Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

At Home: First NJ Peaches of 2017 Season

July 16, 2017

They’re from Fralinger Orchards, in Bridgeton. Bought them at Wegmans which carries them every year. A peach of a peach!

At Home: NJ Peaches

Dining Out: April – June 2017

July 3, 2017

Nur

April
New York City
Dinner:
Gotham Bar and Grill
italienne Taverna
Union Square Café
Toloache (Passover)
Rotisserie Georgette (Passover)
Maxwell’s Chophouse

Lunch:
Benoit
Turkish Kitchen
Daily Provisions (Take-out)
Morini Ristorante
Great Northern Food Hall

Late Supper:
Dog & Bone

New Jersey
Dinner:
Tillie’s

Lunch:
Jersey Shore BBQ

May
New York City
Dinner:
Fusco
Majorelle
Maialino
Made Nice

Lunch:
Made Nice
Dog & Bone
Morini Ristorante

Supper:
Made Nice

New Jersey
Dinner:
Aarzu

June
New York City
Dinner:
The Beatrice Inn
italienne Dining Room
Union Square Café
Eleven Madison Park (Anniversary)
The Grill
Fowler & Wells
Nur
Rocco Steakhouse
italienne Taverna
Aquavit
Upland
Korali Estiatorio
Dog & Bone

Lunch:
Made Nice (Take-out) – 2
Le Coq Rico
Tocqueville (Anniversary)
NoMad
Street Taco
Indian Accent
Gramercy Tavern Dining Room
Augustine
The Modern Bar Room

Tickle Your Taste Buds at Tillie’s

April 30, 2017

Tillie's

I first heard about Tillie’s on the Mouthfulsfood NJ board in early 2016 when one of the members posted a link to a write-up in NJ Monthly. Another member, paryzer, began posting regularly about his many excellent experiences there. So, I’ve had it on my “go to” list for a long time, but we didn’t get around to having dinner there until this past Thursday night.

Chef Wirt Cook and his wife Karen, who manages the dining room, opened Tillie’s in the fall of 2015. Named after his maternal grandmother, the restaurant is located on Millburn Avenue, in the town of Millburn. (Wow! Even at night, Millburn Avenue is one busy road! We parked our car across from the restaurant, but since the next light is quite a ways away, crossing the street was an exercise in extreme caution. As in, let’s-not-get- hit-by-a-car-on-our-way-to-dinner!)

The interior has pleasant décor: dark gray painted wood beneath wainscoting and light gray patterned moiré wallpaper above. There is high hat lighting in most of the room, three small crystal chandeliers at the back, and sconces all around. That lighting is perfect: bright enough to be able to read the menu without a flashlight, but low enough to provide a warm feeling. A long banquette covered in gray fabric is on one side, free-standing tables on the other and in the middle. Given our choice of tables, we opted for the two-top at the far end of the banquette. Seven tables including ours were occupied which for midweek in NJ is pretty respectable.

Tillie's

Tillie’s is a BYO. Since the menu on the website is a “sample,” there was no way to know exactly what would be on the menu. Michael decided to bring a Bordeaux which he felt would go well with beef or chicken, the two things he would be most likely to order. (Unless a restaurant is totally vegetarian or vegan, it’s a good bet that chicken and beef in some form will be on the menu.) Although he had brought a wine glass, it was not needed because Tillie’s provides very good ones.

Château Recugne

Immediately after being seated, we were given menus by our server Ashley who then expertly opened the wine. She also inquired as to our water preferences. As usual, a large bottle of sparkling for Michael and, although the drinks menu included root beer and ginger beer both of which I like, I decided to stick with Millburn’s finest tap water.

Once our orders were taken, Ashley brought over a tin pail which held a folded napkin with a pat of flavored butter sitting on top.

Corn Bread & Flavored Butter

Since our table was opposite the prep station, I had watched her putting the napkin into the pail, cutting up something (I couldn’t tell what), and wrapping it inside the napkin. I unfolded the napkin… Ta-da!

Corn Bread

House Made Cornbread

It was hot (not spicy hot but temperature hot). I tasted it. OMG! That cornbread was killer! Definitely one of THE best we’ve ever had. There were only four small squares but as the expression goes, thank goodness for small favors because had there been more, I would not have been able to contain myself, and then I would probably have been too full to enjoy the rest of the meal. And that would have been a shame because…. Well, you’ll see why….

