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ghostrider

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  1. The Fine Grind is very quickly becoming my favorite area coffee house...last night I stopped in with a friend after another terrific meal at Chengdu 1.  Why? Because after all of that spice/heat, I actually crave dessert (a rarity)!  :wink:

    The place was packed.  Really packed.  Full to capacity and then some; we were the first pair waiting for a table, but others came in shortly after we did, and were told that they should either come back in 20+ minutes, or perhaps take something to go (I should note that I loved the way the staff handled the customers who couldn't stay--they were friendly, professional, and just basically kind). 

    In case you missed it, Fine Grind's billboard was one of the lead stories on 1010 WINS late last week (I forget whether Thurs or Fri) - 3 times an hour, all day long - which might explain the crowds. They've gotten a ton of publicity from that. Good on 'em; I hope that the crowds last after the hubub dies down.

  2. Often when we were served Züri Geschnetzeltes only half of the rösti would be plated, along with half of the veal. After devouring that, the second plateful would appear. I always swore I couldn't eat it all, but always did.

    Yes!!! :biggrin:

    We also found a # of places in Switzerland that served sausage & rösti, which makes a nice pairing.

    I once had a rösti up in Wengen that had the above mentioned bacon, onions & cheese all together in it. Having a wonderful sausage sitting next to it was overkill. Almost. :raz:

    I read somewhere, I now have no idea where, that rösti was made as described up top, except that after the frying the mixture was turned out into a baking dish & popped into a hot oven for the final browning, thus cooking the potatoes 3 times. Until now I had assumed that this thrice-cooked approach was the traditional one. Is it not?

    Gosh but I love rösti.

  3. Best ham I know is Thumann's Black Forest - smoky, not overly salty, nice bits of fat under the nicely browned skin, full of flavor - meets all of your criteria. Reminds me of certain hams I had in Switzerland.

    It's available at the Spring Deli & Cold Cuts Center here in Rutherford NJ, for one. Since Thumann's plant is just up the road in Carlstadt, it should be pretty widely available here in the region.

  4. We'll be landing in StL on Thursday afternoon & will be looking for someplace to dine that night. Just wondering if anyone knows, from experience or observation, of places that will be open.

    We did this once before & found most of where we were staying (Clayton) shuttered up tight. It was pretty depressing.

    We're not necessarily looking for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner; a good Indian or Greek place, or even a pizza or burger, would be welcome.

    I've got a list of my fave places & will be calling them, but since they weren't open last time I don't have much hope that things will have changed.

    Thanks.

  5. Whew. I know people who just spent over $1 million building a new kitchen/extension on their house. Actually more like 2 kitchens, never seen so many ovens & sinks & stoves for 1 house. Total Viking appliances. Good thing they've got money to burn. It's a beautiful space but it sounds lke they're in for a bumpy ride.

  6. I've actually had a few things that took me to Ridgewood on the train.  To be more clear, it's around 14 bucks round trip per person, the trip averages between 50 minutes to almost an hour (that's in addition to getting to Penn Station by subway or cab and arriving early enough to buy your ticket and get on the train), and there are only two return trains per hour (roughly on the hour and 20 minutes after the hour) on weekday evenings and around one per hour on the weekends.

    That's a pretty serious time and expense investment.  Figure a party of four is going to expend a minimum of 3.5 hours to the trip and 56 bucks on the train.  I'd rate it quicker to get to Franny's in Park Slope, and quite a bit easier to get to Una Pizza Napoletana in Manhattan or Fornino in Williamsburg -- not to mention that there is no transportation cost to a NYer with an unlimited MetroCard.  Would you say that the payoff for A Mano is big enough to warrant that kind of time and travel for a special trip?

    $13 round trip from Penn but a dollar isn't worth quibbling over when comparing suburban train fares with MetroCards. You're correct about the time.

    Is the payoff worth it? I think Tommy hits it accurately from a culinary point of view.

