The Cronut…

I happened to be listening to Roland’s Food Court on SiriusXM.  It’s an occasional show on Saturday nights on The Opie and Anthony Channel.  One of his guests happened to be Dominique Ansel.

Up until this point I vacillated between desperately needing to get my hands on The Cronut and not caring one iota about this fad.  After hearing about the bakery and having an upcoming holiday I figured I’d go for it.

I confirmed that the bakery would be open on July 4th and did some research.  According to the web site, if you’re on line before 7:15 odds are that you’ll get The Cronut.  I wasn’t going to take any chances.

The alarm went off at 5am.  I rolled out of bed and less than a minute later I rolled back in.  After a few minutes of internal debate I heaved myself out of bed.  I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t get in on this Cronut craze and wasn’t sure when another opportunity would present itself.

Driving into NYC at that hour is a breeze and I managed to park across the street from the bakery.  At 6:15am the line was already around the corner but I wasn’t concerned.  People had their chairs out, they were spread out on blankets, and I was an hour earlier than the recommended cut off.

I plopped myself down, opened my magazine and proceeded to wait.  The doors opened at 8am and I proceeded to wait some more.  I didn’t get into the bakery until approximately 9:15am.  And there were still at least 20 people ahead of me.

I knew exactly what I wanted and ordered quickly: two Cronuts, plain croissant, ham & cheese croissant, one DKM.  I paid for my goods and high-tailed it home.  I was tired and now I was hungry.  The Boyfriend Chef had made coffee and was waiting to share in the goodness.

The Cronuts come in a tulip box.  They could have thrown them in a bag and I would have been happy.  Supposedly the box is a big deal but they’re available at tulipbox.com.  I  guess they’re unique enough that it’s a status symbol of sorts to be seen with one.

The Box

The Opening

The July flavor is listed as “blackberry” on the site but on the show it was a blackberry lime.  My thoughts?  Don’t wait on line for The Cronut.  I desperately wanted to love this but it wasn’t anything special.  I’ve had killer donuts at the Doughnut Plant and highly recommend them.

The Eating

But does that mean you should skip Dominique Ansel Bakery?  Absolutely NOT.  The DKA (“Dominique Kouign Amann”) was amazing.  THIS is what I wanted The Cronut to be.  The dough is flaky, the crust sweet and crunchy and caramelized.  THIS was the divine bakery treat that made the trip worth it.

I just realized I missed the photos of the DKM.  I guess I’ll just have to go back.

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
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I LOVE cheese.

There.  I said it.  We all know it.  I LOVE cheese.  It’s rare that we don’t have some sort of cheese in our house.  Most recently is three of my favorites: Tarentaise, Cocoa Cardona, and Cacio di Bosco al Tartufo.  The last one is my absolute favorite, with truffle throughout.  The Boyfriend Chef served them up with some honeydew, Trader Joe’s seeded sourdough baguette and some seasoned olive oil.  Where do we find such wonderfulness?  We are so lucky to have discovered The Cheese Cave in Red Bank, NJ.

IMG_0881

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On to 2013!

I’m so over the New Year’s Resolution thing.  I have been for quite some time.  But one needs to have goals in life, yes?  So I have set a goal of a post a week and I’m hoping I can stick to it.  Whether it’s a quick note about my new favorite find, a recipe to die for (or gone horribly wrong!), a long dissertation on some incredible experience, it has got to get on to the blog.  If it’s about food or drink it needs a post.

Here’s a quick recap of some of what I remember about 2012.
Pluses: ABC Kitchen, Northern Spy,  the return of Chef Mike d’Ennery who can be found at the new Mark Joseph’s Grilled Pizza in Manalapan (NJ), Zac Young’s donuts at Flex Mussels, dinner at the James Beard House, chef’s table at Elements (again!!),  Donut Plant, Confections of a Rock Star, The Cheese Cave, Carton Brewing.
Minuses: Ruvolo’s closed (farewell, Drunken Grandma), Sandy’s a bitch, waiting way too long for Twin Light Taphouse to come back.

Cheers!  A toast that 2013 is better than 2012!

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Cheeburger Blandburger

In hopes of finding another really good burger joint and avoiding the traffic near Bobby’s Burger Palace in Eatontown, we decided to give Cheeburger Cheeburger in Holmdel a try.  It was a Monday night so I didn’t expect them to be too busy and they had a decent crowd.

When we walked in we were greeted by one server who promptly passed us off to another server.  I was happy that she sat us away from the kids and towards the back of the restaurant.

It had been a gluttonous week so I settled on “The Classic” which is their smallest burger at 5.5 oz before cooking.  I knew I’d be topping it with bacon and bleu cheese and wanted to shave off some calories.  The Boyfriend Chef ordered a Semi Serious (7 oz) with lettuce, tomato, onions (cooked) and bacon.  He also ordered a half basket of “Best of Both” (fries and onion rings) with a side of cheese sauce.

