Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Soul Flavors Scene: Jersey City Comfort Food

So much for naysayers, we love Soul Flavors, a new soul food restaurant on Grove Street in Jersey City. Izzy and I had our first introduction to Soul Flavors one evening when they were handing out samples in front of the place. The succulent morsel of beef ribs I tasted had me hankering for more.

As soon as we could, Izzy and I returned for a full portion of that luscious meat. We received one hunk o' meat, cooked to silky sweet tenderness. Paired with spicy, tart collard greens and macaroni and cheese, Izzy and I had a meal with leftovers. The cornbread was a perfect accompaniment to this hearty meal.

We have since eaten the oxtails which are another example of slow-cooked meat at its best, though beware of the spicy polenta which even my spicy-seeking husband had trouble swallowing.

We have only tried a few items from the menu but from my vantage point, each passing dish looked worth trying and everyone seemed to be happily eating their meals. I hope Soul Flavors gains a large following and that the naysayers are outnumbered, which from the looks of the contented diners it seems they already have been.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

GO Gone Kaput

GO: Gourmet Organic, our neighborhood's attempt at providing bread, cheese, produce and other upscale comestibles, has finally thrown in the towel. Probably not much of a surprise to many locals who according to jclist, had not been great fans of the place.

I suspected something was amiss when I saw that they had a sign that read, "Closed For Two Weeks Starting July 23"..yet it was well past that date and there was still no sign of life inside. I saw one of the owners today who confirmed that they had indeed sold. Sad news that GO failed but let's face it, it needed work.

The good news is that the owners of La Rustique, which many consider to be the best pizzeria in Jersey City (which may not be such a high accolade considering how dire our pizza situation is) have bought it and have some plans to turn into more of a deli/pizzeria..

I can only hope that the bring an affordable and tasty new eating option to the Hamilton Park neighborhood, for we could truly use one.

p.s. Despite its many faults, I will always hold fond memories of Izzy sampling cheese at GO and craving the ficelles they used to get from Hudson Breads...alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ice Cream Truck Blues:Not What You Might Think

The ice cream truck in our neighborhood has some nerve. Every night it arrives just as Izzy is about to fall asleep which is around 8:00 p.m. It plays its jingle quite loudly outside Izzy's window.

At first he used to ask.."Why does that ice cream truck come out so late? Who is eating ice cream now? Shouldn't they be asleep? (I swear none of these statements were prompted by me.)

The past few nights, his tune has changed. He seems angry at the truck. As soon as it arrives he yells: GO AWAY YOU STUPID ICE CREAM TRUCK! I NEED TO GO TO SLEEP!

Tonight I had a good mind to go outside a reprimand the ice cream man. Thankfully I had the good sense to stay inside.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sweet Toothless?

It all happened so smoothly and quietly. One minute we were settling down at the table. The next minute I watched, incredulously, as the little lump sat immobile, sucking away at another lump.. A LUMP OF SUGAR.. which her darling mama held up to her toothless mouth. A 13 month old developing a sweet tooth, with hardly a tooth in sight!

This was a sight I had never expected to see, but then again A. has thrown me for a loop on other food occasions. She, as many of us, has her own unique brand of crunchy/meets junk food eating behaviours. I learned this on a supermarket excursion when her eldest was pleading for some candy that she had apparently sampled before. I wouldn't have pegged A. to be the candy-eating/feeding sort, especially since she is always attempting to substitute a bit too much whole-wheat flour to certain baked goods, in hopes of creating a healthier dessert.

But I digress. Back to the scene of the crime..There I sat, stunned at the sight and when I expressed my disbelief I was silenced with the standard line from parents with two, which is something to the effect of, "You wouldn't understand..."

Perhaps there is something to that. I do have vague memories of being overly critical of certain parenting techniques before having had a child and being told I didn't understand. I was certainly forced to eat a few of my words (not all, mind you, just a few) on that count. So why not in this case too.

The mania of having two children could very well force a mama to resort to drastic measures. Though I must say the idea of main-lining sugar would not have occurred to me as being one of them.

Did A. learn about this old-fashioned pacifying method from her grandma? I mentioned it to my grandfather (98) and he knew exactly what I was talking about. He laughed and said, "The mothers would wrap the sugar in cheesecloth and let the child hold it to their lips. Sometimes they would even soak it in bourbon!!!" I suggested that this might not be so healthy for the child. In response he said, (which I'm sure A. would much appreciate? "It may not be healthy for the child but it is healthy for the mother. She can get a break from the child's nagging."

Well what do you know? My grandfather and A. share similar child-rearing techniques and meanwhile I am left wondering...

1. Is A. going to be a repeat offender?
2. What else can be used to replace sugar lumps? Are they preferable to rubber nipples?

Might I suggest..a hard, salty pretzel. They used to keep Izzy busy for hours, and of course boobie always came in handy in restaurants. Any other suggestions might be appreciated.

Swamp Grapes

Bet they don't sell these where you live... I found them at the Korean Market on Newark Avenue, in lovely, downtown Jersey City. Both Izzy and I needed to sniff them. They even had them in two colors, purple and pale green. Does anyone have any idea where these grow and what one does with them? We will have to hurry back and buy some.

Reminiscing: Dairy Queen Ice Cream Sodas: Twice Daily Habit

Senior year in high school or sometime thereabouts, I delighted in Dairy Queen ice cream sodas, most notably a chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream or was it vice-versa? What I do recall is that they were topped with whipped cream and I craved them, often twice daily and my boyfriend was more than happy to indulge me, by accompanying me on jaunts to the nearby Dairy Queen in Fort Lee, N.J.

It is obvious that in those days, healthy eating was not a priority. Ignorance was bliss and I had no clue as to the junk I chose for nourishment (which I imagine was purely emotional). On the bright side, weight was not an issue and I eventually kicked the habit. I haven't had one of those sodas in more years than I would like to admit...nor have I craved one. Until today.

Izzy and friends stopped in at Torico's and I was in the mood for something different. I looked up at the menu board and saw the listing. The craving hit me and I had to have one, a vanilla soda with chocolate ice cream. Turns out, the chocolate ice cream machine was down so I had the opposite. It was every bit as tempting as I remembered. I even let Izzy have a sip - I could see that he too was smitten. I hope he doesn't remember it the next time we are there. I don't wish to renew old habits...

p.s Izzy's friend O., also looked tempted..behold his wistful expression as he eyes my soda from across the table..but that is a whole other story.

Passover Brisket: A Resurrection

This past April, we celebrated Passover with a meal at my house. The main course was brisket, made from some rather pricey, grass-fed beef. I had prepared two whole briskets for a small crowd and my fridge was filled with leftovers. I froze a rather large quantity of the brisket and promptly forgot about it.

