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Posts from October 2013

Fishing with Dynamite: Manhattan Beach, CA

Fishing with Dynamite (FWD) is a restaurant that I'd visit very week if I lived in the neighborhood. This bold proclamation is being made based on one visit.

How could I come to this conclusion from just one visit? Because everything was right at FWD. From the cocktails to the interesting room with 3 different seating options (bar, raw bar, tables) to the bottles of still and sparkling water to the warm service to the friendly hosts to the sun flowing in through the large windows to the wines from all around the globe to the fresh and delicious fish to the excellent oyster selection, it's all right. Did I mention those great desserts? 

I think I've said it all, so I guess I'll just post some pictures.

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The Strand House: Manhattan Beach, CA

I kept saying that I was going to LA. And when I got back I kept referencing the "trip to LA." I'm not really sure how the geographical and cultural boundaries work out there, but it occurred to me that spending time in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Laguna Beach, perhaps meant that I wasn't in Los Angeles at all.  Is that the case? Someone tell me.

Either way, after landing in LA (I assume LAX is considered to be in "LA"), I knew the one between me and lunch was getting the rental car. I had been obsessing over this transaction since sitting in Newark. This is just about always a hassle (SFO has to be the absolute worst that I've experienced), for some reason that is beyond me. However, being a Hertz Gold member actually paid off this time: the car was waiting with the keys in it (although my name wasn't on the board, and I had to go inside, and get on one of the virtual customer rep things, and then go wait in the Gold line after that). Will wonders never cease. Then it was off to the very lovely Beach House in Hermosa Beach to unload, and off to lunch.

I was looking for something near the water, with tacos, cocktails, a view, some local beers, interesting food, a clean and focused menu, and bar dining, because bar dining is always preferable. I'm very easy to please. Some quick googling yielded The Strand House, in Manhattan Beach. The menu looked pretty damned interesting to my starving eyes, and included a burger, fish tacos, hamachi crudo, charcuterie, and a few cocktails ta boot.  Turned out to be very pleasant.

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Kumo: Ridgewood, NJ

I just got done telling you that if you're eating sushi in Ridgewood, and not eating it at Sakura Bana, you're doing it all wrong.

So why did I go to Kumo the day after? None of your business is why.

We've enjoyed Kumo in the 12 or so years that it's been open. It was our go-to place for delivery for quite a few years. For some reason it fell out of favor, and we haven't been ordering from them as much. Not at all, really.

I can't find anything about Kumo that really bothers me, although I have to say that it's not all that exceptional. It is quite good overall, and quite consistent. If every town in the US had a restaurant like Kumo, a lot of people would be eating very well. 

Here's what I put into my face, and if you read my thoughts on Sakura Bana, and committed those artful words and photos to memory, and why on earth wouldn't you have done that, you'll notice I'm a creature of habit:

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Sakura Bana: Ridgewood, NJ, is good for a cold

This damned cold

Five days running now. At least I don't feel like death warmed over any longer. That feeling lasted only the first three days.

Just look at you

You don't care. Can't say I blame you.

Getting on with it

In addition to fried chicken, and chicken soup, one of the best meals for that shitty-ass sore-throat why-am-I-not-on-the-couch feeling is a proper and luxurious sushi meal. Could be the salt, could be the inherent healthfulness of the whole deal, could be the pretty colors. Hard to say. But it's easy to say that a proper sushi meal, especially midday, can make you feel alive again.

Troubling statistics and dropping science. Also, subtle sexism and rent this movie

I'd say 90% of my sushi meals are eaten as delivery. This is most certainly not preferable. Sushi doesn't travel well. First and foremost, you are losing the contrast of temperatures that are so important with sushi. That slightly warm rice. The fish, slightly less warm, but still warmed by the energy in the sushi-manperson's hands.

Sushi should be eaten immediately. Jiro will tell you. (Yes, you should click the link. Yes, you should watch it. Yes, you should rent 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi.' Yes, you should prepare to order sushi immediately after watching it.) Armed with this understanding of sushi thermodynamics, and wanting a proper sushi meal, I got myself off the couch and over to Sakura Bana, in Ridgewood.

