Broward Dining: How Do You Roll?

July 14, 2013

How Do You Roll @ Sawgrass Landing
13775 W. Sunrise Blvd.
Sunrise, Florida 33323

Web Site: http://www.howdoyouroll.com

Twitter: @how_do_you_roll

Quick Serve Restaurants, or QSR’s, are all the rage right now in casual dining. The trend of serving “faster, but higher quality” food items than what is served fast food establishments can largely be attributed to Chipotle, which is now a huge success story in the food and restaurant industry.

Since Chipotle made it big, others are trying to figure out what the next big QSR concept is. A lot of stuff since has been various re-spins on the burger concept. Asian cuisine, particularly sushi, is not something QSR as a whole has attempted to tackle yet, due to much higher sanitary standards as well as issues of keeping fish fresh.

How Do You Roll, a QSR chain that originated in Texas (and was profiled on the TV showShark Tank)  is attempting to recreate Chipotle’s “Roll your own” model and success but with sushi and other Asian items. There are currently two locations in Florida, one in Sunrise and the other in Gainesville.

Rachel and I had the opportunity to visit the Sunrise HDYR location on a torrentially rainy saturday night with a group of sushi fans from Meetup.com when business was slow, so we got a chance to observe the franchise under optimal conditions for photography but not necessarily to see how service would perform under busy conditions.

As I mentioned, HDYR is a “Roll your own”, QSR restaurant where you pick from a list of ingredients and the sushi chefs put together your custom sushi roll, rice bowl or ramen soup.

HDYR is most definitely a “beginners” sushi place because there are only 3 raw fish types you can choose from, Tuna (Maguro), Salmon, Escolar (a bland white fish, sometimes referred to as “White Tuna”), and “Spicy” variants of the same. Additional proteins that can be rolled are cooked Beef, Chicken, Crawfish Tails, Surimi (“Krab Sticks”), Shrimp, Eel and Tofu.

There is also a nice variety of fruits, vegetables and a number of different sauces and toppings/condiments which allows for a good combination of things for the diner to create. Pre-designed roll combinations range from $3 to $7, so you’re looking at about half of what a mid-range sushi restaurant charges for similar items.

Like at a Chipotle, or a sub shop chain, you order at the counter and they give you a number and you sit down. When your number is called you either go up to get your order, or depending how busy the place is, they bring it to you. The place was so completely dead that evening due to the weather that we got first class table service.

Is How Do You Roll a fresh or a dead fish? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Broward Dining: Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour

July 12, 2013

Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour
128 S Federal Hwy, Dania Beach, FL 33305

Web Site: http://www.jaxsonsicecream.com

I just want to note that despite recent appearances on this blog, I do not eat hamburgers and massive ice cream sundaes every day of the week, OK? Okay.

So, a few weeks ago I found out that legendary Los Angeles foodie Chris Cognac was going to be visiting South Florida for a day prior to heading on a vacation cruise and then heading off to Orlando to engage in mouse-related stuff.

Chris and I have known each other for over 10 years, as he was one of the very first folks to register on eGullet.com. But in that time, we never had a chance to meet each other in person.

Given the hastiness of the information, we didn’t have a lot of time to plan an ideal get-together. It was further complicated by the fact there were wife and kids also in tow and we wanted a place pretty close to where they were staying. As it happened, their hotel near Fort Lauderdale International Airport was only minutes away from Jaxson’s in Dania Beach.

Now, Jaxson’s is not necessarily a foodie outlet. In fact, I’d call it anything but that. Specifically, the place is known for ice cream. Massive, massive amounts of ice cream served in gigantic portions designed to give seven year olds nightmares and tummy aches.

It’s the kind of place you go to when you are visiting your grandparents in Florida and they want to take you out — for ice cream. In fact, virtually all of the visits to Jaxson’s in my entire life span were with Jack and Sylvia Perlow, when I came to visit them during the 1970s and early 1980s when they were snowbirding in Hallandale.

Dinners were usually early birds at Pumpernick’s, Morrison’s or some other South Florida institution catering to seniors that has long been history. And yet Jaxson’s remains — because it appeals to everyone.

Despite the ice cream focus, Jaxson’s still serves a full menu, mostly dominated by sandwiches, burgers and comfort food types of things that you would see in a classic luncheonette. Except that everything is Jurassic Park sized.

The place is also frequently a mob scene unless you get there right before the big lunch and dinner rushes. Literally there is a line a hundred or so people long right in front, and there’s no way you’re gonna wait any less than an hour to get in to get your ice cream unless you specifically use the take-out window outside. The photo below was taken right before noon on a saturday. By the time we had left, it was extremely busy and there was a wait to get in.

Jaxson’s is the place to be in South Florida for massive ice cream creations. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Palm Beach Dining: Shula Burger

July 10, 2013

Shula Burger @ Delray Marketplace
14917 Lyons Road, Suite 114
Delray Beach, FL 33446
(561)404-1347

Web Site: http://www.shulaburger.com

Twitter: @shulaburger

In the last three years, I’ve been to a lot of soft openings and press events for various quick serve restaurants that are burger-themed. But since I’ve moved to South Florida I hadn’t yet attended one of these.

Shula Burger is new QSR concept restaurant chain owned by Shula’s, the restaurant group founded by legendary Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts football coach Don Shula.

The Delray Marketplace store, which is located in a brand-new upscale and entertainment-oriented shopping plaza, marks the fifth location of Shula Burger, all of which are located in Florida. There will soon be a sixth opening near Orlando.

Frankly, there isn’t that much new ground you can cover in burgers. And there are so many burger places in South Florida that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.  So the bottom line is, are the burgers good, and are they good value?

Is Shula Burger a champion, or a chump? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Miami Dining: El Mago De Las Fritas

July 8, 2013

El Mago De Las Fritas
5828 SW 8th Street, Miami FL
Phone:(305) 266-8486

Web Site: http://www.elmagodelasfritas.com

Twitter: @magodelasfritas

Since moving to Florida I’ve started to acclimate myself with the other local food bloggers. By far, the most serious blogger (and food truck fair organizer) in Miami has to be Sef Gonzalez, also known as “The Burger Beast.”

As his name suggests, he’s big on burgers and all kinds of casual dining kinds of stuff. I first learned about him when watching George Motz’s Burger Land show on The Travel Channel, where he was featured in an episode about hamburgers and food trucks in Miami.

Miami of course is known for a specific type of hamburger, the Cuban “Frita”. I’ve written about Fritas before, specifically El Rey De Las Fritas, which is probably the most well-known establishment serving this particular style of burger.

Lesser known is El Mago De Las Fritas (Burger Beast post), which is owned by another member of the same family. It only has one location, and a much more limited menu than El Rey. But it has its adherents and now that I have been there, I understand the allure of the place.

For the last couple of weeks Sef and I had been planning to hook up and to talk about stuff we could do together. He suggested we have breakfast on a Saturday at El Mago. Fritas for breakfast? Okay then.

The magic awaits at El Mago De Las Fritas on Miami’s Calle Ocho. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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The Sous Vide Cheeseburger Project

July 5, 2013

So, as many of you know, I was the co-Founder of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters.

In the last 10 years, the phenomenon of Sous Vide, or thermostatically controlled water bath cooking, has caught on like wildfire, much of it due to the popularity of a massive set of discussions on eGullet about it.

Despite this massive amount of discussion about Sous Vide, I had no interest in the subject for the longest time.

In fact, I felt it was so geeky and so elitist and pretentious that the only way I was really interested in enjoying food cooked using this method was in fine restaurants, which could afford the expensive thermostatically controlled water circulators ($1000+) and had the need to utilize it for large-scale cooking efforts, for which the technique and the technology was originally designed.

But as with any technology, price does come down. And in the 10 years since the original eGullet threads started, microprocessor-controlled Sous Vide cooking systems have dropped down in price dramatically.

How cheap? How about $99 for the Dorkfood Sous Vide controller now sold on Amazon, combined with a cheap hot plate/cheap rice cooker or an electric crockpot and a package of Zip-Lok bags?

I was sent the Dorkfood controller to review by the manufacturer — I’ll have a more technical write up on ZDNet about it shortly.

But let’s get to the meat of the matter: Anyone with the willingness to do so can now cook Sous Vide, with minimal skill, budget and debugging required.

First of all, why would you want to Sous Vide anything? Well, the advantage is that you can cook a vegetable or a protein to its finished cooking temperature. Once it reaches that temperature, it is perfectly cooked. Because you are cooking it in a sealed bag in a water bath controlled by a computer, you have no loss of juices and the meat does not dry out.

The flavors using this process are absolutely intensified because you are cooking the meat in its own juices.

While Sous Vide is often used for extremely expensive cuts of beef, fish, seafood and poultry to cook right “on point” like the guys on Top Chef do, you can also use it to make the juiciest rare cheeseburger known to man.

And if that isn’t worth forgiving me for using a fancy French technique on the 4th of July to cook an All-American Cheeseburger, I don’t know what is.

You want to make one of these? Follow my lead, young Sous Vide padawans. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Recipe: Pasta a la Gandolfini

June 21, 2013

James Gandolfini, who passed away at a tender young age of 51 this week, was an actor who played film and TV characters that were bigger than life.

More often than not, they were the “Bad Guys”. But from all accounts I have heard, especially from those who knew him personally, Gandolfini was a kind, gentle and generous man that respected everyone who he worked with. I never met him. I wish I did.

Gandolfini will always be known for his role in playing the modern-day Italian-American New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, a thug with a heart, a family man, and a man with considerable weaknesses and great personal demons.

He was brutal, as a Mafia Don should be, but he commanded respect and he was obviously a guy that appreciated the good things in life. Like Gandolfini.

So for Gandolfini, who like his alter-ego Tony Soprano also grew up in the Garden State, in the exact Bergen County area I lived in for 22 years, I wanted dedicate a dish to him.

This is what I came up with — a  pasta twist on the classic Italian-American sausage and peppers that is seen in summer festivals and pizza restaurants as a sandwich all over the New York and New Jersey metro area.

But like Tony Soprano, this one has a bite.

The recipe is also somewhat heart-healthy as it only uses a small amount of oil. Given the circumstances of Gandolfini’s passing, he’d probably not want you to go the same way.

This dish calls for fresh ripened tomatoes (plum, if you can get them) and fresh basil. Don’t even bother to make it unless you have these.

Pasta a la Gandolfini

Servings, 2

1/2 Box of Dried Pasta (6oz) , Whole Wheat preferred

3/4lb  fresh Italian sausage, hot or sweet. If sweet add chile pepper flakes.

1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 White Onion, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

4 or 5 Cubanelle Peppers, sliced

1 Habanero Chile or other very hot chile pepper, fresh, julienned

4 Garlic Cloves, julienned

1 cup diced ripe tomatoes, preferably a variety from your garden

1 handful of fresh basil leaves (also from your garden)

Grated Parmigiano Cheese to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta of your choice in salted boiling water to al dente consistency while you prepare the condimenti.

Remove sausage from casing if using links. Brown in large non-stick pan and drain to remove excess fat. Set aside in large bowl.

Using a silicone basting brush, brush a scant amount of olive oil in the pan, saute the onions and peppers of each type individually, adding to the bowl with the sausage as soon as you get some char marks and is just barely cooked.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan, along with the sliced hot chile pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Once again, just cook until they barely wilt. Add the reserved ingredients back to the pot.

Reserve about 1/2 cup water when you drain the pasta. Add the pasta and the water to the pan and toss to combine with other ingredients.

Remove from heat, add the basil, black pepper & cheese.  Toss and serve.


NJ Dining: Holsten’s

June 20, 2013

With news of James Gandolfini’s passing, I thought that I would pay respect to the man by bringing back some older content about the restaurant that will always be remembered for the place where the iconic TV series that defined the actor’s career met its end.  — JP

NEW: Click for Hi-Res Slide Show

Holsten’s
1063 Broad St, Bloomfield, NJ
(973) 338-7091

Web Site: http://www.holstens.com

Holsten’s, as depicted in the final scene of The Sopranos. (HBO)

There was a time back in the not so distant past where the typical activity for dating teenagers on a Friday or Saturday night was to head down to the local Ice Cream Parlor or Malt Shop, sit down at the counter, share an Ice Cream Soda or a malted with a hamburger and fries, and then go out and see a B picture at the drive-in. As my grandparents and my parents used to tell me, there once were many such malt and ice cream soda shops, but few of these American originals survive today.

One such place that seems to have resisted the destruction of these quaint landmarks of the 1950′s is Holsten’s, in Bloomfield. Opened in 1939, going there is literally like being sent back in a time machine to observe the social habits of pre-WWII and 1950′s American youth. The menu of ice cream treats and food items it serves are totally retro.

This is not by design like one of the newer established 50′s chains like Johnny Rockets or Cheeburger Cheeburger, but because it has ALWAYS been that way — it is the Real Deal in every respect. The prices are also remarkably cheap, and while there only are about a dozen or so varieties of ice cream, all of them are made in-house and are very fresh.

Holsten’s Storefront.

You don’t need to be the Jersey mob boss to appreciate the old-time ice cream at Holsten’s. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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