Whilst poking inside my freezer this morning, I discovered the old Passover brisket and decided to bring it back to life. Of course given my current status as laziest cook ever, I chose the easiest possible route. I allowed the meat to defrost and then chopped it up into small pieces. I sauteed two large onions until nice browned, added a bit of hot green pepper, chopped cilantro and a jar of this miraculous Salsa Verde sauce from Trader Joe's. I served the beef with soft tacos, tomatoes, rice and sour cream. I think we all preferred it to the Passover meal and it was certainly less stressful.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Flavor of The Day...(Warning: For Breast-Friendly Audiences Only)

photo: courtesy of Izzy
Most breastfeeding moms are aware that breast milk varies in flavor depending upon what they eat. Unlike the formula-fed baby who eats the same old thing, day in and day out, the breastfed baby is exposed to a world of taste. This is a great benefit of breastfeeding which, research has shown, can have an impact on shaping a child's palate.

When nursing an infant, you can only imagine what flavors your milk might have on a particular day. I thought that things would be different with toddler nursing but Izzy was never especially vocal about flavor, just insistent upon having his beloved "boobie" without many accompanying remarks.

Now he barely nurses at all and when he does, he is usually in a state of half-sleep. This morning was different. He sleepily nursed on one side and rolled over. I got up and when I returned to the bed he sat up and said "I want this."(pointing to my boobies). I said you already nursed and he said, "I didn't have both sides.." I couldn't very well argue so I agreed and he nursed for about 30 seconds, looked up with a big grin and said, "Mama, your milk tasteses(sic) different every time." "Like what? I asked. "Like flavored milks." He answered.

Now I want to know if it was chocolate or strawberry..

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Lazy Cook

After reading Nina Planck admit to being a lazy cook, I felt that I could nobly admit to having the same affliction. I have figured out that although I love to cook, shop and above all EAT, I don't especially enjoy all of the other work involved, namely extensive mise-en-place and clean-up. Ideally I would be the executive chef in my own home. Instead, I am the entire kitchen staff, which can sometimes be quite exhausting, especially during parties or when other duties call.

Odd thing is, I only recently came to this realization. Until now, I couldn't quite pinpoint why I itch to throw parties and cook outrageous amounts of food, yet become decidedly crabby when the events are actually taking place.

The truth is I want to shop for fabulous ingredients. I want to come up with an enticing menu. And this is where my plans go awry:...I would then like someone to do the mise-en-place MY WAY and then I want the glory of producing the exciting dishes. I would then like to sit down and enjoy the food with my guests and when all is said and one I want a fairy to wave his magic wand and clean up the entire mess.

The closest I can get to my dream scenario is to have friends help with mise-en-place and hire someone to clean up (which I have done on occasion and it has been swell). Meanwhile, I ordinary days, I think that the key to making cooking more relaxing is to be more organized which is something I just need to keep working at.

This was on my mind this evening because Summer is the absolute worst time of year for the lazy cook, and even more so for one with no air conditioning in her home. Each day I try to come up with reasons to either A. Go out for dinner or B. Just make something for Izzy and graze after he has gone to bed. Mind you, I rarely do either of these things but certainly not for lack of musing over them.
This afternoon I had convinced myself that we would be going out for dinner but when I came home from the park with Izzy and peered out into our newly tidied backyard (thanks to Izzy and his papa), I thought we may as well enjoy the cool air and view.
So I whipped up a Pasta with Zucchini, Squash and Artichokes along with a salad of Chickpeas, Cucumbers and Tomatoes (thanks to Farmer Rich). Thankfully, both dishes involved minimal prep and not too much clean-up, perfect for the lazy cook.

What Are THESE? The Sad Fate of Some of This Week's Pickins

And what does one do with them? I misplaced the farmer's identifier for the week and couldn't seem to find the link on his site. I thought my list said that this week's delivery included zucchini and I had intended to prepare them as such. I needed a side dish for tonight's dinner so cut open the small one and although it didn't smell like any zucchini I had ever met before, I began to grate it.

It sure smelled pumpkiny to me..maybe that's what happens when you leave it outside the fridge for too many days. I thought the air was cool enough but perhaps today's heat did them in.

Whatever the case I had no choice but to discard the grated mess. Meanwhile, the larger one of the two still waits, taunting me on the counter. Ideas?
I might add that that was only one of this evening's ruined veggies. I know that when you get fresh-picked corn you are supposed to eat it right away, otherwise the sugars turn to starches. I was unable to heed my own advice and I cooked the corn from Tuesday, tonight. Izzy's papa summed up the flavor like this: "Animal Feed." Izzy managed only one bit before setting his down. A terrible shame since we all adore corn. I will do better next week.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lunchtime Ch(EATS): Pecoraro Bakery

My kitchen was hot today and it was nearing noon. I had no idea what to feed us for lunch but figured that a quick trip to Pecoraro Bakery would solve everything. Izzy had been playing quietly all morning so he would get some much needed exercise on the way there and I knew that once I bought fresh bread, lunch would fall into place.

Aside from the bread, one of the best reasons for going to Pecoraro is the sheer amusement value. Each time I leave there I have a tale to tell, for Carmine, who usually mans the counter, is quite a character. Today, as he was lauding Izzy's scooting skills and complimenting his appearance ("he looks like da alta boys on Christmas cards", a black cat emerged from the back of the shop. He introduced her to us as "Midnight, the mother cat. Soon after, her children, Carmella and Stella appeared.

Not only were we sufficiently entertained, but we left with two sauced focaccie, an olive bread, a small sliced white loaf and two rolls gratis (for Izzy). All that for nine bucks!

Home for lunch which was the simplest affair..Focaccia sprinkled with goat cheese, splash of olive oil and oregano.
RECENT NOTE: Carmine no longer works there. Instead the owner's son John usually mans the counter, or his mom. Still just as charming as ever!

In All Fairness: Falafel Confession

All of a sudden, when recounting the tale of Cousin J.'s falafel iniation, it occurred to me that I could not remember when and where I had eaten my first falafel. I sheepishly must admit that I was probably older than 15. Granted, I was not a vegetarian and perhaps if I had been I may have tried it sooner. Nevertheless...

I know that my neighborhood did not have a falafel joint either (though it does now). As I write I have conjured the memory of me eating falafel in the West Village at The Olive Tree Cafe..I know the place had Middle Eastern food so it is possible. I was 17 years old.

When and where did you eat your first falafel? Read about Izzy's first falafel experience here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Indelicate Exposures: Dare I Reveal?

