eNJoy Eatery

yn Weiss Francisco The eNJoy Eatery

enjoy_Eatery-150x150Evelyn Weiss Francisco is a Foodie and blogger from the Garden State. Her Blog, “Dishing on Dining“, has been running continuously since January of 2012. By day, Evelyn is a busy account executive with a Public Relations firm, by night, a writer with a passion for all things food related.

“With my father a cook and my mother a baker, I have always been surrounded by quality, fresh food preparation. I have learned to appreciate everything from the simplicity of raw fruit to artistic presentations of eccentric entrees and most importantly, to never be wasteful. The purpose of my food column is to take you, the reader, on an epicurean journey through eateries in New Jersey that run the gamut of different cuisines and cost ranges in the hopes of imparting to you the same love and appreciation I have for food”, states Francisco.

New Jersey has an array of talented chefs and exciting food establishments waiting to serve you in their own unique way. So come along for the ride, and read on while we take you through NJ’s restaurants, interview the Garden State’s top Chefs and share recipes….

Enjoy New Jersey!

A Green Spot and a Jerky Place in NJ

I don’t particularly try to eat healthy; I just do.  I was raised that way. But the easiest way to do so is to cook your own food. There are, however, more and more health-minded dining establishments popping up. Lunch is tricky sometimes. It’s generally not a meal I spend additional money on outside the house. When you’re on the go, from morning until evening though, sometimes a good-old sandwich is in order. Nowadays, though, everyone is avoiding gluten like the plague, but I need real bread! A fairly new place opened in Bergenfield, NJ, called The Green Spot, a family business focusing on promoting a healthier lifestyle with a variety of salad (bar), paninis and smoothies. I opted for the banana blue drink: nothing but bananas, strawberries and blueberries blended. I followed it up with a turkey club, substituting the bacon with my addiction for avocado. The décor is welcoming – it feels garden fresh immediately as you step on a green mat with a texture like blades of grass. It was a pleasure to support a new ma ‘n pa “spot” in a world of big box.

Visually contrasting is another new eatery in Englewood. When why phone friend Siri told me about a nearby place for takeout lunch, I was surprised that he steered be to a Mobil gas station on Route 4. In a space inside the convenience store sits Jerk Shack Grill. It’s not derogatory; jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meat is rubbed with a hot spice mixture heavy on the black pepper. My stomach does not favor extremely spicy foods, but it manages a quarter chicken here. One time was far hotter than the previous, so I sense a bit of inconsistency in the seasoning, but both were tasty. There are a few counter stools if you don’t mind looking out at the traffic laden Route 4 and some gas pumps. I recommend takeout here. The plantains are soft and sweet as should be. The mac-n-cheese side is worth a try as well. If you’re a fan of oxtail, they do it justice. If you’re not sure, give it a try. It tastes like beef!

Evelyn Weiss Francisco yn Weiss Francisco The eNJoy Eateryis a Foodie and blogger from the Garden State. Her Blog, “Dishing on Dining“, has been running continuously since January of 2012. By day, Evelyn is a busy account executive with a Public Relations firm, by night, a writer with a passion for all things food related.

Ciel It With A Semi-Sweet Kiss

If you even just know me by name, you probably know that all retail desserts are measured against the quality of my mother’s desserts. Most don’t come close: too sweet, too many artificial ingredients, not baked enough, etc.  As a result, I am extremely selective – some label it snobbish – as to if and where I eat dessert elsewhere.

Most of you who do know me, know I’ve found the perfect competitor in Rocco’s, New York City, but that’s across the big river. I’ve written about two worthy contenders in New Jersey:  one in Ramsey, L’Arte , where I even dared to bring my mother once, and the other in Teterboro, Palermo’s. So when I saw a nearly full-page newspaper article (yes, I look at an actual printed newspaper), on a four-month-old French pastry establishment in Westwood, NJ, my eyes and mouth perked up. A panic rush of self-addressed questions comes over me – why didn’t I know about this, could it be as good as the pictures look, how soon can I try it? The first answer I don’t know. I was four months behind on this intel. Shame on me. The third answer was …this evening! And that would provide the second answer: yes!

Open until 10 p.m., which excites me by fitting into my late night schedules, I dashed to Westwood at 9:30. The space is tucked sideways, perpendicular to a strip center with another Korean-owned eatery called Kimchi Smoke, which moved from Bergenfield. The bakery case in front appeared nearly wiped clean, but there were a few desserts left. The Korean man (owner/partner) explained that these rectangles were called pallets. They are like mini-pound cakes that are warmed up and sliced, but they’re elaborate. One was pistachio, draped in white chocolate and another was milk chocolate and coffee with almonds. I ordered one of each to sit down and enjoy. The back room is the open kitchen with counter and stools, along with a handful of tables. I was given a menu for separate plated desserts, which were more elaborate. At this point of the night, I had not eaten dinner. Dessert was destined to be my dinner because that’s what Ciel serves, and it’s served very well! Chef (and co-owner with her spouse) Jane’s resume sparkles in the pastry arts. Eleven Park Madison, Le Cirque and Nobu piqued my level of impression.  They both explained that they don’t and won’t serve savory dishes because they are doing only what they do best…..dessert! After all, you wouldn’t expect the pitmaster at Kimchi Smoke to serve up crème brulee.

When asked for a recommendation off of the dessert lounge menu, the gentleman suggested the chocolate soufflé as a first timer (a familiar French word of course). It is baked to order in seven minutes and served with fresh made creme chantilly. The airiness and the gooey inside combined in a light and not-so-sweet marriage. That choice paired with the two “pallets” should’ve been a good enough first-visit tasting. But no; I had to notice the apple tarte tatin. I couldn’t  pass it up. It was the most beautiful looking of the desserts I had, but also the smallest portion.  Here, Chef Jane’s artistic prowess was exhibited best. The “tarte”  looked like a large, square caramel filled with pieces of fresh apple. It was decorated with thin, dried apple slices, dabs of meringue and radish micro greens.

Remember, French pastries such as these are meant to be tasted meticulously and slowly with small bites because the portions are not large. The textures are meant to touch every side of your mouth. In fact, the tasting of such desserts, rather than shoveling, is celebrated with a distinctive offering….a dessert tasting menu experience. Ciel offers a five-course dessert tasting that she serves at the counter. The unique experience with her personal explanations takes about 1.5 hours. There’s also a three-course version that would take about 45 minutes. Reservations for a tasting experience is required at least 48 hours in advance. The tasting menu option truly brings the quality and New York food experience across that river and into this Bergen County town that’s filling up as a foodie destination.

She is quoted in The Record: “I barely use sugar. Fruits — raspberries, mangoes, cherries — have plenty of sweet in them. I don’t use anything that isn’t good for your body.” Her partner told me he goes to the market every morning to select the freshest fruits.

Dessert you can feel good about consuming! She even offers some that are vegan and gluten free, so there’s no excuse for anyone not to try her creations.

Evelyn Weiss Francisco yn Weiss Francisco The eNJoy Eateryis a Foodie and blogger from the Garden State. Her Blog, “Dishing on Dining“, has been running continuously since January of 2012. By day, Evelyn is a busy account executive with a Public Relations firm, by night, a writer with a passion for all things food related.

 

Satisfying Your Java Jitters Locally

The hot weather shouldn’t stop anyone from drinking coffee. Coffee is like blood in your veins – it should be in your body in some capacity at all times for survival.  I find myself sometimes even thinking about when and where I will be getting my next cup of coffee. Don’t get me wrong, though. I won’t settle for not-so-good java just to fulfill my craving for that percolated bean. I don’t get the Java Jitters, either (as portrayed by this NJ native https://youtu.be/S1ksjZYidVY). And don’t get your caffeine nerves up when I say I don’t care for the taste of Starbucks. It’s bitter to my palette.

I blame this love/addiction on my European mother, who mixed warm coffee with the milk in my bottle…okay, really I was about nine years old when I was given permission to have Sunday coffee with her, but mine was a miniature cup diluted by 50 percent milk. It was a gradual dependence/desire mix.

Recently, I was picking up a roasted chicken from Uncle Paulie’s in Maywood (written about before in this column). It was about 86 degrees outside, but I needed the taste of a latte and it needed to be in a cold form. Coffee ice cream from Uncle Louie G’s next door would not suffice. I need the strength of the actual roasted bean…..I digress for a moment: realizing only as I write this that there are two (unrelated) Uncles next to each other on West Pleasant Avenue.  Anyhow, I stepped outside and across the street Stray Cat Brew catches my eye with its locally roasted coffee, gourmet teas and frozen drinks. The A-frame sign resolved a problem that many coffee connoisseurs have with ice coffee – it gets watered down. Here, the Black-Out Iced Coffee is made with frozen coffee ice cubes!  The former Moon Doggie Café, has gone from dog to cat ironically, but it leaves Maywood with a place to enjoy a non-commercial cup.

Try your local, locally roasted coffee café – that’s a mouthful but one that will be cooled down with cool cup of aromatic java.

Evelyn Weiss Francisco yn Weiss Francisco The eNJoy Eateryis a Foodie and blogger from the Garden State. Her Blog, “Dishing on Dining“, has been running continuously since January of 2012. By day, Evelyn is a busy account executive with a Public Relations firm, by night, a writer with a passion for all things food related.

