OTB Economic Stimulus Dinner I: Chengdu 1

April 26, 2009

I’m happy to report that our first OTB Economic Stimulus dinner was a fantastic success. On April 25, 2009, 14 foodies converged on Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, New Jersey for a night of major league, mouth numbing and mucus membrane burning Sichuan goodness.

Related OTB Post: NJ Dining – Chengdu 1

Chengdu 1
89 Pompton Ave (Pilgrim Shopping Plaza)
Cedar Grove NJ, 973-239-7726

Web Site: http://www.chengdu1nj.com/

OTB Stimulus Dinner I Collage by you.

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NJ Dining: Ultimate Banh Mi Sandwiches at Mo Pho and Saigon R.

April 25, 2009

MoPho
212 Main St, Fort Lee, NJ
(201) 363-8886

Saigon R.
58 W Palisade Ave, Englewood, NJ
(201) 871-4777

Related Article: Saigon R. and Mo’ Pho’

If you’ve been following the latest trends in the New York City dining scene, no doubt you’ve read and heard about the most recent Vietnamese sandwich craze — also known as the Banh Mi that’s sweeping the Metropolitan area. If you take trends at face value, you’ve probably also read the reports from Eater that the Banh Mi has “Run its course”.

The fact of the matter is, the Banh Mi is the right sandwich at the right time. And let’s face it, here in New Jersey, we’re a little slow on the uptake when following up on New York City trends. But I submit to you that when we set our mind to something, and when we get around to it, we do it better than anyone else.

The Making of the "Oink Mi" Ultimate Vietnamese Sandwich by you.

A few weeks ago — prior to the publication of the New York Times article which catapulted the Banh Mi into the front and center collective foodie consciousness — Chef KT Tran (of Mo Pho and Saigon R. fame) decided that she needed to add some new offerings to her menu, and I suggested Banh Mi, particularly as I knew KT could put her creative skills and 30 years of Vietnamese cooking expertise behind it. KT’ and her family have operated Vietnamese restaurants since the 1970’s in the New York Area, and we’ve been very lucky to have her in Northern New Jersey, where her bold Southeast Asian flavors are tailored to meet the tastes of a very diverse customer base.

The Making of the "Oink Mi" Ultimate Vietnamese Sandwich by you.

A typical store-bought Banh Mi from New York’s Chinatown. Usually these go for 2 or 3 dollars apeice. But there’s not much meat on this thing.

Fully aware of my past “Ultimate Sandwich” exploits with Chef Christine Nunn, at Picnic Caterers, Chef Tran knew she had to up the ante in over-thet-top sandwich insanity, particularly when competing with Nunn’s Rendevous at Burger Mountain, the Ultimate BLT and the Foie You.

We knew of one weapon in the Vietnamese culinary arsenal that could hold up to these giants: PORK. And lots of it.

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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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Introducing OTB Economic Stimulus Dinners

April 4, 2009

lastsupper by you.

The economy, as we all know, is hurting. Bad. Really bad.

In recent weeks, I’ve watched my co-workers and colleagues, my closest friends and several members of my family lose their jobs. And over the last several months I’ve seen favorite restaurants and food-related businesses starting to drop like flies. I dread every single time I have to log into the blog software in order to post a (CLOSED) update to a restaurant entry. Now it seems like I have to do it several times a month.

What is the solution? Our government is doing its best to try to stimulate the economy. And just about everyone is making sacrifices, no matter what your income level is.

Some people — like my former partner in eGullet, Steven Shaw — would suggest that we stop spending money, that we sit back and ride this thing out. That we all eat out of our cupboards for a week or a month, that we hide under our blankets and cuddle up for the big storm and then hope everything is all right at the end. I firmly believe this is the wrong thing for us to do, people.

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NJ Dining: Chengdu 1 (UPDATED October 2009)

April 4, 2009

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Chengdu 1
89 Pompton Ave (Pilgrim Shopping Plaza)
Cedar Grove NJ, 973-239-7726

I think that by now people realize that I love really spicy food. One of my favorite spicy cuisines is true Sichuan-syle Chinese food, which is characterized by its use of red fire oil (vegetable oil that is infused with red chile pepper essence) and the face-numbing Sichuan Peppercorn, also known as hua jiao (meaning flower pepper, as it resembles a tiny flower) or fagara.

While there are many restaurants in the greater New York metropolitan area with “Szechuan” in the name, the sad reality is that there are very, very few restaurants serving actual regional Sichuan cuisine, New York City included. There are  a few such restaurants  remaining in Manhattan, most notably being the midtown and uptown branches of Wu Liang Ye. Spicy and Tasty in Flushing, Queens is another good example. The much-loved Grand Sichuan International Midtown closed in April of ’07 but some of its sister (and inferior) branches remain.

So when it came to my attention (by way of an excellent post by Melissa Rayworth on the Montclair food blog Barista) that we in fact had the genuine article right here in Northern New Jersey, I knew we had to go.

Chengdu 1 is right down the road from Montclair State University on Pompton Ave, in the Pilgrim Shopping Plaza next to Clearview Cinema

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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
(973)887-6989

334 N. Main Street, Lodi, NJ
(973)779-1128

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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NYC Dining: Myers of Keswick

February 7, 2009

Myers of Keswick
634 Hudson Street, Greenwich Village, New York

Web Site: http://www.myersofkeswick.com/Home.html

Greenwich Village, particularly the West Village, is one of my favorite parts of the city. Filled with odd curio shops and specialty stores, it’s a fun place to shop when you need to buy something as a gift for a friend with very discerning tastes. One of the places I encountered recently that I think epitomizes sort of the “Wow, I didn’t know they had a place like this in New York”  feeling of the West Village is Myers of Keswick, which is a British-stlye butcher shop and grocery store that looks like it got ripped out of the middle of central London.

Myers of Keswick, West Village, NYC by you.

Myers of Keswick Storefront, at 634 Hudson Street.

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NYC Dining: Dirt Candy

December 5, 2008

Dirt Candy
430 E. 9th Street, New York, NY 10009
(212) 228-7732

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

Since changing my dietary habits I’ve started to eat a lot more vegetarian cuisine, or food that incorporates a lot more vegetable content in it. However, I’ve never considered myself a vegetarian or God forbid, a Vegan.

Still, some chefs are talented enough to do marvelous and highly creative things with vegetables. They are few and far between, but they do exist. One of these chefs is Natural Gourmet Institute graduate Amanda Cohen, formerly the Chef de Cuisine at Pure Food and Wine, considered to be among the city’s best vegetarian restaurants, as well as at the late Heirloom (closed in 2006) which was highly regarded for its vegetarian cuisine.  Chef Cohen has paired herself with the talents of Pastry Chef Debbie Lee, who hails from P*ONG (Pastry Chef Pichet Ong’s restaurant in Greenwich Village) as well as Pure Food and Wine,  where she worked with Amanda.

Dirt Candy, Greenwich Village, NYC by you.

The tiny storefront of Dirt Candy, in Manhattan’s East Village, close to Tompkins Square Park.

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Times Square: Naked Cowboys and Charmin Bathrooms

November 30, 2008

Times Square, NYC, Nov 29 2008 by you.

Times Square, New York City.

After finishing up at the MoMA, Rachel and I headed over to Times Square to get tickets for a Broadway show at TKTS. For those of you are aren’t from NYC, that’s where you can get on line to purchase leftover seats for all the famous musicals and shows for half the price. The only thing is you can’t have your heart set on one particular show, you have to chose from whatever is available. However, because of the economy, a LOT of shows are usually available, and I got to see what I wanted, Spamalot.

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NYC Dining: Terrace 5

November 30, 2008

Terrace 5 Cafe
11 West 53 Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues
New York, NY 10019-5497
Museum of Modern Art, NYC

Web Site: http://www.momacafes.com/cafes.html

My parents had arrived Thanksgiving weekend from Florida to spend some time in the city with their friends, see a Broadway show, and of course, to spend some time with us. We decided to spend the Saturday afternoon at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, in particular to see the Van Gogh and Joan Miro exhibits currently being displayed.

The issue of course came up of where to go for lunch. Naturally, of course, I suggested THE MODERN, Danny Meyer‘s exquisite fine dining flagship restaurant, commanded by Alsatian chef Gabriel Kreuther. My parents, who are recently retired, and frugally minded given the current economy, didn’t want us to put ourselves out. So I decided that perhaps it was time to try one of the two cafes in the MoMA itself — Terrace 5, which is also run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.

We chose Terrace 5 because of the two cafes, it had table service and there was going to be 5 of us, and offered a 3-course prix fixe lunch menu for $27.00 per person. However, if you’re a single diner and want even more casual dining, Cafe 2 on the 2nd floor, which incidentally is right next to the Van Gogh exhibit, is also an excellent choice.

Terrace 5 Cafe, Museum of Modern Art, NYC by you.

Terrace 5, on the fifth floor of the Museum of Modern Art, overlooks the galleries and an interactive multimedia “couch” with a video wall and soothing electronic mood music.

Terrace 5 Cafe, Museum of Modern Art, NYC by you.

Terrace 5 has a very minimalist but bright and modern European decor, not unlike the main dining room at THE MODERN.

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