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Archive for the ‘Food and Restaurant’ Category

Restaurant BT:

Restaurant  BT: “Authentic, healthy and French.”          Tampa, Florida. PG photo  2013 and 2015 re-post.

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net   (Don’t miss the comments—wonderful celebrity stories!)

Yesterday was a bit chilly by Tampa standards. About 60 degrees in the evening. The three of us were going to spend our last meal in Florida going to a trendy gourmet eatery.  Restaurant BT is in an artsy neighborhood. Michael, our youngest son, who lives in Tampa, parks his Jeep Wrangler in their private lot, next to a long BMW sedan—black and exquisitely shiny. Eileen tries to climb out of the back seat of his Jeep. It is a terrifying thing to watch, but we finally help extricate her. She regains her composure, and we sashay into the restaurant, a very fine French-Vietnamese place where sophisticated people go.

The crowd is in its 30’s and 40’s. Three young couples sit at one table, but the three women huddle together at one end, laughing and chattering. They all have straight long hair, and the blond wears black with a plunging neckline—plunging in the back. Many of the men wear jackets. Glasses are clinking all over the room, and the music is so subtle that all you can hear are the swishes of a snare drum.

I’m very sensitive to music in restaurants. This place wants to appeal to your subconscious. The decor is minimalist/elegant. The menu is exotic and complex. The chef, a tiny but beautiful Vietnamese woman, circulates around the room in her short white cook’s jacket.

The host, dressed in a suit, seats us in the corner, but it is a small place, and you get a good look at everyone. A couple walks in. They are dressed in black, head to toe, but he is wearing a T shirt and some cut-off pants with flip flops. He is a giant who could easily be an NFL lineman. She is stylish and she is all over him. “They should get a room,” whispers Eileen. “Why,” I said, “They’re just having fun.” Michael takes it all in. He says nothing but sees everything. It’s the nature of his work. We order—just ordering is a sensory experience because of the menu descriptions.

Kobe beef with hand made noodles. PG photo

Kobe beef with hand made noodles. PG photo

The food is marvelous—who cares about the price?—-gulp! This is a special night. But then, something happens that changes everything.

A group of 3 walks into the place and heads towards the bar while their table is readied. I look at them (I am an unrepentant people-watcher). The man in the middle, also all in black, is short but has a commanding presence. I study his face—BAM! It’s Emeril Lagasse. No doubt .

I grab Eileen’s arm. As he walks by our table, our eyes lock, and I know instantly that he knows that I know. The moment ends in a flash, and he sits at the bar, back to us. I look around the room. No one has noticed.

Then, as if someone has set off an alarm, the room comes alive as most everyone looks over at the bar. Emeril is very cool and seems oblivious, chatting with his friends. Evidently he has recently launched a TV show about Florida cuisine. He now lives in the Sunshine State.

Emeril Legasse (Internet photo)

Emeril Legasse (Internet photo)

Soon, as they lead him and his party towards the best table—the one near the door—the three sophisticated ladies jump up simultaneously and, like teenagers at an Elvis concert, they grab Emeril and insist that he pose for a photo with them. The heck with the men at the table—it’s Emeril and them. They shoot two photos and then he moves on. I noticed that as he posed, he did not stretch his arms around them. The ladies sat down and began to post on their Facebook pages.

Of course the staff catered to him, and rightly so. This was his second visit to BT, according to our waitperson who was taking care of us. As we left, I didn’t dare take his photo or even look his way. I wish I knew what he ordered, but no way. After all, we Grovers are also very sophisticated.

Editor’s note: Did you ever spot a celebrity in a restaurant ? Please comment below. –PG

EARL HINES plays “Sophisticated Lady” by Duke Ellington.

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xxxxxxx

“Sure you can take my picture.”   Ft.Myers Lakes Park Market. By Paul Goldfinger.  Jan 31, 2014.  © Click image to enlarge.

TRUE CONVERSATION AT A VEGETABLE STAND:

The best radishes. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

The best radishes ever.  $1.00 per bunch.   Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Customer:  (He picks up two bunches of bright red radishes)   “These are the best I’ve ever had.  I eat them with beer.”

Veggie man:  “Buy ‘em now, because next week I’ll be on the road to Morocco.”

Me:   “With beer?  Are they really the best?”

Veggie man:  “I don’t know—I don’t eat them.”

Eileen:  “Are you taking Lauren Bacall with you?”

Veggie man: “I’m taking her great great great grand daughter and she’ll be about 47.”

Eileen:  “I’ll take one bunch. A second would get soggy.”

DON AZPIAZU  and the Havana Casino Orchestra:  “Me Odias.”

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Frank's 1406 Main Avenue near Sunset Avenue. Blogfinger file photo

Frank’s  at 1406 Main Street  near Sunset Avenue. Blogfinger file photo

 

 

Frank's Deli. Late morning in October. All photos by Paul Goldfinger ©

Frank’s Deli.  Late morning in October, 2015. All photos by Paul Goldfinger ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @blogfinger

In 2015  we featured Frank’s Deli and Restaurant in a BF post, and now we re-post it for 2017, with some updates. Not much has changed.  Here is a quote from that piece:

“You might also be tempted to turn into Frank’s Restaurant where everybody goes for  breakfast and lunch including cops, contractors, politicians,  bloggers, realtors, homeboys, celebrities, wayward Grovers, and stylish types from across the border on Cookman Avenue.”

UPS man waits for his sub delivery. Blogfinger photo ©

UPS man waits for his sub delivery. Blogfinger photo ©

I’m sure most of you are familiar with Frank’s, a local family-owned place where they have been cooking breakfast and lunch since 1960. It has a very down-home feel.  You can sit at a table or at the counter where you can watch the chefs work—poetry in motion.  “Those fries are getting cold; dump them and serve some hot ones,” says the cook; he is at the grill and he is a perfectionist.

He watches his little assembly line, with his back to the counter  and he doesn’t miss a detail.  He turns around  and asks us if everything is OK. They make more eggs, toast  and bacon than any other place in the area.  Frank’s is a destination with a pedigree–more so than any of the newly arrived eateries on Cookman-by-the-Grove.

Grillmaster efficient and accurate

Grillmaster efficient and accurate

The waitresses are attentive. They seem to know everybody and they are friendly and accommodating—-not like the diner waitress who waited on Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. If there are any waiters, we haven’t seen one. Besides, gender is out these days—–they are all “servers”  However, at Frank’s you feel like political correctness is not on the menu. It is a place to relax and speak freely.

Joe Maggio, owner at FRank's. From a Bruce Springsteen music video.

Joe Maggio, owner at Frank’s. From a Bruce Springsteen music video.

Joe Maggio is the owner and the main-man at the grill. His father started the business.   We go there often, but he was on vacation this time. However, his staff wasn’t missing a beat. One of the cooks noticed an elderly man near the end of the counter near where we were sitting. He called him by name and said, “How about a grilled cheese; I’ll make you one now.” The man grinned and said, “Thanks.”

Everything at Franks is fresh and made-to-order. BF photo

Everything at Frank’s is fresh and made-to-order. The toast was ordered that way.   BF photo   ©

You can walk up to the deli counter and order a superb sub. made to order. Even Bruce Springsteen visits Frank’s, and he included Frank’s in a 2012 music video.  Bruce  likes the turkey club.  In 2015,  Anthony Bourdain and Southside Johnny visited Frank’s while CNN filmed the episode for Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” show.

We get a kick out of the diverse clientele who are going in and out of Frank’s which  reminds me of some places my friends and I frequented when we were in high school in Rutherford. We would go to towns like Lyndhurst or Passaic to get soul food:  pizza and burgers.

At night, after walking up and down Park Avenue in Rutherford, we would visit Stio’s, a family luncheonette and ice cream place near the tracks that was so old, everyone and everything there seemed to be in slow motion. But all sorts of characters would show up, and we would laugh and joke and kid the owners.  Frank’s takes me back to that sort of Jersey place.  If you are from Jersey, you need a dose of that every once in a while.

BILLIE HOLIDAY

 

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Brian is the barista who made our cappuccinos on Saturday at Booskerdoo

Brian is the barista who made our cappuccinos on Saturday at Booskerdoo Coffee and Bake Shop in A. Park.  Paul Goldfinger photo. 12/17/16 ©

 

Blogfinger photo 12/17/16

Blogfinger photo 12/17/16  ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Booskerdoo has been open for two months at their Asbury Park location, 1321 Memorial Drive, at the intersection with Sunset Avenue.  Not only do they roast and sell terrific coffee, but they have a free parking lot, table seating, a bakery on premises, and they are only a few minutes drive from Ocean Grove. (4 minutes as your car flies.)

This is the fourth  location for this young business which was started  in 2011 by a married couple from New York City. They are also located at Monmouth Beach, Long Branch, and Fair Haven.

Booskerdoo is an ambitious and excellent operation. The baristas get to work at a giant red Italian coffee machine.  It’s amazing how complex those devices are, and the best ones come from Italy.  In the back of the shop is a large bakery which looks as clean as an operating room.

The coffee is superb, based on the two cappuccino’s which Brian made us today.  Booskerdoo sells a wide variety of coffees, and their goal, which is the ideal of all coffee lovers, is that you should consume their coffee within a day of roasting or close to that date.  And, or course, you want to grind the beans right before brewing.  In the back of the shop is a huge black roaster which looks about the size of a 747 engine.

We tried a single serving of “Caroline’s coffee crumb  cake,” and it was delicious. We split it and we did not leave a single crumb.    The staff is professional and friendly.  Brian produced a heart on the surface of my drink, and he proudly showed it off to the cashier before handing it to me, whereupon I stirred the heart  into oblivion.  They also serve frittata egg  sandwiches, muffins, and other items.  I’m looking forward to trying some of their fresh roasted coffee beans.

After we got home, I realized that I was going topless;  i.e. I left my Irish cap at the coffee shop.  So I quickly returned, again parking without complications (what a treat,) and Brian, smiling, greeted me at the door holding my hat.  I guessed that he might be Irish, and that he probably liked my cap from County Donegal. (It’s really warm, and I got it in the Irish store in Spring Lake—-it’s a great idea for a holiday gift.)

So give up your parking space in the Grove and go there to try the Booskerdoo experience.  As for that strange name, it seems there are a few theories about it.  I thought it might be an Australian boxing kangaroo, but it’s not.  When you visit the shop, ask for an explanation of the name’s origin (s).   The story of the name may or may not be believable, but it is fun to try and remember their name and how to spell it.

We will definitely go back and try some other coffee drinks.  If Booskerdoo can produce an espresso like we had in Italy, then my quest for a fine local coffee shop will be over.

GERTRUDE LAWRENCE   from The King and I.   (Original Broadway cast 1951)

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Wegmans, Ocean. May 12. 2016. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Wegmans, Ocean. May 12. 2016. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

By Paul Goldfinger, editor @Blogfinger

Fresh corn shows up at Wegmans.  Thursday.  The corn was still wet behind the ears, having  been  recently picked and kept wet..  It’s too early for the famous Jersey variety; this batch is from Florida. Sweet corn from the Sunshine State is grown from September to May.     Jersey sweet corn crop peak comes in from July 5-8/31  .  But you can get it through September.

I never peel it back at the store like the guy in the photo.  It starts the aging process too soon and it renders the corn unsalable  (would you buy one that has been peeled back?)  Some people do it to avoid a mess at home, but what other vegetables do you peel in the store?  Just feel the silky tassel to make sure that it is moist.  The risk of not peeling is small since you can often get 4 for a dollar, and they rarely are problematic.

We used to buy corn in Coney Island that was floating around in a big vat of hot water. My mother had little corn holders with sharp points to grab the cob. Now that I am a grownup I just pick them up with my fingers.

Eileen lighting her fire in Ocean Grove. She's almost certainly making a heart healthy dish, especially while wearing my sweat shirt. Blogfinger photo.

Eileen lighting her fire in Ocean Grove. She’s almost certainly making a heart healthy dish, especially while wearing my sweat shirt. I think she is threatening to take my temperature. Blogfinger photo.

Eileen says, “Fill a 5 quart pot 1/3 of the way up with cold water.  Bring to a boil and place the husked corn into the boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes.”  I thought that 3 minutes was good, but Eileen  knows, and she’s the cook.

 

ALICIA KEYS   about to light her fire  (live in Seattle,)  and you know that she’s not making corn:

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The long and the short of bagel making---taken at the Hot Bagel Shop in Oakhurst, September 1, 2015. Paul Goldfinger photo

The long and the short of bagel making—taken at the Hot Bagel Bakery in Oakhurst, September 1, 2015. Paul Goldfinger photo   ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

One year ago  I wrote a piece extolling the bagel artistry at Wegmans in Ocean.  I go there most mornings where they have a custom bagel ready for me.  In the comments, some Grovers chimed in with their favorite bagel bakery in Monmouth County—the Hot Bagel Bakery in Oakhurst.

This is the custom bagel which they make for me at Wegmans. They bake it about 10 minutes longer to get it darker and crunchier on the outside.

This is the custom bagel  (my grand bagel) which they make for me at Wegmans each morning. They bake it about 10 minutes longer to get it darker and crunchier on the outside. I know all their bagel bakers by first names.   Blogfinger portrait. ©

I did review the HBB in 2014 (see comments below),  but I didn’t think it was as good  as Wegmans.  There are three comments below from that article on September 4, 2014.