    There are other factors, such as whether folks find train rides intrinsically fun & enjoy poking around new places, Ridgewood being a rather pleasant town to stroll around on a summer's evening. I would have found it worthwhile when I was living in Manhattan, though A Mano didn't exist then; I undertook similar excursions toward the end of those years which led me to realize that there was life outside of Manhattan & eventually to move here. Folks who choose life in New York because they are total urbanites & don't want to deal with anything else probably wouldn't find it worth the effort.

    I don't have a big argument to make here because I still make the reverse trip to NYC often enough to know what I'm missing. (And that's quicker & cheaper for me because Rutherford is closer in than Ridgewood.) I'm just trying to point out the opportunities for those who might enjoy them. Some might take the view I had, that your $13 buys you a nice little mini-vacation with some good food at the center of it. How close one is to Penn or a PATH stop will temper that view, of course.

  7. If there were an amazing categorically superior Italian culinary community/market in Jersey, I might try to get out there to stock up once a year (or more, if I had a car).  There is such a place, although not in New Jersey: Arthur Avenue.

    i would recommend that you consider integrating a trip to Ridgewood's A Amano into your calculus. not for shopping, but for Neapolitan-style pizza.

    Need I add that Ridgewood is easily accessible by NJ Transit train, & A Mano is 2 blocks from the station? Again, all it takes is the desire, the time & the equivalent expense of NYC cab fare.

    I travel to NYC & back by train all the time. To me it's child's play, but then I seem to have an innate grasp of such things & I understand that some folks don't. For those who do, however, there's territory waiting to be discovered. And learning how to use a schedule I find an easy tradeoff against never having to deal with sitting in bridge/tunnel traffic.

  8. Now White Manna, that one I don't think is so easy to get to without a car. It's very close by car -- we can sometimes achieve times in the neighborhood of 30 minutes door-to-door from the Upper East Side to White Manna -- but I think you need a car, or someone with a car to take you, or an employer with a lax attitude about car-service vouchers. I mean, I do see NJ Transit bus stops out in Hackensack, but I imagine there's enough switching and scheduling to make it not worth doing on public transportation.

    As, apparently, the resident rail freak, I'll add that White Manna actually is very easy to get to on NJ Transit trains. It's a short 5-block walk from the Hackensack Anderson Street station - 32 minutes both from Penn Station (transfer in Secaucus), $9.25 round trip, & from Hoboken (direct trip), $7.75 round trip.

    Again, whether the time & expense are worthwhile is up to the individual, & I can't promise that there'll be much else in Hackensack to reward your trip other than a real taste of New Jersey. But the hassles & headaches of drivng there are certainly unnecessary. And you're likely to see a surprising # of waterbirds along the way if you keep your eyes open.

  9. Most Americans just never grow up.

    I had a unique culinary childhood compared with that of my peers in suburban St. Louis. Among his many eccentricities, my dad was a stickler for going to a local bakery & buying actual loaves of good crusty rye bread; he always insisted on having some in the house regardless of what else might be around. Of course, as a kid I hated those breads, particularly the crusts, & wanted nothing but soft squishy Wonder.

    Somewhere in my teen years my tastes changed. I grew to prefer the ryes & country whites & the like. I developed an appreciation of French bread. The crust became as important as the inside of the loaf.

    Thinking back, I can't put my finger on how or why I grew fond of the crust. I can't remember an "aha!" moment like I can for my first taste of calamari or my first real Indian food. I'm not even sure whether it correlated with puberty or the end of orthodonture work, or followed its own course. Maybe you just eventually grow tired of Wonder Bread if you're consistently exposed to an alternative.

  10. 6 - What's the best Italian-American red-sauce place, and the best Italian market?

    The best red-sauce place?  E&V in Paterson (it's not the hellish part!).  The best market?  Corrado's in Clifton.

    I also really like Sabor Peru in Rutherford; it's a very sexy place in a town that's getting a rep for very sexy restaurants.

    Corrado's is one of Jersey's great melting-pot experiences & worth a visit. The variety & value they offer in many categories certainly puts them up there. They do, however, tend to leave their produce out until it rots, so I would not rate them "best" as a market.