I give them points for cooking to order, having a variety of toppings and letting you create your own burger.  But our experience was one misstep after another.

Both burgers were ordered “medium” because they don’t cook them any less than that.  I like my burger medium rare but am happy as long as it’s still pink in the middle.  Unfortunately it was cooked through to a medium well temperature.  I thought maybe that’s how they roll at Cheeburger but I was jealous when I saw some pink in TBC’s burger.  After doing a little research I’m positive they overcooked my burger.  My bun was way out of proportion adding to the dryness of the burger but I was hungry, and it had bacon & bleu cheese, so I wolfed it down anyway.

TBC wasn’t pleased with his burger either.  He remarked how lacking in flavor it was and it is not clearly evident how they cook them.  There’s no char flavor as if they were grilled.  It’s possible they were griddled but he thinks they were baked.

The onion rings and fries were delicious and the highlight of the meal. The onions are cut thin and the batter sticks to them.  They keep the skin on the fries and season them with their own seasoning blend (salt, pepper, garlic, and a chemical to keep it from clumping).  The cheese sauce is pretty much warm Cheeze Wiz which is awesome if that’s your thing.

I was facing the wall menu of shake flavors and just had to have one to finish the meal.  I can’t go wrong with peanut butter so we ordered a small to-go.  My first thought was that it was a REALLY good shake with lots of peanut butter flavor.  But then I noticed the texture of the shake: it wasn’t that creamy and was rather icy.  So disappointing.  It was also rather expensive for the size and the low quality ice cream used.

Oh, remember when I said I was happy we were at in the back?  What a mistake that was.  The wait staff doesn’t have sections, they just alternate taking tables as they walk in the door.  Our server seemed to disappear at times and was busy with the front of the dining area.  She rarely glanced back our way to see if we needed anything.
Cheeburger Cheeburger is good in a pinch but I’ll stick with Bobby’s Burger Palace for now.

Cheeburger Cheeburger in 29 cities

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Blue Moon Cafe, Baltimore

We had our days & nights in Baltimore planned but we hadn’t done any research on breakfast.  We passed Miss Shirley’s and the name alone sounded tempting.  After reading some reviews it seemed that it could be hit or miss so I decided we’d pass.  I did a little more searching and came across Blue Moon Cafe.  The web site was down because it hadn’t been renewed a few days prior so I was left with Yelp and Google.  Thanks to a search I came across the clip from their feature on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”  The Cap’n Crunch french toast looked delicious.  All I had to do was rouse The Boyfriend Chef and convince him we needed to go there and we needed to wait on line.  We rarely wait for food so this better be good.

In summary: Don’t believe the hype.  It’s not worth the wait.

When you get there you go inside, walk to the counter in the back, and put your name on the list.  Then you go outside and wait.  And wait.  I have a feeling that you wait regardless of the day or time. We arrived around 10:30am on a Monday and still had a 45 minute wait.  Bless TBC for being a good sport and waiting.  He hadn’t even had coffee yet.

We finally got in and had a table for two near the counter.  I ordered the Cap’n Crunch french toast with a side of bacon and TBC ordered eggs benedict with crab and a side of fruit.  And coffee…STAT!!!!!  The waitress also talked us into a cinnamon roll to start.

The cinnamon roll was good but it had been reheated in a microwave.  I can’t believe someone would treat a cinnamon roll that way.  The cinnamon had slid towards the plate so the top half was sweet with icing and the bottom half was more savory with cinnamon.  The dough became chewy as it usually does after microwaving.  Very disheartening.

Our food finally arrived and I was disappointed again.  My french toast fell flat compared to what’s offered on Triple D.  The Cap’n Crunch was over crushed and was more of a powder coating with no discernible pieces of cereal left.  It seems they’ve decided to pulverize it in a food processor instead of crush by hand.  The bread they used was sliced much thinner and that caramelization Sarah Simington (the chef & owner) talks about in the video was non-existent.

TBC was equally unimpressed with his meal.  The english muffin was soft as if they didn’t bother to toast it.  There was no ham or bacon as one would expect to find on an Eggs Benedict.  Had it been included he might not have noticed the lack of flavor in the hollandaise.  The crab had not gone bad but it certainly wasn’t fresh.  The potatoes had an off-flavor that he couldn’t place.

I understand that the restaurant is busy but they need to pay attention to what’s making it out to the table.  The side of fruit that TBC ordered included a fanned strawberry that had already begun to rot.  The rest of the fruit had been pre-sliced and left to dry out.

