Vincent Price Halloween Dinner & Book Signing

Chef Palmieri

Chef Francesco Palmieri will hold his annual Vincent Price dinner along with a book signing by Price’s daughter, Victoria Price on Tuesday October 31 at Calandra’s La Taverna.

The four-course dinner will feature recreation of Vincent Price’s original recipes with a little of Calandra’s style. The dinner will include wine pairings.

The dinner is from 7PM until 10PM and includes: four-course meal with wine pairings, Price’s book, the book signing and a swag bag. The price is $110 and includes tax and gratuity.

Call 973-226-8889 option 1 to reserve a seat at the dinner. Space is limited.

Calandra’s Italian Village – 234 Bloomfield Avenue, Caldwell, NJ 07006.



Win Big at Calandra’s First Annual Pig Roast

Chef Palmieri

Il Vecchio Cafe, located at Calandra’s Italian Village, is excited to host its first Pig Roast! The event will be held on Sunday, September 17th, 2017 from 12:30 PM to 7:30 PM.

This outdoor*, family-friendly event will focus on food, fun and amazing giveaways thanks to Calandra’s partnership with MetLife Stadium. The highlight of the menu will be the roast pig, but other entree and featured side dishes including pulled pork sliders, corn on the cob, grilled salmon, oven roasted BBQ wings, and more will be served.  There will be BBQ-style games for all, as well as grand prize sports tickets and other fun prizes. All of this is included in the $30 price for adults, $12 for children and children 3 years old and under eat and play for free! [Add in that drinks are additional]. WDHA, 105.5 The Rock of New Jersey, will be live broadcasting the event with music and a special guest appearance!

This fall, Calandra’s will also be featuring all Sunday football games at our outdoor bar so catch the games as you enjoy delicious BBQ and a drinks on our patio.

*The roast will be held rain or shine. If weather is inclement, the party will move into La Taverna, the restaurant’s indoor bar area.

For additional information and reservations, please call Il Vecchio Cafe at 973-226-8889 option 1.

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: