and the peppers and onions made it a bit sweet. The shredded steak was succulent and melted in our mouths. We have absolutely no complaints about this dish and highly recommend ordering it. 
If you are scrolling through the pictures on Yelp, the grilled double cut pork chop with roasted corn salsa is probably going to come up a lot, and for good reason. It seems to be a staple on the menu, and we would be lying if our mind was not already set on ordering it prior to even stepping foot in Rebecca's. The Flintstone-sized pork chop was seasoned masterfully, and, for the size of the chop, it was moist and perfectly cooked throughout. The corn salsa provided the necessary sweet and spicy elements to cut of pork, and the fried plantains were a delicious garnish to the dish. 
The warm bread pudding with bourbon sauce jumped of the page to both of us, and we quickly placed our order with our waiter. We unfortunately consumed the entire dessert before remembering to grab a photo of it, always a sign that we enjoyed something. It was moist, flavorful, and the bourbon sauce did not overpower the dish. It was one of, if not the best, bread pudding we have had. 

Rebecca's is a quaint restaurant hiding among the river front town of Edgewater. Once you step inside, it makes you feel comfortable and ready for a great meal. We enjoyed the food, service, and atmosphere. We both agree that we will back to further explore the menu and we want to urge everyone to take the time to enjoy everything Rebecca's has to offer. We will be heading back soon, especially to check out the terrace in the back that looked lovely. Buen apetito!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mekong Grill is Pho-Tastic!

Mekong Grill

http://www.mekonggrillrestaurant.com
24 Chestnut Street
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Friday evening, after a long week at work, like most people, the last thing we want to do is cook dinner. On our way home, our job is too decide what kind of food we want, how far we want to drive, and if we want to try something new or stick to somewhere we know is great. On a good day, we will both be thinking the same thing and it will take seconds to decide; but on a bad day, this process could take upwards of an hour. Recently it has been easy because we both have wanted the same thing; Mekong Grill in Ridgewood, NJ. When this spot first opened, we walked in unsure of what to expect, and since then it has been our favorite place to satisfy our Asian food cravings.

We have three appetizers that we like a lot; one being the Lemon Grass Beef Roll, another the Beef Satay, and of course the Chicken Vegetable Dumplings.  Dumplings are a life source in our relationship, we crave them, judge them harshly, and utterly enjoy them when they are as perfect as they are at Mekong. The sauce is light, but bold and layered with multiple flavors that go beyond the traditional dumpling sauce. The dumpling dough is almost see through, and steamed to perfection. They are filled to capacity with the fresh vegetable and chicken mixture. These are, in a word, heavenly, and we urge you all to go and indulge in these delicious dumplings. 
Pho was something that we both had not tried until last year. The pho at Mekong is a staple of the menu that delivers in flavor and is a dish that simply makes you feel good after eating it. The pho pictured below is a Hue Style Pho with spicy lemongrass beef broth. It is filled with huge portions of eye round beef, beef flank, Vietnamese pork roll, and shrimp dumplings. It may sound like an over cluttered dish in need of some refinement, but every flavor comes together and enhances the next. The accouterments of been sprout add texture, while the mint and lime add an overall freshness to the dish. If your a pho-newbie or a pho-niciado, you will love this dish!
We love Asian style noodle dishes and never shy away from trying a new one especially from a new style of cuisine. We tend to order the stir fried vegetarian thick rice noodles with tofu and mixed vegetables. This dish is delicious. The noodles were thick, so they pick up the sauce well. Also, there a lot of vegetables and they all keep their texture to give the dish depth. The tofu is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, while it takes on the delicate flavor of the sauce. We are not vegetarians, but do like tofu on occasion when its cooked well. But for those of you who do not, there is a non-vegetarian stir fried noodle dish as well, which is just as fantastic. 
For dessert we ordered banana crepes. The crepes are filled with banana, apple, and fried to a perfect crispiness. It is accompanied by vanilla ice ream. It is not too overpoweringly sweet for a dessert, it is perfect. We were told by the waiter if we are adventurous next time we should try the mochi. Since he was so helpful throughout the all of our visits, we will be taking his advice and trying it next time. 
Ridgewood has an array of restaurants to choose from, some good and some not-so-good, but Mekong Grill happens to be a great one. The food and service are both fabulous, plus the price is great. If you want to try a Vietnamese drink, there are quite a few options on the menu. If you want an alcoholic beverage with your meal, it is BYOB, but there is a liquor store conveniently right next door. We highly recommend checking out Mekong Grill. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fantastisch Deutsch Bäckerei

Heidi's Finest

http://www.heidisfinestbakery.com
47 E Ridgewood Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Ridgewood is a quaint town, both unassuming and welcoming. It has an all-American, small-town feel to it, and makes all of its visitors feel at home. One thing Ridgewood continues to deliver on is its culinary offerings. We have eaten a multiple spots in the past, and we are constantly looking for more to try in the town. The last few time’s while driving through we had noticed a small German Bakery called Heidi’s Finest. We decided last Sunday after a late breakfast to stop in a see what this small food gem had to offer.

Initially walking into Heidi’s Finest you are visually pleased by how all of the effort that was put into it. The tables are modern, while the stonewalls are a perfect contrast to the changing lights above. We decided that since we had just had breakfast that we would get some dessert to go. The server behind the bakery counter was very knowledgeable about each pastry, and told us that every item was made with the finest imported ingredients. He explained that their desserts were light and made with significantly less sugar and preservatives than other bakeries. We opted to choose a Cherry Cheesecake Bar, Apple Cheesecake Bar, Chocolate Pistachio Tart, and a slice of Marble Cheesecake. He packed them nicely for us and even gave us a 10% discount for no reason whatsoever. We felt that everything was priced well, but it was very nice of him to give us a discount, especially after we asked questions about everything. The most difficult part would be waiting until after dinner to try these tantalizing treats.

What seemed like days later, post dinner, we started out with the Cherry Cheesecake Bar; the cherries were tart and worked well with the light, airy cheesecake. The bottom layer of crust held up well, and we were both overly excited about our choice. It was light and did not leave us feeling full, which was good because we still had three more to try.

The Apple Cheesecake Bar was one of our favorites. It was an apple pie like topping that tasted homemade and delicious. It contrasted perfectly with the cheesecake bottom, just as the cherry one did. It was a gracious union between two of our favorite desserts.
The Marble Cheesecake was our least favorite. Not that it was bad by any means, but it was not rich like most cheesecakes. We both understood that he had told us that these
desserts were light and not made with an abundance of sugar, so maybe were both
just too stubborn in our ways when it comes to classic cheesecake. 

The Chocolate Pistachio Tart was a crowd favorite, and when we tried it we both had an understanding of the difference between Heidi’s Finest and other bakeries. The chocolate layers were light and airy, and never overbearing, while the pistachio layer on the top was an amazing compliment to the already complex dessert. Also, it was not overly sweet or rich, as some chocolate mousse desserts are. 
We will most definitely be returning to Heidi’s Finest in the near future. They also have soups, waffles, breads, pretzels, coffee, and more. Next time you feel the need to get out and do some work at your local Starbucks, maybe you should opt to make your way to Heidi’s Finest for a delectable treat and cup of coffee.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Colicchio Delivers at NYC Hotspot

CraftBar

900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

In preparation of our day of fun-filled craft beer festivities, we decided to have brunch at CraftBar in NYC. We often wait with baited breathe for our culinary guilty pleasure; Top Chef. The most recognizable person and mainstay on the show is Tom Colicchio. Tom always seems extremely well balanced and insightful when judging the contestants, and we have both always wanted to try one of his restaurants. We made a reservation and were seated right away. After ordering drinks, we began to browse the menu. There a lot of great options to choose from, but we eventually made our decisions. 

We decided to begin with the Charcuterie assortment to share. The assortment came with Mortadella, Speck Biellese, Chicken Liver Pate, Smoked Pig Head Terrine, and Pastrami Wagyu Beef Tongue. The standout of the sampler was the Pastrami Wagyu Beef Tongue, it was lean and delicious. The Mortadella and Speck Biellese were also very enticing, especially when paired with the olive tapenade and house made sweet pickles. The Pate was buttery and luscious, and was balanced well with the mustard seeds on top. Even non-adventurous foodies should try it!. The only one we did not particularly care for was the Smoked Pigs Head Terrine, it was gelatinous and the flavor was not enough to get past the texture. Overall, we recommend trying this!

After reading multiple reviews on different food websites, we knew we wanted to order the Rissotto Balls. The Pecorino risotto was creamy and the perfect consistency. The flavors were strong, and definitely had an extra layer of depth that most rice balls don't have. The tomato sauce had an inherent spiciness to it, that was not overpowering, but rather a perfect compliment to the risotto balls. It was immediately clear why people raved about these.
The pictures of swine that take up most of the back wall enticed us to order a side of Bacon. Not much to over analyze about this side dish. It was smoked, thick, delicious, and we all had no complaints.

