What the Phở?

Cuisine, New Jersey, Vietnamese

The Battleground

Saigon Phở, East Hanover, New Jersey

The Contenders

Nº 132 vs. Nº 131

Tofu and mixed veg in a sauce to knock your socks off. Served on a nest of fried noodles.

Tofu and mixed veg in a sauce to knock your socks off. Served on a nest of fried noodles.


Saigon Phở has long been my test of a true friend. Do you like the food here? Yes? We can be friends. By far the food at Saigon Phở is the closest I’ve gotten to true Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam.

One of my favorite delicacies is the bird’s nest of noodles you see before you. These thin, crispy noodles are eggy and delicious all on their own and a treat to feast upon. However, the real show stealer is the sauce they’re relaxing in. As you eat and the noodles absorb that beautiful brown goodness, they become limp and more closely resemble angel hair pasta. The transformation from crisp to soft noodles during your meal is truly a pleasure.

But back to the sauce. Gravy-like in viscosity, this sauce is one for the ages. This smoky, earthy mosaic of happiness reveals more and more layers of itself as you continue to indulge. Complexly subtle and absolutely divine.

The tofu was great (of course), but the real pièce de résistance here is the mixed veg. What vegetable didn’t go into this medley? Broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, yellow and green onions, bok choy, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn and celery. Permeated by that beautiful earth sauce (with chili and hoisin to boot), these vegetables sing.

Cảm ơn bạn!

Chicken and tofu simmered in a caramel sauce with bell peppers and onions. I substituted chicken for pork. Happy Rosh Hashanah!

Chicken and tofu simmered in a caramel sauce with bell peppers and onions. I substituted chicken for pork. Happy Rosh Hashanah!


Meat eaters, vegetarians, foodies, and even people who are afraid of anything more exotic than an egg roll can find something that will blow them away on Saigon Phở’s menu. I got greedy and asked to alter one of their divine creations to suit my cravings. Luckily my blasphemy was rewarded.

The Snax edition of Nº 131 arrived in a cozy pot under one of the hottest cloches known to man. Not the greatest choice in presentation but the aroma that rushed out of the pot made me forget all about burning my fingerprints off. I eagerly snapped up pieces of skillfully prepared chicken and tofu from their tasty hot spring therapy session.

The caramel sauce was even better than anticipated thanks to a tamed sweetness. I felt like Goldilocks trying to pinpoint its perfect viscosity. Not too loose, not too thick, but just right. Notes of ginger and lemongrass followed in the caramel’s footsteps allowing the proteins to jump into this delicious vehicle and drive way over the speed limit. Dangerously delicious.

The most serious offense to this dish, other than the hazardous presentation, is the lack of veggies. The bell peppers and onions melted in my mouth thanks to the sauce, but the chef must have made Legs’ dish first and forgot to leave some vegetables for me. How am I supposed to battle without all of my vitamins?!

I better pop a few Flintstones before heading out the door tomorrow.

And the winner is… Legs!

✗Protein ✗Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

My bird’s nest of love noodles really didn’t have much competition. Absolutely extraordinary for the eyes to feast upon. And Snax’s “veggies” were just red peppers and onions, versus the entire farm patch served up on my plate. A winning streak of two! Huzzah!

September/October wins:

Legs: 2 – Snax: 0

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A Polish Seafood Extravaganza

Cuisine, Food, New Jersey, Polish

The Battleground

Abigail’s Cafe, Linden, New Jersey

The Contenders

Grilled Tuna Salad vs. Red Snapper with Sweet Corn Sauce

Sesame-encrusted tuna cooked medium rare. Side salad of mango, tomatoes, avocado and mixed greens. It's better than it looks.

Sesame-encrusted tuna cooked medium rare. Side salad of mango, tomato, avocado and mixed greens. Incredibly, it’s even better than it looks.


This was advertised as a grilled tuna salad special. You can imagine my surprise and glee when the salad turned out to be a side salad with a huge piece of perfectly cooked tuna as the star. Look at that beautiful bright pink. Go on, look at it.

The tuna was encrusted in a game-changing sesame ginger crust. A classic combination, yes, but throwing it on the grill and infusing in with that lovely smokey flavor elevated this commonplace protein to a new standard of glory. Umami and smoke abounded and it was a thing of beauty.

The “salad” was really just a mixture of awesome things:

  • 1 entire avocado
  • A whole ton of mango
  • Mixed greens
  • Really, really, really good tomatoes
  • A sweet and savory vinaigrette

Grape tomatoes are not my favorite. They’re not even close to my favorite, and Snax downright hates them. By the end of the meal, they were gone, and he had eaten at least half of them! Why? Because the vinaigrette was SO FREAKING GOOD that it soaked its way into this average veggie and turned its life around. I think it goes without saying that the fresh mango and avocado were sublime.

The flavors in this dish complemented each other so perfectly. Each and every component was light and could easily have been overwhelmed by its neighbor. Much to my delight, they performed a delicate dance and really enjoyed the marriage rather than one partner fighting for control. Ah, pure harmony.

My only complaint is that this dish was on special so I can’t eat it every day of my life.

Red Snacker

Pan seared red snapper served with sweet corn sauce, heirloom tomatoes, sauteéd spinach, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream mashed potatoes.


I love Abigail’s. It’s a great place to grab a couple bottles of Żywiec with your pals or have a quiet evening with just you, your significant other, and a pitcher of one of their stupendous sangria flavors. It’s hard to go wrong at Abigail’s with atmosphere and drinks as equally impressive as the cuisine. But where there’s a will there’s a way.

My fascination with sauce has been well documented (see Bobby Van’s) so it should come as no surprise that I was excited to try sweet corn sauce.The sauce isn’t as unappealing to the eye as it is to the taste buds, but it was no ugly duckling turned swan princess. The only proof that I have of the sauce being sweet corn flavored is the physical presence of corn. No real sweetness to take note of. Mediocre at best.

You know the disaster movie cliché when nonessential personnel are directed off the premises? Those tomatoes would have been on the first plane to safety as the hero  stayed behind to save humanity. Just go home tomatoes.

The fish was prepared well enough but all I can remember is the taste of “sweet” corn sauce on everything. That snapper deserved a better end to its days than to be humiliated by corn. Life can be cruel.

Underneath the now humiliated snapper was a bed of sauteéd spinach. It had all of the nutritional value you would expect from spinach and was also green. Popeye would be proud. Then again he ate the stuff straight from the can so that’s not saying much.

Not a word about those mashed potatoes. Not. A. Word.

And the winner is… Legs!

✓Protein ✓Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

A clean sweep, but Snax really didn’t stand a chance. You can tell just from looking at the photos whose meal was superior. I’ve been dreaming about my “salad” ever since, and he’s been trying to forget that his snapper ever existed.

Don’t forget that we’re doing a new format from here on out. At the end of the month the half of the duo with fewer wins will be punished (on video). Right now Legs is in the lead and she hopes it stays that way!

September/October wins:

Legs: 1 Snax: 0

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Pierogies to Write Home About

Cuisine, Food, New Jersey, Polish

A trip to Abigail’s Cafe in Linden, New Jersey

The best pierogies in New Jersey, marching towards your mouth

The best potato and cheese pierogies in New Jersey, marching majestically towards your mouth.

These are not your Mrs. T’s. These are the best pierogies in New Jersey, bar none. Served with sautéed onions and sour cream for dipping, perfectly soft and tender, the pierogies at Abigail’s are little pockets of happiness. These amazing satchels of unadulterated marvel come in potato and cheese (our favorite), spinach and cheese, or for the very adventurous: blueberry! Available in both appetizer and entree size, you could conceivably have a meal of only dumpling goodness.

More often than not, your favorite culinary duo ends up at Abigail’s because of Legs’ insatiable craving for ‘rogies. We can always count on the rest of the meal being just as delectable as this show stealer. Pair it up with a huge pitcher of their amazing sangria and you’re good to go. We didn’t even mention their amazing bread. Comes hot with a dipping sauce of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mixed herbs. Yummmmy!

An added bonus: the meal won’t break the bank!

Go to Abigail’s soon. Seriously, go.

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Royale Redux

Food, Greek, Recipe
We’re back from our brief hiatus with some exciting news! Dinner Royale will be rolling out a brand new format with seriously stomach turning delicacies awaiting the fallen foodie.
As we raise the bar we realize that we’re going to need more time to find truly heinous foods for your viewing pleasure. In order to keep up with our week-to-week schedule we’ll be splitting up our battles into 4 rounds. That means we’ll still be coming to you with new content every week! The only thing that’s changed is that we’ll be awarding a single point to whoever wins the most rounds by the end of the month instead of awarding a point every week.
As a reward for being patient with us, this week’s post is dedicated to a delicious recipe we just had to share. Thanks food fans!

Left: serving of turkey kokkinisto over zoodles with a healthy amount of grated parmesean. Right: sautéed broccoli, red onions, and peppers for two.

Left: serving of turkey kokkinisto over zoodles with a healthy amount of grated parmesean. Right: sautéed broccoli, red onions, and peppers for two.

Turkey Kokkinisto with Zoodles

Right off the bat you’re probably wondering what kokkinisto is. Allow me to elaborate. Kokkinisto is a Greek stew typically made with red meat in a tomato puree with cinnamon and cloves. Back in Greece we jut put it over pasta, but we’re in New Jersey so it’s not considered treason if I use zucchini noodles. I decided to break out this tasty recipe, with added ground turkey flair, for a dinner in Central Park to celebrate Legs’ birthday.

For the gentlemen reading this I suggest you take notes. Breaking out the pots and pans to make a delicious, healthy recipe for your special someone is much more impressive and heartfelt than a trip to Red Robin. Trust and believe.