I know how to keep important secrets but I am not sure that this falls under that category. Why would a friend tempt me so, dangling this fruit of food misbehaviour right under my nose?

They know I will rant. They know I will rave. They know I will have the uncontrollable urge to tell the world of their indiscretions. Yet right before my very eyes they have the chutzpah to do something (that may have been a practice our grandmothers used) which practically caused me to lunge from my chair and remove said item from their child's sweet, unknowing mouth.. I sat at the table in disbelief, thinking it was a mirage and then said to the offender something to the effect of, "How could you? You are begging to be featured on my blog."

Do I dare expose the unmentionable act? What is an honest food blogger mama to do?

First Falafel At Fifteen? Hard to Fathom

I had the great pleasure of entertaining my only niece, J., today and she accompanied Izzy and me on an outing to NYC. I was my wish to give her a bigger taste of NYC than that which she has been accustomed to so far (trips in for Broadway shows and the like). I thought she might enjoy a foray into the world of the East Village and beyond.

I knew that she was interested in doing a bit of shopping and I figured lunch and maybe a museum would be in order too. I seemed to forget that Izzy needs ample park time to boot so we didn't get to everything I had in mind.

Since we were arriving close to lunchtime, first and foremost on my mind was where to eat? J. is a vegetarian and I wanted to her to have something memorable. Should we eat in some hip, veggie spot or stick with tried and true? Falafel seemed like a mundane choice but I know Chickpea is a sure bet and I figured it would be better than other falafel she had tried.

When I told her where we were going I expected her to roll her eyes with boredom. You can imagine how shocked I was to find that she had never eaten falafel before!!! How does a vegetarian make it to the age of 15 without having eaten falafel? Isn't that akin to a carnivore never having eaten a steak? All of a sudden I was more than thrilled to take J. to Chickpea since it would be a great initiation into the fabulous falafel universe.

Chickpea was pleasantly empty so we were able to have a nice quiet spot in the back. J. had an original falafel sandwich. I had the Chickplant and Izzy had the Grilled-Artichoke Falafel. J. did not rave about her sandwich but I surmise that she enjoyed it since she finished the entire sandwich. Izzy wasn't thrilled with his Artichoke stuff but was more than happy to share mine. We all sipped our Lemonatas and had a relaxing meal.

After our meal, we meandered along Ninth Street and Seventh Street, popping in and out of variety of small shops, while Izzy railed and shrieked for park time. He certainly made his presence known to the shopkeepers and we finally had to relent.
We took a short break at Tompkins Square Park and after it was over we barely had time to grab some ice cream and get back to Jersey City.

Izzy and I had a great time with J., who was full of tales for me and spunkiness for him. The shopping may have been less than stellar, but despite that, I hope this is the beginning of many more outings with "Cousin J." After she had left Izzy wanted to know if I had such fun cousins and sadly I had to say no, for I barely know the two I do have.

Meanwhile, I am left wondering about the culinary state of Hunterdon County and how it can be that my niece has never before encountered a falafel. I suppose I can partially blame myself for not spending much time with her yet on the other hand, what has my dear brother been feeding her??

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Eater Turns Helper

At the dinner table tonight, our discussion turned to grocery shopping. I told Izzy that we had no yogurt left and we also were lacking in a few other staples. I said it was time for a trip to ShopRite... My dear child had just the solution:

Izzy: Mama, I never sneak out of bed a night so you could just go there tonight while I am sleeping.

Me: What if you woke while I wasn't here? Wouldn't that bother you?

Izzy: No. That's okay.

Me: Well I would never go out and leave you home.

Straying From The Tried And True:Taam-Tov, Summer of Love And More

We often spend our NYC days doing our favorite things, Union Square, City Bakery, playground. It was time for a bit of a change so I hatched a plan and hoped it would work.

I couldn't stay away from Union Square altogether so I had to stop there first to pick up some of Sprout Creek Farm's highly coveted Doe-Re-Mi cheese before it sold out. I'm glad I did because the vendor told me that the season for that cheese is ending. I may need to stock up in the next few weeks.

With cheese, bread and eggs in tow, Izzy and I took the subway up to Bryant Park to meet our friends. A., E. and baby L. The first order of business was a ride on the old-fashioned carousel which plays French songs. Izzy wanted to go on alone but the carousel operator insisted I stay beside him. For the second go round he agreed to allow Izzy to go solo and he and E. rode joyously around together.

The carousel meeting place was key to part two of my plan which was lunch nearby at Taam Tov, a Bukharian Jewish restaurant in the diamond district. We ambled on over there, braving the 47th Street throngs and three flights of stairs with three toddlers. At the top we found ourselves in a cramped noisy, space, crowded with diners enjoying heaps of kebabish looking foods and more unusual fare.

We ordered a bunch of things to share, including Manty (bukharian meat dumplings) and Samsa (meat pie), Golubtsy (stuffed cabbage) and Israeli pickled vegetables. The Manty and Samsa seemed to contain the same filling which was a spiced beef with tons of onions. Izzy loves onions so he was content with both dishes but his friend E. eyed them rather reticently and required more coaxing to try them, though to her credit, she did manage a few bites. Izzy seemed to enjoy the odd pickled vegetables more than A. and I. Nobody but A. touched the hot peppers but the mini-eggplant (if that is indeed what they were), small, dark pink and sourly squirty were a good accompaniment to our meal and Izzy couldn't stop chomping on the pickles.

The homemade bread, warm from the oven, was hit with everyone. Overall, this is hearty, ribsticking fare and I felt stuffed hours later. We had an enjoyable, well-priced meal ($30 for everything) and I would recommend this place if you are in the neighborhood and in the mood for filling food with a touch of chaos on the side.

Sufficiently stuffed, we made our way by bus uptown, to the Whitney Museum, for the Summer of Love exhibit, which surprisingly featured interactive, psychedelic amusements for the toddler set. Turned out to be just the way to spend a gray NYC afternoon.

After having spent a record amount of time inside a museum it was time for some fresh air. Once outside, Izzy heard the word gelato and I had to deny his request so we could get back home in time for dinner. The boy certainly has willpower because, arriving back at Newport, he suggested we buy a gelato and bring it home for dessert! I agreed to this plan and lo and behold, he ate his dinner and only managed a few bites of dessert before bedtime.

It was a long day for everyone. Or so I thought.. Once under the covers, as we recounted the day, Izzy said, "We didn't really do that much today. We didn't even get to go to the park."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scooting and Schlepping: Stroller-Free In NYC

Izzy reached a milestone this week. He agreed to go to NYC without his stroller. I was hesitant to allow it because he is very attached to his stroller and rarely wants to get up and walk.

