Chakra Launches $39 NJ Harvest Summer Menu

Chakra Launches $39 NJ Harvest Summer Menu

Chakra is offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $39 Tuesday – Saturday until Labor Day.

Appetizer

Choice of:

  • Heirloom Tomato Salad Bruschetta, basil, toasted Italian country bread
  • NJ Corn Soup house-cured salmon, pickled jersey chanterelles, lavender
  • Thick-Cut Bacon, compressed watermelon, jalapeños, honey glace

Entree

Choice of:

  • Brioche Crusted Salmon, salmon pea mousse, jersey corn, chanterelles, lavender
  • Grilled Hanger Steak, arugula, grilled peaches, fried goat cheese
  • Maltagliata Pasta, spicy boar sausage, caramelized fennel, broccoli rabe, pecorino

Dessert

Choice of:

  • Crispy Waffle, jersey corn ice cream, jersey blueberry compote
  • Watermelon Mojito, rum ice cream, mint sorbet, compressed watermelon

For reservations, call 201.556.1530

Chakra Restaurant – W144 Route 4 East, Paramus, NJ 07652.

Cheers,

Veronique

Montclair Food & Wine Festival Gala Dinner Recap

Montclair Food & Wine Festival Gala Dinner Recap

TablesettingLast night, I was invited to attend the Montclair Food & Wine Festival Gala Dinner at The Manor in West Orange. The Gala Dinner is an exclusive night of collaborative culinary magic showcasing a six-course dinner designed and prepared by some of the area’s most talented chefs.

A fun part of the event this year was the new Amuse Bouche Series that each guest was treated to from four of the most creative chefs in the area. From the Caesar Salad Ice Cream by Chef Zod Arifai (Blu & Next Door) to Chef Meny Vaknin’s salmon on beet focaccia to Chef Francesco Palmieri (The Orange Squirrel) serving an outrageously-tasty smoked corn and goat cheese panna cotta with pickled asparagus and popcorn shoot stem, smoked sea salt and popcorn petal served in a river stone to Chef Thomas Ciszak (Blue Morel & Chakra) offering a perfect bite of foie gras in a puff pastry with quince and black truffle-Balsamic glaze – the amuses set the tone for the meal to come.

 

The rest of the meal went as follow:

Chef Ariane Duarte (Ariane Kitchen & Bar) started off the meal with her Perfectly Poached Shrimp, Toasted Garlic Lemon Aioli, Avocado Corn Salad. In her words “elevated shrimp cocktail”. I could have used a whole bowl of the avocado corn salad – fresh and tasty.

Chef Ryan DePersio (Fascino) had the fish course and served Pancetta-Wrapped Bronzini, Filled with Tomato Confit, Crispy Couscous, Asparagus Salsa Verde. Bronzino is likely my favorite fish, so the dish was right up my alley. The crispy couscous – clever, very clever.

Chef Mitchell Altholz (Highlawn Pavilion) served what the folks at my table and some guests I spoke with called the dish of the evening – Spring Lamb Ravioli, Merguez Jus, Fresh Mint, Brunoise of Heirloom Carrots. Great lamb flavor, bright punch of mint – a winner.

Chef Kevin Sippel (Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen) had the meat dish and served Veal Cheeks, Bone Marrow Gremolata, Fava Beans, Pecorino. The veal cheeks were melt-in-your-mouth.

Chef Michael Carrino (Pig & Prince Restaurant & Gastrolounge) ended the meal with an elegant dessert of Lemon Sponge Cake, Goat Cheese Mousse, Lemon Meringue, Cucumber, Melon, Herb Flowers.

Wine pairings were expertly-selected by Sharon Sevrens of Amanti Vino. Here were the wines served (available for sale at Amanti Vino):

  • Gobelsburger Rosé 2014 – one of my favorites for summer – dry, light strawberry flavors, served with the amuses.
  • Patrick Piuze – Chablis Terroir de Courgis 2014 – simply gorgeous wine we were told would be a very sought-after name in Chablis in a few years.
  • Huet Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Mont 2007 – loved this demi-sec wine but was my least favorite pairing with the light bronzini.
  • Graci – Etna Rosso 2012 – a natural match to the flavorful lamb ravioli.
  • Tenuta di Trinoro le Cupole 2010 – tart with lovely acidity to cut through the richness of the veal cheeks and marrow.

Dessert was paired with an ultra-refreshing rum cocktail by Busted Barrel Rum.

For those of you who missed the Gala Dinner, you’re in luck as the Montclair Food & Wine Festival goes into next weekend with two must-attend events held at the Montclair Art Museum (3 South Mountain Avenue, Montclair):

Bourbon & Biergarten – Friday June 12, 7PM – 9PM.

The fun event will feature food samplings from over 25 local restaurants and food artisans. Each attendee will receive a commemorative sampling glass. Beers and bourbons curated by Amanti Vino. A portion of the proceeds from this evening will go to support education and exhibition programs at Montclair Art Museum.

Click here for a list of participating restaurants at the Bourbon & Biergarten.

Grand Tasting – Saturday June 13, 7PM – 9PM.  

At the Grand Tasting, guests will enjoy an evening of diverse culinary offerings from many of the state’s finest restaurants.

Click here for a list of all the restaurants participating in the Grand Tasting.

Plus, Amanti Vino has an incredible list of wines being poured. For my fellow wine aficionados, here’s the list of wines for this event.

Want an exclusive experience? The VIP ($135) hour, hosted in Lehman Court of the Montclair Art Museum, from 6PM – 7PM, will feature select restauranteurs and curated wines, as well as galleries open for viewing.

VIP Lounge Participants: Escape Montclair, Fresco da Franco, Restaurant Latour, Samba Montclair.

While the events are fun and tasty, the goal of the festival is to raise funds for three very worthy charities. Click here to learn about them.

Hope you’re able to join the rest of the festivities!

Cheers,

Veronique

Outstanding Earth Day Dinner at Chakra

Outstanding Earth Day Dinner at Chakra

Wednesday night, I attended the Earth Day Chefs’ collaboration by Thomas Ciszak of Chakra, Bobby Varua of Blue Morel and Todd Villani of Terre à Terre at beautiful Chakra in Paramus.

The three talented chefs created a delicious, five-course wine-paired dinner using some of the gorgeous produce of Bracco Farms. I was privileged to sit at Anthony Bracco’s table and hear about the crops he’s planted for the 2015 season and the enhancements he’s made to his popular Bracco Farms CSA Program, of which I’m a satisfied client.

The menu and wines served were:

Reception – Hors d’oeuvres from Bracco Farms

First Course – “Garden State Salad” Blue Crab Blini
Wine: SAUVIGNON BLANC, SCHOLIUM PROJECT PRINCE IN THE CAVES 2010, CALIFORNIA

Second Course – Viking Village Scallops with Lavender-Scented Pea Puree, Lemon Quinoa, Fennel Confiture.
Wine: PUILLY FUISSÉ, J. J VINCENT MARIE ANTOINETTE 2012, Mâconnais

Third Course – Morel Mushroom Ravioli Ramps, Asparagus.
Wine:  PINOT NOIR, REX HILL ESTATE, 2012 WILLAMETTE VALLEY

Fourth Course – Lamb Crepinette Olives, Fingerling Potatoes, Fried Artichoke, Cured Chorizo.
Wine: BANDOL, CHÂTEAU JEAN-PIERRE GAUSSEN 2008, PROVENCE

Fifth Course – Chilled Elderflower Soup Strawberry in Gelée, White Asparagus Ice Cream
Wine:  MOSCATO D’ASTI, CASCINA CASTLET

While all the courses were very special and expertly-prepared, I’m a sucker for morels, ramps and asparagus and as always, Chef Ciszak’s mastery of pasta, especially wowed me.

Bracco Farms Represented

Bracco Farms Represented

It was a delight to meet Blue Morel’s new Executive Chef, Bobby Varua and sample his lamb served with a fab fried artichoke.

The dessert, Chef Villani told me, was a collaboration of the three chefs and was incredible – asparagus ice cream anyone? Yes please!

The wine pairing were genus again at this dinner as Chakra’s lovely Wine Director, Evelyn, outdid herself by choosing organic/natural wines to complement the dishes. My favorites of the evening were the not-your-typical-sauvignon-blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and the bold and sexy Chateau Jean-Pierre Gaussen Bandol. More about those babies in a later post.

Chakra often hosts wine-paired dinners and to stay abreast of upcoming events, sign up for its newsletter.

Cheers,

Veronique

Earth Day Chefs Collaboration at Chakra 4/22

Earth Day Chefs Collaboration at Chakra 4/22

EarthDay-Image_003Chefs Thomas Ciszak of Chakra, Bobby Varua of Blue Morel and Todd Villani of Terre à Terre will join forces in the Chakra kitchen to celebrate Earth Day on 4/22 at 6:30PM. Jointly, they’ll create a five-course wine-paired menu and a “From the Farm” hors-d’oeuvres ‘station’ incorporating ingredients from Bracco Farms. As an extra perk to the amazing menu, Anthony Bracco of Bracco Farms will be onsite to challenge the chefs to prepare a dish using ingredients picked fresh from his farm that day.

Reception
Hors d’oeuvres from Bracco Farms
First Course

“Garden State Salad” Blue Crab Blini
Wine: SAUVIGNON BLANC, SCHOLIUM PROJECT PRINCE IN THE CAVES 2010, CALIFORNIA
Second Course

Viking Village Scallops with Lavender-Scented Pea Puree, Lemon Quinoa, Fennel Confiture
Wine: PUILLY FUISSÉ, J. J VINCENT MARIE ANTOINETTE 2012, Mâconnais
Third Course

Morel Mushroom Ravioli Ramps, Asparagus
Wine:  PINOT NOIR, REX HILL ESTATE, 2012 WILLAMETTE VALLEY
Fourth Course

Lamb Crepinette Olives, Fingerling Potatoes, Fried Artichoke, Cured Chorizo
Wine: BANDOL, CHÂTEAU JEAN-PIERRE GAUSSEN 2008, PROVENCE
Fifth Course

Chilled Elderflower Soup Strawberry in Gelée, White Asparagus Ice Cream
Wine:  MOSCATO D’ASTI, CASCINA CASTLET

The reception is at 6:30pm followed by dinner and is $89/person including wines (tax and gratuity additional). Call Chakra to reserve – 201-556-1530.

Cheers,

Veronique

Chakra Hosts Hourglass Wine Dinner on 2/11

Chef Thomas Ciszak

Chef Thomas Ciszak

Chef Thomas Ciszak of Chakra in Paramus will have Hourglass winemaker, Anthony Biagi, inhouse for a four-course, wine-paired dinner. Hourglass wines represent a cutting-edge, modern Napa Valley winemaking style.

Chef Ciszak has crafted this menu to match the award-winning Hourglass wines:

First Course

Poached Lobster tarragon, green apple, melon salad

2013 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Second Course

Spice Crusted Duck charred sweet potatoes, red wine pear, kale

2012 Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot Napa Valley

Third Course

Côte de Bœuf and Ox Tail foie gras duxelles ravioli, mocha jus

2011 Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley

Fourth Course

Grilled Cheese Sandwich figs, beet salad, balsamic

2012 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Meet and greet starts at 6:30PM and dinner follows at 7PM. The cost of the event is $138/person (plus tax & gratuity). Reservations can be made by calling 201.556.1530.

Chakra: W 144 Route 4, Paramus, NJ 07652

Cheers,

Veronique

My Top Dishes of 2014

My Top Dishes of 2014

The Bazaar Uni Steamed Buns

The Bazaar Uni Steamed Buns

My job had me on the road more than not in 2014 and while I’ve had many, many unforgettable meals in 2014, I’ve tried to narrow down the 10 best dishes I enjoyed during the past year. Here’s the list in restaurant name alphabetical order.

Hushpuppy – Atera

Chef Matthew Lightner’s take on hushpuppies is simply brilliant. The fried exterior encased a smoked egg yolk and pickled corn. While innocent in appearance, the hushpuppy with its smoked yolk is mind-altering.

Oysters with Three Caviars – Cosmos at Loews Minneapolis

Chef Tim Fischer tops the freshest of oysters with a scrumptious sabayon then three caviars. Creamy, briny and texturally-perfect.

Escape Lobster Knuckle

Escape Lobster Knuckle

Charred Octopus with Boudin Noir Ravioli – Chakra Restaurant

I attended an Emilio Moro wine dinner at Chakra where Chef Thomas Cizsak served this fabulous dish as a first course. The octopus was of the utmost tenderness with a perfect amount of char and the boudin noir ravioli was outstanding.

Lobster Knuckle, Matsutake, Foie, Foie Juice – Escape Montclair

Chef Bryan Gregg outdid himself with this stellar dish. Sweet lobster, earthy mushroom, slab of seared foie gras with foie juice – spectacular dish served during a cancer charity dinner.

Boudin Noir – Joe Beef

Moist, flavorful bound noir paired with pork belly, pears and pierogis in foie broth – need I say more?

Sfixio Pasta

Sfixio Pasta

Octopus with Mediterranean Chickpea Salad – MP Taverna Astoria

Chef Michael Psilakis likely makes my favorite grilled octopus and this version in the form of a salad with chickpeas, fresh herbs and fantastic olive oil.

Sfixio Pasta – Sfixio Beverly Hills

Chef Massimo Denaro’s pasta special knocked my stilettos off. Perfectly-cooked spaghetti with truffle and caviar in a light cream sauce. The truffle aroma was intoxicating and the briny caviar paired exquisitely with the light sauce.

Corn Crème Brulée – Terre à Terre

At a tasting dinner I attended, Chef Todd Villani pleased my guests with his corn crème brulée served in an egg shell. The accompanying corn gelato was both refreshing and satisfying.

Joe Beef Boudin

Joe Beef Boudin

Uni Steamed Buns – The Bazaar by Jose Andres

Yes, I’m a little obsessed with uni and this dish satisfied me completely. The steamed buns were pillowy and a perfect nest for the avocado and sea urchin.

Deconstructed Bouillabaisse – Triomphe

With his modern take on the classic bouillabaisse, Chef Florian Wehrli showcases the freshest seafood and fish: clams, squid, striped bass and shrimp in a flavorful saffron broth.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these dishes and what some of your favorite 2014 dishes were.

Happy New Year!

Veronique

12/3 Balvenie Dinner at Chakra‏

12/3 Balvenie Dinner at Chakra‏

Chakra (144 W. State Route 4, Paramus, NJ) is aiming to take winter chill away with a Balvenie single malt scotch pairing on Wednesday 12/3 at 6:30PM. The Balvenie dinner will feature Balvenie 12, 14, 17 and 21 year old scotch, paired with a menu by Chef Thomas Ciszak. Balvenie Brand Ambassador Jim Patterson will be on hand to discuss the scotches.

Balvenie DoubleWood 12The $95 dinner offers the following menu:

  • Smoked Salmon “Tea Sandwich” paired with Balvenie 12 year DoubleWood.
  • Thick-cut Bacon with Brussels sprouts slaw is accompanied by Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask.
  • Peated Cask-Molasses Lacquered Pork Tenderloin with sweet potato, kabocha squash and coffee paired with 17 year Peated Cask.
  • Goat’s Milk Cheesecake with raisins, figs and honey-rosemary ice cream with Balvenie 21 year PortWood.

Reservations can be made by calling 201-556-1530.

Cheers,

Veronique

Chakra’s Emilio Moro Wine Dinner

Chakra’s Emilio Moro Wine Dinner

Octopus and Ravioli

Octopus and Ravioli

Last week, I was invited to an exclusive dinner at one of my favorite New Jersey restaurants, Chakra Restaurant, where renowned winemaker Jose Moro of Bodegas Emilio Moro was present to share insight on his highly-rated wines from Spain’s Ribera del Duero. I’ll do a tasting notes post in the next few days, but want to focus on the food for now.

The event began with a “Meat & Greet” reception showcasing Chef Thomas Ciszak’s house-cured Mangalitsa ham. The paper-thin ham slices were earthy and flavorful and had me yearning for a visit to the restaurant’s wine room where the ham is cured. It’s simply delicious.

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

The first course was a Charred Octopus dish served with boudin noir ravioli. After the meal, someone asked me what my favorite course was, and while difficult to choose one, I think this was it. The octopus was fork tender and offered something most restaurants don’t achieve – char! The boudin noir ravioli was over the top and paired beautifully with the octopus – stellar dish.

Cote de Boeuf

Cote de Boeuf

The second course was Berkshire Pork Belly with mustard jus and sweet potato gnocchi. Chef Ciszak explained to our group that the gnocchi wasn’t the typical Italian version but one with German influence. The belly was decadent and topped with fried pork skin – truly gilding the lily.

The third course was a masterly-cooked Cote de Boeuf served with red beet quinoa and Kabocha squash. I know I should be concentrating on the perfectly-rare, amazingly-tender beef, but the accompaniments were genius. The quinoa was by far the best interpretation I’ve enjoyed.

The fourth course was a play on a cheese course with a Taleggio Flatbread with pears, foie gras and a red shallot confit. I’ll always pass on standard dessert if cheese is an option and this was a clever way to present it. Chef Ciszak had me at foie gras regardless, but this was a well-conceptualized course.

Flatbread

Flatbread

With wines this lovely, food can sometimes take a backseat, but Chakra managed to create a menu that paired handsomely with the outstanding wines by Bodegas Emilio Moro.

Chakra is at 144 W. State Rte. 4, Paramus (201-556-1530). The special events held at this stylish restaurant are second to none so be sure to sign up for the Chakra newsletter to stay abreast of upcoming events.

Cheers,

Veronique

Chakra’s Emilio Moro Wine Dinner

Chef Thomas Ciszak

Chef Thomas Ciszak

Chakra Restaurant will welcome Jose Moro of Bodegas Emilio Moro for a rare dinner of highly rated wines from Spain’s Ribera del Duero on Monday October 20 at 6:30pm. The dinner at Chakra will be Jose Moro’s only event in New Jersey and he will be discussing his acclaimed wines and the history of the bodega, which was started by his father Emilio.

The event kicks off with a “Meat & Greet” reception featuring Chakra’s House-cured Mangalitsa Ham, which is cured in the restaurant’s wine room, paired with a  Rosado wine. To follow, Chef Thomas Ciszak has created a four-course menu to pair with four wines made with the region’s signature grape Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo).

Chakra is at 144 W. State Rte. 4, Paramus. Reception is at 6:30pm and dinner at 7pm.

Meat & Greet Reception

House-Cured Mangalitsa Ham

Rosado, Emilio Moro Hito 2013, Ribera del Duero

First Course

Charred Octopus, boudin noir ravioli

Tinto Fino, Emilio Moro Finca Resalso 2013, Ribera del Duero

Second Course

Berkshire Pork Belly, mustard jus, sweet potato gnocchi

Tinto Fino, Emilio Moro 2011, Ribera del Duero

Third Course

Cote de Boeuf, red beet quinoa, kabocha squash

Tinto Fino, Emilio Moro Malleolus 2010, Ribera del Duero

Fourth Course

Taleggio Flatbread, pears, foie gras, red shallot confit

Tinto Fino, Emilio Moro Malleolus de Valderramiro 2009, Ribera del Duero

$96 (tax & gratuity additional). Reservations can be made by calling 201-556-1530.

Cheers,

Veronique

Thomas Ciszak & Todd Villani‏ Chefs Collaboration Dinners

Thomas Ciszak & Todd Villani‏ Chefs Collaboration Dinners

Chefs Thomas Ciszak and Todd Villani are teaming up for a pair of dinners showcasing fall flavors at their respective restaurants Chakra and Terre à Terre this October. All the produce will be sourced from local New Jersey farms including Bracco Farms, Terhune Orchards and Shibumi Farm.

Thomas CiszakOctober 6 at Chakra (144 W. State Rte 4, Paramus)

$89 including wines (tax & gratuity additional)

  • Amuse
  • Sautéed Carolina trout slow roasted and pickled beets, horseradish and mustard – Albarino, Bodega Castro Martin 2012
  • Viking Village scallops cauliflower puree, lardon – Chablis, Christian Moreau 2012
  • Lavender-honey glazed duck, duck fat potatoes, fennel – Grenache, Beckmen Estate 2010
  • 48 Hour root beer sous vide short ribs, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts – Cabernet Franc, Macari Vineyards 2013
  • Pear tart and mousse with foie gras ice cream – Vidal Icewine, Equifera NV

To reserve a seat at the Chakra event, please call Chakra at 201-556-1530.

October 22 at Terre à Terre (312 Hackensack St., Carlstadt)

Chef Todd Villani$79 including Tavalon Tea pairing (tax & gratuity additional), BYO

  • Amuse – cold-brewed Jasmine green tea (China) mixed with Peppermint (Germany)
  • Cured duck pastrami, parsnip, Shibumi Farm mushrooms – hot smoked Earl Grey (Sri Lanka) blended with a touch of smoky Lapsang Souchong (China)
  • Arctic char, carrots and peas – cold-brewed Chun Mee green tea (China) with dried lemongrass (Thailand)
  • Black Berkshire pork belly terrine, lavender cabbage, kaffir lime, apple – iced Pai Mutan (China) white tea with peppermint (Germany) and Korean plum (S. Korea)
  • Elysian Farm Lamb Chops, pumpkin, wheatberries – cold-brewed Royal Golden Yunnan black tea (China)
  • Peanut Dacquoise, milk chocolate, sea salt – chamomile (Egypt), lemongrass (Thailand), peppermint (Germany), rooibos (S. Africa), and vanilla beans (Madagascar)

To reserve a seat at the Terre à Terre event, please call Terre à Terre at 201-507-0500.

Cheers,

Veronique