A few days ago, Michael and I were discussing lettuce – specifically the fact that it has been eons since I’d last bought iceberg. He said he likes iceberg lettuce, so I said I’d buy some but hadn’t got around to it yet. The fates, however, were keeping an eye on him. Perhaps, you know where this is headed? Yes, one of the items on Tillie’s appetizer section was…

Iceberg Wedge

Iceberg Wedge with Crumbled Blue Cheese, Bacon & Tomato

Michael said the BLT concept with the classic blue cheese was a winner.

Happily, one of my favorite things was an appetizer option…

Chicken Liver Pâté

Chicken Liver Pâté with Chopped Egg, Saba & Challah

Yes, yours truly the Foie Gras Queen is a sucker for liver even it if isn’t foie gras. The very smooth pâté topped with chopped egg was a deconstruction of Jewish-style chopped liver where the liver and hard-boiled eggs are chopped together. Pâtés are usually accompanied by French brioche and you schmeer the pâté onto the brioche. Here, however, Chef Cook spreads the pâté atop the Jewish challah and tops it with the chopped hard-boiled egg. The addition of the saba added a touch of sweetness. My only quibble was that I felt the challah was cut a bit too thick. Cutting them didn’t work well, and when I picked them up, the thickness made it difficult to eat them neatly. Nevertheless, this was a delicious starter. And that included the greens which were lightly dressed with a very tasty dressing.

For the main course, Michael chose one of the two steak options.

Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon with Grilled Asparagus, Mushrooms & Sautéed Spinach

The filet was cooked precisely to his rare specification. I was a bit surprised that there was no starch, namely a potato in some form which usually comes with steaks. But Michael was very pleased with the green vegetables, and he remarked that the asparagus were grilled to just the proper side of al dente.

This is an appropriate spot to mention that he was ecstatic about the Château Recugne which as he anticipated went perfectly with the steak.

The website sample menu listed duck among the main courses. Since I love duck, I had asked paryzer if it was on the current menu, and he had said that it was. Despite the fact that the accompaniments were now entirely different, I ordered it.

Hudson Vally Duck Breast

Hudson Valley Duck Breast with Quinoa, English Peas, Radish Greens & Pea Tops

Honesty impels me to say that I didn’t find the plating particularly appealing. Because one eats first with one’s eyes, I began having doubts about the rightness of my choice. Also, what was on the plate was far more than I would be able to finish, so I decided that if I liked it, I would eat half and take the rest home. I started by tasting the smaller of the two pieces of duck. Whoa! It was fantastic! Cooked perfectly to my medium request, it was tender, moist, and full-flavored with a nicely crisped skin. Next, I tasted the quinoa mélange. Oh, my! Although I like quinoa, I wasn’t sure if or how it would work with the peas, et al, but it did. There was also a sauce that melded the mixture and added to the terrific flavor. I wish I had inquired what it was. So, sometimes plating can be deceiving because in every way, this duck dish was superb.

Have I mentioned that portions at Tillie’s are very generous? Therefore, we both exercised portion control and took home leftovers. I followed through on my original intention to eat only half while Michael ate about a third of the steak and half the veggies.

Room for dessert!

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

There was no printed dessert menu. Ashley ran through the list verbally, but we actually knew before setting foot inside Tillie’s which one we’d be having. paryzer had rhapsodized about the Key Lime pie, and since it’s one of our favorite desserts, we ordered one slice to share. The very generous slice (Have I mentioned the generous portions at Tillie’s?) was easily enough to share and lived up to paryzer’s raves: an excellent crust with a lemon filling that was Goldilocks perfect: not too tart, not too sweet, but just right!

Tillie’s is not on any social media (I guess they feel word-of-mouth is working for them). It’s also not on OpenTable or any other reservations service which means booking is done the old-fashioned way with a phone call. That’s all fine with me. However, my single major complaint is that, as I mentioned above, the website (the one modern accommodation to today’s dining out world) has a sample menu instead of a current one; thus, it’s missing what I feel is important information one looks for on a restaurant’s site. They really need to rectify that.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a restaurant that has pleasing atmospherics, provides spot on service, and most importantly will tickle your taste buds with delicious food, Tillie’s is that place. We’ll be back!

To view the entire photo set of this dinner at Tillie’s, click here.

Crazy Weather in NJ!

April 28, 2017

Crazy Weather in NJ

Hard to believe I’m wearing a tank top, shorts, and sandals. 90 degrees on April 28th is 25-30 degrees above normal!

Aarzu, a “Modern Indian Bistro” in Freehold Shines

January 13, 2017

Aarzu, which calls itself a Modern Indian Bistro, opened in the fall of last year. I learned about it on Hungry Onion where the very active New Jersey board is populated by a gaggle of folks who left Chowhound for more pleasant food forum pastures, i.e., way less ridiculous moderation. That, of course, includes Yours Truly. The HOs (Yes, we do affectionately refer to ourselves that way!) who checked out Aarzu were uniform in their praise of the cuisine. So, I put it on my “go to” list. Our dinner there on Wednesday of this week was our first restaurant meal of 2017.

