Friday, March 20, 2009

The Road Trip Back: Travel and Dining Tips

By Millicent K. Brody

I’ve learned it’s easy to take plenty of clothes on vacation, especially when you’ve got a car with an oversized trunk. I’ve also leaned that, regardless of how packed your trunk appears to be, there is always room for a little something extra.

And so after growling about all the “stuff” we took but did not wear on our winter holiday, we growled, hissed, and repacked the car while planning our trip back to New Jersey.

Knowing it is more than 20 grueling hours on the road, we discovered the easiest way to endure a lengthy road trip is to stop, stretch, and change drivers every two hours. We also learned to request a room in a relatively new establishment wherever we stop for the night. (And, if for some reason you’re not completely satisfied with the accommodations, simply request a change. Management is usually very accommodating.)

To avoid heavy business traffic, we schedule our departure for the weekends.
We left Florida at 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 14. In spite of all of the tasty billboards hawking delicious breakfasts of eggs, hot buttered biscuits, oatmeal, and whatever you could scoff down for less than cheap, I’m never turned on by fast-food establishments. Not feeling terribly hungry, we drove for three hours before searching for a local food emporium. Lucky us: We stopped at a Publix Super Market in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where the baker cut a freshly baked Irish soda bread into four chunky parts. My husband ordered a delicious Danish pastry, and would you believe they invited us to have a cup of coffee on the house? Publix in New Smyrna Beach offers free coffee 'til noon. Amazing!

By 1 p.m. we were dipping into goody bags filled with roadway snacks. Along with grapes, chunks of cheese, and apples, we take along small plastic bags of Trader Joe’s nuts and raisins, dried cranberries, and chocolate.

By 2 p.m. we were drooling for lunch. Once again, I plan ahead. Depending on weather conditions, we’ll either eat in the car or head for a picnic table at a Visitor’s Center.

Reaching into our cooler I retrieved two freshly prepared, chunky egg salad sandwiches on crusty rolls accompanied by a choice of bottled water, cranberry juice, or a diet drink.

We always go out for dinner. Should you be in the area of Fayetteville, North Carolina, enjoy dinner at Huske Hardware House Restaurant & Brewery located at 405 Hay Street in Historic Downtown Fayetteville. Not your typical chicken and rib place, the restaurant takes pride in their platters of freshly prepared food, priced well for any budget. Should you be traveling toward Rocky Mount, North Carolina, try the new Outback Steakhouse. Touted again and again by friends who frequent the area, I was particularly impressed with the enormous crowd waiting for tables, and a casserole of steamed fresh vegetables. You’re also able to order an oven-baked potato or sweet potato to accompany your filet mignon. That with an ample-size Caesar salad, cost less than $20. If you’re not heading south anytime soon, there are a number of Outbacks scattered throughout New Jersey. Visit to find one nearby.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Overheard in the Loveless Kitchen

By Judith Garfield

Last week, as I was preparing to make my loveless brisket pot roast--only three ingredients: brisket, dry onion soup, and heavy-duty tin foil--I swear I overheard this:

Onion Soup: We need to talk. Chicken casserole has offered me a position.
Brisket: Go ahead…leave. But you’ll never find the success you have with us.
Onion Soup: But I’m so versatile.
Tin Foil: Listen fellas, without me you two would never work.
Brisket: He’s right. We’re all okay alone. Opening acts. But together we’re the main attraction.
Tin Foil: Agreed. Now, don’t let any of this leak out.

According to the dictionary of American Food & Drink, the term “pot roast” dates in print to 1881. There are many different cuts of meat that can be used, but I have found that a first cut beef brisket is the tastiest and most tender. I don’t know why it’s called a brisket. There’s nothing brisk about it. Takes at least three hours to cook.

To make a loveless pot roast, sprinkle the dry onion soup on a first cut brisket and wrap tightly in heavy-duty tin foil. If for some reason you neglect to use heavy-duty foil, you will never try this recipe again. So to avoid foil failure, also use a roasting pan. Roast at 350 degrees for three hours. Let it sit in the foil for another 1/2 hour.

Brisket recipes say to slice against the grain. This assumes that we know a) what the grain is, and b) what direction against it would be. I reiterate again the need for a significant other who knows about these things.

Serve on a platter with gravy that will miraculously appear in the tin foil, and garnish with parsley. People will think you spent hours perfecting Grandma’s recipe. No one will believe you hate to cook.

This loveless brisket is wonderful hot, and maybe even better the next day. Unlike most loveless leftovers that keep getting pushed to the back of the refrigerator, until they make their way to the trash, this leftover will be eagerly consumed. Put it on fresh rye bread with horseradish mustard. Yummmm.

Just wondering: Does anyone actually use onion soup for soup?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

BYOB Blues Banished

By Maureen C. Petrosky

I usually love BYOB restaurants. You can bring one from home or pick up something on the way and keep some cash in your pocket by avoiding that steep restaurant mark up. The drawback is without having the menu on hand you take a chance that the bottle you choose may not match the food. Not to mention, if you’re running late, just plain forget, or don’t know you’re headed to a BYO it’s a bummer to arrive empty handed. Which is exactly why I adore these two Jersey gems that give the diner options with the BYO part.