In the year since this article was written, I have come to know the Hot Bagel Bakery in Oakhurst (65-67 Monmouth Road)  a lot better.   I now believe that I under-appreciated that bagel place.  You really should visit it one morning just to see the excitement as the hand rolled bagels are made in front of you.  It brings back the sense of another era—-the time when kosher deli’s were all over New York City providing the equivalent of soul food in Harlem.

The Hot Bagel Shop is a hot bed of an old-country eating tradition:  the smells, the enthusiasm of workers and customers, the mulitple conversations all at once, the hurry-up of the counter help…

I also discovered their onion bagel, toasted twice and then with a shmeer of cream cheese. The heat of the toasting provides additional crunch, taste, and aroma. The cream cheese begins to melt immediately, so you have to be careful to eat it without dripping  cheese all over yourself.   They hand over your bagel in a brown bag, and inside the bag are napkins.

Sometimes I skip my Wegman morning run to go to Monmouth Road to get that special treat. And yes, their coffee is very good  (although Rook is across the street.)  But take your snack outside and eat it in your car—it’s that good. (Rook coffee shops do not have seating either)

I now give it 4 Blogfingers—a revised score. And, is it better than Wegmans?  Well, let’s just say that it’s different.

THE PARROTHEAD ALL STARS with CLINT BLACK and  FRIENDS performing  this Jimmy Buffett song. These country all stars  may have somethin’ cookin’, but I bet none of them could tell a good bagel if they actually saw one.

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Laurie's Market in Neptune. Blogfinger file photo. 2013 ©

Laurie’s Market on Atkins Avenue in Neptune. Blogfinger file photo. 2013 ©

Laurie Price in her greenhouse. Blogfinger file photo 2013  ©

Laurie Price in her greenhouse. Blogfinger file photo 2013 ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Up until the closing this summer of Laurie’s market due to her untimely death, we had been closely following the progress of this year’s Jersey tomato crop.  We’ve always loved those delicious beefsteaks that we could look forward to each August assuming that the crop was in excellent shape—it was not always ideal.     Laurie kept us informed, like an obstetrician following the progress of a patient, and we would post the latest news in the Wassup section. She had a few favorite suppliers who would keep her bins filled and offered wonderful advice about how to select those delicate fruits for whatever plans you had for them.  I will never forget her instruction to look at the top of the tomato, and if you wanted one for tonight, you had to make sure it was red all the way to the stem.

Tara, Laurie's good friend,  who worked at the market.

Tara, Laurie’s good friend and colleague, who worked at the market.

 

It was a delight to visit  her rustic farm market to view the latest inventory. For me it was a “must-do” event.  Maybe it was Neptune, but pulling up to her place seemed like—maybe Sonoma or Napa.     She was so enthused to share her knowledge with us, that I felt like she was a member of the Blogfinger staff.  She showed Eileen how to make a watermelon salad.  You could make discoveries in her place, such as the beginnings of the planned winter garden or the select items that she was growing herself, laughing off the evidence of critters enjoying the goods.

Laurie’s friends wanted to keep her business going, but, for whatever reasons, it didn’t happen.  Every spring, as the fruits of the Garden State are set out at farmstands in this part of Jersey, it will remind us of Laurie’s.  Maybe someone else will bring her’s back to life in 2015.

Now it’s October, 2014, and those Jersey tomatoes are getting harder to find.  So we are currently buying tomatoes on-the-vine from Wegmans, grown in greenhouses in Canada.  They’re pretty good, but the Jerseys are the best.

We have posted Eileen’s recipe for insalata Caprese in the past (link below)—– a simple but elegant dish that uses all heart- healthy ingredients: olive oil, tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese, plus some secret ingredients.  Last week Eileen made that recipe again, but she’s always innovating in the kitchen, so this time she added  avocados, a truly amazing food with anti-oxidants, “good” fats, and vitamins. Many nutrition experts think so highly of avocados that they refer to it as a “super food.”

So, once again, you can find that recipe below—-part of an article on Florida tomatoes which we have run in the past.

Eileen's 's insalata Caprese with avocado.

Eileen’s ‘s insalata  Caprese with avocado.

Insalata Caprese by Eileen

DON ASPIAZU and the HAVANA CASINO ORCHESTRA:  “Aquellos Ojos Verdes”  (Trans. Green Eyes)  It’s not Italian, but it’s close.