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Trap Rock Brewery: Berkeley Heights: The Burger

Every time I google "best burgers in New Jersey," the same 10 places show up, many of which I've visited, and many of which aren't very notable (White Manna, I'm looking at you). It's getting a bit tiring. Fatigue be damned, I put myself through the same exercise a few days ago, and finally conceded that I should probably give the Trap Rock Brewery a shot.

Trap Rock is part of the Harvest Restaurants group, which includes a bunch of places that seem to be very similar to Trap Rock, and the Roots Steakhouses (auto-play warning), one of which is set to open in Ridgewood, NJ, in, what, a year or so? (Did they really think they'd get it off the ground by October? In Ridgewood, a town known for pain-in-the-ass inspections and bureaucracy?) From what I can tell from a few visits, their restaurants are well-run, their staff well-trained, and they do a competent job. My first visit to Trap Rock supported that theory.

You can review the menu online, but I was there for the burger. Trap Rock offers two burgers, one of which is made from grass fed beef, and seems to be their signature. Their other burger is "just a cheeseburger" I was told. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I went with the 'TR Local Grass Fed Burger' (the burger is not grass fed, but the steer presumably was).  This burger is served with Red Dragon Cheddar (a cheese of Welsh origin, with ale and mustard seed), rosemary aioli, and caramelized onions. A lot going on there, and not much in the way of bright, crisp flavors and textures that I usually enjoy on a burger (raw onion, ketchup, good, ripe tomatoes). I ordered it as it's designed, and was pleased to see some raw onion and ketchup served along side. I put a bit of each on the burger, to hedge my bet.

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Hey, I added a map to the t:e blog.

I added a map of restaurants/retailers covered in this blog. This is for my amusement to be quite honest, but it might actually be helpful to visitors.  It's accessible via the menu bar above, or here:

I should add that this Google map doesn't seem to work with Google Chrome, so you have to click on the link for the larger view. You should probably do that anyway.

View t:e restaurants in a larger map

Burger King: Satisfries

In an unfortunate turn of events, I found myself at Burger King the other day. The whos, hows and whys aren't important.

That's not to say I have a philosphical problem with Burger King, or fast food in general. Everything in moderation. Eat what you like, and don't let anyone put you down for your taste.

That said, I sure as hell didn't like the new "Satisfries."

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MP Taverna: Irvington, NY

Westchester makes north Jersey look like [fill in the blank with a place where you figure there's horrible food and drink so I don't offend anyone in, say, Delaware].

It seems like every few weeks, someone is telling me about a great place in Westchester, or I'm reading a positive NY Times review of a great place in Westchester. But it seems so damned far away. Maybe it's because you have to cross one of those crappy bridges to get there. 287 is no picnic on weekends, and for the love of all things holy, why would anyone subject themselves to the GWB and those horrible pot-holed roads that stem from it.

But every now and again, a trip to Westchester is a good thing. Especially if your destination is a place like The Cookery (auto-play warning!), Growlers Beer Bistro (disclosure: I know one of the partners), or Tarry Market. I'm a bit hesitant to include MP Taverna on this list, but I will.

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Prosciutto and blue cheese pizza: at home, of course

There are two types of mozzarella cheese I use for pizza: low-moisture mozzarella (the shrink wrapped stuff), and mozzarella di bufula. I very rarely use the very fancy sounding fior di latte (fresh mozzarella from cow's milk), for various reasons. Primarily because I don't like the way it melts. Where mozzarella di bufula turns into rich, luscious blob of cream, mingling with the tomato sauce, fior di latte just sorta almost melts, and can turn a bit rubbery.

Disdain for fior di latte on pizza be damned, I grabbed a hunk of fresh mozzarella from A Family Affair Italian Deli, in Fair Lawn, NJ, just to see what would happen on pizza (and because I wanted to try Eddie's mutz).

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