I decided to honor his request because I figured we would have to try it sometime and if worse came to worse we could just hop in a taxi (and risk his life with no seat belt, I know.) He took his scooter. I brought my picnic backpack, a string bag and small purse.

Izzy scooted with ease, narrowly dodging passersby, whilst I tried my best not to intervene too much. He did fine. I, on the other hand, had a very difficult time.

I had nowhere to put my food purchases. My back ached from the backpack, filled with food, toys and other kid paraphernalia. My arms were sore from the string bag stuffed with Whole Foods purchases. Not only that, but from time to time, I needed to carry the scooter when Izzy just felt like walking. Mind you, that was a day of light shopping.

I suppose I could just start taking the granny cart but that seems like a bit much for light shopping..There must be a better way..

Monday, August 20, 2007

Simply Can't Find Good Kitchen Help Lately

Scene: Kitchen - Izzy seated at table, me at the stove, getting ready to serve the pasta.

Izzy: I'm hungry. When's dinner?

Me: Soon. Why don't you clean up your papers from the table so we can sit down and eat?

Izzy: I am not a cleaner. I am an eater.

I chuckled at that response, thinking it to be quite clever but my grandfather thought otherwise. He said he thought Izzy was being fresh yet he couldn't suppress a chortle himself. And I had to think, "Fresh?" Nah..simply amusing.

Lemonade 5 Cents? Fat Chance

More like, lemonade, $4...at Bouchon Bakery that is...which I guess shouldn't surprise me that much since it is located in the fancy Time-Warner building. At least it was large, lemony and thirst-quenching for Izzy and me.

Little did I know I was on the way to lemonade lunacy. I figured one lemonade expenditure like that for a week was no big deal. After all, how often do I buy homemade lemonade anyway..?

Apparently more often than I mean to since the next day I came face-to-face with the lemonade stand at "da feast". I had to buy one for Izzy since it was the only alternative to soda (an extreme no-no) or water which was too dull a beverage for that event. It was surprisingly good but shockingly expensive for the venue. I plunked down three bucks for that one. And I found myself doing the same the following night.

I think it may be time for Izzy to open his own lemonade stand... If he charges $1 it will definitely be a bargain!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The East Village Accidental Ice Cream Trail

Start at Tompkins Square Park..Have your child romp around giddily, stand on the tire swing, slide belly down on some wooden slope, and work up an appetite after already having eaten much too much for lunch..

If you follow this formula, within two hours, your child should be ready for some ice cream. I scoped out the nearby choices and we scooted on over to East Village Ice Cream. This shop was opened by a former employee of the renowned Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory so I was expecting great things. The shop is small and nondescript and one is unable to view the actual ice cream which is unfortunate since that aids in flavor selection. When we arrived, some playground playmates from the day who we had steered in that direction, were already licking their cones and digging into banana splits (I wanted to share one with Izzy but he was just not into the idea).

Instead Izzy chose a strawberry cone and I had a cup of blueberry. The flavor choices are simple and one patron mentioned that their mint chocolate chip is the best ever. The strawberry was creamy and old-fashioned and Izzy deemed the actual cone to be "much better than Torico's". My blueberry was in need of a dose of sugar but gained points for having whole blueberries peeking out. This is homemade, small batch ice cream which seems to be a rarity in this day and age. I would need to test more flavors for a complete review but at this point I would see, go if you are in the neighborhood...
Next we walked back downtown and passed Alphabet Scoop. We were quite full so I just read the blurb in front. This is semi-homemade ice cream, made with an industrial base. The shop employs at risk youth so it sounds like a great project to support. We shall have to come back and try it another day.

It started to rain but our walk continued on and we found ourselves on 10th street, in front of a place I knew I had read about somewhere, called Sundaes and Cones. I had to go inside, which was surely a mistake for once in, we couldn't leave. Once inside I could resist the ice creams which are displayed in see-thru cases. I decided it wouldn't harm us to share a pink grapefruit sorbet (Izzy's choice) far healthier than what I had in mind. I loved the smooth texture but it was just a touch too sweet. I will definitely be back to try the other flavors which looked truly luscious, including corn and some rich chocolate concoction.
Continuing on in the drizzle, Izzy announced he was hungry! I decided we needed less desserty fare so we stopped for a pizza snack at Pie, where they have ultra-thin crust pizza by the pound. It comes with a variety of toppings and is a great option for decent, quick food near Union Square. I thought we would be done after that but no, Izzy wanted to stop at Whole Foods, good thing too because we needed some things for dinner. We then hopped on a crosstown bus to the Path and finally got home as the rain turned heavier.
As Izzy sat on the steps taking off his shoe, he mused over his day, proclaiming his good fortune. "Today we had TWO ice creams AND a pizza.." Not to mention a giant bowl of ramen noodles and some shitaake buns. And we still ate dinner!

Eat What You Love..And Your Children Will Follow

My child only eats (fill in the blank with all manner of bland or unhealthy foods). "Oh really," I am tempted to respond, "He's awfully young to go shopping. Where on earth does he get his hands on that?"

I suspect that many parents don't feel like engaging in the negotiations that may inevitably occur when trying to introduce new foods. Others immediately assume their child doesn't like "fill in the blank" after they have offered it a few times. That is most likely not the case.
Children may be reluctant to try new things for a variety of reasons. For many it is a textural issue and if they are exposed to the aroma first, then texture (even with fingers. Once the child is familiar with the aroma and texture, tasting will be more likely to follow. Many people don't realize that this could take as many as 12 encounters or more with a particular food. It isn't likely to occur immediately. Meanwhile, parents should be eating those foods and expressing joy and delight so that their children can see how wonderful the experience will be.

I was reminded of this today, when, on our way to the East Village, I offered Izzy the choice of pizza (I am dying to try Una Pizza Napoletana), or Momofuku Noodle Bar. The Noodle Bar was the clear winner, no budging on that decision. Our early meals there when he was about two and a few months clearly made the right impression on him.

Today we had the Shitaake Mushroom Buns(two generously filled buns with sauteed shitaakes and sweet pickled cucumber slices. Truly a textural marvel of soft/oily/crunchy. This was followed by a giant bowl of Momofuku Ramen, which as you can see, is filled with all manner of tastes and textures, from the crisp of the seaweed to the unctuous porky pieces, each component a wonder.

I watched as Izzy lustily tucked into his soup, slurping up spoonful after spoonful of broth and fishing out tidbits with his fingers. What better way to initiate children into the pleasures of the table then with this bowl of ramen noodles..

p.s When you do take your children out for taste experimentation, it helps to have them hungry (this works best when they are over three). They will be more likely to try what is put in front of them. They may resist for a few minutes but if they see that is all there is, they will be more inclined to at least take a few bites.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Da Feast: Holy NOT Healthy

The long awaited Holy Rosary Feast is back in Jersey City. A small town church street affair, with carny games, raffles, sausage and peppers, pizza and more..including live music and Aunt Mary's Famous Rice Balls..

