NY/NJ Dining: Johnny’s Smokehouse

April 2, 2011

Johnny’s Smokehouse
50 East Central Avenue
Pearl River, NY 10965-2307

As with sports, art, literature and music, there are tragic figures in the culinary world.

There is one such man who is known among foodie folks in the Northern New Jersey area whose very name conjures up joyful memories.

A man who is a veritable Jedi Master of Barbecue, a rogue samurai chef who had to shut down his beloved River Edge, New Jersey restaurant for the sake of his personal health and well-being.

A man who returned with his talents to two other barbecue restaurants, only to have to move on yet again.

And for three years, he dropped off the face of the earth. We do not know where he went. All we know is that he is… BACK.

Who is this mysterious barbecue man? And where has he re-appeared? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Zinburger brings you Jet Fuel with a pastrami afterburner

January 24, 2011

Zinburger’s special “Jet Fuel” burger.

The New York Jets may have missed their opportunity for Superbowl glory this year in last weekend’s game against the Steelers, but Zinburger in Clifton still wants to support the local team. In honor of a hard fought football season, they’re offering the “Jet Fuel” burger which I had the privilege of trying over the weekend, and it tastes as good as it looks.

The burger, which is going to be featured on the menu for the next two weeks at their Clifton NJ location, features Certified Angus Beef topped with 1000 Islands Mean and Tasty New York State Cheddar, Gulden’s Spicy Mustard, New York Pastrami, Lettuce and Mayo on a lightly buttered brioche-style bun.

Accompanied by a nice glass or two of Pinot Noir or a California Cabernet, that doesn’t sound like such a bad way to drown your sorrows in front of their HDTV sports bar on Superbowl Sunday if you’re a Jets fan.

Partying with Daisy Martinez

March 6, 2010

Last night Rachel and I were privileged to attend the launch party for Daisy Martinez’s new cookbook, Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night: Bringing Your Family Together with Everyday Latin Dishes.

This book is a bit of a departure from her previous and excellent cookbook, Daisy Cooks! in that the dishes are more oriented towards entertaining and she’s really put a serious creative spin into it. The previous book was more of a foundation or introductory type book to Latin American cuisine — this one really makes it take off like a supersonic jet blaring reggaeton music on its way into the stratosphere.

The party occurred at Don Coqui, a brand-new and massive  high-end Puerto Rican restaurant in New Rochelle, New York owned by Jimmy Rodriguez, who is among the most prominent Latino chefs and restauranteurs in the country. Jimmy has opened several Latino restaurants over the last ten years, including Sofrito restaurant in New York City. Rodriguez has now devoted his energies entirely to Don Coqui, and rightfully so.

I never thought a Puerto Rican place would be a destination restaurant in the burbs of the New York metro area, but there it is. It’s also got an entire floor and kitchen dedicated to catering, so it’s a great place to have parties.

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NJ Dining: Last Meal at The Citrus Grille

February 13, 2010

Last night, our friends who live in the Ramsey/Mahwah area introduced us to one of their favorite restaurants, The Citrus Grille, located in nearby Airmont, NY, which is owned by CIA-trained chef Steve Chrisitanson, who cut his culinary chops at New York City’s The Four Seasons Restaurant under the late Christian Albin.

I was extremely looking forward to adding another fine dining location to our list, only to hear from our friends that this was the restaurant’s last weekend after 13 years in business.

However, there is a silver lining to this story. While The Citrus Grille will be closing after Valentine’s Day weekend, Christianson will be opening a new restaurant in nearby Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, in a newly constructed space in the Fall of 2010. So think of this post as a preview of great things to come, and not a goodbye.

While the new restaurant doesn’t have a name yet, I’ll keep you apprised of upcoming developments.

I apologize in advance for the lighting/color in the photos, as we were sitting by a nice warm fireplace that was giving off orange light.

What do you start the evening off with? Why, a green tea Zen Martini.

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New York Dining: Fire + Ice

May 31, 2009

Fire + Ice
Level 4, Palisades Center Mall, West Nyack NY

Web Site: http://www.fire-ice.com

I usually go out of my way to avoid mall food — this goes without saying in that I go out of my way to avoid malls in general, because I hate the entire experience of having to fight for parking spaces and then schlepping around and being exposed to screaming kids and families that look and behave more like throwbacks to their Cro-Magnon ancestors rather than modern humans.

More often than not, the food in most shopping malls is more expensive than what you can get at a regular local restaurant or diner and of considerably less quality. I also hate the gimmicky-ness of most mall restaurants.

But sometimes it’s unavoidable that you have to eat in a mall, particularly if it’s a timing issue, such as when you want to go see a movie, which are increasingly becoming attached to large shopping complexes.

Recently I had a chance to eat at Fire + Ice, one of the newest additions to the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, which sports an AMC theater multiplex as well as a SONY IMAX.  While I wouldn’t call Fire & Ice a destination dining location, if you’re going to be heading out to a movie, it’s not only one of the most reasonably priced venues at the mall but it can also be a relatively healthy place to eat, as well as an entertaining experience.

Fire & Ice, Palisades Center Mall, Nyack NY by you.

Get your pan-cultural Teppanyaki here. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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A Visit to D’Artagnan

April 18, 2009

D'Artagnan and Ariane Daguin, Newark NJ by you.

D’Artagnan is one of the most important suppliers of luxury proteins and ingredients to many of the nation’s top restaurants.

My chef friend Christine Nunn, of Picnic Caterers in Emerson, was recently invited over to visit the D’Artagnan facility in Newark. For those of you not familiar with D’Artagnan, it is the premier supplier of luxury ingredients to many of New York City’s top restaurants. What D’Artagnan is most famous for, however, is that it is one of the largest (if not the largest) distributors of domestically produced Foie Gras in the United States. Rachel and I decided to come along and take some photos, so we could show you what this very impressive operation is all about.

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Kosher for Passover Coke: It’s the Real Thing Baby

March 27, 2009

It’s that time of the year again folks — Passover season approaches, and with that comes the annual stocking of the KFP Coca-Cola, the “Real Thing”. I’ve resurrected and updated this post from last year so you can get the jump on it early. Both Coca-Cola of New York and Chicago have just started their production runs, so be vigilant!

– Jason

(Originally posted on March 25, 2006)

In April of 1985, the Coca-Cola company announced that it was re-formulating its flagship carbonated drink, which to the horror of Coke fans everywhere, included a switchover to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Soon, the rest of the soft drink industry followed suit, and the classic taste of cane sugar-based sodas became practically extinct. Today, only a few small boutique soft drink companies still make sodas with refined cane sugar (or sucrose, made from sugar beets) a costly ingredient when compared with HFCS — but true carbonated beverage connoisseurs know and can tell the difference, as corn syrup has a characteristically cloying sweetness when compared to refined sugar. For nostalgic Coca-Cola lovers, unless you live in a foreign country that classic taste is but a distant memory.

Every late March and early April, for the two to three weeks leading up to the celebration of the Jewish Passover holiday season in the United States, Coke fans living in major metropolitan areas with large Jewish populations get their Real Thing, if only for that brief fleeting period. According to Jewish law, nothing made with chametz (any of a number of proscribed cereals and grains, including corn) during passover may be consumed — so in order not to lose sales from observant Jews during that eight day period, a small number of Coca-Cola bottlers make a limited batch of the original Coke formulation, using refined sugar. Needless to say, stocks run out quickly and fans of Passover Coke have been known to travel many miles seeking out supermarkets with remaining caches.



Passover Coke products (and Passover Pepsi) in 2-Liter bottles can be distinguished by their yellow caps, inscribed either with just the “OU-P” symbol and/or the words Kosher L’Pesach in Hebrew. The canned variety is rare and is known to be produced only by a scant few bottling companies in the United States — if you can find any, be sure to snap it up.

Here’s the official word from the OU Passover Web Site for 2009:

Coca Cola will again be available with an OU-P for Pesach. Aside from the New York metropolitan area, Coke will be available in Boston, Baltimore-Washington, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. This year, in New York, Coca Cola items will be made with an OU-P in 2 liter bottles and in cans. Other locations will have more limited Coke items made in different sizes. All these items, of course, require the OU-P symbol. Most of the bottling plants servicing these markets will designate the Passover Coke items with a distinctive yellow cap in addition to the OU-P symbol on the cap or shoulder of the bottle.

Chicago Coke fans need not worry — this year, the Chicago Rabbinical Council is having Passover Coke made with the cRc P-09 logo on the cap using local bottlers. cRc also has Passover Coke in cans, which is nearly impossible to find anywhere else in the country.

If you live in Cleveland, I also heard this recently from one of our readers:

“As an employee of the Cleveland Coca-Cola Bottling Company I can confirm that the plant does use sugar cane as a sweetener year round. Cleveland Coca-Cola is the exclusive Coke supplier of all of Cuyahoga County, however, not everything available in Cuyahoga County is actually produced in Cleveland. Look at the label and check the ingredients for “Sucrose.””

In addition to Coke and Pepsi products made with real sugar, you should also be able to find nationally Dr. Brown’s, perhaps the best black cherry soda on the planet in Kosher for Passover form. And to further improve your Passover Coke, hit it with a shot of Passover formulated Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup.

For more on Passover Coke, be sure to listen to this interesting NPR broadcast from 2004.

For more on Mexican Coke, KFP Coke’s south of the border cousin, have a look at what Kate at Accidental Hedonist has to say.

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NJ Dining: Penang

March 3, 2009

Penang Restaurant

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

Locations Shown:

200 Route 10 West, East Hanover NJ

334 N. Main Street, Lodi, NJ

Malaysian food is one of my favorite cuisines of Asia. There are only a few Malaysian restaurants in New Jersey, and virtually all of them are owned by the Penang Restaurant Group, which operates five locations, two of which are in Northern New Jersey. Penang also has branches in New York, Maryland, as well as in the Raleigh/RTP area, although I haven’t been to any of the others.

Malaysian food is a melting pot cuisine of sorts, in that it incorporates elements of Native Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines.  However, it should be noted that most of the Malaysian restaurants in the United States are owned by  Chinese Malaysians, which come from several distinct ethnic sub-groups. The Chinese represent the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia, approximately 23 percent of the population.

Many Chinese Malaysians have emigrated to the United States due to the fact that they are subject to persecution and quotas (such as not being able to enter institutes of higher education).  As with any group of immigrants, some of these people open restaurants. Penang is one of those businesses owned by Chinese Malaysians, so the cuisine is highly representative of those groups, which include the Cantonese, Fujian, Teochew and Hakka peoples, among others.

Penang Restaurant, East Hanover NJ by you.

Here’s the dining room in the East Hanover location. It has kind of a “EPCOT Malaysia” look to it, with bamboo decorative accents and such. I happen to really like this location because it’s in the same shopping center as Kam Man Food, which is a HUGE Chinese supermarket with lots of fantastic Asian produce and everything you could possibly need to cook just about any kind of Asian cuisine.

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The Great Off The Broiler Hot Dog Tasting of 2007

July 3, 2007

Spread the word: digg this story

In our previous hot dog tasting, in the summer of 2004, we evaluated 14 brands of hot dogs which could easily be purchased at supermarket chains in the New York Metropolitan area. Three years later, Consumer Reports released a similar study where the hot dogs from Hebrew National, owned by industrial foods giant ConAgra rose to the top — a result which ruffled the feathers of many seasoned hot dog experts, myself included. The gauntlet (or in this case, the bun) had been thrown down, and it was time for Off The Broiler to dust off its scoring sheets.

Click Here for Hi-Res Slide Show of the tasting day.

Click Here to view the Tasting Results data sheet (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)

Click Here to listen to the Hot Dog Tasting Podcast (34 minutes) with Jason Perlow, Rachel Perlow, Brandon Perlow, John Fox, Eric Eisenbud, Jonathan Lurie and Jordana Z.

Click Here to listen to the supplementary audio (2 hours and 23 minutes) with all the panelists, where we discuss all the hot dogs we tasted real-tine. Includes hilarious bickering and arguing, and the classic “What @#$%& number is it?” Abbott and Costello sketch.

Click Here to watch some video clips of the tasting day at Google Video.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below to read the results of the survey.

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A Peek Inside The Bite Club

April 2, 2007

New York Bite Club
Location: Undisclosed
web site: http://www.nybiteclub.com

Recently I was privileged enough to be invited into the inner realms of the Bite Club, a super-exclusive NY dining location that is so secret, I was sworn not to reveal to its actual location or the identity of it’s masterful chef, D. However, I was allowed to take photographs and document my meal, and because of my privileged status I was entitled to waive Rule #1 about Bite Club, which is never to talk about Bite Club.

The inner sanctum of the Bite Club.

Bite Club is so secret that I even have to be careful about the angles in which I photographed the environment, as not to give the location away.

Ready for Bite Club? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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