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Posts from September 2013

Destination Dogs: New Brunswick, NJ

When the organizer of a friend's bachelor dinner sent out an email saying that we'd all be meeting in New Brunswick at what I assumed was a hot dog place, my first reaction was: "Good grief, that's an hour away, and that's far." My second reaction was: "A hot dog place??!? Really? I'm not 24 and I'm slightly less broke than I was then so, like, WTF?"

These concerns melted away once I booked a hotel in NB, and took a closer look at Destination Dog's website. This is no hot dog place.

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Sichuan pickled long bean: with pork

Pickled-string-bean-chengdu-23Minced Pork w/ Sichuan Pickled String Beans at Chengdu 23

One of our favorite dishes at Chengdu 23 in Wayne, and there are many favorites, is the Minced Pork w/ Sichuan Pickled String Beans.

This dish is all sorts of wacky, with aggressive saltly and sour flavors, tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, crunchy long beans, spicy dried hot chile, all seasoned with pork for crying out loud.

I had always assumed that this was a dish that could only be created in the kitchen of a Sichuan restaurant, and never gave much thought to cooking it at home. But then my life changed forever while thumbing through the incredible Sichuan cookbook Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop, when I saw a recipe for a dish that looked very familiar.

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The despicable theft of photos and recipes: on Facebook

Dont-shareYou've no doubt come across this type of theft, and perhaps even rewarded that theft, without realizing what's going on.

Like when your friend shares some sort of wacky video from some Facebook page with a name like "Funniest Sh*t Ever." That friend probably saw it on another friend's feed, who saw it on some other friend's, and so on.  Sure, the video is entertaining and probably worth a look/share.

But the person who created the Facebook page Funniest Sh*t Ever had nothing to do with the creation of that video. That distinction goes to the talented, hardworking people that actually produced that video. Often at some expense and always with some level of effort. And they deserve credit, in the form of a direct link to their content. 

The only thing the Funniest Sh*t Ever person did was take time to steal the video from YouTube, or whatever service it was put on by the owner, and put it on their Facebook page, urging every to "OMG this is so funny...have to SHARE!. I love working from HOME click my link to learn how to be the best mom." Not only time, but also effort; you are assured that you cannot "accidentally" steal a video from the internet. It takes a bit of know-how and it's never by mistake.

That person, is a thief. And a sorry ass, ta boot.

Closer to home, for me, since I am somewhat involved in the food writing and recipe creation world (don't snicker, it's sort of true...OK, so maybe it's more of an "interest" than "involvement"), is the ongoing and egregious theft of not only recipes, but photos, in the form of posts that contain someone else's recipe and photo, and suggest you "share share share." I am seeing this every day, and it seems to be picking up steam.

I'd say about 100% of the time, the goal of the thief is to drive traffic to their Facebook page, urging unsuspecting people to join some group like "Skinny Minnie's Diet," at which point they are very likely going to be sold something. More often than not, there is some sort of personal and financial advantage to getting people to "follow" or share the stolen recipe or join the page. Other times, I suspect, people are just lonely, and want the attention.

Examples of this theft can be found all over Facebook (and the internet in general). I found three in about 4 minutes today: 

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Ridgewood Jazz Feast: 2013

Winard Harper

The Ridgewood Guild and their partners and volunteers did a heck of a job with what was hopefully the first annual Ridgewood Jazz Feast this past weekend in Ridgewood. (Click here for 2014's event!)

Plenty of music and wine and beer and food to keep people very happy.  While I didn't eat any of the food, I did have a quite tasty rosé from Ventimiglia Vineyards.

Raymonds-fried-chickenRaymond's was offering what appeared to be very good fried chicken. Do they have this on their menu? If not it should be. And they should also offer chicken and waffles during brunch. I'd go every week.

Lisas1Lisa's Mediterranean was doing their thing.

Malee1Malee Thai

Stable1 Stable-meat

The Stable with meats on sticks

Lots of other restaurants had stands, including A Mano, Park West Tavern, Ridgewood Fare, and many which I forget.  There was certainly a good selection of food. I can't say the same about the beer, which consisted of Coors Light, Yuengling, and Blue Moon.  Standard distributor stuff. Maybe next year they can get a few local NJ brewers in there. Cricket HIll, High Point, there are plenty to choose from, and they could use the exposure more than Coors. Maybe I'll volunteer next year and get the beer sorted out.

The music was top-notch. I was sort of expecting cookie-cutter snoozy jazz, catering to boring white-bread Bergenites. But what we got were three incredible and well-regarded acts, spanning a wide range of jazz and blues.  The acts played over the course of what seemed like 5 hours. The lulls between bands were brief, which meant the music kept pumping almost constantly.

This was a well-run and organized event. Congrats to everyone involved.

Antoinette Montague kicked it off, backed by Band of Bones. Fantastic big band jazz.

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Village Green: Ridgewood, NJ

We've enjoyed Village Green through its various incarnations over the years. If I'm not mistaken, the restaurant has gone through no fewer than 3 owners and at least as many chefs in the 12 years since I've know about it.  Surprisingly, the food has always been enjoyable. Our most recent visit was a reminder of this.

Village Green, now under Chef Kevin Portscher, still offers a multi-course tasting in addition to à la carte. While we tend to stay away from multi-course tastings (they can be exhausting), the 5 course tasting ($60) seemed manageable, and a good value, so we went for it. I should note that not everyone at the table has to do the tasting, which is a very accommodating policy.

The menu had some Asian influences (and it should be noted that they just launched a new Fall menu today). When restaurants throw in Asian influences, it's too often clunky, doesn't fit into the spirit of the rest of the menu, or, it's just poorly executed. That's not the case, here. In fact, I didn't even realize that we had some Asian inspired dishes until I started writing this. The inclusion of the Asian dishes was seamless and not forced in the least. 

I can't help but really appreciate when a restaurant serves an amuse bouche. I just really like those little bites. They help me get all amped up for the meal to come. Village Green kicked it off with a little cheese puff pastry of some sort (I didn't take notes, and you'll have to deal with fuzzy details).


A salad with blue cheese and a cured and/or smoked pork product was exactly what you would hope it would be.

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La Sirena Clandestina: Chicago, IL

It's been a few weeks since we ate very, very well in Chicago. Since that time I've forgotten most specifics, but it would be silly to not report on our meal at La Sirena Clandestina, one which I recall as a contender for the best meal of the trip, even though the details are pretty much history.

So here it is, a high-level overview of what I think was a super meal.

t:e reader "Curlz" (@curlz66) pointed me in the direction of La Sirena Clandestina.  A quick review of the website showed a short, concise and focused menu, a smallish restaurant, and an interesting cocktail list. This is exactly what I was looking for.


We grabbed two seats at the smallish bar, and my eyes immediately started getting all googly, staring at all of the pretty bottles.  We dove right into the short, concise cocktail list.

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Making the umami burger: at home

It's hard to argue with great success.

You might recall that I had set out to duplicate, if not a bit lazily, the famous Umami burger that everyone is talking about. Mine would be called the Ooooo-tommy:burger. I did note that if it wasn't good, you wouldn't here another peep out of me. But, since it was fantastic, I'm proud to boast about the results.

The standard Umami Burger from the chain of the same name consists of: shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, and homemade ketchup of some sort. Here's a screenshot from their website for your reference:

Screen Shot 2013-09-01 at 10.07.42 AM

I figured this is not the stuff of aerospace engineering, and set out to make all of that umami filled stuff, with the exception of the homemade ketchup, because no one likes homemade ketchup. Everyone likes Heinz. End of discussion.

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