Our latest jaunt to Hamilton’s Grill Room was spur of the moment. We were without a reservation and had no B. When offered a table in the Boathouse, with the same menu, we were psyched just thinking of that grilled shrimp in anchovy butter. Best of all, they told us we could order a bottle of wine. Since it’s attached to the Boathouse Bar and not technically Hamilton’s, you get to skirt the BYO issue. The space is teeny tiny, which amps up the charm but also the earshot. Minus the fellow at the next table, who rudely barked at the waiter, “I DESPISE RARE, IT MUST BE BLACK and BLUE”, loud enough for the rest of us to cringe, the experience was fabulous.

On the heels of that night, we spent my sister’s 40th b-day at Café Matisse, another BYOB in Rutherford. This time I was armed with lots of bottles to celebrate with, but the chef’s ever-changing menu and his eclectic blending of flavors means you never know which wine to bring. Luckily, along with amazing service, yummy food, and a great décor (minus the placement of the ladies room) they’ve got the wine sitch covered. Check out their on-site wine shop, and be sure to talk to Jon for great recommendations and that last-minute B to pair with dinner.

Jon’s Pick- Matua Sauvignon Blanc, Paretai Vineyard, New Zealand $28. He instructed the room of tasters to chew on it first if it was their first taste of wine for the day-clearly he wasn’t talking to me. This was a perfect juicy, acidic, playful pick to get everyone’s mouths watering for dinner. While the Matua brand is easily available, this single vineyard bottle is worth a visit to Jon at Café Matisse’s wine shop, 167 Park Avenue, Rutherford NJ, or call and he’ll order you some- 201.935.2995.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Women’s Art, Women’s Vision

By Brianne Harrison

It’s Women’s History month, and what better way to celebrate than by taking in some spectacular exhibits that celebrate women’s art and craft as well as women’s empowerment?

First up is “Women’s Art, Women’s Vision,” an exhibition of rugs and needlework at the Burlington County Annex Art Gallery. The works run the gamut from traditional to experimental and celebrate techniques and works that struggle to be recognized as art. Traditional needlework associated with women, such as embroidery, rug hooking, and quilting, is often dismissed as merely “craft”, which unfairly denies the creators credit for their creativity and skill. Just because something is functional doesn’t mean it can’t be considered a work of art.

Appropriately for Women’s History Month, Gallery Twenty-One in Newark has chosen to showcase the work of Myra Alpizar, an artist who provocatively uses embroidery (usually thought of as delicate work) to create pieces that highlight and denounce the abuses and struggles women have had to face throughout history. The artist has endured her share of hardship: she was exiled from her native Cuba and now lives in Spain. She has channeled her painful history into works that are thought-provoking and, on occasion, disturbing, but certainly fodder for a good conversation and debate.

Finally, the Jersey City Museum is examining images of women in its exhibit “Paper Dolls,” which runs through mid-May. Figurative prints from artists that include Mac Adams, Isabel Bishop, William Gropper, James Rosenquist, and Kenneth Hayes Miller examine how artists depict women and girls.

Women’s Art, Women’s vision runs through March 28 at the Burlington County Annex Art Gallery (Smithville Rd. and Meade Ln, Eastampton, Mayra Alpizar’s work can be seen at Gallery Twenty-One (611 McCarter Highway, Newark, Paper Dolls runs through May 16 at the Jersey City Museum (350 Montgomery St., Jersey City,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Irish Farmhouse Cheeses for St. Paddy’s Day

By Pat Tanner

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy corned beef and cabbage as much as anyone. But it seems a shame to limit St. Patrick’s Day vittles to this warhorse when there is so much more to modern-day Irish comestibles.

With its lush green pastures and clean air, the Irish countryside produces some of the best dairy products in the world – a fact that I was reminded of recently when I sampled a selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses. I decided then and there that this March 17th the centerpiece of my dinner would be a cheese platter with very traditional accoutrements: brown soda bread and Irish chutney (customarily made with apples, raisins, and onions bound with a little apple cider and mustard seed). And I will wash it all down with a good Irish stout, of course.

A survey of the markets in my area notable for their cheese selections yielded up a bounty of Irish beauties. I found excellent choices at Bon Appetit in the Princeton Shopping Center and Olsson’s Fine Foods at the Trenton Farmers’ Market. Throughout the state, Wegmans and Kings markets offer great choices, as do the Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, The Cheese Shop of Ridgewood, and Sickle’s Market in Little Silver.

Here is just a smattering of the delectable Irish cheeses you’re likely to encounter:

  • Coolea: a mild and creamy cows milk cheese handmade in County Cork
  • Cahill’s Porter Cheese: Lovingly made by Dan Cahill’s mother on their farm in County Limerick, the family’s Irish Cheddar is blended with genuine Irish porter, creating a dramatic marbled effect
  • Cashel Blue: Ireland’s original artisanal blue cheese, made by the Grubb family on a single farm in County Tipperary
  • Adrahan Farmhouse: A semi-soft cheese with a golden washed rind from County Cork, described by Michel Lemmerling of Bon Appetit as having an “earthy flavor and slight smoky tang”
  • Kerrygold Dubliner: a sweet, robust cheese, aged over twelve months, that combines the sharpness of mature cheddar, the nuttiness of Swiss, and the bite of Parmesan. The cheese was developed by Irishman John Lucey and the recipe remains a secret.