One of us ordered the Craftbar “Double Stack” Burger with pawlet, bacon jam, pickled onions, oven roasted tomato, and bibb lettuce. This was honestly the best burger we've ever had. Juicy and cooked perfectly. The bacon jam was an ingenious addition. We added a piece of our side of bacon to the burger, not because it wasn't already amazing, but because this made it even more amazing. Highly recommend ordering it. 
The Veal Ricotta Meatball Hero was served with both provolone and parmigiana. The meatballs were moist and flavorful. The marinara sauce again had a hint of spiciness, but complimented the sweet element of the Ricotta. The only negative was the Hero bread itself. The bread was slightly soft and did not really support the bold flavors of the meatball and sauce. 
The Eggplant & Goat Cheese Panino contained marinated eggplant, eggplant chutney, goat cheese, and mixed greens. It was a good panini, but nothing special. The salty goat cheese was well-balanced with the sweet eggplant. It was a tasty sandwich that we would be unable to make on our own, but nothing special. We would try something knew over this next time.
One of us decided to be different and order breakfast, and we're glad they did! The Eggs Benedict was made with the normal poached egg, English muffin, and hollandaise, but also smoked salmon, a side of potatoes, and mixed greens. The eggs were cooked flawlessly, the hollandaise perfectly seasoned, and the salmon was a smokey and savory addition. Overall one of the best Eggs Benedict we've ever had. 
Overall we're really glad we chose to eat brunch at CraftBar. The restaurant itself was cool and resembled an industrial farmhouse. This chic hotspot of Tom Colicchio did not disappoint us and cemented, in our minds, his role as seasoned chef and head judge on Top Chef. We hope to try some of his other restaurants in the future. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Delicious Farm to Table Food for a Great Price

The Market at RoCCA

203 Rock Road
Glen Rock, NJ 07452

In the small town of Glen Rock, NJ, there lies a main street full of food gems, and a few not-so food gems, but we digress. RoCCA has two storefront locations on Rock Road; the market and the main restaurant. We had honestly not heard much about either, but decided to stop into the market on one Sunday morning. It was exactly what we were looking for that morning. We did not want to sit down at a restaurant and be waited on, but we wanted a fresh, delicious meal, and we didn't want to make it ourselves. 

As you walk up to the counter, there are large menus on the back wall that include everything from omelets, to pancakes, to breakfast sandwiches. We stood thinking for a moment, and then we ordered: one breakfast burrito; one taylor ham, egg, and cheese on focaccia; and one side of hash browns. We also each got a large coffee and a bottle of water. The sixteen dollar price tag that accompanied the meal made it an even more joyful experience. Feeling like we got a great deal and famished, we sat down and waited for our name to be called. The food is freshly prepared, so there was a little bit of a wait, but not much longer than you would wait at a local bagel store, and not nearly as long as if you sat at a diner.

The breakfast burrito contained scrambled eggs, Italian sausage, fontina, and roasted peppers. The thing that defined this wrap was the Italian sausage, it has us salivating just from typing this, simply from the memory of its powerful flavor. It is was slightly greasy, but most people who crave sausage don't mind a touch of grease. All in all it was a delicious blend of Italian ingredients, that combined together to make the perfect breakfast wrap.
The breakfast sandwich was composed of scrambled eggs, taylor ham, and cheese, placed in between focaccia. The eggs were fluffy and perfect, the taylor ham added saltiness, and the cheese was creamy. We have never had a breakfast sandwich on focaccia, and now we never want them any other way. It was crispy, buttery, and had a hint of rosemary. Overall, a well-rounded and scrumptious breakfast sandwich.
The breakfast potatoes were seasoned well and contained basil, which added a nice italian flare, and onions that added sweetness. They were also cooked perfectly, crispy and tender.
Having loved breakfast and enticed by the lunch menu, we decided to go back another day to try some lunch. Admittedly, we accidentally ordered the same sandwich. A grilled chicken sandwich with roasted peppers, house-made mozzarella, mixed greens, and balsamic; one on italian bread and one on focaccia. One of us substituted the balsamic for pesto sauce. Just as with breakfast, the sandwiches were made fresh so we waited a few minutes. When we began eating, it was, as with breakfast, well worth the wait. The mozzarella was thick-cut and the chicken juicy. The pesto was a great addition, it was clearly homemade and we want their recipe (email: gardenstategrubber@gmail.com). The menu had a multitude of creative sandwiches and lunch side options, and we will absolutely be going back to try more in the future. 






















The Market at RoCCA is our new go-to breakfast and lunch spot when in the area. You absolutely cannot beat the price or the delicious fresh food. They also cater! We saw a few of the platters being picked up, and they looked great! Although we cannot speak for the main restaurant a few doors down, if the market is any indication, we expect it to be fantastic and are looking forward to trying it as well.

NYC Craft Beer Festival - Spring Seasonals

New York City Craft Beer Festival - Spring Seasonals

http://nyccraftbeerfest.com

Although we would not call ourselves craft beer connoisseurs, we have been known to enjoy a great tasting beer, and when we heard about the New York City festival, we could not pass it up. It was a gorgeous day to indulge in the long standing tradition of day drinking, after some breakfast, we grabbed some fellow beer lovers, and got on the first train to NY Penn Station. We arrived at the Lexington Armory about 30 minutes early, and there was already a line forming. 

When they began letting people in, they checked our ID's and we were handed a 2 oz glass for tasting. Upon arriving you noticed the size of the room, and that the long line that had formed outside, was not crowded inside space. The festival was spread out in a way that made for short waiting times in between beers, and for a good flow trough out the day. The venders were all set up at tables with signs that said the name and the types of beer they were offering. 

Our first critique was that we wish they had listed the city and/or state that the beer is from. We began our walk through the crowds and through the venders, tasting beers that we were curious about, styles we liked, and logos/names we found intriguing. 
Walking up to the venders and asking for samples we discovered our next, and more important, criticism. We like to ask questions about the beer and the brewery, but about 90% of the time, the person dispensing samples of beer was a volunteer who had no affiliation with the brewery, was not knowledgable, and left us with many unanswered questions. We felt having a sales or marketing representative from each brewery, or even an intern at that, would help provide us with a little more knowledge and information about each brewery. The one brewery we remember, whether it be because the beer was great or because there was a member present to tell us about it, was Empire. We fully understand that this is not the fault of the festival itself, but rather the breweries involved. 

Overall, the festival was a lot of fun! Even though it was clearly very busy, we never felt claustrophobic or as though it was super crowded. We did not try the food, but there seemed to be a relatively large selection of food to accompany your beer if you so pleased. We will keep our eyes open for the next local craft beer festival, and if you like beer, we encourage you to do so as well!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

New York Style Cafe in Hoboken

Elysian Cafe

http://elysiancafe.com
1001 Washington St. (10th St.)
Hoboken, NJ 07030

We have been told multiple times that we absolutely have to check out Amanda's in Hoboken, NJ. Although we have yet to find an excuse to check it out, last Sunday morning we were craving brunch. It was too late to make a reservation at Amanda's, so we decided to walk down the street to it's sister restaurant, Elysian Cafe. We were able to walk in and wait less than 10 minutes for a table. It is reminiscent of a trendy NYC cafe, the ceilings were beautiful, and the whole ambience was very welcoming and upscale.

One of us ordered the salmon eggs benedict, while the other ordered the croque madame, both with an order of pomme frites. We also ordered some afternoon cocktails to get into the full brunch mode; a mimosa and a Bloody Mary. When our entrees arrived the initial reaction were that they were extremely small; usually with breakfast/brunch you are given a reasonably sized portion. However, after tasting them, the problem was no longer that they were too small. 

The Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon was underwhelming. The english muffin tasted store bought, and was not thick enough to hold up to the flavors it was supporting. The smoked salmon was fine, and the egg was cooked perfectly, but the hollandaise sauce lacked seasoning and didn't harmoniously bond the dish together like most others. The pommes frites were the star of the dish, perfectly fried and seasoned well, but when the side is the star, the dish usually falls flat. 
The Croque Madame came out and looked pretty charred. Between the two pieces of bread were ham, gruyere, and a fried egg. We were excited for this upscale version of a ham, egg, and cheese, but this dish fell flat. The ham was sparse and the cheese, although delicious, was barely melted, which was surprising considering the bread was burnt. The flavor was, again, underwhelming. In the end with both dishes, our tastebuds were screaming for some seasoning, so we grabbed some pommes frites.
We had decided on Elysian Cafe through word of mouth and the fact that it's parent restaurant is Amanda's. Unfortunately, the food did not match the exquisite ambiance of this Hoboken brunch spot. We tend to judge breakfast and brunch a little harsher because there are truly so many great spots within a 15 mile radius to get both. In an ultra competitive area, where option are the least of your problems and you can throw a stone and hit a good restaurant, we simply cannot support Elysian Cafe being your first choice. 

Mexican Gem Hidden in Bogota

Riviera Maya

252 East Fort Lee Road
Bogota, NJ 07603

Craving Mexican food and unable to go to our new favorite spot in Hoboken, we searched desperately for another authentic Mexican food gem that's a bit more local for us. Riviera Maya is a quaint restaurant on a side street in Bogota. Their website describes take-out and delivery, so we were a little worried, but you don't find food gems by running scared!

