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:

facebook twitter instagram

Advertisements

A Chinese Bistro?

Chinese, Cuisine, New Jersey, Specialty Shops

The Battleground

A & J Bistro, East Hanover, New Jersey


The Contenders

Hong Shao Niu Ro Mian vs. Dan Dan Mian

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup vs. Noodles in Hot Spicy Sesame Sauce

Tender, tender beef. Handmade wide noodles. Flavorful spicy broth. Bok choy. Fairy dust.

Legs:

A & J Bistro. What a place. Although the name would lead you to believe it’s French, actually they specialize in some of the best, most honest Chinese food I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I love lo mein, but General Tso never darkens the doorstep of A&J. At a place where the Chinese guests outnumber everyone else by at least 20 to 1, you know you’ve hit gold.

Except for our century egg, I’ve never had anything here I didn’t like. If ordering a noodle dish, they’ll ask you if you want wide or thin noodles. The answer is wide. Always. Their wide noodles are handmade, misshapen and absolutely mouthwatering. The thin? From a machine (can you blame them?)

Their beef is so tender. Like, cut-in-half-with-your-chopsticks tender. It also acts as a wonderful vessel for the lovely sauce it’s been simmering in. Packed full of flavor, this bovine knows what’s what.

But back to the sauce, which is more of a spicy vinegar oil than anything else. Maybe that sounds weird, but trust me, it works. It’s a thin sauce that’s a beautiful dark reddish brown and carries all the depth of flavor that hue would inspire. Just the right amount of acid, a subtle hint of sweet and a punch of umami all come together with a spicy finish. Of course, I went ahead and added more of my own rice vinegar, soy sauce and spoonfuls of A & J’s amazing chili oil, because you can never go wrong with (much) more chili.

The bok choy was an add-on and totally worth it. Gotta have my green. Steamed to a lovely shade and refreshingly crisp, I honestly believe it completes the dish.

Final note: A & J is so cheap. Like, every time I get the bill I’m astounded by how little the wide array of food has cost (you have to get some of their small plates to share – amazing). They are cash only, though, so come prepared.


Homemade wide noodles with sesame sauce and a stylish bok choy beret.

Snax:

Prior to meeting Legs I had never had authentic Chinese cuisine. The furthest I got was General Tso’s, pork fried rice, and eggrolls. As I am a functioning human being, eggrolls still hold a place in my heart, but the rest went by the wayside a long time ago. Now with a newfound sense of self-preservation and a love for A & J Bistro I never have to call Ming-Feng ever again.

My first steps into life after Tso lead me straight to dan dan mian. A & J’s handmade wide noodles left me with a sense of wonder as I entered the new frontier speeding passed towers of takeaway containers overflowing with lo mein. These noodles are nice and soft, devoid of grease, and gently carry a flavor rather than inducing the headaches I was so accustomed to when in range of its fast food cousin. Toto, we’re not in Grand Sichuan anymore.

I have never felt greater empathy for the seed/nut allergic masses than when slurping down noodle after sesame sauce covered noodle at A & J. Get your EpiPens out boys and girls. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. This lovely sesame sauce topped with peanuts delivers a creamy, rounded out nuttiness that delights with every bite. Never overwhelming in thickness and always exits the palette and just the right time, this sauce is a true professional. Adding chili oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar gives the sesame a little more complexity, but it’s not essential to its resounding success.

Some protein would be nice and a lot more bok choy, which doesn’t come standard, but this modest little meal is the perfect introduction to the ill-informed. More Chinese please!

 

 


And the winner is… Legs!

✓Protein ✓Sauce ✗Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

Snax didn’t even have protein. Chump. His sauce though… wow. He actually ordered what I wanted to get, but out of benevolence I allowed him to dine upon my (formerly) favorite dish. Looks like it pays to be kind.

 

November wins:

Legs: 1 – Snax: 1

facebook twitterinstagram

Banished to Siberia

New Jersey, Russian, Specialty Shops

A few months ago, Snax and I took a trip to Coney Island with some friends. For those unaware, there’s a huge Russian population over there, so we seized the opportunity to view their grocery store delicacies. Always ones for something new to try, we were appalled and intrigued when we stumbled across a cold, jiggling tray of aspic. We passed on it that beautiful summer day, but it’s been on Snax’s mind ever since.

He insisted – yes, insisted – on using it for his punishment this month. I’m rather fond of him, so I tried to talk him out of eating meat jello, but he would not be persuaded.

