Monday, December 31, 2012

Maritime Parc, Jersey City

This restaurant had me at “hello.”  Located at Liberty Landing Marina at Liberty State Park, with the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty for neighbors, that alone would serve as enough of a draw for me. But the lights from across the river are not the only things shining here. Thanks to Executive Chef/Owner, Chris Siversen, the food shines brightly, too.

At a media dinner recently, Chef Siversen showcased the culinary talents on display here. We began with a thick, velvety Smoked Potato Soup studded with Oysters and Caviar served with a Ulacia Txakolina 2011 white.  

This course was followed by Grilled Line Caught Swordfish, Grapefruit Beurre Blanc, White Bean-Carrot Ragout. The perfectly cooked fish accented with the delicious citrus sauce and a side of fried chickpeas was incredible! The wine, Abbazia di Novacella Nerner 2011, a white with deep fruit essence really brought this dish home.

The next course was a little unusual, but worked so well. Local Sea Scallops, Braised Short Ribs, Sauce Gribiche was absolutely luscious. The pairing of fish and beef in one dish was one I would not have ventured to chance, but in Chef Siversen’s hands it was magic. This was paired with a Domaine Sigalas Santorini 2011.

The fourth course was Foie Gras, Spiced Cantaloupe, Lavender Honey Gastric, Brioche Toast…I am not a huge foie gras lover, both from a moral standpoint and taste wise, but the accompaniments were fabulous! This was served with a very dry 2010 Gini Soave Classico.

 And the food continues…an absolutely mouth-watering Sake and Soy Braised Pork Belly “Kung Bao” Style with Peanuts, Butternut Squash, and Honey. The best dish of the night! Served with a Mount Jefferson Cuvee Cristom Pinot Noir 2010.

And ending the entrĂ©e portion of the meal, a Ginger Glazed Duck Breast with Parsnip Spaetzle, Hen of the Woods, Fig Jam.  The spaetzle, IMHO a terribly underused item, was to die for. A delicious 2010 Morgan Pinot Noir Twelve Clones accompanied this.

Elizabeth Katz, Maritime Parc’s Pastry Chef, did herself proud with the dessert tasting. Course one included a Lime Meringue, Mango Sorbet, Coconut Lemongrass Coulis, and Macadamia Brittle; Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingerbread Bottom, Butter Pecan Ice Cream, and Roasted Pear and Pumpkin; and finally Apple Brown Butter Cake with Warm Baked Cinnamon Apples, Caramel Ginger Ice Cream, and Candied Cranberries (the big winner in my book!).  These were served with a fruity and savory Vidal Ice-wine (NJ).

Did you notice that the previous paragraph stated, “course one?”  That’s right, there were two dessert courses (not a bad thing).  This was definitely the chocolate lovers course.  S’mores Sundae with Toasted Marshmallow, and Coffee Chip Ice Cream; 16 Layer Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Fudge, and Pistachio Crunch Ice Cream, washed down with a Heitz Ink Port from Napa. You couldn’t go wrong with any of these choices.

Besides a wonderful setting indoors for dinner, or a drink at the outdoor bar and patio in the warm weather, Maritime Parc has 18,000 SF of lovely event space with wraparound terraces showcasing those fabulous views (do I hear wedding planners swooning over this location?).

And Chef Siversen is planning something special to kick off 2013. On Thursday, January 17, Chef will be pulling out all the stops to highlight two of his favorite culinary components: a bird+beer dinner! This first of its kind, 5 course meal is devoted to birds, featuring local chickens, quail, duck, and other fowl, paired with beer and wine. The cost is $135 all-inclusive and starts at 7pm.  Sounds like a great way to get the New Year started!  Call 201-413-0050 for more information.

And just to whet your whistle, try Maritime Parc’s signature cocktail, Perseverance. It’s just the thing to get you through these long, dark, cold winter nights.

1 oz. Diplomatico Rum (dark Rum)
2 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
¾ oz. Cinnamon Agave
½ oz. St. Germain
½ oz. Lemon Juice
½ oz. Pinot Noir Float

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add rum, Sauvignon Blanc, lemon juice, cinnamon agave and St. Germain.  Shake vigorously and strain in a large wine glass with ice already in it.  With a spoon over the wine glass, pour the float of pinot noir over the spoon into the glass.  Serve.

Maritime Parc is the answer to what’s been lacking at the Liberty Landing waterfront for quite some time. They always had the views, but now they’ve got the caliber of food and drink to match. Get there!

84 Audrey Zapp Drive
Jersey City, NJ  07305

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lidia Bastianich - The Interview

When you’re a food blogger you pretty much write about a new recipe you’ve tried, or a restaurant you’ve visited, but most of us rarely get the opportunity to speak for any length of time with one of the greats of the food world.
Today I had the pleasure of chatting with Lidia Bastianich. You may know her, as I do, from her TV shows, or her restaurants, or her cookbooks. I’ve met other chefs and food celebrities, and while most of them are pleasant, I haven’t found any of them to have the genuine warmth that they exude on TV. So what a nice experience it was to speak with Lidia, who spent a good 30 minutes talking with me about her restaurants, her favorite thing to cook when she’s home alone, and how she juggles her busy life.
I met Lidia at a book signing for her latest book, Lidia’sFavorite Recipes. She was signing books at my local Fairway Market and at the last minute I decided to run over. Not because I didn’t want to buy the book or get it signed, I just figured it would be a mob scene. Lidia has a great following in New Jersey and I had limited time that afternoon to wait in line. After buying the book, I got on the line snaking through the produce section, chatted with the other waiters, and after about an hour, got to the signing table. Then I realized why it took so long. Lidia warmly greeted me, her assistant snapped pictures, and Lidia signed my book. But never once did I feel rushed, even though there was still a long line behind me and the time for the signing was almost up. I asked Lidia if it would be possible to contact her for an interview and gave her my card. She said, “of course, we’ll be in touch.” I was thrilled just to have gotten to speak with her and have my book signed, but didn’t really hold much faith in hearing from her. After all, she is one of the most famous and busiest food personalities in the world.  But true to her word, a few days later I received an e-mail from her PR assistant initiating the interview. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised! 
So, now, on to the interview. As I mentioned above, we covered a wide range of topics, but started with the new book. I noted that this book seemed more personal than the others, and wondered what her vision was for this book. She said this book just flowed from the heart, and it is a summary of all her books up to now – this is the one that pulls it all together.  Asking her about the one takeaway she’d like readers to have from this book, she said that people who don’t think they can cook, would be surprised at the results. Take this book and make it your own!
I was interested in how she juggles this busy life – TV, restaurants, cookbooks, travel – and her answer was so simple. This is “my life, I love it.” Her children work with her in the businesses, and they are getting the grandchildren involved, too. In fact, one of her grandsons was at the book signing helping her. She also stressed that she has wonderful, competent people around her, who’ve been with her for awhile. That is the key – she doesn’t view this as work, it’s her life.
We moved on to restaurants and we talked about how each restaurant is different. When thinking about opening a new restaurant, they look at the area, where is the culinary world in that city, obviously the real estate market is important. Lidia and her team build restaurants that reflect the chef who is cooking there, even better if the chef is local. They seek out the food artisans to bring in local flavor, but more importantly, they settle into the city, they don’t take over. The restaurant reflects the fabric of that city.
Selfishly, I asked about the possibility of a Lidia restaurant in New Jersey. We talked about how even though New York City is 20 minutes away, sometimes you want to stay close. Lidia’s passion is education through books, classes, etc., so unless one of her children wants to open a restaurant in NJ, sadly we’ll have to continue to trek to NYC for her authentic Italian food.
I think everyone who watches chefs on TV wants to know, what do they cook when they are home? Not for family or holiday dinners, but when it’s just them. They’ve got the house all to themselves and it’s quiet. What’s their comfort food? For Lidia, it’s cooking up some garlic, oil, and pepperoncini, and enjoying it with a glass of wine. Sounds good to me.

Lastly, I asked her what she’d like to say to her fans in New Jersey. She said, “New Jersey is vibrant and everyone is interested in food. You’ve got the artisan movement; you’ve got wonderful Italian ethnic specialties, New Jersey is blessed with good stuff. Take that energy, stay local, seasonal, simple, and enjoy the family at the table.”  Or as she says at the end of her TV programs, “tutti al tavola!”
For more information about Lidia, her restaurants, books, etc., visit Lidia’s Italy

Friday, November 23, 2012

“Tree to Jar” Jams Hand Made in New Jersey

Looking for a delicious gift for your hard to please food-obsessed friends? How about preserves with unique flavors, made by hand with local produce, in beautiful packaging? Let me introduce you to Kitten and The Bear.

I met the founders of Kitten and The Bear, Sophie Kaftal and Bobby Zielinski, a few months ago after reading a blurb in the WSJ about their products. Since we live relatively close, we met for coffee and a sampling. Actually, once I tasted their jams, the coffee sat untouched. Sophie is a graduate of culinary school and Bobby is a photographer. They met in Toronto but now reside in the NJ. They have combined creative forces to develop a line of small batch preserves cooked in old-fashioned French confiture unlined copper pans (made by a family in France). The flavors they produce are nothing like your typical grape jelly. Their process and ingredients are very traditional and these products contain no commercial additives or pectin.

Their brand concept is that the flavors never reoccur. They only use ingredients that are available from their local suppliers or farmer’s markets. I asked how they develop their flavors and Sophie told me they use “flavor mapping,” similar to Chef Grant Achatz in Chicago. She keeps a scrap book and prowls ethnic markets for interesting spices and distillates. Just read some of the flavors and dream of ways you can use them:
·       Strawberry Eucalyptus
·       Donut Peach, Basil, and Lime Zest
·       Ruby Pluot Cinnamon, Apple, and Aperol
·       Cherry Wood Smoked Italian Plum
·       Yuzu and Red-skinned Plum
·       Spiced Tomato and Tawny Port
·       Concord Grape and Violet

How about the Smoked Italian Plum on a burger or with pork tenderloin? The Donut Peach would be heavenly mixed into Greek yogurt. If you’re more of the savory type, try the chunky Spiced Tomato (with a hint of cayenne, cloves, and cinnamon) on a thick slice of hearty toast.

As the seasons change, so do the flavors. The web site has the current availability, but I have a sneak peek for you at the next collection about to be released:
·       Green Apple & Eucalyptus Jelly
·       Quince & Evergreen Jam
·       Persimmon & Rooibos Chai Jam
·       Ground Cherry, Quince & Vanilla Marmalade
·       Concord Grape & Orange Blossom Jam
·       Hickory Smoked Pear, Hazelnut & Vanilla Bean Jam
·       Seckel Pear, Tobacco & Rye Jam
·       Winesap Apple, Pomegranate & Pimm's Jelly
·       Quince & Fresh Anise Marmalade

Can you say “heavenly?”

Sophie and Bobby do everything themselves, from macerating the fruit and jarring it, to packaging, and finally to writing each note that goes into every box. Nothing is outsourced to maintain the quality.

As I view their web site, I see some flavors are already out of stock so don’t get left out (like me). If you’ve got palate discerning friends, order some of these preserves and give them something they won’t get anywhere else, truly unique combinations of fruit forward preserves. Your friends are sure to thank you, and if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll share!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving Burgers in Wayne, NJ

What’s the next best thing to Thanksgiving dinner? A Thanksgiving burger! The crew at Burger Deluxe in Wayne has come up with a unique way to usher in the holiday season.

They’ve taken the turkey burger and elevated it to new heights (literally)! The burger, topped with a delicious roasted chestnut stuffing, on a freshly baked brioche bun, is served with cranberry sauce and pumpkin mashed potatoes on the side. This might be just the ticket for you non-traditionalists out there.

And not only can you stop by the restaurant to enjoy this (or one of the many other delicious burgers), but they have provided us with the recipe so you can make it at home!

Let me know if you try this. Send me a photo of your Thanksgiving burger and we will post a compilation of our reader’s delicious results!

Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!

1420 Rt 23 North
Wayne, NJ

The Thanksgiving Burger is available the entire week before Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NJ Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

Hope all is well in your part of the world.
Quick post about two local food-related businesses doing their part to help those in need.
Fairway Market in Woodland Park will host a fund-raiser shopping night on Thursday, November 15 to raise money for Wayne Police Officer Bob Franco, who was seriously injured when a tree fell on his patrol car during the storm.  Franco, the father of three young children, suffered a severe spinal injury and remains in the intensive care unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson after seven hours of emergency surgery. Fairway Market will donate 25 percent of the sales received from registered shoppers to the Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 135 to help with Officer Franco’s medical bills.  Please stop by Fairway, register to shop this Thursday evening and help Officer Franco.
On another front, one of the area's best loved chefs is doing his part to lessen the burden on people affected by the storm.  Zod Arifai, of Blu and Next Door in Montclair, and Daryl Wine Bar in New Brunswick is offering a special menu in all locations. As Zod noted in his e-mail to me, many people are looking to go out for quick, inexpensive, hot meals, and in response to this, he has created a three-course prix-fixe menu.  For $19.50, restaurant customers can choose two courses plus ice cream for dessert (not including tax, beverages, or gratuities). This menu will be available everyday including weekends until November 30. From December 1 until December 30, 2012 it will be available weekdays only. Zod is offering this in appreciation for his customers and their needs during this time of crisis. The menu follows below.
I hope you will be able to help Officer Franco by shopping at Fairway in Woodland Park this Thursday evening, November 15. And for a relaxing night out and a wonderful meal, please visit one of Zod's restaurants.
Salad of Baby Lettuce with Roasted Beets, Pear, Toasted Walnuts and Gorgonzola

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Cranberry


Linguini with Shrimp, Tomato, Chili Flakes, Basil and Mint

Idaho Brook Trout with Asparagus, Wild Mushrooms, Cauliflower, Truffle Broth

Brisket of Beef with Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Potato Puree and Portobello


 A scoop of Vanilla and Chocolate Ice Cream