Monday, August 16, 2010

Indian Food Courts...YES.

It's been a while since I've had a food adventure with my cohorts from last summer, Frank and Aimee. Or at least, it's been a while since we've remembered to take pictures before we scarfed down whatever food we got. We helped a mutual friend move on Sunday, working up a tremendous appetite in the process. I knew just the place to take them to satisfy the type of hunger that even a Snickers wouldn't adequately satisfy.

Off to Haldi Chowk in Parlin, NJ we went, where I've satisfied similar hungers over the last 6 months or so. My bandmate Johny (one "n", he's special) took me there one night, and I was pleasantly surprised at the wide variety and high quality of foods available at this Indian food court. They have Indian-style Chinese (my favorite), a Tandoori stand, a kebab stand, Southern Indian, and a couple other varieties I haven't sampled yet. Frank and Aimee, with their limited exposure to Indian food, were honestly scared half to death when we walked in. It was an excited, happy fright, though, I'm sure! I told them I was getting the "Chinese", and suggested they have a look and ask questions politely of the people behind the stands. It's set up much like a food court at a mall, so it can of course be overwhelming at first glance. Especially when you don't know what most of the words you're reading mean. I still get intimidated for a good 5 seconds every time I walk in.

I ordered my Chili-garlic chicken noodles, and as Frank and Aimee ordered Butter chicken and a curry dish, I made my way over to the stand with the Seekh kebabs (apparently a kebab of Pakistani origin) and ordered 2, with a side of naan. Frank ordered samosas, as well. The 3 of us ordered enough food for, oh, maybe 6 people.
The Samosas were done first, and they were perhaps my favorite samosas I've ever eaten. They are spiced a bit differently from some I've had at other Indian places. These have a lighter, flakier crust and more seeds(honestly not sure what kind) in the spice mixture. The standard mint and tamarind chutneys on the side were fantastic. Then the kababs came out, and we ate them with some of the naan. The chutney that came with them was green, but different...seemed heavy on the cilantro flavor, which suits my taste nicely! We enjoyed those very much. My noodles were spicy and absolutely steeped in garlic. Frank, an Italian garlic lover, was shocked by the amount of garlic (!!). His and Aimee's dishes were very well-received, and they both exclaimed that they surpassed the quality of the same dishes they got at the much more expensive Indian restaurant they've eaten at in their area by the shore. I wasn't shocked by that revelation.

The fact we all agreed on, in between animalistic mauling of the food on the plates in front of us, was that price certainly doesn't dictate quality when it comes to ethnic foods in NJ. Our food at Haldi Chowk was served on styrofoam plates atop cafeteria trays. It was cheap...maybe cheaper than mall food courts! The place wasn't a tourist trap, trying to cater to the tastes of a hoity-toity clientele and impress people looking for something "exotic." It's common Indian foods being served to a mostly Indian clientele....and me.......and maybe you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Trenton: State Capital, Pizza Capital

Pizza isn't any sort of crazy special ethnic food in New Jersey, so sorry for this less adventurous update. Every town has a minimum of one pizza joint, and some have a whole lot of them. We're lucky like that. Trenton is a town with some really good pizza. As as matter of fact, I'd say Trenton has the best pizza in the entire state. A lot of Italian immigrants settled in Trenton, especially in the Chambersburg section of town. A couple of these Italians opened pizzerias (though they call pizza "tomato pies" in Trenton) 60+ years ago, including members of the De Lorenzo and Maruca families. The Marucas opened up a pizzeria in Seaside Heights, as well, and the Trenton one closed. The De Lorenzos have stuck to Trenton, and become absolutely legendary there and elsewhere. As far as I'm concerned, Maruca's is the best pizza at the shore. DeLorenzo's is my favorite away from the shore. When it comes down to it, I can't pick an absolute favorite, honestly. They're both sublime eating experiences. But I work in Princeton now, and a friend works near me, and we like to get together sometimes. When he told me he'd never had DeLorenzo's, which is only about 15 minutes from where we work, I punched him and told him we had to go this week.

In Trenton you now have 3 De Lorenzo's locations to choose from (there's a new one in Robbinsville), but the oldest are the 2 in Chambersburg: the Hamilton Ave one and the Hudson St. spot. These places serve 2 things: pizza and soda (or water). No sandwiches, no salads, no garlic knots, no wings…you get the idea. This is truly a church of pizza. We went to the Hamilton Ave spot, as it's very easy to find and open on Wednesdays and has a bathroom, should we need it after a hard day's work (and the pizza is nearly identical to the Hudson St. location). As "adult sodas" are allowed here, my friend had one of those and we waited for our half-sausage-half-plain pie to arrive. Well, everyone and their mother has reviewed this pizza, with the perfect crust texture and flavor, real Italian sausage chunks, chunky tomatos with a minimum of spices and quality cheese…all perfectly proportioned. My friend Sean's review of the pizza was simple and appropriate: That's a good pie. If someone says it once, you don't think much of it, but he said it several times, sometimes changing "good" to "great" or adding a "real" before "good." That should be all you really need to hear.

If you want De Lorenzo's, do a little research and look up the 3 locations I listed. I will say I like Hudson St. best for the experience of eating in a row-home that was converted into a pizzeria 63 years ago. If you go on a weekend evening, bring a cooler with some adult beverages in it. There will be a line out the door, and you will have to stand in it for a while. The cool thing is there's a cop on premises at all times, and he never has an issue with people enjoying a bottle (or 2) of suds outside while waiting. Just don't get TOO rowdy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Well I've been slacking pretty badly with my food blogging. It's not that I've stopped eating, or stopped dining with other people, or any other scary possibility. I simply never think to bring a camera with me, and not all of my friends are blessed with fancy phones and unlimited data plans. This past weekend, I happened to dine with someone on some food that neither of us had previous experience with. A camera came along with us! SCORE!

There I was, plodding through the concrete jungle with a special guest to find a KOSHER VEGETARIAN CHINESE Restaurant. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. My previous posts on here had me eating smoked chicken wings, BBQ pork, cheeseburgers, and tender Jamaican pork, among other fine things that are not Kosher, vegetarian, or as seemingly boring as Chinese food is in comparison. You may also be thinking that it sounds like I might be in Chinatown, which is not in NJ. As always, you're correct on both counts. But we're both from NJ, and plenty of NJ people go to NYC often enough,'s my blog and I make the rules!

We reached our destination, Buddha Bodai on Mott St., more or less next to my favorite non-Kosher restaurant in Chinatown, Wo Hop. We sat down, and my guest informed me that she'd never eaten in Chinatown before. The menu was reasonably priced, extensive (almost overwhelming), and packed entirely with meatless items. Lots of fake meat, lots of veggies, no actual meat. A lesser man than myself might've panicked and walked out in frustration and gone to Wo Hop or any other familiar place in Chinatown. I like meat a lot, and I can't recall ever eating at a legitimate certified Kosher restaurant. This was some unfamiliar territory.

I stood firm and quickly and boldly picked a dish of fake rib meat with peppers in a blackbean sauce over wide noodles. I could see consternation building in my guest's face. She wasn't that hungry, didn't know what to try, the menu was enormous.....what should she do?!?! I suggested the only fake chicken I'd ever eaten that I actually liked: General Tso's fake chicken. Simple, familiar, and relatively hard to screw up. She was pleased. Neither of us are allergic to wheat gluten. Game on.

My noodles came out first. It was a heaping pile of soft, broad chow fun noodles with a thick blackbean sauce that looked almost like light beef gravy. Fresh green bell peppers, fake rib meat, and beansprouts rounded it out. Then her plate of golden fried fake chicken pieces with a golden sweet/slightly spicy "General Tso" sauce followed, accompanied by fresh broccoli. She was promised by the jolly waiter that her dish would be spicy. WOMP WOMP, it wasn't so much. But damn, it was tasty. My noodles were also flavorful, hot, and very Kosher. The fake rib meat was pretty fantastic, and close in texture to the real thing. The chicken was of a similar caliber. It was about as good as any regular Chinatown restaurant, in terms of food, all around. The free hot tea was GREAT...looseleaf black tea with a mellow aroma and flavor. The meal was a success all around.