Where does one find aspic?

I’m so glad you asked. We had to hunt this down, seriously. Snax located Emporium International Foods about 30 minutes south of where he lives, and we went there blindly assuming they would carry this delicious Russian favorite. Despite having an exact address, we drove past it twice, due to the building be dominated by Just, the attached restaurant. When we did finally locate and walk into the Emporium, oh what a treat. It. Smelled. Incredible. That heavenly aroma wafting through our sensory receptors was due to the most amazing bakery display I’ve ever seen. A significant amount of the pastries and breads seemed to be made in-house, as well as a huge selection of cold meats and salads to take home. Sausages, cheeses, canned foods, dried foods, you name it. The food here is fit for the Kremlin.

deli2_thumb  bakery

Photo credit: www.emporiumfoods.com

We finally located the object of our trip and bought a few snacks for the ride home. Flaky, yummy, meat-and-potato-filled pastry goodness.

Without any further ado… Snax’s October punishment. I’m so glad it’s not me.

facebook twitter instagram

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

facebook twitterinstagram

Haitian Sensation

Caribbean, Cuisine, Haitian, New Jersey

The Battleground

First Republic, Elizabeth, New Jersey


The Contenders

Beef Tasso vs. Chicken Piké

Beef Tasso served with a pillow of black rice and all the plantains your heart could desire. Scrum-diddily-umptious!

Beef Tasso served with a pillow of black rice and all the plantains your heart could desire. A full ramekin of pikliz was the real diva on the plate. Scrum-diddily-umptious!

Legs:

First Republic is a cute little place that knows exactly who it is. Unafraid to stand out from the crowd and be different, diners here are sure to have a great time. Whether you’re just stopping in to have a drink and chat with the world’s friendliest bartender, Dani, or you’re coming in for their Sunday salsa lessons, First Republic is your stop for a great Caribbean lounge.

My beef tasso was almost everything it claimed to be. These large, well-seasoned beef hunks were a pleasure to behold. The seasoning was not-quite-smoky, not-quite-spicy, not-quite-salty and all-around delicious. My only complaint is that the beef was a tad overdone and tough. But I like my steak rare, so perhaps other diners won’t be as let down.

Black rice. Wow. I’d never heard of it before and I don’t think my life will ever be the same again. Dani described it as rice cooked with mushrooms, but the mushrooms get taken out before the final product is complete. So the rice drinks up all that lovely, earthy flavor and color but retains its integrity as a grain. Although I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, Dani seemed so excited about it that I decided to give it a whirl – I’m so so so glad I did.

The black rice came out soft and fluffy, like a down pillow fresh from a plumping. There was no distinct mushroom flavor, rather the rice had a lovely nuttiness to it with subtle undertones of earth. The smell wafting towards my eager nose was heavenly, eclipsed only by that incredible, unique flavor. It’s no wonder why the Haitians save this miraculous side for special occasions.

Amazing as that black rice was, the crème de la crème was the pikliz. This is, in my opinion, the greatest condiment on the planet. Cole slaw’s mature, spicy, sophisticated older cousin, pikliz is shredded and pickled veggies with not a hint of mayo and a whole overload of flavor. It paired well with literally everything on my plate. Everything. And it’s actually spicy!

I’ll be back.


Chicken Pike

Chicken Piké, served in a spicy boat of Haitian marinade alongside mixed veggies and fried plantains. All aboard!

Snax:

Celebrating my birthday at the National Apple Harvest Festival was a blast, but Legs insisted that a birthday dinner was in order at an arena of my choosing. I was feeling a bit Caribbean and decided to try something I haven’t experienced in ages; the joy of Haitian food.

Growing up I had a best friend, Nate, who was Haitian and still remember the smell of his mother’s cooking filling the house. Call it nostalgia or inexperience, but Nate’s mom made one of the best spicy wings I’ve ever eaten. Naturally when I saw chicken piké on the menu I had to go for it and try to recreate my first taste of Haiti.

The results? A resounding success. This chicken piké was everything I hoped it would be. It had the smoky sweetness that I expect from the Caribbean with a kick that lands squarely on the pleasure centers of the brain. The one-two combo of fall off the bone chicken and a commanding sauce had me KO’d from the start.

The chicken’s tag team partners mixed vegetables and sweet plantains kept the hits coming. Sautéed red peppers, onions, carrots, and broccoli had just the right amount of crunch to complement the perfectly tender chicken. Like all great fried plantains these were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. More importantly both sides carried the piké’s spiciness just a little longer. Every bite of this meal was a pleasure.

How could this meal get any better? With surprise tickets to the Book of Mormon from Legs, of course! I’m too overcome by joy to even care if Legs beats me this round.


And the winner is… Snax!

✓Protein ✓Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✗Presentation

The streak is over! My succulent chicken and breathtaking sauce were just too much for Legs’ beef to overcome. In fact, she kept coming back to my plate for sauce throughout the meal! This win finally puts me on the board and gives me an opportunity to tie. I can only hope to put together a streak of my own.

Once this month is out someone will face punishment and every month thereafter. Stay tuned!

September/October wins:

Legs: 3 – Snax: 1

 facebook twitter instagram

Kari Chameleon

Cuisine, Malaysian, New Jersey, Thai

The Battleground

Penang, East Hanover, New Jersey


The Contenders

Kari Sayur vs. Kari Mee

 

Kari Sayur Edit

Kari Sayur – a salad bar’s worth of veggies, tofu and the spicy curry sauce of your wildest dreams. Love at first bite – I’m head over heels!

Legs:

There are not enough adjectives in English to describe how much I love the food at Penang. Once I got a dish I didn’t love, but it was still pretty good. Other than that one fluke, the food here is sure to blow your mind.

My Kari Sayur was apocalyptic. This hearty dish was served with a freaking ladle, the better to shovel food directly into your mouth with.

The “mixed vegetables” in my menu description included okra, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage, onions and peppers all stewed together and absorbing that gorgeous broth. Penang has once again performed culinary magic and managed to keep the texture of the vegetables in tact despite their stewing process. Crisp and refreshing, these vegetables broke the mold. My fried tofu was also delicious, as expected. True to tofu form it acted as a flavor sponge and soaked up as much spicy curry broth yumminess as it could.

Spicy curry broth. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Chili, lemongrass, curry and coconut milk come together in this tomato-based sauce to leave you breathless and begging for more. As you eat the flavors build, crescendoing to a beautiful and trusting relationship. Just as intimate friends begin to share the dark corners of their lives with each other, this incredible sauce slowly revealed its hidden flavors and left my tongue bursting with surprises. The GIGANTIC portion meant that I got to eat it again the next day – and it was even more delicious on round two.

Give Penang your business – you won’t regret it!


Chicken and shrimp tangled up in egg noodles and immersed in a spicy lemon grass, coconut curry. Tell your noodle soup there’s a new sheriff in town.

Snax:

Penang, where only the strong survive. The blend of Malaysian and Thai cuisine makes for an outstanding selection but there’s only one contender I trust to put me on the board, my old friend Kari Mee. Always ordered extra spicy. Always satisfying.

The broth is a flavor that I have yet to encounter in any other dish. Lemongrass and coconut unite in a celebration of flavor that lasts as long as Christmas in America. Each passing moment reveals a new layer to savor. Spicy, sweet, earthy, and just a slight creaminess make for a broth that just won’t quit. Now avert your eyes as I drink straight from the bowl.

Kari Mee comes with either chicken or shrimp…or both. Yeah, let’s do both. The shredded chicken falls apart in your mouth and carries the broth like the Olympic flame. Such majesty and grace is matched as the chicken passes the torch to shrimp. Masterfully prepared shrimp with a slight snap makes for a wonderful addition to this already delectable dish.

The egg noodles are an excellent backdrop for the broth and protein to thrive. They don’t have much of a personality on their own and they’re not supposed to. Still, I am thankful for Penang’s noodle competence.

As I lift a piece of tofu from Legs’ Kari Sayur I can feel the tension build. I need a win. Badly.


And the winner is… Legs!

✓Protein ✗Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

This was a really, really close one. Our sauces were more or less the same, although mine was a stew and Snax’s was a soup. What really pushed me into the winner’s circle was my amazing serving pot and my garden patch of veggies. It’s hard to compete in a category when you don’t have much representation. Better luck next time.

September/October wins:

Legs: 3 – Snax: 0

 facebook twitter instagram

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.

Legs:

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!

Snax:

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

 facebook twitter instagram

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.

Legs:

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.

Snax:

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

 facebook twitter instagram

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.

facebook twitter instagram

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:

 

 facebook twitter instagram