    My town is becoming known for sexy restaurants? I like it! Sabor Peru is right around the corner just before Cafe Matisse & thus also easily reached by train via the directions I gave above.

    5 - What's the best Southeast Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, etc.)?

    For Malaysian cuisine, Taste Of Asia in Chatham serves food that's unlike any other place I've ever been. If there's as good, or better, Malaysian food to be had in the region, please share!

  11. Over the summer I made several pasta dishes that combined red peppers & tomatoes, & it was amazing how similar they got to taste. These were fresh greenmarket items bursting with flavor so that wasn't the issue. I believe it's the length of cooking that mellows the flavor & emphasizes the sweetness, as JAZ mentioned above.

    For the soup, I'd try holding a bit of that chopped roasted pepper aside & adding that just for the last few minutes of cooking.

  12. Another follow-up.

    I was curious what types of sweetener soft drink manufacturers might use instead of HFCS, and it appears that some are, somewhat ironically, using invert sugar. Inverted cane sugar is effectively the exact same thing as HFCS -- equal or nearly equal mixtures of "unbound" fructose and glucose. Though they happen to be created from different precursors, there should be little or no difference in terms of their effect on reactive carbonyl formation, or their physiological effects in people. For instance, Jones Pure Cane Soda Products, which have labels proudly proclaiming that their "good old soda [is] made with pure cane sugar" and contains no high fructose corn syrup, is sweetened with inverted cane sugar.

    Thanks for all those additional details & clarifications of the state of the research on this subject.

    I suspect that not many folks know anything about invert sugar; I didn't until just now.

  13. I stick pretty close to home, for better or worse, but that other thread has renewed my resolve to get down to Edison / Oak Tree Rd for my birthday dinner which is coming right up. I was once an excellent cook of Indian food, perhaps this will re-inspire me.

    Anyway this is a fairly recent (this year) discovery for me & I thought I'd share it here: the chain of "Farmers Market" stores, which I did not know was a chain until just a couple of weeks ago when my local one gave me a coupon with all of their locations printed on back.

    As I've noted elsewhere, the name "Farmers Market" can be a bit misleading, in that you'll find relatively little Jersey produce in these stores, even in season. What you will find is a whopping selection of fruits & vegetables from all over this country & South America, with exceptional freshness & prices that seem around 20% less than any supermarket I've ever found. Their buyers know their stuff.

    I've been buying my citrus there all year, & everything else produce-wise when the Jersey greenmarkets aren't running. It's always worth the short extra drive for me. If you like to cook, or just eat fresh fruit, & aren't obsessed with the Whole Foods / organic thing, these places are great. They're like Corrado's w/o all the groceries (though they also have a nice selection of nuts, dried fruits & breads, as well as dairy items).

    Here's the info on the back of the card:

    17 Farmers Market / E. Rutherford

    46 Farmers Market / Totowa

    Rt 9 Farmers Market / Freehold

    206 Farmers Market / Hillsborough

    7 Farmers Market / Belleville

    New Bridge Farmers Market / Bergenfield

    (There are also phone #s for each but I lack the patience to type them out.)

  14. I'd be very interested in hearing about places for pizza and/or hot and cold subs.

    I grew up in the Montclair area and still get back there for family stuff, and I am firmly convinced that your generic mom and pop NJ pizza is usually far better than the equivalent in NY -- i.e., what you are likely to get wandering into a random place and asking for a slice or a regular pie.  I'm not talking about Di Fara's (although it takes at least as long to go to DiFara's and get served as it does to go to my parents' area), but your typical neighborhood slice joint.

    Anyway, there's a kind of honest American-Italian cuisine that I grew up on -- pizza most memorably exemplified by the great to be mourned forever Casa di Pizza on the Newark border, subs from many places but two I still go to - Nicolo's and Marzullo's in Montclair, places I don't remember the names of that served "scungill" and "calamar" (strictly nj pronunciation) in red sauce...

    I've never found handy NY equivalents to those places, places tend to get to fancied up or be equally inaccessible (Corona for a sub, anyone?)

