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Posts from June 2014

Black Stone Pizza Oven: serious pizza-making at home

PizzaPancetta, sauce, mozzarella, olive, thyme, peppadews. 100 second cook.

The Black Stone Pizza Oven is a somewhat inexpensive, high-heat cooking device, which many pizza-obsessives are going nuts over--especially those who want to produce Neapolitan-style pizza at home, but who don't have a wood-burning oven.

My first few cooks on the Black Stone yielded decent enough results, but it did take some time to learn how to manage its heat. What I found is that a few quick mods help me produce the style of pizza that I'm looking to make--Neapolitan.

The main mod, called the "chauflector," directs the flame more to the rim of the pizza. This helps the crust cook while ensuring that the toppings aren't burning. I think it also helps cook the pizza more quickly, which means the bottom is less likely to burn. I find the results with the chauflector are more to my liking than without, although many people aren't using one and producing fine looking pies. Cutting the sheet metal to make this thing, I should note, was not pleasurable.

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Quick: simple syrup, and then a margarita recipe.

You can burn 20 minutes making simple syrup. Or you can burn just two. I prefer two, as I can then spend those other 18 minutes drinking.

Most people will have you bringing water to a simmer, adding the sugar, stirring occasionally until it's fully dissolved, letting the syrup cool, and then putting it in a container for storage. It the grand scheme of things, this is not much of a hassle. But when you can just put water and sugar into your squeeze bottle, and shake it, why go through the boiling/cooling process?

Here's what you should be doing:

  • Fill your squeeze bottle halfway with sugar.
  • Fill up the rest with water.
  • Add a splash of vodka, as this will help preserve the syrup and keep stuff from growing in it.
  • Shake the heck out of it for a minute or two. If shaking is something that you don't care to do, then you are likely making cocktails incorrectly to begin with and should pack everything in.

Simple syrup

And that's it. The sugar, I assure you, will dissolve. Some may settle to the bottom, but you've still got plenty of syrup to use until you get around to another quick shake. This will keep in the fridge for months.

Simple syrup comes in handy for a variety of cocktails and applications. I sometimes mix a bit in with cut-up tomatoes when they aren't up to par. And, of course, a bit of simple in a margarita rounds out the drink and makes it more approachable, especially for morning drinking. And also for your friends who may not be as enamoured of the acidic zing of margaritas as you and me.

Put away that sauce pan and get shakin'.

Margarita recipe.

In a shaker filled with ice, add

  • 3 ounces silver (100% agave) tequila (please, people, only 100%'ll say so right on the label).
  • 1 ounce Cointreau (accept no substitute).
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice (that's juice, from a lime, that you squeezed).
  • A squirt of simple syrup if it's before noon, or skip it if it's after noon.
  • Perhaps a pinch of salt.
  • Shake the balls off of it. At least 20 shakes. You want the water to incorporate into the cocktail.
  • Strain over fresh ice (or up in a cocktail glass if you're sophisticated).
  • Enjoy.
  • Repeat.


Roots Steakhouse: Ridgewood, NJ: First look

Curiosity got the best of me so I popped into Roots in Ridgewood during opening week to take a peak peek.

Service was friendly, there were a few open spots at the bar, so I made a night of it. It was pretty good, so I figured a quick few words would be in order. I do this, for you. Unfortunately cell phone photos follow...

There was no cocktail list at that point, although I was told one would be coming. I suspect it won't be all that exciting.

The bar and restaurant are beautiful, as one would expect from The Harvest restaurant group. There are hooks under the bar, and perhaps even more exciting, no TVs. I'm not sure how the type of people who I think will want to go here are going to feel about no TVs, but I think it's great. Unfortunately the music was absolutely horrible. Just atrocious. Was it Muzak? It was completely out-of-it, not hip, not interesting, completely lacking in any taste, soul, heart or imagination. I've heard better music at the dentist.

Roots intererior2

The kitchen is open with the broilers visible from the front dining room and bar. The bar area has a few high-backed booths for two, along with two large tables at the front windows. The back room holds another dining room, and a third which may be used for private parties.

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Joyce Chinese Cuisine: another authentic Sichuan meal in River Edge, NJ

I tried to go to Cantina Ranchero in Emerson, just to give it a shot (knowing that I wouldn't be very impressed). Really I did. But they looked closed, even though they probably weren't. Quickly losing interest in rolling the dice, I headed down the road to Joyce Chinese Cuisine. Glad I did.

Our first meal was mostly hits, with one dud. This meal, while just two dishes, was spot on.


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Beijing Duck Feast at Sun Wah BBQ: Chicago, IL

Sun wah whole duck

This is a fun concept for a meal. The idea is that you order a whole Beijing (Peking) duck, and the restaurant makes a multi-course meal from it. You'll get the duck meat and skin, along with pancakes for wrapping. They'll then take the carcass and make duck fried rice from the scraps, along with soup from the bones and remaining bits.

I'm relatively certain they aren't doing this real-time, with your duck's carcass, but regardless, the food is pretty damned good, and quite a bargain to my mind.

Relatives who live in Chicago recommended that we trek up to Sun Wah to give this meal a shot.

