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Fresh oysters from market in Northern NJ

We eat at Seafood Gourmet often and it is always wonderful. They take reservations for dinner but I don't believe that they take them for lunch. If you can try to arrive by noon, you should not have to wait for a table. It is BYOB.

Aug 14, 2015
scott10 in New Jersey

Cape May Summer 2015 Report

We vacationed at lovely Cape May last week for the first time in about 25 years and it was so wonderful that we already booked the same bed and breakfast (Mission Inn) for next year. Cape May has clearly become one of the top restaurant cities in New Jersey. What follows are my comments on the six restaurants that we visited during the last week of July of 2015:

Blue Rose Inn - This was our favorite meal in Cape May. The dining room is a freshened version of the old Alexander's Inn and the service is quite informative and top notch. Our waiter was John who has received many kudos online that are well deserved. But, the food is the real star of the show. The poached pear salad with candied pecans, field greens, a red beet reduction and goat cheese was a nice variation on a bistro favorite while the crispy calamari salad had another inventive spin featuring large whole body sections of cornmeal breaded calamari that you cut with a fork and knife and eat together with the tatsoi, pickled cucumbers and shallots, and a spicy romesco sauce. Both of the appetizers (which we requested to be served as separate courses) were split for us by the kitchen which was a welcome touch. The great flavors continued with our main courses of roasted pork pappardelle and chicken breast roulade. The pasta dish featured a match of slow roasted bbq style pulled pork with the fresh noodles in a sauce made from mascarpone and ancho chilies. This was a thrilling combination of southern American barbecue and northern Italian pasta. The chicken, perfectly seared following its sous vide bath, was incredibly moist and accompanied by creamy polenta and a ragout of vegetables and chicken confit as well as a chicken jus. My wife said that this was one of the best chicken dishes that she has ever eaten. Fortunately, we still had room for dessert and shared the photo ready Valrhona chocolate tasting ("pliable" ganache, bruleed bananas, mint chocolate ice cream, white chocolate pot de creme) and the comforting warm ricotta doughnuts with coffee cardamom ice cream. Both were delicious and matched the quality of the entire meal. This dinner and Bring Me Food about a month ago at Ninety Acres were the two best that we have eaten this year.

Pano - A real surprise that we enjoyed more than once for lunch. Owned by the same group that runs George's Place and the YB, this is a small funky room on the second floor of a mini-mall within the Washington Street Mall. The decor (Anthony Bourdain quotes, movie star photos, stark black surfaces) and the music (Thievery Corporation, Gipsy Kings, Duffy) oozes with hipness and the prices are inexpensive (cash only) for generous bowls of salads (pappardelle with salmon, arugula, artichokes and capers or shrimp with avocado, fresh herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, tortillas, and a sriracha ranch dressing) and innovative sandwiches (the Notorious R.I.B. features slow cooked pork, goat cheese, bacon, arugula and tomato - yes, it all works together!). Service was excellent.

Pier House - Beautiful decor for higher end Greek food. We loved their take on watermelon and feta salad that included honey and walnuts and tomatoes as well as a tasty Chilean sea bass entree. The giant fried lobster tail looks more impressive than it tastes. Good cocktails and very professional service. The portion sizes are quite generous which we will keep in mind next time so that we have some appetite left in order to indulge in their desserts. Similar to Blue Rose, the kitchen split our single order of watermelon and feta appetizer onto two plates which was not easy given that this is a beautifully composed salad dish.