Every year, the pull is irresistible, it reminds me of my late teenage years and going to St. Anthony's feast in NYC with my boyfriend R...of course that was done on a much grander scale, with Ferris wheels and temporary tattoos (yes I did get one and so did my boyfriend. His sister thought it was real and nearly had a heart attack). In those days, a sausage and pepper sandwich was exotic fare.

The first Holy Rosary Festival we attended in JC was a hit with Izzy. He must have been two and he was able to go on some tiny rides. I managed to eat some fabulous rice balls. Last year, at three, the feast was somewhat of a washout since it was only one evening and they didn't even have the rice balls.

This year, I am thrilled to report, the feast has returned to some its former glory (at least the glory of three years ago). It has been going on since Wednesday and runs through Sunday night. We made plans for Friday night to go with Izzy's friends T. and E. so when the rains came we thought we would be postponing..but NO..these friends braved the rains for da feast..

Izzy and I arrived first, between lulls in the storm. Soon after purchasing our rice balls, we found ourselves huddled in the church doorway. When mass ended, we were pushed aside as old ladies bemoaned the sinfulness of it all as they watched the rain and asked G-d why he had done this...

Izzy was hungry so I fed him the rice balls whilst holding my purse, a lemonade and getting drizzled upon..when our friends arrived the rain stopped long enough to play some games and go inside and eat more rice balls and some dull desserts. These rice balls seemed to lack cheese, salt and some other component which made the ones from a few years back so desirable. These were filled with chopped meat, peas and some parsley as far as I could tell. Izzy was happy to have them but me..meh...

When the rain gave up for the evening it was time to dance with Izzy and T. who had a routine worthy of Saturday Night Fever..picture Izzy with fingers in the air and T. twirling around him (awaiting guest snapshot from T.s dad). Izzy was so tired out after this I could barely get him to walk home and he pleaded for more rice balls the entire way back, even though it was way past bedtime.

We decided to give Holy Rosary another go tonight because we could go with his friend O. and enjoy ourselves in the sunshine. This time we sampled more carny fare and even managed to have the calzone stand vendor make a custom calzone for us...Izzy got to watch as she put it together with ricotta and mozzarella in the oven instead of the fryer..fried calzones?? Not for moi..

We had more rice balls, this time with sauce which definitely perked them up but still didn't elevate them high enough. Izzy also had some kettle corn and some run of the mill rainbow ices to top off the evening splendidly healthy eats. The highlight for Izzy was the 4 Tenor band, singing O Sole Mio and other Italian classics. He actually sat and listened, seemingly mesmerized by the portly singers in their fitted black suits..quite a sight if I do say so myself. I wonder if we will make it back tomorrow night? I don't know if I can bear to see another rice ball..maybe we can just go for the music.

Van Vorst Park Farmer's Market

I just had to have the mozzarella so Izzy managed a bike ride (with me trotting behind), all the way to Van Vorst Park this morning. There was a farmer there, didn't catch the name, Hoboken Farms and Sassy Sweet (one of the other vendors displaced from the Hamilton Park Market.

The Sassy Sweet vendor ( baked goods), mentioned that they were only informed Wednesday morning that the market would no longer be taking place. Wednesday afternoons were so lively. The whole thing is such a shame and it truly is too bad that we can't have some other kind of market, sans farmer in Hamilton Park.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Never Mind The Farmer, I Want My Mozzarella: The case of the disappearing Farmer's market

It was Wednesday. Market Day. Mozzarella Day. From a distance I could see that the park was empty. My heart sank..no mozzarella? What on earth would we be eating for dinner? The Hamilton Park Wednesday Market had seemingly vanished into thin air; at least for that brief moment before I read the posted notice.

Apparently the market closed because the participating farmer was not meeting a certain quota. For some reason, without said farmer, there are certain regulations that will not allow the other vendors to set up shop. These unfortunate circumstances left me without the mozzarella from Hoboken Farms (not really a farm but a gourmet food purveyor of sorts) that I was counting on for our Wednesday dinner.

How is it that Hamilton Park, a gentrifying neighborhood within the 12th largest city in the U.S., cannot sustain a meager weekly market? I have heard people mention these possible factors that may have contributed to the market's demise.

1. Farmer's merchandise was overpriced, not organic and some didn't appear to be local or grown at that farm.

2. Low foot traffic to the area

I wonder how the other vendors were faring? It seemed that Hoboken Farms had a fairly decent following and thankfully they do sell at the Van Vorst Park Market on Saturday mornings, though I doubt I will make it there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pinkberry: Too Good To Be True?

Hype, lines, frozen yogurt...I had heard and read it all but up until today I had no firsthand knowledge.

As luck would have it, we had an errand in the neighborhood of a Pinkberry store..one on 8th Avenue in Chelsea. It is quite a basic formula..Two flavors of yogurt, plain and green tea, chopped fruits for toppings (also chocolate chips, coconut and other less healthy choices). I had a small plain with mango and raspberries while Izzy had one with just mango. It was smooth, tart and refreshing..If I lived nearby I am sure I would eat this all of the time, imagining that it is truly healthy..but is it?

I looked on their website for ingredients and they only provide nutritional information. 1 oz has 25 calories..that doesn't seem bad but it seemed to me that the "small" cup I ordered was far more than 5 ozs. It is also considerably suspicious that they don't list the ingredients..what are they hiding? Does anyone know what is in this product?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Goats Gone Done Me Wrong Song

I went searching for Do Re Mi Goat cheese at the Sprout Creek Farm Stand (Union Square Greenmarket) a few weeks ago. The vendor told me that they didn't have any plain cheese available but could offer me a container with a hint of sun-dried tomato and curry. Sounded odd and tasted that way but I bought it anyway..some goat cheese being better than none.

Following week same locale. Still no more plain goat cheese. This time though they had some flavored with fresh figs..mighty fine pairing so I bought it. Why was there flavored cheese but no plain? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

The vendor sheepishly (goatishly?) explained that the goats were not producing enough milk..Why was milk available for flavored cheese but not for plain? It seems that scant amount of milk that the goats were actually producing was not rich enough to be made into plain cheese so instead it had to be doctored up.

Today..got to the market quite late..was there any plain goat cheese? YES, she sold out 30 containers..and last week, while we were away, the market was empty and hardly any sold..

Fine goats you are, increasing your milk production while we're away, see if I care..

