Monday, May 11, 2009

A Virtual Dine-Around

Greetings, Culinary Friends.

I've got so much to write about today I just don't know where to begin! This will sort of be like those old-fashioned "dine-arounds," but rather than restaurants, we'll do quick stops at a few different topics. How does that sound?

First up: Friday night, we went "down neck" with some friends. Now, for those of you not from north Jersey (and not familiar with local slang), "down neck" refers to the Ironbound section of Newark. This section was once populated mostly by Italian immigrants (including some of my ancestors), but in the early 70s, a large influx of Portuguese arrived. With their arrival, came small restaurants focusing on fresh seafood and traditional Portuguese food. I haven't been to this section of Newark (let alone almost any part of Newark other than the airport) in about 25 years. So it was good to see the Ironbound alive with restaurants and activity on a pleasant spring evening.

We ate at Seabra's Marisqueira. I felt like I left the US and was indeed in Portugal. From the beautiful sea-blue tiles that cover the walls, to the wonderful Portuguese bread, to the waiters serving us, it was an authentic experience. It was recommended that we try their house specialty, Pork with Clams (photo above). I've never had clams as sweet. All around, a delicious evening. BTW: I have no idea what "down neck" means. If anyone knows, please write in!

Next stop on our dine-around: Low-Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread. Tooling around the various blogs that I read, I happened upon this terrific recipe from Joy the Baker. I actually wasn't planning to bake anything Sunday night, but when I read this recipe (see below) I quickly remembered that I had three very ripe bananas sitting on my counter. And, it looked easy (remember my rule?). De-lish!

Next: so much for low-fat. Today, my friend Melissa brought me a surprise bag from her excellent Mother's day brunch adventure to Brooklyn. Melissa took her mother and grandmother to Sweet Melissa Patisserie. Melissa (the bakery one) is the award-winning author and baker. Melissa (my friend) shares my love of sweets and brought me an incredible, to-die-for, little bag of Chocolate-Orange Macaroons. If you live anywhere near Brooklyn, and have a penchant for fine baked goods, you must visit Sweet Melissa.

Rounding out our trip are two stories from the May 18th issue of Time Magazine. The first is a terrific article by the always amusing Joel Stein as he reviews a new book about eating locally and America's culinary heritage - a virtual Americana dine-around.

The second article has nothing to do with food, but you should read it anyway. It's titled "Do-It-Yourself Heroes," written by Nancy Gibbs, probably one of the most gifted writers out there. In this piece, Gibbs eloquently tells us that in "tough times, the virtues that inspire us are old-fashioned, unglamorous and hiding in plain sight." Among others, she calls out Captain Richard Phillips, Susan Boyle (she of Britain's Got Talent recent fame), and Barack Obama. Ordinary heroes doing the extraordinary.

I hope you enjoyed our little tour. Come back next week to see where our travels take us.

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread (Joy the Baker)

adapted from the Weight Watchers site

makes 1 loaf of 10 slices, 4 points per slice

- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

- 1/2 tsp salt

- 1/2 tsp baking soda

- 1/4 tsp baking powder

- 1/2 tsp cinnamon

- 3 tsp canola or walnut oil

- 1 large egg, beaten

- 2 medium egg whites, beaten

- 3 large bananas, ripe

- 1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients including the oats and cinnamon.

In a smaller bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or fork. Add oil and whole egg and mix thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Batter will be fairly thick.

In a medium sized bowl, with an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.

Pour batter into pan and bake until top of loaf is firm to touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Flip out and cool on a wire rack for another 10 minutes. Slice loaf into 10 equally sized slices.


  1. Your blog is great, but it always makes me hungry!

    I would guess "down neck" refers to the fact that Newark is in the narrowest part of NJ (neck) and New Jersians go "down the shore".

    Anyway, keep blogging!

  2. Hi, Keith. I bet that's it ("down neck"). Thanks!


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