Archive for the ‘Food’ category

Central Jersey – It Does Exist!

June 25, 2018

I am proud to be a resident of Central Jersey, the middle stretch of the Armpit of America. Though some would say it doesn’t even exist, that’s a bunch of nonsense. Not only is it real, it’s the best part of the state.

For one, people here don’t have accents. Many of those in North Jersey have obnoxious New York accents. And many in South Jersey have different, but no less obnoxious, Philadelphia accents. And in the more rural parts of both the North and South, people have traditional Southern accents somehow. But in Central Jersey, there’s no such thing. We say our words how they’re meant to be pronounced. No “New Yawk Pawt Authawrity” as they say in the North, and no “hooome” or “phooooone” as you might hear in the Southern part of the state.

map-nj

Key to Map: Green = Central Jersey. Not Green = Not Central Jersey.

As our brethren to the North and South continue to debate about the right words for certain things, Central Jersey often casts the impartial deciding vote. When it comes to the “subs” of the North vs. the  “hoagies” of the South, we’re Team North all the way. (After all, “hoagie” is the most revolting word in the English language and should never be associated with food). Speaking of revolting food, we’re Team South on the “pork roll” vs. “Taylor ham” debate, calling it pork roll. (Although, “tailored ham” would be a more accurate name for New Jersey’s favorite mystery meat product.)

One question that always gets brought up when discussing this subject: where is Central Jersey? In my perspective, Central Jersey is made up of all of Monmouth and Mercer Counties, the southern portions of Middlesex and Somerset Counties, and the northern part of Ocean County. And maybe we can throw in some other parts of the bordering counties, as long as they swear off their annoying habits.

The great debate about the central part of our state was recently given national attention on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” The host sat down with Phil Murphy, our state’s new governor and Central Jersey resident. Like any politician, he tried not to take sides, referring to “Taylor pork,” and refusing to weigh in on the sub/hoagie thing. But it was still an entertaining interview, like when Colbert asks Murphy what town he’s from, and consistent with his middle-of-the-road approach to the interview, he responds albeit truthfully, with: “Middletown.” Then Colbert asks if Central Jersey is a mystical place like Narnia. I’d say it’s more Middle Earth – that would have been the perfect answer.

The one thing I don’t like about the video is the part with Jon Stewart at the end. Yes, he’s from Central Jersey as well, but I just don’t understand why the former host of a show on Comedy Central is venerated as a god by so many. Sure, he gave Colbert his start and all that, but if you really wanted someone to weigh in on the subject, it would have been much better to get a Central Jersey resident worthy of more respect and admiration. Like how great would it have been if instead of that bullshit with Jon Stewart as the Supreme Chief Justice of New Jersey, they had Phil Murphy say, “Let me check with the boss” – and there’s Bruce himself to declare that Central Jersey really exists.

Instead, the segment ends with Stewart sitting in a diner eating a sad-looking sub (not hoagie), and I can’t help but think what an egregious mistake that was. No matter where in New Jersey you’re from, whether North, Central, or South, left or right, up or down, one thing every resident of New Jersey can agree on is that you don’t get subs at diners. You get them from a Mom and Pop sub shop in a strip mall, or from a reputable local chain, like the appropriately named Jersey Mike’s. Or if you’re in a pinch, you get an inferior sub at Wawa for no other reason than the joy of pressing the buttons on the screen.

Bottom line, yes Central Jersey exists — and I think we should banish Jon Stewart from it.

 

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Even Store Brand Cereal Boxes Make Fun of New Jersey

June 11, 2017

Everyone loves to make fun of New Jersey, and it’s no surprise that the Armpit of America has long been the butt of everyone’s jokes. While negative comments about the state are typically relegated to pop culture or conversations with those from out of state, hate for New Jersey can also be found in the unlikeliest of places: a cereal box.