So, the kosher food didn't make me feel like putting on a yarmulka and singing Hava Nagila. It didn't taste like pastrami, a bagel, a knish, or any other stereotypical "kosher style" food. It tasted like......good Chinese food. The fake meat tasted pretty darn close to real meat. The company was great. The waiter was even jolly, and made the food seem...jolly. Everyone in the place was in good spirits, without the usual yelling and intensity of small Chinatown spots. It was a jolly good dining experience, and I'd repeat it without hesitation. The menu is big enough that it would take a few years of eating there multiple times a week for a person to try everything. On my budget and schedule, it'd take a lot longer!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Smoked Wings RULE OK

I made a BBQ post about an "Extreme" place that didn't quite live up to its name. Well this time around, a lady said she had some American BBQ-based food that would be a whole new experience for me. So who am I to deny someone taking me for something new and exciting? That's my bag, for sure. I went for it.

I'd heard this and that about people smoking chicken wings, and how good they turned out, blah blah blah. Like, c'mon, smoking is what you do to brisket, pork butts, hams, maybe a turkey breast or what have you, but lil' ol' chicken wings? Really? I try to be positive and have an open mind, but I loved fried wings covered in buffalo sauce from Chuck's in Trenton when I lived there, and have had similar fare at plenty of other places, and it suited me fine. I mean, don't fix it if it ain't broken, right? Well, Dog House Saloon in Washington Township, NJ fixed it anyway, and I am not complaining.

So this chick takes me here and it's basically a North (WAY NORTH) Jersey yokel-type bar with a handful of wooden tables off to the side. I prefer this type of bar/atmosphere to fancy bullcrap where people would pretend to be cooler and better-off than they are, and I figured it was the kind of place I could eat wings like a maniac and be just fine. There were some guys and gals drinking American beers at the bar and wearing some camo clothes, so you should get the picture. The menu is small and homemade, full of BBQ items, and creative apetizers that I wanna try when I can tear myself away from wings for an evening. The large BBQ platters I saw on other tables looked AWESOME. We ordered 10 BBQ and 10 Buffalo wings, and some homemade potato chips with BBQ seasoning. The wings came out on a silver tray with their respective sauces drizzled over them generously, but not "tossed" in the sauces and covered entirely. The potato chips were in a small basket, or what have you. I needed to try a chip because they looked good, and they WERE. Then, on to the main event.

The smoked wings have the crispy skin that a fried wing would have. The texture is very similar, minus the grease (clearly the Health Nut's wing of choice). The chick I'm with has the Buffalo side of the platter in front of her, and she goes right to town. I opt for the BBQ first, which she said was an okay choice, but her favorite was imediatley clear. The BBQ sauce here is sweet and chunky (HOMEMADE, MAYBE?!?!) and very tasty. But the thing that got me really excited was the smoked flavor in the meat of the wings. The meat had that pink, smoked color to it, and wasn't dry at all. The skin was crispy and flavorful as well, even under the nice BBQ sauce. I was falling in love. Then I tried the Buffalo. I can taste it even as I type. Best buffalo sauce I've ever had (also slightly chunky and seemingly homemade), on top of the best chicken wing I've ever had. Yup, I'm going there, folks. This is my new favorite wing in the world.

We housed the 20 wings easily, along with the small batch of homemade potato chips. Each and every celery stick also got dipped in that fabulous Buffalo sauce. If they told me I had to kill a real buffalo with my bare hands to eat more of this sauce, I'd do it without hesitation and with clinical precision. We hung out somewhere else and saw a band that night, and all I could think about were the wings. Each subsequent conversation I had with this girl ended up on how good the wings were, so I got her to go again 4 days later. This time I got 10 "honey buffalo" wings, and they were equally good. This place has got me hooked. I saved some leftover wings from the second outing and brought them to work for lunch the next day, and my Fed Ex delivery guy (a SERIOS wing enthusiast) asked me to save him one, so I did. HE was blown away, and after eating one cold, leftover wing, he declared he'd have to make the 2 hour drive from where he lives to try this place out for himself.