  • 1⅓ lbs. of ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 dashes of cinnamon
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup (2, 8 oz. cans) of tomato sauce
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 cans worth) of water
  • Salt
  • Pepper

After you’ve prepped your entire arsenal, heat your olive oil in a large pot at medium high heat. Once you’ve got the oil heated, begin tearing up your hunk of turkey meat into the pot. Continue to break up the meat with a spatula in the pot and make sure to brown consistently.

Now go ahead and add the onion, parsley, and garlic. Keep sautéing until the onion bits become translucent. Smell that? That’s your first indication that this is going to be magnificent.

Time to toss in those chopped tomatoes. Let them cook for just a couple minutes to release that fine tomato juiciness.

Next, add the cloves and a few dashes of cinnamon. Stir to make sure you spread those spices around evenly. At this point you’ll be fighting every instinct telling you to devour the whole pot. The aroma will be intoxicating but you must resist!

Open up those two cans of tomato sauce and pour them in. DON’T THROW THEM OUT YET. Once you’ve done that, fill each can with water and add it to the pot. Now you’ve got the water you need plus residual sauce!

Give your beautiful concoction a taste if you haven’t already. Add salt and pepper at your own discretion. You’re smart. I trust you.

All that’s left to do is bring it to a boil, reduce it to a low heat, and cover it up. Simmer for about 2 and a half hours, stirring occasionally. The sauce should have a thick consistency when it’s all said and done.

Give yourself a pat on the back and dig in!

Want to make zoodles? Of course you do! I use the amazing Paderno Spiralizer from Williams-Sonoma for my zucchini noodle needs. Check out this video demonstrating this wonderful machine at work and enjoy a life full of zoodles!

A note from Legs:

In the jungle, the concrete jungle, the lions sing tonight!

In the jungle, the concrete jungle, the lions sing tonight!


Ladies, be prepared to have your ovaries turn green with jealousy because I’ve truly hit the jackpot. What Snax hasn’t mentioned is that this incredible homemade meal took hours to make and preceded a showing of The Lion King on Broadway.

When was the last time your man made healthy pasta from scratch and took you to the theater?

Happy birthday to me!

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Giving Back

American, Charity, Food, Polish, Russian, Water
This week we set aside our differences to help feed the homeless through Family Promise. We couldn’t resist an opportunity to give back when we were invited by family friends to take part in such a great cause. Legs has even taken her philanthropy one step further by beginning a charity: water campaign! Check out the menu and learn all about Legs’ mission!

Family Promise

Eastern European smorgasbord! Polish pierogies and an assortment of grilled goodies in a Russian marinade.

Eastern European smorgasbord! Polish pierogies and an assortment of grilled goodies in a Russian marinade.


We were proud to present our delicious bounty in the halls of the Presbyterian Church of New Providence. It was a bit of a challenge catering to the tastes of such a diverse group of people, but the menu received praise all around. First, potato and cheese pierogies, sautéed with onions of course. Only the worst kind of people dislike pierogies. Follow that up with some grilled pork marinated in adjika and mayonnaise overnight. That marinade did wonders for the pork by seeping into every nook and cranny, giving it a smooth, almost creamy heat. A cornucopia of grilled veggies: mushrooms, grape tomatoes, green bell peppers, and onions, smeared with the same marinade as the pork tied it all together.


Back to the states for Uncle Sam's favorite desserts, apple pie and apple crumble. What? Crumble counts.

Back to the states for Uncle Sam’s favorite desserts, apple pie and apple crumble. What? Crumble counts.


This dynamic duo jumped from the mind of Legs and into the hearts of our gracious guests. Her apple pie, a recipe that she has held onto since her high school advanced foods class, is as timeless as a great American novel. Somebody tell the Mark Twain estate to start throwing in recipes for Huckleberry pie before the checks stop coming in. Homemade crust and a list of ingredients that will remain secret due to threats against my life make for an incredible slice of pie.

How do you follow up an apple themed dessert? With another apple themed dessert of course! This was the first time Legs has ever made apple crumble and I hope it won’t be the last. Another homemade crust, hearty oats, walnuts, brown sugar, and all the butter we could handle. This apple crumble will go down with some of the most memorable debuts in history. James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie season, and now Legs’ apple crumble. Magical.


charity: intern

You can visit my birthday campaign and donate to clean water here.

I’ve had the amazing privilege of interning with charity: water this summer. Their goal is to bring clean water to the 800 million people without it in our lifetime. In just 8 years, charity: water has given 4.2 million people clean water and built over 11,000 water projects!

Some facts about the water crisis:

  • 1 in 9 people don’t have clean water
  • Diseases from dirty water kill more people than anything else, including war
  • Women and children in Africa spend up to four hours a day collecting dirty water
  • Lack of toilets and facilities in schools causes many students to drop out
  • $20 brings one person clean water

This September, 100,000 people in the Sahel region of Africa are counting on us. Your donation will be completely matched and your impact doubled! Instead of wasting water in the name of charity, please give water to those who need it most. You can donate here.


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