This Seems Positively Unnatural...24 Flavors of Soft Serve

While we were "down the shore", we passed a few ice cream establishments displaying enormous banners offering 24 Flavors of Soft Serve..How was that possible? The only place I have known to do that was Kohr's Frozen Custard on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights.. Could these 24 flavors possibly be an improvement? I wanted to find out but didn't get around to it...

Until yesterday when I approached Torico's, only to find they were waving that same 24 flavor banner. I immediately inquired.."You don't really serve 24 flavors here, do you? The young lady explained that they have "flavor extracts" which are magically mixed into the vanilla, no-sugar vanilla, or chocolate soft-serve, instantly creating these flavors. "Is there anything artifical in them?" "No, they are all natural." (hmm..would love to see the ingredient list)

It goes without saying that I had to try one. I ordered a cup of banana and watched in amazement as the scooper proceeded to pump a mysterious liquid into some vanilla soft-serve, mix it with a machine which then reswirled it. The ice cream turned a light shade of yellow and had a light banana flavor which didn't take completely fake but had a chemical aftertaste.

The entire experience was mystifying. Perhaps further research will uncover the truth. How natural can this product be, given that most soft-serve is not full of the finest ingredients.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ice Cream Woes: Torico's Does The Wrong Thing

Aren't ice cream parlors supposed to be the kid-friendliest of places? Well Torico's seemed to be until this: They have stopped offering their "secret" kiddie-sized portions.

A few weeks ago, I went in there with Izzy and asked for the kid size. I was told that they no longer offered it. I expressed dismay and asked to speak to the owner. She denied this and said of course they still offer it.

Then, I return this week and again I am told they no longer serve a small size. I became extremely perturbed but the young lady insisted and got the owner to come out. This time she changed her story and explained they don't carry that size anymore..mumbling something about it not being worth it..

I just don't get it..Izzy can't eat the larger portion and we have to throw it out. Plus I will only buy one regular size which is cheaper than two smalls so they will lose money.

I am truly tempted to boycott the place despite the fact that I wrote a glowing article (as yet to be published) about them. I guess I can't since they are one of only two potential ice cream spots in town.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Wrong Eggucation

I love eggs in all their guises; fried sunny-side up, over-easy, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached..they are all delicious. My grandmother always made eggs fried in butter for me on her old stove in Jersey City and I can still taste those crispy edges.

The odd thing is, my two older brothers detest eggs. I have always wondered how that came to be that they both harbor a vehement distaste for what I consider to be one of my favorite foods. What went awry in their eggucation?

Until this weekend, I had always thought that it was related to one of them becoming ill after having eaten eggs. My brother G. (who could not really explain his own dislike for eggs) shed some light on the matter concerning our brother E. He seemed to recall that on one particular occasion, my mother had served E. a plate of scrambled eggs which he did not want to eat . She supposedly insisted that he eat them and he said, "If you make me eat those I will throw up." He finally ate them and then proceeded to stick his fingers down his throat.. And from that day forwards, he has not touched an egg (although he will eat French toast if the egg is well-beaten and mixed with milk so as to be less noticeable).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Long Beach Island Eats:A Brief Round-Up

This past week has been a veritable eating/tasting/restaurant bonanza. There were too many to post about separately so instead I offer a brief blurb about a few standouts


Pearl Street Market (Beach Haven): Gourmet market with NYC prices. Tasty breakfast sandwiches, French Toast, pastries and much more. Good for a picnic or to pick up some organic items you might not find elsewhere. Also has a butcher/seafood section.

The Bagel Shack: Bagels fresh from the oven..always a line but definitely worth the short wait. Great choice to avoid the awful breakfast crowds elsewhere


Mario's Deli: "Good for LBI" Italian deli food. Fresh mozzarella, along with above average Italian prepared foods. Perfect for a picnic.

Holiday Snack Bar: Just go!

Chowder Hut: Just chowder and not much more. Good for a quick bite in Bay Village. We did a taste test with the chowder spot across the street. Chowder Hut was the clear winner.


Daddy O's: New sleek upscale hotel/restaurant..Surprisingly kid-friendly but far too noisy for my tastes.

Bistro 14: Worth a second visit.

The Gables: An island gem, romantic but still surprisingly kid-friendly.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Uncle Will's Pancakes: Worth The Wait?

I had to wonder as we passed the throngs of families standing out in front. We also passed crowds congregating outside some other LBI breakfast spots like The Chicken and The Egg and Fred's Beach Haven Diner. What was the great attraction to these breakfast establishments? Maybe Uncle Will's could provide some clues.

We waited an entire hour before being seated at Uncle Will's. The menu is certainly reasonably priced which might account for its insane popularity. The food itself, was a different story. I had eggs over easy with a side of pancakes with fresh peaches. The pancakes were spongy, the peaches none too fresh and they were served with faux maple syrup. Izzy's french toast and turkey sausage was none too pleasing either. My brother, not usually picky, didn't even like his bagels and lox. My niece, J., remarked, "I could make better pancakes myself." Only L. was happy with her dish, some type of quesadilla. We also sampled many other items from the menu, none of which would warrant such interminable waits.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about this restaurant aside from the kitsch factor and the low prices. Wouldn't it be simpler to just have a bagel and get to the beach?

I had to wonder about this distinctly American phenomenon. Why indeed do Americans endure these waits, especially during Summer vacations where it would be best to eat light before squeezing into one's swimsuit..?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Holiday Snack Bar: Jersey Shore Of Yore

Just when I thought I couldn't find anything homemade on Long Beach Island I stumbled upon this relic of days gone by. The Holiday Snack Bar, a small freestanding building, with its circular counter, black and white tiled floors and minimal menu, truly offers a taste of the past.
Don't go for great food, but for the old-time ambiance and incredible desserts. Izzy was quite content with his split-pea soup and I didn't mind my grilled cheese which was rather ordinary diner fare. The truth is, those were just preludes to our dessert, which is the real reason to come here. The cakes and pies served here offer tastes of old-time goodness, from banana-cream pie, to Lady Lord Baltimore Cake. Today we shared a gargantuan portion of chocolate layer cake topped with billowy marshmallow frosting. Having already sampled the blueberry pie, banana-cream pie, Lady and Lord Cake, I can assure you that they are all sure to satisfy a good old-fashioned sweet tooth.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Made It To Marvel's: A Walk To Find Doughnuts

Funny, I really don't like doughnuts but I will make exceptions for exceptional ones. When L., a LBI vacationer for many moons, said that we must try the homemade doughnuts at Marvel's Market in Beach Haven, I had to investigate. The shop is about a mile or so from where we are staying so I thought it would be the perfect morning walk. For Izzy, Grandpa and me, it would be an adventure.