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Eileen's steamed clams in spicy red sauce. Blogfinger photo © 2014.

Eileen’s steamed clams in spicy red sauce. Blogfinger photo © 2014.

 

By Eileen Goldfinger, Food Editor @Blogfinger.net

 

Sauce :

 

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes

1 24 ounce jar marinara sauce

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup salt-free chicken broth or clam broth

1 6 1/2 ounce can chopped clams, drained

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

 

In a 5 quart Dutch oven heat oil on medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until onion wilts. Add garlic and simmer for 1 minute. Add whole tomatoes and mash them in the pot. Add the remaining ingredients, except the parsley. Stir and simmer of 30 minutes. Leave on low heat until the pasta and clams are cooked and the dish is ready to be assembled.

Sprinkle parsley on sauce when ready to serve.

Cook pasta according to package instructions, 1/4 pound per person. (Cook the pasta and the clams at the same time because they both take approx. 10-12 minutes to cook)

 

Clams:

2 pounds little neck clams (We got ours at Wegmans; sold in two pound bags)

Clean clams: (This step can be done while the sauce is cooking.)

Fill a large bowl with cool water, 1/4 cup of ground corn meal. Stir. Place clams in the water (the water should cover the clams) and let them sit for 1 hour. This step causes the clams to disgorge any sand they may have ingested. Discard any clams that are cracked or don’t close. If a clam is open, tap it gently on the counter top—- if it doesn’t close, discard it.

Remove clams from bowl by lifting them up out of the water, so that any sand in the bowl stays at the bottom.   Place clams in a colander and rinse them with cool water.

Check again to see if any are cracked or open.

 

Steam clams:

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot or small onion, minced

1 cup salt-free chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine or clam broth

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

In a 5 quart pot with a cover, heat oil on medium. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add clams and cover the pot. After 5 minutes shake the pot so the clams

cook more evenly. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the clams open. Remove the pot from the heat.

 

Assembling the dish:

Place a 1/2 cup of sauce at the bottom of a wide individual pasta bowl.   Next put 1/4 pound pasta (linguine) on the sauce. Place 1 pound (or half) the cooked clams on the pasta. Then ladle more sauce on top of the clams. Serve with ciabatta bread.

Serves 2.

A Caprese salad would go very well this dish.  Here is a link from 2013 when Eileen and I visited a Florida tomato farm.  There is a recipe there for the caprese salad and a song by Frank Sinatra about the Isle of Capri.  For variety, you can add sliced avocado on top.

Caprese salad recipe

 

SERGIO FRANCHI

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Cabbage soup, Russian style. Blogfinger photo. 2014

Cabbage soup, Russian style. Blogfinger photo. 2014. Click to enlarge.

 By Eileen Goldfinger, food editor @Blogfinger.net

1 large head green cabbage, slice into 2-3 inch pieces

2 24 ounce jars marinara sauce

4 24 ounce jars water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon

2 medium onions, diced

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

salt to taste

2-3 pounds short ribs, trimmed of fat

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

In an 8 quart stock pot heat oil on medium low. Add short ribs and brown on all sides. Remove ribs from pot and set aside. Add onion and cook until it wilts.

Next add marinara sauce, water (use the marinara jar for measurement), lemon, salt and pepper. Stir and cook until liquid begins to simmer. Add cabbage and short ribs, then stir.

Place lid askew on pot and cook at a simmer for 2 hours or until meat is ready to fall off the bones.

 

Serve with boiled potatoes and Russian rye bread.*

 

Serves 4

 

* We like Pechters Russian rye bread (made in Harrison, NJ) with seeds, purchased at Wegmans. It’s not packaged, it is displayed at the fresh bread section

THE GRASCALS  featuring music from the Andy Griffith show  “Boil Them Cabbage Down”

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Asbury Park, Sunset at Main.  Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014.  Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Asbury Park, Sunset at Main. Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  Click to enlarge.

 

Jersey tomato ready to eat from the Asbury Saturday market. $1.50 each.

Jersey tomato ready to eat from the Asbury Park Saturday market. $1.50 each.

So, while I was there, a stretch limo with NY plates pull up, and  two women and a man get out.  They are having a conversation, oblivious to the fact that I was recording every word for Blogfinger “Conversations.”

Just then, from the limo, an actual Broadway cast emerged onto the sidewalk like one of those clown cars in the circus or one of those old musicals where there is dialogue and then everybody bursts into song and dance:

 

 

Full disclosure: The first recording is from Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies”  while the second is from a much older show “The Ziegfeld Follies.”

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