Archive for the ‘Food’ category

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!

A Taste of Jersey in a Can

March 9, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I was at New Jersey’s mega farm store Delicious Orchards. And if you’ve never heard of it or been there, you’ll want to read this entry I wrote last year. Anyway, in between crates of vegetables I’ve never heard of, and countless varieties of vegetables I have, there was a table covered in giant cans of tomatoes. But not just regular tomatoes; these were Jersey tomatoes!

Made by Fattoria Fresca, the can has the official Jersey Fresh logo on it. Though, sadly, the term Jersey Fresh has been co-opted by the likes of Pauly D and the Situation to describe their beauty regimens. Although I thought that such a gourmet product would only be available in a gourmet store like Delicious Orchards, I actually saw them at my local Foodtown.

Now it’s well known that New Jersey produces the best tomatoes of any state. It’s not called the Armpit of America Garden State for nothing! Everyone knows that nothing compares to the taste of a fresh Jersey tomato, but we’re still a few months away from the summer bounty.  So, we’ll have to get them in can form for now.  I was a bit skeptical about how they would taste from a can. After all, don’t all canned tomatoes taste the same? Well, I was about to find out. (more…)

A Little Slice of Texas at the Jersey Shore

February 15, 2011

I give this place my squeal of approval!

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of dining at Jersey Shore BBQ, a Texas-style barbecue place right here in Belmar. Now I don’t claim to be an expert in the art of barbecue; my barbecue experience is pretty much limited to backyard burgers and hot dogs and the food at the ubiquitous Famous Daves chain. Still, I know good food when I see it, and I found it here.

Jersey Shore BBQ is located in a typical strip mall behind Main Street. But don’t let that description turn you off – some of the Armpit of America’s national treasures are found in strip malls. Just look for the black sign with a pink pig on it, and you’ll know you’ve found it.

Once inside, you’ll find the dining room to be laid back and unpretentious, qualities that are becoming increasingly harder to find due to the simultaneous gentrification and guidofication of the Jersey Shore. Though nothing fancy, the interior is warm and welcoming. And no need to wait for some hostess to look at a map of tables before telling you where to sit – this place has open seating.

But enough about that boring stuff. The main draw here is the food, advertised as authentic Texas BBQ. As mentioned above, the most authentic barbecue I’ve eaten is that of Famous Daves or Texas Roadhouse – another chain, in which everything is covered in some sweet and tangy sauce. Boy was I in for a surprise.

We started with the special “Ribs Appetizer,” which, appropriately enough, was just a plate of ribs – three baby back, and three St. Louis style. While I expected them to be glazed in that familiar sticky sweet sauce, these ribs were completely different. They were smoky and peppery and just so flavorful. Though it didn’t really need anything else, I poured some of the two different types of vinegar-based barbecue sauces on the table and dipped the meat in. Wow. The vinegar just punctuated the meat, elevating its taste even more. (more…)