Friday, June 19, 2009

Treat Dad to Dinner this Father's Day

By Millicent K. Brody

Make it a memorable day at one of these great New Jersey Restaurants.

Atlantic Highlands:
The Wine Bar
This brand new restaurant close to the water features a full-service bar and a Mediterranean-influenced a la carte menu. Entrees include sautéed jumbo gulf shrimp with whole wheat penne, fresh plum tomatoes, and garlic. The Wine Bar, 40 First Avenue, Atlantic Highlands, 732.291.1377

Klein's Fish Market & Waterside Cafe
It’s time to head toward the shore to Klein’s Fish Market & Waterside Cafe. Enjoy a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder and dazzle yourself with the other menu selections. Choose fresh-from-the-waters flounder, grilled salmon, tuna, swordfish, or scallops. Fish is served with cole slaw or vegetable and baked potato. You’ll wish the restaurant was right around your corner! Klein’s Fish Market & Waterside Cafe, 708 River Rd., Belmar, 732.681.1177

Leave the grilling to the folks at Serenade. Treat Dad to a prime, 20-oz Porterhouse Steak with all the accompaniments. Restaurant Serenade, Six Roosevelt Ave., Chatham, 973.701.0303.

The Italian Pantry Bistro
The menu in this tiny restaurant includes the chef’s own house-made mozzarella cheese served with roasted beets in a special vinagrette. Try the farfalle with wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and peas in a mascarpone cream sauce. Grandma’s own meatballs are a highlight. The Italian Pantry Bistro, 13 Eastman St., Cranford, 908.272.7720

Gladstone Tavern
I love the burgers, fries, and Caesar salad at Gladstone Tavern. With the warmer weather, you may choose to dine outdoors under a huge tent surrounded by their herb garden, or in their warm and welcoming dining room. The entire staff is kid friendly. The menu offers an abundance of favorites for everyone. Save room for Executive chef-proprietor Tom Carlin’s fabulous gelato. Gladstone Tavern, 273 Main St., Gladstone, 908.234.9055

River Palm Terrace
It’s loud. It’s crowded. It’s an entire scene, but the steaks are absolutely the best. You’ll love the shrimp cocktail, the creamed spinach, the salad, and the cheesecake. Should you choose, you might even order the lamb chops. Try to get there this year. River Palm Terrace, 1416 River Rd., Edgewater, 201.224.2013

La Griglia
La Griglia never disappoints. The absolute favorite is an appetizer of Cajun calamari. Enjoy that and a most delicious Caesar salad. Favorites include scallops with risotto, salmon topped with lump crabmeat, potato-encrusted red snapper, and fabulous veal dishes. Portions are more than generous, and drinks are served beautifully. For dessert, try chef John Tocci’s chocolate chip cookie stuffed with his own vanilla ice cream. La Griglia Seafood Grill and Wine Bar, 740 Boulevard, Kenilworth, 908.241.7371

The restaurant is tiny, but the menu is attractive. Whatever you choose to taste, you’ll definitely want more. Humberto is the executive chef, and Lorena, his wife and partner, serves as restaurant manager. You’ll be happy. BYOB. Restaurant Lorena’s, 168 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood, 973.763.4460.

Basilico never disappoints. The menu offers an abundance of dishes served in an informal atmosphere. You’re also in the area of Paper Mill Playhouse, and that offers dad another option. Basilico, 324 Millburn Ave., Millburn, 973.379.7020

La Cucina Ristorante
Marc Spagnola will welcome dad and the family to La Cucina Ristorante and Seafood Grill. The meatballs are always a hit, as is their full array of interesting pasta and seafood dishes. La Cucina Ristorante and Seafood Grill, 291 Essex St., Millburn, 973.379.6700

Park & Orchard
It’s all about fresh at Park & Orchard Restaurant in Hackensack. Choose your favorite dishes from a hearty, eclectic menu. Portions are more than plentiful, and the wine list is most attractive. Park & Orchard Restaurant, 240 Hackensack St., East Rutherford, 201.939.9292

La Focaccia
Enjoy the hustle and bustle at La Focaccia in Summit, where you’ll find a full array of seafood, veal, and pasta dishes. Service is friendly, and so are the guests. La Focaccia, 523 Morris Ave., Summit, 908.277.4006.

Limani Seafood Grill
New England or Manhattan clam chowder and soft shell crabs. Seafood towers laden with gorgeous lobster, shrimp, and crabmeat. Generous portions of your favorite grilled and broiled fish, all served with delicious lemon potatoes and a vegetable. Start with one of proprietor George Vastardis’ salads, and end with his house-made gelato. BYOB. Limani Seafood Grill, 235 North Ave. West, Westfield, 908.233.0052

You may dine inside or outdoors under the umbrellas at Xocolatz. Selections include French onion soup, quiche, a foccacio panini, herbed grilled chicken salad, chicken parmesan, smothered meatloaf, barbecued baby back ribs, quesadillas, burgers, and classic sandwiches. Don’t leave without a glass of Jaime’s iced tea. Request a couple of his chocolate chip cookies and leave with a smile on your face. You’ll appreciate the good food and the more than fair prices. BYOB. Xocolatz, 235 Elmer St., Westfield, 908.232.3962.