Dog House Saloon and Grill, call me the Winginator, because I promise I'll be back.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Real Jamaican Jerk An' Ting

I've found my absolute favorite Jamaican restaurant, and it's in Somerset, NJ. It's called "Real Jamaican Jerk An' Ting" (, and it is truly the real deal. The restaurant's website tells a bit about what REAL Jamaican jerk cooking is all about, and how the meat is prepared and flavored. It's a process that involves a bit more than slapping some sauce and seasoning on a piece of meat and throwing it on a grill or in an oven. I can't put my finger on each spice used in the Jerk seasoning this place uses, but I know there's plenty of LOVE in it, because I've been greeted with a smile and warm reception each time I've walked in to get my take-out order. There are only a few tables in the place, but I do plan on eating a meal there sometime very soon.

So let's talk about the situation here: It was my friend Steve's birthday, and I was on my way north, past New Brunswick, when I realized I was hungry and it was Steve's birthday. I arranged to stop by and bring a Birthday feast for him, and asked if he'd had real Jamaican food. The answer of "I don't think so" put me into hyper-food-introducing mode, and I made a bee-line to Hamilton St. for the good stuff. I have this place's number saved as a contact in my cell phone, so I called when I was 15 minutes away and put together a take-out order. Chicken Soup, Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork, and Curry Chicken. The meals come with rice and (pidgeon) peas, fried plantains, and a sort of slaw of lightly cooked cabbage, bell pepper, and carrots. All of this for 7-9 bucks a pop. SERIOUS bang for the buck, here, folks. I figured we could all share the goods.

The Jerk chicken and pork here is simply the best I've ever had. They're both incredibly tender and succulent, and you can tell they've been cooked for a long time in a unique way. The pork might be one of the best-prepared meat dishes I've ever had, all around. Texture, flavor, quality, and price....simply unbeatable. The chicken isn't far behind. The curry chicken is also absolutely awesome, falls off the bone, and is spiced perfectly. The rice and peas are a great starchy compliment. The fried plantains are absolutely perfect, and the (steamed?) veggies on the side were surprisingly PERFECTLY cooked and flavored. This is the best take-out meal for this price in Somerset or New Brusnwick, as far as I'm concerned. The chicken soup was even unique, sort of thick and creamy, but spicy, and a bit different from your standard cream of chicken with rice.

I love Jamaican food and music, and New Brunswick and Somerset have great places to seek out both elements of this unique Island culture. It's an area I've adopted as one of my many "second homes", and this bright green little building on the Somerset/New Brunswick border is my new favorite places to get my fill of the food part. The music part can be had down the very same street, on the New Brunswick side, in my friend King Django's recording studio and record label, Version City (, He specializes in reggae, ska, and all Jamaican music of the last 50 years.

Well, I'm a hopeless culture junkie. Contact me, or anyone I've linked in this post for more info!

Jerk Pork

Curry Chicken, Jerk Chicken, and Jerk Pork

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rock 'n Roll Thai Food

So, considering I'm the guy behind a record blog and a food blog, you can imagine I might be interested in combining the two from time to time, right? Well you're correct.

So my family loves Thai food, and we were really excited to hear of a new Thai restaurant opening in our town 4-5 years ago or so. When I heard the word "Rock" in the name, I was confused, until I walked in. It's a tiny little palce with maybe 4 tables and a 5th one that seats two people. And there are records on the walls, hanging from the's got a kitschy little decor thing going on. So I'm like, okay, this is cool, I love records and Thai food. And then I ate the food and realized it was maybe the best Thai place in the area, and it was in my town, and it had records on the wall......well, yeah, my brain exploded right then and there.

So at first no one was coming to the place, as parking is minimal, it's in a kinda crappy location, and it wasn't really well-advertised. Word of mouth obviously quickly spread (my family talking about it non-stop to anyone they knew who would listen certainly helped), and within a year or 2 the place was impossible to sit down and eat at on a weekend, and take-out orders were flying out of there. It's literally ONLY a husband and wife running the place, doing everything, so things get a little hectic, but they somehow hold it down and the quality of the food doesn't suffer. And the husband and wife that run the place are super cool people. We used to go in and they'd hang out and talk to us some days because it was very quiet. It was truly like eating a family meal. We still get the all-star treatment here when things aren't going too crazy.

So, anyway, of course I've taken about a million people (even some girls) to this place, because it's tops. My first meal outside of a hospital last summer (after spending 2 months in hospitals) was here, and I took 2 of my hospital therapists with me. I'd been talking this place up to my friends Frank and Aimee for a while, so they finally made the pilgramage up to my town to see what it's all about. They weren't disappointed.