We walked in and were seated right away. There's seating on one side of the restaurant and a chef in an open style kitchen on the other, so the space was filled with an aroma that makes your mouth water. We were immediately given chips and salsa, glasses of water, and offered table-side guacamole; we are not ones to say no to that! A few moments later, the waiter came over with a cart full of fresh ingredients and asked how spicy we wanted our guacamole. The chips, salsa, and guacamole were all delicious! There is a big difference when these simple items are made fresh, compared to when they come from a bag or a jar.
We started with two orders of tacos. Each order comes with three tacos; we picked one chicken, two barbacoa, and three of the special tacos that night, which were red snapper. Each order came with green sauce, lime, radishes, and grilled green onions. They were made with traditional corn tortillas and garnished with cilantro, onions, salsa. Simple, flavorful, and perfect. 

For our first main course we ordered chicken enchiladas. The two corn tortillas were filled with cheese, chicken, peppers, and onions and topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, and sour cream. The dish was served with rice, black beans, lettuce, and guacamole. The enchiladas were not mushy and soaked in sauce and cheese as they sometimes are; the corn tortilla retained its texture and all of the components added to the overall flavor of the dish. Even the rice and beans were perfectly seasoned.
For our second main course we ordered chicken chimichangas. We don't usually order these because at most Mexican restaurant's they are extremely large, almost food challenge worthy dishes, with no flavor or substance. These two flour tortillas were filled with chicken, peppers and onions, and served with rice, and served with pinto beans, guacamole, and sour cream. The size of them were perfect and reminiscent of Chimichangas you would receive if ordering in Mexico. They were light and crispy on the outside, while the chicken was moist inside. 
Overall this place is the definition of a food gem. They serve authentic Mexican cuisine, the portions are perfectly sized, it is not overpriced, and it is not crowded with trendy people who are looking for mediocre Tex-Mex. The waiters are extremely attentive and knowledgable about the food. The restaurant is colorful, clean, and welcoming. We highly recommend taking a trip to Bogota to try this restaurant. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Persian Twists

Marjan Persian Grill

84 Speedwell Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960

After some necessary retail therapy at the Short Hills Mall, we headed to Marjan Persian Grill for a late lunch. The restaurant was about fifteen minutes away from the popular shopping mall. As a couple, we have developed a love and desire for Mediterranean food that fuels many of our foodie adventures. One of us may yearn for Thai, while the other of us is begging for Mexican, but we can always find common ground on one particular cuisine: Mediterranean. Whether you prefer a Greek restaurant or your favorite Turkish spot, one can always relish in the staples of Mediterranean cuisine, while respecting the subtle changes in each particular style. 


We started our lunch in typical fashion for us; a Shirazi salad and an order of Hummus. The salad was the usual chopped variety containing tomato, cucumber, and red onion. The feta cheese was creamy, and the acidity from the lemon in the dressing gave the salad the necessary tang to marry all of the ingredients. They were slightly heavy handed with the Sumac, if we were to have a critique that would probably be the only one, but we do understand that many people like that strong flavor. 




















The hummus had a great nutty flavor, and the consistency was smooth and creamy throughout. We love turkish bread and hummus, but the Naan bread that accompanied the hummus was light, airy and a great companion. 
Since it was lunch, we decided to share an entree. We decided on the combination kebob platter, which included a Chicken Kebob, Kebob-e-Barg (Filet Mignon), Kabob-e-Kubideh (ground sirloin mixed beef and lamb). The Chicken Kebob was our favorite, it was tender and juicy, while the special seasoning had penetrated all the way through so the flavor was present throughout. The Kebob-e-Barg was extremely thin, it was slightly tough, but the taste of the marinade made up for it. The Kabob-e-Kubideh was moist, which is sometimes not the case with many ground kebobs. The ground lamb and sirloin had the perfect amount of fattiness to leave the meat succulent. We both got separate plates of basmati rice, which is always the perfect starchy element to tie together all the elements. 

Marjan was a perfect end to a relaxing sunday afternoon. We don't usually find ourselves in the area and are always excited to find food gems that are not directly in our backyard. Our waitress was attentive, and the restaurant was clean and very intimate. We can't wait to return and try more of what Marjan has to offer. It was an extremely satisfying culinary adventure to satisfy one of our most favorite and frequent food urges. 