Not having been to the Boro recently, we weren’t sure exactly where along Main Street Aarzu was located. Turned out it’s in the space formerly occupied for many years by Main St. Bistro. We ate there a couple of times, but it was a long time ago.  I have absolutely no recollection of the food. Michael said he doesn’t remember Main St. Bistro at all.

Though Aarzu takes reservations via OpenTable, we didn’t bother. Arriving at 8:30 p.m., we were not surprised to find the place virtually empty. Just one table occupied by a party of five.  Later on, a man came in alone. During a conversation with one of the servers, he confirmed that like most New Jersey restaurants, while weekends are busy, mid-week is pretty much dead.

The large space has attractive décor with free-standing tables and several curved, capacious, comfortable booths. How’s that for alliteration? We were seated in one of the booths. Music being played was pleasant and not loud.

Aarzu

Atypical for Indian restaurants, the meal did not open with the ubiquitous pappadam and dipping sauces. Instead, Aarzu follows upscale restaurant models by providing an amuse. A tiny, triangular Samosa with tasty vegetables stuffed into a crisp crust did, indeed, “amuse” our palates.

Amuse

We chose two appetizers. The first to be served was the Eggplant Chaat ($8) which made an eye-catching arrival in a copper pan sitting atop a pretty stand.

Eggplant Chaat

Small disks of fried eggplant were combined with a sweet tamarind sauce laced with yogurt. Pomegranate seeds added another flavor element as well as a bit of crunch. Our server told us this is typical street food in India. Well, all I can say is that this is some really fantastic street food. It was one of the best eggplant dishes we’ve ever had.

Our second appetizer was the Tandoor Lamb Chops ($26). The fact that they’d received uniform raves from the HOs made them a must try.

Tandoori Lamb Chops

The five meaty chops, coated with a delicious mixture of mint, ginger and mustard, were expertly roasted resulting in a nice char. Alongside was a sauce (I think it was mint-based) which was a bit spicy. The best tandoor chops we’ve had in the past were the signature dish from Chef Hemant Mathur’s, a Tandoor Master who helmed the kitchens at Devi (now closed) and Tulsi (which he left a few years ago) in NYC. Using those as a yardstick, I can say without hesitation that Aarzu’s chops are equally superb and deserve all the accolades. Oh, and by the way, even though they are on the appetizer menu, they could easily be a main course.

The two main courses we ordered arrived, as expected, at the same time. The Duck Chettinad ($22) was my choice.

Duck Chettinad

As you can see, the sliced breast sat atop a sea of sauce. Because it was cooked toward the well-done side, the duck was a bit too dry. However, that problem was mitigated by the sauce, full of flavor and spicy but at the right level for me, fortunate because I hadn’t thought to ask about spice levels.

Michael chose the Butter Chicken ($18).

Butter Chicken

Very tender pieces of the bird swimming in a terrific silky, smooth tomato sauce flavored with fenugreek made this dish a big winner.

The accompaniment for these main courses was perfectly prepared Basmati Rice.

Basmati Rice

The Onion Kulcha ($6) we ordered was served with the mains. Piping hot, it was stuffed with lots of onions. Delicious!

Onion Kulcha

We’ve never been terribly keen on Indian desserts but decided to share one, Chocolate Rasmalai ($8).

Chocolate Rasmalai

Combining chunks of cottage cheese with a thin chocolate pudding, it was actually pretty tasty.

We were taken by surprise when a server arrived with another dessert. All he told us was that it was compliments of one of the men in the party of five. When we thanked the man as we were all getting ready to leave, he told us he did it because one of the women was celebrating a birthday. A lovely gesture! I can’t tell you this dessert’s Indian name* because the on-line menu does not list desserts. The lightly fried cheese balls accompanied by a dipping sauce were quite tasty.

Dessert

Aarzu is a BYO. Since Michael prefers beer with Indian cuisine, he brought along a bottle of Polaner Wheat Beer which is well-suited to spicy food. He also had a large bottle of Pellegrino ($5) and ended the meal with Chai Tea ($4). I had an excellent Mango Lassi ($5).

Service was very friendly and competent.

We took home some leftovers — eggplant, two chops, butter chicken, rice, and one piece of onion kulcha – enough to form the basis of another meal.

