2nd Annual FryFest

2nd Annual FryFest

Fried Mac & Cheese

Fried Mac & Cheese

The second installment of FryFest is behind us. Much like the 2013 FryFest, this year’s all-fried event was held on a beautiful late summer day.

This year, we fried a few of last year’s favorites along with new items. Here’s what my brother-in-food, Danny Chin of Eat with Dan, and me served our 13 guests:

Finger Food

Corn Dogs – Veronique

Arancini (Rice Balls) – Veronique

Spring rolls -Danny

Fried Ravioli – Veronique

Poutine – Veronique & Danny

Fried Onion Rings – Veronique & Danny

Danny Chin Making Spring Rolls

Danny Chin Making Spring Rolls

Entrée

Fried Chicken – Danny

Fried Mac & Cheese – Veronique

Dessert

Fried Oreos – Veronique & Danny

Fried Candy Bars – Veronique & Danny

Zeppolis – Veronique

The corn dogs were super with a light batter of flour and corn meal giving the dogs a slight crunch with a hint of sweetness.

The Arancini might have been my favorite with a creamy risotto interior and golden brown crunchy exterior. Perfect way to use up leftover risotto.

Danny’s spring rolls are always a hit and I loved watching him roll over 60 rolls in less than 30 minutes.

Fried raviolis, or as my St Louis friends call them, toasted ravs, were a nice munchies, especially with homemade tomato sauce.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

For my poutine, I know this will be sacrilegious to my folks in Quebec, I ordered cheddar cheese curds from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery in Wisconsin. More on those folks in a future post. My handcut fries were double-fried for a perfect balance of creamy inside and crispy outside – yum.

Fried onion rings were a bust this year, bad revision to last year’s yummy rings.

THE fried chicken – absolutely delicious. My pal Danny smartly chose drumsticks, thighs and some tenderloins. For me, it’s all about dark meat and the overnight buttermilk bath combined with the seasoned flour coating made for a juicy, flavorful and crispy delicacy – well done my friend!

Fried mac & cheese – yes, it’s slightly irresponsible, health-wise, but so darn tasty. I made my extra cheesy macaroni and cheese recipe for this and will do full instructions in a future post. Guest at the dinner who works with local restaurants told me I should help out some restaurants with their version after tasting mine!

Fried Oreos and bite size candy bars went into a simple, slightly sweet batter. Super tasty and a recipe will come soon – I promise.

Fried Oreos

Fried Oreos

I’d made my super easy Zeppolis last year and made them again as they were a hit. For a fun touch, I used brown paper sandwich bags, added powdered sugar to them and place 2-3 hot Zeppolis inside for each guest to shake and eat without sharing.

It was a fun night which is now followed by tons of dieting and exercise, of course. I couldn’t have done it without Danny and my friend Lisa who was a huge help with the a la minute frying.       

Have you liked Eat with Dan on Facebook? Have you followed him on Twitter? Do it now for drop-dead gorgeous food photos.

Cheers,

Veronique

The Le Tub Saloon – Hollywood, Florida

The Le Tub Saloon – Hollywood, Florida

 

Le Tub Tables on the Intracoastal

Le Tub Tables on the Intracoastal

Le Tub has been a Hollywood Beach institution for over 35 years and I’d almost forgotten about it until a fellow food blogger, Nathan of Educated Foodie, reminded me of the casual icon.

I moved to South Florida when I was a young teen and Hollywood Beach was where I hung out. Le Tub was well known to all and offered a great, inexpensive meal in a casual setting right on the intracoastal waterway. Not much has changed since I last visited Le Tub about 20 years ago and I loved that about the place.

My Girlfriends at Le Tub

My Girlfriends at Le Tub

The place is tucked away on A1A with no sign to make it easy for tourists to find it. There’s lush foliage making the front entryway even more difficult to locate. Once patrons arrive, they’re met with a maze of nooks and crannies with outdoor tables and seating areas. It’s sort of a mess in the best possible way. The décor is comprised of bric-a-brac and various items found on the ocean shore that came in from the sea.

What I always enjoyed at Le Tub was the juicy burger that became famous when GQ named it the best burger in the nation in 2006. When I visited a few weeks ago, it was still incredible…plainly served with American cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce on a poppy seed bun. The 13-ounce Sirloin Burger ($11.50 with cheese) is charcoaled to perfection and is juicy and beefy. Simple, satisfying and memorable.

 

Let Tub Sirloin Burger

Let Tub Sirloin Burger

The menu is somewhat limited but the Seafood Salad (small $10 and large $17) and the Greek Salad ($11) are solid options. The small seafood salad is a sizeable portion of fresh seafood coated in herb dressing and served on a bed of lettuce. The Greek salad is enough for two guests and features the typical Feta, tomatoes and olives but also green peppers and anchovies and served with a squeeze bottle of dressing that we squirted on everything – delicious.

Le Tub is the perfect unclassy joint where slightly questionable waitresses are friendly enough and where everyone feels right at home. I’ll never let this much time go by before visiting again.

1100 N Ocean Dr, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33019
(954) 921-9425

Cheers,

Veronique

Perfect Dozen at Federal Donuts Philadelphia

Perfect Dozen at Federal Donuts Philadelphia

Federal Donuts Fancies

Federal Donuts Fancies

Last weekend, I made my pilgrimage down to Philly for some of (over) indulgences: Flyers game, a Marc Vetri restaurant, Tony Luke’s and Federal Donuts.

For those not fortunate enough to have visited Federal Donuts, get there ASAP, it’s simply decadent. There are two locations: City Center and South Philly. I frequent the South Philly location.

If you’re thinking Federal Donuts is a glorified DD, you’re mistaken. The cozy storefront is jointly-owned by James Beard award-winning chef Michael Solomonov of renowned Zahav, partner Steven Cook and Felicia D’Ambrosio. The donuts sell out by 10 a.m. most days and if you want some of the best fried chicken this side of the Mason-Dixon line, get there before 1 p.m.

Federal Donuts - Milk Chocolate Sea Salt

Federal Donuts – Milk Chocolate Sea Salt

The way I like to approach and maximize my visit is to order a piping-hot sugar donut ($1.25) and cup of coffee when I arrive and then, get a to-go box of fancies ($12 for half dozen or $20 for a dozen) for the trek home. The sugar donut is perfectly-fried, tender and simply-flavored to stand up to whatever dusting you opt for: Appollonia, Indian Cinnamon or Vanilla-Lavender. The sugar donuts are fried-to-order and available any time. Getting back to the coffee – it’s not some overlooked brew that’s been sitting around for hours. It’s dark and rich and all one could hope for at 7 a.m. after “an evening out”. The fancy donuts are available until they sell out – 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. and available is some unusual flavors: Blackberry-Anise, Milk Chocolate-Sea Salt, Sticky Buns, Pumpkin Pie Latte, Crumberry and Cookie and Cream. My favorite is the Milk Chocolate-Sea Salt. The donuts is golden brown and expertly-fried then dunked in a thick coating of milk chocolate then dusted with a heavy sprinkling of sea salt – fantastic.

Donuts aren’t the only food item you’ll be craving after a visit to Federal Donuts, Korean-style fried chicken served with hot peppers is simply addictive. Deep golden color, crunchy fried skin, ultra moist meat – the ultimate fried chicken. Bonus – every chicken order comes with a honey donut.

There are two additional Federal Donuts locations opening in Philly and rumors of a New York outpost (praying for this to be happening). When in the city of brotherly love, make a point to stop by Federal Donuts.

Federal Donuts South Philly – 1219 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia.

Cheers,

Veronique

Escape Farm-to-Fork October Wine Dinner

Escape Farm-to-Fork October Wine Dinner

Kate from 90+ Cellars, Chef Michael Weisshaupt, Heights Beer & Wine Emporium Wine Director - Tim Cornine, Chef Bryan Gregg, Anthony Bracco of Bracco Farms

Kate from 90+ Cellars, Chef Michael Weisshaupt, Heights Beer & Wine Emporium Wine Director – Tim Cornine, Chef Bryan Gregg, Anthony Bracco of Bracco Farms

Last night, I attended the first Escape Montclair farm-to-fork dinner at the popular Essex Country restaurant. Chef Bryan Gregg co-hosted the event with acclaimed chef Michael Weisshaupt of Fiddlers Elbow. The meal paid homage to locally-sourced ingredients and beautifully-executed cooking techniques.

Amuse-Bouche

Amuse-Bouche

The produce was provided by Bracco Farms in nearby Pine Island, New York. I had the pleasure of sitting at Anthony Bracco’s table and learn about his 25-acre farm. Tony organically grows everything from heirloom tomatoes to golden beets to micro greens. His product was outstanding and was expertly showcased by Chefs Gregg and Weisshaupt throughout the dinner.

Red Mullet

Red Mullet

There wouldn’t be a “wine” dinner without wines and last night’s dinner was smartly paired with 90+ Cellars provided by Heights Beer & Wine Emporium. Tim Cornine, the Director of Wine at Heights Beer & Wine, was generous enough to work with Escape to secure wines from 90+ Cellars as a donation for the charity-driven dinner. 90+ Cellars is a Boston-based wine négociant. It buys overstocked wines from some of the best wineries around the world and remarkets it and sells it at a fraction of the price the original labels charge. Kate Fazio, the local representative for Latitude Beverage representing 90+ Cellars helped us understand her product in a knowledgeable and informative way.

This is what was served and poured at the dinner:

Amuse-Bouche

Lobster, Black Sesame and Pea Shoots

First Course

Cured Red Mullet, Pickled Turnips and Red Quinoa

Wine Pairing: 90+ Cellars Lot 69 Sancerre, Loire Valley, France, 2012

Scallops

Scallops

Second Course

Lacquered Jurgielewicz Duck, Matsutake Mushroom, Burnt Embers and Butternut Squash

Wine Pairing: 90+ Cellars Lot 81 Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, 2011

Third Course

Barnegat Scallops, Parsnip, Vanilla Beets and Lobster Powder

Wine Pairing: 90+ Cellars Lot 93 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, CA, 2012

Duck

Duck

Entrée

Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Saddle, Eggplant, Spinach Purée, Smashed Potatoes and Olive Lamb Jus

Wine Pairing: 90+ Cellars Lot 80 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, 2011

Lamb

Lamb

Dessert

Pumpkin Semifreddo, Coffee Puree and White Chocolate Crisp

Wine Pairing: 90+ Cellars Lot 77 Moscato, IGT, Italy, NV

 

The sold-out event drew over 40 guests who, like me, are enthusiasts of the locavore movement.

Pumpkin Semifreddo

Pumpkin Semifreddo

Escape will host monthly events focused on giving back to the Carol G Simon Cancer Center of Morristown where Chef Bryan was cared for when he was battling cancer.

The November event will be announced this week and I got a sneak peek at the menu and it’ll be epic. Follow Escape on Facebook to be kept abreast of all upcoming events.

Cheers,

Veronique

Down to the Bone Barbecue

Down to the Bone Barbecue

UPDATE – THIS RESTAURANT IN NOW CLOSED.

Down to the Bone Barbecue

Wedge Salad

Down to the Bone Barbecue is located on scenic Lake Lackawanna in Stanhope, NJ. The restaurant is Owner/Chief Smoker Jeff Feldstein’s newest project born after years of barbecuing at street fairs and markets. Feldstein entered his life of barbecuing after working in Corporate America as the General Manager of a large New York-based court reporting company. After leaving his Wall Street career behind, Feldstein enrolled in recreational barbecue classes and more serious courses at the French Culinary Institute. With that experience and years of building a loyal following at various fairs, Feldstein recently opened Down to the Bone Barbecue & Co., a Texas-style barbecue restaurant with gorgeous lakeviews.

Unlike most barbecue restaurants, Down to the Bone uses applewood in its smoker. This guarantees the flavor of the meat isn’t masked with heavier mesquite or hickory. Brilliant!

Down to the Bone Barbecue

Mini Feast

“Barbecue Fusion” cuisine is what Jeff is after at Down to the Bone. What that really means is that even the most unlikely menu items get a dose of barbecue. During our visit, we sat on the outdoor patio and enjoyed a wedge salad ($9). You might ask why I’d opt for a wedge salad at a BBQ restaurant, but this isn’t just any wedge – it’s crisp iceberg lettuce with sliced tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, frizzled pulled pork and crispy onions. In case you haven’t had “frizzled pulled pork”, you’re missing out. The bits of pulled pork are fried to crunchy perfection. That salad is a must-try.

For our entrées, we picked the Mini Feast ($28) and the half rack of baby back ribs ($14). The menu says the “mini” feast serves one but I just can’t imagine who that one person could be. It’s huge! The plate offers four St. Louis-style ribs, a quarter chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket and smoked sausage. That mountain of meats is also served with sides of coleslaw and baked beans. Our waiter, who was delightful and personable, told us they’d need to replace the St. Louis ribs with baby back ribs as the former were unavailable that evening. The ribs are hand-rubbed with a dry rub and smoked for over 6 hours. We love baby back ribs so we didn’t miss the meatier St. Louis ribs. The chicken is rubbed with a blend of house spices and smoked for several hours. It might be the moistest, most flavorful smoked chicken we’ve had. The brisket is served in the manner of burned ends, the fattiest part of the brisket with a charred bark – they’re beefy deliciousness. I’m not usually drawn to barbecued sausage, but the version served at Down to the Bone is juicy, flavorful and was a favorite at our table.

LakeviewOn our next visit, we’ll order the Brisket-Wrapped Smoked Scallops ($24). Described as “Surf & Turf”, this dish showcases jumbo scallops smoked then wrapped in beef brisket and topped with tangy spicy aioli.

For those who come to Down to the Bone looking for a dare, there’s the “Down to the Bone Challenge”. There are two versions of the challenge and if a guest finishes all the food presented, he/she receives a complimentary Down to the Bone t-shirt and some significant bragging rights. The two “challenges” are:

THE BEAST ($20) – A two-foot hot dog served on a bun, topped with chili, Cheddar-Jack, Pepper-Jack cheeses, red onions, bacon, fried onion straws, jalapeno peppers and pickles and served with an oversized bowl of fries topped with brown gravy and mozzarella cheese.

THE BONE ($24) – Two one-pound burgers topped with five pieces of Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss cheeses and five pieces of thick-cut bacon. The whole thing is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and fried onion straws and served with an oversized bowl of chili cheese fries and coleslaw.

Down to the Bone Barbecue’s sauces, Mild Madness and Sweet Heat, are available for purchase throughout the tri-state area and at the restaurant. Both versions are quite good.

Down to the Bone Barbecue & Co. offers breathtaking lakeside views from its two patios and barbecue worthy of a trip to northwestern New Jersey’s Sussex County.

172 Lackawanna Drive, Stanhope, NJ

973-347-BONE

Boucheron and Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Boucheron and Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese

I love grilled cheeses and I enjoy experimenting with various cheeses, breads and condiments to create new versions of the old stand-by. One variation I adore is made with sharp Vermont cheddar and Boucheron, a goat’s milk cheese from the Loire Valley of France.

Boucheron Cheese

For those not familiar with Boucheron, it is a goat cheese that has been aged so the outer layer is soft, the rind is bloomy and the center is dry and crumbly as it ages. This is not your typical goat cheese. Let it come to room temperature and it is gooey and perfect.

In this grilled cheese, I pair the Boucheron with Cabot’s Shredded Sharp Cheddar as it is just great.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. mayonnaise
  • 2 slices oatmeal sandwich bread
  • ¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/8 pound slice of Boucheron, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Heat up Panini press or a grill pan over high heat.
  2. Spread 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on one side of each slice of bread.
  3. Arrange the cheddar and Boucheron on a un-mayonnaised bread slice and top with the second un-mayonnaised side of the second bread slice so that both mayoed sides are on the outside and the cheeses are on the inside.
  4. Place the sandwich in the Panini press and grill for 3 minutes, until golden brown.  Alternatively, place the sandwich on the grill pan (still on high heat) and top with the weight of multiple pans or a pan with a 2-3 pound weight in it and cook 1 1/2 minutes per sides.
  5. Transfer sandwich to a cutting board and cut sandwich in half using a serrated knife.

1 serving.

2011 Carrelot des Amants Côtes du Brulhois Rosé

2011 Carrelot des Amants Côtes du Brulhois Rosé

I had this wine in Quebec at an outdoor party and it was an ideal setting for it. Great as an aperitif on a warm summer day.

In the glass, it is a deep salmon color. The strawberry nose is light and mildly floral. In the mouth, the strawberry carries through with some raspberry and a nice level of acidity. Crisp and refreshing.

Pairings:  Salad, poached salmon, seafood pasta with a light sauce. Served as an aperitif.

Style: Rosé

Grape Type(s): Merlot 40%, Cabernet Franc 30%, Malbec 30%

Region: South-West Region, France

Price: $12

Dad’s Quebec Smoked Meat Sandwich

Dad’s Quebec Smoked Meat Sandwich

A special Quebec treat I enjoy is a perfectly steamed smoked meat sandwich.  Dad has had a restaurant-grade food steamer since I was a little girl that his brother from Montreal found for him. Fabulous hot dogs and smoked meats have come out of that steamer over the years, and this past weekend, while I was in Quebec, dad treated the family to the tasty sandwiches.

A 10-pound piece of corned beef was steamed for a couple hours until perfectly moist and fork tender.  Rye bread was also steamed for a minute to create the perfect sandwich.

The steamed meat was sliced thin on an electric meat slicer and piled high on the rye bread. A little mustard and some crisp pickles were the only complements the sandwich needed.

If you make your way to Quebec City or Montreal, be sure to sample a real Quebec smoked meat sandwich, it ranks up there with the very best New York corned beef on rye.

Cheers,

Veronique

Zod Arifai Does Blu So Well

Zod Arifai Does Blu So Well

Salmon

Could it be that the 45-seat restaurant in bustling downtown Montclair serves up the best food in New Jersey?  It is quite possible. At his award-winning restaurant, chef and owner, Zod Arifai, masters modern cuisine with French, Italian and Asian influences.

Born in Kosovo to parents who were both good cooks, chef Arifai is self-taught with an inquisitive mind and short stints at Bouley and Aureole in Manhattan that have proven to be better at helping him transform in the chef he is today than formal training at a culinary school might have been.

On a recent visit, our party sampled dishes that blew us away. For starters, the Spaghetti Carbonara with Crispy Duck is creamy, velvety with rich duck morsels, the Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and White Truffle Oil is pure decadence with its unctuous texture, earthy mushrooms and drizzle of fragrant truffle oil.  The Seafood Dumplings with Spicy Coconut Broth showcases the thinnest, most delicate wrappers over a tasty seafood mixture that bathes in an ultra-flavorful, just-spicy-enough broth.

Veal Belly

Must-have entrées are the Salmon, Forbidden Rice served with peanuts, scallions and coconut-chili broth, the Duck Breast, Red Cabbage served with a caramelized turnip with a red wine-fig emulsion and the Veal Belly with Soft Polenta, Wild Mushrooms and Sweet and Sour Glaze. The salmon is of the finest quality and the forbidden rice is of toothy perfection. The duck is cooked to a flawless medium-rare and the red wine emulsion is a perfect complement to the protein. The absolute star is the veal belly. For those of us who think pork belly is the perfect food, chef Arifai’s veal counterpart is heavenly. The sweet and sour glaze is tart and cuts through some of the veal’s richness and the polenta is the best I have had, even in Italy – order this dish without fault.

Spaghetti Carbonara

At Blu, chef Arifai creates dishes from techniques and ingredients he tests out extensively and the results are simply spectacular. Nearly seven years after opening, Blu is more at the top of its game than ever.

Blu
554 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ
973-509-2202
www.restaurantblu.com

BYOB

Hours:

Tuesday – Thursday: Open at 5:30PM

Friday – Sunday: Open at 5PM

2010 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir Monterey

2010 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir Monterey

I sampled this wine with rare duck breast a few weeks back and really enjoyed it.

The 2010 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir Monterey offers a big noseful of ripe raspberries and cherries that I enjoy, a lot. In the mouth, it is rich with raspberry preserves jammy with undertones of pumpkin pie spice. The finish is medium in length with oaky notes.

Pairings:  Grilled chicken. Pan-seared salmon or duck. Wild mushroom risotto.

Style: Red

Grape Type(s): Pinot Noir

Region: Monterey, California, USA

Price: $14

This wine was provided to me for sampling and I am adding to my repertoire as it is truly enjoyable.