My discovery came from a recently purchased box of store brand cereal (don’t judge me), in particular, Shoprite brand bran flakes (again, don’t judge me). On the back of the box is this whole trivia thing about American cities:

cereal 1

In that left-side panel is a quiz about city nicknames, listing the nickname of a city and offering two possible answers. One city nickname presented is”Hornet’s Nest,” with the two choices being Charlotte, North Carolina and none other than Newark, New Jersey.

cereal 2

Obviously, the answer is Charlotte – and that name isn’t just because of the basketball team. The city first earned the moniker during the Revolutionary War when it was known as a “hornet’s nest of rebellion.”

But whoever designed this box took a swipe at New Jersey by making Newark the other option. Unless you live in Charlotte, a hornet’s next is a terrifying thing to encounter, and something you’d want to stay the hell away from. Sure, Newark might not have the best reputation, between the city itself and its namesake airport, but to call it a hornet’s nest? I’d say it’s more of a beehive – might be a little scary, but there is some good stuff inside.

My Tribute to New Jersey Corn

August 22, 2015

It’s been way too long since I last posted, so let’s get back into the swing by talking about something of crucial importance: corn.

corn

That most humble of crops, corn is one of the most widely consumed plants there is. But it rarely gets the respect it deserves. It’s processed and transformed beyond recognition into things like corn chips, corn syrup, ethanol, animal feed and who knows what else. Or, it’s kernels are unceremoniously stripped off their cobs and shoved into tin cans or stuffed into plastic bags where they end up in the supermarket’s freezer section for eternity.

But for two months a year, we get to experience how corn should be experienced – slathering it in butter and gnawing it right of the cob. Sure it’s messy and unsightly, but when it’s summer and the corn is ripe, there’s no better way to eat it. And there is no place that does corn better than New Jersey.

For whatever reason, Jersey corn is the best in the country (take that, Iowa!), offering ears full of juicy kernels as sweet as candy, putting that nasty candy corn shit to shame. But why New Jersey of all places? Some say it’s the naturally fertile soil – or maybe there’s just a lot of fertilizer in the soil. Could it be that all the chemical runoff causes some kind of reaction to make it better? Or maybe when God was creating New Jersey, he knew that one day it would be the butt of everyone’s jokes and known more for corrupt politicians and trashy reality TV stars than anything else, so he blessed the land with the best corn on earth. It’s plausible.

But as good as the corn in New Jersey may be, there is one place that offers corn superior to anywhere else in the state, Samaha’s Farm Market of Aberdeen. This staple of my home town simply offers the best corn there is. I can’t tell you how many summer meals from my childhood to my adult life were made all the more better with Samaha’s corn. It’s so good, anytime we’d make the trip to Long Island to visit relatives, said relatives would implore that we stop at Samaha’s on the way and bring this holy Jersey corn (or as native New Yorkers call it, “cawn”) across the border. And now that I’m living on Long Island, I’m the one demanding delivery of Samaha’s corn.

And it’s definitely worth it. From the minute you eagerly rip away the husk and gently brush away the fair silk to reveal those virginal, cream-colored kernels, you know you’re in for something special. And when they’re in their water bath steaming away, it will seem like the longest minutes of your life as the scent of corn gently caresses your nostrils. Once cooked, you might be tempted to dive right it in, but be careful, it will be pretty hot; besides, the corn, being the temptress that she is, wants you to take it slow and savor every minute.

corn porn

Corn porn!

Woah, got a little carried away there. Anyway, you definitely could eat the corn as is and be perfectly content – it certainly doesn’t need any additions. But there are no heroes when it comes to corn. Go ahead and gild the lily by slathering it with butter and salt – it makes the experience all the better and perfectly acceptable to use a phrase like “gild the lily.”

corn butter

So, if you’ve never had Jersey corn before, I strongly recommend that you make the trip to the Armpit of America and try it – you’ll never look at corn the same way again.

Destination Dogs in New Brunswick: You’ve Never Had a Hot Dog Like This

January 3, 2015

The hot dog is one of the most humble foods imaginable – take the animal scraps and organ meat that no one else will touch, throw them in a blender with nitrates and pink food coloring, put the resulting slop in a plastic casing, and serve it on a bland roll that falls apart as soon as you touch it. But at Destination Dogs in New Brunswick, the simple hot dog is elevated to entirely new levels.