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Eating in Barcelona: Part V: Hisop for lunch and Mercat Del Ninot


A few days before leaving for Barcelona, I started stressing that we didn't secure reservations at some of the tougher places to get into. After all, Spain is considered by many to be the gastronomic center of the universe, so it would be a shame to eat tapas the whole trip (not really). We don't typically look for fine dining when traveling, but certainly wanted to experience a few meals from chefs serving modern Catalan cuisine.

I was able to snag a lunch reservation at Hisop, a Michelin-starred restaurant that seemed to fit the bill.

As usual, we were the first people to show up to the restaurant. I wasn't even sure if it was open, or if it was a restaurant. The interior is shockingly minimalistic. Clean lines and very modern. Stark whites and light wood tones. And boy was it quiet. I started regretting booking a restaurant for lunch that was probably more suited to evening dining (considering the price-point and ambition of the menu), but any concern melted away with the wonderful service and excellent food.

Carles andreu parellada

I asked for some help with the wine choice, hoping to get something local. With some guidance we opted for a bottle of Carles Andreu Parellada. Parellada is one of the varieties used to make Cava. This producer is in Catalonia, not far from Barcelona. It had a bit of oak, and lots of acid. A great match for the seafood that was coming down the pipeline.

Hisop amuse octopus

A few amuses were presented, including this little piece of octopus in what I believe was described as “sea water.” It did, in fact, taste like the sea, but with a smoky element. The essence of the ocean, smoked. It was intoxicating The bread and olive, also, were excellent.

Hisop seppia

As I'm reviewing the pictures I see that we had five dishes, which is one more than we would have ordered, so I think this seppia was another amuse, rather than a course. Seppia (cuttlefish) with some sort of mayo-type sauce. It was the first seppia of the trip, and I found myself ordering it pretty much at every meal. This first cuttlefish dish made a positive impression on me.

Off to a good start.

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Spicy: Thai Beef Salad

Thai beef salad2

Thai salads come together quickly, often require no special ingredients beyond what your supermarket carries, and pack a wallop of palate punching flavor. And for cheap. Grilled Thai beef salad illustrates this perfectly.

It was a hot, lazy, sunny day yesterday. Perfect weather for cooking and eating something bright and and spicy and fresh. We ran out to the store to pick up the few ingredients that we didn't have on hand for this salad. Just the beef, actually.

The rest of the stuff came from the garden or are staples. On this particular day at least.

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Fat Gangnam Boy Hero: from Kimchi Smoke BBQ

Fat gangnam boy

Robert Cho, the pitmaster and operator of Kimchi Smoke/Fatboy BBQ Shack, a North Jersey-based mobile BBQ outfit, and I have become internet acquaintances, largely because he follows this blog and seems to revel in busting my balls, thereby drawing much of my attention to himself. It's infuriating at times, I must admit. But we also both share a passion for BBQ, and we've had a bunch of conversations on that subject.

More interesting to me than his incessant ball-busting and his love of BBQ is his approach to BBQ--he's a fan of Texas brisket, and he's incorporating the food of his Korean culture into the mix.

A few weeks ago he posted a picture of a new creation to Twitter/Facebook called the Fat Gangnam Boy Hero: bulgogi ribeye, cheese, kimchi pickles, BBQ sauce, on a hero. The idea of this sandwich immediately resonated with me and I have really really been looking forward to getting my hands on one. I was finally able to eat this thing this past Saturday at the Fort Lee Arts and Music Festival.

Fort Lee PD

For some reason I rolled into the festival at 10.30am. I had no idea it was that early, and had thought that things kicked off at 10. They didn't. Things didn't kick off until after 11, and the Kimchi Smoke team wasn't going to be ready to about noon.

I killed some time taking pictures of the motorcycle cops doing low speed slaloms around cones in the parking lot. This was pretty impressive maneuvering and interesting to watch. They'd come to a complete stop and take hard turns at a snail's pace, in tight formation and on top of each other. You can see how these skills would come in handy for a motorcycle cop in a town largely known for being one of the 3 arteries into Manhattan from New Jersey.

I checked out some of the other food stalls and trucks. The Callahan's hot dog guys were there. That Johnny Meatballs fellow was there. I saw a guy making wood-fired pizza. Just to name a few of the options. There seemed to be some stiff competition, but I'd suggest that the Kimchi Smoke boys were probably making the most interesting food there. This opinion, of course, formed from nothing but ignorance, since I didn't try anyone else's food.

Kimchismoke tent

Let's get back to this sandwich.

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Roots in Ridgewood: set to open


Update: We made our way over to Roots for a first look. Here are some details of the meal (click me!)

Update: Roots has opened, per The Booziest of all the Burbs.

A sign on Roots Steakhouse's door notes that it is planning on opening June 9.

I took a peak inside and see that they designed the front room just as I had wanted. A long bar on the left wall, almost from front to back, and a very sophisticated loungy vibe. I'm not sure what they did with the back rooms.


I spied a silly looking fellow with a handlebar moustache rocking this bold look at his ankles walking through the parking lot. I was hoping he was applying for a bartending job, as handlebar mustaches are a sure sign of a proper cocktail program. But he went into a coffee shop--which would have been my second guess.

So the opening is upon us. Buckle up for the Park West Tavern-Roots Steakhouse showdown, and don't get too used to the relatively easy parking that you've been enjoying in Ridgewood since Blend closed.

Roots Steakhouse : 17 Chestnut Street : Ridgewood, NJ