    I'm interested in hearing others' NJ recommendations for this type of food.  I'm not looking for authentic regional Italian, blah blah blah... (The amount of time I spend in Italy makes even most of the touted Manhattan venues taste like crap to me).  I'm looking for an entirely different cuisine -- delicious wonderful New Jersey Italian (used to be Brooklyn Italian, too, I think, although the good places are getting rarer and rarer)...

    If you grew up in Montclair and aren't mentioning Belgiovine's Deli, get yourself up to 714 Bloomfield Ave, right across from the Whole Foods, right now!

    (DISCLAIMER: I work there part-time, as the lunchtime delivery guy. I will try to keep these comments free of inevitable bias.)

    The shop has been there for 25 years, run by two brothers-in-law who emigrated from Bari. Some (including an NY Times critic) say they make the best mozz in the region. It's the best I've tasted - by which I mean it has a firm texture & does not taste of salt - & I've tried many others. If there's better to be found anywhere (by the criteria I've specified), I hope that folks will post where it is.

    No pizza, but other hot dishes & cold subs, not to mention the marinated sun-dried tomatoes & roasted peppers, are hard to beat. New Yorkers may not want to drive all the way there just for a sandwich, but if they're in the area, it's worth a stop for lunch (sidewalk table in summer, takeaway only rest of year) & a box of fresh store-made ravioli to take home.

    Sorry, I guess I sound like a marketing piece here. But the Times did rave about the place too.

  15. Being born and raised in North Jersey and raised with many trips in to NYC, I can say that so far there is one serious competitor to any place in NYC: Cafe Matisse in Rutherford.  It's a very secluded, very intimate location that really does feel like a minor oasis.  The atmosphere, food, and service are at or above the par set by restaurants like Picholine without the stiffness.

    I'll add that Rutherford is easy to get to by NJ Transit train - 20 minutes, $5.25 RT from Hoboken or $7.75 from Penn - then a 6-block walk up the main drag to Matisse. It's a BYO, as is every place in town due to our quaint liquor laws.

    On the way you'll pass a good Greek place (After Athens) and a decent steakhouse (Mignon). Sure you can find the equivalents, & better, in Manhattan, but they're a couple of reasons why we aren't doing the reverse commute into NYC whenever we want to dine out.

    I lived in Manhattan for 19 yrs & have now lived in Jersey for 16, so I see both sides of the coin here. I don't have much to offer New Yorkers that qualifies as destination dining, given that I don't do fine dining, but by the same token NYC doesn't offer that much to me destination-wise any more. I always have a good time, & usually a good meal, when we go in, but there's always some other reason (usually friends who live there) for us to be in the city. I can say the same about several towns in North Jersey. I don't have a problem liking both.

    I'll throw Wondee's into the mix here. It's a Thai place that many have argued is as good as any in the region - there's a thread or two in the NJ Forum discussing it. It's in an area that's a bit desolate at night so it requires a car, but it's generally crowded and lively.

    In the "cheap eats" category, the outpost of Sri Thai in the little food court inside Hoboken Terminal is one of the great takeaway bargains in the region. Because it's food-stand stuff, I'd never argue that it's on a par with Wondee's, but they use good ingredients & aren't shy with the spices. I can get two dinners there for $9 - $14, depending on how hungry we are. Where can you do better?

  16. One major enticement I'd throw out is that dining out in NJ can be a great value because so many of our restaurants are BYO (wine/beer).  Every time I go to Blu in Montclair, for instance, I am blown away by Chef Zod's cooking and presentation, and with a ridiculously large tip, it's still hard to spend more than $50pp.  I don't know of any restaurant in NYC where I can get that quality and calibre of food with wine for that price!

    that's pointless once you throw in travel costs and time.

    $9.25 round trip & 35 minutes on the train from Penn Station. Calculate the pointlessness as you will.

  17. This week, for my butter of the week, I went with a butter from the upstairs natural foods section: Kate's Homemade Butter from Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I have a soft spot for OOB, because one of my closest friends in college was from there. We visited a couple of times, had Hot Dog on a Stick and various other local delicacies, and generally enjoyed the kitsch of the place. So I was pretty excited to try Kate's butter. But it was disappointing: no better than the typical commercial American butter, no special character or anything like that. Far inferior to last week's Pamplie, which, in turn, is not the best butter I've had from Fairway.

    I find Kate's to be a cut above typical supermarket butters in terms of texture - very smooth, not at all waxy as so many are.

    I agree that it lacks a distinctive character, so much so that it's almost flavorless. It doesn't get in the way of the taste of one's corn, that's for sure!

    My experience is only with the unsalted varieties.

  18. Meanwhile, I've had many letters to the editor published in newspapers, including the New York Times. Every single one of them has been edited. I've never heard of a letter to the editor being published in a newspaper without some edits. In many cases I've felt that the edits made to my letters have weakened them substantially.

    Gosh. I have to note parenthetically that I once had a letter to the Times published absolutely verbatim. I very was proud of that at the time, since I'd worked hard to make sure that it didn't have a single wasted word and I apparently achieved that goal, if only once.

    Of course it didn't happen that way with my next letter to them, so I'm batting .500 there.

  19. Is there no such thing as a dedicated cheese shop in America, like there are throughout Europe? Will Whole Foods be the cheesemonger of choice throughout the country?

    There certainly are in New York City but, as we all know, New York City is not America.

    Here in North Jersey Whole Foods is the cheesemonger by default if not of choice. They've raised the bar way beyond what other local sources offer. And as soon as you cross the Hudson you are in America so there are no dedicated cheese shops out here. A brave soul opened one in my town in the late 1990s, he knew what he was doing with his wares and it was a very good shop. He sold cold cuts, bakery goods & prepared foods too since it's not likely that cheese will pay all of your bills. Even so, it didin't last a year.

  20. I'm preparing my first-ever country-style ham for Friday. What should I serve alongside, besides biscuits? I'm having a hard time coming up with a menu here.

    I'll second the cornbread idea. I always served country ham with cornbread, baked beans, & collard greens - the last not made with bacon, obviously, since eating them with the ham itself provides the appropriate contrast.

    P.S. I'm another one from Missouri.

  21. Riverfront Times is also a good source of food info. Google their website.

    It's tough in StL w/o a car, they've had abysmal public transport for decades, & have focused on that (the above-mentioned Metrolink) only in recent years. The Metrolink might be your best hope if you don't want to run up taxi fares & truly don't want to rent a car.

    If pizza's not off your list & you do find selves in Clayton, I'll recommend Il Vicino. This is decidedly NOT St. Louis-style pizza (Google "provel cheese" for an education in that); rather, it's as close to true Italian pizza as you're likely to find in the Heartland, and to my taste it's better than 90% of New York's pizzerias.

  22. Was walking around that area last week. The stretch of restaurants on Conn. between Calvert & the Metro stop, with spacious outdoor seating, certainly looked enticing, as did the Afghan Grill right around the corner on Calvert. Wondering if anyone's tried them. We had a great Afghan place here in Jersey for a couple of years but it didn't last.

  23. What the Zagats actually say, as FG noted, is:

    Overall, the rate of inflation in New York City dining costs has been risen just 0.97% since 9/11 -- barely a third of the Consumer Price Index.

    (And yes, that "has been risen" got by the WSJ copy editors, showing that the Zagats are as adept with fuzzy English as they are with fuzzy math.)

    What this statement means to me, taking them literally, is that, if the annual rate of inflation of NYC dining costs were 3% on 9/11/01, it's now 3.0921%.

    It also means that the rate of inflation of the CPI has changed by c. .32% - e.g., if the annual rate of change in the CPI were 3% on 9/11/01, it's now 3.0096%, hardly a significant difference.

    Of course, the rate of inflation in the cost of NYC dining could be 5% and the rate for the CPI could be 2%. The Zagats tell us nothing about that. They seem interested chiefly in spouting verbiage that they hope won't be examined too closely and obfuscating any serious inquiry into their data and methodology.

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