Thanksgiving Face Off

American, Cuisine, Homemade, New Jersey
A turkey butter sculpture set the mood this year

A turkey butter sculpture set the mood this year

Legs:

Those who know me know that I love to cook. I find that using food as a creative outlet is extremely therapeutic, and sharing my creations with someone who truly enjoys them is so rewarding.

This year I nearly begged my parents to host Thanksgiving, with the understanding that I would be responsible for (almost) everything. Last year my dad was the chef de cuisine and I his sous chef; I felt confident that this was my year to rise to the top tier and bless my family with a beautiful meal.

Fourteen of us gathered in my parents’ New Jersey home on Thanksgiving Thursday. I prepared an extensive menu with the old standbys, new additions and twists on Thanksgiving classics. The best part is that every single thing was made by me or my dad. Nothing came from a can, bag or industrial processing line. This meal was the definition of home cooking.

A cornucopia of thanks!

A cornucopia of thanks!

The Menu
  • Salad: Spinach and radicchio with pear, brie and pecans. Dressing made from orange juice, honey, balsamic and dijon.
  • Soup: Butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot. Homemade cinnamon apple chips to garnish.
  • Turkey: (Prepared by dad, a turkey master) Salt brined in lemon and fresh oregano, cooked with lemon, celery and onions in the cavity.
  • Gravy: (Also dad) Lemon and oregano to match the brine. Nice punch of acid with a white wine lurking in the background.
  • Stuffing: (Dad’s famous recipe – don’t mess with it) Sausage, apples, walnuts, celery and onions go into this beautiful bake. This is not Stove Top.
  • Mash: (Last chance for Dad to shine) A thing of legend which relatives demand. The trick? White pepper.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Cranapple sauce to be precise. Lemon zest and Grand Marnier to spruce things up a bit.
  • Green beans: Baked with bacon and onions. Sauce made from bacon drippings, apple cider vinegar and sugar. Game changer.
  • Pumpkin cheesecake: With a gingersnap and pecan crust and topped with salted caramel. The most decadent, luxurious thing I’ve eaten all year.

Beautiful as this feast was, all good things must come to an end. November is finished and it’s time to eat to the death to declare a winner this month. Find out how we repurposed the best meal of the year and turn it into a punishment:

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Where the Wild Things Are

American, Cuisine, New York, Specialty Shops

The Battleground

Bareburger, 366 West 46th Street, New York City


The Contenders

Southern Elk Burger vs. Roadhouse Wild Boar Burger

Southern Elk Burger

Ready to be more jealous than you’ve ever been before? Fried green tomato with whole grain maple horseradish mustard top off pepperjack cheese, applewood-smoked thick-cut bacon and an ELK PATTY. Yeah, you’re jealous.

 

Legs:

Choosing from the incredible selection at Bareburger was difficult to say the least. I went in knowing I wanted an elk patty, and from there experienced mental agony as I longed for every burger option and could only choose one. Since my favorite burger style is western (fried onions, pepperjack, bacon, BBQ sauce), I decided to try Bareburger’s take on it, although they placed it a little closer to the equator than I’m used to. Southern Elk Burger, here I come!

Commence flavor explosion. Let’s start with the elk burger itself. Super juicy (read: actually dripping juice), bright red, tender and full of wonderful, amazing, gamey flavor. It tasted like I took a bite out of a living elk that had quickly grilled itself for my dining pleasure. And oh, what a pleasure it was. This game-changing patty was seriously enhanced by all of its condiment friends.

Everything on this burger was necessary, and everything on this burger was delicious. Thick-cut applewood smoked bacon was so thick I literally mistook an escaped piece for a french fry. This bacon stepped it up a notch and all other types of bacon should be ashamed of themselves for not living up to thick-cut’s exacting standards. Fried onions and bacon pair SO well together, and this was no exception. The caramelization of the onions and the smokey saltiness of the bacon is a classic combination that no man can come between.