Red Store - The one disappointment during our stay in Cape May. Given their stellar reviews, we had high expectations which were not met save for a brilliant ricotta gnocchi which mixed the very tender pasta with large chunks of crab meat, both fresh and fried chickpeas, and a sauce incorporating lemon, herbs and more ricotta. This dish indicates great potential and perhaps some other menu items shine, but the entrees that we ordered were both misses. Well seared sea scallops were overwhelmed by a smoky broth that included hon shimeji mushrooms that were unnecessarily pickled. Nicely charred steak had too much gristle and, while its accompanying duck fat fries were perfect, the other sides (wine braised onions, watercress, chimichurri) combined for far too much acidity and imbalance. Some may like and appreciate this combination of flavors; we did not. The temperature inside the dining room as well as on the outdoor patio was uncomfortably warm which negatively impacted our experience. Our waitress, though very pleasant and competent, could not keep up with the large number of her assigned tables. Because we felt too hot following the entree service, we decided to skip dessert and return to our air conditioned car. The pricing is on the high side and the restaurant is cash only. Until they solve their climate and service issues, Red Store cannot be a recommended restaurant.

Tishas - Lunches of risotto with sea scallops and crab cake tacos made for a very pleasant meal. The scallops were of the same quality and with a similar sear to those at Red Store, but this demonstrates that simple is better when it comes to great scallops in order to allow their delicate flavor to shine. The "award winning clam chowder" was quite good but not quite that stellar.

Washington Inn - The dining room felt a bit more formal, but was equally comfortable to Blue Rose and Pier House. Service was pleasant and efficient. The selection of wines by the glass is fairly extensive and well priced. Based on the advice of our server, we shared a large and delicious appetizer of fresh cavatelli with a braised lamb ragu, broccoli rabe and manchego cheese. This dish had a nice kick from (Calabrian?) chilies. The Sicilian style grilled swordfish was quite good albeit a little busy. Better was a simpler preparation of very fresh halibut. The portion sizes are as generous as those served at Pier House which meant another night with no room for dessert.

Aug 04, 2015
scott10 in New Jersey

Red Hook, NY

The CIA is a worthy destination for any food lover. The cuisine at their restaurants can range from wonderful to disappointing, but it is still worth reserving a meal if only to witness future chefs in their formative stages. The campus is gorgeous and the facilities and classrooms are quite impressive. Take a guided tour of the campus. Don't miss the bookstore! The CIA embraces gastronomic history while promoting the future of food.

Pho/Bhan Mi

Whether "confusing" or "suspicious", you are incorrect by saying that all Vietnamese food is not "spicy" before the addition of table condiments. And, I am defining "spicy" to mean with chilies and heat.

There are two Vietnamese soups, Bun Bo Hue (beef noodle soup) and Hu Tieu Sate (sate noodle soup) that rely on chilies to bring significant heat to the final product. Ga Xao Xa Ot (chicken with lemongrass and chili) as well as its beef counterpart, Bo Xao Xa Ot, are supposed to include a healthy amount of fresh chilies in their preparation. Most authentic Banh Mi sandwiches include a thin layer of chilies (whether the authentic Thai Bird chilies or the more Westernized Jalapeno). And, most recipes for Thit Nuong (grilled pork) include a substantial amount of black pepper in the marinade.

Jan 24, 2015
scott10 in New Jersey

Bobby Q's Smokehouse - Suffern

I do not think that there is a "great" restaurant serving barbecue in the region. Finks is better than most though it can be inconsistent at times. When they are on, they are very, very good. At other times they are just okay. Personally, I am willing to take the chance when craving barbecue. We ate a number of times at Bobby Q's when they were open and found their food to be consistently good. However, you had to avoid some menu items (e.g. BBQ beef which tended to be fatty and chewy and rather unpleasant).

Bobby Q's Smokehouse - Suffern

This means making the trip to Finks in Dumont instead.

lunch near blanche beads N bergenfield, or on the way home

Less than a mile north from Beads by Blanche is Fink's BBQ Smokehouse in Dumont. Besides the regular menu, which has plenty of fine choices, lunch features their daily special carving station. I believe that the theme of Friday's carving station is "Hog Heaven" featuring something interesting out of the smoker that is pork-centric.

Aug 07, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Where's the best place to eat in Baddeck?