Fly Over to the Uncle's

I rarely order takeout food. It’s either cook at home, heat up leftovers or dine out. Recently I discovered the need for a quick meal that might be divided into multiple meals with no preparation time. It was a forced issue, taking care of two hospitalized parents at the same time and running around with other everyday matters. Where could I save time and satiate my hunger without sacrificing my taste buds or my cholesterol level, which remains ideal? I could have thrown together a salad, but my belly needed a little warming and there was no time to drive back home.

It was only a few weeks ago I was reminded of Uncle Paulie’s Peruvian Chicken in Maywood, NJ. I was at my office when a delivery guy walked in with a food order for Evelyn. It certainly wasn’t for me. It so happened that there was another Evelyn down the hall. When I ran into the delivery guy on the way out, I asked, “By the way, where is that food from? It smells really good.” He answered enthusiastically, “Uncle Paulie’s in Maywood. You should try it.” Well I had tried it before and was now gustatorily charmed to try it again.

A whole rotisserie chicken marinated in their ‘special ‘ Peruvian sauce can be taken home for only $10. If that’s not what you walked in for, you will be tempted to get one as you become hypnotized by the rows of seasoned whole chickens rotating behind the front counter where you pay. The chicken is served quartered, making it easy to divide it into meals or deliver half to someone else. There are many other Peruvian-style items, but if chicken is in the brand name, make chicken your first order here. While chicken is never a leading star, the seasoning combined with the moisture of the meat makes it a winner.

According to the web site, Owner Paul Padro had fallen in love with the Peruvian cuisine of his wife’s native country. There was an absence of Peruvian food in Bergen County. He found he had to travel to further towns like Passaic and Paterson. His establishment has been open in Maywood since 2009. Fly over there when you’re in a rush to bring something home to the family or if you don’t mind sitting in a pizzeria-type dining area for a homey (a Peruvian home) meal.

Evelyn Weiss Francisco yn Weiss Francisco The eNJoy Eateryis a Foodie and blogger from the Garden State. Her Blog, “Dishing on Dining“, has been running continuously since January of 2012. By day, Evelyn is a busy account executive with a Public Relations firm, by night, a writer with a passion for all things food related.

Hush Hush I Smell It Calling My Name

Aumm Aumm means “Hush Hush” in the Neapolitan dialect. Well, I’m letting this secret out. I never find myself in North Bergen, but I’ll be visiting frequently now. A friend who works at the elite Le Bernardin – need I say more – had been posting photos of dishes from Aumm Aumm quite often in the last six months. I trust the culinary opinion of someone who is employed at a number one New York restaurant. So back in December, with no reservations accepted, a group of us tried this self-proclaimed “wine bar and pizzeria”…which neither descriptive piques my gustatory sense.

 

It’s name it was: Aumm Aumm the surprise. I dislike the name; I dislike the tagline. Neither of them provide the golden key to this restaurant – fresh food! Because we waited 20 minutes, our hunger was building. It was best to order a cold throw-together dish to share. The Tagliere is a chef’s selection of imported cheeses, imported coldcuts, olives, nuts and fresh fruit. It’s the perfect traditional way to begin.

Another cold dish followed: the Insalata Aumm Aumm. A signature dish should be the popular one, and it was among us, as far as a salad can be. Baby arugula, endive, raddichio, artichokes, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, cacciocavallo cheese was all dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

I’m not one to dine out and order pizza, but with a bunch of people sharing food, one is tempted to try it, since it’s claimed in the name and you sit facing the opening of the large brick oven stove. Choices are red or white pizzas, round or the larger oblong. We went with a round, red one – the Cappriciosa. It was topped with tomato sauce, ham, mushrooms, Gaeta olives, artichokes and mozzarella. The flavors popped, but as is often with brick oven pizzas, the dough has that lovely charcoal crisp on the outside, but is soft and chewy on the top side. I am a crispy bread freak too, so I was a bit disappointed to get strips of pizza dough in our bread basket for starters.

They carry 150 types of wines. Several primi pasta dishes were ordered, and all were cooked al dente. On the first visit, we tried the Sciallatielli allo Scoglio with fresh pasta, baby clams, shrimp, octopus, PEI mussels, calamari and cherry tomatoes. The second time we went with their new frequent patron, my friend, and the same dish was twice as large and came out inside a pizza dough crust to absorb all the seafood flavors.

Seared pork chops, fish of the day, grilled octopus, among other second courses are worth exploring. Now that Aumm Aumm is no longer on the down low, they may need to change the name…please.

Evelyn Weiss Francisco yn Weiss Francisco The eNJoy Eateryis a Foodie and blogger from the Garden State. Her Blog, “Dishing on Dining“, has been running continuously since January of 2012. By day, Evelyn is a busy account executive with a Public Relations firm, by night, a writer with a passion for all things food related.

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