My whole grain bun was garnished with two things:

  1. Fried green tomato
  2. Whole grain maple horseradish mustard

I cannot even begin to convey how astounding these two flavors are together. The tart, almost vinegary flavor of a fried green tomato needs this exact sauce to complete it and make it whole. Whole grain mustard is a long-time favorite of mine. Put in horseradish to make it even tangier? I’m intrigued. Add in maple to balance out the sourness you’ve just concocted? Completely sold. This was the single greatest bun-condiment-tomato combination I’ve ever had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into.

I’m ruined for other burgers.


Roadhouse boar burger decorated with pepper jack cheese, turkey bacon, hass avocado, sweet apple grilled onions, red piquanté peppers, and smoked paprika mayo. Served with a side of meerkat. Not really. That would be awful.

Snax:

I was confident of two things as we were sat in the quirky space that is Bareburger. One, my life was now a little brighter as I stared up at the painted wooden bear head over our table. Two, I would not be leaving this establishment without an exotic burger in my belly.

Choosing from just one of Bareburger’s signature styles was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced on a menu. Every style has its own unique charm that beckons burger enthusiasts with a wink and a smile. After carefully reviewing my suitors I selected the Roadhouse with wild boar and began life anew.

The first bite had me peeling back layer after layer of bold flavor. Creamy, sweet, smoky, and even the slightest hint of spicy came stampeding out of this magnificent burger. All of the toppings flowed flawlessly from one to the next and came as close to the edge of being too busy without falling off. Pairing smoked paprika mayo with pepper jack cheese was a particularly inspired choice. Without the added flair to the mayo and cheese this burger could have become dangerously creamy, much like my River Grill experience. In fact, there was even more creaminess on the horizon as a slice of hass avocado joined the flavor bonanza.

Every topping on this burger was a winner from the get go, but the sweet apple grilled onions, turkey bacon (substitution), and red piquanté peppers brought out the best in my boar. The duality of sweet and savory in the onions and peppers helped contrast the boar’s slight char and welcomed tinge of gaminess. As a secondary protein, the turkey bacon worked as a gateway from topping to boar with the kind of humility you would expect from the perfect sidekick.

The boar itself was like pork’s far cooler cousin from out of town. It carried a char much like a beef patty but had a distinguishable flavor all its own. A bit gamey at times, but if you order a wild boar burger not expecting gaminess, then you should just keep quiet while the adults talk about burgers.

I really don’t see how this burger can be topped.

 


And the winner is… a tie?

✗Protein ✗Sauce ✗Sides/Veggies ✗Presentation

You might think this is a cop out, but you weren’t there. Both of our burgers were astounding. Like, game-changing, life-altering, head-over-heels fantastic works of burger art. Both proteins: succulent. Both sauces: legitimately incredible. Both veggies: lovely. Both presentations: well I mean they’re just burgers.

It’s a wash. How can you choose a favorite child? How can you choose a favorite Bareburger?

November wins:

Legs: 1 – Snax: 1

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Healthy Revival

American, Cuisine, New York, Specialty Shops

The Battleground

ReViVer, Hell’s Kitchen, NYC


The Contenders

Loco Moco vs. Mahi Curry

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Loco Moco = an over easy egg sitting on a “chicken burger” served on a bed of brown rice and sauteed veggies, all topped off with a tomatillo sauce. Sounds too good to be true?

Legs:

While visiting ReViVer, which specializes in healthy fast food, I just couldn’t say no to something named Loco Moco. ReViVer offers nutritionally balanced food with quick service at fast food prices – and who doesn’t love a fried egg?

If only reality lived up to expectation. This was not a bad meal by any means. It was fine. Just fine. The chicken burger truly was a burger. The ground and then reformed patty just felt far too mushy, ruining its lovely balance of smoky seasonings. This came as somewhat of a nasty shock as I had been expecting a chicken breast, but I guess the fault there lies with me.

What I was hoping would be the epic climax to a roller coaster of a meal also left me wanting more. My over easy egg just wasn’t runny enough for my taste. It was more of a solid than a beautiful, creamy yolk. Combine that with the under-seasoned tomatillo sauce smothering everything and choking the meal’s life away, and the nail is in the coffin.

My rice and veg were great. Simply delicious. Perhaps because they weren’t trying as hard as their fancy neighbors. Brown rice, black beans, spinach and roasted tomatoes. Honest, hearty, down to earth.

Tofu, fennel, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, cannellini beans, radish, and red quinoa, tossed with orange miso dressing and topped with toasted almonds and just the right amount of "oh my God."

Tofu, fennel, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, cannellini beans, radish, and red quinoa, tossed with orange miso dressing. Topped with toasted almonds and just the right amount of “oh my God.”

Good thing we got the most delicious salad on the planet for a starter.


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A huge slab of mahi-mahi served as a vessel for the coconut curry sauce I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Served with some pretty stellar vegetables to cheer the stoniest of hearts.

Snax:

When I went out on a limb and ordered fish at a fast food joint, I was numb with anticipation. Would I be rewarded for my risk and pull in higher earnings? Or would it explode in my face and further my losing streak?

Both. The answer is both.

On one hand, my meal was a Southeast Asian delight. My coconut red curry sauce is hard to play down. It tasted like a coconut got married to curry and served party-in-my-mouth for the reception. All of the guests were satisfied, most of all me.

On the other hand, the fish was “meh.” Any flavor the mahi-mahi originally had was completely overwhelmed by that beautiful, albeit powerful, curry sauce. The fish was basically just a hunk of protein sitting on veggies.

But oh, what veggies they were. Roasted zucchini, butternut squash and carrots provided the perfect amount of sweetness to the coconut curry marriage sauce. They complimented each other and were cooked very nicely. Spinach and broccoli came back in from the savory side of life to balance out all the flavors and make sure my taste buds got the full one-two. Brown basmati rice on the bottom of everything acted as a sponge to ensure that not a single drop of sauce got wasted.

This dish also came with a completely superfluous avocado salsa verde. I’m not sure why it was there and I barely remember eating it. Completely overwhelmed by the other great flavors going on.

Turns out you can have great fast food that’s healthy, but you still shouldn’t order the fish.


And the winner is… Snax!

✓Protein ✓Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

This one was kind of a no-brainer. Legs’ sauce had no flavor and mine was packed full of it. Legs’ veggies were good too, but my zucchini and butternut squash really brought this win home. She gets protein because I ate a flavorless slab of fish while her chicken mush actually had seasoning. But overall, I’m definitely the champion this time around.

November wins:

Legs: 0 – Snax: 1

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Down by the River

American, Cuisine, New Jersey

The Battleground

River Grille, Chatham, New Jersey


The Contenders

Garlic and Herb P.E.I. Mussels vs. Blackened Cajun Catfish Sandwich

Mussels from the Isle of Prince Edward, bathing luxuriously in a broth fit for kings.

Legs:

I’ve spent more time (and money) at River Grille than I care to admit. Lots of evenings after work are spent with my friends who work there and the bartenders who have become my friends. Dive bars have always held a special place in my heart, and the hilarious, kindly collection of townies who gather here are sure to provide you with a fun time.

For all the time I’ve killed on their bar stools, my culinary adventures never really went past the wings, fries and onion rings (all of which are awesome). I’d heard tales of their award-winning mac and cheese, and my friends who work there won’t shut up about the mussels.

So mussels it is.

My favorite seafood buddies, mussels are just little nuggets of yummy joy. These ones came immersed in the most gorgeous white wine, lemon garlic sauce to ever be paired with seafood. Seriously, this broth needs to be made into a soup so I can shamelessly spoon it up. It’s that good.

The mussels themselves were good. Not a single bit of sand present. Not one. They were, however, rather fishy at times. About half were absolutely pristine, but the other half were just… ocean. Luckily I had my trusty garlic bread lifesaver to reel the mussels back into safety. Cheesy, buttery, garlicy, soft with a crispy crust… perfect. As an added bonus, it allowed me to eat more sauce!


“Blackened” Cajun catfish with lettuce, tomato, Cajun mayo, and provolone cheese. Served with fries at the top of their class.

Snax:

Walking into River Grille as an irregular with Legs always feels like being invited into a friendly yet secretive club. It’s a little loud and a little pricey considering the atmosphere, but I was still eager to try what this Zagat rated tavern had to offer.

I adore Cajun seasoning, so when my catfish arrived I was more than excited to dig in. That first brilliant bite brought all of the usual suspects in for questioning: paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, and the infamous outlaw cayenne. I didn’t get any char flavor despite its claim to be blackened, but the seasoning was lovely. Unfortunately the show was over after just a few bites as catfish and his posse were run out of town by Cajun mayo and provolone. What’s worse? The mayo wasn’t very Cajun inspired at all. Over dressing and an unnecessary cheese component turned what could have been a great sandwich into average pub fare.

Although the sandwich proved to be standard, the fries were anything but. Perfectly crisp, just the right amount of chew, and never oily, these guys make some of the best beer-battered fries around. If only I had some serious Cajun mayo on the side to dip these golden gods into. You can’t always get what you want.

I’m happy with my experience at River but this may be the end of the line for yours truly.


And the winner is… Legs!

✗Protein ✓Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

Presentation is kind of a given when you have an entire bowl stacked with seafood goodness versus a sandwich. And my sauce… I’ll be dreaming about it for ages. Mind blowing. Seriously, it needs to be made into a soup.

I’ve demolished Snax these past weeks and am officially the winner of September and October! Tune in next week to see him shovel something nasty into his mouth as punishment.

September/October wins:

Legs: 4 – Snax: 1

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Adams Apples

American, Charity, Cuisine, Specialty Shops
In honor of Snax’s 25th birthday, we headed to the National Apple Harvest Festival in Adams County, PA for a beautiful autumn day full of food and fun. There were plenty of craft vendors and live entertainers throughout the day, and all the festival food you could eat. And eat we did.

An onion blooming around spicy Texas sauce. Yee-haw!

An onion blooming around spicy Texas sauce. Yee-haw!

As a rule, Snax and I try not eat junk food. But when we first walked into the fair and were greeted by a Blooming Onion sign, we threw caution to the wind and dove into junk head first. The spicy, creamy Texas sauce was an amazing dunking complement to those crispy onion petals. The whole thing was very well seasoned, if somewhat undercooked. As we continued to eat the breading started to fall off in glumps. (By the way, this was the only stand at the fair selling veggies: deep fried broccoli to be exact.)

glump (n): A clump of something that is also gloppy.

I spilled a glump of chili on my new white shirt!


PUMPKIN funnel cake with cinnamon sugar angel kisses.

PUMPKIN funnel cake with cinnamon sugar angel kisses.

Once we had the bloomin’ down the hatch, we threw caution to the wind. While listening to a great old-school country band play on the Cider Barrel stage, we espied a Pumpkin Funnel Cake cart. Why yes, don’t mind if we do.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin? Who doesn’t love funnel cake? Why the two haven’t been paired together before is beyond me. These wormy cakes of majesty came with choice of topping: cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar or glaze. Pretty sure the cinnamon sugar topping was the most amazing decision I’ve made since giving Snax a chance. Tastes like pumpkin pie, eats like funnel cake, feels like a hug by grandma.


Adams County: America's premier orchard location. Photo cred: rlorchard.com

Adams County: America’s premier orchard location. Photo cred: www.rlorchard.com

To let all that fried food digest, we hopped a bus to take a free tour of the Adams County orchards. Rolling hills with orchards heavy with fruit abounded and it was absolutely idyllic. We were blessed with perfect autumn weather: cool and crisp but still with nice warmth. Riding around on a bus with the windows down and taking in nature was an incredible break from the festivities.


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Pit beef. Look at all that smoke. Need I say more? Pit beef.

But back to the food. The line for the pit beef sandwiches was HUGE. So we obviously figured we had to try it out. Look at it smoking and bar-b-queing away. Go on, look at it. It’s actually better than you’re thinking. The beef was thinly sliced and placed on a bun which we promptly topped with BBQ sauce. Seriously delicious stuff, that.

The best bite of the day, however, goes to the apple sausage adorned with apple butter. No photo, unfortunately. It was a bit too… phallic… to be photogenic. Sweet and savory combined in perfect harmony in this tender, tender stick of meat. An added bonus? All proceeds go to the Pennsylvania Keystone Chapter of the MS Society. You can eat an incredible little meal while supporting a good cause.

We definitely had an amazing time at the Apple Harvest Fest.


A note from Snax:

Venison jerky, enjoyed Lady and the Tramp style.

Venison jerky, enjoyed Lady and the Tramp style.

I don’t really do much to celebrate my birthday other than the usual cake and inviting some friends over, but Legs wasn’t having it. I got to chow down on outstanding food, take in some great music, enjoy the beautiful vistas of Adams County, and spend the day wondering how I could be so lucky.

Seriously, who comes up with a road trip to this little slice of paradise for a birthday? Only the best.

You too can visit the festival for their last weekend on October 11th and 12th. You won’t have as good of a time as I had but you can try.

P.S. I got piglet kisses at the petting zoo!!
( I lured him with hay. No shame.)

 

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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.

THANK YOU!!!

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Food & Wine Free-For-All

American, Food, New Jersey, Specialty Shops
This week we’re bringing you a very special edition of Dinner Royale! We brought our appetites down to Red Bank, New Jersey for this year’s Food & Wine Walk. A wristband got us access to thirty amazing restaurants offering samples of their food. Continue reading for highlights from our culinary tour of Red Bank Flavour and see how we declare this week’s winner after eating identical meals.

 

    NY strip and center cut filet served over crostini. Enjoyed in front of a water wall for extra whimsy.

NY strip and center cut filet served over crostini. Enjoyed in front of a water wall for extra whimsy.


Legs:

Stopping into Char for a bite was like stopping into Heaven for a bit of sunlight. Absolutely sublime but leaves you needing more. They were serving up New York strip AND filet straight from a carving board! On top of crispy, buttery crostini! With wine!

The two cuts of beef were both delicious but distinctly different. True to form, the filet was melt-in-your-mouth tender. Juicy, blood red and deliciously seasoned, it was soft enough to tear through with your teeth. The strip was just as nicely seasoned, with the stronger beef taste expected from a firmer cut. Perfectly cooked and rested; thank God their chef also likes medium rare.

While many of the restaurants on the Food and Wine Walk were somewhat stingy with their portions, Char was having none of it. They walked around with refills of wine and even gave Snax seconds! The whole experience was, well, heavenly.

Cheese push pops? CHEESE PUSH POPS?!? All of them, please.

Cheese push pops? CHEESE PUSH POPS?!? All of them, please.

While Char may have been the best experience of the day, the best bite goes to The Cheese Cave, hands down. CHEESE PUSH POPS?! Who is the genius who thought that up? Snax better watch out because I think I’ve found my soul mate. There were two to choose from. Sadly, we didn’t get to taste each others’.

Snax had avocado cream, goat cheese, red pepper jelly and cornbread crumble. He claims it’s amazing and I’m inclined to agree based off my experience. I had strawberry basil jam, lemon ricotta and pecan nut cake. Mind-blowing, mouth-watering, life-changing cheese pop. Why lemon ricotta isn’t incorporated into every meal ever is beyond me. It’s truly divine.

 

 

Black bean and corn salsa wrap filled with grilled chicken, melted pepper jack, and sour cream. Side of childhood and smoked chipotle sauce.

Black bean and corn salsa wrap filled with grilled chicken, melted pepper jack cheese, and sour cream. Served with a side of childhood and smoked chipotle sauce.

