Ultimate Chef Bergen County 2010: Battle Cranberry

January 16, 2010

That’s right folks. It’s time again for your favorite culinary battle competition, Ultimate Chef Bergen County, sponsored by Chef Central in Paramus, New Jersey. For the opening round, Chef John Marsh of Green Door Cafe in Tenafly went up against Chef Jesse Jones of Heart and Soul Catering.

Click Here to view High-Res Photo Slide Show.

The ensuing battle was a clash of titans, a 40 year veteran of the New York restaurant scene with a classic cooking style versus a Southern style, North Carolina down-home cook. As with with many of these TV-style competitions, the focus was on a “Secret Ingredient”. For the opening round this year, it was Cranberries.

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NJ Dining: Bennies

December 1, 2009

Note: with the recent review of Bennies in the New York Times, I decided to feature one of my favorite local restaurants. I’ve updated the post with a bunch of new photos from a recent meal.

Bennies Englewood
54 E Palisade Ave, Englewood, NJ
(201) 894-5700

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

When I’ve been eating hardcore pizza and hamburgers and meats for a couple of days, I crave refreshing Mediterranean cuisine that is dominated by vegetarian dishes. My favorite place to indulge in this is Bennies, a family-run Lebanese restaurant on Palisade Avenue in Englewood.

IMG_4634.JPG

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NJ Dining: Arturo’s Osteria

October 25, 2009

Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria
188 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood NJ
(973)378-5800

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

Dan Richer, Chef/Owner of Arturo’s Osteria in Maplewood.

After meeting the young and food passionate Dan Richer at the recent New Jersey Les Marmitons beer dinner, I knew that this was a guy who’s restaurant I needed to go eat at.

Richer, who has no formal culinary training but who has a passion for cooking Italian cuisine, purchased Arturo’s from the original owners (which opened in 1991 as a wood fired pizzeria) in 2006. Richer has staged at many restaurants in Italy, frequently travels to Europe and has taken what he has learned and brought it back to his small Maplewood restaurant, which has a focus on pasta, pizza, and locally sourced ingredients. While Arturo’s retains a basic menu of pasta dishes, salads, small plates and artisan pizzas, Richer has gained quite a following from his regulars and has introduced tasting menus where everything is completely off-menu and seasonal.

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Hangin’ with Les Marmitons de Jersee Nouveau

October 17, 2009

Dinner with Les Marmitons, Oct 9 2009 by you.

I recently had the opportunity to be the invited guest of the president of the New Jersey chapter of Les Marmitons, an international social cooking club for male epicureans that has been in existence in North America for 32 years.

The October 12th dinner, which was held at the Don Bosco Knights of Columbus Hall in Port Reading, was a Beer-themed event in the spirit of Ocktoberfest, but with an Italian twist. The chef who prepared the menu for the evening was the young and energetic Dan Richer, proprietor of Arturo’s Osteria in Maplewood. Dan is something of a beer fanatic and was the perfect choice to select the dishes for the Marmitons to prepare.

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NJ Dining: BHOJ (UPDATED)

August 29, 2009

BHOJ Restaurant
430 Market Street, Elmwood Park
(201) 797-6800
http://www.bhoj.us

Even with the economy in decline, there are probably no less than fifty Indian restaurants in Northern New Jersey (not counting Iselin and Edison) and I am probably underestimating that. With so much competition in that cuisine, it becomes hard for individual Indian restaurants to distinguish themselves from others and to attract a dedicated set of diners, particularly if a restaurant isn’t in the best of locations.

One particularly exceptional Indian restaurant is BHOJ, a small intimate Northern-style Indian restaurant in a secluded strip mall in Elmwood Park. From the outside, it looks like more of an Adult Video store than it does a restaurant, with bright red neon lights against white curtains — and I could see how many people could just pass this place by. Frankly, Rachel and I discovered this place by accident about six or seven years ago, when we happened to be in Elmwood Park shopping for appliances for our kitchen renovation. I was hungry, and I saw the restaurant from the side of the road. We went in, and I am glad we did.

Bhoj is not a unique Indian restaurant in that they are doing dishes that are significantly different than anyone else does — they’re serving probably the same two dozen Punjab-style Northern Indian dishes you’re used to, with a few added things like Dhosas and Kaathi Rolls (which, by the way, are excellent).

The way Bhoj distinguishes itself is it does all these things exceptionally well — the spicing is excellent, they are using fresh ingredients, and they are executing the dishes consistently and with skill. It should also be noted that their portion sizes are very generous, which for this day in age is a big plus because you’ll probably end up taking food home. Plus, I think their Tandoor breads and kebabs are awesome and cooked perfectly (nothing comes dried out) which scores big points when it comes to an Indian place for me.

Bhoj also does a really nice daily and weekend lunch buffet where you can try a whole bunch of their dishes for a set price — its how we first became familiar with the restaurant and probably a good way for you to do as well.

Storefront, which resembles more of a adult business than a restaurant. Still, don’t be afraid to go inside. (2007)

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Tune into Daisy for a new season on July 11th

July 9, 2009

Okay everyone, It’s promotion time. My friend and local Brooklyn  girl Daisy Martinez has a nuevo season starting THIS SATURDAY, at 9:30am on Food Network. Don’t wanna get up that early? Set the Tivo!

Viva Daisy!FOOD NETWORK’S NEW LEADING LADY HEATS UP “IN THE KITCHEN”

Season Two Premieres: Saturday, July 11th at 9:30am ET/PT

This summer, Viva Daisy!, the newest addition to Food Network’s “In the Kitchen” line-up, returns for a second seasons. Popular TV personality Daisy Martinez shares her secrets for quick, simple Latin cuisine in Viva Daisy! premiering Saturday, July 11th at 9:30am.

In Viva Daisy!, viewers come home with Daisy Martinez and learn tips and tricks for creating quick, simple, mouth-watering meals inspired by her love of Latin cuisines. Daisy dishes for friends and family with recipes like savory Barbecued Short Ribs of Beef perfect for a “Family Night,” Avocado Stuffed with Crab-Mango Salad for a refreshing “Ladies Brunch,” and creamy, corn-filled Humitas (Empanadas) with Cilantro Pesto for “TV Night.”

For more information, videos, and recipes, visit:

www.foodnetwork.com/daisy and www.daisymartinez.com

(and this wasn’t part of the official promo, but you should check out boriquablog.com too.)

NJ Dining: Green Door Cafe (CLOSED)

June 30, 2009

Green Door Cafe suffered a devastating fire on July 30, 2010. The owner plans to rebuild, but the restaurant is closed until further notice.

Green Door Cafe
1 Highwood Avenue, Tenafly NJ
(201) 567-8226

Green Door Cafe, Tenafly NJ by you.

Green Door Cafe’s Storefront in downtown Tenafly, NJ.

As a few of you may be aware, I am a resident of the sleepy hamlet of Tenafly, which is situated on the northeast side of Bergen County, adjoining the towns of Cresskill, Bergenfield and Englewood. Tenafly, while being a wonderful residential neighborhood, has a bit of an unfortunate reputation of being the town that eats restaurants.

One of the restaurants that recently got the axe was Blockheads, an outpost of a NYC-based burrito chain. So I was rather surprised this week as I was driving by its former location to find Green Door Cafe, a self described “Doorway to real food” which only serves “proteins which are antibiotic and hormone free or organic” and produce that is “organic or locally farmed seasonally. We restrict our purchases to foods raised naturally without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.”

I was expecting the place to be owned by a bunch of hippies wearing hemp clothing. What I wasn’t prepared for was being greeted by the former owner of Blockheads when I went in, Leon Bell. “Hey! Jason! The Off The Broiler Guy!”

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A Cooking League of Their Own

June 5, 2009

Photos and text by Rachel Nash Perlow

OTB’s friend, Christine Nunn of Picnic Caterers, isn’t just a fabulous chef — she’s also a member of the Junior League! Christine was recently in charge of a social event for the Junior League of Bergen County. The ladies thought they were going to have an evening of cocktails and a cooking demonstration. But Christine had a little trick up her sleeve. The ladies (and a few gentlemen) arrived at Maverick Cuisine, a kitchen design firm to the stars with a fabulous demonstration kitchen,  to find that they were actually going to be doing the cooking!

What a turn out!

Fans of Food Network’s “Chopped!” will recognize the concept. Present the competitors with a market basket of ingredients which they must use in their dish, and be ready to present it to the judges in an hour. However, along with some mundane ingredients, like chicken breast, cheese, eggs, and various fruits and vegetables, each team was also thrown a curve ball. One had a bottle of Bosco chocolate syrup, another had Kraft Dinner. One unfortunate team was given canned kippers. I think this was Christine’s private joke on me, as I had denigrated them to her just the week before. My apologies, Team Kippers, you didn’t stand a chance!

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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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Gary Wiviott, Please Let Me Back in the Program

May 23, 2009

gwiv-lowslow by you.

Gary Wiviott’s new BBQ book published by Running Press (which he authored with food writer Colleen Rush) is based upon his popular web-based course on how to master the Weber Bullet smoker in 5 easy lessons. Unfortunately, because I decided to skip ahead to Step 3 after Step 1, he threw my ass out of the program.

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