My only complaint relates to the on-line menu. I’ve already mentioned the desserts not being listed. Even more egregious is that there are no prices. I think keeping them a secret is a disservice to the dining public.

Aarzu is a wonderful addition to the area’s dining scene. I sincerely hope there are enough people around here who can appreciate an Indian restaurant of this high caliber to sustain it. We’re eager to try lots of other things on the menu, so we’ll definitely be back!

To see the complete photo set of this meal on my Flickr, click here.

*Addendum: My thanks to Curlz at H.O. and mongo_jones at the Mouthfulsfood forum for informing me that the gifted dessert’s name is Gulab Jamuns.

Dining Out: October – December 2016

January 2, 2017

Kitchen Table at The Modern Dining Room

October
New York City
Dinner:
The Modern Dining Room
Gramercy Tavern Dining Room (Rosh Hashanah)
Tocqueville (Rosh Hashanah)
dbBistro Moderne
Tapestry
Tocqueville (Yom Kippur)
The Modern Dining Room Kitchen Table
Pippali
betony
Le Coucou
Mamma Guidara’s at The NoMad Bar
Eleven Madison Park (My Birthday)

Lunch:
ilili
Marta
Benoit
Covina
NoMad (My Birthday)
Le Coq Rico

November
New York City
Dinner:
Le Coq Rico
Le Coucou
Maialino
italienne
Upland
NoMad
Eleven Madison Park (Thanksgiving)
Rouge Tomate Chelsea

Lunch:
Blue Smoke
Le Coq Rico

New Jersey
Dinner:
Chez Catherine

December
New York City
Dinner:
Atoboy
Union Square Café
Lincoln
Le Coucou
Mamma Guidara’s at The NoMad Bar

Lunch:
Eleven Madison Park
Tivoli Diner
Benoit
Le Coq Rico

Breakfast:
Maialino

New Jersey
Dinner:
Heirloom Kitchen
Fromagerie

Fromagerie Redux

December 12, 2016

Fromagerie opened in Rumson about 40 years ago. Despite its name, it didn’t specialize in cheese but rather brothers Markus and Hubert Peter offered a classic French/Alsatian menu in a formal setting. It remained the only upscale restaurant in this area of NJ until Restaurant Nicholas came upon the scene in December 1999. We had dinner at Fromagerie soon after it opened but only a couple of times in the ensuing years before the brothers sold it to Chef David Burke ten years ago. He totally revised the menu to contemporary American. Our one and only meal during his tenure was very disappointing. Last year in October, Burke abruptly closed Fromagerie without an explanation. But it didn’t stay closed for too long long. Purchased by Paul and Enilda Sansone, who brought in Chefs Steven Botta and Angelo Bongiovanni to manage it, Fromagerie reopened three months ago.

The menu on the website lists French classics, Italian dishes, and a section devoted to a variety of steaks. It was, of course, the French items that piqued our interest. There are no prices, so we took the approach that “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

We had dinner at Fromagerie last Wednesday (12/7). We arrived shortly before our 9 p.m. reservation. Not that we would have needed one, but it’s too far away (40 minutes) to take the chance of doing a walk-in. And besides, why not get the OpenTable 100 points? As we suspected, the place was dead, i.e., 2 tables in the main dining room each occupied by a couple and another couple seated in the adjoining smaller dining room. So, including us, a total of 8 people. The couple at the table adjacent to ours left shortly after we were seated bringing the number down to 6. We did not look into the bar room to see if anyone was in there.

The dining rooms are lovely, having been refreshed since our visit during Burke’s tenure. Seating is comfortable, nicely-spaced tables are dressed with white linen, a brightly burning fire in the gas fireplace made for a cozy feel, and Christmas decorations are tasteful. Obviously, noise was not an issue. This is the kind of ambiance we love.

Fromagerie

Michael looked over the list of wines by the glass and chose a Côte du Rhône at a very reasonable $9/glass. He had two. We’d perused the menu at home and having decided what dishes we planned to order, we checked the menus presented to us to make sure those dishes were on it. The website menu was totally up-to-date. The only item not available that evening was the Cowboy Steak which didn’t matter to us since we weren’t interested in having steak.

Before I get into the particulars, let me say up front that there is excellent cooking going on in Fromagerie’s kitchen. But while all the food we had was delicious, there were some flaws with my dishes.

For the first course, Michael chose the Classic Caesar Salad prepared tableside ($14).

Classic Caesar Salad

Classic Caesar Salad

Based on tasting a bit of it, I agreed with him that it was top-notch, one of the best Caesars we’ve had.

