Thursday, February 21, 2013

Searching for New Jersey's Best Pizza: First Stop

Star Tavern
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

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

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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


101 E Ridgewood Ave
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Ridgewood is such a lovely town with a lot of little shops and great food gems. After driving through not long ago, we noticed a new addition on the corner of Ridgewood Avenue and Oak Street. We immediately pulled out our iPhones to google the restaurant (the one who was not driving of course). Raymond's already had one location in Montclair, NJ, of which the menus looked great and it had raving reviews. Next time we were craving breakfast/brunch we knew where we would go. We arrived relatively early for breakfast on a Sunday, 10:00 AM, so we did not have to wait in line. Raymond's has a retro feel to it with the vintage decor, old fashioned style bar, and old school soda bottles lining one wall. 

The menu isn't vast, but has a lot of unique offerings, including a breakfast burrito, and huevos rancheros.  Unfortunately we were Mexican-ed out from the night before, so neither of us wanted one of those options, but we saw them at other tables and they looked fantastic. We ordered a Raymond’s Omelette, in which you can choose two items and they came with home fries. We chose roasted tomatoes and sautéed spinach. They did not skimp on the spinach or the roasted tomatoes. The eggs were fluffy, the roasted tomatoes added a delicious sweetness to the omelet, and the spinach was cooked perfectly. We do have to say there were not too many potatoes on the plate, and they were just okay. 
We also ordered the french toast to share, which was served with Vermont maple syrup and fresh berries. Normally the berries come over the toast, but we ordered them on the side because one of us is allergic to strawberries. The french toast was absolutely the best french toast we've ever had. It was crispy on the outside and moist and creamy on the inside. 
Lastly, we ordered the Norwegian Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, potato cakes & herb hollandaise. The potato pancake was a novel update on a classic breakfast special. The smoked salmon was fresh and sliced to the perfect thickness. The herbed hollandaise was a great compliment to the entire dish, and we would order this dish over and over again. 
As we were leaving about an hour later, we noticed a line forming outside the door. With a few breakfast spot's within walking distance of Raymond's, they should all be put on notice for the new king of breakfast/brunch in Ridgewood.