Great Pizza, Just Across the Border

Mountain House

333 Rt 340
Sparkill, NY 10976

Although we are mainly a New Jersey food blogging couple, we sometimes like to venture across the border into our neighboring states to check out what they have to offer. Sparkill, New York is just 5 minutes out of Bergen County. We had heard from friends that if we like thin crust pizza, we absolutely had to check out Mountain House. They actually used to have a second location in Westwood, NJ, so we do not consider this straying too far from our home state. Driving up, the Mountain House is just that, a large, white house with an entrance from the parking lot into the dining room, and a front street entrance into the bar. We went on a weeknight so it was not too crowded and we were seated in a booth right away. The decor is very family friendly, and along with the amicable wait staff, made us feel very welcome.

The front of the menu is just pizza; from plain cheese to a garbage pie and everything in between, the options for pizza toppings are endless. Being just the two of us, we felt like we should not be too gluttonous and picked two medium pies. The inside of the menu contains salads, appetizers, entrees, sandwiches, and more. We were told the fried ravioli were fantastic, but we came here for the pizza, so we decided not to fill up on too many appetizers. To start, we ordered a house salad with house vinaigrette to share. The salad had an abundance of ingredients including tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, croutons, olives, and cheese. It was fresh and the perfect start to our meal.

The crust on both of the pizzas we ordered were perfectly crisp, the sauce deliciously sweet, and just the right amount of cheese to compliment the entire thing. The first of the two pizzas we ordered is the fresh tomato, garlic, and basil pie. This pie was amazing; the simplicity of the ingredients were justified by how perfectly they all worked together. The second pizza was a chicken fajita pie, the chicken was very well seasoned and had a tantalizing zing at then end. 

This year we are trying to find the "Best Pizza in New Jersey" and although the Mountain house is definitely worth the trip across state lines, for logistical reasons we will have to keep it out of contention. Mountain House was a great pizza experience, and for any thin crust aficionados a must stop for premium bar pies. 

Hoboken Leprecon

The Taco Truck & McSwiggans Pub

http://www.thetacotruck.com
62 Newark Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

http://mcswigganshoboken.com
110 1st Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Even though Hoboken no longer holds an annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, the festivities of drunk twenty somethings bar hopping on a Saturday in early March have not been stifled. This year the event occurred on an especially nice day. It was a pleasant, sunny walk from the Hoboken train station to the first bar we could find with the shortest line at 11:00 AM. Our group of friends ended up picking a bar just off Washington Avenue called McSwiggans Pub. It was not too crowded, but it had enough people around to have a great time! The bartenders were attentive and the drink specials were good.
Deciding to change scenery a few hours later, we strayed from our group of friends for some nourishment that did not include green beer and smoking shots. We had passed The Taco Truck store front on our walk over, and our walk back we found the actual truck. We ordered two kinds of tacos, Barbacoa de Costilla and Pollo Asado, both with guacamole, which yes, we know is extra. We found a nice bench to start eating our tacos. They were double wrapped in corn tortillas, just as they should be, and the salsa and guacamole on both were fresh and delicious. The shredded  beef and chicken were well-seasoned, and the lime-pickled onions on the chicken taco were a nice tangy addition. The cheese was a bit too salty and not as creamy as the queso fresco that we are accustomed to on tacos, but they were delicious none-the-less, and were a perfect food compliment to the drunken entertainment that surrounded us. Definitely check them out!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Searching for New Jersey's Best Pizza: First Stop

Star Tavern

http://startavern.net
400 High Street
Orange, NJ 07050

"Best Pizza in New Jersey"...this claim is an extremely bold one that cannot be ignored. We live in New Jersey, we love pizza, and we know the difference between good pizza and bad pizza. Pizza is not the same when you leave the New Jersey/New York area, it just isn't. It is a difficult task to find the pizza joint in the area that does it best, but we are up for the challenge! We began our search in Orange, NJ at the Star Tavern. We had found them on Twitter and browsed their website. They had won numerous awards for their pizza, so naturally we could not resist.

Entering the restaurant, you walk into a large open room with booths lining two of the walls, a big bar, and a tables throughout the center. It is loud to the point that you know people are enjoying each other's company and the food, but not to the point of annoying. We didn't know where to go after we walked in, but a nice person who noticed we looked confused told us the line is at the back of the restaurant. We waited behind a couple of other groups and a waitress kept coming by to walk a new group to a table. Once seated, our waitress gave us menus and asked what we'd like to drink. Reading through reviews prior, we noticed people complaining about the beer selection. We will admit it isn't vast, but they had Sierra Nevada, which we love, so that was enough to satisfy us. 