Water & Wine
Dad will enjoy grazing the Raw Bar menu at Water & Wine in Watchung. Start with a jumbo lump crab cocktail. Move on to oysters of the day. Add a seafood salad and you’ll be in Father’s Day Heaven. Or, start with a bowl of pasta fagioli and move on to garlic shrimp with extra virgin olive oil and white wine, add a veal rack chop with vegetable cous cous and plum tomatoes, or rack of lamb. The comfortable bar and lounge are perfect for gathering. Water & Wine, 14 Stirling Rd., Wathchung, 908.755.9344

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Real Men Drink Pink

By Maureen C. Petrosky

I hadn’t been out on a double date with my college roommate since college, so meeting her new beau was the perfect excuse for getting together. This may seem like a harmless dinner and drinks, but every couple knows the search for suitable couple friends can be fruitless, not to mention fatiguing. The chemistry must be organic and if at any point it feels forced, the fun of double dating flies out the window. These are very volatile relationships, which is why I was thrilled this meeting at the Philly BYOB Matyson turned out to be a true meeting of the minds.

We came armed with a bottle of red and a chilled white. This should be a rule of thumb for you too. If you don’t go to a BYOB prepared you could be stuck sipping what your friends choose and that could be disastrous. In this case it was the opposite. I was super psyched as we approached the table, because the bottleneck jutting from the ice bucket was one I knew and adored. Aria, Sparkling Pinot Noir, with its ruby-red foil and emblazoned crest was a warm welcome. With a subtle pop we were off to a superb start.

The restaurant had great energy, and amazing food like cornmeal-crusted oysters drizzled with a Piquillo pepper puree, fresh Opah over perfectly cooked risotto, and a beef dish to die for. Yet, it was watching the men engage in easy conversation while happily sipping long flutes filled with pretty pink bubbles that brought a smile to my face. Nothing exudes confidence like a couple of guys throwing back some pink wine in dainty glassware. Between the marvelous food, great wine, and laughter bubbling from our table, we all agreed there’d be a sequel.

The wine: Aria, Sparkling Pinot Noir, $14
These bubbles are dazzling in ruby red and overflowing with fruit, but don’t expect sweet. This is a dry, vibrant mouthful making for a fabulous aperitif as well as a match for many foods.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Get a Jump Start on the 4th: Music and Fireworks at Moorland

By Brianne Harrison

Warmer weather brings with it a deluge of outdoor concerts, picnics, and festivals. If you’re looking for all three rolled into one, you’re in luck: Music at Moorland is coming up on June 25.

This annual event, held at Moorland Farms in Far Hills, features a concert by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, followed by a spectacular fireworks show at nightfall. Gates open at 5:30, so feel free to bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn (barbequing, however, is not permitted). If you’re not in the mood to tote dinner, Benefactor tickets ($300) get you premium seats, an orchestra parking pass, and a country dinner buffet. A concession stand will also be available at the event.

Music at Moorland benefits the Somerset Medical Center in Somerville. Tickets are $25 (general admission), $100 (member seating), and $300 (benefactor seating). A portion of each adult ticket is deductible as a charitable contribution to Somerset Medical Center Foundation. Children under 14 are free. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Amateur Chef Takes on the Pros

By Pat Tanner

In a twist on the usual chef cook-off competition format, the upcoming challenge in the newly renovated 20,000 square-foot showroom at Mrs. G’s TV & Appliance in Lawrenceville will pit three of central Jersey’s most popular restaurant chefs against not just each other, but against a talented (and brave) amateur as well. In the balance hang a flat-screen TV, a two-page magazine spread, and, of course, bragging rights.

Contestants in the Iron Chef-like competition will be Jason Hensle of Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, Peter Nowakoski of Rat’s Restaurant in Hamilton, Eben Copple of the Yardley Inn (just across the river in PA), and Randy Forrester of Hopewell, a recent graduate of Boston University with a B.S. in Hospitality Administration. As part of his training, Forrester interned at the Ryland Inn and with celebrity chefs Scott Conant and Fabio Trabocchi.

Each of the four contestants will be cooking live on Viking, Miele, Gaggenau, and Thermidor equipment. Ingredients are being donated by McCaffrey’s markets, and the chefs’ offerings will be voted on both by the public who attend the free event and a panel of professional judges, including yours truly. Joining me will be Frank Benowitz of the hospitality program at Mercer County Community College and Colin Marsh, culinary arts instructor at Bucks County Technical High School and former chef at the Cottage Club, a Princeton eating club.

Each contestant will prepare an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, including tastings for guests to sample and to vote on for the people’s choice award. Our panel of three professional judges will score points based on originality, technique, presentation, seasonality/use of local ingredients, and taste.

Mrs. G’s 1st Annual Chef Challenge takes place on Thursday, June 25 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Mrs. G TV & Appliances, 2960 Route 1, Lawrenceville. Admission is free; a donation to the United Way of Greater Mercer is welcomed.