Adieu to The Orange Squirrel Restaurant

Chef Palmieri

Selfishly, I’m sad to write about The Orange Squirrel, a top-rated New Jersey food destination owned by Chef Francesco Palmieri and his wife, Elaine, closing at the end of this month. Knowing the Essex County food scene and what a toll it takes on restaurant staff to try to keep fickle diners happy, I understand the decision Chef Palmieri and other top NJ restaurants owners have made in closing their restaurants.

The Orange squirrel opened in November 2008 to rave reviews. It’s THE restaurant that paved the way in Bloomfield for other dining spots. 

After more than eight successful years in Bloomfield, NJ, Chef Francesco is preparing to embark on a new career opportunity. Chef Francesco said, “I’d like to thank all of our loyal Squirrel fans and look forward to seeing you again soon as I enter this next endeavor.”

Onwards and upwards Chef Palmieri – can’t wait to support your next endeavor!


The Orange Squirrel – Things Just Got Even Better

The Orange Squirrel – Things Just Got Even Better

Chef Palmieri

Chef Palmieri – Photo Credit: The Orange Squirrel

When I first heard the rumors about The Orange Squirrel getting a new menu (and website, and hours, and Sunday Sauce Dinner….), I was a bit weary. After all, I already love everything on the menu – how could Chef Francesco Palmieri kick that up a notch? Well, he did just that by keeping some fan favorites and adding new and fun dishes to the lineup!

Starting November 11, the 8-year anniversary of The Orange Squirrel, the new menu will entail Squirrel Snacks ranging from $3 to $12 and The Hungry Squirrel plates priced from $10 to $25. The new menu is in keeping with Chef Francesco Palmieri’s philosophy since opening in 2008 – serving simple, but not simplistic global comfort food using approachable, wholesome ingredients.

Some favorites staying on the menu are the PEI Mussels, the Veal Meatballs and the award-worthy Chicken Pot Pie….yes, the Squirrel Nuts too! Some new additions I’m looking forward to trying are the Chicken Fried Ribeye, the Swedish Fish Meatballs and the Fried Bufala Mozzarella.

A few months back, I was one of the ‘beta testers’ for Palmieri’s Sunday Sauce Dinner. The meal was simply delicious and I’m thrilled to see him take the concept on each Sunday. Starting November 13, Sunday Supper will feature focaccia and salad, then Sunday Sauce served with artisanal pasta and ending with tiramisu.  

NEW Hours as of Monday, November 7:

Monday-Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday-Thursday: Dinner 5-10pm/Bar till 12am

Friday-Saturday: Dinner 5-10:30pm/Bar till 1am

NEW: Sunday: 1-6 pm Squirrel Sunday Sauce Dinner menu only (cash only)

NEW: Happy till Ate: 5-8pm Wed-Sat / Squirrel Snacks $1 off and All Cocktails/Beer $2 off (bar only)

410 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ. 973-337-6421

See you at TOS soon!


The Orange Squirrel Express Lunch – Value and Deliciousness

The Orange Squirrel Express Lunch – Value and Deliciousness

A couple weeks ago, I posted about Francesco Palmieri, Chef/Owner of the popular The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, offering a new weekday, $13, Three-Course Express Lunch.

While I know Chef Palmieri’s food is outstanding from numerous visits, I just had to go see if $13 could really get me three delicious courses. Boy was I impressed!

Lunch includes a choice of soup, a salad and a choice of specialty sandwich (all are served with fries or giardiniera pickled vegetables). 

My guest and I were treated to a perfectly-fried zucchini blossom picked from Chef Palmieri’s garden. No, this isn’t part of the standard lunch menu, but the chef has an abundant blossoms crop and treated us to this magical little bite. #KingOfTheBlossoms.

My guest ordered the Vegan BLT, a chilled smoked tomato “soup” that is poured tableside into a bowl garnished with crispy kale and fakon crumble. Since I’m…me, I had no idea that fakon is fake-bacon (sorry, vegetarian bacon) but, while I hate to admit it, it tasted just like bacon and complemented the soup beautifully.

I opted for the soup of the day which was mussel bisque. This comforting soup had tons of pleasantly briny mussel flavors, a rich, velvety texture and perfectly-cooked, plump mussels. It was a winner.

Next came a Cabernet vinaigrette-dressed salad featuring ultra fresh bibb lettuce from Chef Palmieri’s garden. The simple salad was gilded with fried shallots and paper-thin radish slices.

For our sandwiches, we opted for the BBQ Pulled Duck Confit and the Pan Fried Perch Fish. The generous portion of decadent duck confit was dressed in a tangy barbeque sauce and served on toasted French bread – outstanding. While the perch was fried, it was done so with a stealth hand with the bare minimum of coating on the fresh fish. The sandwich is served with lettuce, tomato, onion and a tangy, house-made tartar sauce that I need the recipe for. Both sandwiches were served with well-made, properly-salted fries.

Each month, Chef Palmieri’s wife concocts what is known as the Dirts – three mousse-like desserts served in single serve glasses. As an additional indulgence, we sprung for the July trio – strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. All three were delicious but my favorite was the strawberry version with its shortcake flavors – a must order item.

The Express Lunch is available from Monday through Friday between 12:15PM – 2:45PM for dine-in or pick-up. 

410 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ 07003 / phone: 973-337-6421/



Express Lunch at The Orange Squirrel

Express Lunch at The Orange Squirrel

TOS Express Lunch Photo Credit overhead view- The Orange Squirrel

Francesco Palmieri, Chef/Owner of the popular The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, is now offering a new weekday lunch menu.

The $13, Three-Course Express Lunch is available from Monday through Friday between 12:15PM – 2:45PM for dine-in or pick-up. 

A great value at just $13, lunch includes a choice of soup, a salad and a choice of specialty sandwich (all are served with fries or giardiniera pickled vegetables). 

410 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ 07003 / phone: 973-337-6421/



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!



The Orange Squirrel Launches 4-Course Prix Fixe Menu

The Orange Squirrel Launches 4-Course Prix Fixe Menu

The Orange Squirrel LogoThe Orange Squirrel is launching a new, four-course prix fixe menu Monday through Thursday from 4:30 – 7:30pm. The cost of the new menu is $29 (not inclusive of tax/gratuity).

Course I

Mushroom Tempura – baby artichoke aioli / truffle oil


Chitarra Marinara Meatballs

Course II

Mesclun Green Salad – vinaigrette / croutons / sliced radish

Course III

Skate Wing – braised beet greens / meuniere sauce


Chicken Pot Pie – vegetables / leg and thigh confit / puff pastry

Course IV

Banana Bread Pudding – rum caramel / vanilla ice cream


Chocolate Soufflé – ganache

The Orange Squirrel / 410 Bloomfield Avenue, Bloomfield, NJ  07003 / 973-337-6421.



Montclair Food & Wine Festival Gala Dinner 2015

MFWF LogoThe Montclair Food & Wine Festival will be back in 2015 with new events, educational seminars and fun for all.

Monday, June 8, 2015 from 6PM to 9:30PM – THE GALA DINNER at The Manor (111 Prospect Avenue, West Orange, NJ).

The Gala Dinner is an exclusive night of collaborative culinary magic! The six course dinner will be designed and prepared by some of the area’s most talented chefs:

  • Chef Mitchell Altholz, Highlawn Pavilion
  • Chef Michael Carrino, Pig & Prince
  • Chef Ryan DePersio, Fascino, Battello, Nico
  • Chef Ariane Duarte, Ariane Kitchen & Bar
  • Chef Kevin Sippel, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen

NEW for 2015 – Special Amuse Bouche Series

Guests at this year’s gala dinner will be treated to amuse bouche by the following chefs:

  • Chef Francesco Palmieri, The Orange Squirrel
  • Chef Zod Arifai, Blu & Next Door
  • Chef Thomas Ciszak, Blue Morel & Chakra
  • Chef Meny Vaknin, Mish Mish

To learn more about the chefs – CLICK HERE.

Wines paired by Sharon Sevrens, proprietor of Montclair’s Amanti Vino.

CLICK HERE for additional information, for pricing and to buy tickets to the gala dinner.



Garden State Chef Throwdown at NJ Wine & Food Festival

Garden State Chef Throwdown at NJ Wine & Food Festival

John Greeley - photo credit Robert Yaskovic

John Greeley – photo credit Robert Yaskovic

This past weekend, I was pleased to have been invited to attend the New Jersey Wine & Food Festival’s first ever Garden State Chef Throwdown. This entertaining, interactive event took inspiration from today’s popular food competition shows for a friendly chef challenge to see who could make the most delicious beef dish.

Bryan Gregg - photo credit Robert Yaskovic

Bryan Gregg – photo credit Robert Yaskovic



The participants included three of New Jersey’s top chefs, Bryan Gregg of Escape, who made Pave of Beef with huitlacoche, mushroom, Carolina gold rice porridge, Francesco Palmieri of The Orange Squirrel who presented a slow-braised Black Angus Short Rib “Chipped Beef” Slider on sesame brioche with beef marrow mayonnaise and John Greeley of Crystal Springs serving Smoked Brisket with shrimp grits & chimichurri. The chefs’ dishes weren’t known until the competition took place and each dish had to be completed in front of the audience in twenty minutes.

Francesco Palmieri - photo credit Robert Yaskovic

Francesco Palmieri – photo credit Robert Yaskovic

After the audience votes were tallied, the winner of the Throwdown was Crystal Springs Executive Chef Greeley with his Smoked Brisket with Shrimp Grits & Chimichurri. Even with fresh snow outside, Chef Greeley had dared the cold to fire up the smoker in the outdoor Chef’s Garden restaurant to make his brisket.

The event sold out quickly and was a very popular session with the audience and will return at the 2016 NJ Wine & Food Festival.

To be ‘in-the-know’ about the 2016 New Jersey Wine & Food Festival, please visit:



SOLD OUT Vincent Price Cookbook Dinner at James Beard House

SOLD OUT Vincent Price Cookbook Dinner at James Beard House

Francesco Palmieri

Francesco Palmieri

Chef Francesco Palmieri of The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield, NJ will hosts his yearly Vincent Price Cookbook dinner at James Beard House on 10/30 at 7PM. The event sold out in just a couple days!

Once again, Chef Palmieri will cook dishes based on the Vincent & Mary Price’s 1965 cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes.

After learning of Chef Palmieri’s prior dinners in her father’s honor, Victoria Price, will be joining this year’s dinner for the first time to discuss her famous father’s passion for food and film.  


Chef Palmieri will recreate six legendary dishes that will be paired with the NEW Vincent Price Signature Collection wines which will make their New York City debut at the dinner. 

Some menu items will include (see full menu here):

Small Bites

Duck Liver Mousse / Apple / Crispy Shallots (Lüchow’s, NYC, p. 244)

Steak Tartare / Brioche / Quail Egg (Lüchow’s, NYC, p. 245)

Pasta Course

Spinach Lasagna / Béchamel / Crispy Tomato (The Royal Danieli, Italy, p. 106) 

Fish Course

Stuffed Trout / Truffled Shrimp Filled Mushroom Cap / Lemon Supreme (Fernand Point, Pyramide, Paris, France, p. 32)

Meat Course

Fillets of Lamb / Onion Sauce / Crispy Baby Artichoke (Tour d’Argent, Paris, France, p.69) 

Dessert I

Pot de Crème Chocolat / Brandy Snaps (Vincent & Mary Price, specialty of the house, p. 407)

Vincent Price Wines

Vincent Price Wines

The wines are being released in conjunction with the celebration of the 50th anniversary edition of the cookbook in 2015.  In addition, a specially brewed beer in the style Vincent Price enjoyed will be served at dinner created by Brewer Adam Young of Brooklyn Brewery.

Cost for the dinner is $130 for James Beard Foundation members and $170 for the general public. For additional details about the event:



The Orange Squirrel Does It Again

The Orange Squirrel Does It Again


Last night, I had the opportunity to dine at The Orange Squirrel in Bloomfield. As was true when I wrote about The Orange Squirrel this past August, Chef/Owner Francesco Palmieri and his talented team delivered another incredible experience.

Crab Cake

The cocktail list offers interesting selections and there are several wines by the glass. I opted for a split of Chandon Rose which paired nicely with my starter, Gnudi with wild mushrooms and Parmesan consommé. I’d not had this dish before and it was so flavorful that I was tempted to bring the bowl to my mouth to sip every last drop. Some of the other starters my guests enjoyed were the Shrimp Bisque with spiced fromage blanc, the Baby Octopus Stew with pancetta, fingerling potato and a turnip lemon grass broth and Tempura Green Beans, a nightly special. Another nightly special that was stellar was the crab cake over Sriracha aioli.

Rib Eye

It’s difficult to make up one’s mind where entrées are concerned as each is more tempting than the next. We finally opted for the Dry Aged Rib Eye, the Duck over Quinoa and the Veal Osso Buco. The rib eye is served in a cast iron pan with chipotle butter, confit garlic and sprigs of rosemary. It was perfectly rare, as ordered, and impeccably seasoned. The duck might have been some of the most tender we’ve had and the accompanying earthy quinoa was a great compliment. The Osso Buco is served off the bone in a small cast iron Dutch oven and delicious.

Fontina Mac and Cheese

Side dishes come with the entrées, except the Pot Pie, and some winners are the Fontina Macaroni and Cheese, the Irish Cheddar Mashed Potatoes and the Mascarpone Polenta.

Desserts are whimsical and end dinner on a humorous note. Last night, we chose the Three Dirt Tasting, three tasting portion of seasonal mousses layered with cookie crumbs.

Dinner at The Orange Squirrel never disappoints. Chef Palmieri crafts inventive dishes using premium-quality ingredients in an unpretentious space. Make a point to visit soon.


Lunch: Monday – Friday: 12PM – 3PM

Dinner: Monday – Saturday: 5PM – 11PM

Late night fare: Monday – Saturday: 11PM – 1AM

412 Bloomfield Avenue

Bloomfield, NJ 07003