Snax:

From the outside, Jr’s looks like a typical American grill joint with the kind of grab and go food you don’t think too critically about; enjoyable but not noteworthy. Good thing we never judge a book by its cover and decided to stop into this unassuming little eatery.

The black bean and corn salsa wrap was an unexpected hit. The balance of flavor between chicken, salsa, cheese, and sour cream was impeccable. It was almost as if these ingredients joined forces to form a coalition hellbent on ridding the world of sub par wraps, one bite at a time. Legs doesn’t even like sour cream and still greatly enjoyed this wrap! What a time to be alive.

Remember tater tots? I certainly do and so does Jr’s. They understand the less appreciated member of the fry family and do it justice here. Nice and crispy shell surrounding a moist and delicious center. Perfection. Dipping these little bundles of joy into smoked chipotle sauce makes a good thing even better.

A championship performance from the underdogs at Jr’s.

Churro cake pops: scientifically proven to release copious amounts of dopamine in the brain.

Churro cake pops: scientifically proven to release copious amounts of dopamine in the brain.

Now here at Dinner Royale we tend to focus on the savory side of things. To change the pace a bit I present you with Lil’ Cutie Pops and their heavenly churro cake pops.

Biting into this pure bliss was like hearing “I Want You Back” for the very first time and being hit with Michael’s sweet melody. Powerful stuff from a pint sized package. The frosting on these bad boys was delightfully creamy and dusted with cinnamon sugar for just the right amount of sweetness. The cake itself was excellent. It firmly held together at first bite and fell apart in your mouth, not on the stick.

Thank you, Lil’ Cutie Pops, I am now going through
withdrawal without your magnificent take on churros.

I want you back!


And the winner is… Char!

Char had great food and a great experience to boot. Flawless from start to finish, we’ll definitely be coming back here for a special occasion sometime.

Since every restaurant was serving the same thing, we couldn’t declare a winner based off our choices. Check out our steakhouse-themed tie breaker to declare a winner:

 

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Steak Out House

American, Cuisine, Fine Dining, New York

The Battleground

Bobby Van’s, Financial District, New York

The Contenders

Lobster Ravioli vs. Roasted Chicken Breast
Lobster ravioli, sage butter, sauteed spinach and shrimp chunks? Served with  a side of tears.

Lobster ravioli, sage butter, sautéed spinach and shrimp chunks? Served with a side of tears.

Legs:

It’s been awhile since I’ve had lobster ravioli, but I always dwell on the memory fondly. Sadly, that was not the case at this gourmet Wall Street eatery. Maybe it’s my fault for ordering something other than steak at a steakhouse, so I guess I got my just desserts.

Lobster ravioli in sage butter? Yep, definitely. Cheers. Intense excitement built up during the salad round. Sadly, the instant my plate was set in front of me I knew exactly what was in store. Frozen. The sad, saggy centers held only a remnant of their pre-freezer glory. Tell-tale black zebra stripes decorating the pasta could only be produced by machinery. Call me crazy for expecting something fresh at $28 a plate.

My “sage butter” was just droplets of oil adorning the dish. The tough pasta did nothing to soak up my pathetic attempt at a sauce. Luckily, the lobster in the middle was in nice chunks. Frozen, thawed, stringy, chewy chunks. This catastrophe was sitting on a bed of spinach. Great! I love spinach! For reasons unknown to me, the chef decided to throw chopped bits of shrimp in with the sautéed greens?? Doesn’t make any sense; I can’t make heads or tails of it.

I’m in trouble.

Roasted chicken with creamy risotto and apple cider sauce. Strong aftertaste of regret.

Roasted chicken with creamy risotto and apple cider sauce. What hath God wrought?

Snax:

That’s right. I didn’t get a steak either. You’re probably thinking that we’re both crazy, but all of the steak options had supplemental charges and we weren’t exactly eager to spend at Bobby Van’s. So I went with the safe choice, chicken…I’m so naive.

What really drew me to the dish was the promise of apple cider sauce. What I got instead was the flavor of buttered movie popcorn with an almost caramel-like aftertaste. It was very strange but surprisingly tolerable with a spoonful of creamy risotto. This isn’t to say that the risotto rode in on a white stallion to save the day. They just complimented each other well in their fierce mediocrity and left me at the mercy of the evil king.

There was nothing thrilling about the chicken. It was OK and even had a decent char to it at times. Unfortunately it wasn’t consistent and slipped from a nice flavor to a burnt reminder that life isn’t always fair. The worst part was when the burnt flakes of chicken found a new home in the risotto like a friend who overstays his welcome at your place after getting kicked out of his. Hopefully chicken flakes can get off of my crummy risotto couch, get a job, and win this thing.


And the winner is… Snax!

✓Protein  ✓Sauce  ✓Sides/Veggies  ✓Presentation

My chicken tasted like chicken and my strange sauce and risotto mixture was also food. It’s hard to lose when your opponent is a specimen of mass production on top of an irrational pile of spinach and shrimp. Bobby Van’s, you’re a steakhouse in New York City and you somehow left us disappointed. Let’s see how Legs deals with another equation that doesn’t add up as she suffers this week’s punishment.


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Legs isn’t done yet! Check out how she really feels about Bobby Van’s in the very first issue of Sour Grapes!

Sour Grapes: Bobby Van’s

American, Fine Dining, New York, Sour Grapes

There’s a lot on my mind about Bobby Van’s, but first let me establish some credibility.

I’ve spent 4-5 years in the food industry at four different restaurants, both in front and back of house.  I know intimately all the ups and downs that come with food service, as well as the tricks restaurants don’t want you to know (more of your food is frozen than you think).  Because of my experiences, I’m slow to complain about service and food and quick to make allowances for less-than-fabulous experiences.  However, after my meal at Bobby Vans I just couldn’t keep quiet.

When we walked in at 7:00pm on a Friday to a nearly empty restaurant, I should have been scared.  I shrugged it off as a lunch crowd place.  It is, after all, directly across from the NY Stock Exchange.  Bobby Vans is an institution!  They don’t need to be busy at peak dinner hour on the weekend, right?

Our surly server begrudgingly took our order.  Having been in his shoes, yes, restaurant week probably sucks.  You’re taking a serious pay cut when three courses are offered for $38.  But as any seasoned server knows, you grin and bear it because that’s how the industry works.

“[Restaurant week] is your chance to wow me so I come back for my special occasions.”

-Snax

-Wow us, he did not.-

I’ve been to four establishments for this year’s restaurant week, and all most of them really focused on making their menu special.  Bobby Vans only included salads as appetizer choices.  Oh, how special.

My entree was beyond terrible.  Now granted, I don’t necessarily expect fresh, homemade pasta.  That’s a ridiculous standard to keep when you’re cranking out business at New York’s volume.  However, I’ve honestly had delicious, high-quality, frozen lobster ravioli at other places.  This was far below that standard.  Outside of restaurant week, the ravioli costs $28 a plate!!!  Highway robbery!

Snax’s chicken was clearly better, but it still wasn’t a victory.  The sauce was… buttered caramel corn flavored?  And the chicken, while moist, had charring in places that bordered on burning. There was not a vegetable in sight, unless you count risotto (I don’t).

In my opinion, this is a restaurant that peaked and is unwilling to accept that their glory days are over.  Yes the decor was beautiful, and yes they have a $1,500 bottle of wine on their menu.  But if you never update the food to fit current trends, how can you expect to stay relevant?

I’m guessing the NYSE keeps the place in business, because it’s certainly not the weekend crowd.  Even their own press page is heinously outdated.  With so many original, innovative, cozy places to eat in New York, why would anyone waste (a lot of) money here?

-Legs

 

The best part of the meal was when I discovered the truth behind our “candlelight dinner.”

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