Given the crowd that was there on a late Monday morning I tend to think that this is now more of a tourist destination than a locals favorite hot spot.

http://bluemoonbaltimore.com/
1621 ALICEANNA STREET
BALTIMORE, MD 21231
410-522-3940

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The Buttered Biscuit…as awesome as it sounds!

I first happened upon The Buttered Biscuit by chance.  I stopped by the Bradley Beach fire house to visit a friend who was participating in a craft fair.  She happened to have a biscuit and let me try a bit.  WOW.  It was a tiny bite of buttery goodness and I was hooked.  Later I picked up a couple biscuits to take home because I just HAD to share with The Boyfriend Chef.  Hours later they were still perfect and the best biscuit either one of us remembered having.

Since then I’ve stopped in once or twice to get biscuits to go.  I’d see their specials and the desserts in the case and knew we just had to get there for breakfast.  Finally, a Sunday with no day time plans happened upon us.  And the special?  Biscuits and gravy.  Excitement abounded!

We arrived around 12:15 and there was a short wait.  The service was quick and courteous.  We had already perused the menu and it wasn’t long until we decided on the biscuit and gravy special and the Buttery Biscuit omelet (herbs de provence, goat cheese, tomatoes and bacon) with a biscuit, of course.  The food was served quickly and was awesome.  They make some of the best sausage gravy this side of the Mason Dixon line and perhaps even south of it.  It seemed there was too much gravy for the one biscuit but no worries…we had a spare that came with the omelet.  The gravy also pared well with the potatoes, another omelet side.  The ingredients in the omelet were chunky and plentiful.

That was a hearty breakfast but I was tempted when the waitress told us the dessert specials.  I opted for the banana cream pie.  I saw it in the case earlier and it looked awesome.  It has a chocolate crust, a thin layer of chocolate sauce, bananas, and and high cream topping.  It was divine and a large serving.  We ended up taking half home.  I can’t wait to be hungry again so I can polish it off.

I was excited to hear that they’d be closing for renovations especially when I saw that the space next door is vacant. Alas, no such luck for an expansion at the moment.  It seems they’ll be doing some minor sprucing up and taking some well deserved time off.  (It’s only 11 days…January 23rd through February 3rd, 2012.)

The Buttered Biscuit has officially been added to the breakfast rotation.

The Buttered Biscuit
700 Main Street
Bradley Beach, NJ
732-807-4069

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A Summer Sunday in Monmouth County

While we had hoped to discover some new dining destinations the day turned out to be an epic failure.  If you are in the industry, thinking of entering the industry, or considering buying a bar or restaurant, here’s what you need to be aware of:

  • Use salt when cooking.  It makes the food taste better.  Please trust me on this.
  • A clean bar/restaurant is a good thing.  Walking into one smelling like a bleach factory makes me wonder what you’re trying to hide.  Only Fatso Fogarty’s in North Arlington is allowed to smell like that.
  • If your web site says things like: finest, freshest ingredients, versed menu, delicious desserts or innovative cuisine you need to realize you are as generic as the term “beer.”  You’d do yourself a favor by listing who you get your ingredients from, who’s making your desserts, or what makes your cuisine innovative.  By the way, truffle risotto is not “innovative.”
  • If the restaurant is open but looks closed your potential customers will assume you are closed.  Keep some staff near the door and make sure they know part of their job is to greet people.  Enthusiasm helps.
  • If you are tending bar and haven’t perfected your “flare” moves don’t try them on the only two customers in the place.  Especially if your idol is Ronnie from “The Jersey Shore.”
  • Sutter Home, Mondavi, Barefoot, and Yellow Tail do not make you a wine bar. If you’re going to call yourself a wine bar make sure you’ve consulted someone other than your distributor.
  • Pay attention to the details in the dining room.  Polish the glasses, make sure the silverware is clean, the linens are not written on, and the tables don’t wobble.
  • If you are printing menus in-house make sure they don’t have water stains on them and try not to give out the most dog-eared of the bunch.  It might be worth it to print 4 or 8 more of the spring menus while finalizing the new summer one.
  • Please make the staff wear shirts with sleeves.  Yes, even the kitchen staff.
  • Spend a couple dollars and turn on the air conditioner instead of leaving the door open.  Your customers don’t like dining with the flies.
  • Don’t ever leave the dining room unattended.  Your guests might need something (like a clean soup spoon).
  • Make sure you have adequate change.  You shouldn’t leave your guests waiting while you run to the corner store for change.  Speaking of change, don’t ask me if I need it.  Just assume I do and tell me you’ll be right back with it.
  • If you’re going to hold yourself out there as a fine dining establishment, please don’t allow screaming children.  I can get that at any chain restaurant or pizzeria.  I chose your restaurant because I want to enjoy a quiet meal with my companions.

I know this sounds like I’m just a nit picky customer.  In reality the details count and can make or break the decision to return sooner rather than later.  Or not at all.

