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