Though I heard about this establishment a couple of years ago, I didn’t make it over there until recently – a very poor mistake on my part. Like most people when they think of a “hot dog place,” I had imagined just a dumpy little shack where you go to a counter, they pull a hot dog off one of those rotating warmer things and slop on some sauerkraut as you stand there. Instead, Destination Dogs is a full on, sit-down, fill-up dining experience. Residing at the what used to be Doll’s Place, which despite sounding like a strip club was actually one of the nicer bars in the midst of the numerous hole-in-the-wall drinking spots surrounding Rutgers University, Destination Dogs offers a menu full of gourmet offerings that go far beyond a simple hot dog, including a wide variety of meats and almost unlimited number of toppings.

Hot dog, or work of art?

Hot dog, or work of art?

Putting the “destination” in destination dogs, each item is inspired by a different part of the world. For instance, you’ve got the “Howlamo” from Texas, consisting of a wild boar sausage topped with pork belly, chicharonnes, and baconaisse; the “Swede-Dreams” from Sweden – a Swedish meatball sausage covered with mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry jam; and the “Slumdog Meal-ionaire” from India, a vegetarian hot dog with samosa filling and curry sauce. (more…)

You Know You’ve Been Blogging about New Jersey Too Much When…

July 2, 2012

…a piece of meat starts looking like this stupid state:

Yes, this is a completely un-doctored photograph of a London broil almost somewhat resembling the shape of the Armpit of America.  And no, I didn’t cut it too look like that – apparently it came that way right out of the package, according to my brother.  My guess is that either someone at the meat department at Shop-Rite was having a little fun with his knife, or this piece of steak came from a Jersey cow.  Get it?  If not, read this.

Anyway, just like the real state, this New Jersey-shaped piece of meat looks like total crap swimming in more crap.  However, once I pushed aside the sludge and got past the tough edges, the meat was delicious.  And I’m sure you can all see where I’m going with this allegory…

Jersey Devil Wine!

April 25, 2012

The other night I tried Jersey Devil Honey Wine, produced by the Valenzano Winery located in Shamong, New Jersey.  While I never heard of the town before, apparently it’s located in the Pine Barrens, birthplace of the Jersey Devil, hence the name of the wine. As you can see in the (horrible) pic below, it has probably the coolest looking label ever, with the Armpit of America’s most famous monster (sorry, Snooki) surrounded by bees.

I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I’m totally judging this bottle of wine by the label.  With the fricken Jersey Devil AND bees, how could it not be bad?

So how did does it taste?  Well, it’s thick as syrup and cloyingly sweet….which is exactly how this connoisseur of fine wine likes it.  Just like the Manischewitz wine I grew up with.

So if you like wine that tastes like extra sweet grape juice with a touch of honey, give Valenzano Jersey Devil Honey Wine a try.  They also make a bunch of other wines, inspired by the fruits of the Pine Barrens, like blueberry wine, cranberry wine, and even “cranpagne.”

Eating Pizza ‘n Stuff

December 10, 2011

Pete & Elda’s in Neptune is a landmark bar and pizza joint at the Jersey Shore.  The place is most famous for its pizza challenge, where if you eat a whole extra large pizza, you win a t-shirt.  You can’t go anywhere along the shore in the summer without seeing at least a handful of people proudly wearing their Pete & Elda’s shirts.

Last week, the day finally came for me to earn my own Pete & Elda’s shirt.  Though my friends who have completed the challenge told me it really isn’t that hard, I still expected it to be difficult.  Eating a whole pizza definitely isn’t something I do every day.  When the pizza came, I realized I had nothing to be worried about.  The crust was paper thin, crispy, and slightly charred.  Just like matzo!  I knew I had this in the bag.  Check out the video below to see how I fared.

The challenge was a lot easier than I ever expected.  Despite the name “Double Extra Large” the pizza wasn’t big at all.  Now for a real pizza eating challenge at the Jersey Shore, I suggest eating a whole large pie at Three Brothers in Belmar.

Like the slideshow above?  I have more!

Celebrate an either late or really early Halloween by watching as I create a scale replica of Snooki out of pumpkins.

The New Jersey Turnpike isn’t a total waste – it has an IKEA!