We immediately ordered wings as an appetizer because we were starving. Also, we had seen them at another table and they looked amazing. To our immense pleasure, they were naked, but fried perfectly so that the skin was crispy. The sauce was clearly homemade, with the perfect amount of spice and flavor. If we had come to this restaurant simply for wings, we would have left satisfied right after our appetizer.
There was no way we could only order one pizza. We decided a good test would be the regular cheese pizza, extra crispy. The simple and perfect bar pie. The pie came out piping hot. We grabbed slices and dug in. The pizza was nicely charred on the bottom with sweet tomato sauce and creamy, melty cheese. It was a little greasier than we would have liked, but otherwise we happily devoured every bite.
Unable to agree on one topping for our second pie, we order half pepperoni and half meatball, also extra crispy (we like our thin crust pizza crispy). The pepperoni slices were thickly cut. The meatball was sliced so thin that it almost melted into the cheese on the pizza. We have absolutely no complaints about this pie. It also was a little greasy, but we figured that was to be expected with this one's toppings. 
Overall, being this early on in our foodie adventures and this being our first stop on the search for "New Jersey's Best Pizza", we're not sure we can give away the title yet. However, the wings are delicious, the pizza is great, and the atmosphere is welcoming. If you like thin crust and great topping options we suggest checking it out. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Grubber Spotlight #3

Grubber Spotlight #3:

Down to the Bone BBQ Sauce
http://down-to-the-bone.com/

We found ourselves meandering around Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, NJ, searching for dinner inspiration. Market Basket is a great place with freshly made prepared foods, as well as fresh produce, a delicious bakery, and much more. We wanted to find something local to either try or cook with so that we could write about it. It wasn't until we passed the check out lane and saw a bottle of Down to the Bone BBQ Sauce.There were two options in terms of flavor: Mild Madness and Sweet Heat. We settled on Sweet Heat and proceeded to check out and head home for dinner. 
We marinated chicken breast in the sauce for a couple of hours and simply grilled it after. Serving alongside the chicken we made potatoes au gratin and zucchini corn fritters. The sauce was initially sweet, but not overly, and the heat came gently towards the end. Dark molasses, brown sugar, and honey hit our palettes first, while the distinct heat at the end was from the chili powder. The consistency of the sauce was not overly thick like most store bought sauces. The sauce elevated the chicken and was a crowd pleaser. We will not only be purchasing Down to the Bone again, but will have to make time to go to their restaurant in Stanhope, NJ.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hipster Breakfast Spot

Red Eye Cafe

94 Walnut Street
Montclair NJ 07042

Entering the Red Eye Cafe one is greeted by a counter of baked goods and the noise of a cappuccino machine, but not hostess. Looking around for a minute at the coffee shop style counter, your eye eventually notices the cash register and four staff members standing on the other end. We walked over to see what the deal was, gave them our name, and walked back towards the door to wait. While waiting, at least handful of people walked in, stood for a few seconds, and then asked us if we knew where to put their name down to wait. I'm sure this system has worked for them, but there were a couple of people who walked in, saw people waiting, and walked back out. With other great breakfast restaurants in the area, this seems like an easy fix to make sure your customers feel welcomed the minute they walk in. 

We were seated about 15 minutes later. Our waiter left us with menus and waters. He promptly returned to ask what we would like to drink. We both ordered medium red eye coffees. Our freshly brewed coffee came back in large mugs, which was a nice homey touch. We are coffee lovers, but not latte enthusiasts, so we can only comment on the regular coffee, which tasted very good! 

Our waiter came back a little later to take our orders. Once again, we couldn't help ourselves, and had to order something sweet to share. We had read that the Buttermilk Pancakes were absolutely amazing, so we ordered them with Blueberries. They were perfectly cooked; fluffy on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside. To our pleasant surprise, they were completely filled with blueberries! The blueberries were the centerpiece of the pancakes, unlike many places that just add them sparingly. There is nothing negative to say about these pancakes. 
One of the two savory dishes we ordered was the Red Eye Hash. It comes with two fried eggs over parsnip, potato, roast beef hash with red eye gravy on top. The eggs were a little over done, but the red eye gravy was superb and worked well with the hearty elements of the dish. The parsnip was an unusual addition to a traditional hash that added a level of sweetness that was not overbearing.
Green Eggs & Ham? Yes please! Scrambled eggs with kale, shallots, gruyere and ham with multigrain toast and fruit salad. We were immediately drawn.The scrambled eggs were a little cold but otherwise delightful. The kale was cooked perfectly so that it still had a bite to it, the shallots were sliced thin, the ham was a nice contrast, and there was the right amount of salty gruyere.  The fruit was fresh and a nice side to the rich eggs. 
Overall the atmosphere is like a trendy NYC cafe. The chalkboard walls, subway tiles, and bookshelves make it cute and inviting. We do wish the staff had been more attentive and inviting, but this is more of a coffee shop style cafe than a restaurant, so if you go in with that mindset you won't be disappointed. We finished our brunch full and satisfied. We will not be returning for the service, but we may return for the food. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Grubber Spotlight #2

Grubber Spotlight #2:

Fatboy's Cookie Dough

When it comes to cookies, we are usually snobs.  We enjoy taking the time to bake our own, but like most people, we have also tried the name brand "break and bake" cookie dough. One of our loyal followers had caught our eye in the past with their product, Fatboy's Cookie Dough. Fatboy's Cookie Dough is an all natural, made in New Jersey, break and bake cookie dough. With football season in our rear view mirror, we finally had time to find and try this local product. We purchased the cookie dough at Whole Foods in Ridgewood. They were located conveniently in the frozen food aisle near the ice cream. They had a few flavor choices, but we settled on peanut butter chocolate chunk.
After dinner we anxiously began the baking and eventual eating process of Fatboy's Cookie Dough. We preheated the oven to 325° and opened the box. The sealed package contained thick cookie dough, unlike other break and bakes that are usually a very thin sheet, and were cut just enough to easily break apart. 

We spread them out on an ungreased cookie sheet and placed them in the oven. Since one of us couldn't wait and ate a square of raw cookie dough, we already knew we were in store for a delicious treat. We set the timer for 14 minutes, and waited...
We weren't sure they were done because a few of them retained the square shape, but upon removing them from the oven, we noticed the golden brown tinge that showed they were most definitely baked enough. We let them sit for 2 minutes, as the package said, and as soon as the timer went off we each grabbed one to try. They were warm and gooey in the center, the melted chocolate chunks added needed texture, and there was copious amount of crunchy peanut butter and peanut butter chips. 
These cookies were a revelation in a food product niche that many believe to only consist of one or two major brand names. Whenever we want something sweet, delicious, and easy to make, these will now be our new go to. We will be trying another flavor in the near future and highly recommend trying them if you too have a sweet tooth.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Great Mexican Food, Finally

Sabores

http://sabores-hoboken.com
518 Washington St
Hoboken, NJ 07030

One half of Garden State Grubber was born and raised in New Jersey and the other half bred in the Golden State of California. Last summer we took a trip to California and the latter half was able to illustrate the differences between east and west coast interpretations of Mexican cuisine. As most of you may know, Mexican food is to California what Italian food is to New Jersey and New York. Since being back, we have tried numerous Mexican restaurants in New Jersey, and each one has unfortunately ended in disappointment. Instead of giving up, we looked online for a new Mexican place to try and found a review saying that Sabores was not very good because "the tacos did not have lettuce, tomatoes, rice, or cheese in them". Yes, we made our decision to go here based on a poor review, only because we know that a Mexican restaurant that omits these ingredients in a taco, understands the true identity of this classic. 

Upon arriving, one is greeted by an extrememly vibrant restaurant. The pink walls and the changing light in the background gives Sabores a chic feel without the arrogance of an upscale restaurant or the corny elements of some dive Mexican joints. Since it is BYO, we brought our own wine. We were pleased to see that they had fresh fruit and mix available to turn our wine into delicious sangria. What better way to start than with guacamole? Eager to try it, we unfortunately forgot to take a picture before we devoured it. It was fresh and had perfect notes of jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and lime. 


We then ordered the trio of tamales. The first was pork in a tomatillo sauce, which was our personal favorite. The pork was tender, and both of us always enjoy tomatillo sauce. The chicken mole tamale was our least favorite, but only because we wanted a little more of the chicken filling. The Rajas tamale was simple and delectable. The luscious cheese oozed out, while the jalapeño, tomato, and onion each complimented the masa extremely well. The corn masa was sweet and cooked perfectly, and when it comes down to executing the perfect tamale it truly starts and ends with the consistency and taste of the masa or maize. 
We decided to split a couple items instead of ordering two large entrees. The Quesadilla Tinga was our first choice. It was filled with chicken, tomato, onion, and chipotle, and was served with sliced tomato, avocado, and of course Mexican crema. The handmade corn tortillas were perfectly crunchy and the flavor that came from the chicken made us feel relieved, as though we had finally found the Mexican food haven we were looking for. The carne asada taco's were double wrapped in handmade corn tortillas, which is always a good sign that you're at a quality Mexican restaurant. The carne asada laid in the corn tortillas uncomplicated by the addition of all the accoutrements that people feel are needed in a taco. The carne asada was marinated and cooked to perfection, served with a simple side of cilantro and diced onion. 

All of the dishes we ordered were simple and perfect. They were executed with tradition in mind. The attention to heritage and true flavors came through with every bite. We will be coming back in the near future. We finally have a California-grade Mexican restaurant to call our own.