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Posts from February 2009

The Orange Squirrel: Bloomfield, NJ: Some initial thoughts

As we fall deeper and deeper into this recession, from which there's little hope of recovering before I'm almost at retirement age, I'm getting more and more annoyed at handing over 125 dollars to restaurants for mediocre experiences.  In the past, I'd just chalked 'em up to a learning experience.  But not so much these days.  It actually goes a bit beyond annoyance, and slides into bitterness.  "How dare they take my money for that?!??", I stew.

Which brings me to Bloomfield's The Orange Squirrel.

I bought into the online hysteria, which made the place sound like...well, read for yourself:  

"The Orange Squirrel is one of the good ones."
"Run, don't walk, to the Orange Squirrel."
"The Orange Squirrel doesn't surprises."
"Speciality cocktails..."
"BEST EVER...gnudi"
"wood fired pizza"
"they have drinks named after squirrels"
"they serve cute squirrel chocolates at the end of the meal."

And those are just from

"dinner was truly delicious"
"rivals those [restaurants] of NYC...a must try"
"brick oven pizza"

Don't get me wrong.  When we walked in we weren't expecting The Spotted Pig, so I wouldn't blame the following on unreasonable expectations.  But when we walked out, we were just shaking our heads, annoyed, let down, and that feeling of just losing all hope for the NJ restaurant scene came over us.  "Is this the best we [New Jersey] can do?" we thought, depressed.

OK, getting to it...

Continue reading "The Orange Squirrel: Bloomfield, NJ: Some initial thoughts" »

Peach bitters: messing around with bitters


When I started cooking as a serious hobby, there was a point right away where I thought I could do no wrong.  I think that point comes with most of my endevours endeavours (like spelling).  But as fact would have it, I'm usually not as good as I think.  With cooking, it took quite a few years to really acknowledge that I was doing a lot wrong, and that I needed to step back and focus on the simple aspects of cooking:  ingredients, technique, blah blah.

What age and experience has afforded me is the ability to quickly recognize this fact.  It is true:  I am a buffoon.  So, with my new hobby of cocktails, I'm pretty damned sure I'll be making lots of cocktails that I'll look back on in 10 years and think "oh, dear, what was I thinking?!?!!"

But that won't stop me from dicking around with my recent shipment of bitters from Fee Brothers, like a confused and over-excited child with a new toy.

Here's what I did to make this particular mess.  Sharpen your pencils, it's really complicated:

Continue reading "Peach bitters: messing around with bitters" »

Smoked: Italian Sausage


I've been like a school girl all hopped up on Pixie Stix since my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker came off the UPS truck a few weeks ago.  Barely a day goes by that I don't wish I had half a day to commit to cooking something on the thing.  

I've been lucky enough to be able to reclaim a few hours from my schedule, to commit fully to smoking. This weekend I was able to do some baby back ribs.  But, more to the point, I also threw some Italian sweet sausage on as well, just to see what would happen.

Oh boy did something happen.

Continue reading "Smoked: Italian Sausage" »

A Mano in Ridgewood: back on track

As soon as t:e reader "Ev" tipped me off that A Mano's original pizzaiolo, Roberto, was coming back to train the staff, I had visions of A Mano returning to its past glory.  Under Roberto's command, A Mano was producing wonderful Neapolitan style pizza.  The place was a treasure, and a great addition to the area's mostly cookie-cutter restaurant scene.  After Roberto's departure, however, the place slipped quite a bit.  This was evident in the service (which was never stellar to begin with), the management, and most importantly, the pizza.

Roberto is/was indeed back, if only for the short term.  From what I can tell (and I'm not a reporter, so I don't generally ask owners or managers many questions on this stuff), A Mano is now part of Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, which is one of the several professional organizations whose goal is to preserve and promote Naples' prized product.  Part of A Mano's association with the associazione involves training, and I'm guessing Roberto was sent back to sort them out.

And sort them out he did...

Continue reading "A Mano in Ridgewood: back on track" »

Pizza: at home


A few of my first posts were on pizza, espousing the virtues of making it at home.  That was, I can hardly imagine, 3 years ago.  I still believe that you should be making pizza at home.  However, in those 3 years, I've made probably 200 pizze, and my methodology has been tweaked and refined.   It took that 3 years to get to the point where I thought I had something halfway meaningful to share, but I think I'm actually there. The biggest change:  I now make the dough instead of buying it from a pizza shop. 

Making dough gives me a sense of satisfication that I cannot fully put into words.  The next step would be to make my own mozzerella, and I suspect this isn't far behind.  But on to the dough...

In my attempts to make Neapolitan-style pizza, I tend to make a dough that's quite wet;  dough with a "high hydration", as they say in the pizza-making world.  This means a higher ratio of water to flour.

I use King Arthur bread flour.  Let us not forget that we're making bread here.  

Continue reading "Pizza: at home" »

Fairway in Paramus: a video tour, of sorts

t:e reader John from Paramus (that's what I call him anyway), sent me this cool link.  It looks like Fairway in Paramus is becoming a reality.  They're talking about aged Prime beef, kosher meats, freshly baked breads, produce.  Right there in the Fashion Center.  Yum, o.

Click me for the tour!

For more info on Fairway, go to