My wife and I spent five days in the Baddeck/Cape Breton area last month, so I will share our findings about where we ate:

Baddeck:

The Bitehouse - About a ten minute ride north of town, chef Bryan Picard presents one of the finest dining experiences in all of Nova Scotia in the ten seat dining room of his restored country home. With ingredients mostly sourced from his property and other local farmers/merchants, Bryan is putting out a five course meal plus small snacks and coffee/tea that changes monthly and is thoughtfully composed and incredibly well-prepared. Reserve far in advance.

Bell Buoy - A very pleasant surprise. The fresh taste of both the lobster dinner and the seafood alfredo were top notch as were the salads and the desserts.

Baddeck Lobster Suppers - All you can eat mussels (excellent) and chowder (good) as well as fresh lobster and snow crabs are the main draw at this popular establishment.

Tom's Pizza - There is quite a difference between Nova Scotia pizza and the type we get in the greater NY/NJ metro area. But, we really enjoyed both the taste and texture of this pizza. And, the thick sliced pepperoni blows away what we usually get in the U.S.

High Wheeler Cafe - our breakfast stop every morning. Fabulous pastries of every type, baked with love. Plus, they pack terrific box lunches to take on your journey around the Cabot Trail.

Cape Breton Island (beyond Baddeck):

Lobster Pound and Moore (North Sydney) - Absolutely memorable meal served up by chef/owner Richard and his lovely wife, Lesley. It was our anniversary and Rich knew in advance, so he saved a great table for us and put together a mammoth sampling of all of his best dishes in which the incredible freshness and quality of flavors surpassed even the great quantity of food. Lobster, snow crab, mussels, halibut (two ways), salmon, steak, lobster wontons and copious sides were overflowing the huge platter which finally made us throw in the towel in defeat. Of course, we still managed to find room to enjoy dessert. Due to its immense popularity, reservations are a necessity.

Flavor on the Water (Sydney) - The Fiddle Burger (in tribute to the giant fiddle statue outside of the building) was Alberta beef topped with smoked bacon jam and maple mayo and local cheese and caramelized onions and local thick cut bacon on a fresh potato bun and proved to be one of the best burgers that we have ever had.

Rusty Anchor (Pleasant Bay) - Buttered lobster roll brings back memories from years ago at Abbott's in Noank, CT.

Chowder House (Neil's Harbour) - One of the better chowders on Cape Breton Island.

Captain Caper's Fish and Chips (Englishtown) - Excellent fish and chips and whole belly clams fried up by a nice gentleman named Moe.

Besides all of the fresh seafood and other tasty treats, we were amazed by the Cabot Trail (drove it in both directions), loved Donelda's Puffin Boat Tour to the Bird Islands, and enjoyed both the Alexander Graham Bell Museum and the Fortress of Louisbourg.

In subsequent posts, I will discuss our stops in Antigonish, Halifax, Lunenburg, Annapolis Royal, Wolfville, Advocate Harbor, and Truro.

Enjoy your stay!

Aug 04, 2014
scott10 in Atlantic Canada

NJ-4 W & NJ-17 N - Family Friendly & Simple & Cheap

On Route 17 North in Ramsey in the same shopping center as Kohls is La Gondola which has very good and creative pizza by the slice. It is a local family favorite. Usually the pizza is mediocre at such establishments, but La Gondola makes consistently excellent pizza. However, they are closed on Sundays.

May 03, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Bobby Q's Smokehouse - Suffern

As is the case with most BBQ establishments north of the Mason Dixon Line, not everything is great. We stick to the items that we know are always very good: ribs, chicken, battered items (shrimp, catfish), beer mac and cheese, seasoned fries, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, roasted roots, spicy greens, and beer on tap. I find their BBQ beef to be too fatty and I don't like their pulled pork as much as I like their BBQ spareribs.

Asian (but not Korean) in Bergen County

How does Lan Sheng compare in quality and consistency to Chengdu 23?

Apr 19, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Asian (but not Korean) in Bergen County

This is another great combo for eating. It is a little further southwest from Bergen County but right where I-80 and Routes 23 and 46 converge. Chengdu 23 is among the best Chinese/Sichuan restaurants in New Jersey.

Apr 19, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Asian (but not Korean) in Bergen County

Probably your best option is to focus on the village of Ridgewood in Bergen County. There, you can start with a very good Vietnamese dinner at Mekong Grill (from the same family that runs The Vietnam in Spring Valley). Just remember to bring your own since Mekong Grill is BYOB. Then for dessert, you have some fine options: wonderful pastry at Sook, great ice cream at Van Dyk's Homemade, or a number of other coffee/dessert options in this picturesque village.

Apr 19, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Joyce Chinese Cuisine.....River Edge, New Jersey.....Opening April 16th.

Despite its large population and close proximity to NYC, Bergen County has largely been a sea of mediocrity when it comes to Chinese restaurants. Until recently, the only above average establishment in my opinion has been Lotus Cafe in Hackensack which consistently puts out some pretty good dishes (Ta Loo Mein, Three Cup Chicken, Lotus Delight) that are well executed and a bit outside of the norm. When I need to satisfy an urge for seriously good Sichuan food, I usually travel to the always excellent Chengdu 23 in Wayne. Now, with the recent introduction of Lan Sheng in Wallington and the imminent opening of this Joyce Chinese Cuisine in River Edge, perhaps the tide is turning.

Apr 06, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Edible frog market

It is possible that they only have them on Saturdays since that is the day that I have seen them there before. Or, perhaps, they longer stock live frogs.

Apr 03, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Edible frog market

On a few occasions I have seen live frogs in a barrel by the fish department at New KF Asian Supermarket in River Edge on Kinderkamack Road.

Apr 02, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Where are the Northern Jerseyans?

Don't give up on Chowhound. There is no better forum for this information. In the past 24 hours, there have been at least 5 topics dealing with areas of New Jersey north of the Raritan River (the line of demarcation which I use to generally indicate "North Jersey"). Some days there is a flurry of North Jersey postings; other days there are none. For the past year or so there have been a larger amount of posts for the region south of the Raritan River. But don't let that discourage you. I'm certain that a lot more posts about North Jersey will be forthcoming in the coming months.

Mar 27, 2014
scott10 in New Jersey

Bobby Q's Smokehouse - Suffern

We went last week and thoroughly enjoyed it, perhaps even more than Fink's other place in Dumont. The menu is a bit larger and the ambiance is that of a loud roadhouse. Service was good. The ribs and the fried-a-cue chicken were perfect. The fried catfish with a remoulade was as good as we had at the now departed Johnny's Smokehouse in Pearl River. The sides were excellent; we especially enjoyed the beer mac and cheese, the Cajun seasoned fries, and the fresh coleslaw. There is a decent selection of beers on tap and a full bar. Hopefully, this place will maintain consistency with its quality which is sometimes a problem at other barbecue establishments. We went on a weeknight and the parking is a bit funky but not troublesome; apparently they have valet parking on weekends which makes sense considering the layout of the parking lot and the proximity to the road.

Looking for a place for lunch in Fort Lee

It is not moderately priced at night, but you can eat for less money at lunch. Their sandwiches and salads are excellent and generously portioned and might fit the budget.

Dec 20, 2011
scott10 in New Jersey

Looking for a place for lunch in Fort Lee

Actually, Franco's Metro is a good choice. The restaurant has a separate entrance from the pizza place and is quite nice. There is a full bar with a decent selection of wine, the food is consistently good, and the service is excellent. My wife and I take my mom (who is in her mid-80's and lives in a Fort Lee high-rise) here often. You might want to also consider River Palm Terrace which is just a few minutes next door in Edgewater and is another favorite of my mother.

Dec 20, 2011
scott10 in New Jersey