I pushed Izzy in his stroller, lucky him, and Grandpa Joe and I tried to walk along briskly. When we got there, doughnut making was in full swing. Izzy was entranced as he watched the doughnuts being dropped into the hot oil. I could barely tear him away to eat his. Eventually he joined us on a bench outside and by the time we had left a half an hour or so later he had eaten three, a cream-filled (too heavy and fake cream), cinnamon sugar (light), and plain (also light, not too greasy). I should have stopped him but I figured this was certainly a unique experience and we would not be visiting any more doughnut shops in the near future.

This doughnut shop appears to be a local institution for those in the know. I am not sure that I would travel great distances for them but if you are in the area they make a fine morning outing (They are open from 9-2 p.m. but it seems that doughnut making ends around noon.)

Since I am not a true doughnut aficionado, I am not quite sure what makes a great doughnut. What I found alluring about these was the simple fact that they were freshly made. They seemed light and not too greasy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Unbearable Heat: Too Little and Too Much To Eat

It has been so hot here down at the shore that we haven't been out on the beach as much as one might imagine. Seems strange, I know, and one would think that we could cool off there but the sun and heat are so intense we can only stay there for short spells.

Today was the hottest day thus far so I decided we would keep away from the beach until the late afternoon. The morning slipped away after a simple breakfast at home of yogurt and watermelon. When 11 o'clock rolled around and we still hadn't ventured out, I decided it was too late to start slathering up and preparing for sun, only to have to come back home and bathe for lunch.

At around 12:30, we hopped into the car with Grandpa Joe and Grandma Laurie, in search of something to eat. We pulled up at the Holiday Snack Bar and I was sent on a reconnaissance mission. This unique establishment seemed to be lifted from another decade, a fascinating relic with a counter full of cakes and pies. Unfortunately I knew the lack of air-conditioning would make this choice an impossibility for today but I assure you: Izzy and I will be back and SOON for a more complete picture.

Meanwhile it was back in the car for a quick ride over to the Black Whale, another restaurant in the fried foods beach genre. I could tell from the looks of it that it wouldn't be my cup of tea but the others wanted to try it. I ordered a soft-shell crab sandwich which only had one measly crab on it and I ordered some garlicky baked clams for Izzy. Poor Izzy ate his six tiny clams and was still ravenous, munching on some sort of tasteless oyster cracker that had been placed in buckets on the table. I felt hopeless as I watched him pop those crackers into his mouth, along with some of the mediocre fries and a pickle that had come with my meal. He was clearly still hungry.

When this unsatisfying lunch was over, back into the car again, with a plan to check out Marvel's, a place L. had told us had homemade doughnuts. Well Izzy, overloaded with carbs and fat, promptly fell asleep in the car and when we arrived at Marvel's it was closed. We made our way back home and I was able to transfer Izzy into his bed where he proceeded to nap for over two hours until I finally woke him, worried that he would never go to bed.

We did eventually make it to the beach, where Izzy splashed around for a bit until the black biting flies chased me away. Good thing because it was almost time for a late dinner. In the car, yet again for a ride to Raimundo's, one of the Island's better Italian restaurants.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dinner Must Wait: A brief interruption

I received this comment from a reader and interrupt my usual tales to share the following:

Here's the thing: I find your blog to be so unbelievably snobby and almost embarrassing. Yet, I still read it. I am French (raised here by my parents and grandparents). So, you probably think that's great, given your self-described "francophile" label. Anyway, I feel like I could rip apart almost every one of your entries. They are so annyoing! My children have been eating all the things your child eats, for the past 15 years. You haven't "invented" anything here. Is there any way you could write about something more interesting or novel? There's potential here.

Dear Dissatisfied Anonymous Reader,

What compels you to continue to read if you find my posts so "unbelievably snobby and almost embarrassing?" Why are you so incensed that you feel the urge to "rip apart almost every one of my entries.?" Surely there is something here that attracts you...perhaps you could let me know what that might be...In the meantime I offer some food for thought.

I have never professed to having "invented" anything. Have you read my blog from the beginning? My early posts may give you some insight into my frame of mind and reasons for writing. I think this blog may serve many purposes some of which are the following: First I am simply chronicling the ways in which I feed my child, hopefully inspiring others to feed their children differently. I am very interested in eating locally and organically and wish to share my knowledge of how to do so. And of course it is a memoir for Izzy, interweaving food-related tales with our lives. Restaurant reviews, recipes and other food-related items only add to the mix...

Having lived in France and worked with many French children (I am a former teacher at the Lycee in NYC), I am well aware that children can be raised to eat a wide variety of foods. I believe and have written that it is a distinctly American phenomenon for children to have such limited palates. I am glad that your children are such wonderful eaters and it would be nice to hear your insights into how that came to be.

I am sorry that you are so dissatisfied with what you have read and I take heart in knowing that I have helped to inspire some of my other readers and friends to change or (at least try to) their eating ways.

If indeed I do have potential, what would you suggest? What sort of novel ideas did you have in mind?

May your love/hate relationship with my blog continue...how did you find it?

Izzy's Mama

p.s. Have your children eaten cow udder?

I Scream For (Homemade) Ice Cream: A Long Beach Island Quest

We have been on this island for almost a week and have yet to unearth any homemade ice cream shop. The ice cream scene is positively dismal with either chains like Rita's or shops like the Custard Hut which carry national brands like Turkey Hill or Hershey's. How can it be that in this summery locale, Ben and Jerry's is the top choice? Where is the homemade blueberry ice cream I long for?

I remember a visit to Crane's Beach in Massachusetts and the discovery of a roadside ice cream stand. There I ate a dreamy cup of ice cream, made with Maine blueberries..it almost seemed like a mirage for when I returned a year later, it had vanished.

Maybe I won't find ice cream like that ever again (unless I make it myself) but there must be something comparable..I still have a few days here to find it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Still Room For Dinner and Then Some: Bistro 14

After our experience at Howards, it was time to try one of Long Beach Island's newer restaurants. We came up with Bistro 14, just a five minute walk from us in Bay Village.

Bistro 14 is a pseudo-Frenchy seafood restaurant. When I picked up the menu, Izzy pointed to an appetizer and asked what it was. I told him it was raw clams and although I said that I wasn't sure that was the right food for him, he insisted that it was what he wanted . So I ordered clams on the half-shell for him, along with fried baby artichokes. I had fried oysters and A. had some calamari and Breton clam chowder. Izzy amazed us all when he ate all but one of his clams and proceeded to finish his artichokes. He also tasted everyone else's food and we still hadn't gotten to the main courses.

He whined that he was till hungry and proceeded to eat his goat cheese tart and some of my dinner. He would have eaten more but I had to stop him because I worried that he might get sick. We left the restaurant before the others because he was completely overtired. He went home, straight into bed and instantly fell asleep, no doubt gathering energy for the next day's adventures.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

From Staten Island to Long Beach Island

Walking back from our first jaunt to the beach this morning, I overheard the some neighbors discussing an unnamed food establishment.
One said, "Yeah, the food there is awesome for down here. They import it from Staten Island."
I had to ask..."Where?"....Answer: "Mario's Deli". Funny we were already planning to try it for lunch since it is around the corner.

Mario's is an honest, above average Italian deli, with hearty prepared dishes, salads and made to order sandwiches. Go for the eggplant rollettes, Izzy favorite, soft slices of eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese or better yet, the round cappellini frittata. They even had a platter of stuffed artichokes. The meatballs are worthy of an Italian grandma and the sandwiches are filling

I picked up a small selection for our deck lunch, eggplant rolletes, broccoli rabe and mozzarella sandwich and a cappellini frittata. Izzy had some of everything as he had worked up a big appetite during his first morning of surfing. We all ate so much we feared we would have no room for dinner.

The Call Of The French-Fried Lobster? Don't Answer

To me, summer vacation screams for seafood by the sea. Our research and friends led us to Howard's, a Long Beach Island standby for our first dinner. Luckily we got there early so as to avoid waits of an hour or more.

When we arrived, the place was bustling with activity. The menu was ordinary seafood fare; lobster bisque, clam chowder, crab cakes etc.. The only thing unusual to catch my eye was the French-Fried Lobster. Our friends raved about the dish but I couldn't see ordering the whole critter. Instead I had a crabcake with three pieces of fried lobster on the side.

My dish turned out to be a mushy crabcake. The accompanying lobster was a sad case of a wonderful food gone awry. The fried coating obliterated the delicate lobster flavor. Something was terribly wrong with the very concept of this dish. And dipping the already greasy pieces in butter was beyond overkill. The most telling sign was that Izzy tried a bite and didn't request another.

I sincerely had to wonder what all the fuss was about. I am all for a fried tidbit once in a blue moon but what is it about the American lust for greasy fried seafood by the sea. Wouldn't something lighter be in order if you plan on fitting into your swimsuit the next day.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Long Beach Island Locale: Beach Getaway

Izzy and I (with A. for a few days) will be exploring Long Beach Island Eats, for the next week or so. We have had the unexpected good fortune of a stay at Grandpa Joe's beach house which is only block from the ocean. Stay-tuned for how I manage to keep Izzy eating well when surrounded by unmentionable attractions. Will I find organic eats? Will anything be local? I have a feeling it might not be easy but I remain optimistic.

I Bet The Chinese Food Here Is Terrible...

Ever since My Cousin Vinny, A. and I have had this running joke whenever faced with Chinese food outside the NYC area. When my best friend L. first suggested we come out to Route 22 in Green Brook, N.J. and eat Chinese I had to suppress a giggle. Chinese food in a strip mall zone? How good would that be..? She insisted that we would not be disappointed.
I quickly learned I would have to eat my words, not to mention everything else they served at this superb Chinese banquet hall, The Dynasty.

The first time we went we feasted like royalty. Last night was no different, as L. treated us to an evening of Chinese wonder, dishes included a succulent roast chicken with scallions, meltingly tender and sweet eggplant, bai-lin mushrooms with spinach, and a duck fried rice that it is impossible to stop eating, just to name the highlights.
Izzy and I enjoyed our meal immensely. but were disappointed that A. did not get to join us for dinner. He remains skeptical that such a place exists but now we know better.

Another Ten Minute Meal..If You Prepare Everything In Advance

The heat has been unbearable but yet I still forced myself to cook. I made what most closely resembled what the French would call a salad composee(How do I get that accent over the e??). The best part was that the meal was nearly all local and organic. Izzy was wild about the beets.

Friday, August 3, 2007

They Will Even Visit From Manhattan For This

photo: Sarah Cole

Marco and Pepe is the Jersey City restaurant you take your friends to when they are so kind as to make the "trip" from the city to visit. After all they must be rewarded for even venturing on the Path train. The best part is, once they eat there, you can be assured they will visit again.

I managed to lure my friend Sarah over on Friday night with promises of dinner at Marco and Pepe. She was delighted to oblige, despite the soaring temperatures, especially since she had been dreaming of it since her last visit.

Izzy and I walked up to find her already seated al fresco and we immediately sat down to study the menu. We all shared a fresh and colorful lobster and corn salad, topped with dollops of guacamole, which somehow rendered the dish both rich and light all at once. It was lovely to behold as well as eat. One taste caused Izzy to proclaim, "Mama, I love lobster!"

Following the lobster, Izzy had his usual risotto variation and I had the burger, which has been my inclination the past few occasions we have eaten there. Sarah had a half-portion of cod which turned out to be just the right amount. Our meal was perfect but there was only one problem, in our zeal to eat, I kept forgetting about photos, even though I had Sarah with me, who happens to be a great photographer, with camera in hand. I would only remember after I had already disturbed the artful presentations. How do food bloggers do it? How and when do they photograph their food? I find it so difficult, especially when Izzy is itching to dig his fork into his dinner.

Not only was Izzy happy with his food, but he was also suitable entertained by his friend M., who we seem to always run into eating there with his family. They entertained each other quite nicely throughout the meal, making dining leisurely for all. We will be sure to return to Marco and Pepe as the food is consistently good and as I have mentioned before, the menu has the most kid-friendly option imaginable, the half-portion.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sandwich Simplicity:A Truly Ten Minute Meal (Practically 100 % local to boot!)

So many were smitten with Mark Bittman's article, 101 Summer Express, Meals in 10 minutes or less. I was quite taken with it myself until I took the time to examine it more closely. Many of the suggestions include prep that was not included in those 10 minutes. Ten minute meals somehow morphed into meals in 30 minutes or less. Which is still a fine thing. However, on a sweltering summer's night, with no air conditioning, 10 minutes is all I have...

Yesterday, after an afternoon spent at an exciting new water park discovery in Hoboken (thanks mommy poppins!),I was able to pick up some of Fiore's mozzarella, an essential ingredient for this truly ten minute dinner: The classic tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwich, on olive bread, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, salad greens on the side. The key to the success of this dish is using the best possible ingredients and I just so happened to have most on hand. Beautiful tomatoes, basil and salad greens from Catalpa Ridge (my csa), olive bread from Jersey City's own Pecoraro Bakery and the aforementioned locally renowned mozzarella. It doesn't get much easier than that.