As regular followers of this blog know, I am the self-styled “Foie Gras Queen.” So, it will come as no surprise that I couldn’t resist starting with the Pan Seared Foie Gras with Pears and a Port Wine Reduction ($16).

Foie Gras

Attractively plated, the foie was perfectly prepared and arrived properly hot though I thought the portion was a bit skimpy. It sat upon two slices of toasted bread that were so hard as to be inedible. The pears were delicious but were ice cold when they should have been warm or at the very least room temperature.

Just after our first courses were served, a young man came to the table with a bread basket holding an excellent selection.

Bread Selection

We both chose the sourdough roll. A superior roll, it was warm with a nice crust and was served with butter at the correct temperature. No dish of oil for dipping in sight! A giant plus!

For the mains, the Coq au Vin ($34) was a must have for Michael as it is one of his favorite French bistro dishes.  I didn’t taste any of it but he said it was a fine version.

Coq au Vin

Duck is one of my favorites, so I had the Duck Breast with Cherries & Grappa ($34).

Duck Breast with Cherries & Grappa

This exceptionally tender and juicy magret was prepared exactly to my medium specification with skin that had been rendered of fat sufficiently to leave it very crisp. Accompaniments were polenta and pickled red cabbage. The plate was finished cherry grappa sauce. Though this was more of an Italian-style preparation than French, I was fine with it. However, here’s where a major problem arose. Now, I love a delicious sauce and this sauce was delicious. But as you can see in the photo, the plate was literally swimming in sauce. Why, you are probably asking, was this a problem? Well, too much sauce meant some of the duck slices lost a bit of that wonderful crispness; the polenta was totally overwhelmed and practically disintegrated into the sauce; and the very tasty red cabbage (not mentioned in the description) was so buried, I didn’t realize it was there until my fork hit the “surprise” mound. I should also add that cutting into the duck slices became an exercise in trying not to splash sauce onto the tablecloth or worse onto my clothing. Ergo, a case of what could have been a superb dish somewhat ruined by plating gone wrong.

For dessert, we shared the Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce ($12).

Profiteroles

Most of the profiteroles we’ve had have been filled with ice cream. These were filled with a very tasty pastry cream, a pleasing change as they were much lighter.

With the exception of the foie gras, portions were very generous. Because we are as always big on portion control, we took home some of each main course.

Service throughout the meal by our captain Jonathan was outstanding (he prepared the Caesar). Steven Botta stopped by during our meal to see how things were going and then again at the end at which point we had a lengthy conversation with him. He was very interested in and receptive to our comments. I mentioned the over-saucing problems, and Michael suggested that he put the wine list on the website.

We found the pricing in line with what we pay at most of the high end restaurants we frequent in NYC. It seems fair to us especially considering the quality of the materials Botta is using, including Pat LaFrieda steaks as well as the special grind La Frieda is doing for the burger which, Botta told us, is extremely popular. It’s currently available only on Tuesday nights.

Despite the flaws, I enjoyed this meal, and it’s pretty obvious Michael did as well. To be sure, the A+ service and wonderful ambiance were major factors in that enjoyment. Even though we generally don’t have burgers when we go out to dinner – more of a lunch thing for us – we intend to check out the one here. There are also other things on the menu that appeal to us which we look forward to trying during future visits. We’re pleased that Fromagerie is back!

The photo set of this dinner can be viewed on my Flickr here.

Dining Out: April – June 2016

July 1, 2016

Cafe Boulud

April
New York City
Dinner:
Le Coq Rico
Maialino
Schnipper’s
Blue Smoke
Toloache (Passover)
Telepan (Passover)
Maison Hugo
Grunauer Bistro

Lunch:
Le Coq Rico
Marta
Café Boulud

May
New York City
Dinner:
Natsumi Tapas
The Clocktower

Lunch:
Benoit Bistro

Supper:
2nd Ave. Deli

New Jersey
Dinner:
Surf BBQ
Apella Greek Taverna
The Poached Pear Bistro

Lunch:
B2 Bistro

June
New York City
Dinner:
Le Coq Rico
Agern – 2
The Modern Dining Room
Turkish Kitchen
NoMad
Eleven Madison Park (Our Anniversary)
Monte-Carlo
Rotisserie Georgette
Autre Kyo Ya
Covina
Lincoln
Marta
Le Coucou
i Trulli

Lunch:
Red Hook Lobster
Craft
Bonchon
Dizengoff
Gabriel Kreuther
Eleven Madison Park
The Modern Bar Room
The Clocktower

Brunch:
Maialino

Snack:
Milk Bar

New Jersey
Lunch:
Local Smoke BBQ
Koy Turkish Grill
Inlet Café