I generally just find out what people like in general, or can/can't eat, and order for them. I know the whole menu by heart and don't even really need to look at it. We got Chicken Green Curry, pork in a peanut curry sauce (they call it Rama there), Pad Thai, and a massmaman curry shrimp special that day. We also started it off with Tom Yum and Tom Kha soups. The Tom Yum is a little spicey and extremely flavorful, as it should be. The Tom Kha has that coconut base and perfect seasoning that it's supposed to have, with chicken in it....perfect. My friend Sean used to have an unhealthy addiction to this stuff. The Pad Thai here is lighter than other places, with less "sauce" to weigh it down, and thinner, lighter noodles than some places have. Its has just the right amount of peanut pieces in it to give it awesome's a masterpiece. The Green Curry is the best I've ever had. The peanut curry is a great mix of sweet and savory, and again, not overly heavy like some places. The massmaman curry was also a nice sweet/savory kind of thing, with a darker look and slightly sweeter taste than I'm used to in that style curry. But the shrimp were delightfully crispy, and everything comes over a bed of crispy, lightly cooked veggies (unlike places that just throw a dish of meat at you).

I won't give the name of this place up, as it's actually TOO busy sometimes, and they really can't handle much more business than they already have (and you can easily find it if you search for Thai restaurants in Colonia). If you can squeeze in the place early on a weekend or do take-out, you certainly won't be disappointed here. This place has a special place in my heart for many reasons. This Thai Restaurant ROCKS!




Thursday, November 12, 2009

American Food: A Post-Veteran's Day Tribute

I love America, and have numerous friends and family members who are veterans, and who have served in our armed forces. So since I usually get all up in some food from all over the world, I decided to do a post about some home-grown American-style eats for the vets. So, thanks for your service, guys, go get an awesome burger at Mastori's!

There's lots of stories about the origin of the Hamburger. I'm not as interested in the stories as I am in how they taste, so I'll get right down to business. I lived in Trenton for a handful of years, and in that time, I ate at Mastori's in Bordentown several times. Not as much as I'd have liked to, but I got my fix. The place is great for many reasons: it's huge so there's always seating, they give you complimentary fresh home-baked cream cheese-filled and cinnamon-filled breads that are fantastic, and their portions are quite large. Plus, their food is (mostly) damned good diner-type food. Their menu is ENORMOUS, and it's got every diner favorite and then some on it. It's a BIT pricier than most diners, but you do get more bang for the buck overall.

So, when eating at a diner, the first things that pop into my mind are burgers and breakfast. Breakfast is a no-brainer at a diner, and burgers are usually a fairly safe bet for a cheaper, easy bite. Some are better than others, of course, and to me, Mastori's is better than just about all. The thing that sets this burger apart, beyond the fact that it's 3/4 pound and they have some interesting toppings to choose from, is that it tastes like absolutely FRESH ground beef. This isn't a frozen patty, and it's not a leftover's FRESH ground beef that crumbles and barely holds together with each bite. It's moist (I'm assuming it's not the 94% lean stuff your mom tried to use when she got on a health kick), juicy, and a true pleasure to eat.

I forget the menu name of the one I got (Circle something), but it had a whole slab of grilled bermuda onion, as well as a thick slice of Canadian bacon, cheddar, and BBQ sauce on top. Enormous! My good buddy Frank got one called the "Ham" Hamburger, with sliced Virginia Ham, cheese, and I believe BBQ sauce as well on top. Well, I like to call these "Fork and Knife" burgers, because trying to eat them with your hands is just silly, even downright irresponsible! The other members of our party got yummy chicken pot pies, and one poor soul got chicken parm (at a diner? C'mon, Craig...). Frank and I were in serious beef comas after dinner, and his gal Aimee got a huge hunk of cake, none of which any of us touched, HA! It looked great, though. This place can definitely bake, and definitely cook some ground beef. I have it on good authority that their breakfast is also pretty out of control. That'll be a future blog post...

So, in conclusion, thanks to America's brave soldiers for protecting our ability to go out and have a fantastic burger at a place like Mastori's. Here's a picture of Frank struggling, against my advice, to eat this burger with his hands: