Opening Soon The Duke and Elephant by Chef Zod Arifai

Opening Soon The Duke and Elephant by Chef Zod Arifai

Zod Arifai

Chef/Restaurateur Zod Arifai is putting the finishing touches on his latest project, newly christened The Duke and Elephant Food + Spirits, which will open mid-October.

At The Duke and Elephant — named to invoke the best British and Irish taverns, the grandeur and seasonality of nearby Duke Farms and the outsize whimsy of the pachyderm — Zod has created the kind of diverse, appealing menu that reflects the way diners want to eat right now.

Loyal devotees of Zod’s defunct Blu and Next Door in Montclair, will find updates on several Zod “classics” such as his epic Burger w/White Sharp Cheddar, Caramelized Onions + Rosemary Aioli; Napa Cabbage Salad w/Snow Peas, Crispy Wontons + Spicy Peanut Dressing and Linguini with Cauliflower, Pecorino, Chili Flakes + Toasted Crumbs.           

Fresh new tastes will include Avocado Toast w/Sunflower Seeds + Sea Urchin; Meat Balls w/Ricotta + Spicy Tomato; Mac ‘n’ Cheese w/Lobster + Truffle Oil; Beef Short Ribs w/Sweet + Sour Sauce and Mama’s Sicilian Pan Pizza.

An abundant Family Feast — well-priced at $36 per person — and Plats du Jour, specials of the day, including a Sunday Prime Rib Dinner, guarantee great value along with spectacular quality.

The Duke and Elephant will be open daily for lunch and dinner and weekend brunch to follow soon.

Happy Hour? No worries! The handsome Bar Room presents hand-crafted seasonal contemporary cocktails, along with classic favorites and savory bites.

About Zod Arifai

A former rock guitarist who spent time in the kitchens of world-class chefs (including Charlie Trotter, David Bouley and Roger Vergé), Zod Arifai’s unconventional, exciting and wholly unique world-influenced New American cuisine has garnered raves over the years from The NY Times, New Jersey Monthly and many others. His iconoclastic personal style and great sense of humor have made Arifai and his restaurants consistent favorites among consumers and critics alike. As Alan Richman once noted, “Zod is even more obsessed with perfection than most Manhattan chefs.” Zod’s beloved Blu opened in Montclair, NJ in 2005 and its casual, comfortable sister-restaurant, Next Door, opened in 2007. He closed both restaurants in 2015 to pursue new ventures.

Mind of a (Mad) Chef at Blu and Next Door

Mind of a (Mad) Chef at Blu and Next Door

BluThis Wednesday, June 17, Zod Arifai, the beloved Chef/Owner of Blu and Next Door in Montclair will host what he dubs “Eat What You Want, Pay What You Want”.

Chef Arifai, known to combine modern cuisine with French, Italian and Asian influences, has wanted to bring this eating concept to fruition for a long time. With the impending closing of Blu and Next Door this summer, the acclaimed Chef has decided to take the plunge.

This is how the concept will work:

  • As guests arrive, they’re handed a menu which features some of popular Blu and Next Door dishes.
  • Diners then order whatever is on the menu that’s appealing to them. They can eat as many things as they want but must finish everything ordered, ensuring no food waste occurs, and can’t take food home.
  • At the end of what’s sure to be a memorable meal, customers are given a check listing what they ate and the dishes’ associated costs. There, the guest will enter what he/she wishes to pay and what the gratuity amount is and tax is then added by the restaurants. The goal is to have the guests take ownership of determining what he/she wants to pay for the meal.

Chef Arifai tells me he’ll repeat this dining concept again if he receives good customer feedback.

The ones of us who have been patrons of Blu and Next Door understand and appreciate the slightly mad scientist-ish techniques and ingredients used by Chef Arifai to produce some of the best food in the area. Time will tell if the mad scientist has truly gone mad, or if he’ll teach his peers a thing or two about hospitality.

Blu and Next Door – 554 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ. 973-509-2202.



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!



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.



Zod Arifai Does Blu So Well

Zod Arifai Does Blu So Well


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.

554 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ



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