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Now Eat This: Grilled Cheese

When I read the recipe I thought, “We have a toaster oven at work.  I can totally broil this for lunch!”  And so it began.

I found out at lunch the first day that our toaster oven does not have a sheet or drip tray of any sort.  I was tentative about the cheese oozing and dripping so I watched it carefully.  I was overly cautious and the cheese didn’t fully melt.  I felt the bread was lacking something (butter!) but figured I’d give it another shot before I tinkered with it.

Day Two found me actually timing it per side, as the directions read.  This time the cheese was fully melted but I still found the bread to be dry.  Maybe it was just the brand I bought.

Later in the week I made one at home.  Instead of broiling it I went with the classic stove top method.  While I love the idea of schmearing the bread with butter that defeats the purpose of making this sandwich healthy.  Instead I lightly sprayed the outside of each slice with olive oil.  Wow what a difference!  I still think I bought lousy bread, though.

Before I went shopping I had to know what Rubschlager bread was so I checked out their web site.  I noted the nutrition information just in case I needed to buy something comparable.  My local Whole Foods didn’t stock the Rubschlager but I did find something with similar nutrition (calories, fat, fiber).  I’ll keep trying different brands and let you know when I find something better.  Until then I’ll just keep using that little spritz of olive oil.

Recipe on page 70

 




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In this delectable cookbook, award-winning chef Rocco DiSpirito transforms America’s favorite comfort foods into deliciously healthy dishes—all with zero bad carbs, zero bad fats, zero sugar, and maximum flavor. What’s more, Rocco provides time-saving shortcuts, helpful personal advice, and nutritional breakdowns for each recipe from a board-certified nutritionist. So prepare your favorite foods without the guilt. Finally, a world-class chef has made healthy food taste great!
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Colt’s Neck Inn

In my quest to take full advantage of Jersey Shore Restaurant Week I’ve been recruiting dining companions.  My brother took me up on my offer and filled my Friday night dinner slot.  We settled on Colt’s Neck Inn because it’s conveniently located for both of us and the menu was posted on the JSRW site.

We had a 6pm reservation but schedules worked in our favor and we were able to be there by 5:30.  We were seated right away and chose the quiet, empty dining room over the boisterous bar area.  I’ve got nothing against a good Friday happy hour but that wasn’t our scene this evening.

Service was a bit slow at first but I think that was due to our early arrival.  We were the first table sat for dinner and it’s quite possible they weren’t quite ready for us.  Within a half hour the dining room was hopping with patrons & activity.

We settled on ordering different selections and agreed to share.  For appetizers we chose the Clams Casino and Wasabi Crusted Ahi Tuna.  The clams were tender with good sized pieces of bacon and the tuna was perfectly seared with just enough spice.  For our entrees we had the Southwest Mac & Cheese and CNI Gourmet Meatloaf.  The chunks of andouille gave the mac & cheese a nice kick.  The meatloaf was moist and piled high on top of a layer of creamy mashed potatoes.  Given the decadence of our choices we took half of the portion home.  We also wanted to be sure we could fully indulge in the dessert course.  We chose the Adult Milk & Cookies and White Chocolate Butterscotch Bread Pudding.  The milk martini was simply Godiva liquor and the chocolate chip cookies were served warm, the chips gooey.  The bread pudding was moist and sweet but I think my brother got most of the butterscotch.

Mission accomplished: the food was solid and I’d definitely return after JSRW.

Colts Neck Inn
Corner of Routes 34 and 547
Colts Neck, NJ 07722
732-462-0383

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Spring Kick-Off Party

Thursday night was the kick off party.  This was my first and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I purchased a VIP ticket for the gift bag but also to avoid the crowd.  I arrived early but had to wait for 6:00 as the registration wasn’t completely set up.

For me, the VIP gift bag was intriguing otherwise I would have went with a general admission ticket.  If you hate crowds VIP is definitely the way to go.  There was never any wait for tastings or beverages and plenty of space to walk around.  All of the samples were good but some chefs were more enthusiastic than others.  Spicy’s Cantina and Tre Amici are the two that come to mind as the most engaging.

I ended up leaving early as there wasn’t much more to do.  I had to drive so wine sampling wasn’t on my agenda.  I picked up my gift bag and headed home.

The gift bag itself was a reusable tote from TD Bank and included a TD Bank travel mug, airplane bottles of Tito’s Vodka and Gosling’s Rum, a JSRW tshirt, Sweet Bottom cookie, kitschens.com wine key, thank you notes from art-paper-scissors, a towel from Fresh Ginger (and a 10% coupon), and coffee from Boskerdoo.

I’d definitely go again but they seem to be more fun if I’ve got someone to enjoy it with.

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